Sticky, but not in a bad way
“I don’t care whether people read books in hardback, paperback, on screen, on a Kindle, an i-Pad or on pieces of cured yak skin – as long as they are reading books.” This month we talk to Joanne Harris about Chocolat. Kindles. And Johnny Depp!
‘Souvenirs’: A Play for Survivors, by Catriona Troth Arse and Elbow Location, Locals and Dialect by Derek Duggan
Flash 500 - The Results! Where Story Meets Technology with JJ Marsh
Is Cyberspace a Place? by Dan Holloway
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Space, the Final Frontier, or Where do Writers Write by Sarah Bower
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Contents Random stuff 5
Location: The Write Place by Anne Stormont
Joanne Harris in conversation with Gillian Hamer
12 ‘Souvenirs’: A Play for Survivors by Catriona Troth 16 You Can Do It ... Procrastinating with Perry Iles 18 60 Second Interviews with Kris Hollington and Joey Goebel 22 Arse and Elbow - Location, Locals and Dialect by Derek Duggan 26 PRINT ISSUE EXCLUSIVE POSTER
Quite Short Stories and Poetry 23 My Illiterate Mother by Fabiyas M V
Sarah Bower is the author of two historical novels, THE NEEDLE IN THE BLOOD and THE BOOK OF LOVE (published as SINS OF THE HOUSE OF BORGIA in the US). She has also published short stories in QWF, The Yellow Room, and Spiked among others. She has a creative writing MA from the University of East Anglia where she now teaches. She also teaches creative writing for the Open University. Sarah was born in Yorkshire and now lives in Suffolk. Sheila Bugler won a place on the 2008 Apprenticeships in Fiction programme. Whilst publishers debate her first novel, she is working on her second novel and spending way too much time indulging her unhealthy interest in synopsiswriting. Clinical psychologist Sue Carver is serving a long appre nticeship in novelwriting. Her aphorism is: it takes as long as it takes. Her first novel is set in the world of psychological therapy and her second takes her far out of her comfort zone. She has published poetry under her maiden surname: Leppard, but she wasn’t made in Sheffield and, although she has wide tastes in music, she much prefers Raymond to Def.
24 PRINT ISSUE EXCLUSIVE Delusion by Heather Parker
Helen Corner founder of Cornerstones Literary Consultancy and co-author of Write a Blockbuster.
28 First Draft by Susan Oke
Derek Duggan is a graduate of The Samuel Beckett Centre for Theatre Studies at Trinity College Dublin. He lives in Spain with his wife and children and is not a tobogganist.
28 The Ministry of Wishful Displacement by Maureen Bowden
Competitions 31 Flash 500 Results 35 Comp Corner
Pencilbox 32 Where Story Meets Technology by JJ Marsh 36 Is Cyberspace a Place? by Dan Holloway 38 Cornerstones Mini Masterclass, with Kathryn Price 40 Space, the Final Frontier, or Where do Writers Write by Sarah Bower 43 Scripts: Setting the Stage by Ola Zaltin 45 Question Corner Lorraine Mace answers your questions on writing
Some other stuff
Danny Gillan’s award-winning Will You Love Me Tomorrow was described as one of the best debut novels of 2008. Now, for entirely cash related reasons, Danny’s novel Scratch is available for Kindle readers (‘users’ sounds a bit druggy). It’s so funny it’s made people accidentally wee, apparently. Really, actually wee in their pants. True story..www.dannygillan.co.uk Gillian Hamer is a full time company director and part time novelist. She divides her time between the industrial Midlands and the wilds of Anglesey, where she spends far too much time dreaming about becoming the next Agatha Christie. http://gillian.wordpress.com/ Dan Holloway’s thriller The Company of Fellows was voted Blackwell’s “favourite Oxford novel” and was one of their “best books of 2011”. He runs the spoken word event The New Libertines and is a regular performer across the UK, winning Literary Death Match in 2010, and was listed as one of social media bible mashable’s top 100 writers on twitter. Perry Iles is an old man from Scotland. If he was a dwarf, he’d be grumpy. He lives in a state of semi-permanent apoplectic biliousness, and hates children, puppies, kittens, and periods of unseemly emotion such as Christmas. He pours out vinegary invective via a small writing machine, and thinks it’s a bit like throwing liver at the wall. He tells anyone who’ll listen that this gives him a modicum of gratification. Andrew Lownie is a member of the Association of Authors’ Agents and Society of Authors and was until recently the literary agent to the international writers’ organisation PEN. In 1998 he founded The Biographers Club, a monthly dining society for biographers and those involved in promoting biography, and The Biographers’ Club Prize which supports first-time biographers. Lorraine Mace is a columnist with Writing Magazine and co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam, of The Writer’s ABC Checklist, has had her work published in five countries. Winner of the Petra Kenney International Poetry Award (comic verse category), she writes fiction for the women’s magazine market and is a writing competition judge. www.lorrainemace.com JJ Marsh - writer, teacher, newt. www.beatrice-stubbs.com
46 What We Think of Some Books
Anne Stormont - as well as being a writer, is a wife, mother and teacher. She is also a hopeless romantic, who likes happy endings.
48 The Rumour Mill - sorting the bags of truth from the bags of shite
Kat Troth grew up in two countries, uses two names, and has had two different careers. One career she has spent writing technical reports for a non-technical audience. In the other, she attempts to write fiction. She tries always to remember who she is at any one time, but usually finds she has at least two opinions about everything.
48 Guess the Book 49 Crossword 50 Dear Ed - Letters of the satirical variety 51 Horoscopes - by Shameless Charlatan Druid Keith
Ola Zaltin is a Swedish screenwriter working out of Copenhagen, Denmark. He has written for both the big screen and the small, including episodes for the Swedish Wallander series. Together with Susanne O’Leary he is the co-author of the novel Virtual Strangers, (available as eBook).
Contents | 3
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Editor’s Desk I’m guessing you’ve all taken a look at the cover and wondering what Johnny Depp is really like ... (just us girls then?). Well you’re about to find out. Joanne Harris talks about books, writing, and filming Chocolat. In celebration, we’ve themed this issue ‘location’. Catriona Troth talks about ‘Souvenirs’: A play for survivors, we have 60 The Ed
Seconds with Kris Hollington and Joey Goebel, and Derek Duggan is all Arse and Elbow as he talks Location, Locals and Dialect.
JD Smith lives and works in the English Lake District. She uses her publishing house Quinn Publications as a source of procrastination to avoid actually writing.
We have short stories and poetry from Fabiyas M V, Heather Parker, Susan Oke and Maureen Bowden, as well as the third quarter Flash 500 results. And worry not, if you haven’t already had your fill of short stories, the anthology containing all winning entries and runners up in our 2012 BIGGER Short Story Competition will be launched at the beginning of June ... and we may have organised ourselves a
Copyright © 2013 Quinn Publications
celebratory launch party.
The contributors assert the moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the authors of this work. All Rights reserved.
JJ Marsh talks about websites The Literary Platform and The Writing
All opinions expressed in Words with JAM are the sole opinion of the contributor and not that of Quinn Publications or Words with JAM as a whole.
ponders Is Cyberspace A Place.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the individual contributor and/or Quinn Publications, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. Distributed from the UK. Not to be resold. Editor: JD Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
Platform in Where Story Meets Technology, whilst Dan Holloway
There’s more Cornerstones Mini Masterclass with Kathryn Price, more on Scripts with Ola Zaltin, and Sarah Bower discusses Where Writers Write. Plus all the usual shenanigans too. We’re having a facelift in time for our June issue. More on that soon ... Enjoy!
