I chaired very cheery writers’ event at Nantwich Library this week.
Authors Nikki Ashton, Caroline James, Victoria Johns, John Paul Goss and poet Helen Kay spoke about self-publishing vs traditional publishing, writing practices and revealed (more or less!) all.
The Nantwich librarians kept us sustained with chocolate digestives and shortbread (we managed to ‘force’ them down). At the end, they said “tonight was like an episode of Loose Women”. We’re taking that as a compliment!
I loved this sign on the library’s toilet door. As soon as I saw it, a full episode of Seinfeld ran through my head:
And the stairs had a Vertigo/Hitchcock vibe to them…
I’m also on Instagram now, if you’d like to follow me on there.
On my visit to London last week I took in a rare screening of Lawrence of Belgravia, followed by a Q & A with Lawrence himself and the film’s director Paul Kelly, at the Regent Street Cinema.
If you’re not familiar with Lawrence, or the film, that’s not unusual. I was at an event in Liverpool last month, his name came up and The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess asked the audience, “does anyone here know who Lawrence is?”
Three of us did. Sitting on the back row, like the cool kids we aren’t and never will be. It’s a lonely path we tread, us Lawrence fans. But we kind of like it that way.
Lawrence of Belgravia is the final ‘London film’ made before The Shard was built, showing the landscape of a city very different to now, important in itself.
But it is also more than a mere rock documentary covering the ups and downs of a cult icon’s life. An icon who feels he should be better known than he is, world famous in fact, and with a supermodel wife to boot. His ambitions for glory are met with scoffs by some who don’t get it, but totally understandable to us who appreciate him.
Carefully and respectfully following our Lawrence as he deals with personal issues and getting the latest record from his band Go-Kart Mozart, On The Hot Dog Streets, (released back in 2012), off the ground, Lawrence of Belgravia is an important visual – audio document of a man written about rarely, but name dropped often. Revered by passionate people, he’s a hero. On the night of the Q & A, hosted by Dickon Edwards, grown men were tearful and fidgety. Giddy to breathe the same air.
Walking in, we were all handed a gift. “Here is a badge from Lawrence,’ we were told. “It is terribly important you wear it.”
When Lawrence, Paul and Dickon came on the stage, Lawrence was the only one without a badge pinned to his chest. It felt like we were all in a fan club; an emotion not too far from the truth.
Dickon asked Paul Kelly if the film was about authenticity, so much footage in it of vinyl records, mixing desks in studios…
“No,’ said Paul. “This film is about Lawrence.”
Yes, indeed it is.
Lawrence talked about hat shopping, going AWOL for months during filming, anything and everything.
He was asked by the audience if he’d ever get married. “I don’t have sex anymore. Too old for all that,” he said. “I’m asexual now, I think. Unless she’s a millionaire. I’d probably go for someone like that.”
On his disapproval of the internet and refusal to have it at home – please buy the film and watch it, his views on the internet at top notch – “too many wires, everywhere. Hate wires”.
How about going wireless then? “Nah.”
He told us that Cherry Red records are re-releasing the Felt albums later this year, describing them as “your last chance” to access them with the design for each exactly how he wants. He’s holding back signing off on everything until he’s happy, the tease. Good news is, there is a new Go-Kart Mozart album in March 2017 and there will be gigs around the UK.
He’s not a modest man about his musical output. His favourite Felt record is famously, “all of them”.
At the end of Lawrence of Belgravia, it hurts when he wonders aloud about why he’s been a “failure”, because fame and financial rewards haven’t come his way. I found myself shouting at the telly when I first saw the documentary, BLOODY HELL LAWRENCE YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE YOU DOUFUS. So tonight I was made up that he conceded yeah, ok, he’s a creative success.
Because that’s it, exactly.
And afterwards, when I told him how much I love On The Hot Dog Streets, he smiled.
“Yeah,’ he said. “I love it too.”
