Leave a Comment · Posted on May 6, 2017
I’m always happy to be sent books, and I’m even happier when I’ve got the time to read them. And I’m even happier still when they’re things that I love. And I do love Camilla Grudova’s The Doll’s Alphabet. It’s a remarkable collection. It’s weird and it’s grimy and it feels like it carries the smell of the sea, or dust, on its pages. The stories are like fairy tales – the best sort – the beautifully ugly ones, the sort that surprise and veer into places you would not have expected; and these stories might not provide you with happy endings. Or middles.
The writing is excellent, unnerving, entertaining – hugely imaginative but it’s the stories and the characters that I loved the most. These people feel very real – they live in a world like ours and, though their problems might not be what we’d expect to encounter, they feel very real too; just like their not so perfect, unbalanced relationships. It’s been a while since I’ve found a new collection to love, so I’m very happy to have found this one. The Doll’s Alphabet is published by Fitzcarraldo Editions, and it’s out now. I think you’ll like it.
Leave a Comment · Posted on March 29, 2017
Most of last week was spent in libraries around Sheffield, celebrating Shakespeare Week. I visited Chapeltown on Monday, and then I hopped on a tram and a bus to Stocksbridge on Tuesday, finishing off (until Ecclesall next week) at the Central Children’s Library on Wednesday. And I was met at each of them by a sellout crowd of terrific young writers (and illustrators). We talked about Shakespeare and (my favourite bit about him) was the range of things he wrote about and the range of characters in them: love stories, tragedies, monsters, fairies, kings and queens and witches…
And we wrote. We wrote a lot and it was brilliant. And we illustrated too – as you’ll see, there are some really fantastic cauldrons and potions and spells…
Massive thanks for everyone’s help – to mums and dads and brilliant library people. It was a brilliant few days, brilliant to see some familiar faces, brilliant to meet new people but, best of all, it was brilliant seeing so many young writers having fun writing.
Leave a Comment · Posted on March 21, 2017
It’s Comic Relief THIS Friday, which is good because they do all the good things they can to try to get us all closer to a world without poverty and that’s something that’s hugely important to me.
And to help, the wonderful Ash and Peter at Flash: The International Short-Short Story Press have put out today a collection of very short and, mostly, very funny short-stories.
It’s called Funny Bone.
There is a story of mine in it called Dump and I can’t tell you much about it other than, despite all the work I’ve been doing in schools recently, it really isn’t for children. And it’s very short.
And there are loads of other great writers in there with me. (I’m not saying I’m a great writer, of course.)
And you can buy a copy here. I know I don’t need to tell you what a really, really important cause this is. Go on, help it.
Leave a Comment · Posted on March 15, 2017
I’m a little late in blogging this because, true to form, I’ve been here, there and everywhere, and writing too. And scanning. There has been lots of scanning.
I’ve worked at Summer Lane Primary in Barnsley a couple of times now and it’s always delightful and it was a delight to be invited back for World Book Day. There were some amazing ideas and some wonderful things written and it’s always such a good thing to see everyone, teachers, staff – the whole school – enthusiastic about stories and books and writing. A huge thank you to them for that, and their support – especially the brilliant Mr McDougall, and a bigger one to the young writers there who, again, did brilliant things. It was an absolute pleasure.
Leave a Comment · Posted on March 13, 2017
It’s Shakespeare week next week, which is brilliant and to celebrate it I’lll be running a series of after school workshops in Sheffield for young writers (7 years old and upwards) where we’ll be having fun with words, making up our own stories and poems, and getting to know a little bit about Shakespeare and his work (and possibly finding out that we already know it).
Monday 20th March – Chapeltown Library 4 – 5:30 (click for website.)
Tuesday 21st March – Stocksbridge Library 3:30 – 5:30 (click for website.)
Wednesday 22nd March – Children’s Central Library 5:30 – 6:30 (click for website.)
Places are limited so if you’d like to come along then drop the relevant library a line. We had a genuinely amazing time last year doing this, and lots of fun, and I can’t wait to start again.
7 Comments · Posted on March 3, 2017
Thrilled to hear that my very short story, Cupid and Me, has been nominated for Ink, Sweat and Tears’ Pick of the Month for February. It’s actually extra pleasing considering how little I’ve been publishing over this past year or so (I’ve been writing, of course, just not really sending much stuff out there).
