Thursday, 28 April 2011

Promoting Yourself & Others

As I don't have a new book to promote yet I might as well promote some other people ...

Click here to read my poet friend Chris's blog The Daily Whale. Now the interesting thing about this blog is that I didn't know that it existed until I happened to see a post on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. In his latest blog post Chris confesses that he's not very good at self-promotion, hence me being oblivious of his blog. He had my blog on his link list though which made me very happy.

Most people find self-promotion very hard. Publishers and agents do their bit, but you also have to do your own bit ... If you don't have a publisher and/or an agent yet it's even more important.

One author who's very, very good at self-promotion is Isabel Ashdown. She's written a blog post called Twitter Confessions, and she says "for every shameless plug I make, I do two more tweets to others/about others." That's very fair I think.

What goes around comes around. I sometimes blog about other peoples' blogs or books and I believe this is indirectly a way of promoting myself. It's great to discover a link to your own blog on somebody else's blog!

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Middle of the Hunger Trace

A while ago I went to the launch party for Edward Hogan's second novel, The Hunger Trace and was very lucky to get a copy of the book. There's something quite majestic about holding a fresh hardback in your hands, more exciting to me than holding a new born baby ...

To the point. Even if I no longer bring this hardback baby to bed it's still with me.
What I liked best about The Hunger Trace was the middle. It's not that the beginning and the end were bad, it's just that I liked to be inside the novel, following the characters' daily life. I wasn't that bothered about a beginning or an end, it felt like the story had gone on forever and had no end, like real life. And I mean this in a positive way. Unless someone is dead or not yet born you don't really think of their lives as beginning or ending, and that's what I felt about Louisa, Christopher and Maggie in the Hunger Trace. I had the privilege of spending a few months with them and liked it best when I was in the middle of the book. I must admit that the first page didn't grab me, mainly because I didn't know what an ibex was, but as soon as Louisa entered on page two I started to feel connected.

I really like Louisa. Not because her name is similar to mine, but because she's a flawed unusual character. A falconer. A woman still in love with a guy from her childhood whom she could never have. The guy is called David - owner of a wildlife park - and David is dead. He's outside the novel, but we get to know him not only through Louisa but also through his widow Maggie (much younger and a bit tarty), and his son Christopher from another marriage(portrayed very well as an odd teenager who is into internet dating and family values).

I love the Louisa-Christopher-Maggie drama, and when the novel ended it didn't end for me (to be honest I can't even remember the exact end), it carried on in my mind, and I still sometimes wonder what Louisa, Christopher and Maggie (in that order) are up to.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

All over the place or in one place?

If you focus on something for five years and really believe in it you're going to be successful in one way or other. That's what my ex (who gets paid to travel to tropical countries to fix computers) told me while I was working on my debut novel. And almost exactly five years after I started writing seriously I had a novel published. I did focus on my novel writing and I really believed in it. But it's not always this simple ...

What is success anyway? Are you less of a novelist if you spend five years perfecting a novel, focusing on it and really believing in it and still not getting it published ...? The optimist in me wants to believe that those people don't exist, that they didn't try hard enough .... The realist in me doesn't want to wake up because I am a dreamer ...

Another person(in his early thirties)who is a poet, MC, songwriter and musician told me that he would've been successful by now if he had focused on one thing only. I'm not sure whether to agree or disagree. Surely these areas all feed into each other, but if you're pre-occupied by making a living and having a very rich social life it's tricky. It's also matter of how much you're willing to focus, how much you're willing to offer in terms of time and money.

I've been writing seriously in English since 2007, so according to the five year focus and belief I should be published by next year. But at the moment I'm all over the place ... I'm waiting for my agent to find a publisher for UNDER THE LIP (former REPLACING ANGEL). Waiting is not a very active space to be in so in the meantime ...

*I'm making notes on a new novel, note: making notes, not actually writing

*I'm writing random poetry

*I'm working with improvising jazz musicians

*I performing poetry

*I'm reading/performing short stories

*I'm taking voice classes

*I'm going to drop-in acting classes

*I'm going to drop-in 5Rhythms dance classes

*I'm lying down in the Alexander Technique semi-supine position

*I'm reading all sorts of stuff, fact and fiction

*I'm taking more photographs than my harddrive can handle

*I'm making collages (see picture)

But above all I'm working on getting to know my body. Hence the voice classes, acting classes, dance classes and the Alexander Technique. (I can't afford to do these things every week even if I wanted to do, but I try to do at least one physical thing every week).

