Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014: Round-up post

2014 really has just been the most amazingest year so far.

Those of you who've been reading my blog a while will know how hard I've worked - and how thankless it felt, at times. All those years of scratching away, of sending my work out to rejection and indifference... I feel now, like all of it was worth it.

Soon, I'll do a blog post of what a year of being a published writer has taught me. But, for now, a short list of highlights. There were so many, I had to leave a few off the list. But hopefully you won't mind that. Here they are...

Favourite things this year:

1. Seeing my book. Holding it in my hands for the first time.
2. Getting longlisted for the Not The Booker Prize; seeing it creep up to No. 2 in the Amazon rankings in "Literary / Thriller" as a result.
3. The review where a writer referred to Barney, the hapless social worker, as being "heroically avuncular."
4. My friend texting me to say she kept on trying to borrow my book from the library, and that in the end she'd had to reserve it because it was out on loan all the time.
5. Being shortlisted for the Gladstone Library Writers in Residency programme; the judges wrote me to say they enjoyed the book for its subject matter, particularly. (I didn't win one of the residencies, unfortunately. Next time!)

Other ace things that happened: 

1. Mentoring for the Womentoring project was a really fulfilling, and enjoyable thing I did this year. I was able to see my mentee's work come on in leaps and bounds, and be there with her as her ideas about plot and character really solidified. I'm on a break from it at the moment, but hope to be taking mentoring applications again from February 2015 onwards.
2. Fictions of Every Kind won a small grant from Leeds Inspired, which will enable us to bring short story writers from further away, to Leeds. The first event we're running using this money is on April 14th, themed Relativity, with award-winning authors Zoe Lambert and Avril Joy. Keep watching for further events, as the money will allow us to be much more ambitious in what we can do.

Rubbish things that happened:
My cat was sick for a week or so. But he soon got better again. It turned out he'd eaten something he shouldn't have. Here is a picture of him, for all you cat fans out there.

Plans for 2015:
1. Write more. I'm doing a lot at the moment, and have finished the 1st draft of my second novel. Without going into too much detail, the novel is about a sad angry man living in an abandoned hotel. I'll be heading more into a borderline/speculative direction second time around. The rewriting will probably take me the rest of the year. I'm obsessive like that.  
2. Write more short stories. 
3. Take more pictures of the cat.
4. Go on holiday, which I haven't done for about 3 years. I might have forgotten how. (Though I have just booked flights to an exciting sunny location, so there is definitely hope.) 

Currently reading

The Secret History Donna Tartt 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

This is what I've been doing...

...it's also why I've failed in my Mid-Year New Years' Resolution to update this blog more often.

More soon.

Currently reading

The Girl With All The Gifts M.R.Carey 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Pragmatic R&B song

Here is a song I co-wrote with These Men, a barbershop quartet from Leeds, and one of my favourite local bands. Morgan from the group told me once that they struggled a bit for lyrics sometimes, and we talked a bit, and decided to collaborate.

This song, which doesn't really have a title other than 'Pragmatic R&B song', is about a chap trying to get off with a lady. Rather than promising to 'make it last all night' or 'take her to heaven' or whatever, he promises that he'll always do his share of the housework. You can't say fairer than that.

This video was taken at the launch of These Men's EP, "Four Short Songs About Love."

Currently reading

100 Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Platforms are overrated

"As a recent MFA graduate who’s wading into the world of publishing, I’ve been counseled to start a blog, scare up a couple thousand Facebook friends, consider Twitter. This pressure to promote myself, in addition to writing a book and working full-time, could break my will, make me consider giving up writing altogether. Except that my full-time job is at an ad agency, and for the last six of the almost twenty years I’ve been in this business, I’ve worked at a company that specializes in digital media. So I feel lucky to recognize this advice about “platform building” for what it is: bullshit."

"Platforms are overrated": an excellent piece on how to prioritise your time as a writer, from Stephanie Bane. 

Currently reading

The Man in the Picture Susan Hill 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Winter Wear for Writers

As the nights draw in, and conditions in your writing hole become icy and untenable, you are going to want something warm to wear as you scratch away at your work.

These gloves were very much on my 'last season's wear' list, and they are such a strong look they will certainly continue on into A/W 2015. Items like a warm aran glove, along with a strong thermal jodphur, and a fleecy onesie, are certainly must-have wardrobe items for any working writer this winter. Because as we all know: heating is expensive, and most writers don't earn enough to be able to afford to switch it on.

The really on-trend writer this season is going to want to pair these cute gloves with a bobbly Peruvian hat (worn indoors), two pairs of socks, a hot water bottle, and as many cups of tea as they can humanly drink.

I knitted mine from this pattern; if you're an experienced knitter, they're very easy, and really simple to modify. Rather than knitting the fingers all the way to the ends, as it suggests, I knitted my fingers an inch or so long each, and then bound off when I reached the desired length.

Now go forth and shiver.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Publishing: Independent & "Indie"

It's been a couple of months now since my book came out, on the excellent Dead Ink Books. It has been such a fun few months. The guys behind the press - Wes and Nathan - have done so much great stuff that I could never have managed to do by myself. I've been on a book tour with my Dead Ink cohort Richard Smyth. Both of us have been to Manchester, London, Leeds, and Wakefield, on promotional events. We've been in the paper and in magazines. It really has been a great experience and I'm massively grateful to everyone at Dead Ink for everything they've done, and to Richard for making the book tour so enjoyable.

