Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Obligatory end of year post, 2017

Writing is a funny business. You've got to be a bit odd to want to be an author in the first place: all those hours spent in a room by yourself, making stuff up, and rarely, if ever, getting paid for it. Those of us who choose to do it either have a bit of a personality defect, or an awful lot of things they want to say, or in my case, a bit of both.

Every writer has good years and crap years. I've been on the receiving end of plenty of crap and terrible years myself, but this year... this year has been ace.

Notes written for Guest, 2015

So here's a quick summary of my 2017, in pictures.

Comma Press Short Story Writing Course

I began the year teaching some wonderful students in a Comma Short Story Course at Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds.

Comma Short Story Writing course, Carriageworks

It was such a joy to teach these students and to think deeply about the short story craft. The students also produced an anthology. Tyto Alba: Short Stories by New Leeds Writers (which I edited) is now available as an e-book on Amazon, here.

Winning a Saboteur Award for Remembering Oluwale

It seems like ages ago now, but one of my hugest highlights of this year was the Saboteur Awards in May this year.

We won!
Putting the anthology Remembering Oluwale was one of my highlights of last year. The project was such a fulfilling one, one which took months of work, and although I was incredibly proud of the book, it was hard to know whether other people liked it too. Anyway, it turns out they did, and we won a Saboteur Award for it.

Here's a pic of me and Max Farrar from Remember Oluwale getting a bit giggly at the Awards bash after our win (sorry for picture quality; we'd all had a few boozes by that point.)

Max Farrar & SJ Bradley at Saboteur Awards, May 2017

However, there are always losses to temper the winnings, as I found out when I handed Max the big bottle of gin we'd won as part of the prize, and he went on a lengthy bar crawl, and left it in a pub.

We never did get to drink that gin.

On the other hand, I did get to keep the trophy.

This little fella lives on my writing desk.
Sadly, this was also the weekend in which the notebook in which I'd written most of the working notes for Guest was pickpocketed out of my bag on the Tube. Farewell, little red notebook, I will never forget you.

If you see the notebook on the right... I want it back!

Teaching for First Story 

During 2017, I was writer in residence at Leeds East Academy in Seacroft, Leeds. Teaching creative writing to the students there was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. In September this year, they launched their anthology at Chapel FM in Leeds.

I'd watched these students go from being frightened little mice to being fierce lions, and it was an honour to watch them reading fearlessly in the beautiful upstairs space in Chapel FM.

First Story Students along with Peter from Chapel FM

Northern Short Story Festival

Can I say it? This year's festival was a belter. A full day of short story goodness for £20 (you can't even get a long-distance train ticket for that these days) with workshops from Zoe Lambert, Sarah Dobbs, AJ Ashworth, and the mighty mighty Jacob Ross, winner of the Jhalak Prize.

Jacob Ross at the Northern Short Story Festival 2017

What a treat it was to hear Leone Ross read from her newly-launched collection, Come Let Us Sing Anyway, in conversation with Peepal Tree Press editor Jeremy Poynting. Talk about having the crowd eat out of her hand!

Leone Ross & Jeremy Poynting @ Northern Short Story Festival '17. Photo: Izzy Brittle
As ever, our audience came from far and wide for this festival. We hosted our first ever Flash Fiction Slam (a huge success, by the way) at which the judges crowned Phil Olsen a very deserving winner. Here's a photo of judge & compere Jimmy Andrex whipping up the crowd.

Flash Fiction Slam, Northern Short Story Festival 2017. Credit: Izzy Brittle

Second novel, Guest, was launched
Phew, as if going to London, teaching for First Story, and organising a short story festival wasn't enough, this was also the year I launched my second novel, Guest.
Myself & editor Nathan Connolly at the launch of Guest.

