Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Appian Way at The Cadaverine

Just a swift post to say that a short-short story of mine, 'The Appian Way,' is over at The Cadaverine today.

You can find that here.

Happy weekend x

Thursday, 24 February 2011

March: Salt Publishing Month

I'm very excited to say that March will be dedicated to Salt Publishing. Salt are my absolute favourite publishing house. They specialise in short story and poetry collections, truly dedicated to finding new talent, producing beautiful books and passionate about the literature they publish. In fact, if you remember, one of our very first author interviews was Tom Vowler, who is published by Salt. :) Here's a bit about them.

Salt’s origins date back to 1990 when poet John Kinsella launched Salt Magazine in Western Australia. The journal rapidly developed an international reputation as a leading publisher of new poetry and poetics. Over the next decade, Kinsella, together with Tracy Ryan, went on to develop Folio(Salt), publishing and co-publishing books and chapbooks focused on a pluralist vision of contemporary poetry which extended across national boundaries and a wide range of poetic practices; a vision which still permeates our literature publishing today.

In 1999 John Kinsella, Clive Newman and Chris Hamilton-Emery formed a partnership to develop Salt Publishing, forming the template of today’s business. When Clive left in 2002 and the original partnership was dissolved, Jen Hamilton-Emery joined Chris to take over the running of Salt, relaunching the business in the UK. Since that time Salt has rapidly expanded its size and the range of the publishing programme. In November 2004, Salt was incorporated and Linda Bennett joined as a Director. In July 2005 John Skelton joined as a Director.

The international editorial team includes Janet McAdams, commissioning editor for the multi-award winning Earthworks Series of writing by indigenous peoples, and Katherine Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, joint commissioning editors for the Latin American Poetry Series.

From its offices in Great Wilbraham, Cambridge, Salt now publishes over 80 books a year, focussing on poetry, biography, critical companions, essays, literary criticism and text books by authors from the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Caribbean and mainland Europe.

The list includes a widening range of internationally-acclaimed authors, including major works by leading British poets John James, Tony Lopez, Peter Robinson and John Wilkinson, landmark titles by American poets Charles Bernstein, Maxine Chernoff, Forrest Gander, Peter Gizzi, Paul Hoover, Ron Silliman and Susan Wheeler, and new work by prize-winning Australian authors Pam Brown, Jill Jones, Kate Lilley, Peter Rose, Tom Shapcott and John Tranter. Salt’s authors appear at festivals and conferences the world over and their work continues to receive major critical attention.


The recession brings hard times for everyone and, in the book world, the indie booksellers and publishers are hit the hardest. It's these times, in particular, that we should stand up and fight for good literature and those dedicated to the cause. I'm running this month's dedication to Salt alongside their 'Just One Book' campaign. So, I ask all of you - if you can, please do buy a book from Salt in March [or whenever, now, even - go go go!] because I guarantee that you will find something in their lists which you will love. Go on: Just One Book [or two or three ;)].

And, in return, I'm giving you the opportunity to win a copy of one of their new releases. So, starting next Tuesday, I'm interviewing four Salt authors, one person a week, with a prize draw for their most recent book :)

Vanessa Gebbie is Welsh. She is author of Words from a Glass Bubble (Salt), a collection of her award winning fiction from prizes including Bridport and the Daily Telegraph. She is contributing editor of Short Circuit: Guide to the Art of the Short Story (Salt), and contributor to The Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction (Rose Metal Press, USA). She teaches widely; in 2010 she was Writer in Residence at Stockholm University. Her latest collection of short stories is Storm Warning from Salt.

Anna Woodford has received an Eric Gregory Award, a major Leverhulme Award, a Hawthornden Fellowship and an Arvon Jerwood Apprenticeship. Her pamphlet Party Piece was a winner in the International Poetry Business Competition, selected by Michael Longley. Her pamphlet Trailer was a Poetry Book Society Choice. She is widely published in many literary magazines including the TLS, the Rialto and Horizon Review. Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, Birdhouse is her first full length collection.

Pinckney Benedict grew up on his family’s dairy farm in the mountains of southern West Virginia. He has published two collections of short fiction and a novel. His stories have appeared in Esquire, Zoetrope: All-Story, the O. Henry Award series, the New Stories from the South series, the Pushcart Prize series, The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, and The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction. Salt have just published his collection of short stories, The Miracle Boy and other stories.