My friends will attest that I'm a big fan of Independent Things. Independent shops, independent cafes, independent music, independent clothes, the newspaper The Independent. Basically if you put the word "Independent" in front of it, there's a fair bet I'll find something to like about it.

You see, the thing about independent things is that they're INTERESTING. In independent record labels, and in independent press, you find fanatically driven people putting out the things they love with few resources, and doing it because they love it. That's the sort of thing that's exactly up my street.

Dead Ink have been running as a press now for several years, and they're pretty well established. They started out as a digital only imprint, and now do 'actual' books. (With pages, and everything.) I had always hoped to have my book come out on an independent press, so I was really excited when they got in touch and said they wanted to publish my book.

Because I'm such a fan of Independent Things, people often ask me what I think about self-publishing. (Confusingly, people who self-publish also often call themselves "Indie Authors".) I've got an opinion about it, just like I've got an opinion about everything.

Lots of people are self-publishing these days. It's so much easier than it used to be, and as a consequence loads of people are doing it. A lot of the people I've talked to who have self-published, end up doing it because they haven't been able to find a publisher for their work. Nothing wrong with that, if that's the way you want to do it. But one thing that I've found in working with an independent press is, that even working with a small press you have so many more resources and reach than you would have putting something out yourself.

Here are the things I've really enjoyed in my experience working with Dead Ink Books.

1. Editorial input.

In summer 2013, I handed Nathan Connolly what I thought was the final draft of my novel. I'd got things as far as I could myself, and had already sent the book around a few trusted writer-friends for critique. But what the book really needed was an editor's eye: somebody experienced, who could look at my work fully objectively (let's face it, your writer-friends are never going to be as savage as you need them to be) and tell me where I was going wrong.

Nathan had a few suggestions about the structure of the book, and about where I could work a bit harder to improve things. Many of his suggestions were extremely good and changed the book much for the better.

If I hadn't had access to an editor through working with Dead Ink, I can categorically say that Brick Mother would have been a much worse book.

2. Graphic design.

I cannot draw for toffee. I have friends who can, but if I'd been self-publishing, I would have had to pay a friend to make the cover. And yes, drawing a cover is a service you should pay for - because good design and artistry costs money, and I wouldn't feel great about asking a friend to do it for nothing.

In addition, because they're my friends and I don't want to hurt their feelings, if they'd done a not-quite-right version of the cover, I wouldn't have felt able to say. Working with the fab Estelle Morris (who designed the cover both of Brick Mother and of Wild Ink), I was able to email suggestions back and forth, and choose from an impressive array of images which she'd given to me to choose from. It was a very good experience and I think the cover looks ace.

3. Publicity & distribution

Now this is a big one. I like socialising and I like a good chat, but a salesperson I am not. Could I go around book fairs convincing a distributor to pick up my book so it would make its way into shops up and down the country? I could not. But Wes and Nathan can: they've got all the Dead Ink books distributed, in shops throughout the UK. To my knowledge, there isn't a distribution company in the UK that will distribute self-published titles into shops.

And as for publicity: we've been in various blogs, magazines and papers. Some of the blog stuff, I sorted out myself - but I do also think that many of the blogs wouldn't have touched my book with somebody else's bargepole if it hadn't had a good cover, good content (see above) or been published by reputable small press.

In addition, I've appeared at two literature festivals and two book parties now, all publicity events which were organised by people at Dead Ink. It's crucial to me that that kind of organisation stuff was sorted out by somebody else: it left me with more free time to write.

4. Infrastructure and organisation.

Every time you sort out a book review, a goodwill copy, journalistic requests, etc, somebody, somewhere, has to get down the post office and send books out. Somebody has to warehouse the books somewhere, whether it's a sort of modest warehouse that also doubles as a spare room or a box under the kitchen table.

Who has done this for me and my cohort Richard Smyth? Wes and Nathan. Yes, I've got a box of books in my house, but they're my books, for me to take around events and sell. They're not books that I have to use to fulfil orders through the website - Nathan and Wes do that. Again, leaving my hands free from organisational stuff, in order to have more time to write.

It is true that alongside this I manage my own social media account (Twitter! Facebook!) - but thanks to the input and doings of Dead Ink, I don't need to use my own accounts to spam my followers / friends with exhortations to buy my book. I hate it when authors do that and, thanks to Dead Ink, who will do some of it for me, I don't need to do it all myself.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Internet corners: 4

One of my favourite things about the internet is how it allows people of fervent, mutual interests, to connect, all the way across the globe.

Where once you might have been a lonely apiarist, these days you could find other bee-keeping friends anywhere else in the world.

Needless to say, these interest sites are of use to writers too. Communities like these allow writers to research, and find expertise, easily. The internet is great for stuff like this.

Anyway I found this whole set of photos on Flickr, categorising a hundred or more different types of bee. It's so interesting. Link here: check it out.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Abandoned Winter Olympics Facilities, Sarajevo

Enjoyers of old and abandoned buildings will enjoy this haunting set.

"In 1984, Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics. Just a decade later, the region was torn apart by a bitter years-long conflict, leading to widespread death and suffering. One not-so-familiar effect of this war was the toll it took on the Olympic infrastructure which had been built not that long ago. Today, these structures stand as a visual reminder of how quickly things can change."

Photos here.

Currently reading

An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell Deborah Levy

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Internet Corners: Part 3.

There's a lot of nonsense talk about the internet and social media. Professional havers of opinions always like to say that the internet has killed the written word, and that stories are done for! 