Deputy Editors: Lorraine Mace email@example.com Danny Gillan firstname.lastname@example.org Library and Podcast enquiries: Catriona Troth email@example.com 60 Second Interview enquiries: JJ Marsh firstname.lastname@example.org Book V Film Interview enquiries: Gillian Hamer email@example.com
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Location the write place by Anne Stormont
Dislocation is the theme of the novel I’m writing at the moment – but that’s enough about me – other than to say that the theme of this edition of Words with Jam is a subject close to my heart. Location is a vitally important element of human life. Our sense of location and of whether and how we fit into the landscape around us is central to our wellbeing. And, of course, where we are located can literally be a matter of life and death. From our earliest times we have needed to know when to change location in order to survive. The urge to explore has remained strong – from the early humans leaving Africa - to the space travel of modern times. On a smaller scale, most of us appreciate that a ‘change of scene’ can be revitalising or even life-changing. As a child me and my friends and siblings often wrote out our addresses - in notebooks and on various possessions - in this format - 21 Old Street, Anytown, Scotland, UK, Europe, The Earth, The Solar System, The Universe... (I hope that wasn’t just us and that some of you out there did something similar). I’ve also noticed, in my day job as a teacher, that even very young children are fascinated by maps and atlases. Needing to understand and relate to our location seems to be hard-wired into us. We need to know where we are in relation to the whole. Location, dislocation and relocation can all be powerful elements in our lives. So – all of that being said - it’s not surprising that the concept of location is a rich seam for writers. And it features significantly in both non-fiction and fiction - both of which I’d like to consider here. I’ll begin with the real world and then move on through to the imagined one. Being a keen walker and having travelled all over the world, I have a large collection of maps and guidebooks. There are the prosaic, practical and highly factual versions and then there are the ones that are lyrical, mystical, poetical, political and downright beautiful. And, yes, I did mean to include maps in both the categories above. There are the OS maps which, I would argue, are works of location art in their own right. But there are also memory maps – for example the work of - J Maizlish Mole. Memory maps, as their name suggests, are a recalled record of a walk through a landscape. They will include notes on the mapmaker’s impressions of the location, on local terminology, on historical significance, on natural features and on flora and fauna spotted on the way. They won’t necessarily be completely topographically and mathematically accurate but they will still be a reasonable guide - but with an extra dimension and texture that their OS cousins don’t have. As for guide books in the latter category, there are many – and I possess a fair few. These are not the places- to- see- and- eat- out variety. Like memory maps, these are artistic works – where the author interprets their experience of a location and tells the story of that experience. Some of these books combine the practical, guide aspect and the personal response. For example, Cameron McNeish’s ‘Scotland End to End’ is a superb combination of how to walk Scotland’s length and his own recollections of doing it himself. Then there is Robert Macfarlane’s latest book ‘The Old Ways’ which I’m reading at the moment. It is stunning in its evocation of location. He writes about his responses to travelling on some of the world’s most ancient paths. He covers trails on land, sea, causeway and mountain - and in many and diverse locations such as Cambridgeshire, the Hebrides, Liverpool, the Atlantic, Spain, Palestine and the Himalayas. He meets other wanderers, pilgrims, guides, poets and trespassers. He discovers that these tracks don’t just get a person from A to B but that they are also ways of feeling, knowing and thinking. It’s a haunting, thought-provoking work - and one of the most moving
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books I’ve read. Then there are the personal-political books that record an author’s experience of a conflicted, controversial location. Two that I read last year - in preparation for my third visit to Israel-Palestine - were Raja Shehadeh’s ‘Occupation Diaries’ and Mark Thomas’s ‘Extreme Rambling’. These were two very different approaches to the deadly conundrum that is this amazing, infuriating, beautiful country. The former author is a resident of the occupied territories; the latter is a British comedian. But both take you by the scruff of the neck and make you look at the place – really look at it – and try to understand it. There’s a third book in this political location category that I feel I have to mention and that is ‘The Long Bridge’ by Ursula Muskus. It belongs to a long and fine tradition of political prisoner memoir. Muskus spent sixteen years as a prisoner in the Soviet gulags. She writes of forced marches, prisoner transport on interminable train journeys, terrible privations and of being in constant mortal danger. The world she describes is alien, brutal and fascinating. However, it is an uplifting book. The location is a terrible one - but she inhabits it with humility, humanity and hope. As for the deep mine of inspiration and significance offered by location to the writer of fiction – it seems bottomless. I’m only going to pick out a tiny sample of the nuggets on offer. Amongst the ‘classic’ authors there are Shakespeare, Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens and C.S.Lewis who all conjured and used location to memorable effect. And of course writing in the genres of science fiction and fantasy is utterly dependent on location. The parameters, physical laws and other qualities of the settings are only bounded by the author’s imagination. Other genres too - such as romance and crime - often look to location to add the wow factor. Would ‘Gone with the Wind’ have worked as well anywhere else other than Tara and the burning backdrop of civil war Atlanta? Could Du Maurier’s Rebecca have had the impact it did without Manderley and the beaches of Cornwall? Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels are dependent on the author’s portrayal of the ‘real’ Edinburgh and P.D. James’s Adam Dalgleish stories are coloured and influenced by the Norfolk landscape in which they are set. So – where does all that bring us to? Oh, yes – to the concept of location – in writing – as in life – location occupies centre stage. It roots our writing - but it also lets it soar. Bon voyage!
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Joanne Harris in conversation with Gillian Hamer
Born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, above her grandparents’ sweet shop, in a flat with no central heating and an outside loo. Move on several decades and this author now keeps her thousands of Twitter followers (@joannechocolat) amused with her daily tweets about writing life in her ‘posh’ garden shed – “This morning the shed is a wooden vaulting horse. Inside, a secret tunnel, carved out the rocky ground using a sharpened teaspoon.” There’s nothing boring or clichéd in the life and times of Joanne Harris. Joanne began writing novels while still a modern languages teacher, lecturing on aspects of French literature and film. While still teaching full time, her first three books – The Evil Seed; Sleep, Pale Sister and Chocolat – were published. And it was Chocolat, published in 1999, that launched Joanne’s career to new heights. It reached number one in the Sunday Times bestseller list and the movie rights were soon snapped up by Miramax. The success of the movie brought Joanne worldwide recognition. Staring Dame Judi Dench, Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp among a stellar cast, the film received eight BAFTA and five Oscar nominations. And in 2012 Joanne became one of only four female members to achieve one million + sales of one book in the UK. Despite a further eight best sellers since Chocolat, including The Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure, it is still the evocative story of Vianne Rocher and her decision to open a chocolaterie during Lent that everyone first thinks of when Joanne’s writing is mentioned. So, this month, with our theme of ‘location’ fitting perfectly – WWJ has put some searching questions to Joanne Harris about how she chooses the settings of her novel; her involvement in the journey of Chocolat from book to film – and her thoughts on the gorgeous and enigmatic, Johnny Depp!
Location This month at Words with Jam our theme is ‘location’ and as an author famed for use of place, we’re delighted to get chance to chat with you this issue. Looking at many of your novels, location is clearly important to you. Why is that? I write primarily about people and what motivates them, and I think a sense of where someone is from is an essential part of their psychological makeup. I write about how we relate to our environment and to our personal history – without it, there’s no characterization.
So, as someone who was born in Yorkshire, lives in Yorkshire, writes in a garden shed in Yorkshire – why is France so important to you and what do you think it brings to your novels? I’m half-French, and France remains a large part of my upbringing and culture. When writing a novel, I don’t choose the location first. The story determines the location – and some of my stories are rooted in that part of my history.
You say you only get chance to visit France once or twice a year, so does having to rely on imagination and memory help or hinder? I always rely on imagination and memory. Those things are essential to what I do, regardless of the subject.
Do you think there are benefits to writing about a different country to where you live, in as much as the writer brings a different perspective to the landscape? I think all writers bring a personal perspective to the places they choose to write about. No-one writes dispassionately; I write largely from past memories and nostalgia, and I’m aware that I am selective in what I choose to portray.
As well as France, you’ve written novels based in the UK. What inspires you? I have written several novels set in Yorkshire, including GENTLEMEN & PLAYERS and BLUEEYEDBOY, and a number of short stories. All of these are set in the fictional town of Malbry, which is not unlike the place I’m currently living.
You prefer not to research, or choose to write about topics where you have access to first-hand knowledge of a subject. Was your mother’s influence behind the topics of food and France? Partly - and that of my grandmother, grandfather and other members of my French family. I write about things that interest me personally, and from my own experience. Food, its cultural and emotional aspects, its associations, its resonances – this is a subject we all understand…
Have you ever visited any other countries or locations through your travels that have inspired you? Any plans for the future to set a novel in a dramatic landscape? I’ve been lucky enough to travel to all kinds of wonderful places, and I find human inspiration wherever I go, but I need a deep and personal connection
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with a place before I feel able to write about it with authority. To write about, say, Italy, or China, without first knowing the language, the people and the customs would make for good travelogue, but to base a novel there wouldn’t feel authentic (or honest) to me.
FILM Looking now at the massive success of Chocolat, how were you first approached by Miramax with regard to the movie rights? And what were your initial thoughts? Or fears? The book was optioned by a scout, long before publication in England. It was good news, but I knew enough about the process to know that most options aren’t taken up. And so I mostly forgot about it until the film went into production. That’s still the sanest, best way to approach the film business.
Did you have any concerns about how the plot and characters, particularly the complex relationships and hints of controversy in the plot, would come across on the big screen? If I’d been anxious about those things I wouldn’t have taken the money. To allow a film company rights to your work is to abandon all control. I knew the film wouldn’t be a direct reflection of my book, but then, a film is a very different medium. It wouldn’t be realistic to expect anything otherwise.
I read that you didn’t like all of the changes made in the film version of the story, what in particular did you feel strongly about? I tried to persuade Miramax that it wasn’t necessary to change my lead character from a priest to a mayor: it alters the dynamic of the story and dilutes the meaning. But I guess they thought Middle America wasn’t ready for a priest to be the bad guy…
Is your writing style a visual approach? Do you write scenes almost seeing them in your mind’s eye and imagining them acted out on the big screen? I write very visually, but I also involve the other senses; especially taste and scent. I don’t see a big screen in my mind, but I do try for as realistic an experience as I can…
Is it true when writing the novel you’d always dreamed of Juliette Binoche in the lead role? How did you feel when you heard that had become a reality? I’d tried to suggest her before they started casting, because I thought she was a perfect fit, both physically and temperamentally. For a long time Miramax ignored me, and then Juliette, who had read the book, heard they were casting and asked for the part. It was great to hear that they’d chosen her (though I doubt I had much influence over their decision); it gave the film a much more European flavour, and shaped it into something much closer to the original book (two of the other actresses they’d considered were Whoopi Goldberg and Gwyneth Paltrow).
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It’s probably a writer’s dream to have a cast that includes not only Binoche, but Judi Dench and Johnny Depp! What did you think when you saw the characters on screen? It was a terrific cast. Not everyone was as I’d imagined them - everyone needs to make the part their own in a movie – but there were so many wonderful actors in CHOCOLAT. I was so moved to see Judi Dench playing Armande (a character based on my great-grandmother); and Alfred Molina really managed to make Reynaud come to life…
And okay, I apologise, totally unprofessional, girlie question (I can’t help myself) … but did you meet Johnny Depp? If so, what was he like? I liked him. He’s very shy, though, and not at all starry. I think he prefers not to be the focus of too much attention. He hates to watch himself on screen - he told me at the premiere that CHOCOLAT was the only film he’s ever been in that he’d watched all the way through…
Okay, back to professional mode … what aspect of your writing do you think comes across well or is even enhanced in film? I think film makers use what they can from a book, depending on what ingredients they are looking for. Sometimes it’s a plot idea; sometimes it’s a set of characters. Very rarely, it’s both. I was lucky.
Looking at the actual production of Chocolat, how much involvement do you have in the making of the film? Would you have liked more? Did you get to visit the set or were you asked for advice during filming? I was on set as a “special consultant” for some of the time, which was fun, but writers aren’t usually involved in the film-making process. Even the ones who
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have managed to negotiate some kind of input eventually find that the process is mostly out of their hands. Best to enjoy the ride for what it is, and not to agonize about things that are beyond your control.