Wena Poon is a Singapore-born American author whose work has appeared in print, radio and film. Winner of the 2010 Willesden Herald International Short Story Prize in England, twice longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award in Ireland, and nominated for the Singapore Literature Prize and the Malaysia Popular Readers’ Choice Award, Poon is the author of Alex y Robert, The Proper Care of Foxes, and Lions In Winter. She also writes a sci-fi action-adventure novel series, the first four volumes of which are collected in The Biophilia Omnibus, which was voted Best Book Gift of the Year by CNN Singapore. A graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, and a practicing lawyer, she lives in San Francisco and Austin. Wena's latest book from Salt is a novel, Alex Y Robert.


So, yes, I hope that you enjoy the theme for this month, and do check back to read the interviews and for the links to reply for your chance to win a free book :)

Monday, 21 February 2011

Author Visit: Jon McGregor

Jon McGregor was born in Bermuda in 1976. He moved with his family to England and spent his childhood in Norwich and Thetford, Norfolk, later studying at Bradford University for a degree in Media Technology and Production. He started writing seriously during his final year at University, contributing a series entitled 'Cinema 100' to the anthology Five Uneasy Pieces (Pulp Faction). He has had short fiction published by Granta magazine, and a short story entitled 'While You Were Sleeping' broadcast on Radio 4.

He left Bradford for Sheffield, then Nottingham, taking a series of shift-jobs to support his writing, and wrote his first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, in Nottingham, while living on a narrowboat. His novel has received much press attention, as he was the youngest contender and only first novelist on the longlist for the 2002 Man Booker Prize. It went on to win the Betty Trask Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award and to be shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best First Book) and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.

Jon McGregor's second novel, So Many Ways To Begin, was published in 2006. His most recent book is a third novel, Even The Dogs (2010), and most recently he came second place in the BBC National Short Story Award 2010, with his story 'If it Keeps on Raining.'


Hi Jon, thank you so much for stopping by for a chat, we know that you’re a very busy man and we appreciate it. Please make yourself at home!

Thanks for having me. This is a very comfortable chair. Let's get started.

So, the paperback version of your latest book ‘Even the Dogs’ comes out this month. How would you some it up for those who haven’t yet read it?

It's about a man who gets found dead in his flat, and about what happens to his body after the police break down the door; it's also about the lives of the people who should have been with him when he died, and about what's happened to them. It's set in the context of heroin addiction, heavy drinking, homelessness and social exclusion etc, but it's not a book about these things; it's a book about a dead man and his friends.

On the ‘about’ section of your website, it says ‘[In 2008 Jon] finished a first draft of Even The Dogs, initially by mistake.’ Intriguing! How by mistake?

I wrote the last line of what was supposed to be the 5th of 6 chapters, but it was so clearly the last line of the book, and a line which would pull the story together thematically, that I had to then find a way of making that the last chapter. The thing with writing fiction is that it's nice to have a plan, but the plan never works out.

When it comes to writing novels, how do you approach it? Are you grabbed by a plot idea, or by a particular character, do you plan?

It's been different every time, so far. With this book, it was the image of Robert lying dead on the floor of his flat, waiting for the police to break down the door. I worked outwards from that - the room, the street outside, the weather, the people who were waiting for the police - until I realised that there was enough story and texture and tone for a novel.

With If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, I had lots of fragments of stories - scenes and characters and dialogues - and I knew I wanted to write something which would be a composite of those and would build a bigger picture, and it was a case of looking for a structure to build that around.

With So Many Ways To Begin, it was the character of David, and the oddness of his love for museums, and the mystery of his own origin story - and then the character of Eleanor, who I already knew a lot about from her brief appearance in If Nobody Speaks. Putting the two of them together seemed like more than enough for a novel.

All of which is by way of saying that there's no pattern to it. You write something that feels unfinished, and then you try and finish it.

What would you say is the most challenging thing about being a writer?

I don't think I can answer that. It's not exactly coal-mining.

Could you tell us your ‘from writing/to pitch/to publication’ story for your first book?

Well, there was no pitch. My first book was actually Cinema 100, a short collection of very short stories (100 x 100 word stories, to be exact), which I wrote in my room at university, sent off to some publishers, and after a couple of years had published in an anthology by Pulp Faction. After that I wrote a collection of long stories (4 x 10,000 words) and sent it off to some agents. One of them took me on, but the book was never published. They suggested I write a novel. I did. Everyone except Bloomsbury turned it down.