I can't agree with this. For one thing, the internet is full of the written word. I mean, it's like the internet is made up of: 1: Porn, 2: Cats, and 3: Written articles, about all sorts of things. Including short form fiction, literary criticism, and literary interviews! 

Seems to me like people might be reading more now, than they ever have. 

The written word seems to be going in all sorts of different ways, and there are loads of potential new forms that writers and storytellers could be embracing. Check out the 'curated writing' section in Part 1 of the 2012 Best American Non Required Reading, for example, which takes Twitter's best reactions to the death of Osama Bin Laden, and sculpts them into a narrative. 

Anyway, quite apart from that, another interesting thing is that the world wide web in its current, popularised form, has a history all of its very own. 

When the web first started getting popular in the late 90s, it was pretty rubbish. There was no such thing as social networking and the only means you had of communicating with your fellow humans across the world were: email, Yahoo! chatrooms, and guestbooks on people's Geocities websites.

Geocities were like a kind of personalised website, with easy front-end adaptability that anyone could build, for any interest of their choosing. Think of it as a kind of pre-proto-Myspace or Facebook, only one that visitors couldn't really interact with in any way. 

There were literally thousands of Geocities website, at one time. Many operated in 'webrings', where one of the pages linked to other Geocities websites with similar interest. 

Unfortunately most of Geocities is now gone, but there has been a web archiving project to try and rescue and re-publish as much of it as possible. 

One shining example of a Geocities website is the site "Davelicious", which I provide a link to here

I hope you will enjoy it. 

Currently reading

The Bone Clocks David Mitchell 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Internet Corners: 2

Again, people talking about the internet killing interest in the written word, and crushing - CRUSHING! - our human instinct for storytelling.

Can't help thinking that people who say this have never really looked at the internet. It's full of stories.

Recently I've been getting really interested in how communities come together on the internet, and tell their stories. I spent a pleasant few hours trawling the LiveJournal website, and found this: Customers Suck! a community dedicated to giving disgruntled shop employees the chance to vent their discontents about rude, angry, or irrational customers.

This sort of stuff is a goldmine to a writer. It gives you the chance to really experience what it is like to be a minimum wage store employee. And it's all out there for you to read.

A fie on anybody who says that the internet is a poor resource for writers.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Internet Corners

People like to say the internet has killed interest in the written word, and that's simply not true.

The internet is full of people writing fan-fiction, reading fan-fiction, commenting on one another's fan fiction, and deeply involving themselves worlds partly of their own mutated creation.

Fan fiction, in case you didn't know, is when fans of a particular series, or film, write short stories using characters from that film or series. It's a bit of a weird thing, but people have been doing this sort of thing for years - for example with action figures, or LARPing (live action role-playing), all that sort of thing. It's a way of people creating new stories, and I can't say that's a bad thing. Unless it results in a book called 50 Shades of Grey, which started it's life as Twilight fan-fiction, in which case you definitively can say, yes, in that case, fan-fiction is bad.

One of the best things about the internet is that it enables people from all over the world to form communities, based on mutual (fervent) interests. These interests probably seem niche to outsiders, at best.

Anyway I found one that is fan-fiction based on the trashy 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


Thursday 25th September as part of 'Dead Ink in Conversation' at Wakefield Lit Fest (18.00, free)

Saturday 27th September I'll be reading a story at Leeds & Bradford Anarchist Bookfair, at Bradford 1 in 12 Club, around 14.00 I think, and I think it's free in. Join the facebook event for more info.

Monday, 8 September 2014

A slew of interviews...

I've done a few interviews lately - thanks to all who have asked.

Literature Works SW have chosen Brick Mother to be their book of the month in September, and I did a short interview with them apropos of that. Here it is:

"What struck me about the novel was how you captured the mundane everyday lives of the hospital staff alongside developing a dark central storyline. Why was it important for you to capture these small details?" (You can read the whole thing over at the Literature North West site)

Jessica Patient over at Writer's Little Helper invited me to open an imaginary bookshop.

"It's a wonder for anybody who doesn't know what they're looking for, and a nightmare for anybody who loves order and alphabetisation." (You can read the whole interview over on Writer's Little Helper.)

Richard Smyth & I were also interviewed by the Yorkshire Post: "[Bradley's] style is refreshingly direct and pared-down, while her empathy for the characters comes across strongly" (You can read the whole feature on the Yorkshire Post website.)
Currently reading

Wild Ink Richard Smyth

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Mid-year new year's resolution.

I'll be starting my New Year's resolution in September this year. Autumn seems like a good time to do it. My resolution is to blog more often. Here's today's. 

You might have been following the rather depressing saga of Jennifer Lawrence et al's nude photos appearing on Reddit, and just generally all over the internet. Pictures of Lawrence, and others, which they took for personal use, were stolen by a bunch of basement-dwelling perverts, who circulated the pictures amongst themselves. So far, so sordid. 

The pictures appeared in public when one of the basement-dwellers tried to sell his collection to the highest bidder. In order to prove that the pictures actually existed, he posted a number of them on 4Chan. These later circulated to Reddit and other sites. (This basement dweller apparently also later complained that he was only bid $120 in bitcoins for the rest of the collection. As though other people had something wrong with them.) 

The comments beneath any internet article about this whole debacle have been the most depressing aspect of the whole thing. It's like misogyny whack-a-mole down there, below the line. A popular variant is: "These women rely upon beauty as part of their job; therefore, if I want to see them naked, I have every right to see them naked." Well yes, they do rely on beauty - because the film industry dictates that beauty=value, and you can't get anywhere as a female actor without it. But that doesn't mean they have to show you their tatas, just because you want to look at them. 

