News Monday

This week, I have gigs in London, Copenhagen, Aarhus and Aalborg.

On Wednesday, 8pm, it’s Homework, at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. It’s our true stories night. £5 on the door. Get there early for a seat.

On Friday, I’ll be doing poems in Valby, Copenhagen.

On Saturday, I’m in Aarhus.

On Sunday, I’m in Aalborg.

All gigs are in the evening. Follow the links for venue and booking details. I’m doing a Danish tour – how exciting! It’ll be my second time visiting and gigging in Aarhus – last time was a proper adventure.

So friends, sisters, conspirators – listen. Things are going to change around here. We’re going to do an experiment.

I’ve been blogging in the new 5-days-a-week format since the end of May now. I always said I’d give it 3 months to see whether it began to take, then I’d review. And I always knew that these things take time to bed in, to settle, to attract an audience – more than 3 months, a year at least. Producing material for the blog entails a non-trivial amount of work for me, but I enjoy it, and it gets my brain working.

Anyway, having checked Google Analytics for the first time, it transpires people are reading the blog. Yay! I’m very happy about that. Hello everyone. It’s lovely to have you onboard.

With that in mind, I want to make things better. There’s no need to cling to the formula arbitrarily established in that first week, and so I want to experiment a bit in the hope of bringing you more of what you what you want while allowing me to write about things I love.

So I’m thinking, for the next month at least, this will be the last News Monday. Frankly, it was already trying to metamorphose, with an awkward book review stapled onto the bottom of each one. If you want to know what live work I’m doing each week, check my Gigs listings on this site, or follow me on Twitter. For my part, I’ll have to get better at updating my Gigs – at any given time, I have roughly double the number listed on that page. Sorry. I’m just lazy and I find trawling the internet for the postcodes of Surrey pubs a bit of a ballache. I’ll do better!

Death Of 1000 Cuts is my most popular feature, with the Friday opinion pieces a close second. So, I’m thinking: how would you feel if 1000 Cuts went twice weekly? Mondays and Thursdays? I’ll try to keep Thursdays for In The Barber’s Chair, and make sure I do one every week (providing people continue to submit 1st pages – you can help with that by submitting your own or letting other writers know!). Mondays will be for more general writing advice, hopefully some interviews, and maybe some online workshops. Good stuff, basically. I’d also like to chuck some book reviews in there, if I can convince publishers to toss me some sweet freebies. I realise Barber’s Chair is your favourite, but if I do it more than weekly it might lose its edge, and I might run out of authors. I might run out of authors anyway. This way, I can at least commit to making it weekly, without fail.

I hope that sounds exciting to you. Send cries of nooooo! or yesssss! or mehhhhhh! to the usual email address.

It’s a weird time for me at the moment. Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know that I’ve just finished writing a novel. It’s currently ‘out there’, while I try to find an agent who thinks it’s awesome. I have lots of gigs and other exciting work on, so I didn’t realise how much I cared until I’d pressed send on the email. The fruits of two years of my life now await the approval of a stranger. It’s a very strange, not entirely pleasant feeling!

Obviously I feel passionately about the novel, and I the adventures therein are pretty cool, but I’m not a credible advocate for my own work. Lots of people think the story they just wrote is hot shit. Most of those people are mental.

My wife has told me many times that sometimes life is just doing your best, and that’s all you can do. She lives like that, and I find her a courageous and inspiring person. When you genuinely try your best – really, with all your heart – it makes you vulnerable. You aren’t being judged on a half-arsed effort. You can’t tell yourself consoling stories about how you never really cared about that stupid thing anyway. You gave it all you could.

If you fail, you know – and perhaps lots of people around you know – that you at your best was not enough.

And on one level, of course, it doesn’t matter. Anyone who is alive and healthy has the potential for happiness all around them. I’m just about to crack open a bottle of ginger beer. I love it. It never fails to improve my mood. I’m a quarter of the way through a book of essays by Diana Wynne Jones. She is brilliant. Simple pleasures, and loving those around you, are where it’s at – and they’re not contingent on any of the silly success-benchmarks we conspire with the world to create.

On another level, it really does matter. What we choose to devote our finite, irreplacable lives to is of the utmost importance. I choose to tell stories because – and I’m sorry, there’s no non-corny way of stating this – telling and listening to stories is the closest thing I have to a calling. On this lonely rock, it feels like my purpose. I’m not saying it’s a big purpose – grandiosity shouldn’t be the metric by which we judge these things – but it’s mine.

So as I say, this is a weird time. It’s okay – I like weird. When I look back on my life, I realise that the ‘weird’ times were also the best.

This Week, I Have Mostly Been Reading

Reflections by Diana Wynne Jones. You probably know her as the author of Howl’s Moving Castle. I first encountered her work in the magnificent Tough Guide To Fantasyland an A-Z of Fantasy clichés that should be – and I realise this phrase gets wielded way too often, but I mean it this time – required reading for all presumptive Fantasy authors. Seriously. You are not allowed to write a Fantasy book until you have read it.

Reflections is a collection of Wynne Jones’ essays and articles. I am only a third of the way into it so – burned by my hasty endorsement of Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, which turned out to be less glorious than I initial hoped (although still okay) – I’m not going to out-and-out hail this as cover-to-cover wonderment and joy… although you should know, my finger is trembling, desperate to hammer out superlatives.

So far I’ve read some fantastic essays on Tolkien and Lewis, worth the admission price alone, cracking meditations on writing for children, and some very funny recollections of being a visiting author in some terrible schools. The terrifying thing about reading this book is realising how very few out of the huge back catalogue of Diana Wynne Jones books one has read, and how imperative it is to begin reading them immediately. Combined with the works of Ursula Le Guin, I feel this yawning void in my reading that demands to be fed.

If you’ve never encountered any Wynne Jones, all I can say is: lucky, lucky you. The world is a considerably more wonderous place than you realise. Hit the library to begin your great adventure.


One Comment

  1. Gommy says:

    I’m unlikely to check your gigs page. Please post a blog if you’re gigging Oz.