I know, it's really not a very dramatic story. But I think that's the point. It is still the case that people in publishing are constantly on the look-out for very good new writing. The trick is to do the very good new writing first, before you think about how to get it published.

You were awarded second prize in the BBC National Short Story Award last year [congratulations!]. What does short story writing mean to you?

Short story writing is writing. Novel writing is writing. Some stories naturally deserve one form or the other. The appeal of short stories to me, both as writer and reader, is that the short story is almost inevitably read in a single sitting; this means that it can be read more attentively, and that subtle affects of connection and resonance and omission can be more effective. It also means that a short-story can be re-read and studied much more readily. All of which creates a much more powerful relationship between the writer and reader, and a more intense experience (at best).

Also, thanks.

How do you juggle family life and writing? What is your writing routine? Has your writing changed since you became a father yourself?

It doesn't fit with the romantic idea some people have about literary production, or any form of creative work, but my writing is a day job. A desk job. I have an office, with a desk, and I go there during office hours. So juggling work and family is no harder for me than for anyone else. There are times when I'm particularly preoccupied with a certain project, and those are times when I'm probably not much fun to be with, but again I'm sure that's the same with most jobs that involve any level of thinking - you don't always switch off when you come home.

All that guff about "the pram in the hall" is just tiresome male responsibility-shirking. James Kelman writes excellently on this in an afterword to the reissue of An Old Pub Near The Angel.

Which writers have inspired you over the years and why and, if you could have a heart to heart with any writer, past or present, who would you pick?

James Kelman, Alice Munro, Don DeLillo, A.L. Kennedy, Richard Brautigan, Alice Oswald, John McGahern, David Foster Wallace, Maile Meloy, Charles Simic, Lydia Davis, Colum McCann, Tom Gauld, Marilynne Robinson...

I don't know about a heart to heart, but a glass of Powers in John McGahern's kitchen would have been nice. Or a tour of a second-hand bookshop with David Foster Wallace.

If you could give just one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

Read more. Read more widely, more deeply, more attentively. Work out how the writers you like are doing what they do. Copy what they do, and then change it until it's your own. I meet lots of new writers who say they try not to read too much because they're worried about being influenced - I said the same thing once, I'm ashamed to admit. Being influenced is a good thing! Reading is the best way to learn how to write. Read more. Go to your library and read.

On our Book Forum, we have a Book Tree, where members choose their favourite book and post them round in a circle, so everyone reads each one and writes comments in them as they go. If you were to take part in our Book Tree, what book would you choose and why?

Probably John McGahern's That They May Face The Rising Sun, because it's still not as known or as recognised as it should be. It's the finest novel from one of Ireland's greatest writers; that should be worth reading, shouldn't it?

Most definitely! And, finally, are you able to tell us what you’re working on at the moment, or is it a secret?

It's usually a secret until about now; I've just sent off the first draft of a collection of short stories, which will be published in Spring 2012. They're set in Lincolnshire and the Fens, and they mostly involve digging. Some of them are very short.

'Absolutely OUTSTANDING ... Jon McGregor is a writer who will make a significant stamp on world literature. In fact, he already has ... an incredible book, I just adored it' Colum McCann

'McGregor brings the underclass we instinctively turn away from into razor-sharp and sympathetic focus. A stone cold brilliant achievement' John Harvey

'A rare combination of profound empathy and wonderful writing' Mark Haddon

Even the Dogs is available on Amazon in paperback

Friday, 11 February 2011

Poet Visit: John Hegley

Last Sunday John Hegley came by our bookshop, Ripping Yarns for an author event, and also for a chat with me [well, us!] about poetry. We sat down amongst the antiquarian books - John was particularly taken with a book called 'Hannibal the Hamster', which Celia let him keep. And we had a natter over a cup of tea and some cake. Ohm.

This interview is typed up from the dictaphone.

John, hello, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us. When did you first start writing, and how did you get into it?

Well, I wrote my Daily News when I was about five, which was the start of my writing, and that was fictitious. I’ve looked through those and there was certainly inventions of new red hats and coats which I definitely never owned, so you could say that was the start of my creative writing. Then we were read ‘Tarrentella’ by Hilaire Belloc - Mr Brenan read that to us, and that really made me want to dig into poetry and maybe to write it as well, because I did write a poem around that time. So, that would be the first poem I wrote: ‘The cave is hot, the kettle is boiling, the ugly snakes around it coiling, one which has a wooden spoon, another rides upon a broom.’ I can’t remember the rest.