A queue for signing! Guest launch, July 2017

It's always weird, after months or years working on a piece of fiction (Guest took about 2 and a half years to write), to see it finally come out into the world. You never quite know what people are going to think or how it's going to be received.
Photos: @carmymac and @carriebethx

Anyway, it turns out people quite liked it. The Morning Star called it "a tightly honed work of dirty realism with convincing characters and richly developed settings, Guest is an entertaining and life-affirming work with important things to say about protest, [and] resilience", and Disclaimer Magazine called it "a journey told in clear, well-chosen prose [...] [with] characters both naturalistic and recognisable." It made it into The Morning Star's Books of the Year.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to do a number of events to support the book, in Bradford, Leeds (twice), Bolton, Manchester, and even in London! Many thanks if you invited me somewhere or hosted me anywhere. This event in Housman's Bookstore in London was a particular highlight. Thanks to Kit Caless of Influx Press for playing host.
L-R Kit Caless, Abondance Matanda, SJ Bradley, Sam Berkson, Holly Pester @Housmans Bookshop, November '17

Guest is still available from Dead Ink Books.
Comma Press & Verse Matters publications 
I was really chuffed to have a number of short story publications this year. Comma Press invited me to contribute to their Conradology anthology, which is a collection of stories and essays responding to the work of Joseph Conrad. My story, Fractional Distillation, responds to the themes of colonialisation threaded throughout Conrad's work, particularly Heart of Darkness.
Conradology from Comma Press
You can purchase Conradology from the Comma Press website here, and why not treat yourself to one of the many other fine anthologies and collections they have, while you're there?

Verse Matters, ed. Helen Mort & Rachel Bower, from Valley Press

There's also the Verse Matters anthology, edited by Rachel Bowers and Helen Mort, which "harnesses the power of everyday stories, highlighting the strength and inspiration that comes from speaking out proudly in unsettled times." My story Weak Heart is in there, along with new writing from Malika Booker, Liz Berry and Hollie McNish, among others, and is available from the Valley Press website here.
Winning a K Blundell Trust Award 

To use a hackneyed aphorism, winning a K Blundell Trust award in December this year was the cherry on top of a particularly cakey year. On Thursday I arrived home from work to find a letter waiting from the Society of Authors. I never get exciting post like that, and I wasn't sure what it was.
Turns out it was a letter telling me that I've won a K Blundell Trust Award, to support me to research and write my third novel, The Everything Company.
Whut? AKA: my face when I opened the letter.
It couldn't be real, I said to myself, as I looked around the kitchen for a hidden camera. (My kitchen, by the way, is where I open most of my post. I find it very well suited to the task, in case the post makes you suddenly need to make a calming cup of tea.) This must have been the tenth or twelvth or maybe twentieth award I've applied for over the course of the past five years or so, and I never win grants or awards, I said to myself, so surely this must be a mistake, or perhaps I am suffering from some kind of Grants or Awards Non-Winning Mirage, such as the type a thirsty man might suffer when crossing a desert.
So then I read the letter again, and then I rang my publisher Nathan, and talking to him convinced me that perhaps it wasn't a prank after all, that I really had won a Society of Authors Award, and later on it popped up on The Bookseller website, which means it must be true.
The Award will be of huge help to me, since it will allow me to take a bit of time away from my day job to concentrate on writing the next book, and honestly, I can't wait to get stuck in.

Another thing I want to say 
At the end of this very long blog post, what I want to say is that this year has been a real bowl of fancy chocolates for me; it's been truffle after truffle, maybe the odd praline or marzipan-coated treat, and not a single coffee-flavoured liquer among them (well, maybe one - that time when my notebook got pickpocketed on the Tube.)
I also want to say that not every year I've had as an author has been like this one. Some years have been real stinkers. I've had years when nobody wanted to publish anything I wrote, when I got rejection letter after rejection letter; years when supposedly reputable editors have tried to rip me off, I've had stretches lasting months and years where I've had nothing but rejection or often lengthy haunting silences and no rejection letters at all, and times when I've been invited to give readings and I've gone along and literally nobody's turned up.

There was a period of years when I've wondered why I bother continuing trying to write when a. nobody wants to read my writing, or b. nobody likes my stuff anyway apart from me, so maybe it's me that has the problem? or maybe c. the odds of success are so low and there are so many writers out there better than me, so why bother?

All of this makes it all the more sweeter when I've finally had a great year, a year like the one I've just had.

