Monday, 21 December 2009

My Writing Year 2009

Sometimes it feels like I spend far too much time sitting on a bench, staring out in space and being all at sea ... Do I actually get anything done? That's my biggest worry. If I spend a week or two not writing I think the world is coming to an end ... So to make myself feel better I've done list of everything I've achieved in 2009:

*Started a blog in English - thank you for reading!

*Completed the 2nd, 3rd and 4th draft of Replacing Angel – my first novel in English

*Been to two "conferences": Meet the Agents & Going Public, arranged by New Writing South

*My first novel, Punkindustriell Hårdrockare med Attityd, was released in paperback

*I visited two schools in Växjö for the World Book Day

*I did four talks in one day at a school in Mjölby on a topical day about ”sexual knowledge”

*My first novel, Punkindustriell Hårdrockare med Attityd, was published in Denmark

*I was invited back to do a talk at a school in Tranås

*I did a talk at a school in Uddevalla

*Took part at the International Book Fair in Gothenburg, workshop for teenagers

*Did my first school talk in English at Loxdale Centre in Portslade

*Did a poetry gig at the Peace Festival at Hove Lawns

*Did at poetry gig with Ash French & Daniel Roviera at the Shoreham Beer, Cider & Literature Festival

*I did a poetry gig at the Summer Solstice event organised by Beyond

*Took part in a poetry cabaret show with Jelly Inc. at Bombanes

*Performed with Writing Sisters Collective

*Performed poetry at slams and open mics: Hammer & Tongue, Brighton Poetry Society, e.g. poetry, Horseplay, Floetics

*Submitted poems to Mslexia’s annual poetry competition and my poem ”Helping cousin Anna to move on” was shortlisted among the 100 best entries

*Submitted 10 poems to Tall Lighthouse pamphlet competition but didn’t win

*I wrote about 15 poems I’m happy with, about 15 poems I’m not happy with

*I wrote 8 first (some second drafts) of short stories, only submitted one to a Valentine Competition that I’ll know the outcome of in January

*Studied Julia Cameron’s Walking in this world

Other memorable happenings (good&bad) that are not directly writing related:

*Volunteered for the Fringe Festival in Wellington and got to see a lot of good shows

*My time in New Zealand, New Year in Golden Bay, living and working at Rosemere Backpackers in Wellington and travelled the North Island with Sky

*Visited my friend Elin in Melbourne

*The death of my grandma

*Moved to Alpine Road

*Got a temporary job at Hove Library after 3 (!) interviews within the libraries

*My best friend Sara married herself and I was bridesmaid

*My "sister" Jo turned 30 and we celebrated her in Copenhagen

*I saw Nick Cave 3 times!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

I love Brighton!

Despite struggling with the darkness and cold of winter, Brighton is a cool place to be all year round ...

On Saturday I got a surprise when I walked along the seafront and saw an army of running (and walking) Santas! It was the yearly Santa Dash - a 5km run fom charity. (Maybe I'll join in next year, James!)

Every night until Xmas a new beach hut is opened up like an advent calender and there's free mulled wine and mince pies. Each hut has also got a carol which the decorations are based on.

Lastly ... a December sunset is just as beautiful as a summery one.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Creative Exchange

It all began with a text message in February 2008 when I got back to Brighton after my travels. I told my poet friend Sue Pearson that I was back in town and asked if she wanted to meet up and write. She texted back straight away and that was the start of our creative exchange.

The first meetings were all about writing. We did exercises and gave each other feedback on our recent pieces of work. We also set goals. Most of them were writing related, e.g. write a poem for a competition or finish a short story. Then we started to expand.

Sue is taking a bit of a break from writing and is now into doll and jewelery making. And at the moment I'm so focused on my novel that I don't feel motivated to write poetry. So our goals are a bit different nowadays. It could be anything from writing a fan letter to Miranda July to making a richly embroidered stomach. (Sue is showing one of her hand-crafted dolly stomachs in the picture.) For our next meeting (when Xmas and stuff like that don't get in the way we meet up every other week for 3-4 hours)my goals is to plan a writing retreat for myself. I'm thinking of going away for a weekend in January and stay in a hostel or B&B to work on the final bits of Replacing Angel.

Even if Sue and me are making different kinds of art we have a very positive exchange. The creative process of joy and agony is the same and it's great to have the support of another artist. A big part of our meetings are taken up by discussing current projects and sometimes that's all you need: a place to vent your fears and expectations.

James Burt and Kay Sexton have written a lot about workshops and how they are very cautious of them. I've been going to various writing groups or workshops on and off over the years and although I found them helpful and good for networking nothing is as good as having a private creative mentor! I must admit that main reason I sometimes go to groups and workshops is that I need to hang out with other writers in order to feel like a writer myself ... And as a result I've made many good friends like Sue, Morgan, Petra and Bernadette. You need a lot of time on your own as a writer, but without supportive friends you're going nowhere ... Thank you for existing!

Monday, 30 November 2009

The So-Called End of Editing

All my journals have names. They are all called something beginning with "The so-called ..." When I named my 57th journal I could feel that things were coming to an end. Not just the end of the year and the end of my grandma. But also the end of Replacing Angel.

By now I should be used to it, but after finishing a draft I tend to feel a bit blue, because I don't know how to handle life when I'm not writing and yet I can't write again if I don't take a break. So you can imagine how I feel when I've finished a whole book ... and I'm not even there yet. I've finished the 4th draft and begun a 5th one. But this 5th one is going to be the last! Now it's about fine-tuning and work a bit more on the beginning and the end.

