Friday, 15 August 2014

Get thee to Rhymes with Orange! (For anyone who thinks poetry is a bit sh*t)

"I didn't even like poetry until tonight!" I cried.

I was feeling elated after an evening at Rhymes with Orange. My friend, Rachel Malham had invited me because she was performing her poems. 

I met Rachel ten years ago at a creative writing course. I knew she'd be great, but I assumed she'd be the only relief in a line-up of anxious mumblers allergic to eye contact and happiness.

Too harsh? Maybe. What's also harsh is being subjected to endless abstract sentence uttered in the monotone of a humming fridge.  Because that had been my overall personal experience of poetry evenings, until I turned up at Rhymes with Orange.

The theme of the night was 'Work'. Why does work make me think of spreadsheets? I don't even use spreadsheets. The point is, it was a potentially dull theme... right?


As soon Stevie Tyler opened her mouth, I sat up in my chair and thought, Hang on a minute, this is actually going to be good! She oozed confidence and wit. Her poems were entertaining and also made a point. I felt a rush of excitement, which grew as the likeable host, Thomas Muirhead, led the night on.   

My friend, Rachel, was next.

Rachel Malham performing her poem
Go girl! Don't be shy! I thought, wanting her to blow everyone away.

I shouldn't have worried. Her mockingly sexy and hilarious poem about boardroom meetings resonated with the audience and left me with my mouth open.   

Okay, I thought,  Is it wise putting your two best acts on first?

But the high standard continued. I wish you'd been there to hear Ellie Dawes' poem about poor old Ophelia (from Hamlet), who wants to be much more than a character who dies off scene. An English teacher came up to Ellie afterwards asking where he could find her piece as he wanted to use it in class.

"I finished writing it six hours ago," she said, and offered him her crumpled pages.

I haven't even mentioned there was a youth group who'd come to be inspired, or the limerick challenge which I ended up judging! Or, the ridiculously good open mic! Or, that I laughed so hard at Sam Wong's poem about working from home I just had to go find him to tell him... (Sam, if you're out there, where can I get a copy?)


This is what 'waxing lyrical' is, isn't it?

Well I can't help it. When I come across something wonderful I have to tell everyone about it.

If you are in London, and you love poetry, better still if you think you hate it, then get yourself to Rhymes with Orange!


Friday, 8 August 2014

Writers and Cats - what's the deal with that?

Why do so many writers have cats?

But why?

I've never had a cat and can't call myself a cat lady. The definition of a 'cat lady' varies depending if you own a cat or not. If you own a cat, you might view yourself like this:

While those less partial to cats might view you as this:

I'm less black or white. For me, cat people are the ones with little hairs on their jumpers and more to arrange before their holidays. 

My brother and his wife have cats. Once one of them jumped on the table while we were eating. 

"It's only a cat!" his wife chided, when I flinched and shooed it off. 

What I don't understand is, why are cats considered so clean when they spend half the day licking their bottoms? 

Despite not being a cat person, there is a kitten in my new novel. Amber buys him because she thinks he'll be a YouTube sensation. She hopes the advertising revenue will get her out of the rut she's in. The kitten is called Rupert and he's based on this little fellow. Isn't he the fluffy-wuffiest thing you've ever seen?* (*I don't talk like this in real life.) 

But Amber's not a writer, so that doesn't help solve the mystery of why so many writers have cats. 

It's not like they make good assistants. When I looked after my brother's cat, it woke me up at 3am every morning. By week 2 I was too exhausted to write. When I did try to write, it would wake up from its nap just to walk across my keyboard. 

Perhaps feline friends combat the loneliness of the profession? As much as I love working from home alone, there have been times when I would have enjoyed sniggering over a bad line of writing with a silent companion. You know the type: A bolt of lightning ran down her spine when she saw him...

What do you think of that, flossie? 

Even a cat would know how stupid that line was.

In conclusion, I've decided to go with the flow and have got myself a cat too.

I know it looks more like a sheep, but it's a rare breed you only get in Wales.
It likes water, so I sit it in a bucket by my desk.

I definitely feel more like a writer now.

I just wish I was small enough to swim in a bucket too. 


Friday, 1 August 2014

Not convinced it's art? - 5 DIY Homages

Are you a doubter? Do you walk around conceptual art galleries and wonder if you're being conned? 

It's okay. My main character, Amber, felt like that too once. Amber was baffled at how seriously people could take absolutely anything if it was on display as art. 

For instance, take a three legged chair. Don't take it, I mean just imagine it. It's lying on the floor of course, because it can't stand up. 

Art reviewers might contemplate whether the chair is mocking our illusion of stability. Perhaps hinting at the fine line between life and death? Highlighting our faith in the temporary? Juxtaposing weakness and strength? 

You and I, and Amber of course, might just wonder what happened to the missing leg. 

But there is hope for Amber, who goes on to embrace her inner artist. And there is hope for the rest of us doubters too. Today I thought I'd follow her footsteps and embrace my own inner artist by paying homage to five of the 'greats'. I think it will completely change your perspective.

