Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Launch for Balancing on the Edge of the World

I'm so lucky - I had such a lovely launch for Balancing on the Edge of the World! So many of my fantastic friends came down to help me celebrate - writing and acting friends, my reading group, most of the guys from the old Robert-Topping Waterstone's days, neighbours and family - I really couldn't have had better support. And the venue, Chorlton's Croma Restaurant, was so stylish, and the Croma people looked after us so attentively, and had set out the room with such thoughtfulness and care. Vicky and Jo from Chorlton Bookshop - who, as I said when I gave my little spiel, have been supportive of my writing right from the very early days - generously gave up their evening to come and sell the books (and people bought a heap!). Ailsa Cox, fellow short-story writer and my one-time co-editor on the short-story magazine Metropolitan, also generously offered at the last minute to introduce me before my reading, and Tim Power took some great photos (below) in spite of the fact that the light was pretty tricky.

Afterwards about 25 of us stayed and had a meal - what a great evening. I think I must have got a bit drunk in the end: we had wine with the meal, and when my family got me home they opened a bottle of champagne. At any rate, next morning I felt quite giddy whenever I bent down...

Thank you everybody for making the evening so great! Thank you, Croma's Kirsty and Claire for respectively offering us Croma and organising the event. And most of all, thank you Salt for publishing my book and for providing a long-needed platform for short stories.

Here's the crowd beginning to gather, artistically caught by Tim in the wall mirrors:

Filling up (that's writer and blogger Clare Sudbery I'm talking to on the left and far right in the foreground is writer and Art of Fiction blogger Adrian Slatcher):

Here's Ailsa getting ready to introduce me before the reading (I look a bit serious - a moment of nerves):

And then the eating began:

Thanks to Tim Power for permission to publish his pics. More of his work can be seen at

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ridiculously strenuous preparations for a launch

Who would have thought that a book launch would require such preparations? (Tonight, Croma Restaurant, Chorlton, 7 pm, the launch for my collection, Balancing on the Edge of the World.)

I'm not talking the printing of the invitations by my lovely publisher, Salt, or the sending of them out, or the liaising with the venue (well, there wasn't any really, the marvellous Kirsty, Croma's manager, just offered me the launch!) or the bookshop (ditto: Chortlon Bookshop have been wonderful, as they always are!), or press releases etc.

No, I'm talking DECORATING A ROOM!

When John and I first bought this rather large house together the reason we (writers!) could afford it was that it had only just been converted back to single occupancy after years as pretty grotty flats. The work to be done was, well, monumental, and although the previous owners had worked hard, they'd really only scratched the surface before they had to sell up and move on for their work.

Well, John and I had great intentions, but we also had young kids, and we were very busy with our writing and our work, and let's say we got used to the congealed and peeling paint, the dropping plaster, the plumbing that never worked - and anyway, we could never afford the improvements. We stopped seeing the remains of yale locks on all the doors and the big dents where they'd been kicked in (now there are a few narratives lurking!). And the books piled up and hid it all, as well as the furniture we inherited from dead relatives - well, we had the big house, didn't we? We could be the depository for the family 'heirlooms' (a piano that doesn't work any more, but on which my mother learned to play when she went as a playmate to the lord of the manor's daughter, so it simply can't be jettisoned! Chests of drawers with half their handles missing etc etc).

Except when people came to stay: that's when I'd get embarrassed about the piled junk and peeling wallpaper in the bedrooms and the cracks in the walls, and the patterns drawn on the ceiling by the previous owners' children and the blocks of wood knocked into holes in the plaster (!). Well, I won't go on.

And now all of a sudden we are going to have a houseful: people coming to the launch tonight need to stay! So three weeks ago John and I decided to create at least one decent bedroom. This is why I haven't been blogging. For the past week we have been working against the clock, from nine in the morning till nine in the evening, scraping and sanding and painting and driving ourselves to distraction and exhaustion.

A strange way to prepare for a launch, don't you think? And guess what, the room's not finished anyway, so there's one less half-decent room than before...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Split personality? Moi?

