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Literati Cwith spirits S ONVERSATION

Novels//Short Stories//Poetry// Screenplays//Biographies// Interviews//Events//News Summer 2012 | Issue 1 | Free!

Launch Edition!

Conversations with Spirits Exclusive: Jottify’s first published author, E. O. Higgins


Highlights at Hay

A revolution in reading Exclusive interview

A round-up of the best events in and around this year’s Hay Festival

Introducing Readmill

Katy Brand on her new novel about a rising female comedian


Summer 2012 3 Author

We present an excerpt from the first chapter of E. O. Higgins’ first novel, Conversations with Spirits

6 Poetry

From Jottify, we proudly exhibit, for your delight, the Worst Poem Ever!

7 Interview

Katy Brand speaks to us about her first literary foray, Brenda Monk Is Funny

8 Culture

Our top-rated events at this year’s Hay Festival, as well as a look at Readmill who are heralding a revolution in the way that we read books

What is Literati?

Literati is the quarterly literary journal of the award-winning, online creative writing platform, Jottify. The site was launched in August last year and is home to a thriving community of writers. This is a printed sample of the journal, download the full digital version for the iPad in the App Store. Find out more at:


Cover Illustration George Lenox

Author Download the digital edition of this journal to hear an interview with Edward

© Simon Waller

E. O. Higgins and his Conversations with Spirits


n September last year, Stephen Fry tweeted about the creative writing community site, Jottify. One of those who saw Mr Fry’s recommendation was Edward Higgins. Edward had been working on a novel for over a year and thought he might give the site a go by sharing the first few chapters, and it is there that his road to publication began. Conversations with Spirits was a phenomenal hit with the literary community on Jottify and the book garnered hundreds of ‘likes’ and comments and proceeded to spend the following three months at the top of the daily ‘most read’. Edward rewarded his early critics and fans by releasing new chapters as and when he finished them. Last December, the book came to the attention of one of Unbound’s commissioning editors. Launched at last year’s Hay Festival, Unbound is a new publishing house that puts the power of publishing in the hands of authors and readers. A curated selection of new book projects are listed on their website where prospective readers can pledge to buy the book. Once enough pledges are made, the book is

produced, beautifully bound as well as in ebook format, and commercially distributed. To date, Unbound have published the likes of Terry Jones, Jonathan Meades, Kate Mosse and the inimitable Mrs Stephen Fry. Edward is only the second previously unpublished author to be selected by Unbound and the first to have been selected from Jottify. Edward’s book, Conversations with Spirits, is a comic mystery novel, set over the course of a single lost weekend in 1917. It follows the antics of Trelawney Hart, a bitter sceptic raised in austere circumstances and force-fed logic and maths from a young age. Hart whiles away his days in a somewhat unusual London private members’ club. This lifestlye is summarily interrupted, however, when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – spiritualist crusader and celebrated author of the Sherlock Holmes novels – arrives at the club’s door and demands that Hart travels to Broadstairs, Kent, to help him investigate a local man by the name of J. P. Beasant, whom he believes to be a psychic medium of unparalleled gift.


Hart agrees to attend an upcoming demonstration of Beasant’s powers, driven on by his anticipation of exposing the psychic as a fraud. However, it is not long before he finds himself lost amidst a series of seemingly inexplicable events – and he is forced to consider if there might be much more to life than he had ever thought possible... Below you will find the start of the first chapter of Conversations with Spirits, you can pledge to buy the book at:

Sample Chapter 1 - A Working Fellow I awoke in the shadow of Sibella, the crumpled blackness of her crinoline dress hovering lightly before me. Lying on the floor – curled up like one of last year’s bluebottles in a shop window – my eyes narrowed. The rows of electric lights crossing the ceiling were an unreasonable irritation. Turning my head from them, I was alarmed to see one of Sibella’s boots drumming impatiently on the floor, inches from my face. “Is something amiss?” I murmured. “Get up,” Sibella replied. Lurching forward, I saw at once that I had fallen asleep in the reading room of my club. I must have been a piteous sight – a hearthrug wrapped about my flank and an upended bottle of brandy nestled in my armpit. “What?” I asked testily. “What is it?”