All my life I've lived in my head, intellectualising all my actions. Now it's time for me to get in touch with my body, and I believe this will make me a better and more confident performer. Indirectly it will also help me with my novel work as a part of "the job" is to promote your novel, do readings etc.

I took out a book from the Children's Library simply titled The Inside & Outside Guide to Your Body. I'm fascinated by the fact that under my skin there is a skeleton. It's not like I didn't know before, but I finally understand that I've got a skeleton. I'm learning to breathe.

I could skip all this body work and just plunge into working on my new novel and ignore all the other parts of me. But at the moment it's more important for me to become a whole human being.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Tuned in Stories at Story Studio, Komedia Brighton

Short Fuse has changed their name to Story Studio and the night on Sunday was a great success. The theme for the night was "Tunes" and apart from traditional story readings the audience was treated to visual art by Lee Thacker, singing by Pam Hewitt and performance art by Amanda Evans.

I performed my story I'm from Further North than You that was inspired by the Wedding Present song with the same title. Last time I read this story was at the Edge of the Sea festival in august so it was less nerve-wracking this time ... It was great to have Lee Thacker's illustrations of the story behind me, and I felt very honoured to have David from the Wedding Present at my table. I found out that the song was originally titled Edinburgh. I didn't know this, but had subconsciously set the story in the Scottish capital anyway.

Next up was Brian Bell reading Shite Ole' Deep Purple Records. What I particularly liked about this story is that it dealt with the snobbishness of some music fans ... e.g. that you can't be a punk and also listen to Deep Purple. (Swedish rock band Backyard Babies once kicked a band member because they found a Suzanne Vega record in his collection ... And my Swedish debut novel "Punk industrial hard rocker with attitude" deals with being bullied for liking both Guns N'Roses and punk stuff ....)

Jeff Noon was probably the most famous name on the bill. I've never read any of his novels although I've seen them lying about in my friends houses. My first ever flatmates kept going on about Needle in the groove and it's still on the list of books I want to read ... Jeff didn't get up on stage himself, instead Alistair Lock did a brilliant job reading Jeff's story The Queen is Dead inspired by the Smith's song.

Amanda Evans in full action, telling her tale from Jamaica called The Third Drawer. She was accompanied by soft drumming which made the story very hypnotic.

The duo Felstead and Waddell seem to be the act in residence at Story Studio and they always amuse me. Their stories are only about a 100 words long, but each story is a complete sketch with props. The stories they read on the night were all inspired by song titles, e.g. River Deep - Mountain high and Living la vida loca. How they manage to keep their faces straight I don't know ...

This Genesis guy was not at Story Studio. But Tara Gould had written an amazing rhythmic story about losing your virginity titled The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man, and it was performed by Wendy Quelch. I got so into the story that I forgot to get my camera out hence the substitute picture ...

Another highlight was Louise Hume's story Porquoi Es-Tue Devenue Si Raisonnable? performed by Simon Drake and Louise herself. The french title is English for the Wedding Present Song Why are you being so reasonable now?
Apparently it was a huge hit in France ...

Last up was Lee Thacker. Well last up was a graphic short story of his, read by Wendy Quelch & Holly Dawson. Unfortunately the ending of this story Nickles and Dimes was missing, but maybe it was an intentional trick to get everybody to buy the forthcoming anthology with The Wedding Present-inspired stories ... I don't know exactly when it will be out, but I'll keep you posted.

Next Story Studio happens in June and the theme then is Sport & Leisure. Maybe the above picture from post Brighton Marathon will inspire you ... (I took this photo on my way home feeling inspired by writer & photographer Erika Szostak who also has a story in the above mentioned anthology.) More info about Story Studio and submission guidelines here.

Thanks to Lee Thacker for the photo of me.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Reaping my Shorts

I dedicated last year to short stories. And now I'm reaping what I sow ..

*On Sunday I'm reading at Story Studio (former Short Fuse) at Komedia. The theme for this night is Tunes so I re-submitted the story I read at the Edge of the Sea Festival in August. The story is called Further North than You and is inspired by the Wedding Present song with the same title. This story will also be included in an anthology with other stories inspired by the Wedding Present titles or lyrics.

