Season's Greetings to you all! I hope you've had a good holiday period, though I know a lot of people have been and are ill and I wish a speedy recovery to those of you who are suffering. Because of illness, we've had to cancel our usual family day over the Pennines this year, and I was saving my family copies of The Birth Machine to hand around then, so my mum and sister haven't even seen the book yet! (Ever get that Jekyll and Hyde feeling that comes from the fact that the thing by which you define yourself is not exactly the point about you for your family?)
I envisaged spending Christmas tucked up with my TBR pile, but I've been too busy cooking, pouring drinks, tidying up wrapping paper and dirty dishes etc (that's our Christmas pud above) - too busy even to report on a couple of end-of-year things I'll mention now. Firstly, I was delighted that The Birth Machine was one of Angela Topping's choices in the end-of-year recommendations by Horizon Review contributors. There are some smashing choices there, and books I'm thrilled to have mine alongside. Secondly, on the other side of the fence, I was asked to contribute my cultural highlight of the year to the Faber blog, and it was a foregone conclusion that I'd choose The Unit, a dystopian Brave-New-World type novel, though also unique, by Swede Ninni Holmqvist (Oneworld Publications). I was asked to endorse it earlier in the year and it impressed and moved me so much that I really couldn't praise it enough - read it, I do urge you.
Before Christmas, I attended some enjoyable literary events. At the end of November John and I drove on a misty afternoon into Derbyshire to the very nice launch of Insignificant Gestures, a debut collection of short stories by Jo Cannon - stories strikingly informed by her profession as a GP. There she is, below, signing copies of her book.
We also went to the stunning new Anthony Burgess Centre in Manchester for the launch of Hidden Gem, a new publishing company owned and run by Sherry and Brian Ashworth. Their first publication, in June, will be the debut novel of Emma Unsworth, and Emma read its vivid beginning and was supported by readings from Zoe Lambert and Claire Wallace. Just before Christmas we went to hear Mike Barlow, a wonderful poet, read at Chorlton's Manky poets:
As for my WIP: well, after the 2-month break I took to promote The Birth Machine, the thing I'd dreaded happened, and which I guess I'd known in my heart of hearts would happen: I'd lost the thread, the pulse of it. I churned away at it for a month or so, but really the whole thing was dead under my hands, and I got to the point one day when I looked at it and decided, This is just a pile of sh**! Now, before you all feel sorry for me, the very same day I suddenly saw a new way to do it (yet another new way - this story has not been the easiest to decide how to tell!), a way which simplifies the story and structure even further without ditching any of the complexities (I'd rather just write it than explain), so after all the break was a blessing in disguise. It's back to the drawing board once more, which may seem horrendous, but the last part-draft was useful - just a stage on the way - and I don't feel I've wasted time. Best of all, I feel a real new excitement about the book, and in my experience no piece of writing is ever really successful without that essential ingredient, excitement.
So that's basically what's lined up for me in the new year - immersion in the novel and not much else whatsoever! There will be one other event I'm really looking forward to, however: starting on 6th Jan, over on my other blog Fictionbitch I'll be working with the Faber Academy to host a discussion on the crucial subject, Why Creative Writing? Writers Sue Gee and Marcel Theroux, directors of an upcoming Faber Academy course for beginners, will contribute their views and answer any questions. It should be a must for anyone involved with Creative Writing!