Looking back at the whole experience of seeing Chocolat become such a huge worldwide cinema success, do you think the experience has changed you as a writer? If so, how? Films and books are so different that I don’t think one should affect the other at all. I certainly don’t write with movies in mind – much as I love movies, I’m first and foremost a writer of books. If and when they get optioned, I’ll enjoy the ride, as before.
You’re a prolific writer, eight best-sellers since Chocolat, what motivates you nowadays? Is there an additional spark when you write now, knowing your work could develop into much more than just the original novel? I don’t see a movie as being the ultimate goal for a book, nor do I think they make the original novel “more” of anything. In many ways, the success of a movie is often based on a radical reduction of the original material. I like movies for what they are, but I see them as being entirely separate from the books that inspire them. Most of all, they are the work of someone else – someone who just happened to use a part of one of my works as inspiration. I don’t claim ownership of the film of CHOCOLAT, even though it was based on my book; and I don’t expect my work to be judged on the basis of someone else’s.
Are there any other novels you’ve written that you’d love to see in film? Any other actresses you already have penciled in (in your head at least) as the lead role? Nowadays, I know more about the film business than I did twelve years ago, and I understand better how lucky I was that CHOCOLAT was so appealing (and
so faithful to the original book). I’m less interested in casting than in direction: I’d love to work with Guillermo del Toro – I love the dark magic in his films, and the way his visual style permeates everything he does.
What is currently on your reading list? And do you consider it important for writers to also be prolific readers?
Having recently read Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure, I could easily see how that would work in film, again vivid backdrop coupled with your take on modern themes – eg Islamic integration. Would you like to see Vianne Rocher’s story continue in film and are there any future film options planned?
I don’t see how anyone can claim to love writing if they don’t feel the need to read. My list this week: MAGGIE & ME by Damian Barr; THE HUMANS by Matt Haig; THE CLEANER OF CHARTRES, by Salley Vickers.
So far, I haven’t granted the rights to anyone, which isn’t to say I won’t at some stage. I’d like to see a film made in a way that allows it to stand on its own, and doesn’t just try to re-create what people liked about CHOCOLAT.
Where do you stand on the ‘literary versus genre’ debate? I think it’s based on a nonsensical distinction. Books are either well-written or not: the subject matter alone shouldn’t determine whether something has literary merit.
Where do you stand on the ‘e-books versus paper’ debate?
AND FINALLY …. You have a dislike of your work being categorised, and have recently changed direction with the publications of your Runemark series, are you planning any surprises or new changes of direction in your writing in the future? I don’t see any of my books as a change of direction. I’ve always had a broad spectrum of writing. That won’t change.
You like to set up conflict in your novels – opening a chocolaterie in Lent or in your latest book, the wearing of the niqab – do you think it’s important for writers to tackle issues that may cause controversy or split reader’s opinions?
I don’t care whether people read books in hardback, paperback, on screen, on a Kindle , an i-Pad or on pieces of cured yak skin – as long as they are reading books.
And finally … as a literary magazine, we relish sage nuggets of advice from published authors, so what words of wisdom or encouragement would you offer to new upcoming writers hoping to follow in your footsteps? First, don’t follow in my footsteps. I’ve already been there. Go somewhere you want to go; write about something you care about; be yourself – and most of all, enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy what you write, how can anyone enjoy reading it?
No. I don’t believe in turning books into soap-boxes, or vehicles for “issues”. I write the things I care about, and leave the discussion to the readers.
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‘Souvenirs’: A Play for Survivors by Catriona Troth “What
happened to me, the marks on my body, the memories, they are going to be my souvenirs.”
“Write to Life has never had an impact like it. There was rapt attention and laughter. But by the end, at least half the audience was in tears and all the performers near to it.” Thus writes Sheila Hayman, coordinator of Freedom from Torture’s creative writing group, Write to Life, after the first performance of their play, ‘Souvenirs,’ based on their own experiences as asylum seekers. While plays like The Asylum Monologues have previously taken refugees’ own words and brought them to a wider audience, the work has usually been performed by professional actors. What makes ‘Souvenirs’ unusual is that it continues the practice firmly established by Hayman, of empowering their writers to perform their words themselves. Write to Life, founded in 1997, is now the longest-running creative
writing group for torture survivors in the world. Two years ago, during Refugee Week, they performed their poetry at Survivor!, a musical celebration at All Hallows Gospel Oak in north London. Last year, they performed poetry at Tate Britain that had been inspired by the paintings they found there. This latest venture represents a three-way collaboration between Write to Life, ice&fire and Tamasha Theatre. Although the collaboration is new, the links between the three groups are close. Write to Life’s founder, Sonja Linden started ice&fire in 2003 with a remit to explore Human Rights stories through performance. And Tamasha’s Director, Kristine Landon-Smith, worked with Write to Life in 2011, helping the writers bring real power to their performances. Hayman recalls, “I met Kristine Landon-Smith by chance, when we were both chaperoning children at a dance performance. We found out about each other’s work, and she talked to me about the play, ‘The Arrival,’ based on the graphic novel by Shaun Tan. She was interested in involving ‘real’ refugees and asylum seekers, and I was preoccupied by the difficulties my clients often had performing their work. On the one hand, they desperately wanted to read their writings themselves, to a live audience, because what they write is usually very personal, and that gives it power. On the other hand, they were mostly shy, inexperienced and spoke English, which might be their fourth language, in ways that didn’t always do the writing full justice. “We hatched a plot for Kris to coach the group in her unique technique which brings their native expressiveness to performance of any words. And I made a film of it, which turned out to be fascinating. “It was perhaps an obvious next step to put this learning into practice, by developing a piece of authentic ‘biographical theatre’ to accompany the metaphorical sweep of ‘The Arrival.’”
Tamasha Theatre Landon-Smith was born in England, of Punjabi and Australian parents, and brought up in Australia. In 1978, she came to Scotland to study drama, travelling home to Australia via India every couple of years to visit family. It was on one of these trips to India that she became involved in developing a production with the National School of Drama in Delhi of the modern Indian classic novel Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand.
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Clive Stafford Smith
When she brought a video of the production back to the UK, she and her friend Sudha Bhuchar realised there were no equivalent contemporary stories of the Asian diaspora on the British stage. The two women set up the Tamasha Theatre Company in 1989 to fill that gap. Tamasha is a Hindi word meaning commotion, or creating a stir. From the start their work drew on the cultural backgrounds of both writers and actors, launching plays such as Ayub Khan Din’s celebrated East is East. But it was through going into schools that Landon-Smith formalised what she calls her ‘intercultural practice.’ “I was shocked to find that teachers were scared to work with the diverse backgrounds of their classes. I’ve worked in classes that were 90% Bengali girls, yet the culture of the classroom was still overwhelmingly white British. Those teachers who have been receptive to what we do have told us that they never realised how biased their practice was and that they have seen the culture in their classes change. “It’s second nature to me to place everyone within their cultural context. I’m not afraid to ask ‘where do you come from?’ And I find that asking people to work in their family language, even when that isn’t their first language, can open the door to their artistic power. They can then pull that power back into other sorts of work. Having worked with a group from Write to Life before, LandonSmith came back several times to show the film they developed from that workshop. The group’s participants began to ask if she could do a piece of theatre with them. At the same time, Landon-Smith was talking to Christine Bacon from ice&fire about the possibility of working together. “The two ideas just coalesced.”
ice&fire Bacon’s involvement with refugee issues began in 2001. She was a young actress in Australia when the Norwegian freighter Tampa, carrying 438 Hazara refugees from Afghanistan, entered Australian waters. The Hazara had been rescued from a distressed fishing vessel
and the Norwegians believed they should be treated as distressed mariners under international maritime law. The Australian government disagreed. They refused them permission to land in Australia and took them instead to the tiny island nation of Nauru, where they were held in detention camps for the next four years. According to opinion polls, 85% of Australians agreed with their government’s actions. “I found myself looking at people in cafes, thinking ‘are you one of the 85%?’” says Bacon. Feeling she had to do something to shift public opinion, Bacon joined Alice Garner and Kate Atkinson, who were setting up Actors for Refugees, in the hopes of encouraging a more humanitarian response to the plight of refugees. In 2004, Bacon moved to Britain to take a Masters Degree at the Oxford Centre for Refugee Studies. It didn’t take her long to realise that public opinion in Britain could be just as hostile to refugees. Looking round for an equivalent to Actors for Refugees, she discovered ice&fire. Since then, she has created several scripts for ice&fire based on the personal testimony of individuals – including Afghan Monologues, Rendition Monologues and Broke. She established Actors for Human Rights, an outreach network of over 600 actors dedicated to drawing attention to human rights concerns. She is now ice&fire’s Artistic Director. When the collaboration with Tamasha and Write to Life was first mooted, they intended the group to be directly involved in the scripting of the piece, but it became apparent that wasn’t going to be possible in the time available. Bacon’s experience would be needed to thread together the individual stories into a workable piece. Write to Life ran a couple of workshops, in which Bacon took part. Afterwards, she spent time interviewing each of the participants. She developed the first draft of the script using their own words. Unlike other writers I’ve known who have pieced together scripts from people’s own words – Nell Leyshon with ‘The Wife of Hay’ (based on The Wife of Bath) or Ruth Howard with Like An Old Tale (based on A Winter’s Tale) – Bacon did not use an existing story to create a spine for the play. “I had other constraints that shaped the piece. First of all, it could only be twenty minutes long. Then each of the participants had to have an equal share of the story. There were also certain themes that came out very strongly from those first workshops. One the one hand, there was the sense that the experience of being an asylum seeker was itself retraumatising. But at the same time, they all wanted to emphasise that ‘we are survivors.’”