I spent the whole weekend in bed with Polly (yes, I also name my laptops)and read Replacing Angel aloud to myself. Well I managed 200 of 300 pages and I didn't read aloud all the time because my throat was and still is sore.

I've done things like changing "OK" to "okay" as it reads better. I've also made a mind-map about the character the Man. He still needs work. He needs to be just a bit more likeable without losing his psycho side ... Another thing I've amused myself with is to find synonyms for the word "drink". So far I've used gulp 11 times, swig 15 times and sip 30 times. And drink 60 times ... Does that mean that it's too much drinking in the novel? I'm grateful for any other synonyms you can come up with. Quaff is another word, but I don't like it very much.

My plan was to finish Replacing Angel this year. I think I'll almost reach that gold. I'm waiting for more feedback and even if I reach the feedback before the New Year I might not have time to process it. So I have to set a new deadline: 31 January.

Lastly I've studied Walking in this world by Julia Cameron. She writes: "Completing a draft of a novel may spark thoughts of suicide rather than celebration". Further she compares the final stages in a creative project to a glass mountain: "I slither down every time I try to clamber up./.../ This delicate and treacherous stage, the glass mountain of creative doubt, is a slippery slope we face alone. It is on its icy flank that we must find small footholds, edging our way upward from concept to actual conception - a difficult birth, as pivotal as conquering our creative Everest."

Don't worry. I'm not suicidal, but today when I went for a walk with my camera I found nothing worth taking a picture of. Even the sea looked ugly in the grey light ...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

On The Road with Nick Cave

Photo: Barnaby Marriott
Tonight I went to see the film The Road at the Duke of York's cinema in Brighton. The film is based on the novel by Cormac Mccarthy and is directed by John Hillcoat. It was the first time I went to the cinema this year and the main reason was that Nick Cave and Warren Ellis from the Bad Seeds wrote the soundtrack. After the film John Hillcoat and Nick Cave did a Q&A session. I didn't ask any questions, but Barney convinced me to have my photo taken with Mr Cave ...

It's supernatural seeing someone who you admire. Even if Nick Cave is a human being and seems like a really nice person who doesn't let fame get to his head I can't help feeling paralyzed in his presence ... There are so many things I'd like to say. Like how his album No more shall we part helped me through one of the loneliest times in my life. And also what a big inspiration his lyrics are for my current novel, Replacing Angel. All year I've had Nick Cave songs on repeat while writing and when I see the man behind the music it's almost as if him and the music are two separate things. As if I've built up my own personal relationship with the lyrics and don't give a damn about what they meant to Nick Cave when he wrote them. And I think that's the purpose of all art: the art itself should be so good that you don't need a famous person or a pretty face to promote it.

(However I did speak to Nick Cave about two months ago and asked if I had his permission to use him as a character in my novel ... Click here to read more!)

So what did I think of the film? A father and son are trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, walking by foot across America, hoping that everything will be better once they reach the coast. And that's where it all ends. Or starts anew if you so wish ... Tears were threatening to run down my cheeks a few times, because of the tight relationship between father and son. I liked the bleak atmosphere and the sparse piano music. However the theme of cannibalism will probably haunt my dreams tonight ... That's why I prefer reading so I can create my own images, which won't be as bad as seeing something happening in front of your eyes ... I'm glad there's not a film based on Nick Cave's Murder Ballads!

Monday, 23 November 2009

November Rain

I have Guns N' Roses' November Rain on repeat and am trying to find some kind of motivation. I've finished the 4th draft of Replacing Angel, but it doesn't feel finished.

My hardest critic and best friend, Sara, is reading my novel in progress from a philosophical point of view. She keeps questioning me why my characters say and do things. It gives me a headache trying to work it out myself; I need them to be idiosyncratic in their actions. Especially the Man who is a bit of a mad professor in a bad way.

I also feel a bit panicky as someone who might be able to put me in touch with an agent has asked me to send him the beginning of the novel and I feel that something is missing. That I need to put in more nerve. I hate abstractions and I hate words like idiosyncratic, but am also proud that I finally know what it means.

My novel feels trite when there are so many deaths in the world. This autumn I've found out about the deaths of four people. Well I only knew one of them and that's my grandma. The others were all young and died in unfortunate circumstances: a friend friend's boyfriend drowned when on holiday, a library colleague accidentally died from an overdose, and a poet I used to see at events was murdered. Even if I wasn't close to any of these people (apart from my gran)it still has affected me badly. Maybe I'm just reminded of my own mortality.

If it stopped raining I'd be a bit happier.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

First School Talk in English

I've done a lot of school visits in Sweden, talking about my writing and my debut novel Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd. Today I did my first school talk in England. In English obviously. The only thing that wasn't English about it was the audience - they were all Swedish students at Loxdale Centre in Portslade. Eight years ago I went to this school myself and it was great to be back.

I called my one-woman-show "Life after Loxdale" and spoke about my life in England, how I first made friends, found a job and a place to live. A lot of the students laughed when I showed pictures of myself as a dinner lady and a barmaid. But the focus was on my career as a writer and performance poet. How I started out going to poetry groups just to make friends and ended up being invited to perform in Berlin. How the isolation I first felt when I moved to England resulted in writing novels. And I tried to explain the battle in my head between two languages.

In between the talking I performed poems that were inspired by my life and the audience was also very lucky to hear an extract from Replacing Angel - my first English novel in progress. It seemed to go down well and one guy said it felt very real, as if I had experienced it myself.

