31 March 2011

Stream of consciousness

Thought I'd share with you this pic from last week's Twestival, when me and three out of four of the Flash Mob boys provided the entertainment with our pop-up literary salon. Fat Roland broke the ice with two unique audience-participation pieces (the first, a tongue-twister; the second, his Beyonce haiku). Benjamin Judge then took to the stage and presented one of his idiosyncratic stories of mammals (the man is obsessed, I'm telling you). Last but not least, I had the pleasure of reading a tale of Tweetdeck and twotnot as its creator Tom masterfully pinged inter-related Tweets by the characters Helen, Scott and various pop and rock stars up onto that there Twitter stream on that there screen, the one in the picture. Raised a few chuckles around the place, too, I noted. The magic of modern technology, eh?

Thanks to Sam Easterby-Smith for providing the photographic evidence.

30 March 2011

A moment of fiction #12

Haven't been very forthcoming with my submissions info, have I? Sorry about that. As you know, I'm slipping. I tell you this at least once a week these days. So here's a quick round-up, which I've only just remembered to divulge, as it's written on the tiniest of Post-It notes and stuck in my diary (yes, I'm old-fashioned like that).

I'm afraid you have just one day left in which to submit to issue #3 of Friction Magazine and Journal. They're after your poetry, short stories, flash fiction and memoir - visit the website for details and submit via editor@frictionmagazine.co.uk.

You also only have until tomorrow to get short stories of up to 3,500 words on the subject of "power" to the new site Paraxis. This looks like an interesting project, and it's co-run by the wonderful Claire Massey, whose stories Chorden-under-Water and Feather Girls I have a tendency to harp on about. Everything you need to know is here; email paraxis.org@gmail.com.

Another looming deadline is for New Writing Dundee - they're accepting one piece of poetry or prose per person before 2 April, for publication in issue 6. Email newwritingdundee@dundee.ac.uk after first looking at the guidelines.

A slightly longer lead time is 29 April, when the fabulous* Flash Mob Writing Competition closes. Check out all the details online. The email is flashmobwritingcompetition@yahoo.co.uk.

And don't forget to submit to 330 Words, Roy Keane's Lucky Scarf, the shiny new-look Rainy City Stories, Blank Pages and It's Getting Worse. These are run by my friends, and they need your input!

*I am biased.

28 March 2011

Voluntary sector

Roll up, roll up: a number of very exciting projects and festivals are in need of your assistance and spare time and I know full well y'all have it in abundance, you dirty reprobates you.

Numero uno is Chorlton Arts Festival "one of the largest multi-arts events in the north of England and a showcase for visual and performing artists, with record attendance figures in 2010 of over 25,000 people" - I got that quote off one of my press releases... I am the festival's press officer, but I need help (and not just in my usual idiotic issues way)! If you want to give me a hand writing and disseminating press releases, talking to journos, and generally promoting the event in the run-up to and during festival week (Thursday 19 May to Monday 30 May), please send me good vibes and smoke signals, uppers and cake! A phone number and email address would be pretty useful too, so I can get in touch with you.

Also starting on 19 May, and running to 21 May, is Station Stories, the literary brainchild of my author pal David Gaffney. Set in Piccadilly Station, the Arts Council-funded craziness will feature a number of local writers - Jenn Ashworth, Tom Fletcher, Nick Royle, Peter "Bookmunch" Wild and poet Tom Jenks - telling tales at noon, 3pm and 7pm on each of the three days. Project manager Diana Hamilton is looking for volunteers to help out 11am to 8.30/9pm on the performance days - runners, guides, techies, meeter-greeters... Email diana@thehamiltonproject.co.uk or call 01625 265055.

Station Stories is in association with the wonderful Manchester Literature Festival, which is also looking for help with this year's shindig, taking place 13 to 23 October. Volunteers are needed so events run smoothly (so, again, meet'n'greet, info, guestlist etc) and the festival is also looking to sign up bloggers to help promote the various activities on its dedicated blog. I've done it for the past two years, and it's a great way to meet folk, see some stuff for nowt, and get your name bandied about. Anyhoooo, if you fancy signing up, there's now an online form. Questions and queries, direct to the lovely Jon Atkin via admin@manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk.

Last but by no means least is the gigantic Manchester International Festival, the grand unveiling of which I was very kindly invited to recently. Volunteers help the whole glittering shebang go round, so get yourself over to the website and stick your bloody name down. MIF runs 30 June-17 July. Worries and concerns, speak to Caroline via volunteering@mif.co.uk or 0161 238 7319.

22 March 2011

Me. Me. Me.

