Friday, 9 October 2009

It's been a while... I've been working on my novel Life! Death! Prizes! (Go to yr copy of chat for the provenance of this title...) This book will come out somewhere in 2011 and I'm currently working through it with a (Very, very good) editor. There's still a way to go but we're getting there. Inching towards something special - if it doesn't kill me first.

And now there's a gap while I wait for the next batch of notes. So I'm back on the other projects. The amusing piece of candyfloss about my terrible time at ITV ('You can't afford hobnobs? What do you mean ITV can't afford hobnobs?'), the play with Mark Illis and notes for my third novel... and somewhere in the midst of all this I ought to find a way of making a proper living...

I've been spending a lot oftime up at Lumb Bank taking turn in being the new (and lovely and efficient) Centre Directors, Ben and Liz, when they need a break. The last couple of weeks I've been Liz which was excellent because the tutors were Miranda France and Hannah Pool - both of whom are gorgeous, funny and committed to helping new writers become the best that they can be. The guest reader on Thursday was Geoff Dyer who has written some brilliant books. Colour of Memory ( a kind of Vile Bodies for the Brixton dole-ite generation of the 1980s), Yoga for people who can't be bothered to do it - which I guess was his break out book, as well as books on photography and essays and a recent novel, Jeff in Venice. All of them unique swirls of memoir and fiction. You should read them (Apart from The Search... don't really need to bother with that one.) In person Geoff is engaging, witty erudite, thoughtful. Great company. Which is why it was something of a surprise when a writing student put up her hand and her question turned out to be - 'Can't we get a bit more energy in the room?' Geoff was very gracious, restricting himself to a mild - 'Oh I'm sorry I'm being such a drag for you...'

This week I'm Liz again and it's TV writers. Specifically aspirant TV comedy writers... Tony Pitts and Keith Temple are the tutors and Jesse Armstrong came as the guest. Tony and Keith are working them very hard, making the students realise that comedy is a serious business (though they haven't entirely killed laughter at Lumb Bank).

I missed Jesse who to you is probably that guy that writes Peepshow and In The Thick of It, but to me is David's son. David Armstrong is a fine crime novelist who also wrote a great writing textbook called How Not To Write A Novel... He's also a great teacher of writing and has been to Lumb several times as a tutor and it was through him that I got hold of Jesse.

One of the nice things about being unemployed enough to get to go up to Lumb Bank quite a bit these days, is that I get to be part of my final programme. Last summer when I began putting together the programme I suspected it might be my last year at Arvon and so booked writers who were not only great at tutoring, but were also people I'd want to spend time with. As it was, I left sooner rather than later, so it's nice now to pop back and say hi and have a cup of tea...

Last night I missed Jesse A because I was at Shelf Library (Outskirts of Bradford) talking to their readers' group about TAG. I love doing these sessions. A dozen well-informed, well read, intelligent readers who have all read my book and have thoughtful questions about it. Plus they laid on snacks. It was a fantastic evening. And a tribute to two librarians, Anna Turner whose own novel comes out in January, and the librarian at Shelf itself (Shelf itself - must be a more elegant way of putting that.... Anna organises the Calderdale word of mouth festival, but it was the local branch librarian (whose name, shamefully, I've forgotten - it'll come back to me) whose energy and enthusiasm got a nice little audience together...

Tomorrow I'm doing a dialogue workshop at Birmingham Book Festival. Sunday I'm out Akroyd Library in Banksfield Museum Halifax teaching writing, Monday and Thursday evenings I'm at Hebden Bridge Library for my regular workshop work-outs and next Sunday I'm in Colchester reading with AL Kennedy (whose work I love...)

After that, my notes should be back and I'll be chained to my desk again...

Friday, 31 July 2009

Moniack Mhor

This blog is a traditional diary really. On the Pepys model. Except not in shorthand. Not really intended to be read as entertainment. Part aide memoire, part writing practise. Like doing my scales. A way to limber up of a morning.

