Between performances I hurtled up to Derby to be on a panel (Is high fantasy getting more literary?) and run a workshop (Writing with Your Ears) at EdgeLit5. I’m doing more of that at NineWorlds at the Hammersmith Novotel 12-14th August, with creative writing panels: The Feminine Voice and Writing Female Characters in 21st Century Fantasy Fiction and Writing Queer Characters. I’m not sure of the timings yet, but there’s loads on, workshops, panels, book launches and so on and the finalised timetable will be up soon.
And finally, I got my first ever bit of fan mail – as in hand-written, from someone I don’t know, who loved The Dowry Blade! I think it’s such a fat book that it’s taking people time to read it, but there is now a very nice review on Goodreads too.
These are We Apologise for the Delay…a story of what it means to be a stranger and how communities form in times of need, told through the prism of the London Underground as the site for ‘first contact’ with aliens; and Queues a story about waiting at a border crossing and recognising someone from home. Both stories have at their heart the human instinct to kindness in a crisis, something I have been hearing from friends all over the country – offering their money and help and even their homes to those in need. All we need now is for the government to actually accept a sensible number of refugees: at the moment what we are offering over a number of years,equates too readily to the numbers arriving in a single day at the European boundaries. We need to offer proper help, not pretend we are doing anything when we clearly aren’t. A couple of stories isn’t much, but it is something I can do, so I’ve done it; all the writers are donating their stories, no one will make anything from the anthology. RWA is a charity book that combines inspirational stories. It is the 3rd project run by Greg McQueen and 100% of sales go to Red Cross for Refugees.
UPDATE publication date 19th November so you can help by buying a copy (or more than one!). The perfect Christmas/Solstice/Diwali present etc.
The thing about running your own business is that holidays become almost entirely theoretical. It’s a holiday to leave the computer for long enough to hang out the washing on a sunny day, it’s a holiday to take the long way to the post office, it’s a holiday to read something that isn’t for work, or to listen to something that requires your full attention on the radio, or to take a day to learn new songs.
The thing about running your own business is that you can build a holiday in anywhere you want to, and around anything you want to, and justify it as ‘work’.
So a week in Cumbria because one of the poets in The Other Side of Sleep had organised a reading in Grange-over-Sands and it’s too far to go and not stay over, and if you have to stay over, well…
A few days with friends in Bath and a stop over with another on the way to Cheltenham.
So I briefly pretended I’m a poet last week. As I said whilst doing so, I am not a poet, I occasionally write poetry, it really isn’t the same thing. So here’s me pretending to be a poet, with one poem and two flash fictions that happen to kind of work as poems.
If you want to hear how real poets do it you can listen over on the Arachne Press website. I’ll be pretending again at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival on Saturday in the company of Angela France, Math Jones, Bernie Howley, Kate Foley and Jennifer A McGowan.
In the meantime I’ve been listening to Ursula le Guin on Radio4, first an epic 2 hour catch-up with The Left Hand of Darkness, and then a 30 minute documentary, with the woman herself, and various writers who admire and were influenced by her, including Neil Gaiman, Karen Joy Fowler and David Mitchell. I found myself falling in love with LHD all over again. I read it first in my teens, and again about 5 years ago, and I am in awe of le Guin’s talent and the subtlety of the adaptation for Radio by Judith Adams, everything I remember is there, and the bitter, bone deep cold swells through the recording so, so well. Listening to Gaiman and Mitchell say words to the effect of ‘this is why I became a writer’, I wonder: is this why I became a writer? (and unlike ‘poet’ I do identify as ‘writer’ because even when not writing I obsess about it – think about my characters, interrogate my bad habits, consider plot twists, discover great titles in over heard conversations…) and I think the answer is probably YES.
The Left Hand of Darkness has been one of my favourite books since I first read it, and unlike many others was even better on the second reading, and still made me cry (and I think another re-read is due). Discovering it so early, probably about the time I began to seriously think I might write ‘for real’, it must have had a huge impact. It is hard to tell, I read voraciously at that point, three books a day at weekends, back to back, swimming in words. I’m sure I amalgamate many of those books in my mind, not sure what comes from where, but LHD stands out from the morass, as do other of le Guin’s books: The Tombs of Atuan and The Lathe of Heaven in particular. They are doing an adaptation of A Wizard of Earthsea (My first ever le Guin read, when I was probably nine or ten) on Radio4 Extra next week – LISTEN!
Did you think you were going to get away without a reference to music? Ha! fooled you.
I spent Saturday immersed in songs about making choices and community and freedom, taught by the marvellous Lester Simpson in preparation for the next ‘big idea’, a celebration of Magna Carta in the week of the actual 800 year anniversary of the first draft being signed (if you ignore the change of calendar in the 18th Century). Nearly 50 people turned up and we sounded amazing. Here’s a sample…
You’ll get a chance to hear the songs we are working on in a more polished format at West Greenwich Library, 7:30 on Thursday 18th June. More on that nearer the time. There is a call out for STORIES for the event over at Arachne, you have til Mayday.
Some of the stories that were originally published in Tales Told Before Cockcrow are up on Cut a Long Story. Pleasingly quick. Buy them now!! (thank you).
All Hallows: Keith’s obsessions get him into trouble The Red Dress: A daughter’s loyalty is put to the test. Tales Told Before Cockcrow: Sybil tries to get Amelia to sleep – a very long sleep. The She-Lord and her Tailor: A Tailor meets a very large cat and tries to sell her clothes. That was always going to end well…
and (not in Tales…) We Apologise for the Delay (complete with spelling mistake in the title – my fault – dizzy fingers.) Ade discovers a nest of strange creatures whilst cleaning an underground station
Thanks to Rosalind Stopps for pointing out that my story Knitting for Demons had been shortlisted for the Momaya Press 2014 award. I had no idea! They didn’t tell me. Anyway I’ve not won; but still, better than a poke in the eye with a blunt codfish. (That means I’m pleased, in case it doesn’t translate.)
It’s one of very few independent awards, voted for by the book-reading public, and it was thrilling to win. They don’t tell you beforehand and being a bit superstitious I refused to believe there was a chance, so it was only when they were reading out comments from voters I was thinking, ooh, that sounds like our book, that really sounds like… oh crikey, it is! In fact we netted about 35% of the over 1000 votes – you can read more of all the lovely things people said here, though I will quote just one particularly juicy one:
one of the most original writers herself Cherry Potts provides opportunities for unusual and thought-provoking writing.
Then, Liars’ League London chose my story The Real McCoy, (featuring a naive but indignant mermaid) to read at next Tuesday’s Weird & Wonderful event, and will be read at The Literary Kitchen Festival in Peckham on Tuesday 17th June 7pm
AND THEN Liars’ League Hong Kong chose Portrait of the Artist’s Model as A Young Woman for their Truth & Lies event on 30th June.
So that makes me not just “award-winning”, but “internationally renowned”, right? (She says with unrepentant cheek).
If you can make any of those events it would be brilliant – I won’t be at the Hong Kong one, but I will be at the other two, so you could come and say hello.
Finally, a heads-up: The title of this blog is a nod to Mary Hamer, author of Rudyard & Trix, a novel about Rudyard Kipling and his sister. (Awards and Mermaids, Rewards and Fairies, yes?) I’ve read this novel, after inviting Mary to The Story Sessions, and it is brilliant – upsetting in many ways, but very perceptive, and manages without doing that annoying thing some people do of making it SO clear that they did lots and lots of research and you aren’t going to escape an iota of it. Mary has belatedly joined the blog hop and will be blogging about her writing process just as soon as she finishes unpacking from the trip which meant she didn’t see the email I sent her about this sooner.