Script to Stage: Developing ‘Souvenirs’ The group’s first read-through of the script for Souvenirs takes place on 1st December, 2012 at Tamasha’s home in the Rich Mix Theatre in Shoreditch. Landon-Smith begins the session with a warm up exercise based on a Maori tradition. Each person must name the nearest mountain to the place they consider home, the nearest body of water, the name of an ancestor, the names of their parents and their own name – first in their own language and then in English. From there, they go straight into the read-through. This is the first time they have heard the whole piece – in some cases, the first time they
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have heard each other’s stories. As they work through it, there is a lot of quiet touching, reassuring hands placed on shoulders, smiles exchanged. The theme of emasculation is strong. The men in the group – all African – emphasise how African society judges men by how well they provide for their family. The asylum system – which allows them neither to work nor to beg – takes away that capacity to provide. Bacon has captured this with a Cinderella-like image of the men forcing their feet into ill-fitting high-heeled red shoes. At the same time there is a powerful sense of survival, symbolised here by planting and regrowth. One woman grows peas and beans in the tiny garden next to her flat. Another germinates a mango seed by a radiator. Afterwards, the read-through provokes a flood of conversation. Some of the women have found it hard to take that the men say being called a woman is an insult. T speaks of attending a conference for victims of torture, where 35 women shared their experiences. “I thought mine was the worst, but then...” The play has touched, too, on the theme of separation from one’s children. Some of the group lost touch with their families years before. Others maintain a tenuous connection via telephone. Only one mother and daughter have been reunited. One side effect of the system is to separate those who are asylum seekers from those whose refugee status has been accepted. One of the group speaks of a friend who has just got his papers. He is pleased for him, but the last time they met, the friend was very quiet, almost downcast, as if feeling guilt that his struggle was now over. For a brief moment, the things that divide them seem deeper than the things that bind them. The man feeling emasculated vs the woman struggling to maintain her pride in being a woman. The ones who can still speak to their children vs those who do not know if they will ever
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speak to them again. Those with their papers vs those who are still waiting. Landon-Smith says gently, “This performance is going to bring things up. You’re going to need to create some distance in order to perform.” “One of the things we need to work out is how best to safeguard you all,” Hayman adds. There is a silence, then J’s quiet voice says, “We are committed.” T nods. “It took me five years to share this with anyone. Doing this encourages me that I am not alone.” “My story is like a stone on my back,” says A. “But I have only put in the things I can cope with. We cannot go in every street to tell people how we suffer. All we can do is this drama.” U, a big man with a gentle voice, says, “We have to accept what people are saying. Don’t measure one person’s pain against another’s. Instinctively they reach out and comfort each other – a family who share something few others can. The next time I see the group is almost two months later, and rehearsals are well underway. When I tell people I am going to a Write to Life event, the reaction is often, “Oh, I don’t know if I could do that. It must be so harrowing.” And it’s true that the things that are talked about are sometimes raw and shocking. But a sense of the absurd bubbles under the surface and the first and last thing you find at every meeting is laughter. Today, Landon-Smith is talking about the new job she will be taking up, back in Australia. The conversation weaves from her imminent move, to Men at Work, to rugby. Someone demonstrates the haka – legs wide, tongue sticking out. Landon-Smith gathers them together for some warm up exercises. They toss a ball between them, calling
each other’s names. M drops into another haka pose and suddenly everyone is laughing too much to throw or catch. Bacon’s script has been modified a little - adapting to the practical constraints of the group and the spaces in which they will be working – but has remained essentially the same. It has also been decided that the group will work from script books to remove the pressure of having to memorise their lines. This isn’t like speaking a piece of poetry. The writers must move around the stage, remember cues, interact with one another. One of the biggest challenges for these new actors is not to run all their words together. Landon-Smith encourages them to break up their speeches by acting as an interlocutor, interjecting little phrases like ‘uh-huh?’ and ‘and then?’ as if this were a conversation just between the two of them. Another couple of weeks and it is impressive to see how the cast have grown in confidence. Their voices are stronger, the play flows and the emotional power of their words hits you as you listen. That crucial first performance at the Bath Festival is just round the corner. No one knows quite what to expect – but they are ready. “I have been fascinated to see how the play has developed,” says Hayman. “I look forward to cheering my writers on in their acting debuts.” And the result, that first performance, is better than any of them could have dared hope. The play ends with the actors gathered around J, who is seated next to her tray of peas and beans. A stunned silence is followed by rapturous applause. Then an hour of queuing to buy booklets, getting them signed. People are talking to the performers, signing up to support Freedom from Torture. “I said the world did not know, but now they do,” says T afterwards. “We have delivered a message.” “When I saw the audience there, I just found myself saying it out to them 100 per cent, with my whole heart,” says M. “I felt good,” agrees J. “Everybody was so attentive to what we had to say – we were all reduced to tears. I couldn’t tell how it would be, so I was nervous before. But once I was speaking, the nerves disappeared.” “I’ve never felt anything like this before, since I started reading in public,” U says. “To be honest, I was going to cry. The women in front of me were crying, so I struggled to keep that between me and my reading. It’s something I’ve just never experienced before.” “At some points, I was upset, reading the lines and recalling the scenes they described,” admits H. “Later on I just felt relieved, bringing it out, releasing the pressure. I’m definitely looking forward to doing it again. This has propelled us forward to our next public appearance.”
If you would like to see ‘Souvenirs’ for yourself, it can be seen: Thurs 11th April at the Jackson’s Lane Theatre, London after the evening performance of The Arrival Sat 13th April at the Jackson’s Lane Theatre, London after the matinee performance of The Arrival Admission will be for ticket holders for The Arrival only. Please see the Tamasha website for prices and book information.
Monday 6th May at New Diorama Theatre, alongside a short play from Tamasha called ‘Different is Dangerous’ - timings tbc. Tickets £7.
Photographs Copyright © Colin Aitken 2013
Sunday 23rd June at Rich Mix Theatre as part of Celebrating Sanctuary - timings tbc
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You Can Do It ... Procrastinating with Perry Iles
They say that an Englishman’s home is his castle, which is a ghastly cliché to start an article off with, I know, but as such, it’s all about location, and making that location as comfortable and personal as possible. This of course entails decoration. Now, one day when I’m old and incontinent and famous and fabulously wellto-do they’ll ask me to be on Room 101 on the BBC and they’ll let me cast the things I hate into eternal torment. Jeremy Clarkson already did caravans and Whitney Houston is dead, so my choices are more limited these days – they’ll probably include deities and Louis Walsh and uplifting Facebook postings and anything to do with computing and technology except internet porn. But top of the list, up there with the very Devil himself, will be DIY. I hate it. I hate anything and everything to do with DIY, from wandering round Wickes and Homebase after queuing in a bank holiday traffic jam to get an extra ten percent off to following the arrows around Ikea muttering “yes dear, it’s lovely dear, can we go now?” until someone leads me to the meatball section. And I don’t give a flying fuck if the meatballs are made of horse. They taste nice, which is all that matters, and by the time I’m finished at Ikea they could be made from little kittens and pet guinea pigs and somebody’s minced-up little white-haired old grandmother’s dreams for all I care. DIY is not for me. DIY is as interesting as computer maintenance or reading Which? Magazine to see what cars are best for the environment. DIY is for beige people with comb-overs and wives with mouths like cats arses and the sort of face you could sand granite on. Have you ever seen a happy shopper in Homebase? No. They’re as rare as smiling joggers. I really would sooner
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watch wood warp than do any kind of home maintenance. DIY is for Sunday Express readers and the sort of person that wanders around Benidorm in August looking for decent British grub and a nice cuppa. And one day, of course, someone will invent a kind of Industrial Light and Magic for the home, so that it can look like whatever you programme it to look like at the flick of a switch. So in fact your house will be the same Magnolia-andnicotine that it always was, but at the press of a button it’ll turn into a virtual palace with flawless walls, immaculate carpeting that never needs to be hovered, self-cleaning virtual pets that never need walking, and children with volume controls and off-switches. And all you’ll have to do is employ a gay person to design it for you and a technologist to install it. And if you don’t want to watch while some squealing pillow-biter paints pink hearts and turquoise cupids on your wall or some geek with Asperger’s, a personal hygiene problem, no girlfriend and half-mast trousers sorts your download limit and wallpaper, you can fuck off down the pub and watch football until it’s all done. And you know what your wife will say? She’ll say “I don’t like it because it isn’t real”, and what she’ll mean by that is that she won’t have had the opportunity to watch you sweat and curse and put your back out and leave bare patches on the walls or tell you off for getting paint on everything up to and including the dog and then sulk because you’ve got grumpy and promise you sexual favours in return for all your efforts that will inevitably fail to materialize because of sudden headaches. And when you tell her that you’ve saved a thousand pounds by doing it yourself and would it be OK if you just popped over to Amsterdam with your mates for a long weekend she’ll suddenly tell you that the sofas don’t match the new décor and need replacing with all the money you’ve saved and more. So the correct response to any form of DIY suggestion is to immediately file for divorce. It’s over, OK? Done; gone like snow on the water, goodbye-ee. Because if your wife is willing to put you through the hell of DIY, it means she no longer loves you and is in all probability having an affair with Mr Retardo the school crossing guy who always looks at your daughter in that funny way. Your marriage is dead, and you know damned well that the barmaid in your local (St Kirsty,