(Another popular comment, probably posted by people who send their comments into the internet by carrier pigeon, reads: "If these women didn't want people to see their pictures, they shouldn't have put them on the internet in the first place!" By the way, Grandpa, they didn't. Their phones were maliciously and systemically hacked by criminals.) 

In short: Jennifer Lawrence has achieved a lot in her 23 years, but let's not task her with the job of single-handedly smashing patriarchy, as well. She's got a job to do (i.e. being ace in films.)

Currently reading

Good Company (unpublished novel) Armin Koomagi

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Short stories you can read for free!

The other day, I was boring on to somebody about short stories, and how there are so many great short story writers out there, doing great work.

Even better, there are even lots of magazines - high quality ones - publishing new short stories that you can read, completely FREE, online.

Electric Literature does this amazing series called "Recommended Reading" where they publish a new story, every week, recommended by a reputable organisation or writer. The best of all is, they also publish these in e-reader friendly formats, so that you can send them to your device, should you wish to.

One of my recent favourites from Recommended Reading was 'Not a Bad Bunch' by Anu Jindal:

"One time, Stigsson, a lumbering, manic Swede, leapt while climbing down from the mast. Fifteen feet, blurred blond beard and soiled bare feet flagging in the air towards the deck, where he landed in a funny way. As it happened, a stray nail had been left behind where he touched down and it entered him through his heel, paralyzing his foot permanently so that he walks always with a kind of slump now."

You can download or read the rest of it here:

There's this other publisher called Fiddleblack who specialise in what they call a 'modern literary aesthetic', specifically 'antipastorialism'. It's pretty interesting and you can read their mission statement here.

A recent favourite from their publishing series was Sharpening the Sickle to Shame the Scythe by Matthew Jabukowski:

"IN THE HOURS BEFORE Lauren Hunter-Aikens got the news she was stuck trying to revise a story she had written in her creative therapy group.

In the story, the narrator imagined that the news of her son’s death would come by phone. She would be at work drinking coffee, clicking with intense focus through documents on her computer screen. Her phone would buzz in her purse. Not wanting to disturb the office silence, she would answer right away and keep her voice low out of respect for her colleagues on the other sides of her cube.

The voice would ask if she were sitting down. She’d say yes, why?"

You can read the rest of the story on the Fiddleblack website.

More soon. 

Currently reading

Thirst Andrei Gelasimov
Norwood Charles Portis

Saturday, 9 August 2014

What's new?

Or: another post containing a list of good news....

"Brick Mother... is urban, northern and authentic", says Dave Schofield over at Structo magazine; you can read the full review here

Upcoming appearances:

Richard Smyth and I will be appearing at Bad Language on 27th August, at The Castle Hotel in Manchester. More information here

I'll also be appearing at Wakefield Lit Fest, alongside Richard Smyth, as part of 'Dead Ink in Conversation', on Thursday 24th September.

The next Fictions of Every Kind is themed: Whodunnit?! with invited speaker AJ Taft and murder ballads performed by Lowlands. As ever, there'll be a writers' open mic, sociability, and word games. You can find out more here, or the facebook events page is here. We love to see new faces and we're a very friendly lot - you're welcome to come along even if you're not planning to read anything out - we would love to meet you. (Wharf Chambers is a members' club and you do have to be a member to attend events, but it is very easy to join - it only costs £1 and anyone can do it! See the Wharf Chambers website for details.)

Currently reading

How to fight Islamist terror from the missionary position Tabish Khair

Sunday, 27 July 2014


Had an amazing time at last week's Dead Ink Book party in London. It was great to see so many friendly faces, and to meet so many interesting people. Since I don't really know anyone in London (5 people to be exact), it was an amazing surprise to see how many people turned out for a book party for two new, and pretty much completely unknown, writers. My Dead Ink compadre Richard Smyth did a brilliant job of organising it all. We even managed to sell two books to a drunk man on his way to the toilets. That'll have been a nice surprise for Sober Him come Saturday morning... 

Here are a couple of videos from the event, in which I read a couple of extracts from Brick Mother. I hope you enjoy them!

Donna (Chapter 2)

Barney (Chapter 5) 

Currently reading

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Karen Joy Fowler

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

A status update!

Hello, sorry, hello, I have been busy.

Item one: writing short stories for a collection.

Item two: starting work on a new novel. More news as it emerges.

Then! Also!

Here are links to a couple of really great reviews of Brick Mother. Many thanks to Max Dunbar and Jenna Isherwood, respectively, for these.

"At first glance this is pure kitchen sink. The tone is made out of damp, wet clothes, missed appointments, unhappy relationships, lack of money. But this miasma of mediocrity gradually resolves itself, through Bradley’s intricate and unseeable skills, into something absolutely horrifying." Through the Dark Glass: SJ Bradley's Brick Mother, by Max Dunbar

"The pace is also helped along by Bradley’s prose style, which is perhaps deliberately un-showy but still leaves room for moments of austere beauty.... An impressive feature of this novel is the way Bradley’s simplicity of style contrasts with the complexity of the questions she is raising" Jenna Isherwood over at Quadrapheme magazine

Soon I will become a real person, who blogs properly. Soon, I promise, soon. Until then...

Currently reading

Gentlemen & Players Joanne Harris
Any Other Mouth Anneliese Mackintosh

Monday, 7 July 2014

London book party!

