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.