Today is Caron's birthday and she got a short dress, a short skirt, some bangles, a ring, some brightly coloured tights. Jill Dawson's A Great Lover... (Caron is a fan of her work...). 7 was worried (really worried, crying worried) he hadn't got her a present, so he gave her the tights...

And then I fought with the child tax credit people... like a million others. Very brusque, exasperated Glaswegian lady. Not a great day for her... This was a typical Gordon Brown scheme. Over complicated, fussy but also somehow fuzzy too... well intentioned but paranoid... and bureaucratic, trying to cover all angles and somehow satisfying nobody...

Just back from Inverness where I was reading at Moniack. Lovely group. I knew three from Lumb. Jane who has come a few times. Steph and the Canadian PR man - Ryan. Who used to do PR for New York City and now does it for Poundland. And here's the twist - Poundland pay more for their PR than the City of new York. Ryan was responsible for that whole 'best job in the world' thing which was actually a PR stunt for the queensland tourist board... or similar...

Lots of intelligent questions and a responsive crowd. Spent some time talking to a stylish, skinny indie-chick who turned out to be a Farsi and Arabic speaker who was just starting work at the Foreign Office. Our spooks have changed... for the better...

Today I've got to catch up on the writing. Gonna start with a shave...

Saturday, 25 July 2009

punching nice girls in the face

Yesterday I smacked two women in the face. They are perfectly nice women who had not harmed me in the slightest. There were witnesses too, and yet no-one intervened. I could have smacked them many more times, and much harder and still no-one would have stopped me.

I was in a boxing ring and these girls - Mandy and Kath - were in there too.

We've all been going to boxing training for a couple of years and we're all mates. We used to train at a bowls club in the village, but we sort of out-grew it and now the instructor (also an actor and TV writer. You'd know his face, even if you didn't know his name) has his own boxing gym in town. (prob our town is one of the few where a boxing gym will be run by an actor/writer, and where the clientele will include several published novelists, poets, actors, dancers, film-writers, acupuncterists, aromatherapists, masseurs, hypnotists, puppeteers, TV producers, professional layabouts of all descriptions)

Friday is sparring night and we were separated into two groups. Me and the two girls. My wife and two lads. I wasn't trying to hurt anyone. I was even really trying to hit anyone. Touch and move away, touch and move away, that was my mantra. But I'm clearly not quick enough or experienced enough to judge things probably. I'm also 13 stone and my opponents were 9 and half each. It would have been fairer to fight them both at the same time.

They were very good about it, but I felt wretched. Wretched enough to refuse if put in with girls again. It's just wrong.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

first post

I have a brain tumour. Actually I have rectal cancer with secondary tumours in the brain. Or, possibly, I'm just a bit knackered and don't get to bed early enough. The thing is, I haven't been ill for years, not so much as a sniff. This is a terrible burden because it makes me think I'm being saved for something truly hideous. And, worse than this, undignified. Anyway, to keep the hypochondria at bay I have booked myself a well man check at the surgery for Tuesday. And a trip to the dentist and bought some socks and pants. I'm in full on MOT mode. I would say I'm giving myself a bit of a service, but I know what you're like. You with your mind like a sewer - so I won't.

And I've got to ring the tax office about child-tax credits and about a self-assessment number. And I've got to book the car in for a service too. Ring the electrician about coming to fix the cooker like he promised he would weeks ago. And there's all sorts of nipping and popping to do. (to the co-op, to the community centre to book a badminton court, you know how it is - never a dull moment round here). It's the summer holidays. A chance to do some routine stuff cos I can't do much else cos I'm looking after seven. (We've two other children called respectively 22 and 15 - I know, what were we thinking...). Anyway, I'm keeping my mind occupied because apparently my next book Life! Death! Prizes! is in an acquistions meeting even as I type.

I love that book. It deserves a chance. It's a book worth being ill for. Not rectal cancer or brain tumours obviously, but I'd go as high as swine flu easy.