So, what is it with poetry and performance poetry that you love so much?

See, I mean, when is a poem a performance poem? I’ve got a poem that I’ve been reading for ages, and then I got the audience to say ‘some people’ at the start of every line, because it’s called ‘Some People.’ So, then maybe it’s become a performance poem? But there’s not that much difference. I used to say ‘some people write their name in books when they’re thirty three and they only live with one other person, some people think they’re more important then they are.' You know, various some peoples. That’s just reading a poem, isn’t it? Now the audience say ‘some people’ suddenly it’s become a performance poem? Seems a bit too much, really, for me.

Do you think there’s too much of a new separation between ‘performance poets’ and the old fashioned idea of sitting in a room and not talking to anybody and writing something almost for yourself and not to share?

I just think that the lines are quite blurred, you know. I mean, there are some poems in my books that I never read out, but then one day I might think well, actually, I’ll read that one and suddenly that’s come out of the closet, suddenly that line has gone. Maybe these categories help to let people know what they’re getting, you know, so if you say to them that it’s going to be a performance poem they get more of the idea that it’s going to be that rather than a quiet reading. But, I think that sometimes it's made to seem a bit more cut and dry than it actually is.

Yes, I see what you mean. Do you think that if you’re performing a poem, do you think that it’s maybe something closer to music? And maybe poems that you wouldn’t read out are less so? Why would you choose to read out one poem and not others?

Maybe… maybe because it’s more of a quieter feel. Maybe if it’s melancholy… though that’s not a reason not to read it out. I guess what I’m trying to say that is that it doesn’t have to be funny to read it out, no. It doesn’t have to be funny to perform it. But sometimes things are just quiet observations… but, I tell you what, you know what I take from this Jen? I’m going to read out more of the poems that I haven’t read before because, now that you’re asking me, I’m thinking why the heck haven’t I read them out before. laughs.

Fair enough. Talking about comedy, though, do you find that humour in poetry means that you’re able to reach more people? People, perhaps, who think that poetry is very serious and hard work – and only about love etc?

I think it helps, but just because it’s funny doesn’t mean that it can’t be about love. It can still be that and funny.

Sure, but do you also think that humour can be [and shouldn’t only be used for, but can be] used to say more without making the audience feel as though you’re shoving it down their throats?

Yeah - it’s a sugar coated pill.

What do you think poetry should be used for?

I don’t know if poetry should be used for anything, but it can be used to help you remember things, so maybe lessons could be learned there. People use it in situations where they get married, or there’s a funeral. People like to use it for occasions, maybe we should make more occasions in our lives so that we can write more poetry for those occassions. Like, drinking these cups of tea, here, we should have a poem for that, perhaps.

Why not!

That kind of thing… that kind of cuppa.

What about politics?

Yes, I think not should, again, but I think that it can be. There’s a very good exhibition on at the British Library at the moment, about language, and there’s a poem by Tony Harrison which delves into a political area, and I thought it was very arresting.

On our book forum we have the Book Tree, where members pick their favourite book or poetry book and we post them around to each other, and write in them as we read them. So when each member gets their book back, it’s filled with comments from other people. What book would you pick to put in the Book Tree, and why?


Anything you want

Well, maybe a book of Norman Nicholson verse, because I gave a copy of it to my friend who I’ve known since I was four, and he picked out these two lines and said that those two lines are the most phenomenal lines he’d ever read, and I know that he doesn’t read much poetry. And there’s a lovely one about a guillemot. Perhaps ‘The Third Policeman' by Flann O’Brien, because part of that is about how the policeman sits on his bicycle and his bicycle turns into him, so at some point the policeman is more than fifty percent bicycle because there’s an interchange of molecules between the two of them. So, that’s a lovely story. ‘Earthly Powers’ perhaps by Anthony Burgess… that’s a bit fat though. In terms of thin books, W. S. Graham, a collection of his perhaps. There’s a very nice collection that Jo Shapcott, ‘The Poetry Cure’ which is a really fantastic collection of poems.

That’s a very large parcel that you’re posting around, there.