Glad to hear it. But really, I expected nothing less.
For the past two years, the camera on the phone I had was rubbish. When it came time to upgrade in July, the man in the shop said, ‘Are you upgrading because the screen on your phone is cracked?’
I said, ‘No, it’s because it’s crap. It’s a terrible phone.’
So he did his best and found me a really good replacement phone with a boss camera, to make up for it. And since then I’ve been photographing more or less everything.
I took a snap of a pop group at the Liverpool International Music Festival three weeks ago. Stealing Sheep looked far too ace in white tights and glittery goodness to ignore. I was pleased because I got all three women in the shot, and please note the “HEEP” part of “sheep” is expertly included.
I put the photo on Twitter because I was made up with myself.
When I got home that night, I searched for Stealing Sheep on Twitter. To see how good my photo was compared to everyone else’s. I’m stupidly competitive that way.
It was then I saw it.
My photo of Stealing Sheep, used by another Twitter account.
It wasn’t a private individual, or even a local webzine getting carried away with my Mario Testino/Annie Liebovitz-esque photography, combined with festival fever. It was part of a large organisation here in Liverpool, and they’d nicked my photo.
My photo without my consent, crediting or even tagging me. This is not on.
To add insult to injury, they edited my beautiful work to make the colours “pop” more.
I’m not naming or shaming because of what happened to me last year which you can read about here, but without respecting copyright then as creatives we’re all banjaxed. To each and every one of us who make things for a living, copyright is how we earn our money. If we don’t own what we create – whether it be writing, or even photographs taken on a mobile phone on a dreamy Saturday afternoon, then why are we doing all this?
Why do people think we do all this?
I’m not known for exceptional photography, and I’m willing to accept this fortunate snap was a happy accident rather than skills-related, but even if it’s idiots like me taking photos, the shots shouldn’t be just nicked. It’s very bad form indeed.
And the thieves ignored my comminications over it too.
That’s just rude.
On a lighter note, the fabulous first issue of FWYL, edited by the fabulous Claire Biddles, is back from the printers, meaning it’s available to buy online now. It contains feminist essays on the glory of Matt Healy’s hair, straight girls crushing on gay popstars, erotic fanfiction (yep, that last one’s written by me, how did you guess) and loads more.
You can order it here, if you wish. This is the beautiful cover (photo by Claire Biddles):
Additionally, if you’re in Liverpool, I have some flash fiction as part of the ‘Women: Where Do You Find Yourself in the Arts?’ exhibition at the café in Constellations until the end of next weekend. And it’s free!
In the second year of English A Level class, at age seventeen, we were handed a book. A slim volume with The Critical Sense printed blandly on the over, our tutor warned us from the beginning, ‘this book is hell.’
And he was right. The most boring book ever written, instructing us on how to criticise poetry and prose. We had to pen essays on the bloody thing for the next eight months. Horrific.
Whether one can learn how to critique by reading and analysing a book is debatable (that might be one of the essays I wrote, come to think). Fact is, in 2016, a *few* years later, Amazon and the internet have made reviewers of all of us.
Authors need five star reviews on Amazon, and lots of them, to sell books. Fair enough.
Award under full marks and reprisals start bleeding through, naming and shaming the new sport.
Music reviews on blog sites and webzines are the same; everything must be declared ace or it’s sucked in cheeks, waggling fingers and passive aggressive sub tweets.
Reviewing is largely a thankless task. Reviewers are reviewed, critics critiqued.
As critics we can only say what we see, hear and feel. The last one is as important as the rest. Puff pieces simply won’t do.
Of course there are always those wanting to make a name for themselves by slaughtering sacred cows, nothing new about that. And giving one measly star on Amazon because a book took 2 days to arrive or you didn’t like the look the postman gave you when he delivered it, is plain daft.
Hey – everyone’s a critic these days.
It’s important that authors, musicians, actors and creatives know that we largely go in desperately wanting to be thrilled. I always want to fall in love.