Sibella waited to respond, helpless amidst the wretched volley of coughs that succeeded my words. “Doyle’s man sent a cablegram,” she said finally. “He’s coming here.” “Who?” “Arthur Doyle.” “What?” I muttered, processing her words. “Why? Whatever for?” “He wants to talk to you.” “Don’t allow him in,” I replied, “for pity’s sake.” I leaned forward, putting a hand up and cradling my throbbing forehead. “Please…” I whimpered, “tell him I’m not here.” “Trelawney,” Sibella said firmly, “I’ve already replied and said you’ll see him. It might do you some good – it can’t be healthy just sitting around here on your own every day.” With a gentle frou-frou from her skirts, Sibella turned and crossed the room to the window. Pointedly, she threw back the heavy curtains, but this action was undermined since the light in the room scarcely changed. The smoke from the London manufactories had been choking the city since the early morning, and suffused the sky with a gloomy, yellow wash. “You’ve got twenty minutes,” Sibella said, drifting from the window and making her way through the door. Staggering to my feet, a sudden wave of dizziness rushed through me and I was forced to grab hold of a nearby chair in order to support myself. The hearthrug dropped down, becoming entangled around one of my boots. By the time I had kicked it from under me and dragged myself the ten feet to the bar, I was in a lather of cold sweats from the exertion. I have heard people refer to alcohol as a slow poison, but, in my own case, I am utterly without life-force before my morning pick-me-ups… “A drink, Horrocks,” I called out to the waiting barman. “Better make it strong. I have a mouth as dry as a Shavian epigram.” Without a word, Horrocks about-turned and airily headed towards a regiment of bottles on the back counter. At the best of times he seemed somehow removed from the natural world, as though his mind was adrift on some higher plane. But, as a point of direct correlation to my increasing shabbiness, he had become progressively more distant. It is probable that my habits disturb him, of course; working-people are generally disdainful of me. I attribute this to the natural assumption that, had I been of their class, I would have been shovelled up in some backstreet gin shop years ago. Horrocks upturned a beaker and snatched up a bottle of Grant’s Morella from the line-up. Quickly turning the bung in the bottle-top, it bounced into the palm of his hand with a satisfying pop. Then, when a generous measure had been sloshed into the awaiting glass, Horrocks returned the stopper to the bottle and swerved back to me. “Here you are, sir,” he said, pushing the glass across the bar. “Have one yourself.” The barman shifted his weight uneasily from one foot to the other, and said lightly: “No thank you, sir.” “Why ever not?” I demanded.

“I would be dismissed, sir,” Horrocks replied daintily. “And that would be most unfortunate. Especially with Christmas so close at hand.” “Well…” I sighed, as he went about duties. “Life is full of choices, I suppose.” As I sipped at the brandy, my hand snaked automatically into the inside pocket of my suit and returned with my cigarette case. Pressing down the mechanism, the metal drawer slid open to reveal nothing more than a litter of tobacco dust. “I say…” I called across the bar. “It would appear I am out of cigarettes.” “A moment, sir.” With this, Horrocks left me, drifting into the storage cupboard into which he occasionally installs himself when he wishes to be unobserved. He reappeared a minute later carrying a small silver platter with a packet of Sheiks placed upon it. “Halloa!” I exclaimed, as he put it before me. “Sheiks! That won’t do at all, Horrocks. I’m a Dragoumis man, you know that!” “I’m afraid…” responded Horrocks, looking suitably downcast, “we appear to be all out, sir. If you would like me to try another room in the club…?” “No,” I sighed wearily, “I shall have to make do, I suppose.” Clearly my words awoke some finer feelings in Horrocks, for a frown creased his brow, and he looked despondently down at the platter. Then, with a swiftness of purpose that could only follow a moment of inspiration, he sunk a hand into the pocket of his jacket and produced a box of Ogden’s Guinea Golds. “Sir?” he said, presenting the box on his flattened palm. “Would you care for one of these?” “Ogden’s?” I replied. “Nicely done, Horrocks!” I snatched the box off him. Discarding the spent matchstick a moment later, I sucked so heartily upon the cigarette that it caused a rush of pleasure in my brain which soon spread out across the rest of my jangled body. “I hadn’t pegged you for a smoker, Horrocks,” I told him, as I steadied my wilting frame on the bar. “How is it you keep your fingers so free of nicotine stains?” To make my point, I stretched out my own yellowed digits before him. Horrocks glanced at them disapprovingly for a moment, before responding blandly: “I wash my hands, sir.” I clapped my hands delightedly at this impertinence. “You saucy bastard, Horrocks!” Horrocks nodded gravely in return: “Thank you, sir.” Picking up the box of cigarettes, I pushed it into the inside pocket of my suit jacket, without a word. I thought I saw a slight frisson of pique in Horrocks’ keen little eyes – but, of course, he said nothing. * Arthur Doyle edged through the door of the reading room in a hesitant and watchful manner. Coming to a halt within the doorway, he removed his pearl-coloured Homburg and swept a hand carefully across his hair. Then, drumming his fingers on the brim of the hat, his eyes flit-