So here's a thing. I've written a new bit of flash, right, and I'm going to treat this month's Bad Language crowd to it tomorrow night. You should come and listen; it's set in the Northern Quarter, so it's quite fitting as that's where I'll be reading it. I wrote it after the last Bad Language, so bear in mind that recent mid-life crisis I've been joking about. I'm quite liking it (the story, that is, although the mid-life crisis is going pretty well, too), though I'm still trying to tinker with the ending. Still given that I'm up to my eyes in Very Important Meetings and photo-shoots and wotnot, you'll get what you're given. Bad Language starts at 7.30pm in the Castle. If you want a feel for the soiree, you can read about the February event here.

If you can't make it on Wednesday, then come to Twestival on Thursday. It starts at 6.30pm and is being held in NoHo, also in the NQ. It's a global shindig, which "uses social media to do social good". The Manc version will be donating 100% of ticket sales and auction takings to Wood Street Mission, and everything you need to know about the event and the charity is here. Me and the boys behind the Flash Mob Writing Competition are rocking up and wowing the collected masses with a pop-up literary salon. Fellow Flash Mobber Tom Mason writes about it here. Social Media Manchester has said: "There'll also be readings from Manchester's coolest bloggers' collective including the première of a unique multi-platform Twitter story, written specially for the night". I will be performing said piece, alongside Tom, who created the concept, the clever boy.

16 March 2011

Flash of inspiration

Lately I've been concerned about shirking my duties and not paying you the attention you so rightly deserve. I've been plying you with excuses that I'm not really ignoring you, but rather chipping away at some beautiful creations that have to remain a secret until I'm ready to reveal them in all their glory. And when that day comes you will be amazed! Wowed! Delighted! Overwhelmed!

That day is finally upon us.

That day is the launch of Flash Mob, a writing competition and literary salon that myself and fellow founders of the so-called #beatoff generation Benjamin Judge, Fat Roland, Tom Mason and David Hartley have been busily giving up our free time to shape and hone for your delight and delectation.

The competition is now open, and all the details of how to enter and who the devil those handsome judges are can be found on our funky little website here. You can follow us on Twitter @FMWComp here.

It all takes place as part of this year's Chorlton Arts Festival, and will be the first-ever flash fiction contest in the ten-year history of the multi-arts showcase. We're looking for the best 500-words-or-less story, which we'll be celebrating (along with our own work, naturally) in a glittering event set for Thursday 26 May. Put it in your diary, won't you. It's going to be fabulous, and fun, and maybe I'll buy a new frock for the occasion because that too begins with "f". It also gives me a plausible excuse if I let the blogging slip again, doesn't it. Doesn't it?

PS: Dave's also written about it on his rabbit-obsessed Do A Barrel Roll.

15 March 2011

Talent show

OK, folks, the blogging laziness continues. I can only apologise, but I promise that plenty of exciting things are going on behind the scenes and all will be be revealed soon, when you will hopefully forgive me for neglecting you so.

In the meantime, I just wanted to mention that I finally got round to watching New Novelists: 12 Of The Best, A Culture Show Special, which was shown on the tellybox on World Book Night. That being a Saturday, I was of course out painting the town red. Anyway, I saw it last night via the magic of Betamax, and thought it was very interesting. I'm sure you're bothered.

I enjoyed learning about the historical background to the idea of listing the best new writers at a given moment in time, and the controversy that has often entailed. I enjoyed hearing the various views on creative writing courses, and how most of the novels that were finally chosen as the golden dozen had a similar narrative structure, which the panel (led by John Mullan, who writes about the process in The Guardian here) put down to studying "the art" at college. (Whether that's a good or a bad thing, make your own mind up: I ain't here to judge, honey.) I enjoyed being made aware of 11 new books and 11 new writers, and seeing the 12th, local lass Jenn Ashworth, make her screen debut. More from Jenn here, and more on her soon on this very blog.

11 March 2011


Crivens, it's busy in my life right about now. Me and the #beatoff boys (just call me Nancy Drew, yeah?) are up to our eyes holding crisis talks and frantically emailing about names and logos and dates and photo-shoots and plenty more exciting things, details of which will be revealed next week, if you play your cards right (and we finally come to a decision on stuff). I've also been attending meetings about blogging and talking about blogging and writing about blogging, and you know what? I just haven't had time to do any blogging.

So I'm going to make it easy on myself here. I'm going to temporarily direct you to another blog, for an exquisite corpse is underway and, if you have been listening closely, you'll know that I am rather partial to an exquisite corpse. The game is afoot at The Endist, blog of the delightful Didsbury-based author Tom Fletcher. In exchange for contributing to the consequences, a glittering prize could be yours: a copy of Tom's new chapbook, The Field (a great story), out on the equally lovely Nicholas Royle's Nightjar.