Anyway it turns out that if you keep going, keep on reading, writing, working, meeting deadlines, and being kind and supportive to other people, and accepting other people's help, eventually you might be lucky enough have a year like mine.

Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one! 
Bradders' favourite books from this year
Know Your Place anthology, Dead Ink Books
Sealed, Naomi Booth
ThoughtX anthology, Comma Press
The Intuitionist, Colson Whitehead (didn't come out this year, but I read it this year)
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
Hold Tight, Jeffrey Boakye, Influx Press
Come Let Us Sing Anyway, Leone Ross, Peepal Tree Press
The Dead Lake, Hamid Ismailov, Peirene Press

Monday, 27 November 2017

Thank you!

L-R Kit Caless, Abondance Matanda, me, Sam Berkson, Holly Pester. Photo by Ricky Adam

Phew! It's been a mad few weeks. I'm so grateful to have been asked to do so many events over the past month or so: I've been to Bolton, to London, to Leeds (twice); it's been a knackering few weeks, but I'm so glad to see the spirit of literature is alive and well, and that activism, print and protest is well and truly alive. Thank you to the wonderful people who have hosted me and put some terrific events on. Just look at the crowd at the Blackwell's Leeds Short Story Salon, from 9th November! 

Blackwells Leeds Short Story Salon (photo from @blackwellleeds)

It was wonderful to see so many people there, and great hearing Martyn Bedford read from his new short story collection, Letters Home.  

(photo from @blackwellleeds)

Similarly, a couple of weeks ago I went to Bolton. This was a fab event in their Central Library - many thanks to Simon Holloway at the Bolton Creative Writing MA for hosting me, and to Liz at Bolton Libraries. There's nothing quite like entering a venue only to be greeted with a massive photo of your own face. 
Super weird. 
The students were attentive & engaged and asked some brilliant questions; I was glad to have been invited (and gone) to Bolton. 

Another thing was the time when I went to Seacroft, to appear on Peter Spafford's show Love the Words on Chapel FM. Peter is a great fellow, and Love the Words is a great show, so I was really chuffed to be invited. Even better was that I appeared alongside poet Ian Harker, and historical crime writer Mark Knowles, each of us talking about our recent books, and our musical inspirations. You can listen again to it on the Chapel FM website here.

Perhaps my favourite thing of all in these most recent weeks has been talking to like-minded, and sometimes not-so like-minded people, having conversations about the role fiction can play in protest and resistance. In this post-truth world, what role can fiction play in representing and questioning the truth? Many of the literature events have reminded me of the huge importance of writing the truth in our fiction, and of building and creating networks that resist existing systems of oppression and dominant narratives. Discussions around this were a particular feature of the Housman's event in London. It was a particular treat at this event to run into some of my fellow Dead Ink authors, Marc Nash & Haroun Khan. 

L-R me, Marc Nash, Haroun Khan

In case you were wondering - I'm currently working on my third novel, 80,000 words into the first draft, and wondering whether I'm going mad, as usual. Will I have some time off?

Probably not, to be honest.

Currently reading 

Death and the Seaside Alison Moore
Finch Jeff Vandermeer (I cannot recommend the e-book version of this, because it's full of errors. Read it in print if you can.) 

Sunday, 13 August 2017


Many thanks to everyone who's supported Guest so far. It was amazing to see so many people at the launch - I honestly wasn't expecting such a good reception, but in the end we had almost 70 people there, a great crowd. Thank you so much for all of your support and you were a great crowd.

If you have read the book, may I please ask you to leave me an Amazon or Goodreads review? Cheers!

I'll also be doing the following events over the next few months:

Tuesday 19th September, Leeds - Fictions of Every Kind: Family, along with Emily Devane, at Wharf Chambers. Anybody can come along to this event, although you do have to sign up to become a member of Wharf Chambers beforehand, which costs £1 and you can do it online at Further details on the Fictions of Every Kind events page.

Saturday 30th September, Wakefield - Wakefield Lit Fest event at the Hepworth Gallery with Claire Fisher and June Taylor, 3.00.