It's a funny old life, this writing one. Last winter, after three years on a very big project, I was housebound, almost agoraphobic, and I think all my friends had just about given up on me. I was starting to envisage an old age of shuffling to the shops every afternoon for a little bit of entertainment, and beginning to think I'd been an idiot to choose this way of spending my life (not of course that it's a choice - I just can't help it).

Yet this summer and autumn, with the production of my play The Processing Room for the 24:7 Theatre Festival and the publication of Balancing on the Edge of the World (not to mention taking part in a short film) - well, let's say I haven't drawn breath, I am hardly ever home and when I am I'm climbing over piles of unwashed laundry, and - a writer with the need to observe! - hardly noticed the seasons passing until I was forced to do so, thankfully, to write the Manchester Blog Story.

So here I am longing for a bit of peace and quiet again and a CHANCE TO GET BACK PROPERLY TO WRITING!!! It's such an irony. You dedicate yourself to your writing and to do so you need to retreat (well, I do, anyway), to answer to nothing but your own dreams, but nowadays, once your writing becomes public there's no choice but for you to become public too - indeed to become some kind of mad PR machine - and, most ironic of all, the writing comes to a standstill.

And it's not over yet. There's the proper launch of the book, and I have three trips to London lined up, and today is the first, so excuse me now as I dash off for a shower and then for the train, dreaming of those cosy December days when at last I'll be able to sit down at the desk in my pyjamas and get lost inside my own head again...

And then of course, by March I'll be longing for contact with people and the outside world all over again...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Salt and Transmission reading at MMU

Last Thursday I took part in the Transmission Magazine/Salt Publishing event at MMU. It was a great evening and I enjoyed the others' readings immensely. Earlier in the day I met our Salt publisher, Jen, who arrived laden down with camera and tripod and a box of David Gaffney's new book, Aromabingo, which apparently he hadn't even seen yet. Jen says that's one of the great things about being a publisher - she keeps her arms well toned.

Here's a photo Jen took of the four of us Salt authors after the reading: David, Neil Campbell, Steve Waling and me.

After the reading we all went over to the Sand Bar, and I had far too late a night when I had a reading and workshops at Edge Hill University the next day!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bloggers in the flesh

What a great do the Manchester Blog Awards was! (Didn't win, but what would you expect when you're up against the other nominees in the Arts and Culture category - including the amazing Mancubist, the eventual winner?). A big thank you though to everyone who nominated my Fictionbitch blog - I was very surprised and immensely flattered.

There were some great readings from nominated blogs, and we had a smashing time: Norm (also nominated) and Adele Geras were on the next table, and Norm and I were able to talk about how addictive blogging is, and Adele, always with an eye out for the physical details, said she liked my shoes, but actually they were far too high for climbing on stage to read the final instalment of the blogstory, and I nearly came a-cropper!

Trevor from the reading group and his wife Anne came down to give support, and Trevor was pretty shocked when Art of Fiction blogger Adrian Slatcher said to him, 'Oh, I know you: I know all your opinions!' and was quick to inform him that he only knew my (blog) version of his opinions of books.

Caroline Smailes was there, giving a reading from her great book In Search of Adam and answering questions, and as usual Kate Feld, the force behind the whole evening, was a brilliant compere.

The other winners were as follows:

Best Personal Blog: Single Mother on the Verge

Best New Blog: Rent Girl

Best Political Blog: Politaholic

Best Writing on a Blog: Day of Moustaches

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Manchester blog Awards and a reading of the final episode of the Blog Story

The Manchester Blog Awards tonight at Matt and Phred's, 7pm. I'll be there, reading the final episode of the blog story. I wrote it at the weekend, as I've had a hundred other things to do this week - preparing for workshops and readings - and I've been on tenterhooks all day today, hoping that there was going to be no ground-shaking breaking news which would mean that I'd have to sit down and thrust everything else aside and re-work the story at the last minute!

Special guest Caroline Smailes will be there too, reading from her fantastic novel In Search of Adam, which was picked up by publisher The Friday Project from Caroline's innovative blog.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Reading at Independents Day

Just back from Manchester Literature Festival's day for independent presses at the Lowry in Salford and my first reading from Balancing on the Edge of the World.

