1 Comment · Posted on July 13, 2015
It has been a busy old summer so far. There’s been loads of editing (really good stuff) and teaching and meetings and writing too – over the past fortnight I’ve written two stories that I’m really happy with, or will be when they’re done at least. And I had the proofs for A Book of Beautiful Trees last week and – I know, I’d say this anyway – but it looks wonderful. So far so good, so busy, so happy.
And I’m very pleased to confirm that I’ll be running two summer writing projects for children aged 8-11 yrs. They will each happen over four days and over those four days we’ll find out how to generate good ideas, turn them into great stories (and all that that entails), write and illustrate them, and turn them into a book at the end. I’m really looking forward to these – they’re going to be great fun.
The first will be at Sheffield Central Children’s Library, where I’ve been working quite a bit over this past six months, and it will run for four days from August 11th to the 14th.
Places are very limited (so those attending get the most of my attention) so you will have to book quickly which you can do by contacting the library here: email@example.com. And you can drop me a line if you have any questions by using the form here. If you’d like to speak to the staff over the telephone here’s the number: 0114 2734734
The second will be at Bollington Library from August 18th to the 21st. Again, places are very limited – to book contact the staff here: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call them: 01625 378266. I’d love to see you there. Do spread the word.
Leave a Comment · Posted on July 8, 2015
Yesterday was one of those days that I love. I received the proofs for my next book A Book of Beautiful Trees – the follow up to Beautiful Words and the second in the series of three, with Beautiful Shapes to follow. And you don’t get those days often – I’ve been lucky enough to have four. And that feeling never diminishes. There’s huge pride that you’ve created something other people will hold and read and like or love or hate. And there’s the obvious fear that, you know, what if they all hate it. And there’s a sense of achievement – a kind of validation that yes, Nik, you are a writer. And I don’t think that’s something we get to feel too often because most of us – the ones I know at least – spend most of their time doing far less glamorous things than book launches and readings or attending the premiers of our film adaptions (not happened to me yet – but I’d love to see some of my stories animated – if you know anyone then tell ’em to get in touch). They do things like ironing and cooking and raising children and sitting at desks trying very hard to make something good happen. In pyjamas, often.
So, yeah – it was a thankful moment and it’s helped hugely that I’m in love with what the book looks like. Miranda’s illustrations are, as ever, wonderful and moving and different enough for them to work as illustrations for the kind of stuff I write and my publisher, Roastbooks, again, clearly show why I love them so much. I’ll be able to confirm publication dates very soon but for now, rest assured, it’ll be out a little later in the year and I’m very excited (and a bit terrified) about it all. But I like the book a lot, so there’s at least one happy reader out there.
So that’s me. I am very much looking forward to seeing what typos I’ve missed.
I have a couple of events lined up over the summer and I was going to post them here today but time, as it does, has caught me and I have to fly out of the door. More very soon.
Leave a Comment · Posted on July 4, 2015
I’m still not reading anywhere near as much as I’d like and I keep telling myself that that’s okay because sometimes we simply don’t have enough time. But it’s still something that bothers and I think, over the coming weeks, I am going to try harder.
But I have been reading some things. And some of those things have been wonderful.
After seeing Angela’s Readman’s Don’t Try This at Home get the digital treatment over at The Pigeonhole, I’ve been dipping into some of the other things they have up there – most notably Fable, a collection of modern Fairytales and that’s been really great fun. They’re doing good and interesting things and I like that, so much in fact that I’ll be interviewing them on here very soon.
And last week I read Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami. 39 year old Tsukiko meets her old Japanese teacher in a bar. They get into an interesting conversation and go home. And then, over a period of a few months, they keep bumping into each other and having similar interesting conversations, go mushroom picking, take a little holiday together. It’s a charming novella and delightful too and very, if I can say it without generalising, Japenese. I especially loved the food references. Definitely worth a go. Reading it kind of felt like going on a nice walk. I loved it.
And after that I read, from cover to cover in one very pleasant sitting, This Is For You by Rob Ryan. I loved it – a story told in pictures (that are actually cut outs). It felt like a very close relative of what I’m trying to do with Beautiful Words and Trees (more news on that soon, folks). Again – definitely worth a read. It’s 100% beautiful. Tender and sad too. I loved it very much.