2 Comments · Posted on February 24, 2017
I have run away. Only for a few days, but I have. Right now, I’m in a hotel room and I have been in no one’s company but my own for a day or two. I have slept. I have wandered and walked. Yesterday I swam for the first time in, I think, ten years. And I have written too.
And I’m feeling better. It’s been so good to have a bit of space. There’s been so much to think of and to worry about over these past few months I was in danger of it swallowing me. And that’s not a great place to be. I’ll not bore you with the personal stuff (I’m fine) but, work-wise I think this is the busiest I’ve been in ten years, and that’s including having four books out since then. Since November I’ve been running a project that I think is the best thing I’ve ever done (more on that soon). I’ve taught and met so many amazing people as well – adults and children – and I’ve gone to some inspiring places but now, just for a few days, I don’t have to think about anything other than me. And my words.
So here’s to having a break from stuff every once in a while (or, in my case, every decade). Here’s to not letting life swallow us in a bad way. Here’s to happiness and sleep and making things up and spending time on yourself and with yourself. Here’s to saying No every so often. Here’s to you.
Oh, and here’ s a picture of me looking slightly dishevelled and beardy while being spied on by a spaceman after battling Storm Doris and train disruptions.
And here’s a piano I played; somehow people thought I could.
This is what it looked like right after I’d finished a draft earlier.
Here’s me by a strange, emerald light.
And here are my inky fingers.
Leave a Comment · Posted on February 14, 2017
I have a new story published today. It’s called Cupid and Me and you can read it at the brilliant Ink, Sweat and Tears, by clicking here.
Leave a Comment · Posted on February 8, 2017
Just a quick heads up to those in the Sheffield(ish) area…
I’ll be reading a brand new, not published, not even sent anywhere to be published story at the brilliant Verse Matters at the Theatre Deli on The Moor this Thursday. That’s the 9th of February. I’ve been to the night a few times now and it’s been so good every time and I can’t wait. There’s a great line-up and something for everyone. I’m on right at the beginning so, if you want to hear me, probably best to get there early (we start at 7:30).
And if you’re on Twitter, they’re here.
Leave a Comment · Posted on February 2, 2017
January. It kind of came out of the Christmas darkness, seemed to last an age, then seemed to be over in a week. But mine was good. There’s so much I need to fill you in on – and I will – I just have to wait for a few things to be sorted first.
So, January began as December ended – with me in front of my laptop typing up the poems and stories young writers from primary schools all over the Dearne Valley had written with me. It meant that I kind of lost my Christmas holidays to typing (I think I ended up with just over 500) but it also meant that they were done. And they were so, so good. And, reading them as I typed it reminded me how everyone, and I mean everyone can write something – and not just something but something good.
Every single young writer wrote something good. That’s some going. But what’s better is that they didn’t just write one good thing – they wrote four. When it’s ready I’ll point you the way of the website where there’ll be stories and video and pics so you can see for yourselves (and also see what a brilliant job the people at the Dearne Valley Landscape Project, and Barnsley Museums are doing. But more of that soon…).
And then it was back into schools for what’s probably been the busiest few months I’ve had since my first book came out. Loads of workshops, loads of wonderful work produced, and loads of amazing young voices and amazing young people who were given the confidence and trust to create – and they did.
Mid January I hopped on a train to Bradford to work with some more amazing writers (these were a little older) at the Appleton Academy where we made emotions into people after looking over my story, Love, (which you can read in this book) and it was brilliant. And always a pleasure to see the amazing Gill and the wonderful Miss Boyle again.
Then I ended up getting a little ill, which I’m sure is pretty much all my own doing and one day I will stop and, for the first time that I can remember, I cancelled a talk and a reading (as well as a meeting). And that’s never something I like to do.
Last week I was back at the BBC at Media City, which is always enormous fun (especially when there are stories about badger car-seats) and then, very suddenly, it was February and I was agreeing to even more interesting and exciting stuff.
Which is why I’ve been a bit quiet here, there and everywhere else social media shaped. But do stay tuned, there’s lots more to come. And I’m looking forward to telling you all about it, as well as sounding a bit more like myself, rather than some strange summariser of my month.
And… to finish. Here’s a picture my nephew drew on Christmas day. Because it’s cool.