A book or performance making me happy is one of life’s most beautiful things. I think that’s the same for all of us, pretty much, yes?
‘I’ll sing for you,’ you promise, but never do. Instead I get excuses and small talk, coy and cute in my ear.
‘Sing for me,’ I say. ‘You said you would.’
You blink and I wonder how your eyelashes manage to get so dark, your lips so dry, ones that peck me goodbye on the jaw, missing my mouth.
I roll on cooling bed sheets, damp flakes of skin sticking to me like static and take a sly lick of you from my leg. I suck each of my fingers, worming you out from under my nails. You are everywhere and I love it, I imagine you singing for me here and now. In my room, you, singing my song, and making it beautiful.
It doesn’t work. You’re not here. I sniff my arm. Your smell is gone and no crumbs of you garnish my bed. I have nothing of you, so I hum my song, and wish. I close my eyes and follow a ribbon of sound, hold onto it where it pulls me, over mountains and hills, round bends, down steep slopes and up. My calves hurt, stretched then shrinking as I climb, so I stop. I hear it, my song, faint and low. I sway under a navy sky. Night breezes brush my mouth. My lips swell.
I follow my song. I inch up a tree, your bark scratches my inner thighs raw but I shimmy up and up until I peer into a window. It’s you. You smile from behind thick glass, impenetrable, opaque, and sing my song, the one I love. You’re singing my song, as I asked, but you sing my song for her, and not for me, never me. Still, I settle and listen. It is beautiful, the song and you, exactly as I imagined.
First published in Landmarks, National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2015.
It’s been a messy old week, what with the EU referendum, but a couple of nice things have happened to me. We need to cling onto whatever lovely things there are, I think.
Issue 2 of indie publication/zine I Hope You Like Feminist Rants, edited by Golden Boy author Abigail Tarttelin, came out on Friday. The theme for this issue is motherhood. I have Baby Love, an essay on non-motherhood, in it. You can buy Rants online, but if you are fortunate enough to live in Liverpool you will find it for sale in the News From Nowhere bookshop on Bold St, which is wonderful news.
Also, yesterday was National Flash Fiction Day. The annual Flash Flood Journal carries my short story Good Manchester Rain. I’m glad I submitted this story, it’s quite European in nature – romantic, smutty, and with lots of rain. Like a European short film! You can read Good Manchester Rain here.
I was in a charity shop at the weekend, nothing new there. While I was on my knees (ditto) rifling through piles of books and records, a woman came in wanting to return a purchase.
Staff behind the counter were perfectly nice to her, but the shop’s policy is to issue credit notes and not cash refunds, and they told her so. This lady became very distressed, saying there was nothing in the shop she wanted and could she have the £2.50 please?
The answer was no, sadly. Shop policy is king.
The lady was vulnerable, I think. It’s not my place to judge, but the I reckon she fell firmly within the remit of the people the charity tries to help. She needed that £2.50 pretty badly. £2.50 is a lot of money when you’ve got sod all.
I “bought” her credit note from her, so she got her cash in the end (I was buying something anyway, I’m not fishing for compliments here) but I do think sometimes charity shops forget what they’re actually there for.
They raise money for their charity, yes – but they provide a service.
It’s all very well for the likes of me indulging in a cultural pick me up of a weekend, so I can smugly post up pictures on Facebook of nice things I’ve bought at pocket money prices, but in many cases charity shops are the only place where some people can afford to buy clothes, and the basics.
I honestly believe that in my community some wouldn’t have cutlery and plates to eat from, if charity shops weren’t around.
So yeah, I thought I’d get that one off my chest.
On a lighter note, I have a personal essay on fan fiction in Glasgow’s Fuck What You Love, out next month. It’s crowdfunded, and has exceeded the amount that editor Claire Biddles asked for by a fat margin, so that means there will be even more copies printed. (wahey to you, Glasgow)