And I think that’s about it. There are exciting things happening in the background and I shall tell you all about them very soon. In the meantime, go and read something great.
Leave a Comment · Posted on June 30, 2015
It’s a huge pleasure to welcome Angela Readman to the blog today, mostly because her latest book, the very wonderful Don’t Try This at Home is a huge pleasure to read. Not only that, it’s a book whose stories stick with you, like the good kind of bruises, long after you’ve put her down. It’s not often I get super excited about a book these (mostly because I’m not reading anywhere near as much as I’d like) but this one, let me tell you, is an absolute belter.
Angela’s been a friend for a good while now, and that always makes things better- I love seeing good people do good things and I love to see them doing well doing them. Angela’s was listed for the Costa Short Story Award a little while ago, and then she decided to go and win it. I loved her collection, Strip, too, so I asked her to come along here to talk about both and her journey from poetry to prose (which I think, as they’re very close relations, as something like simply moving from one window of a kitchen to the other).
But enough waxing lyrical. Don’t Try This at Home is without doubt the best collection I’ve read in a good while (and I read plenty of great ones). Here’s what I said about it when her publishers asked me for a quote:
“Angela Readman’s stories are gems. Rainbow coloured ones that probably glow in the dark and sing too. They are perfect, fizzing explosions of stories, told by a perfect storyteller. You will love them.”
And I meant every word.
So, here is the lady herself…
Angela! Welcome! I couldn’t be happier to have you here. You have a new book out. A book of short stories. How’s it been?
Hello. Thank you for inviting me over.
It’s been a surreal experience having a story book out, its still sinking in that it’s real! I keep seeing people I don’t know discussing the stories and which ones meant something to them. It’s been amazing to see how that varies for each reader. It’s quite moving to me. There is still a small part of me that doesn’t believe I have a book out, so I am stunned by it.
Now, I don’t say this kind of thing lightly but I absolutely adore Don’t Try This at Home. It’s one of those books that you fall in love with instantly and reminds me that I do believe in love at first sight. In fact, I’d go as far to say that I love it as much as the ones that made me realise that I could write the kinds of things I wanted to write in the days before Not So Perfect and Freaks! – I’m talking about Aimee Bender and Etgar Keret and those brilliant kinds of people. How does that sound?
That sounds amazing! They are both writers that changed something for me, I think. I was one of those people who had such a long list of books to read. I had dozens of unfinished books on my shelf. Many were books I thought I am supposed to read, rather than books I felt like. The first time I read Keret and Bender I had goose bumps. It was a revelation for me: stories can be strange and enjoyable, as well as serious. That’s when writing stories changed for me. It could suddenly be fun.
Your last book, the poetry collection, Strip, was another I loved and, after re-reading it a little while ago (I used Laundry Day in a workshop I was running) I did notice similarities between that and Don’t Try This at Home. How do you think they compare?
It’s always possible to see similarities between books, I think. The concerns of a writer come up again and again. One thing I’m always interested in is female characters, and the ways we resolve issues. The books share that. Don’t Try This at Home features different characters, relationships, and includes more men. It feels like a book with more fun in it than Strip. Oddly, it also has more sadness.
If the books were people, do you think they’d be friends?
Strip would be the girl who breaks Don’t Try This at Home’s heart. Don’t Try This would be that sort of chap who wants to fall in love, but it never works out. Strip would give him a fake number.
And here’s what I really want to get to – your journey (if we can be as wanky to call it that) from poetry to short fiction. How was it for you? For me it seems that it was very natural (I remember reading short stories you sent to me four or five years ago and thinking how seemingly effortlessly good at them you were). Was it that easy? Are things ever as easy as they look?
I work really hard to make things look easy, I think we all do! The journey was always going to happen, I think. Originally, I went on my MA for stories, but by the end of the course I already had poetry offers, so I ran with it. It kept me pretty busy. Now and then, a story would slip out anyway (like The Porn Star Letters in Strip) but not often.
Then, about five years ago, I started stories again. I couldn’t avoid it any more.