Ok, ok… If I had to select out of that lot, then, I’d keep ‘The Third Policeman


... and the W. S. Graham….


and Norman Nicholson.


and now I'm going to go and try and find those two lines that were the best thing his friend had ever read, and kick myself that I didn't ask John what they were, when I had the chance


Sunday, 6 February 2011

Paper Aeroplanes

This week I was thrilled to be asked to write a piece for Paper Aeroplanes - which I'll be able to talk about later. But in the mean time, I just want to point you in their direction; their music is beautiful. I'm very excited about it ^_^

For now, must dash - we've got John Hegley at our bookshop this afternoon. For those who are coming along, I'll see you there! And for those further afield, I'll be interviewing him before the event, and that interview will be up on this blog during the week.

Lots of love x

Friday, 4 February 2011

something we have all wanted to do at times

Just something that made me giggle. [via Nik Perring :)]

I think I may go and watch an episode of Black Books before bed. Yes.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Author Visit: Susie Maguire


Susie Maguire is a former actor, comedy performer and TV presenter, who now writes fiction.

She is deviser and editor of Little Black Dress, an anthology of short stories by women on the theme of the ubiquitous and iconic frock, published March 2006. Her own stories are published in two collections: Furthermore (2005) and The Short Hello (2000). Her pamphlet of poems 'How to Hug' was published by Mariscat Press in 2009.

My dearest Susie, thank you for coming to have a chat with us in our abode [aka book forum] we very much appreciate it. Pull up a chair, grab a glass of wine and a canapé. Yum.

Mmm, these papier-mâché vol-au-vents are delicious, thanks. I like the Bleak House filling particularly.

So. How did you make the move from comedian/TV presenter into writing short stories and poetry? Have you always written?

I fell into comedy by accident, when I was asked to join a feminist theatre company in Edinburgh in the early 1980s, and found through improvising that I could channel voices/characters, be ‘not me’, and in so doing make people laugh. For a very shy person, that was a huge gift to discover.

I used one of those characters, Marina McLoughlin, as a stand -up persona, at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre, & Gilded Balloon, and London’s Comedy Store, and from that (and via an irreverent impersonation of Muriel Gray) I got asked to do some TV.

I co-presented Arts programmes between 1987 & 1991, mainly for STV, most of it ‘as’ Marina, with the wonderful, late Tony Wilson (Factory Records & Hacienda). Then I hit a dry patch, coinciding with becoming a step-mother (you should see my stretch marks); I had no work, began writing ideas down, some of which turned into stories, though I had no idea what I was doing really. The second of those stories was shortlisted for a prize, which astounded (and encouraged) me, as did the flashy gold pen I was awarded. Bling!

I sent my 3rd story -‘Tomb’ - to a producer at BBC Radio Drama in Edinburgh, who asked me to narrate it for Radio Scotland; so I inhabited other characters, wrote more. Some of them, in the Marina persona, were a considerable hit on Radio 4, and one (*The Day I Met Sean Connery) was later televised.

Obviously I’ve edited out of that the ghastly periods of utterly miserable waiting, unemployment and self doubt. Many, many times I’ve thought ‘why am I trying to do this? Who cares what I’m writing about?’ Something made me stubborn enough to keep at it. There are still days and weeks when I need to locate and hang on to that stubbornness…

Have I always written? Yes, all kinds of things, but early efforts were belittled by those to whom I dared show them, so I had no confidence. I consider myself only to have started writing with any intent in my late 20s, when audience response or broadcasting professionals told me I had something entertaining or acute to offer. The trick, though, is to get past what others might want you to be or to write, and find who you are, and what you have to write.

I very much love your collection ‘How to Hug and other Poems’ – what’s your favourite poem from there? Could you give us a couple of lines?

Thank you, Jen! Today, my favourite is Senor El Cuervo; the whole thing came to me, imagery, personality, transformation theme, in one fell swoop!

A crow, at the window, stands
Smoking a twig cigarette, feet
Splayed, black waistcoat fluttering
In the evening heat. ‘Hola, amiga!
Por favor, tiene usted un poco de pan?
Jamon? Chorizo?’ Turning his beak, his
Bold bright eye, in query.


How To Hug is available from Mariscat

What does short story writing mean to you? Why do you write short fiction?

