Sunday, 25 September 2011

THE WONDER OF SMALL WONDER

I suppose there are literary festivals and there are literary festivals. And if you’re ever lucky enough to get the chance to visit Small Wonder, either as a performer or festival-goer, grab it without a second’s thought.

Situated in the heart of the South Downs, the festival is held at Charleston, one-time country retreat to the artists and writers of the Bloomsbury group.

 
We stayed at nearby Tilton House, itself one of those magical, still places that writers dream about retreating to. Hammocks hang from its mature trees; a log burner awaits in the yurt at the back of the garden; a fire pit in a woodland clearing, the perfect setting for stargazing. 


And summer seemed to return as bees droned lazily in exotic flowers and cats sunned themselves in the courtyard. 


The main events at Small Wonder take place in a wonderful barn, the perfect amphitheatre, with words and stories swirling above the audience in its rafters. I read from my collection and talked about the short story with Guardian feature writer John Crace



 There followed some superb dinner in the Green Room, before we headed to the Arabian tent for a night-time owl display. 


Back at Tilton we gathered around the fire for wine and cheese, discussing the joy of the short story into the early hours.

Returning home to the drizzle of Dartmoor seemed to confirm I’d rather fallen in love with Charleston, a love affair I hope to rekindle next year.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

ARE YOU SITTING DOWN?

There always felt something a little fraudulent about this blog, its title somewhat arrogant, a claim unsupported by a publishing track-record – a short story collection aside. My aim was to give an insight into process, a glimpse of a journey, its highs and lows, as the book took shape, so perhaps How to Write a Novel? would have been more apposite.

But now I’m delighted to say (following a call from my agent that began with the title of this piece) I’ve just agreed a two-book deal with a major publisher. We met last month, discussed some editorial tweaks, plus The Next Book, and here we are. The next bit, I suppose, is the fun bit: seeing the book come together, a cover designed, countdown to the launch. And Book Two is taking shape nicely, consuming both waking and non-waking hours. The publisher brings out a great mix of commercial and literary fiction, and apparently my book spans the two. It’s been termed both a psychological thriller and Book Group fiction – insider term for novels that appear on those TV shows.

I wanted to briefly mention two-book deals (whether to accept or decline), which to non-writer folk must appear a no-brainer. Friend and author Vanessa Gebbie makes a compelling case for declining such an offer. For me, though, the two-book deal made sense, the reasons legion.

I’ll talk about these a little in the coming months, but mostly I want to share the next part of the journey with you, the stage we all dream of when first we sit down, alone, confused, full of bravado and naivety, in front of a blank screen / page, with the absurd notion we might have a story in us that someone else would want to read. 

And so I'll let you know how the next bit goes. For now, though, it’s a glass or two of something.


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

(ANOTHER) POEM IN A PILE

My dear friend, James Walkley-Cox, also found a window in his day for some composition.


A Visitation of the Plague
'So farewell then,' she said,
'You'll never again have the pleasure of my company.'
'Give this one fat englishman a chance?'
'It's too late: Everything is Illuminated.
I know The Origin of the Crabs.
It's Rebecca, isn't it?!
That...that...Shopgirl!'
She paused at the frontdoor: 'Give me The Interesting Bits (She was Fishing for closure.)
'On The Driver's Seat' I blurted out.
SLAM.


Not bad with only one bookcase.

Monday, 19 September 2011

A POEM IN A PILE

Inspired by the wonderful Mr Pack, here's a poem, created from books on my shelves.

Have a go. You know you want to.

WHAT WAS LOST
on THE ROAD
to INFINITE RICHES,
back in NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR,
was our MINDS AND BODIES,
AS IF
THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US
was INVISIBLE and
THE MADNESS OF LOVE,
WHATEVER LOVE MEANS,
was THE LOUDEST SOUND AND NOTHING
could hurt our PERFECT LIVES.
But then: DISGRACE.
And AFTER YOU'D GONE,
in my HEART OF DARKNESS:
THINGS FALL APART.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

THE METHOD ON TOUR

I'll be discussing the thrill of the short story and reading from the collection at the forthcoming literary events:

Small Wonder - Friday 23rd September
 

Appledore Book Festival - Wednesday 28th September

Chapter & Verse Literature Festival


Do pop along and see me.There'll be a peep at the new novel too.