When I read your short stories it kind of makes me think that they could be my stories’ cousins. How would you describe the relationship between your stories and your poems?
There’s a strange relationship between poems and stories I’ve only noticed recently. There are some stories I write I’d never have found if I hadn’t written a poem first. It’s as if a poem opens a little door, just a chink, to let me see something small. I have to come back, fling the door open wide and see who is there sometimes by writing a story.
Could you describe Don’t Try This at Home in one sentence. Who’s it for? What’s it about?
Don’t Try This at Home is a story book of people who will try anything, however strange, to get through the day. It’s for dreamers, the disappointed, people who hope, and stare out the window wondering what if?
What’s next for you?
Not to sound unprofessional or anything, but I have absolutely no idea! I have poems waiting to be published. I’m writing other stuff too, but who knows ? Nothing is certain.
And last… have you ever considered cutting your husband in half?
Never in my wildest dreams, why half perfection?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you, and to people like you who have been so supportive about my stories. It is amazing to me.
Angela Readman’s stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines, winning awards such as the Inkspill Magazine Short Story Competition and the National Flash Fiction Competition. In 2012 she was shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award for ‘Don’t Try This at Home’ – an award she would go on to win in 2013 with the story ‘The Keeper of the Jackalopes’. Readman is also a published poet.
Don’t Try This at Home is available from all good book sellers, including this one.
Leave a Comment · Posted on June 27, 2015
So, it’s National Flash Fiction Day. Hooray. The fourth one, no less. And, as ever and sadly, I am in a rush.
But am I the sort to let such a day pass without acknowledgement? No, sir, I am not.
So, here first, is this year’s anthology, Landmarks. There’s a story of mine, ‘Love’ in there and lots of other brilliant stuff (I know, I’ve read it) by brilliant people.
And here’s me reading a flash.
There are more on my Youtube page (which I should probably actually start doing something with) here.
Leave a Comment · Posted on June 22, 2015
For the eagle-eyed amongst you, you may have noticed that there’s been a change in pricing for the edits I do and I just wanted to make a brief note here about that (brief, only because I don’t really like to talk about stuff that isn’t writing and story and generally I find this interesting here).
So, in brief, you can now have me edit your piece of flash fiction for £10.
A couple of the other edits I do have gone up a little for the first time in five years, but you should also be getting a little bit more for your money on that – ie I’m offering more and slightly more in depth reports on top of the line edits.
So there you go. (I’ve also got a couple of spaces free again on my online correspondence short fiction course – click here if you’re interested.)
Also, I ate sushi the other day and it was good.
And this is exactly what I look like before I eat sushi.
And, in other news, I went to some botanical gardens the other day and kind of fell in love with the rose garden there. They have roses that look like halved hard-boiled eggs now.
And ones that smell exactly like their colours. And that, good people, was a belter.
And between stuffing my face and ogling flowers and all the usual editing (lovely to hear the last couple of things I’ve helped with have been placed in good places) I’ve been writing and polishing stories and that makes me feel good. It makes me feel like a writer again, which is always a strange thing because, you know, that’s what I am; I just don’t always have as much time for it as I’d like.
More soon. Next up a rather exciting interview with someone whose work I am utterly in love with…
Leave a Comment · Posted on June 18, 2015
As I seem to be saying over and over and over again recently, I have been busy. And I really have. I know ‘busy’ is a kind of a default setting for me, and has been over the past ten years, but I think this is probably about the busiest I’ve been in as long as I can remember. At times I certainly feel as knackered as I did after the tour to promote my first book back in 2006.
And talking of books…
I was very pleased to hear the other day that my brand new story ‘Love’ will be appearing in this year’s National Flash Fiction Day anthology, Landmarks. I’m just really pleased to have something brand new out there – with everything else I’ve been doing I’ve not really been sending stuff anywhere. I’ve read it at a couple of events earlier this year, and it’s gone down really well, and it’s a story I’m really proud of so I’m getting all excited that people will be reading it. (And I’m in some lovely company too – here’s the list of everyone else who’s in there). (There’s a story of mine in last year’s too, which is available here.)