After the talk I stayed for lunch and reminisced about the good old days. My time at Loxdale is probably the most important time of my life as I went there when I was 19, straight after finishing school in Sweden. It was the beginning of my adult life and apart from learning to speak English I also built up the confidence to stay in England and go my own way in life. I'm very pleased that I got invited back for another talk next term.

Special thanks to Saskia, my former drama teacher and friend who came to listen and took the picture.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Hammer & Death

Last night, about an hour after I'd been on stage as Lou Ice, my grandmother passed away. (It was expected, she'd been in and out of hospital forever.) She often said how she couldn't understand how I had the courage to perform poetry or do talks in front of a big crowd. She always pointed out how shy I was when I was little. As if she couldn't understand how I'd changed. I'm still shy, but that shyness exists off stage, not on stage. I'm more nervous after a gig then before - because that's when the judgment starts.

I don't know why I do it. I'm not talking about performing poetry or being on stage in general. I'm talking about poetry slams like yesterday's Hammer & Tongue at Komedia. Every time I do it I tell myself "never again." It's such a pathetic thing, a bit like Eurovision Song Contest where the participants get judged. But when it comes to slams it's not the love lyrics that win - you have to be political to touch the heart of the judges ...

Yesterday I did an old poem called Grace - about a midwife predicting a harsh future for a baby. One team of judges only gave me 4,9 while another gave me 7,9. It's not very often that I get high scores, but the other poets always have good things to say about me. Like I reminded someone of Patti Smith! That's a compliment and a half. So maybe that's why I keep coming back. It's not the points, it's the poetry and the poets.

And the winner? Yes, he (Elan) deserved it, doing a poem about the fashion business, mentioning child labour and all that. I also enjoyed the guest poets Ross Sutherland and Byron Vincent. The hosts Mike Parker and Rosy Carrick were charming as usual!

And here's a candle burning for my grandma.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Films or Books?

This is not going to be a blog post discussing whether the book is better than the film or the other way round. In this case there isn't even a book. It's just a film. What I want to discuss is films or books in general.

Some people seem offended when I say that I haven't watched many films. In average I watch 5 films a year. This is not because I don't like films. One reason is that I've never had access to my own DVD or video player. It wasn't until last year that i discovered that I could watch films on my laptop ... So I'm obviously not that bothered. Another reason could be that I didn't watch much TV as a kid or a teenager. I think watching a few bad Hollywood films really put me off. I thought that's what all films were like. I had a big problem (and still have) with action films. They are too fast for me. I can't follow what's happening and can't even figure out who's the good guy and the bad guy ...

It feels like I've got a lot to catch up on. A couple of years ago, thanks to working in the library, I discovered that there are quite a few good films around ... The films labeled "World" or "Arthouse" or "Artifcial Eye" are my favourites. In short: alternative films set in France, Romania, Poland or any European country that is not Britain ... Then there are few Asian films that really appeal to me, mostly because of their visual impact.

I don't know what has happened. I've now watched two films in less than a week's time. I think I'm procrastinating editing and re-writing the end of Replacing Angel ... And somehow I really don't feel like reading, apart from the brilliant handbook Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway.

Tonight I watched 4 months, 3 weeks & 2 days by Cristian Mungiu. It's set in communist Romania in the 80's and is about a girl who has an illegal abortion. Well, it's not really about the girl who's doing the abortion. It's about the girl's friend who supports her ... That made me think of Replacing Angel. You'd think my novel is about Angel - she's the one with the real drama - but it's really about her friend Natalie. So now I feel quite inspired to get back into writing again ...

But back to the topic ... I get offended by people who don't read. Sadly, in my opinion, most people seem to watch more films than they read books. This includes a lot of my good friends and people working in the library. For me watching a film can never replace reading a book. I prefer creating my own images in my head and do it at my pace. Often I lose the plot in a film because I see things that makes me think of other things and the association machine is in full action ... This happens when I read as well. But the beauty of reading is that you can stop and take a breather where each paragraph ends. O.K. I know you can press the pause button when you watch a film, but it's not very convenient to do that every 5 minutes ... Especially not if you watch it with someone else. I don't even like watching films with other people because I often feel embarrassed that I don't understand things that they do. This has nothing to do with English being my second language, I have the same problem with Swedish films!

Then there are other things I like better with books ... The fact that you can carry them with you and read wherever you are. It's possible to dip in and out. To read for only 10 minutes a day, whilst you'll have to set aside at least two hours to watch a film and as time is precious to me I'm afraid of wasting two hours of my life on a bad film and I don't often get a chunk of time with nothing to do anyway ... Reading is also more active: you have to concentrate hard and you have to turn the page now and again instead of just sitting down and staring at a screen.

So, dear blog readers ... how many novels have you read this year? How many films have you watched?

I've read 28 novels and watched 4 films. I think I'll reach my average of 5 films a year as I'd like to watch Let the right one in. Mostly because it is based on a novel and I want to compare the two different medias ... Once I've watched it, I can write another blog post - on the topic whether the film is better than the book or the other way round.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Death & The End

Today I woke up feeling a bit like I look in the picture. (The picture is from the morning after a party back in September.) I don't know what brought on this feeling. I've been on a real writing high lately and I really enjoyed last night - went to a Halloween event at the Marlborough Theatre called Fear of the dark hosted by James Burt and Glue Gun91 with special guests Kay Sexton and Bernadette Cremin. I saw a swan and a woman dying on stage. Among other acts there was also a a sinister dog walker, a story about a gang of brutal clowns and a harp player.