Monday 9th October, Ilkley - Un/Forced Rhubarb Anthology launch at Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe, Ilkley Playhouse - Lounge, 9.15pm (hour-long event.)

Wednesday 25th October, Shipley, Bradford - Rhubarb 15 at the Triangle in Shipley.

Friday 3rd November, Manchester - National Creative Writing Graduate Fair, hosted by Comma Press. I'll be appearing as part of a panel event at this great fair. Reduced price places are available for writers who otherwise wouldn't be able to attend. See the Facebook page for more information.

Monday 6th November, Bolton Library - in conversation with Simon Holloway of Bolton University Creative Writing MA. This is a cheap (or free, I'm not sure) event with wine, starting from 6.00.

Tuesday 14th November, Chapel FM, Leeds - I'll be on Peter Spafforth's radio show talking about Guest.

Thursday 16th November, Housmans Bookshop, London N19DX - Pages of Protest with Abondance Matanda (Know Your Place), Holly Pester (Protest: Comma Press), & Sam Berkson (Influx Press). Entry £3, redeemable against any book purchase. Starts 7pm. 

I'm also taking part in Script Yorkshire's Adaptation Challenge, on September 18th at Basement Bar, City Screen Cinema, York. This is a sight-unseen 'script in hand' reading of a short story I've adapted for stage (i.e. I've done the adapting, but it isn't one of my own short stories!) It promises to be a great night so please do come along.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Guest out soon!

Images by @carriebethx and Carmel McNamara
I want to say thanks to everybody who's tweeted or Facebooked me a picture of their book arriving this week. It's been wonderful (and exciting!) to see the books arriving on people's doormats, via social media.

Over the past couple of weeks I've done some guest blogs about the process of writing and researching the book.

I wrote this on the inspiration behind the story for Disclaimer magazine:

"The character of Samhain, an angry punk squatter who never knew his father, came to me one day as I was making fliers. I was in my friend's basement at the time, rolling the treadle on an antiquated, ancient letterpress printing machine. Printing ink on cards, then alternating the fliers, still wet with ink, with old newspapers..."

You can read "The Story Behind the Story of Guest" here.

 The Big Bookend also has this:

"2001: student days. Days of outrage, of Blair and Bush, of hand-drawn photocopied fliers. It was the pre-social media age. The closest thing we had to Facebook was MySpace, an eye-aching repository of HTML and hormones that allowed you to set a soundtrack to your personal page, and choose “top 8” friends, if you were into that sort of thing...."

You can read the rest of "How I Wrote Guest" on The Big Bookend website here.

You can also add it to your shelf on GoodReads here:

SJ Bradley's books on Goodreads
Guest Guest
ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)

Don't forget to join us for the launch at Waterstones Leeds on Thursday. It's at 6.30 and it's free. Phone 0113 244 4588 or email to book.

Currently reading

Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Guest - the launch!

Thursday 27th July, Waterstones Leeds, 6.30pm, FREE entry!

"Join Leeds author SJ Bradley for the launch of her second novel, Guest, published by Dead Ink Books, at Waterstones Leeds, 6.30pm on Thursday 27 July.

Sarah will read from and discuss her book before taking audience questions and signing copies of the novel.

SJ Bradley is an award winning short story writer, novelist of Brick Mother and founder of Leeds based Fictions of Every Kind.

Tickets are free but places must be reserved in advance. To reserve your place please email, ring 0113 244 4588 or tweet @WStonesLeeds. More information:

The Facebook events page for this event is here (many thanks to Leeds Big Bookend for their support in organising and publicising this!)

Currently Reading

Stronger Than Skin Stephen May 

Friday, 19 May 2017

Remembering Oluwale: Best Anthology, Saboteur 17

So, so chuffed to have won Best Anthology for Remembering Oluwale in this year's Saboteur Awards.

When we got the news we'd been shortlisted, I did a fair bit of umming and aahing about whether it was worth going to London for the ceremony. "It's an awful long way to go," I mumbled to one person. "The trains are so expensive." I made various other typical chippy Northern comments like, "What do I want with going to London anyway? I've already been to London once already this year, isn't that enough?" and "Northern writers never win things anyway, so what would be the point?"

