Monday, 29 November 2010

Welcome to the Jumble

I was at a jumble sale on Sunday. I tell you this not by way of shaming you with my glittering, exotic lifestyle, but as a prelude to boasting about one of the bargains I picked up.

Amongst the paperbacks of Carol Vorderman's How To Do Sudoku, and a cassette audio book of Women in Love, was this: a large hardback edition of the edited letters of Kingsley Amis, which would set you back over £12 on Amazon. It was hidden underneath a silk peg-bag and an old Dorothy Perkins t-shirt and I nearly didn't see it, except for that my friend Amy was rummaging impatiently through everything in an attempt to find the bargainous, and legendary, 'knit your own monkey' kit.

Amy never did get to knit her own monkey, but I did get this beast of a book, and for a pound only. A POUND! You see? Who says jumble sales are all doddery old ladies and worn-out handbags?

Fictions of Every Kind

I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that last Tuesday's Fictions of Every Kind was an unqualified runaway success. There were superb readings from Matt Bellwood, Nasser Hussein, "Dr" Sam Francis, and Mason Henry Summers. Every single reading was amazing, and all of these performers had the audience hanging off their every carefully-chosen word.

There was a set of beautiful music from the very wonderful Invisible Cities, and in addition the standard in the open mic section of the night was especially high. Who knew there were so many talented writers hiding out in Leeds?!

The next Fictions of Every Kind is planned for the 11th January 2011, with a theme of 'Hungover and Underwhelmed'. It takes place at The Library Pub in Leeds, from 7.30 - 10.30 pm, with an entry fee of £3; and if I have anything to do with it, it'll be a devil of a lot of fun.

Watch this space to find out who the guest speakers and musical act are....

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Monday, 22 November 2010

Hell is other people's music choices...

Lately, mainly because it is colder inside my house than it is outdoors (how can this be?), I've been doing a lot of writing in the local coffee shops. There are many advantages to working in a coffee shop, chief amongst which is that it is warm there, and there is no need to wear fingerless gloves while you type. There are fewer distractions in a coffee shop; your average writer is less likely to procrastinate by suddenly noticing that the skirting boards need ironing, or that there's a mucky teaspoon in the sink that needs washing up right away. In my nearest coffee shops, I can't even get an internet connection. Add to this the frequent availability of coffee and cake, and you have a recipe for excellent writer productivity. In the last week alone, I have finished six novels, eight short stories, and an hundred-line ballad written in iambic pentameter, just by dint of sitting in the nearest Costa. (Only joking.... I don't write poetry).

But srsly though coffee shops of West Yorkshire, what is UP with your music choice? A few days ago, I was rendered rampantly KILLY and ENRAGED by the abuse to which my ears were subject. Coffee shops of the world seemed to have turned to filling their stereos with CDs of pastel coloured, twinkly, no-cunt, irritatingly twee music, designed to offend nobody. There must be a special shop that sells this stuff; I imagine that only coffee shops buy it - for the love of God, I hope that nobody willingly listens to this stuff at home.

This kind of music is meant to promote a self-consciously cool, laid-back atmosphere within the environs. Recently, I've heard versions of 'Tainted Love' sung by a woman with a child's voice backed with what sounded like a music-box, 'Sweet Child O' Mine' gently tickled to death with a xylophone and an accordion, and a version of 'When Doves Cry' played in a jaunty rhythm on a Spanish guitar. I imagine the aim is to reassure your average coffee-shop customer with music with which he or she is familiar, presented in a way that promotes a kind of slow death by passivity: a sort of lift music for the post-modern ironist of the 21st Century, if you will. It's irritating and its twee, and every time I hear one of these dreadful, knowing cover versions, I am filled with an almost uncontrollable urge to punch a kitten to death. And I really like kittens.

Please, coffee shops of the local West Yorkshire area: I AM TRYING TO WRITE A NOVEL AND THIS CAR ADVERT MUSIC IS NOT HELPING.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Jeez, and in the middle of winter, too?

There's only one decent way that any right-thinking person can react to the news of Nathan Bransford's exit from the world of publishing:

For the longest time, Nathan has been astonishing writers and agents around the world with his ability to fit all of the following into the same 24-hour day that the rest of us squander on drinking cups of tea and fannying around on LOLcats: being a top-flight literary agent, writing one and many novels, regularly updating a blog, keeping the rest of us know-nothings up to date on how to write a good query and on what's new in the world of publishing, and yet even so, still managing to be an all-round nice guy. I can't speak for any of the rest of you but I would literally need an extra seven hours in every day even to accomplish half of this stuff (which, incidentally, is what I'm going to be asking Santa for this year).

Best of luck, Nathan: we'll miss you.