Maybe my miserable morning is due too much alcohol.
That's not true though - only three pints over the course of four hours.

Maybe my miserable morning is due to spending too much time in my own little bubble writing. That's not true either. I had a great time Saturday with Sue Pearson, walking about in town at the White Night. Sunday I met up with Sue again for our regular "creative meeting" where we encourage each other and exchange ideas. Monday I went to a new event as part of Write Club at the Skiff, hosted by Ellen de Vries and James Burt. Really refreshing! As I'm so serious about my novel work it was nice to do some exercises to get back into play mood. First we wrote for 15 min, then 10, 5 and finally 2 minutes. As inspiration we looked at four different pictures. I found it quite a challenge to write about the abstract ones ...

Maybe my miserable morning is due to that I found out that someone I thought was travelling died before she even left the country ... and that was a year ago. This might be true. I didn't know this person very well, but it still shocked me.

So ... I have to get myself together. The final feedback on Replacing Angel has arrived from my editor (who was one of the people in the show yesterday!). I've worked on the first two thirds, so that leaves me with the third third - the end. I'm happy with the end, but again there are some gaps to be filled in. I need to write about a bittersweet goodbye. And one of the characters who's in the background most of the story now needs to get a lot of space - as she plays an important role in the end ... Apparently I also need to work on my sex scenes ... Tough as my interest in sex is as big as my interest in the life of frogs at the moment.

Friday, 23 October 2009

This week : research and staying in

This week I've taken care of my time:
Monday: (all day off)researching a very special event for the novel, writing about the event
Tuesday: research in the morning by doing an interview, writing up notes, work, edited novel

Wednesday: work all day, edited novel in evening
Thursday: edited novel in morning, work, edited novel in evening
Friday: edited novel in morning, work, edited novel in evening

Yes, I've stayed in every single night and been up early every morning. The editing of Replacing Angel really feels like a drug at the moment. I can't stay away. I turn off my phone. I ignore the feeling that there are some friends that I "should" contact. I have to take advantage of this mood. Even if I'm disciplined it's rare that I'm disciplined and inspired at the same time.

I can't tell you about Monday's research as it would give away too much about the novel. But I can tell you about Tuesday. Natalie, the main character in Replacing Angel meets a girl who lives in a squat on the seafront. Some of you might know it. Medina House in Hove. The squatters were evicted a couple of years ago, but that's O.K. as my novel is set in the beginning of the '00s. I met up with Yvo, a woman who used to live there and she filled in some gaps for me. Even if I visited the squat a couple of times my memories were fuzzy. Yvo was kind enough to draw me a map of the interior of the squat so given this exact information I had to re-write a whole chapter. I know you've got poetic license, but I still like to include some real life facts.

Tomorrow I'll break my pattern by going out and celebrate the White Night in Brighton. Museums, galleries, bars, clubs are open extra late to defy the darkness ...

p.s. I'm not really a goth anymore ... I value LIGHT more than anything, so I try to pay the sea a visit almost every day. And it's amazing how there's something new every day - like those balloons ...

Friday, 16 October 2009

The importance of backstory

The second lot of feedback on Replacing Angel (my English novel in progress) has arrived from my editor. (She's sending it in three parts.) There are still a few questions to be answered. One scene I'm working on is the birthday of my main character Natalie. She's having a drink in a pub with her flat mates and Deanna (a friend of her best friend Angel who used to live in the flat before Natalie did). At the birthday drink it's the first time Deanna meets one of the flat mates and now the question is: if she was such a good friend - how come she's met one of the flat mates and not the other?

I have no answer. Yet. That's what I have to work out and that's where backstory comes in ... It's not like I have to write a whole chapter about how Deanna met one of the flat mates and not the other, but I still have to know to give a satisfactory explanation to the reader. So I've just dedicated an hour of "stream of consciousness"- writing to find out. (I don't like setting my alarm - so I used Nick Cave's album "Tender Pray" as a timer even if it's "only" 54 minutes.)

It turns out one of the flat mates is very controlling and doesn't like visitors. But the reason he's met this Deanna is that they use the same drug dealer. I hope this will work! I'll do some more free writing and see what I come up with. In the first writing workshop I ever went to (I was 16) I learnt that you have to know EVERYTHING about your characters, even how much change they've got in their pocket - it doesn't matter if it never gets mentioned. You still have to know - otherwise there will be gaps in the story.

p.s. the picture is supposed to represent a stream of consciousness. but in reality it's a sea of consciousness ... that's how I think of the English channel anyway!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Interview with myself

I read an interview on a Swedish blog and thought the questions were quite good so I decided to interview myself!

1. Do you have a writing schedule? E.g. every day an hour between 7 and 8 or do you write sporadically?

I'm very disciplined! Usually I write in the mornings between 9 and 12 before going to work at the library in the afternoon. Sometimes, if I feel inspired, I write in the evenings after work as well, but then I'm happy if it's only an hour. On my days off I tend to live in my nightie and I move between my bed, the kitchen and my PC all day with a break for a long walk or a coffee with a friend. All in all I manage to write about six hours on those days - and some of that writing is done in my head. Focused thinking is also writing.

2. Do you suffer from lack of inspiration sometimes or is it the other way round?

Sometimes I suffer from complete exhaustion. I don't want to write a single word, not even in my journal. It happens when life around me is too hectic and I haven't had enough time to chill out. Usually it happens when I've finished a big chunk of work, like completing a draft or a part of a draft.