our lady of the lager) would never make you paint a thing apart from spraying her own spectacular superstructure with some of your more precious bodily fluids. So if an Englishman’s home is his castle, he needs servants. Painters, decorators, people to fulfill his wife’s every need so that he can save his marriage and live happily ever after. He needs to get his location sorted – not only to his own satisfaction but to the satisfaction of those with whom he shares his life - his protagonist and his characters. And by virtue of torturing a metaphor until it reaches breaking point, squeezing it until the pips squeak and hauling this article round by a ring through its nose until it points in the general direction of this issue’s theme, one’s location when writing needs to be similarly sorted. OK, you can’t get a man in to paint your backgrounds for you, you have to do this yourself, but the strange thing about DIY location–engineering in literature is that it’s fun. Yes, fun. A book is a great big DIY project that you don’t have to get all dirty and sweaty about. But you do have to get it right. If you paint everything magnolia it’ll be boring, and if you go too heavy on the backgrounds the characters will lose their definition. So do some research. Read about the locations in which you want your characters to act. If your book’s about vampires, check out those pointy castles on the banks of the Danube and those distant inns with no electricity where the inbred inhabitants tell you not to go up near the castle. What is your favorite literary location? Thomas Hardy’s Dorset perhaps, or Cormac McCarthy’s Knoxville in Suttree; the Yorkshire of whatever Bronte it was that wrote Wuthering Heights or Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh. Whatever floats your proverbial. Look at it; examine it; study it. You can make or break your story with landscape and background and setting and location. The authors I’ve mentioned are quite good at settings and location, but not all authors are the same and not all locations work. I once went to the Bronte parsonage in Haworth. I was taken there by a person who no longer figures in my life, and spent a sultry afternoon pretending to be impressed by the sight of a writing desk that LaToya Bronte or whatever her fucking name was used when she wrote The Mill on the Floss or Tess of the D’Urbervilles or whatever it was she wrote. Here’s a dress that Britney Bronte might have worn once, and here’s a bed that Destiny Bronte once slept
in. Jesus Christ I nearly died of boredom. I even started fantasizing about painting walls in Durex Eggshell-white emulsion or going shopping in a supermarket. Look! Here’s a pen with a feather on it that Chantelle Bronte once did a shopping list with (heavy batter Yorkshire pudding mix, tinned custard and treacle, just like the fucking books she wrote.) Yes dear, it’s lovely dear, can we go now? And here’s someone else who was shit. William Shakespeare, that’s who. I mean, give him his due, he wasn’t shit all the time;
to do with location, props and penny-pinching. Back when I was a kid and hated Shakespeare because they made us do him in school, the BBC put on a series over the summer of each and every one of his plays. High end stuff, this; big budgets, famous actors. BBC2 had just started, it was the end of the 60s and television still aspired to be cultural because no one had invented reality shows and Ant & Dec hadn’t been born yet. And looking back on it now, the producers treated Shakespeare with undue respect and a po-faced sense of misplaced
And here’s someone else who was shit. William Shakespeare, that’s who. I mean, give him his due, he wasn’t shit all the time; you know, Hamlet and all that sort of stuff. But he was shit at comedy. And his sense of dramatic irony was so god-awful that it was like watching an episode of Casualty and knowing damn well the car was going to crash because it was a twelve-year-old Nissan Insipid and we all know that most of the BBC’s budget gets blown on Jonathan Ross or Jimmy Savile’s victims. you know, Hamlet and all that sort of stuff. But he was shit at comedy. And his sense of dramatic irony was so god-awful that it was like watching an episode of Casualty and knowing damn well the car was going to crash because it was a twelve-year-old Nissan Insipid and we all know that most of the BBC’s budget gets blown on Jonathan Ross or Jimmy Savile’s victims. But as for all Shakespeare’s fools and “marry, sire” and “i’faith” shite, well, someone shoot him, please. Having said that, Puck’s comment about what fools these mortals be and Falstaff ’s observation about how ill white hairs become a fool and jester remain two of my favourite Shakey quotes. Here’s what I think about comedy in Shakespeare. I think it was accidental, and I think a great deal of that had
seriousness. If the scene called for a forest, they went to a forest. If it called for the forum in Rome, they upped sticks and fucked off to Italy and filmed it in the Coliseum. If it called for a choirboy, they booked Aled Jones and had him trill fit to make a pope blow his mess. It was fucking appalling. Why? Because of location. They filmed A Midsummer Nights Dream in Windsor Great Park, cavorting among the grass and the trees. At some point or other, they had a choirboy in the background warbling that terrible poem about the springtime, the springtime, the only pretty ringtime. Now, Shakespeare may not have been that good at comedy, but he was not bad as a poet, comparing fit birds to summer’s days in order to get a shag, and
telling them they were temperate when they were probably moody cows on blood-egg week. He knew how to woo a lass, hey nonny no, did our Bill. He must have pulled a few like that, but that springtime/ringtime has a hint of Carry On to it, a touch of the confessional box as the sap rises. It’s a bawdy little couplet about choirboys’ arses; it’s not something we need to see Aled Jones being pitch-perfect about in the background. And it’s the same with location. Poor old Shakespeare had no CGI; the poor fuck didn’t even have electricity or a multi-million dollar budget. He made do with candles and old bits of wood. So when, in Macbeth, Birnam wood moved to Dunsinane, some guy dressed as a tree shuffled across a badly lit stage while people threw eggs and tomatoes from the cheap seats because they’d had too much mead at happy wassail-hour before the doors opened. When he talked about lions roaming the capitol, some guy in a moth-eaten old catsuit squatted in the background, stuck a leg in the air and tried to lick his own arse. So moving Shakespeare to the great outdoors is silly. Using attractive women to play Juliet or Lady McB is equally silly, because Juliet was thirteen and Mrs Macbeth was played by a ladyboy from the East end (Imagine Shirley Carter off of Eastenders perhaps) because they didn’t have women actors back then. She’d have looked like Germaine Greer in knock-off Primark. In short, you can overdo location. Dickens certainly did, piling cliché upon cliché for that gritty London look. Sex and the City did the same for New York, and was just as tedious as Dickens. Locations have become clichés, from the monster in the cellar to the gothy décor of vampire castles. Be careful with your location, because unlike DIY, you can’t get a man in, and B&Q-ing it will not help. Locations are the dreamscapes of stories, and as Elvis Presley once said “Tread softly, for you walk upon my dreams.”
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60 Second Interviews with JJ Marsh
Each month, we persuade, tempt and coerce (or bully, harass and blackmail) two writers into spilling the contents of their shelves. Twelve questions on books and writing. Plus the Joker – a wild thirteenth card which can reveal so much. Be honest, what do you put on YOUR chips? Your intrepid reporter, Jill
Kris Hollington Which book most influenced you when growing up? Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I remember reading it and suddenly realizing that I knew what the characters were thinking and why – without the author having told me (explicitly). It made me see what a great writer could do. Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy was a close second – I could not believe how impossibly brilliant, perceptive and hilarious he was; I swear I could actually feel new neural networks being created in my brain as I read.
Describe your writing space – what’s in it and why?
About Kris Kris Hollington is a Sunday Times bestselling author, ghost-writer and freelance journalist living and working in London. His investigative pieces on subjects as diverse as mass murder, assassination, armed robbery, African drug smugglers, diamond mining, art and jewellery theft, the space race, HM Customs and Excise and police corruption have appeared in The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday, The News of the World, The Evening Standard, Arena and Loaded. In 2010, Kris co-wrote a script for BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Play based on the true story of the theft and recovery of Edward Munch’s painting, Scream. He was also involved in the Radio 4 production of Noble Cause Corruption, a controversial crime drama, broadcast in March 2013. Kris’s articles and books have been featured in TV documentaries including Channel 4’s Cutting Edge and ITV1’s Real Crime. The Interceptor (co-written with Cameron Addicott) has been commissioned by BBC Drama for an eight-part season due to be broadcast on BBC1 in Autumn 2014. With Detective Sergeant Harry Keeble, Kris co-authored three bestselling books about child protection, all of which all spent several months in the Sunday Times Bestseller list, selling 150,000 copies. http://authors.simonandschuster.co.uk/ Kris-Hollington/65784569
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I have a great writing room at home – white walls, no view (to avoid daydreaming) and good natural light but I also like to work in public places: cafes, airports, planes, trains and train stations. The white noise of people going about their business helps me focus. I love writing with pen and paper too, so I can work pretty much anywhere, anytime the mood takes me. On my desk right now are two computers, three screens, an empty mug (from the Strand Book Store in NY) note books, books, pens, phone, post-it notes, a snow dome and a two boxes of my newest books from publishers are by my feet (Criminal London and Unthinkable). Leadbelly is playing on the stereo and I’m wearing slippers and dressing gown (it’s 10:54am). Don’t knock it – after all, Arthur Dent travelled to the end of time and back wearing a dressing gown…
Who or what had the biggest impact on your writing life? My wife (Nina) is my inspiration. My agent (Andrew Lownie) made a career in writing actually possible, and any editor who has ever commissioned one of my books.
Why did you choose to write about London’s criminal side? I’ve always been drawn towards exposing injustice and righting wrongs, so exploring crime was inevitable. Also, when I was a budding freelance journalist, I found the best way to get the attention of a commissioning newspaper editor was to get to the bottom of a crime story.
Today is Douglas Adams’s birthday. What makes The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so remarkable? Douglas could describe the beauty of the universe and the ridiculous behavior of human beings in the same sentence. For me, Douglas made it clear that the only thing we humans can do that makes any sense is to love one another. We spend far too much of our lives taking ourselves far too seriously. We need more people like Douglas around today to keep reminding us of this. I used a wonderful passage Douglas wrote about falling
in love as a reading at my wedding. It concludes: ‘He hadn’t realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it; he had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones till it now said something it had never said to him before, which was “Yes”.’ I miss him so much. The only other writer I’ve found on the same wavelength is David Foster Wallace (everyone should read Infinite Jest and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again) and now he’s dead too, dammit.
How do you find the collaboration process? I love it. I get to meet amazing people who provide me with incredible insights into worlds most of us never get to see.
Is there a book you were supposed to love but didn’t? Or one you expected to hate and fell for? I thought I was going to hate Catch 22 but I loved it. It’s exuberant, hilarious, fast as electricity, and in places heartbreaking beyond what I thought possible. (I’ll never forget Kid Sampson’s legs on the beach).
How far has your journalism career aided your book writing? It’s a key part of it, that’s for sure. Many of my books are like extended journalism. With books comes the freedom of space, making it possible to tell the whole story (barring legal issues, which are the bane of the non-fiction writer).
Do you have a guilty reading pleasure? I read a lot. As much as I can possibly cram in – I always have several books on the go at once. I don’t have a guilty reading pleasure as such but I have to confess I much prefer modern American literature over British, e.g., David Foster Wallace, William Gass, Thomas Pynchon and William Gaddis. The Americans (I think) are much more ambitious with their literature than we are.