1. Damian Hirst (Methoxyverapamil)

2. Malevich (White on White)

3. Andy Warhol (Tomato Soup)

4. Duchamp (Fountain)

5. Tracey Emin (Bed)

My new novel The Temp will be out very soon! Sign up to my newsletter if you would like to be updated. 

Thanks for reading! 


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

An Alternative Author Interview

Apparently I once moaned that people always ask me the same questions in interviews. Ben Blackman, blogger and writer, decided to ask me alternative questions such as:

Q: Do you agree that the over development of crisp flavours in modern Britain has spoilt what used to be a traditional snack you knew you could rely on?

Read on if you dare....


Friday, 18 July 2014

Line Edits - the last mountain?

How I felt when I got the line edits...
The end is in sight for my new book The Temp (formerly known as Spray Painted Bananas). I've got to stop saying this novel took me three months to write because it's just occurred to me that I started it in October 2012 and I'm still editing!
I'm on the line edits now. This is where the editor has gone through the book in detail, commenting on areas which need rewording, cutting or filling out. I didn't have line edits for my first book, Shop Girl Diaries, so it came as a bit of a shock to see how, after two extensive edits already, there was still so much to do.
I battled with a feeling of panic, before finally settling down to review all the notes. To my relief some of the comments were just positive observations with no changes needed. To help me climb the mountain, I wrote down numbers 1 to 107 (the number of comments I needed to respond to) and colour coordinated them so I could get an overview of what I was dealing with.

Making it manageable
Yellow - reword
Green -  expand
Orange //- chapter ending needs work
Blue - not sure I agree
Pink - positive comment

Now I've calmed down and connected with the task at hand, I feel confident I can get this next edit done in a couple of weeks. I even feel glad that Harper Impulse are pushing me to write the best version possible of my novel. Well, I wouldn't want want to sell you any old rubbish, would I? 

Soon I'll be getting a peek at the book cover. I can't wait to share it with you!


Friday, 4 July 2014

Sky's Book Corner - an author Q&A

I was invited over to Sky's Book Corner for an interview about books, writing, seasons, hobbies, sugar vs salty... in fact I'm starting to wonder if I have any secrets left. Perhaps I should invent some. I am a fiction writer after all...   


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

5 Films which will make you cry (add wine for extra sobs)

Don't you love a good cry? Is there anything better than watching a film and balling your eyes out by the end of it? Preferably not because your character has just lost the love of their life or been sentenced to life imprisonment. A painful cry isn't quite as satisfying as a good cry, is it? A painful cry leaves you feeling raw inside, unlike a good cry which ruins your face but lights a spark of happiness and hope in your heart. Too soppy for you? I'm only just getting started. 

Here are 5 films which made me cry, from silent happy tears to heart wrenching sobs* (*which was quite embarrassing since I was in the cinema).  For absolute tear guarantee, watch these films with red wine. Or, if you don't want to cry, avoid them, especially the last two.

5. Eat, Pray, Love
About:  Woman at a crossroads goes searching across Italy, India and Indonesia
Chances of Tears: 4/10
Tear Type: Silent welling up.
Verdict: Watch it for the feel-good factor and escapism. Afterwards I felt like travelling the world. I still do and I watched it a whole week ago. 

4. About Time
About:  A young man with the special ability to time travel tries to change his past in order to improve his future.
Chances of Tears: 5/10
Tear Type: Silent streaming with possible outbreaks of hiccups.
Verdict: Watch it. I loved the characters, specially the Dad played by Bill Nighy.  This film made me reflect on what a gaping hole there would be in my life without my Dad *sob*

3. PS I Love You
About: A young widow discovers that her late husband has left her 10 messages intended to help ease her pain and start a new life.
Chances of Tears: 7/10
Tear Type: Silent streaming with outbursts of louder sobs.
Verdict: Watch it. Pause it half way through and run over to the shops to get a bottle of wine because you're enjoying it so much.

2. Slum Dog Millionaire
About: Kids from the slums of India, one of which later ends up on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, one question away from winning. 
Chances of Tears: 8/10 
Tear Type:  Expect steady stream of tears and snot. 
Verdict: Don't watch it. It was advertised as a 'feel-good' film but it's one of the most depressing films I've seen. Just start donating to Plan or another childrens charity instead.

1. Dancer in the Dark
About: An immigrant mother works day and night to save her son from the same disease she suffers from, a disease that inevitably will make her blind.
Chance of Tears: 10/10
Tear Type: Loud heart wrenching sobs with some choking 
Verdict: Do not watch it. It's so depressing.  

Additional films which might reduce you to a puddle:
Blood Diamond - painful cry 9/10
The Last King of Scotland - painful cry 8/10
La Vita e Bella - painful but happy but painful cry 7/10

Conclusion: I need more 'happy cry' films. Any suggestions?