3. Do you work on several projects at the same time? E.g. a thriller, some short stories and a childrens book etc.?

When I work on a novel it tends to take over my life and I find it very hard to work on other projects at the same time. However a couple of times a month I feel inspired to write a poem, it's a nice break from the tedious novel work as you can finish a poem in a week or a day even. There's also the satisfaction of performing poetry, of reaching out and showing the world that you are alive. So writing and performing poetry is my hobby. If I try to take the poetry too seriously I lose interest. It needs to be a fun thing.

4.How many books have you finished and sent off to agents/publishers?

I finished a novel called Mötet med Malva (Meeting Malva) in 2004. Then I completed Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd (Punk influenced hard rocker with attitude)in 2006 and it was published in 2007.

5. How many times have the same book been rejected? If so did you receive any constructive feedback?

Mötet med Malva
was rejected by 11 publishers, but yes I did receive a couple of nice letters with relevant feedback. One publishing director even took me out to lunch and told me he was very impressed with my writing, but encouraged me to write something else. He gave me the useful advice "write what you know". Mötet med Malva was a novel I wrote pretty much to impress both myself and my friends, but there was no heart, no true feelings in it.

As most people know Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd got accepted, but by the time the book was finished the publishing director who had encouraged me had passed away and his company had gone bankrupt! Luckily I found another publisher. Again I sent it out to 11 (my lucky number) different ones and after a month one of them phoned me and offered me a contract. So I contacted the 10 other ones and said that my manuscript had been accepted. I'll never know if those other 10 would've said yes or no.

6. Do you feel bad if you haven't written for a few days?

Yeah, I feel restless in my soul. Something is lacking from my life. I feel boring, not my normal self. I get controlled by my feelings when I don't get that emotional release and a chance to step into another world for a bit.

7. Why do you write?

Because I can't help myself! It's part of who I am. As I'm originally a shy person I find it hard to express myself in day to day life, so the writing helps me with that expression.

I also have a need to work out certain issues and explore certain topics and I love doing that through my characters.

Another reason is that I've got an interest in documenting the time we are living in, telling people "this is what it's like", "this is my reality".

8. Have you had anything published that is available for reading?

Well, you could have a go reading Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd if you are willing to learn Swedish. I've had a few poems and a short story published in anthologies and magazines, but most of them are out of print. Sometimes I post poems at MySpace - at least that's something to read while you're waiting for my English novel Replacing Angel. At the moment I've just finished editing the 1st 3rd of the 4th draft ... I'll begin editing the 2nd 3rd as soon as I've received some more feedback from my editor.

9. Do you have anything you'd like to add? (my own question)

Yes, I saw Nick Cave (him and his lyrics have been a great inspiration while writing Replacing Angel) at Palace Theatre in London yesterday. It was a very nice surprise when P.J. Harvey entered the stage and did a song! There was no photo permission, but I managed to get one picture ...

Monday, 5 October 2009

Ginger hair and toilet chairs - the joys of re-drafting a novel

I'm so excited! So excited I almost don't want to blog about it or talk about it. I'm afraid the excitement will disappear if I share it with too many people. Besides it's only my personal excitement. There's nothing like a breakthrough in writing, when it happens it feels like your whole world is falling into place ...

Between the 16th of August and the 2nd of October I hardly wrote at all. Apart from a bit of journal and letter writing and some other random bits and bobs. A break for a month and a half was just what I needed to find the motivation to start the 4th draft of Replacing Angel (my English novel in progress). Thanks to wonderful constructive feedback from writer/editor Kay Sexton I felt I finally had something to work on.

For example one of my characters who's supposed to be very sexy and attractive has ginger hair. Even if ginger might be sexy in my eyes, it's not considered sexy in general so I have to find a better way to describe this person's hair. Fiery. Shimmering. Like a sunset. Suggestions much appreciated!

I also realised that because I tried to make the novel shorter I left out events that are crucial to the story and I had to go back to the first draft and add a couple of scenes ...

There are a few language mistakes as well. In Sweden we say "toilet chair" when referring to the actual piece of furniture you sit on when you're having a piss or a shit ... I didn't know that in English toilet is both the room and the chair if you know what I mean. Oh dear, I didn't realise that I'm still writing that much about toilets ...

For the past four days I've been totally engrossed in my writing, feeling tense and stressed every time I'm away from it ... If I'm meeting someone for a drink I can't wait to get back to the sound of my fingers tapping the keys. If I'm at work I put down my thoughts on pieces of paper when nobody's looking ...

I'm bursting! I'm bubbling! I'm alive!

p.s. If you're wondering about the picture ... I couldn't get the right feeling sitting at my desk, so I had to work on the floor to feel more grounded :).

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Nick Cave as a character

There was no question. I was going to see him no matter what. Nick Cave was doing a reading of his novel The Death of Bunny Munro and was being interviewed by Will Self at the Old Market in Hove. The event was sold out. I didn't care. I went to the Old Market and put myself in the queue and asked if there were any spare tickets. The bouncer told me to speak to the Box Office. There were already two other people waiting for returned tickets. It didn't look hopeful, but then all of a sudden three tickets literally appeared from thin air and we were let in! And a free glass of wine was included in the ticket. I downed it quite quickly as I felt nervous as a giggling teenager. I was going to see Nick Cave. In real life. Not many people know that for the past three years Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is almost the only music I've listened to ...

What even less people know is that Nick Cave appears in a chapter of Replacing Angel (my novel in progress). When the audience were allowed to ask questions I asked how Nick would feel if somebody used him as a character in a novel. He wasn't that bothered as he'd read so much about himself on the net and in magazines anyway.