Your books explore some disturbing subjects, such as child-trafficking. Does it ever get to you? Yes. You can’t write about these topics and meet the people involved without it affecting you. Nina helps to keep me sane – and I do a lot of extreme sport to clear my mind (although this can backfire – I once had to write a book with a broken hand).
Which book has impressed you most this year? Non fiction: The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate The World by Evgeny Morozov (he has a new book out now, To Save Everything, Click Here, which I’m about to start). Morozov makes out the case (correctly) that
the Internet isn’t as great as gurus and governments have been telling us – and if I could also sneak in You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier, a fascinating look at the future (right now, I’m halfway through his new book, Who Owns the Future? which has some interesting things to say about the destiny of the book). Fiction: Middle C by William Gass. A literary heavyweight still killing it at 88-years-old. It’s a tale, anarchically told, of crimes against humanity and why we humans have several selves – wild stuff.
What’s your next project? I’m working on the BBC adaptation of The Interceptor (to be broadcast on BBC1 next autumn), a radio play about cybercrime, three non-fiction books (all collaborations – with a dominatrix, an art detective and a ‘hacker’) and one novel.
Will you share some of your secret London places? I live in East London and love escaping to the Hollow Ponds of Leytonstone or the lakes of Wanstead Flats and feeding the ducks, swans, coots and those weird geese-y things with crazy orange eyes. I think I might go now, in fact … In town, there’s the Courthouse Hotel in Great Marlborough Street. It used to be a courthouse and the cells are now private drinking rooms (with original doors). Mick Jagger was fined for drugs possession here in 1969 but Keith Richards outdid him in 1973 when he was fined £205 for possession of marijuana, heroin, mandrax, a revolver and an antique shotgun. Then there’s the Phoenix Bar below the Phoenix Theatre in Charing Cross Road and the Star Café and Bar in Hollen Street, both secret places full of history and atmosphere.
Joey Goebel Which book most influenced you when growing up?
About Joey Born in Henderson, Kentucky, Joey is primarily known for his novels The Anomalies, Torture the Artist, Commonwealth, and I Against Osborne. Sometimes labelled satire or literary fiction, Goebel calls his novels “literary comedies.” Though his peculiar books have earned him cult status in the United States, he is an established name in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, where he goes on reading tours every several years. Published by Diogenes Verlag, Europe’s largest literary publisher, his success in the German domain has led to his books being translated into sixteen languages. The Anomalies was a 2003 Booksense 76 Selected Title, a 2004 finalist for a Writers Notes Book Award, and a 2004 nominee for the Kentucky Literature Award. Torture the Artist was published in 2004. Renamed Vincent for its German translation, Torture the Artist went on to sell over 80,000 German copies, and won the Jury of Young Readers Prize (Austria); Torture was long listed for the first Dylan Thomas Literary Prize (Wales); and both Vincent and Freaks were made into short-run stage plays. Since then, Commonwealth was published in 2008 and in 2013, originally in German, I Against Osborne (Ich gegen Osbourne). Goebel continues to live in Kentucky with his wife and son. His noncreative interests are watching WWE professional wrestling; learning to speak German; and watching movies and a few TV shows. http://joeygoebel.com/
I’m going to give you a predictable answer – The Catcher in the Rye. Any teenager reading that book ... how could you not identify with Holden Caulfield? Although as an English instructor, after assigning that book to my students, turns out there are some teenagers in America who do not identify with Holden Caulfield. For which I scolded them. ‘You are wrong. This is a good book.’
Isn’t it also about time? Periods of time? Yes, it’s a classic case of a boy who feels he was born too late.
Is there a book you were supposed to love but didn’t? Or one you expected to hate and fell for?
Describe your writing space – what’s in it and why?
In college I took Modern World Literature and they gave us The Stranger. When the teacher said you’re going to be reading Albert Camus, I thought, I don’t know about this. But it really struck a chord with me and became one of my favourite books.
I write in a sun room, a tiny little space cluttered with my wife’s things, my things and a desk which is much too small and gets cluttered again seconds after I clean it.
Can I ask about Dr Lawyer? How far has your song-writing influenced your novels?
What is it about your work that appeals to German-speaking audiences? The biggest reason is the publishing house is just so damn good. I don’t have to tell you about the reputation of Diogenes. They’re the best at what they do, and I’m not just saying that because my editor’s sitting five feet away.
There’s not much overlap. I try to separate my music, Dr Lawyer, because it’s supposed to be a hobby. It’s supposed to be escapism to get away from fiction-writing. However, I seem to have a talent for sucking the fun out of everything I do and the hobby becomes just another piece of drudgery.
Would you ever write a book set outside the US?
Furthermore, more people read in the German domain. In Switzerland, Austria, Germany, it’s hard to avoid a bookstore. In deep contrast to America. My hometown contains zero bookstores. The next city has a huge mall which contains ... zero bookstores. So there are more readers in Germany, especially of literary fiction.
I would. I would write a book outside the US and outside this universe. We know there’s probably a multiverse, an infinite amount of universes, so I would write one in an alternate Earth – maybe it’d be called Quearth.
Do you have a word or phrase that you most overuse?
Krankenwagen (ambulance), schmutzig (dirty), neunundzwanzig (twenty-nine).
I know you’re learning German. What are your three favourite German words?
You know what, I use the word ‘the’ a lot. T.H.E. So I checked out the thesaurus but it’s real hard to avoid. German speakers are lucky, you got three.
I get the impression your books are about the tensions between character and environment. Do you see them that way? That is very close. If I were to be more specific, I would say the theme of each novel is the individual versus some institution. Or system or establishment. I Against Osbourne, the latest one, is about the school which represents a whole lot of things and how the system squashes the nonconformers.
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Judge: Sue Grafton Sue Grafton is published in 28 countries and 26 languages—including Estonian, Bulgarian, and Indonesian. She’s an international bestseller with a readership in the millions. She’s a writer who believes in the form that she has chosen to mine: “The mystery novel offers a world in which justice is served. Maybe not in a court of law,” she has said, “but people do get their just desserts.” And like Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, Robert Parker and the John D. MacDonald—the best of her breed—she has earned new respect for that form. Her readers appreciate her buoyant style, her eye for detail, her deft hand with character, her acute social observances, and her abundant storytelling talents. www.suegrafton.com/sue-grafton.php
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Arse and Elbow Location, Locals and Dialect By Derek Duggan
There is no easier way to get things wrong when writing a book than with the location. This is one of the main areas that favours the lazy writer because, even with tons of research, the chances are you’ll make a total pig’s shitpipe of it. And it’s not because some pedant will come along and say – I think you’ll find you can’t make a left turn onto Parliament Street because it’s a one way system. No. It’s because locations are full of locals. And there’s nothing worse than getting the indigenous people wrong. It’s all very well describing a city beautifully and using its landmarks as a backdrop, but if it’s not full of authentic local characters then really, what’s the point? You can have a shot at making them seem real but it takes a skilled hand to not let them descend into stereotype – Jaques ran towards the Eifel Tower at full tilt, cloves of garlic spilling from his pocket as
some pretty girls and then, grasping his baguette tightly to his chest, he carried on. - And you get the idea with that. Another problem with this approach is the temptation to slip into writing in dialect. Here’s the rule on that one – Unless you’re writing in your own one, don’t fucking do it. Ever. Despite what people on various peer review sites tell you, it never sounds authentic. The desire to do it is akin to thinking you’ll be OK to drive home after ten pints while on the phone and reading your newspaper. Even if you’re married to someone who speaks in your target dialect and you listen to them all day every day you will still make an absolute festering antelope’s rectum of it. Your spouse won’t say anything to you, in fact they’ll probably praise you for your effort, but it’s the same sort of familial encouragement normally heaped on seriously deluded X Factor contestants. The results are always the same Mario was tired. The four hour flight from Rome to Dublin had made him irritable in a way that he hadn’t anticipated and all he wanted was a nice glass of wine and a shot of coffee. He approached the bar.
Seamus, ‘sure we do be only havin de aul pints a stout in all an anyways.’ And you can see where there might be pitfalls with that. The next option is to pick an exotic location and then just fill it with characters who behave in exactly the same way as the people from your neck of the woods, like Dan Brown does. This is a good option because plenty of the general public seem to operate on the principle that everyone in the world is more or less the same as them. This means you don’t have to spend two pages explaining some throwaway reference your character has made. ‘Well I sure as hell didn’t expect the goddam internet to be so gosh darn slow,’ said Umfufu as she emerged from her mud hut. Another way to go is to simply make up the place you’re writing about. This system is especially favoured by horror writers. This has the advantage of not having to do any research at all. You are free to make up not only the geography of the place, but also, more importantly, the locals. You can even give them their own dialect if you like - it will probably still be unbearably shit, but you shouldn’t let
You can go the whole hog and invent absolutely everything by just writing a fantasy novel. However, lazy writers beware – if you’re going to do this, in order for you to truly make your new world feel right, you’re going to have to invent special languages for your elves to write endless tedious poetry and songs in as this is the only acceptable way to advance your plot (which will, of course, be a thinly veiled version of Star Wars) he leaped over a man on a black bicycle with a string of onions around his neck. He almost tripped as his foot caught the cyclists black beret. ‘Zut alors!’ he exclaimed as he staggered over the cobbles, his unfiltered cigarette bouncing on his lips and seeming to punctuate the sounds. A bullet whizzed by his ear, almost causing him to drop his accordion. He paused briefly to chat up
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‘De name do be Seamus O Toole, begorrah,’ said the barman in a friendly way. ‘What aul sort of an aul drink is it dat I can be getting you of an aul day like it do be today?’ ‘I’d-a like-a a-a glass-a wine-a and-a a-a cup-a coffee-a,’ said Mario. ‘Be de hokey and be dad and begorrah,’ said
that stop you. We stared down at the horribly mutilated corpse on the floor; its empty ocular cavities gazed blindly back at us. ‘Who could have done this?’ I asked. ‘Deys do com’ ou’ de waaaaalls,’ said Frankel, his ballcock sized Adam’s apple bobbing
Quite Short Stories and Poetry
up and down as he spoke. ‘An’ deys et yo peepers ou’ yar skal.’ ‘Deys?’ I said. ‘Aye, deys de ones,’ he said, taking a step closer to his sister/wife. ‘Uhmmm, OK,’ I said. You can go the whole hog and invent absolutely everything by just writing a fantasy novel. However, lazy writers beware – if you’re going to do this, in order for you to truly make your new world feel right, you’re going to have to invent special languages for your elves to write endless tedious poetry and songs in as this is the only acceptable way to advance your plot (which will, of course, be a thinly veiled version of Star Wars). Still, although there are plenty of people with nothing better to do than to learn off these languages, you can get away with this for the most part by slapping down a load of random letters and apostrophes because the vast majority of readers would rather drink a sock full of donkey sick than actually struggle through those parts. This also helps to bulk up the requisite two hundred thousand words that are necessary for every instalment of this type of book, of which there must be at least three. ‘How did you come by your sword, Pth’whark?’ said Flp’thwonky. Pth’whark sat by the fire and in the manner of the elves of the forest he began to keen in a quiet and beautiful voice in the tongue of the ancient order of the Poets of Tedium. ‘Eknithopy thander spoor’it enty, Yak me burgin ahjople, Pygost te jergin atr’si enty, Crdeg tha’psy cruudneg ber’ople.’ Enlightened thus, Flp’thwonky lay his little Dibbet head down on his Chata’rk pillow and, having never before heard a tale of such sorrow and beauty, cried himself to sleep. And there you have it. Glad I could help.