Myself and fellow Dead Ink author Richard Smyth are having a London book party for our novels!

The event is on Friday July 25th, at 7pm, at the New Moon Pub on Gracechurch Street. Entry is free, and the pub serves food and booze (very good food and booze, if the rumours I've heard are right).

There's more information about the Dead Ink Book launch on the facebook page...

Currently reading

The Diaries of Jane Somers Doris Lessing

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Why haven't I blogged for a while?

“Brick Mother is a stunning debut. It manages at once to be both thought-provoking and terrifying, a thrilling page-turner that has a great deal to say about the atomisation of 21st Century society. It goes beyond newspaper headlines to give the reader a real insight into the ordinary and extraordinary daily lives of a seemingly-impenetrable institution.” Anthony Clavane, author of Promised Land

Oh dear. I've been really busy lately. What with the book being out, and writing, writing, writing.

The good news is, that my book is out! Review copies are available for book bloggers and review editors. Contact either me (@bradleybooks on twitter or SJ Bradley on facebook) or the publishers (@Deadinkbooks on twitter) if you want one.

You can buy it in paperback direct from Dead Ink Books here.

Or for Kindle here.

If you read the book and like it, please rate it on GoodReads, leave a review online somewhere, and tell your friends. Thankyou!

Currently reading

The Diaries of Jane Somers Doris Lessing 

Sunday, 1 June 2014

New short story!

I'm really pleased to announce that a new short story of mine, 'Weak Heart', has been published in issue two of The Honest Ulsterman.

The Honest Ulsterman is a great mag, with loads of great interviews and poetry - the first issue had an interview with Eimear McBride, and fiction by Benjamin Myers. It's really exciting to have my work appear alongside that sort of thing.

You can read The Honest Ulsterman online here.

Currently reading

Tree of Smoke Denis Johnson

Monday, 26 May 2014

Why shouldn't we privatise child protection services?

In the news this week, quietly shuffled out behind the much larger and louder European Elections, were Michael Gove's plans to privatise child protection services. 

There's a lot of hatred for rubber-faced, self-satisfied despot Gove in the literary world right now, mainly around his fuckwitted decision to take To Kill A Mockingbird out of the GCSE English curriculum. But this blog is not about that, infuriating though it be. This is about child protection. 

Child Protection services - services which are meant to protect and remove children from situations of abuse and neglect - are currently provided by statutory social services departments, under the auspices of the local authority. Most are stretched and understaffed. But they are still a statutory service, paid for by your council taxes, and your and my income tax. There's no profit involved. 

Child protection is extremely specialised work. No child walks around with a sign around their neck, which reads, "I am being neglected by my parents", or "I am being abused." The protection of vulnerable children relies on the co-operation of all sorts of agencies who might come into contact with a child - the school, health professionals like nurses and doctors, even the assistants who run after school clubs. 

Following the death of Victoria Climbie in 2000, a child who died despite being seen numerous times by doctors, there was an enquiry to find out what had gone wrong. There were several findings from the Lord Laming enquiry. 

One was that, even though Victoria had been seen by lots of different doctors, and lots of different social workers, nobody was holding 'all the pieces of the jigsaw'. Though lots of people had concerns that Victoria was being maltreated or neglected, there was no single named person (for example, a social worker) who knew about all of these concerns, and could patch them all together into a comprehensive picture of neglect and abuse. One finding of the Lord Laming review was to compel all agencies working with children to stay in better contact, to help protect vulnerable children like Victoria in the future. 

Since those days, child protection has improved. Yes, other children have died since; the case of Baby P, in 2007, highlighted the lengths that some abusers will go to to mislead the investigating services. In Baby P's case, the mother was able to hoodwink social services into thinking that she was engaging with them in order to improve her parenting skills. 

So, you can see from this how specialised child protection work is. It's not easy for social workers to tell whether a parent genuinely engaging with them, nor is it easy for social workers to piece together all the parts of a 'neglect jigsaw' to see when a child is being mistreated by its parents. This kind of work takes a lot of expertise and, most crucially, support and supervision. 

Now I'm not an expert in tendering procedures, so I don't really know how this stuff works. But I'm imagining that when child protection services are put out to tender, for bidding by private companies, the 'winner' of the tender will be the company that says it can provide child protection services the cheapest. 

How will they provide these services cheaper than the local authority can? Hazarding a few guesses here:

  • By cutting managers' salaries ("You get what you pay for", as the saying goes; cut managers' salaries, and you'll attract less experienced managers, perhaps managers who don't know anything about children's services or child protection)
  • By cutting staff costs (by lowering pay)
  • By increasing social workers' caseloads; (and higher caseloads means that social workers won't be able to do their jobs properly; they won't be able to do preventive work with the most complex cases, mistakes will be made; phone calls to schools & doctors' surgeries not returned; social workers might not have time to look for the best possible placements for looked after children)
And let's remember that some of the global privatising companies do not have good records when it comes to organisation of large-scale events, or of protection of the vulnerable:

In 2011, the army had to step in to take control of Olympic security when it was revealed that G4S, the company who had run the tender, had 'underestimated the scale of the event'

Earlier on this year abuse cases came to light from an immigration centre run by the company SERCO, who apparently went to great lengths to cover the abuse up, rather than making it stop

These are the kinds of companies likely to be bidding for tender to look after the most vulnerable children in our society. Please take a moment to sign this petition to help put a halt to the plans:

Sunday, 18 May 2014

"How do you get a novel published?"