And Not So Perfect turned five while I blinked earlier in the month. I blinked and I missed it and I’m struggling to believe that it was over five years ago when I launched it, on a sweltering day in Simply Books, where the strawberry tarts I’d brought pretty much melted in their boxes. To celebrate (kind of) here’s me reading Kiss from that collection. (There are other videos of me reading, if you’d like to watch them, here). I think what’s the most astonishing (and certainly reassuring (ego-boosting?) is that, over five years on, people are still buying it and enjoying it – and they’re still letting me know. A huge thanks to every one of you who’s bought anything of mine. or who’s helped, reviewed – anything! –over these past few years. It means the world.
So yes. There has been busyness. Lots of busyness. Lots and lots of trains and travelling and teaching and workshops and editing for people. On Tuesday I took the last of my latest bunch of junior writers’ sessions which is always a sad thing (they’ve been a lovely bunch again) so next I’ll be arranging making the stories they’ve written and illustrated into books. And then there’ll be a reading. Most importantly one of the mums very kindly bought us lollies.
But I’ve not only been working (like a dog). No, no.
I went to a gallery and saw hummingbirds wrapped in newspaper. (I love hummingbirds probably as much as lemurs so this, while exciting in a Victorian sort of way, was a bit sad).
I went for walks at night and took pictures of things that the street lamp pointed to
I posed by a car and pretended I could be one of those badass/heart-throb dudes from 80s cop shows
At some point I found the time to sit and drink this
I very definitely didn’t find God (although they did sing very nicely) (Also note that God is at hand and there’s a lottery hand by them – so that’s what it looks like…)
Someone I didn’t actually know pointed out to me that I, and one of my writing groups, was in this (thanks Vicki and Bollington Live – it looks great)
And I managed to find an hour to sit in a city library before I taught there and write.
So there you go. That’s me. More soon…
Leave a Comment · Posted on June 16, 2015
You know I had intended to mark this little website re-launch thing with something a little more significant than, well, just saying ‘Here’s a new website’ (huge thanks to the very lovely Vicky for her hard work for it – if anyone’s ever after a designer type person then drop me a line). I was going to wait until I had news (which I have, stay tuned, I’ll be sharing that very soon when I can) and I was also going to kick it off with some sort of giveaway (I still might) but things seem to have been keeping on getting in the way to the point where, the other day, I just thought let’s get it up there.
So I did.
And doesn’t it look lovely?
It seems that most of my time, these days, is spent on trains. Or sprinting to get on trains (with heavy bags – it should be an Olympic sport). Or waiting for trains.
And teaching. There’s an awful lot of that happening at the moment too, which is something I’m really, really enjoying. Of course it’s helped when the people I’ve been working with have been lovely and brilliant. And there has, behind the scenes, in whispers and pockets, been actual writing happening. Earlier today (on the train, of course) I heard that one of my stories, Love, will be in this year’s National Flash Fiction Day anthology, and that makes me happy. Mostly because, over this past year, I’ve been a little slow and reluctant to send short stories out there for one reason or other. But there it is. A brand new, previously unpublished, story of mine is going to be out there very soon. More details as I have them. (And talking of things of mine you might not have seen yet – here are some videos of me reading things. One of them’s even on a swing.)
So there you have it. And now I eat, and think about closing tabs (there are MANY) and maybe turning my laptop off for the first time in a week. And finish off prep for tomorrow’s workshop. But first: food.
Leave a Comment · Posted on June 15, 2015
Hello! So we’ve a bit of a new look going on here. I do hope you like it. I’m about to head off to teach but, believe me, there’ll be lots more content coming very soon, and very exciting content at that.
In the meantime, make yourselves at home. I’ll be back soon. And if you’ve any thoughts on the new place, let me know.
Leave a Comment · Posted on May 24, 2015
I bought Jaymay’s latest (Jaymay in Norway) the other day and it’s been on pretty much continually since. There’s always a bit of an odd feeling when I get something new from someone whose previous work I’ve loved – a kind of fear that I won’ like it, that the bubble will burst. Not so in this case. The record is very, very good. There’ll be more from me on this and Jaymay soon… (And, for the curious, you can listen to her chatting with me a few years ago here.)
And this is about the pick of the bunch. Love it.