My Illiterate Mother by Fabiyas M V A software to read and write is not installed in my mom’s system. We download pages of ignorance. Sometimes, her monitor is blank. Our neighbors wake up hearing the divine songs from a rural temple, when I jump up listening to the metal words rattling in the kitchen. She pours calumnies into the ear-buckets nearby from her vast tank. They are pores on her palms, and her liquid money always leaks through. My dad is often tossed on her tongue. Today the sea is serene. I hear the roar of some unnamed anxieties from her white shell. I grew up on her barren lap. My tap-root went down so deep. I resisted the droughts. Thanks ,Mom. I owe you for all my burning blooms.
About Fabiyas He was born at Orumanayur village of Thrissur District in Kerala State in India in 1974. Presently he works as an English teacher in a Government Higher School in India. He won Poetry Soup International Award, organised by Poetrysoup, an online community in U S A in 2011, and also in 2012.He had won a Winning Entry Prize by the British Council in 2011. He had also won RSPCA Pet Poetry Contest, U K and Whistle Press Poetry Contest,India in 2012. Moonlight and Solitude is his first book, a collection of poems published by raspberry books, Calicut,India.Forward Poetry, U K, Pendle War Poetry U K etc. have published his poems. All India Radio had broadcast his poems.
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By Heather Parker This day had started like any other - foreboding, threatening and ordinary. I’d got used to seeing every day that way during the last few months. It wasn’t that anything dreadful was happening to me - I just couldn’t stop believing it was about to. I still went to work at the library every day. I’d been brought up to think you didn’t give in to this sort of thing. You ought to be able to cope with life. And I suppose to most of the people around me, it seemed I did. Simon and the kids still saw me as the reliable wife and mother I’d always been. Not a woman terrified of what each new day might bring... But I realized this day wasn’t like any other when I found the old battered photograph album - and started looking through the sepia pictures. I stared at the images, my hands shaking. Why did these photographs look so familiar? I had never seen this album before, and yet these people weren’t strangers. They were my family. No... that couldn’t be right. I felt as if the images were calling out to me, and I knew I had to follow. Some small part of me wanted to be sensible. But I couldn’t put the intense sense of recognition out of my mind. These pictures were not simply remnants of the lives of people long since dead and gone, they were my memories, pieces of my world. I saw the farmhouse where I used to live, the one Simon had built with his own hands. I saw the apple tree loaded with blossom, the stable where we kept our horses, the small family graveyard where Simon’s parents were laid. I saw the places I had visited day after day, night after night in my lonely dreams. These pictures offered me something I had only dreamt of. Tranquility. I had to take the chance this was real, not a dream. I was hardly ever off work, and yet I walked out of that library without a word of explanation and took the bus into the hills. I don’t think I expected ever to return.
*** I wondered vaguely what would happen when it went dark up here. Would I die of hypothermia? I hadn’t told anyone where I was going and I was cold. The wind blew the damp mist against my cheeks and with it a breath of reality. I thought briefly about trying to go back, but that prospect seemed as bleak as the featureless scenery surrounding me. During that moment of uncertainty, I saw the light. Not a blinding flash of clarity, but a real light coming from a window ahead of me. The daylight was fading, but I pushed my aching body on through the mist. I needed to find the people who lived here, yet I was afraid. In my imagined world, they were warm and kind and they loved me. I had a fulfilling peaceful life and I didn’t worry constantly. But were they real? *** “Thank God you’re back, Emma. We were just about to send out a search party.” I jumped and turned to face the man I knew as my husband. He was so familiar it didn’t seem disturbing. The same untidy fair hair, which always refused to obey a comb. The soft Cumbrian accent. “Simon?” I whispered, welcoming the warmth of his voice, not wanting to question. “Who else would be daft enough to be out on the moors on a night like this? Looking for you,” he emphasised, putting his arm round my shoulders. It felt so real - so good. I noticed his clothes were almost a century out of date, and the welcoming glow from the window was soft candlelight. As it was in my dream. Was I going mad? Was I so anxious to escape the struggle of everyday living, I was imagining this world? I knew I should be frightened but I wasn’t. I wanted it to be real. I needed to believe. I took a chance. “Are Maggie and David at home?” Simon looked taken aback. “Course they are. It’s only a few hours since you left them. Are you feeling all right, love?” I smiled at him and nodded. ìI was miles away. Daydreaming.î “Aren’t you always?” he chuckled, as he opened the farmhouse door.
I asked the elderly bus driver to stop and I continued my pilgrimage on foot. I stopped to catch my breath and gazed out across the desolate, lonely fells. I still wasn’t sure what had brought me to this place. I simply kept going, pushing further and further into the fog. In my mind I could see an old pony and trap, making its uncomfortable way home from town after market, stumbling up the muddy track onto the empty fells. Perhaps I’d seen an old painting somewhere, perhaps I’d seen it in a dream. The wind moaned across the moors as I climbed higher. It was getting colder and the light was fading. I still clutched the album, not caring if I should have taken it from the library. It was mine. A woman has a right to her own memories, doesn’t she? I stared once more at the photographs. The stone farmhouse still calling to me after all these years. The family, whose pictures appeared on these pages, drawing me to this wild place. I had been here before. When I was feeling bad, I would retreat into an imaginary world where I was at peace and happy. Everyday worries didn’t exist and reality couldn’t intrude and spoil everything. It helped to keep me sane - if indeed I was. The pictures in this album mirrored my secret world perfectly, down to the house on the moors, my precious retreat. I knew I had to find out what was happening or I would regret it for the rest of my life.
After a few weeks, I stopped trying to work out how this miracle could have happened. Or which life was real and which was imaginary. Life truly was simpler in 1914, and I was happy and at peace. Maggie was an easy child and David a normal teenager, with everything that entails. I was beginning to understand the concept of hope and I was looking forward to the future with confidence. I tried not to think about that other world and settled quietly into the role of farmer’s wife with Simon, whom I loved dearly. But my dream was shattered one terrible day when David returned from the village and made his dreadful announcement. My seventeenyear-old son had volunteered to fight in the Great War. I still remember the horror his words evoked in me. I grabbed the table for support, as I saw it play out in front of me in an instant. The letter informing us that David had been killed in action, the tear-filled funeral, the polished gravestone we set beside those of his grandparents. But there had been no photographs of the funeral in the album. No, this could not be happening, no... I didn’t realize I was saying that word over and over. “No, no, no!” David was shocked by my reaction. “Oh, ma, every lad in the village is joining up. We’ll be all right ñ we’re all going to be in the same regiment.” “But David, you’ve no idea what you’re getting into. There’ll be hundreds of thousands of lads like you killed or maimed in the next four
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Quite Short Stories and Poetry years.” David looked at me, strangely, and then across at his father. “You’ve said a few things like that lately, love,” murmured Simon. “How can you possibly know what’s going to happen - or how long this war will last?” “Everyone says it’ll be over in a few months,” added David, scornfully. “I thought you’d be proud of me.” How could I explain? Perhaps the other world was just in my mind. My heart started to beat faster and I felt the familiar sweat breaking out on my face. Nausea threatened to overwhelm me and I rushed out of the house into the cold, sharp air of the moors. How could this happen? How could my perfect world be shattered so easily? I was having trouble breathing. I knew I was losing consciousness. *** When I opened my eyes, Simon was sitting by my bed and holding my hand. His eyes were full of pain. “Am I in the cottage hospital?” I asked, confused. “You’re in Kendal hospital, love. Don’t you remember anything?” I was puzzled. Of course I did. “I know I had a dizzy spell when David told me he’d enlisted. But I must have passed out after that.” Simon looked bewildered. “Enlisted for what?” “For the war, of course. He’ll be shipping out to France in a few weeks. But he’ll get himself killed, Simon, believe me.” Simon spoke firmly. “Emma, you’ve had some kind of a breakdown. David’s doing his A levels in the spring and going on to Durham University in October.” He let that sink in and continued. “You left the library yesterday lunchtime and disappeared. We were all frantic with worry. We searched the places we thought you might have gone but there was no sign anywhere. Then this morning, two walkers found you unconscious up on the moors. The police said it was as remote an area as you could get. If those two hadn’t found you, you would almost certainly have died.” Simon’s voice broke and he put his head in his hands. He was trembling. “Or is that what you wanted, Emma?”