Next month, (June 7th to be exact), I have a novel coming out. It's called Brick Mother and it is being released by an independent press called Dead Ink

This is the realisation of a lifelong dream for me. Ever since being a little girl, I've always dreamed of being a writer. And now, at last I am! (Although I never make any money from it - but that's another story.) 

Here's a Fun Fact for you: Brick Mother is not the first novel I have ever written. Prior to writing it, I had written two other novels, one of which is literally Not Very Good, and another which Could Be Good If I Spent About Another Two Years Working On It. 

Because, here's the thing about getting a novel published. It is hard - very, very hard. Publishers - even the small independent ones, like Dead Ink - have slush piles numbering into the hundreds. It's hard to stand out amongst that kind of competition. Agents and editors get hundreds of queries a week, and most don't read their slush piles during work hours - they don't have time. Reading the slush is what they do in their free time. 

Given that the competition to get noticed amongst the slush is so hard, what do you do? 

Well, I'll tell you what worked for me, and it is this. (Brace yourselves.) I worked like a mountain donkey. When I realised my second novel probably wasn't good enough to get published, I started work on a third - Brick Mother. I started declining overtime and extra hours at work, so that I could have more time to concentrate on writing. I stopped going out; didn't see friends, didn't go to parties - hell, there were some weeks when I ate cereal for dinner every night, just because it saved time on cooking. It was hard, and not much fun for quite a long time. It might be that other, more talented writers, would be able to achieve more than I did without having to work so hard. For me, that wasn't the case - what I found, eventually, was that I had to work roughly two or three times harder than I had initially thought, to write stories good enough to make it into print. 

So, not only did I start work on Brick Mother, but in between drafts of that, short stories too. I read contemporary anthologies to see what other writers were up to, and how high the standards were. That was another difficult moment. Realising my work wasn't up to scratch, and that I needed to work harder still. I don't mind telling you that I had a few little cries at that point. Then after having a bit of a cry, I started working a bit harder. Because - and this is not much fun either, so I apologise - the standard in published anthologies and debut novels is ridiculously high, and if you want to get published you have to make your work be at least as good or preferably even better, than those currently appearing in print. 

Short story writing was a way of improving my own practise, and also a way of trying to get things published. 

Publications came slowly. I had one or two every year from 2010 onwards, and these little moments of encouragement were enough to persuade me to keep on going with the novel, even when things were difficult. 

So, in about 2011, I started sending Brick Mother out to agents and publishers. Following the best advice, I thought about what kind of places might be interested in my writing - which, should you be interested, scores the amazing hat trick of being slightly unsettling, somewhat left-field, and not terribly commercially viable. (If that's not enough to get the big publishers falling all over each other to get to me with their cheque books, I don't know what is.) 

After giving it a bit of thought, I realised the people most likely to be sympathetic to the left field, the slightly odd, and not particularly commercially viable, HURRAH! - were small, 'artistic' independent presses. I put 'artistic' in quotes because I don't know exactly how best to describe the sensibility of these places, other than that I know it when I see it. 

Rejection from these places (and I had a lot of rejection for Brick Mother, especially given that I was sending it twice a month for several months, in my drive to get it published) came hard. What you have to realise about independent presses is that they're run by small groups of people, usually on a shoestring, and most often by people driven by the love of a particular kind of writing. If we didn't have presses like this, the literature world would be a very sad, and homogenous world indeed; it would be a place full of Jeremy Clarkson biographies, and not very much else.

So, when you as a writer find places like this, you sort of punch the air and go YESSS, THESE ARE MY PEOPLE, and you thank Thor (or whatever god you happen to worship) that people like this (odd, strange, driven by the desire to print weird and probably rather unpopular books) exist. 

Only often, because these independent presses are so small, and so shoestringy, that they can only publish two books a year. And when you hold such high hopes that they will love your novel, and want to publish it, it really comes like a punch in the gut that they don't, and they won't. Maybe there are only two people working at the press, both volunteers, and their list is already full for the next two years. Maybe they're so busy they didn't have time to read all of the submissions. Or maybe they just didn't like your book very much, for whatever reason. It just wasn't completely their thing. It didn't light their candle, it didn't chime their bell, it didn't make them want to give up even more of their evenings and weekends in the pursuit of putting out another book, because they just didn't love it enough. And that's fine, because independent publishing is driven by passion, not by duty - and that's how it should be. But it also meant that my poor little book kept on not getting accepted for publication, over and over again. 

All the same, I kept on looking for places, and competitions, and I kept on sending it out. I should mention, as well, that by the time it was finally accepted for publication - in July 2013 - I had redrafted it 5 times, sent it around a couple of trusted writer-friends for critique, and all in all likelihood spent well over 2000+ hours on it in total. 

In December 2012, after several years of spending hundreds of unpaid hours writing in all of my free time, having spent a lot of money on submission fees and postage, and still with no publisher interested in my book, I was pretty fed up, and close to stopping. But I still had two unpublished short stories on my hard drive, and I thought I should try to get them published before I stopped altogether. 

In February 2013, my story "Dance Class" (one of the unpublished short stories) was shortlisted for the Willesden Herald Short Story Prize. 

The month after that, encouraged by having been shortlisted, I wrote another short story, and sent it off to Wes Brown for consideration in an anthology he was putting together. Luckily, he liked it - and in June the same year, an editor called Nathan Connolly got in touch to say that he had read the story, and liked it so much, did I have a novel that I could send him? 