A short chat with Jenna Isherwood, one of my co-organisers from Fictions, changed my mind. "It's not often you get invited to an awards ceremony," she, or I, I can't remember, said. "It'd be a shame to miss it." Plus, Max of Remembering Oluwale had already bought his tickets, so that was it - my mind was made up.

(Me and Max arriving at the ceremony: fresh-faced and not booze-faced... yet.)

Our category was called second, which thankfully didn't give us too much time to get nervous.

Here's my speech, as best as I can remember it:

"Ours is not the first book about David Oluwale, nor are these the first writers to write about him. Writers like Linton Kwesi Johnson, Caryl Phillips, Rommi Smith, Ian Duhig, Kester Aspden, and Zodwa Nyoni, among others, all have written about him before.

If you don't know about David Oluwale's story: David Oluwale was a Nigerian man who came to Britain legally in the 60s, at a time when Britain was encouraging people from Commonwealth countries to come here to work. He spent most of his time in Leeds either in a psychiatric hospital, or homeless and sleeping rough on the streets. He was victimised by the police and eventually found dead, floating in the river Aire. When he died, the only records that remained of him were his hospital notes and his arrest records. He might have been forgotten altogether were it not for the work of the Remembering Oluwale charity, and the famous piece of graffiti in Chapeltown in Leeds which reads 'Remember Oluwale'.

At a time of closing borders, of low levels of empathy for asylum seekers, refugees and EU nationals, at a time of rising racism and jingoism, we need David Oluwale's story now more than ever.

Thank you."

We'll be throwing a party in Leeds to celebrate Oluwale winning at the Saboteurs. It will be at Outlaws Yacht Club on Wednesday June 7th at 7.15pm with readings and cocktails. It's an open invite to anybody who wants to come and is free - do please come and join us.

Currently reading

Countdown City Ben H Winters
Stronger Than Skin Stephen May  

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Publishing The Underground Crowdfunding campaign now live!

 "You're not just a reader, you're a maker."

I'm proud to announce that the crowdfunding campaign for Publishing The Underground, including my second novel, Guest, is now open.

There are options to suit all pockets: an ebook option, a hardback option, or a bundle where you pledge to support all three books.

Go to the Dead Ink Books Crowdfunding page now to get involved.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Cover Reveal

Here's the cover for my new book, Guest, which comes out in June this year (woohoo!)

I'm so excited about the book, and the cover itself (which was made by artist Michael Lacey). I can't wait for this to come out now.

It should be available to pre-order soo, so you (and I!) won't have long to wait...

Regret Index on Queen Mobs

"Regret one: When Hannah came into work looking for her apron, and crying, I might have told her where it was. Instead, I let Tony think she was useless, and fire her."
My story, Regret Index, is now on Queen Mob's teahouse. You can read it here.

Currently Reading

The Power Naomi Alderman 

Friday, 3 February 2017

Editing, second time around

Photo from @deadinkbooks instagram

Exciting times: here we are again.

I've signed the contract. I've filled in the questionnaire about visual imagery in the book, and what I'd like to appear on the cover. Sent the final version of the manuscript to my editor, Nathan. Written a couple of imaginary speeches. Tried to think about what things to say at the launch. The book's finished, and now it's all done: sent, signed, proofed, agreed, and now I'm just working on the "laying awake at night wondering what people will think of it when it comes out" part.

Guest, my second novel. is due to be released in June this year. You'll see from the photo above that Dead Ink are publishing some pretty sweet books in 2017, including stuff by Jenn Ashworth, Harry Gallon, and Gary Budden. These are exciting times indeed: I've seen the publication schedule for this year, it looks amazing; they're publishing some brilliant books this year and I'm glad to be in such excellent company. These are exciting times for me as a writer, and exciting times for Dead Ink. I'm so chuffed for Nathan, but to be honest with you, most of all I'm chuffed for myself.

Soon, I'll blog in a more indepth way about the editing process this time around. It's been a different experience this time, and much more enjoyable for it. More about that soon.

Currently reading

Telex from Cuba Rachel Kushner