ted about the dimly-lighted room, until, finally, he caught sight of me seated at the far side and raised his arm in a gesture of acknowledgement. “There you are, Mr Hart…” Doyle called out genially, as he ambled towards me. Reaching the table, he offered a hand, which – after some playful show of reluctance – I accepted. “Dr Doyle?” I said, removing my shaking mitt from his hearty grip. “Oh. I suppose I have to call you Sir Arthur now?” Doyle did not respond, except to look awkwardly away. For the next half a minute or so, he busied himself with the removal of his overcoat. I persisted: “They really do give out Knighthoods to practically anyone these days, do they not?” Doyle folded up the coat and – together with rain-spattered Homburg – placed it on a nearby table. He then turned back to me, a thin smile turning up the corners of his moustaches. “Charming as ever, Mr Hart,” he replied. Then, with an ill-advised attempt at flourish, he pulled a chair up to my table and settled into it. “Do I need to be charming?” I responded. “As I understand it, you want something from me. So, would you mind getting to the point and telling me what you want?” “Well…” he said, rubbing his hands together, “for starters, a wee glass of that brandy would be nice. It’s filthy out there.” I gestured to the bar and within the minute Horrocks arrived at our table carrying a tray containing two fresh beakers and a bottle of cherry brandy. Once he had relieved me of my empty beaker and filled the two new ones, he picked the tray up again. After a step, he paused and turned back to the table. “Shall I leave the bottle?” Horrocks asked, careful that his eyes should not meet those of anyone in particular. “You may as well,” I replied. Doyle placed a hand over his glass: “I don’t intend to stay that long, Mr Hart.” “You can do as you please. Look, why exactly did you come here?” “I was wondering, Mr Hart,” Doyle said tentatively, picking up his brandy glass and cradling it between his hands, “if you could tear yourself away from this place for a time, whether you would consider helping me with a little investigation?” Doyle saw, instantly, that the preposterous nature of his statement served only to stiffen my resolve against him. A roll of my eyes caused him to qualify it: “You would be paid, of course.” “Go on.” “As you are no doubt aware, I have been a member of the Society of Psychical Research for a number of years now -” “- If you are looking to increase the Society’s numbers, let me state it plainly: I am not easily gulled, Doyle, nor am I looking to discredit my reputation still further – not even for ready money. Clairvoyants and Mediums are, to my mind, and in my experience, a band of charlatans who prey on the desperate, the grieving…the weak-minded.” ...the story is continued at



The Worst Poem Ever By Christina

I am embarking on a quest to be better than the rest at a truly respectable endeavor, to write the worst poem ever my poem will include [this horror a prelude] unnecessary rhymes that will abruptly stop. this poem will be rife with clichés liberally sprinkled like dandruff or anthrax I will act like no one has ever felt this way about the cute boy and his acoustic guitar I will allude to broken hearts specifically mine I will tell you my heart has been shattered into a million pieces I will not tell you why or how what sound it made or why exactly a million but you will know it’s a thing because I will complain, incessantly I will be the shining example for the freshmen art cliché if you can’t go good, go angsty when you picture me writing this you will picture me sobbing black tears chain smoking cigarettes wearing a beret I will be bipolar I will be indecisive I will fly on cupid’s wings and then burn them This poem will be too long the stanzas, too broken there will be lin e breaks in the middle of a word