Reader, I was of course punching the air. I was at home by myself, dancing around the living room even though there was no music on. The cat looked at me askance; he was not impressed, even less so when I tried to get him to join in. Bradley, I said to myself, don't get carried away. You know the last time you got solicited for a story it turned out to be a scam. (That, too, is a story for another day.) My excitement was tempered by many months of disappointment, you could say.

I sent the novel off anyway, and not too long afterwards got another email back. They liked it! They loved it! They thought there were some serious problems in the third act of the book (er, what? More rewriting? Don't you know how much of that I've done already?!) - but these minor problems were not enough to stop me from doing a victory dance around the office at work (that's right, I was at work this time; good job there was nobody else around) and inventing a song called "Having a novel published, having a novel published" which works quite well if you sing it along to the tune of Let's All Do The Conga. 

The moment when Nathan wrote to say that he liked Brick Mother enough to want to publish it was one of the highest points of my writing career. There have been other points that have come near it, but nothing has beaten it yet.

There's been a lot of hard work since. Close edits, structural edits, drafts passing back and forth - I've done probably a hundred more hours on it since it was accepted for publication, or maybe more. But who's counting, right? When it comes out, I want it to be right - I want it to be the best beast it possibly can be - and by this point, I am certainly not shy of a bit of hard work. 

So my journey to publication has not been an easy one. It's been draining, exhausting, expensive, dreary at times, sometimes even depressing, but now that I'm on the eve of holding my novel in my hands for the first time, I consider every single minute of it worth it. Totally worth it. 

Currently reading

Lazy Eye Donna Daley-Clarke

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Coffee Shop Nights

Last week, I went across to Huddersfield with Gareth Durasow and Richard Smyth to read at Coffee Shop Nights, an evening put on by Chol Theatre Company. It was a great evening, with brilliant performances by Gareth and Richard, and from Six Lips Theatre company. I read a part of my story Top Dog, which appeared last December in Toasted Cheese Magazine. Here's the video (with preamble) for those of you who like that sort of thing.

Currently reading

The Pursued C S Forester 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Writers' co-operatives & writers' collectives

After having a series of interesting talks with a friend about co-operation between writers, and how writers might organise themselves in collectives, I thought I'd do a blog post on the subject.

I know that writers' collectives / co-operatives are a subject of interest for many. I've never been in a writers' collective, and remain to be convinced that they could truly work. However, I still think co-operatives are great; I work on the fringes of a workers' co-op at the moment, and have been in a collective myself in the past, (Although it was not one that did anything to do with writing.) So I thought I'd do a little blog about co-operative working, and how it might work for writers.

What is a workers' co-op?
A workers' co-op could do anything. In the locality around me, there's a workers' co-op that runs a music venue, one that produces the world's best peanut butter (among other things), and another that will print books, zines or gig posters for you. The main difference in a workers' co-op, is that they don't have a 'manager'. Every worker in the co-op - in theory at least - should have an equal say in how the organisation works, making decisions from how to source materials to how to run the cleaning rota.

One of the big differences in workers' co-ops from usual jobs, is that the workers will have a wide range of responsibilities. It's not like a usual job where you'd have your job title, and you'd go in and do your job, and go home. In many workers' co-ops, you might have a lot of different responsibilities, from taking care of the building, to washing up, to making recruitment decisions. And everybody in the co-op would take on a bit of responsibility for organising how the co-op works. But every co-op works differently, depending on the people in it. That's the beauty of the co-operative way of working.

And what else? 
All co-operatives share a set of values: Self-help (helping each other by working together for mutual benefit); Self-responsibility (individuals act responsibility, and play a full part in the organisation); Democracy (structured so members have control over the organisation); Equality (every member has equal rights & benefits according to their contribution); Equity (members to be treated fairly); Solidarity (members support each other, and other co-operatives.)

Working in a co-op is an involved endeavour. It works really well when you have a group of people who complement each other in some way, and importantly, have a commitment to the co-operative way of working. It's not really a simple or casual thing to do - usually co-operative working means doing something over & above what you'd do if you were working in a 'normal' job.

The great thing about co-operatives is that it means that all workers have a say in how they organise themselves, and how the work is done. Also, it means you don't have a boss! (Massive bonus for anyone who's got a problem with authority.)

How might a writers' co-op work? 
My answer is, I don't know. It seems to me like co-ops work really well when their aim is something tangible. An aim like, for example, "We would like to produce and distribute the world's best peanut butter," or "Wouldn't it be great if we could teach people to fix their own bikes without having to go to Halford's?" - only in the case of the writers' group, your aim might be something like: "Let's put out an anthology", or "Let's organise a writing retreat together", or "Let's organise a series of performance events."

A nebulous aim like "This writers' co-op aims to support and promote one anothers' work" might be problematic. In a co-op, everybody should get fair treatment. You might run into difficulty if one of your co-op members felt that their work was not being promoted enough. How would you judge that everybody was receiving a fair amount of support? For any co-op to thrive in the long term, it's important that you build in checks to make sure that everybody gets treated fairly, and that if they feel that's not happening, to have a way to challenge that. There is loads of good advice about ironing out fair distribution in the Radical Routes publication "How to set up a worker's co-op".

In my experience co-operatives work really well when you are able to find a group of people who are like-minded in enough ways, but different enough, that you can work together well as a group to achieve a common aim. This narrows the field quite a lot for writers. 