The little men in my head who operate the levers to extrude stories seem to prefer economy & compression. I got used to the shape of short stories from writing for 15 minute slots for radio but continue to enjoy writing them because of what can be left out, pared away, implied. A good story can be like a fast ride in a fast car, or like a slow smooth drift down a calm river. It can have all the scope of a ‘long’ story (a.k.a. novel) but compressed, and it gives the reader some work to do, too.

What’s your favourite writing form?

When it’s going well, any of them. When it’s not going well, a short story can be pulled round with less agony than either a poem that’s flawed or a novel that’s so big and heavy it’s like trying to steer an oil tanker. But...if I remind myself that everything is just ‘story’, then the shape or format matter less than the contents, direction and speed.

Do you have a writing routine?

When I’m in the flow, I don’t think about routine at all, miss meals, forget the time, date. When I’m not, I mutter to myself about listening to all the very good advice about routines.

I know that you’re off on a writing retreat at the moment – do you find escaping the ‘norm’ helps creative flow or, like me, do you try and eliminate all other distractions to force yourself to stop procrastinating and actually bloody well get on with it? Ha.

Ha, indeed. Eliminate! Exterminate! Some of the best writing time I’ve had recently has been writing three linked radio stories while staying with my sister; I was able to ignore the doorbell, phone, shopping, etc, because I knew she was dealing with it, and when I needed a break there was someone to talk and laugh with.

I think of writing as being rather like swimming in the sea. You start out in a tight, uncomfortable, brand new, dry swimsuit, a bit self-consciously and nervously, dipping your toe in the grey froth of the edges of the ocean. You stand there and dither. Eventually you’re so sick of your own terror and goosebumps that you plunge in, gulp, gasp, start to swim, get further out, begin to get warm, to love it, to roll around like a seal. Every time someone on shore beckons you out on land again for some reason, you emerge reluctantly, wondering if you’ll ever be able to re-enter the sea now in your horrible damp, sandy swimsuit, shivering, indecisive… well, that’s how it is for me. If I’m swimming, I’ve got to keep swimming, as much as possible. Real life events threaten my concentration on the swimming, until I have a strong grip on the story.

When someone asks you ‘what do you do’? What is your response?

For years, if someone asked that, I would just cough and mumble, look at the floor, shuffle my feet. If I ventured that I was an actor or comedy performer, there’d be a joke, a challenge, as if I were giving myself airs, or the question‘So, should I have heard of you?’ How do you answer that politely?

Before the publication of my first story collection (2000), I never claimed the status of Writer, it sounded far too grand. Now, I say ‘I write’, or ‘I write fiction.’ Sometimes I match the statement with a fixed look to quell frivolous questioning.

I don’t like to talk about what I’m doing. The energy needed to write, to sustain an idea, particularly a novel, needs to be kept charged up, not let out in friendly chatter, as I’ve found to my cost.

Writing is part of a spectrum of creativity, for me - I like painting, making things, sewing, practical non-wordy stuff, and impractical objects and dioramas, which all replenish the imaginarium.

Are you able to tell us what you’ve been working on/what you’ve got in the pipeline at the moment?

A novel, which after some painful months I realise isn’t ‘there’ yet - there’s a better book to be pulled out and re-made from that draft.

There are stories, for a possible third collection. Poems tiptoe in, asking to be written. There’s an outline for another adult novel, one for a book for young adults, and ideas for more radio stories... various ethereal projects! I’d like to do more collaborative work, including theatre, would like to use my voice and comedy skills again. I’ve started offering writing workshops (in Edinburgh, with screen & radio writer Colin MacDonald, as ‘Finding Voices, Telling Stories’), because I like working with and mentoring other writers.

Mainly, though, I want to finish this novel, climb this mountain, see what’s over the other side.

Finally, on our Book Forum, we have a Book Tree, where members choose their favourite book and post them round in a circle, so everyone reads each one and writes comments in them as they go. If you were to take part in our Book Tree, what book would you choose and why?

I have huge affection and respect for Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The blending of fantasy and reality, the way he uses language, his perspectives, his authority. The writing is rich, colourful, clear and exhilarating, and the daemon is such a brilliant invention for indicating the inner experiences & feelings of diverse characters, who spend much of their time in the stories alone, that reading the books actually changes how you see this world and the people in it.

So - I’d like to suggest Northern Lights.


How to Hug and Other Poems is available on Amazon for £5



writing processes, workshopping & radio writing: here

*The Day I Met Sean Connery is on youtube.

Part 1