Well, I guess twelve noon is not a good time to get people flocking to a reading, especially somewhere a bit off the beaten track, and actually I got a dozen or so, so I guess that wasn't bad going!! The worst thing was following Chloe Poems, that fantastically seasoned and hilarious (as well as moving) performer, dressed today as Sandie Shaw, and who doubled up before his own gig crying: 'What is this hour of eleven-thirty in the morning: I don't know it!'

You see, we matched: blue and red! (Well, OK, the red's just in Chloes' cheeks, and I was in black too.) And we both read stuff set in Manchester and about being drunk and out on the town! (Chloe's book of poems is The Lil Ol' Book o' Manchester.) And during his reading Chloe had a brilliant tantrum about this big posh building we were reading in, which can be built while people are homeless - after which I read my story which begins with a homeless guy. Oh, we Manky guys - so angry, yet so swish and abandoned!!

Here's Chloe, bless him, listening to me reading:

And here's the view our wardrobes were competing with - through the window right behind us:

Later, at two, fellow Salt author Shamshad Khan read and got the audience, which had begun to swell by then, miaowing and barking like cats and dogs.

Finally I attended a very interesting panel discussion on independent publishing chaired by DJ Taylor, who came out with this line which we should all get engraved on our foreheads: 'We live in a culture that's based on the glorification of stupidity.'

Thursday, October 04, 2007

My new book!

Oh my goodness, I have lost all will to vacuum the stairs, which was what I was doing when the front doorbell went, and a man in a luminous gilet was standing there with a box which I knew - because Jen told me yesterday - was full of copies of my new book!

Needless to say, I wanted to rip into it straight away, but he said, 'I need you to sign,' and I had to put it down. And then he stood there for three minutes setting up his electronic signing pad and moaning about how it was all so much quicker when he had a pen and paper, and I was trying to stop myself from jumping up and down on the spot, and noticing sideways what a beautiful morning it was, and how everything suddenly glowed in the sun, his nice brown skin, his amazingly luminous gilet, the tan leather cover of his signing pad, and then at last, at last, he let me sign and went and I shut the door and ran for a knife and slit the tape, and there they were: piles of beautiful cool blue copies of my book, all silky to the touch!!

Oh, there's nothing like this moment - the moment you first see your newly-minted book!

And it's the moment when it's no longer private, but a public thing. And indeed on Saturday I'm reading from it at 12 noon in the Circle Bar at the Lowry, Salford, as part of the Manchester Literature Festival Independents Day series of events. ( Book on 0870 428 0785 or, but I think you can also get tickets on the door.)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Well, this blog just been rejected by BritBlogs - I think maybe because, for several posts running, I've been posting here about the interactive Manchester Blog Story which I've been writing for the Manchester Literature Festival, and it looked as though this blog was simply a portal to another!

Undeterred, I'm going to alert you to this week's instalment, which has just gone up online. It's such an interesting literary experiment, but have to admit I've found it a bit hard to talk about the process while I've been actually writing it. As I said at Saturday's Blogging for Writers workshop (which I conducted with Kate Feld), I'm one of those writers who doesn't like to talk about her projects while she's still writing them, and even finds it difficult, because the whole process of writing for me is rather intuitive and 'magical', using a different, non-logical and associative part of my brain from the one required for analysis of literary processes. But of course this project isn't simply mine, others have had an input, and in order to involve them I've had to promote it by talking about it on the radio - which I have to say I haven't found easy.

I know that when it's all over- and when I'm scheduled to conduct a workshop about it at Edge Hill University - I'll have loads to say: you won't be able to stop me!

Because of last week's voter choice, our blogger-narrator Cat is undecided about her feelings for her housemate Ahmed, and the mystery of the elusive stranger is about to unfold.

You can vote to influence the nature of the mystery and thus the end of the story by doing so before 8pm Thursday.

I'll then unveil the final episode by reading it at the Manchester Blog Awards on Wednesday 10th October, Matt and Phred's Jazz Club, Tib Street, 7pm (Tickets free, but please book on 0870 428 0785 or on the Manchester Festival website.