Speaking from my own experience, my best writer-friends are those who have a similar sort of aesthetic, or a similar sense of humour, or who have the same sort of ethic about how they operate. But my set of writer-friends is pretty small, and each person has something different about them that I like.

For example. A good critique partner understands your work: they know what you're trying to do, and most crucially, where you're getting it wrong. This is quite a rare find. I'm lucky enough to have one such writer-friend. (Hands off!) 

But a critique partner might not equally be your commiserator. You might have another writer-friend who's good to get drunk with, and talk about rejection, and put the world to rights (or wrongs?) over a beer or two. These two people might not be the same person. 

And then you might have another writer-friend who's an excellent performer, who knows how to read work out in a powerful and engaging way. This person might be able to draw people into events, or give you some inspiration as to how you might develop this ability in yourself. 

And you also might have a writer-friend who's very practical and organised, who always keeps a cool head and knows how to get things done. This might be the sort of person who has a spreadsheet and a diary, with a list of closing dates for competitions and submission periods. If this writer-friend is a generous person, they may share their wizardly knowledge with you. And if they're doubly a good friend, they might crack the whip over you until you start sending your work to the right magazines. A writer-friend like this is rare indeed, rare my friends, and I counsel you if you find one to hold on tight to them and never let go; no, not even if they start beating you with a big stick. 

However. The big difficulty is that it's rare enough to find one person listed above, still rarer to find one example of each, and rarer still - we are talking about rarity on a parallel with finding somebody who has made it all the way to the end of The Corrections here - to find one of ALL FOUR, and for ALL FOUR of these people to want to work in a co-operative together. 

Because here's the problem: writers have this irritating tendency to be individualistic and driven. The very best ones of all are the ones who spend all their time writing; and irksomely, that type of writer tends to be the one who isn't really very interested in doing very much else. (I am turning into one such myself.) 

Because here's the thing in forming a co-operative. You need to find a group of people willing to do any work the co-operative is committed to (whether that be putting out an anthology, or organising a retreat, or whatever) on top of finding their own time to write. And then you need to be able to do everything you expect them to do, back, so that you're doing things equitably for every writer in the co-op. 

Can it be done? I would love to be proved wrong, and I hope that it can. I retain hope that somebody will pick up and run with the idea of running an affordable co-operatively run retreat, not half because I'd like to go on it myself, but without having to be the driving force behind it (too busy at the moment). It would be great to hear from anybody who has worked in, or is working in an active creative co-operative at the moment. But for now, for the time being, I remain - as ever - slightly unconvinced. 

Feel free to call me a hardbitten old witch in the comments below. 

Currently reading

Comedy in A Minor Hans Keilson
Collected Stories Lydia Davis 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Novel launch!

"Empathetic, serious, forgiving, ominous, tender, terrifying... Brick Mother follows the lives of ordinary people tasked with the extraordinary challenge of caring for the mentally ill. Human weakness is witnessed, measured and forgiven in the same breath. Bradley has performed the unlikely feat of inhabiting a cold government building with a nurturing human heart. A thoughtful, thought-provoking and mature debut." (Mishka Shubaly, best selling author of The Long Run) 

I'll be launching my debut novel, Brick Mother, at the Leeds Big Bookend festival this June, along with fellow Dead Ink author Richard Smyth, who will also be launching his debut novel at the same event. The launch event is on June 7th at 2pm in Leeds Central Library. The facebook events page is here

Currently reading

Collected Stories Lydia Davis
We Had It So Good Linda Grant

Monday, 7 April 2014


I'll be giving a reading on May 8th at Chol Theatre in Huddersfield. Also appearing will be Gareth Durasow and Richard Smyth.

Currently reading

Sworn Virgin Elvira Dones
Collected Stories Lydia Davis

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Loft Mentor Series

I just discovered the Loft Mentor Series on YouTube, something I'm really excited about since I needed something to fill the New Yorker Fiction Podcast shaped gap in my life after finishing listening to that series.

Here's a video of Toni Halleen reading as part of the series. Great stuff!


Currently reading

Chasing The King of Hearts Hanna Krall
Silver Linings Playbook Michael Quick

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Fictions of Every Kind: Home

The next Fictions of Every Kind will be on Tuesday March 25th, themed: Home. Invited speakers will be Nasser Hussain and Zodwa Nyoni. The event will take place at Wharf Chambers* in Leeds, starting at 19:30. Entry, as ever, will be a recession-friendly £3.

Zodwa Nyoni is a Zimbabwean-born poet & playwright. She was named as one of Leeds' 20 best writers under 40 last year, and was apprentice poet in residence at last years' Ilkley Literature Festival. Nasser Hussain is a poet and performer who lectures in creative writing at York University.

Music will come from David Broad. As ever, there will be a writers' open mic - please keep your contributions at 5 minutes or under; we'll be enforcing this time limit, so please practise reading your work out beforehand to check it fits! Short stories, flash fiction, true stories and excerpts from larger works are all welcome.

Nasser's very hard to google. Here he is reading a poem about that very fact:

And here's Zodwa performing with Vanessa Rani Chutturgoon at last years' Ilkley Literature Festival:

* Please note: Wharf Chambers is a members club & you must be a member to attend an event here. Joining costs £1 and takes a minimum of 48 hours to take effect. For more info visit www.wharfchambers.org

Ray Bradbury on Writing Persistently

No time to update properly now. Instead, please enjoy this video of the excellent Ray Bradbury talk about writing persistently.

Currently reading

Flight Behaviour Barbara Kingsolver

The Things They Carried Tim O'Brien