*This week I received a copy of Spilling Ink in the post - an excellent anthology of fiction, nonfiction and prose poetry/flash fiction. My short story Lovers of the Planet is one of the featured pieces.

*My short story The Party is Over made it to the shortlist for the annual Mslexia Short Story Competition. Although shortlist in this case doesn't mean it will be one of the published pieces, just that it came close.

This year I haven't written a single short story. Here you can read about my change of scene last year, but now I'm think I'm back to poetry again ... What I learnt from dedicating a year to short stories is that every word and semicolon matters. I've become better at writing in general, yet I don't think of myself as a short story writer. I write novels for a living (well, for a tiny tiny part of my living), I write poetry for fun and for performing (and therefore am not too bothered about semi-colons and perfecting them for the page), but short stories ... They are still beyond me.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Dating Myself in London - Inspiration & Nostalgia

Julia Cameron - the woman behind The Artist's Way - writes about the importance of Artist's Dates. And sometimes we need Artist's Days. Days when we take ourselves out to gain new inspiration and energy. Yesterday I took myself to London.

I started off at the British Library. Little did I know that it was like boarding an aeroplane. You had to check that your bag was the right size, and to go inside any of the reading rooms you needed a pass. The book I wanted to read (a John Cage one) was in Yorkshire which didn't make any sense. A member of staff said "it says DSC in the entry" as if an idiot would know that DSC meant Yorkshire. I didn't let myself get put off though.

Instead I had a look at one of the exhibitions and saw original manuscripts/notebooks from authors like Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde. I also put on headphones and listened to Help! by the Beatles while looking at the original piece of paper that John Lennon wrote down the lyrics on ... After all entering a library is like boarding an aeroplane: you are travelling to another place.

The British Library cafe was too full of laptops, books and conversations so I moved to a cafe across the road and spent two hours with myself, my notebook and a gigantic mug of green tea. I found my words flowing in all sorts of directions without forcing myself to writing anything good.

To feed my tummy I had an over-priced sandwich. But my mind was hungry for something else, so I decided to treat myself to Camden. (And am very proud that I found my way there without looking at the map in my bag.) Camden still feels magic to me. Camden changed my life when I was eighteen. And again when I was nineteen. It would take a whole novel to explain why, but basically it was a shock for a small town girl. Like moving from grey to neon. Like moving from safe to dangerous. Like moving from innocence to experience.

Note the punk with the placard in the middle to the right. I bet he's the same guy who stood there when I first came up from the tube all those years ago ... (The next tube could take you to another world was the slogan on the walls then.)

After only five minutes in Camden I was exploding with memories mixed with new impressions and I just had to sit down and write again. At a crossroads someone asked "Where's the rainbow?" because at that very moment it started to rain at the same time as the sun was shining ... I didn't find any rainwbows but I found Spiral (a cafe by the canal) and that was colourful enough with hippies in green trousers and orange tops. I had Spirulina. Not something I would've done ten years ago ... It wouldn't have been "punk" enough ...

Nostalgia hit me really bad so I just had to carry on to Angel ... To Islington Green where me and a friend once sat in October, drinking before going to legendary goth club Slimelight ... This was ten years ago and I couldn't help thinking of the line from the above mentioned Help!: When I was younger, so much younger than today ...

And this is what my novel is about. Someone with a glamorous name who is not glamorous. (REPLACING ANGEL is no longer the title, but Angel is still very much the subject or perhaps the object of my novel.)

This is the real reason I went to London: I was invited to perform at Beat - a diverse but dynamic monthly poetry event at Charlie Wright's Bar hosted by ...

Andreas Grant. Who is a fellow Swede. (Some of the best Swedes have left their native country to grow elsewhere)

So ... This is one of the longest blog post I've ever written. I feel inspired and overtired, but I want to see myself again. After another couple of dates I might even fall in love ...

And if I get bored with myself I have filled half a notebook with thoughts notes hopes dreams fragments of poems and other ideas. It's funny how I had the intention of gaining new inspiration, but got this craving for nostalgia. Sometimes you have to travel to the future to find your past (path.) Oh dear ... I must be in love to write this rubbish. Lust for life la la la ... Bedtime or beertime? "Me!" my pillow calls, like London was calling yesterday ...