22 October 2011

Lit chick, indeed

Wow, what a hectic couple of weeks it's been in literary Manchester. I've been working on the Manchester Literature Festival doing digital marketing and helping/blogging at various events; visiting the Book Barge in Castlefield; writing and distributing stories as part of my new Site Specific Stories project; pitching for an artist in residency slot with an in situ site-specific short story-writing idea; reading on stage at the Manchester Blog Awards; getting slagged off by someone for being part of the so-called "Manchester literati"; going on loads of literature-based and psychogeographical tours of this great city, and generally running about the place trying to down as many glasses of wine as is humanly possible (drinking wine is a prerequisite of being "literary", right?).

I would say it, but the Manchester Literature Festival has been ace, and it's a shame that it comes to its official close tomorrow (though there are a couple of "bookend" events in early November). Highlights for me have been the European Short Stories event, which was great from a linguist's point of view: stories read by the authors in their native languages (Dutch and Norwegian) while the English translation was shown on screen. Despite having not a word of Norwegian, it was really intriguing to see how you can actually follow it in translation. I also really enjoyed Patricia Duncker's specially commissioned short story in the grand surrounds of the Midland Hotel, plus a nice brew and a scone (note to self: start hanging out here). And PD - what a charming and enthusiastic lady, and such a talented way with words! Other short story joy was had at the glittering Manchester Fiction Prize and the Manchester Blog Awards, and there will be more this week at Bad Language, where I'll be performing a new number, and the Bolton Octagon, where David Gaffney will be reading as part of the Live Literature season, which I'm at next month, likely a quivering wreck.

But I've also been getting a bit of a poetry fix, and today swung by the Whitworth, where the Poetry Takeaway van had pulled up (pictured). "The world's first mobile poetry emporium" was great fun - you divulge some secrets to one of the three poets therein (including someone from the well-renowned Bang Said The Gun) and they spend no more than 10 minutes rustling up a piece based on your witterings then perform it for you and provide you with a copy, wrapped in a kind of takeaway packet. My poem, Multi-task, was scribed for me by none other than exuberant "local" lad Dominic Berry, who I know from Bad Language; I can't believe what a genius creation he came up with - complete with the word "ladyparts", which I just knew I shouldn't have told him about, but which fits in well. It's brilliant and he's going to post it up on his blog soon, so watch his space.

19 October 2011

Writing - and reading

My new story, part of my new project I've been Twittering on about, has today been published on 330 Words, which is up for a gong in tonight's glittering Manchester Blog Awards. I will take to the stage and read it, so do pop by. I'll tell you more about the project here soon. In the meantime, feel free to check out the website, Site Specific Stories. You can read the story, Solid Foundations Are Of Paramount Importance here.

10 October 2011

errata 404

I am currently well into the idea of guerilla writing and I'm working it into a pitch I'm putting forward for a project. You know the concept of guerilla gardening, right? A bunch of greenies go round and plant stuff in urban areas that are unloved and uncared for. I remember sunflowers near Blackfriars, opposite the pub where I used to go to for my Friday lunchtime pie and a pint treat with my Scouse art director; Northerners in exile together. The other day, I spotted some tomatoes growing by the multi-storey near the Arndale. So think about guerilla writing as something a bit along those lines: basically leaving short stories or poems in places you wouldn't expect, like library books or magazines in dentists' waiting rooms or phone books in bars or under car windscreen wipers.

So I'm proper liking my mate David Gaffney's new literature project Errata, which is running until January in Cornerhouse Bookshop as part of Micro Commissions.

David - author of flash fiction collections Sawn-off Tales, Aromabingo and The Half-life Of Songs plus novel Never Never, and whose sound installation Boy You Turn Me is on at Birmingham Book Festival until 16 October (see my review on Creative Times here) - gave me the skinny on the project, which explores ideas around truth and authenticity.

Says David: "Errata slips are inserted into magazines and books to correct errors or typographical mistakes, but I'm using the format in a different way – to disseminate lies and tell stories. Each of my slips relates to a page of content in different periodicals in Cornerhouse Bookshop, adding a fictional dimension to the publication, disrupting the reader’s engagement with the text and throwing into doubt the veracity of what they are reading. As the slips are put in only certain magazines, and secretly, you won't know whether you will find one or not."

Hahaha, subversive. And they're funny too; I've been getting my kicks out of proofreading them. Scan the QR code for more or, if you're so last century, click here.

04 October 2011

Arts seen

It's one of those points in the year when, just like buses, all the art shows come along at once. Dark Matters just launched at the Whitworth (with pieces - from Bacon to Whiteread - exploring shadows and illusion, so I'll make it down Oxford Road at some point before 15 January), the same day Ford Madox Brown: Pre-Raphaelite Pioneer opened at Manchester Art Gallery until 29 January.

Much anticipated, this is the first major exhibition of the former Manchester-dweller's work, and it's definitely very comprehensive. I was treated to a tour by curator Julian Treuherz, who pointed out all the themes and styles and gave a potted background history of the paintings and painter. I found Brown's perspective somewhat naive and some of the colours rather on the kitsch side, but it wasn't not interesting and I did like the stained glass, the cartoons and the furniture he designed for William Morris. It's £8 or £6 concessions - head down on Tuesday 18 October, and you'll also get some poems about the show courtesy Jean Sprackland who has been specially commissioned by Manchester Literature Festival. See here for more on that.

On Saturday, Cornerhouse flung wide the doors to the first major public solo UK exhibition by one of the most prominent contemporary artists working in South Asia today, Rashid Rana. Everything Is Happening At Once is part of the Asia Triennial Manchester II festival, which is running concurrently across various venues in and around the city until 27 November.

Back to Rana, though, and I thoroughly recommend you catch this free show over all three of Cornerhouse's galleries (it goes beyond the festival to 18 December). Gallery 1 explores comparisons, and I was taken by the study of time versus space illustrated by The World Is Not Enough and Dis-location I, a pixellated image of a street scene made up by the mosaic of tiny snapshots of life in Lahore. Gallery 2 offers up some more controversial themes, from the blood and gore of the Rothko-like series What Lies Between Flesh And Blood to Veil VI, a collage of miniature jazz mag photos worked together to create a full-size piece and make a statement about the role of women in both Western and non-Western cultures. On the top floor, the montage of shop signs, ads and graffiti of Language Series II is almost Impressionistic in colour and abstractness, but the real treat in Gallery 3 is Desperately Seeking Paradise II (pictured). Approaching this huge, almost architectural, structure, you see yourself reflected in its mirrored surfaces, then as you move round the room it dominates, you can see behind the separate tiles and a whole new view becomes available - again from the small-scale images to the bigger picture: in this case a skyline not unlike a pre-9/11 New York, another political message, one presumes.

03 October 2011

Smut peddling

You can now finger Quickies: Short Stories For Adults, a collection of erotic flash fiction to titilate and tease. The book features 35 very varied stories on the subject of lust and love written by some of the UK’s best writers including David Gaffney, Emma Jane Unsworth, Chris Killen, Valerie O’Riordan, Socrates Adams, Claire Massey and Tania Hershman. Oh, and me. Heh.

You can stroke a hard copy (as modelled here by my Flashtag Writer colleague Lil Dave) for just £5 either by ordering through our website or by whispering sweet nothings to one of the Flashtag Writers, or by swinging by Blackwell's bookshop on Oxford Road.

You can also download the wares pixel by pink pixel - yes yes yes, we have a Kindle! There's a link on our website here or go direct to Amazon here.