because I think it’ll make me S-M-R-T smart my s pac ing w ill be horrendous I will bastardize famous lines without citation or recognition I will compare thee to a summer’s day but tack onto the infinity of the sky the adjectives bright, and blue forgetting every applicable shade in between orange and purple and gray I will have really short lines with a thousand unnecessary overly really quite terribly sweet jesus way too long lines thrown in, because why not I will locute and verbalize in a way that makes it seem like I’ve shoved a thesaurus into a blender and sneezed out the remains the punctuation will be gratuitous and stupid [!?@!...@?!] I will develop a taste for txt tlk @^D I33T SP34K because my proficiency ran away after line 6 This will be a liberating poem let all authors, writers, poets rejoice! they may write nimble fingers, empty hands with freedom! because no matter how badly the do how horrid the speak how stilted the lines how awkward the syntax they can remember this poem with a sort of pleasure they will never really have the worst poem ever


Katy Brand on Brenda Monk Is Funny Photo Andy Hollingworth

Katy Brand recently announced that, with Unbound, she was embarking on her first novel, a story about a female comedian taking her first steps in the stand-up world. We relished the opportunity to find out more from the comedienne-cum-dancer herself. So after everything you’ve done so far, why now a book? I think deep down I have always wanted to write a book - several, in fact. Books of all kinds, but especially novels have certainly built my personality from the foundations up. I love the way you can create a whole world without constraint, you can travel down any and every path you wish and the limits are only those you choose to set. When I was writing sketches, I always wrote far, far too much - I always wanted to see stories from lots of angles, but when you are chastised for going much over 90 seconds, you have to chop, chop, chop - the more brutal the better - and it wasn’t a genre that I always felt totally happy in. I am writing longer-form now - a film, a sit-com - and of course, the ultimate long-form piece of writing is a book. I think you can also get into all kinds of issues and dilemmas in a novel and really do them justice - it is a very forgiving format in the sense that you don’t make snap judgements in books, you dig deeper and deeper to find out all you can, and so moral lines are blurred. A book is about empathy, rather than judgement. Who is Brenda Monk? Brenda Monk is a woman who makes a decision to ride her life, rather than have it run off without her. The book is about a female stand-up comedian taking her first steps - are we right to assume the story will be quite autobiographical? Autobiographical is over-stating it a little - it’s probably more multi-biographical, if such a thing exists (have I invented it? Say I’ve invented it). I have loved comedy since I could understand what it was, and I have always been around comedians of all types - performing with them, writing with them, drinking with them, providing accommodation for them, and so on and so on. I have observed and experienced the world of comedy for 20 years now, and I still feel a thrill when I walk into a comedy club. The novel will use things I’ve seen, done, heard about and felt - it’s not my story, it’s a story which gathers elements of my life and the lives of others. It will have a healthy dose of things I have just blatantly made up, too. How does writing a book differ from writing for TV, writing stand-up shows and the like?

I tend to write nearly everything I do on my own, so it’s not more solitary for me. I don’t get lonely when I am writing, but I do sometimes go a bit mad, if I’m not careful. TV writing tends to be very urgent - you never feel that you have enough time for it, and you’re always on set holding a script you know you had wanted to go back to, but didn’t have time. TV is deadlines, deadlines, deadlines, coming at you all the time like driving in a blizzard. I would also have to be very adaptable to budget constraints (no night-shoots for me! Or anything with more than about seven people in it at once...and definitely no hot-air balloons), and collaborative - I liked having actors who were also writers, so if they suggested something funny, I would incorporate it there and then. The book feels like much more my sole vision, and it is a gentler, more ruminative process - you let the book speak to you, rather than imposing your will on it. It’s a very interesting, revealing process. I like the pace of it - TV you feel like you’re going so fast you might throw up, but with a book you could spend an afternoon staring at a bird and think you’ve done some good work (that’s right, isn’t it?). Is this your first foray into novel-writing or has it been a private pleasure of yours before now? I have started novels before, and also written short-stories, none of which I have ever shown to anyone. This is the first time I have felt confident enough to say, ‘this is what I want to do, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t’. What updates will readers be getting in your shed if they pledge for your book on Unbound today? A welcome message from me, and the next part of the story. In coming weeks there will be more updates and excerpts, along with interviews with other comedians. Are there any books in particular that have inspired you to write Brenda Monk Is Funny? No one book, I don’t think. There are certain authors I very much admire - I love the Nathan Zuckerman books by Philip Roth for example, where he creates a sort of alter-ego through which he can examine and send up his own literary world. Finally, desert island books: what five books would you take with you to a desert island? Rabbit is Rich by John Updike, Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth, Polo by Jilly Cooper, The Joke by Milan Kundera, The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl. You can pledge to buy Katy Brand’s Brenda Monk Is Funny at:



Readmill, a revolution in reading

Our top events in and around Hay-on-Wye

We speak to Matthew Bostock, Community Manager for the innovative new reading platform So Matt, to sum up quickly for those not in the know, what is Readmill? Readmill is two things - a great ebook reader available for the iPad, and a way to display your reading activity on the web. Whenever you highlight a passage, start reading, or finish a book with Readmill for iPad, the activity is displayed on your readmill. com profile page. It’s also shared with your friends on places like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Friends can comment on your highlights too, and you can get some really good discussions going. With all of these books and passages being shared, it’s a great way to discover what your friends are reading and what’s popular in your social graph. In short, Readmill is the best way to share what you read. How can Readmill help aspiring writers get feedback on their work? The purpose of a book review is to conclude how good or bad an entire body of work was. But wouldn’t it be great to see which parts of a book were most enjoyed by readers and why? Which parts were not so good? Which parts needed some further explanation? As a writer, this feedback is invaluable. With Readmill, authors can highlight any section of an ebook and leave it open for discussion. They can also add some extended commentary there, and we’ve already seen authors do this. It’s also a great way to create a loyal, active user base. Should Jottify’s community use Readmill? Absolutely. It’s super easy to start

(in no particular order!)

highlighting passages of your book, and our community would definitely start giving you some feedback. Due to Readmill’s social and shareable nature, you’ll also find that your book will spread well across our user base. It only takes one person to share a highlight with 200 of their friends. It’s a domino effect that can increase your readership. Is the future of books social? We carry great reading devices around with us every day, and these devices are connected to the web - a place where we converse about anything at any time. Instead of locking our marginalia away between pages, we now have the opportunity to share it with our friends and family and spark discussions. This is a powerful thing, and one that will solidify the book as a social object as we travel into the future. It started as an app and is now growing into a platform with numerous developers building new Readmill-based apps, where do you see Readmill in five years time? It’s hard to say. We’re working on some really cool things. Things that really build on what we’ve already done. In 5 years we hope to see more reading apps utilising the power of social, and our API is the first step towards this. The ultimate goal is to have people use Readmill as their goto reader. Visit:


Six Billion Authors in Search of an Audience Thursday 7 June Globe Hall (HowTheLightGetsIn) In an age of self publishing and writers’ workshops, the idea that we all have a novel inside of us has become commonplace. But how essential is writing to individuality? Has the internet facilitated one of our most deep-rooted desires, or has it opened up the false hope of a readership, a performance without meaning? The Physics of Poetry Sunday 10 June Ring (HowTheLightGetsIn) How do the languages of physics and poetry speak to one another? Don Paterson, investigates the truth of Paul Dirac’s claim that “the scientist wants to say something nobody knew before, in words everyone can understand and the poet does the opposite”. Martin Amis talks to Gaby Wood Sunday 10 June Wales Stage (Hay Festival) The novelist launches his state-of-England satire about a very violent but not very successful young criminal who is going about his morning duties in a London prison when he learns that he has just won £139,999,999.50 on the National Lottery. For more information, visit:

Literati Print Issue 1  

A sample printed version of the journal produced to coincide with the Hay Festival.

Literati Print Issue 1  

A sample printed version of the journal produced to coincide with the Hay Festival.