Afterwards I queued up to get my copy of Bunny Munro signed. Then I asked again, more specifically, if he would mind if I used him as a character in my novel. He said it was fine as long as I gave him a bit more hair ...

I'm still in exstacy. It's scary that I'm 27 years old and am still into this whole hero worshiping thing. Last time I felt like this was when I hugged Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots when Velvet Revolver played the Brighton Centre in March 2008.

This is not the end. I'm going to see Nick Cave again. In London. On his official Bunny Munro tour. But believe me, it's not so much him as person as his lyrics that really get to me. Now I'm going to find out if he's a good novelist as well ... And I'm still hoping to see him walk down my street as he lives in Hove!

Danish Praise and New Poem

I've had my first review for the Danish edition of Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd. It was positive all the way through, the reviewer said that even if the story takes place in Sweden ten years ago Danish people will be able to identify with the insecurity of being a teenager etc. So if Danish people can do it I'm sure British people can too!

I'm still waiting for feedback on the 3rd draft of Replacing Angel, so have worked a bit on my poetry instead. It's great being back in Brighton. I never get anything done staying with my parents ... However the whole trip energized me and I've found the creative passion I somehow lacked before I went ...

CLICK HERE TO READ "She's on her way away"

Monday, 28 September 2009

Book fair in Gothenburg

My last stop of my Sweden trip was Gothenburg. It was the third time I took part in the international book fair which is a big party for all book lovers. It's quite hard to be seen among so many writers and so many books, but with my feather boa I attracted some attention and quite a few people stopped to have a look at Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd and I got to sign some!

I was also invited to take part in a work shop for Young Adults. First I was interviewed and then the teenagers could ask questions and get some advice on their own writing. The best part was to write a poem containing the words "obey", "after" and "salt." Many of the teen poems were better than the poems written by "real" writers.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Superunknown in Denmark

The life of a writer is not always as glamorous as it seems ... I went to Denmark to meet my Danish publisher and that was pretty much it. No crowds waiting, no cameras flashing, nobody in the street stopping me to ask for an autograph ... Not that I'd expected such a big fuss, but one single interview would've been nice ...

But I must admit ... I've never imagined or visualised any success in Denmark, the thing about getting translated to another language just felt like a bonus ... Also I feel a bit left out as I don't know the language. In Sweden I made a lot of effort myself. First of all I organised a big launch party. Then I phoned loads of newspapers and magazines and asked them to interview me or to review my book. It worked. I even ended up on TV twice ... I also contacted schools and libraries and invited myself to do talks ... It really paid off as newspapers, schools and libraries now contact me instead of the other way around ... And half of the work was believing in it, visualsing interviews etc. etc. I haven't made any effort at all when it comes to Denmark. Mostly because I've been busy with my English novel and living in the U.K. So after all I was quite happy just to sit on the train back with my 15 free copies of Punkindustriel heavyrocker med attitude as the book is called in Danish.

I've also realised the importance of friends and networks. In Sweden and in the U.K. I know hundreds and hundreds of people through school, jobs, courses, parties, friends etc. In Denmark I don't know one single person apart from my publisher and some non-blood relatives that I'm not even friends with on Facebook ...

Well, time hasn't run out yet. The book won't actually be launched until the 29th of Sep. And reviews can turn up in papers up to 6 months after the launch itself. I'm also hoping that the title and cover will attract some attention without me having to market it like mad ... (Of course my publisher is doing some work, but it doesn't have the same effect as when the writer is there to help out.)

Friday, 18 September 2009

When dreams come true

In 2006 I did the self-study course The Artist's Way. One of the tasks was to visualise your dream and then make a collage of that dream. At the time I had not yet sent off the manuscript of my novel to publishers. My dream was to walk into the famous paperback shop at Stockholm Central Station and see my book, Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd, on the shelf. (The figure in the middle of the collage is actually me.) In addition to this I'd be wearing a big backpack and a laptop, on my way back from some big adventure ... (At the time I didn't know I was going to Thailand for 5 months and I didn't own a laptop.)

In 2009 (exactly a week ago) on my way back from a successful summer in England (and before that my trip to New Zealand) with backpack on my back and laptop in my hand I walked into the paperback shop at Stockholm Central Station and found my book on the shelf ...

It was a magical moment. It made me tearful. I walked into the exact picture that I'd visualised.

When I told my family they sort of laughed and said "how come you're so weird?" For me this is just evidence of the law of attraction and that you get more of what you focus on in life. If you want your dreams to come true you have to believe that they can come true and do a lot of mental work as well as REAL work ...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Talking to Teenagers

Two years has passed since Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd was first published in Sweden. I’m very happy that my novel is still popular and that I get invitations to visit schools to talk about my book and my writing.

On Tuesday I went to Tranås and spoke in front of a big crowd of 16-year olds who had a whole day set aside for topics like health, sex and study skills. I talked about identity which is a big issue in my debut novel. How important it is to know yourself when it comes to dealing with sexual relationships. There are a lot of assumptions depending on your identity. E.g. if you are a Christian some people expect you to wait with sex until after marriage, but if you’re popular girl wearing a short skirt a lot of people think you’re willing to have sex all the time. I know this is a very black and white way of thinking, but when you’re young the world is far from grey ... And there’s some kind of security in the way we label people and put them in boxes.