These two, plus other fabulous local writers Jenn Ashworth, David Gaffney, Peter Wild and Tom Jenks, are currently paving the way for Station Stories, taking place 19-21 May in conjunction with Manchester Literature Festival. More on that soon, promise.

07 March 2011


So World Book Night just took place, and, as a result, I filled my Saturday with literary treats, culminating in bumping into short story writer and novelist Elizabeth Baines making her way to Didsbury Oxfam where I had just been handed a copy of Carol Ann Duffy's poetry collection The World's Wife. I commented later on Twitter that World Book Night did feel rather like preaching to the converted, but I've been assured, by poet Jo Bell among others, that actually books were dished out to non-reader types, so that's marvellous. Spread the love!

Anyway, my literary day kicked off with me heading to my first-ever Poets & Players event, surrounded by some wonderful naturalistic wallpaper at Whitworth Art Gallery. I was tempted over to the two-hour shindig when I heard JT Welsch was reading - I very much enjoyed his poetry when he launched his Salt chapbook alongside my pal Adrian Slatcher back in January. Described as "springing from the margins of masculinity", he didn't disappoint, especially as all bar one of the poems he read was totally new to me. Next up was another American, Aileen La Tourette, whose "magic realism" really caught my fancy. I loved the fast beaty rythms and alliterative, onomatopoeiaic language - words like "licketysplit" in the poem Humming. I particularly enjoyed the harsh feminity of Mail-order Doll - "She'd come to a bad end / I'd see to that" - and Hawaii - "Every year she sends a party dress / Like an answer to a prayer". After a break and a second helping of crackers music from Matthew Halsall's jazz-based Gondwana Orchestra, award-winning Mario Petrucci took to the stage and regaled us with tales of love and Chernobyl.

The next Poets & Players takes place on Saturday 9 April, 2.30pm, and features poetry readings by Tiffany Atkinson, Jeremy Over and Robbie Burton, and music from MariachoO!

04 March 2011

Fame and fortune

This last fortnight or so has been nothing if not exciting. Many extraordinary and unusual happenings have been explored; many interesting people and places have been experienced. So to speak.

Anyway, one of the truly amazing heady highpoints was opening the new issue of Blankpages, which hit the interwebs on Tuesday (and which you can download here), to find this very blog featured in the Blankpicks section, written this month by 330 Words editor, #beatoff collaborateur and my friend Tom Mason. I had known that Words & Fixtures was going to be mentioned, and that the blogging baton would be passed on to me to give my choice in issue 33. What I didn't know was quite how many lovely adjectives and descriptions Tom was going to employ!

Surely nothing, ever, could beat: "She’s a bit like the local Lauren Laverne of literature". Goodness me. Perhaps my work here is done.

02 March 2011

Thirties something

Another day, another play; this time Noel Coward's Private Lives at the Royal Exchange. I'm not much of an authority on Coward, but the Exchange's production of Blithe Spirit just over a year ago was so full of frivolity and flapper dresses (for which I have something of a weakness) that I immediately wanted to see this when I heard it was going to be on.

I wasn't disappointed. As ever at this theatre, the sets were fantastic, with an almost authentic ornamental garden laid out for the first act and a plush 1930s Parisian apartment, complete with grand piano (that is played live - oh, the talent!), for the second. The costumes and accessories too were beautiful, from the men's suits and smoking jackets to the ladies' travelling clothes and floaty evening gowns.

It's an excellent text, full of witty repartee and clever wordplay ("Don't quibble, Sibyl", etc). Even the bits in French are funny, and, while you might need to parler un petit peu to fully understand, the actress playing the maid (Rose Johnson) gets the point across with some comedy gestures and fabulous hamminess.

The remaining characters are Elyot and Sibyl Chase and Victor and Amanda Prynne; a pair of honeymooning couples, two of whom (Elyot and Amanda) were previously married - obviously with hilarious consequences. Simon Robson is wonderfully caddish as Elyot; Joanna Page (of Gavin and Stacey fame, I suddenly realise) has some lovely histrionics (and kiss curls) as Sibyl; Clive Hayward plays the puffed-up stick-in-the-mud Victor incredibly well - but it's Imogen Stubbs as Amanda who steals the show. She's cute and coquettish, cheeky and charming - and brilliant at tango and charleston. And she gets all the best lines:

Elyot: "It doesn't suit women to be promiscuous."
Amanda: "It doesn't suit men for women to be promiscuous!"

I think I want to be her.

Simon Robson as Elyot Chase and Imogen Stubbs as Amanda Prynne. Photo by Jonathan Keenan.

Private Lives continues until 9 April. See the Royal Exchange website for full details.