What I’m trying to tell (note, not teach!) the teenagers is that the most important thing is to find out what you want for yourself, before listening to anybody else. And once you’ve found out what you want (or don’t want) you have to make sure you have good arguments for your way of thinking or acting. E.g. if you want to drink ten beers – fine, as long as you’ve got a good reason for it! Or if you want to remain sober, - fine, but you need to be able to tell people why! Everybody will show you more respect if you can stand up for your beliefs.

The talk I did the day after, in Uddevalla, was a bit different. The students were a couple of years older, and believe me, it does make a difference when you are a teenager. They were not as restless and didn’t look as uncomfortable as the first lot. Most of the Uddevalla students had read my novel and had prepared very clever questions like: Is Amanda (the main character) really insecure or not? She keeps pointing out that she feels very insecure, but still tries things out like alcohol and sex. Some people who are insecure just keep hiding in a corner for the rest of their lives ...

I think there’s a difference between being insecure and being shy and having low self-esteem. These things are all connected, but I believe that if you want to move on in life you have to try things out even if it can lead to trouble ... More than anything else Amanda is very curious and feels the pressure (both from herself and her peers) to get pissed and lose her virginity. Those things don’t happen if you remain in a corner ... So yes, she’s insecure, but by trying things out she finds out things about herself and slowly builds up her self-esteem ...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

A Red Wedding

.................... On the 9th of the 9th 2009 my best friend Sara got married. To herself. The ceremony took place on Mariaberget in Stockholm. Sara stated that the purpose of the wedding was to celebrate self-esteem and promise yourself to be true to your own ideals and values. The purpose is not to make fun of relationships, but an invitation to make people evaluate their own lives and follow their dreams.

In front of a crowd about twenty people she promised herself to love herself in good times and bad times. She was handed a ring (that cost £3.50) and took the name Starkström. (Strong power). I performed one of my poems, Dear Life, that I wrote years ago. Funnily enough it's on the topic of marrying Life. After the ceremony we had a three course dinner at Restaurant Esperia and a few brave ones carried on to Vampire Lounge for red drinks. (But at the ceremony we toasted in Snakebite.)

Monday, 7 September 2009

Ready to go

No, I'm not going on another backpacking adventure even if I'm using the same bag ...

I'm going on another kind of adventure
- in fact many adventures over a course of three weeks:

*My best friend's wedding in Stockholm (She's getting married to herself, will blog more about this later, some people have called it performance art ...)

*A couple of school visits (Tranås, Uddevalla) where I'll talk about my first novel, why and how I wrote it etc.

*My sister's 30th in Malmö/Copenhagen (She's not really my sister, but I wish she was)

*The launch of my first novel Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd in Denmark

*The annual book fair in Gothenburg where I'll be doing work shops etc.

I'll be back in Brighton at the end of the month ready to start the 4th draft of Replacing Angel ...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

My Swedish novel in Danish

Today it arrived.
My own copy.
Of my own book.
In Danish.
I understand most of it.
The official launch date in Denmark is 29 Sep.

It's a surreal feeling.
To hold something you've created in your hands.
It's so surreal I can't be happy.
Well, of course I'm happy,
but I'm not jumping up and down if you know what I mean ...
It's a bit like being in hospital with a baby
before the world has seen it ...
Or it's more like having a child
that has moved abroad ...
Or having a second child
that looks exactly like the first one
but speaks another language ...

If you understand Swedish or Danish or even Norwegian
you can read more about the Danish publication
on the publishers website.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

When I'm not writing

When I'm not writing my mind is in a funny state. I wish I could be as tranquil as the peace statue, but I feel more like the West Pier: a wreck.

When I'm not writing I'm letting my emotions control me. When there's no frame to my days with planned writing hours my life is spinning out of control. My need for engaging with people gets bigger and I end up in situations I don't want to be in ... Quite often alcohol is involved.

When I'm not working on my novel I feel incapable of doing any other writing. It's like the creative part of my brain dies. But tonight I forced myself to write about something that has been on my mind for the better part of August and I felt an immense relief. I didn't write it because I want to prove anything or because I wanted to show it to anyone. I wrote it simply because I needed to release and express my emotions somehow. It doesn't matter that it'll never turn into a story. I kept my fingers moving. It reminds of why I became a writer in the first place: a need to make sense of myself and the world.

The current situation with Replacing Angel is this:
*Person1 who is a professional editor is going to read the manuscript and give very detailed feed back on everything from grammar to plot problems.
*Person2 who is just about to sign a contract with a publisher is going to bring the manuscript on holiday and pretend its a "real" book and then report back what he remembers of it.
*Person3 is reading it at the moment and has already reported that it flows well. In exchange I'm reading her novel in progress. (This is not a detailed reading, the focus is on the general feel and structure of the novel.)
*Person4 who is one of my very best friends is going to read it and tell me what it is I'm trying to say or is failing to say. (She always knows when I'm faking it.)

A big, big THANK YOU to everybody else who's offered to read Replacing Angel. I might get back to you, but at the moment I think I've got enough "eyes" on my novel ...

My plan is to start the 4th draft of Replacing Angel in October. But don't worry. I won't spend a month drinking and getting into emotional states ... In September I'll be busy doing promotional stuff for my first novel in Sweden and Denmark.

p.s. When I'm not writing I borrow books from the library like CHANGE YOUR LIFE IN SEVEN DAYS. When I'm not writing I take more showers. When I'm not writing I'm totally and utterly confused.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Jelly Inc.

Jelly Inc. was formed about three weeks ago.
The intention was to put on a gig at Bombanes restaurant in Kemp Town.
It was a very chaotic meeting and we all left feeling
how is this ever going to work out!?
Another meeting and two and a half rehearsals later
we were stars in a show called What now!?

Call it poetry. Call it play. Call it cabaret. Call it whatever you want.

We all played two characters each:
professor of philosophy/barman
poetry teacher/new age woman
poetry-hating Swedish punk/waitress in love
pregnant housewife/cocktail queen

You get the idea: Expect the unexpected!

Some people who came to see the show said it was good enough
to be in Brighton Fringe next year!

Jelly Inc. is:
Bernadette Cremin
Lou Ice

Did I mention that we take bookings ...?


Sunday, 23 August 2009

My bedside table

It's a small round dark wooden table that came with my furnished rented room. I've made it a bit more personal by using a bandana as a table cloth. My glasses are on there (most people don't know that I wear glasses unless they've seen me at work!) and my mobile phone that doubles as an alarm clock. There's also a box of nicotine free snus (Swedish tobacco), a box of Swedish throat pastilles, (why are all throat pastilles in the U.K. like sweets?) a glass of water or cranberry juice and a hand cream that my aunt got me for Christmas. (The kind of thing I'd never spend money on myself.)

And then there are my books of course and my journal and my diary and my note pad ... Plus a pen that I bought at Hong Kong airport.


As no armchairs or comfy seats came with my room I spend a lot of time sitting in bed reading and writing, sometimes with my laptop, sometimes without. I start every day my writing my morning pages (a practice I've kept up since doing the Artist's way) in my note pad. I finish every day by writing a short account of what I've been up to that the day in my small blue diary. In between I write down random thoughts in my journal (at the moment a famous moleskin sketchbook). If I'm tired or just lazy I spend a lot of time reading. Often I have one novel, one non-fiction and one poetry book on the go at the same time.


Reading at the moment:

The (dis)advantage of doing casual work in 16 different libraries is that I constantly find books that I want to read; it's just a matter of finding time ...

The novel I'm reading at the moment is called Harm's way and is written by Cella Walden. I've only read the first chapter but I can tell it's good ... It's the kind of novel I adore: young female protagonist trying to find herself ... As I'm young and female myself I'm always looking for heroines to identify with. Examples of such a heroine is Lou Connor in How the light gets in by M.J. Hyland. (A book I keep on my bedside table to inspire me when my writing dries up.)

I'm also reading three non-fiction books. The first one is Write away by Elizabeth George. She talks about writing in a very chatty way and it makes me think of my own novel in progress, how I can improve it and so on. As she's a crime writer I have a lot to learn about conflict as plotting is my weak side. The second book is a spiritual one called Intimacy by Osho. It just jumped out at me in the Bell, book and candle shop in the North Laines ... I find it very hard to open myself up to new people that I meet so hopefully it will be helpful. The third one is A woman in your own right by Anne Dickson. It's about learning how to be assertive .... I've finished reading it, but I still find it hard to put what I read into practice. You're supposed to do a lot of role play, but I haven't been brave enough to ask someone to play with me ...

Lastly I have three poetry books on the go: The English Earthquake by Eva Salzman, Sunday at the Skin Laundrette by Kathryn Simmonds and Life Mask by Jackie Kay. They are all good for dipping into. And I love finding lines like "The Dustbins are in bloom" (Kathryn Simmonds).

Couldn't put down:

Other useful numbers
by Sarah Broughton. One of these books that not many people have heard of ... It's a beautifully written book about yet another disorientated young female. There's not much of a plot, but being in Tracy's head and observing the world through her eyes is a joy even if the subject matter is depressive ... (A girl searching for a lost love going from one relationship to another and one job to another etc.) It's a library book, but I keep renewing it and will soon have to buy it ...

Gathering dust:

Kate Atkinson's Behind the scenes at the museum. I do want to read it one day, but I have a problem with books that are "forced" upon me. A friend bought it second hand and passed it on to me and said I just have to read it ... I know it's a good book and that I'll probably like it, but it's the kind of book that will always be around and I'll be happier continue my reading of unknown obsure novels with young lost female protagonists ....

Secret indulgence:

It's not really a secret ... but I love reading teenage or so-called Young Adult fiction. Not the ones for "young" teenagers, but the ones that are a bit more gritty. Last one I read was Killing God by Kevin Brooks. It was written in a very refreshing way using song lines by Jesus and Mary Chain. The ending was a bit too dramatic to be believable, but all in all it dealt with abuse and religious fanatics in a good way.

This blog post was inspired by a regular feature in Mslexia where a famous person reveals what's on their bedside table.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

No desire to wait

I have a great desire for feed back.
I have contacted 4 people.
2 in Brighton.
1 in Edinburgh.
1 in Stockholm.
I have asked these people if they are willing to read the 3rd draft of Replacing Angel.

Now I'm waiting.
I'm hoping that all of them will say yes
and that all of them will have things to read for me in return.

Because what else to do? When I'm waiting for feed back
I'm sort of standing still.
But my desire is great.
I still need to do something creative.
Starting a new novel is out of the question.
I've got a few poems and short stories on the go.
And a few performances coming up.
And about 10 books outstanding on my library ticket.

Perhaps I'll just take a break and read.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


It takes a lot of patience.
Writing that is.
Especially when the world is full of distractions
in the form of sunsets, beautiful people and laundry.

I'm editing the third draft of Replacing Angel,
so it'll be in good shape
when I send it out to my critics.
I'm about half way through now ...

It's nice when you're starting to see the novel as a whole
and how everything fits together
how every bit of dialogue has to matter ...

To keep going I have a few post-it notes
with encouraging words in front of me.