uniform that could well be from the First World War.” *** After I shut the door, I sank to the floor, my heart pounding. I had asked Simon about the album, but he said he couldn’t find it. It wasn’t with me when the ambulance brought me to the hospital, and the police had gone through my bag. Everyone said it was part of my illness and it couldn’t really exist. No one had looked in the pocket of my coat - until now. I slowly opened the fragile book and stared down at the faded photos. I could see they were Simon, Maggie and David. They had the same faces as the people I was living with now. But these photographs were from 1914 and my David was wearing khaki uniform. He was standing in front of a lonely stone farmhouse high up on the moors - and this time I noticed the figure standing closest to him. It was faded and it was in sepia. But I could hardly fail to recognise myself. About Heather Heather Parker is a freelance British writer and has won several literary competitions including the 2009 Benjamin Franklin House / Daily Telegraph Literary Prize for Professional Writers. Her stories often appear in UK and US magazines, including The People’s Friend, The Weekly News, Bella Online and Space and Time. She has had two novels published by Drollerie Press, and mystery novellas published by Wild Child Publishing and Untreed Reads. Her stories also regularly appear in anthologies including the Out of Line Peace and Justice Anthology, Hoi Polloi Literary Journal, Bridge House Publishing, The Sunpenny Publishing Anthology, 50 Stories for Pakistan, and Stories for Sendai. http://www.heatherparker.co.uk <http://www.heatherparker.co.uk>
*** A month has passed since that dreadful day and I’m starting to feel better. I’ve talked to doctors and, more importantly, to my family. Simon was horrified to learn what I’d been going through and angry and hurt that I hadn’t confided in him earlier. Gradually he came to understand and he and the children have been kind and patient with me. I don’t know what happened during those hours, although I’m certain I didn’t go up there to die. The other life was still real to me. But I knew with the help of my family, I had to move forward and try not to think about it anymore. I was glad to be back in this world, where my David was safe and sound. *** This morning I opened the door and took the coat from the laundryman standing on the step. I shuddered, realising it was the one I’d worn that night on the moors. Simon must have sent it for cleaning while I was in hospital. “Now, lass, you should be more careful with your stuff. You were lucky you didn’t lose this in the wash!” The jovial man passed me a battered old photograph album someone had found in the pocket. “Looks to be quite an age, too. There’s a picture of a young lad in
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(n.) A book thatâ€™s out of place due to having been misfiled in the library or just shoved back onto a bookshelf when tidying in haste. If your shelf containing selected volumes of the works of Jane Austen suddenly includes Fifty Shades of Grey, then the latter book is a melander. Melanders are also prominent in the token book section you get in major music stores, which rather unsettlingly seem to include all your favourite books because theyâ€™re considered cool by teenage boys who are cultivating that pale and interesting look. Melanders in music shops often include Slaughterhouse 5, American Psycho, Blood Meridian, The Dice Man, Catch-22 and On the Road, filed next to Pride and Prejudice
A poster for your wall, from the creators of WWJ
An extract from A Dictionary of Linguistic Absurdities, First Edition
and Vampires and Sense and Sensibility and Zombies. A token copy of the real Pride and Prejudice is also a melander that has been put there for girls who dress in black and aspire to look consumptive.
First Draft By Susan Oke
I sit at my workstation in a pool of light, oblivious to the gathering dark, and pour myself on to the page. Eyes closed I see, hear, taste and smell the world beyond. Shouts filter up from downstairs, perhaps an attack by pirates, or a battle along the stairs to repel battle droids. Laughter, wailing, silence (brief), and back to the clack of plastic swords. ‘I won’t go to the darkside!’ My three-year-old grandson shouts. Don’t be distracted. Weave it in. It’s all part of the story. I wait for the words to coalesce, to organise themselves into the right order. That’s it, I’ve caught the essence of it; there’ll be time later for the cut and thrust of the editor’s blade. Move on, I tell myself. I can’t help it, eyes flick back to the beginning. Re-read, re-write. Feet up, hot chocolate, eyes closed. Re-run, re-live and realise. Oh, that’s why he did it! Why didn’t I see it before? Now I can push on. First it’s the bladder and then it’s the stomach, bodily needs and functions interrupt the creative flow. Better not complain, escaping the workstation and stretching the legs often dislodges a truth and I return to the page, words jostling to fall from pen or fingertips. Three days straight—seven ‘til seven—and I’ve got over the hump, the part I needed to write but didn’t want to, the part that has hounded me day and night, demanding expression, demanding to be recognised. And there it is, the first draft done. But it won’t leave me alone, because I know the ending isn’t right. There are questions that still need answering, more reasons and consequences to discover. It has to fit, to lock together. So nights are interrupted by urgent scribbling, ideas that must be committed to paper, whether I can find my glasses or not. And mornings are spent puzzling over the spider-web scrawl filling my notebook. Tired. It’s time for someone else to read it. To point out all the flaws that I know are there, and salve the hurt with the few good bits that they really liked. And Space. I need space to step away and forget for awhile. It’s time to brandish my lightsaber and join my grandsons in their epic (and ever ongoing) battle against General Grievous and his minions. Maybe this time they’ll let me be a good guy. Reinvigorated. It’s time to cut away all the dross. I grit my teeth and smile through the pain. Susan has had a number of short stories published, and is currently working towards completing her MA in Creative Writing. She is now focusing on her first novel. You can find Susan at Susanmayoke@wordpress.com
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The Ministry of Wishful Displacement By Maureen Bowden
It was Friday, 5.30pm. I’d cleared my desk, logged out of the World Wide Displacement Detector, and was about to head home, when Richard III walked in. He was in full armour, customised to accommodate the hump, fresh from the battle of Bosworth Field, no doubt. ‘What brave new world is this?’ he said. That’s more or less what they all say. ‘Thy door was not barricaded and I required safety from the roaring monsters encased in coloured metal, moving by witchcraft.’ At least his language was decipherable. That was a relief. Fifteenth century English is a doddle compared to teenage gangsta gobbledegook. ‘Welcome to the Ministry of Wishful Displacement, known as the MWD,’ I said, ‘not to be confused with WMD. That means something altogether different.’ We always make a little joke to put the visitors at ease. ‘Sit down and take your armour off.’ He removed the helmet; breastplate; back bit, complete with hump accommodation; and an impressive codpiece that was giving me a headache. He dumped various other accoutrements on the floor, and flopped down on the couch. ‘I can help you to return home, Your Majesty,’ I said, ‘but there’s no hurry. You can stay overnight for a rest.’ ‘Thou knowest me?’ he said. ‘Only by reputation. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Carolina Moon.’ My parents had a sense of humour but not an iota of parental compassion. ‘I am honoured to meet thee, Mistress Moon.’ ‘Please, call me Carrie. What was the last thing you were thinking before you turned up here?’ I said. ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.’ ‘I thought so. You were probably meant to materialise in Ladbrokes, next door.’ ‘Is that where I would find a horse?’ ‘In a manner of speaking. You could place a wager on which horse would win a race.’ ‘And if the horse won, it would be mine?’ ‘No, sorry, but it wouldn’t do you much good on Bosworth Field, anyway.’ His eyes held a haunted look. ‘Why is that so?’ Whoops, I’d nearly slipped up there. We have a strict rule never to tell anyone the fate to which we have to send them back. If we did they’d all do a runner, our cities would be teeming with historical asylum seekers demanding their human rights and it would play havoc with the stability of time lines. Luckily, we’re trained to cover up gaffes. ‘They’re racehorses, not battle horses,’ I said. ‘Put them on a battlefield and they’d be off, looking for the nearest fence to leap over. Anyway, it’s too late to sort things out today. I’m about to go home.’
Quite Short Stories and Poetry I checked the weekend rota to see who’d have to take charge of Richard. Oh, no, I thought. It was Nicholas Goole-Pinkerton, the nauseating waste of space who was only given a job with the MWD because his Uncle George had a close friend who knew a woman who had a juicy piece of information about the murky past of a leading politician. I couldn’t leave a helpless Plantagenet to the tender mercy of the ghoul, as we called him. ‘You can have my spare room for the weekend,’ I said. ‘We’ll get you back home next week.’ I delved into the emergency wardrobe and pulled out a purple and green nineteen-eighties shell suit that looked approximately the right size. It would do for now. ‘Put that on and let’s go.’ I wanted him out of the way before the ghoul arrived. He probably hadn’t bothered to turn his detector on yet but I wasn’t taking chances. ‘Thou art most kind, Mistress Carrie, but please explain how I came to this place.’ ‘I will, on the way home.’ He accepted my assurance that the internal combustion engine ran on petrol, not demonology, and he joined me in the car. The lights and sounds of the city fascinated him so I took him to Starbucks. We sipped our cappuccino and I told him about the scientific experiment that went wrong at the end of the twentieth-century, resulting in particularly strong willed people from any historical era being able to wish themselves into another time and place. ‘It had something to do with erratic behaviour of electrons and cracks in the space-time continuum,’ I said. ‘Don’t ask me to explain, Richard. It makes as much sense to me as a chocolate wok. I doubt if even the clever people understand it, although they pretend they do.’ ‘I knowest of a Leonardo who might offer his services.’ ‘He well might, but unfortunately, he never wished himself into the twenty-first century.’ ‘Methinks he was too clever to do so.’ ‘You have a point. Anyway, the MWD was formed to deal with the situation. We have to send the visitors back. Leaving holes in history could cause unforeseen problems.’ His shoulders slumped even more than usual. ‘Cheer up,’ I said. ‘Whenever you go back you’ll arrive at the same time you left. It would look a bit odd if someone returned twenty years older than they were a second ago, but a couple of days won’t be noticeable, as long as they don’t have forty-eight hours growth of facial hair, of course.’ ‘Thou hast cheered my heart, Mistress Carrie,’ he said, ‘but tell me, please, what is a chocolate wok?’ Next day I took him shopping for clothes. His eyes followed a group of youngsters in hooded jackets swaggering through the shopping mall talking gibberish. ‘They walkest like me,’ he said. ‘Such a garment as that wouldst hide the hump.’ I thought he was being optimistic but I said, ‘If you want a hoodie you shall have a hoodie.’ When we arrived at the office on Monday morning the ghoul was lounging on the couch swirling Richard’s sword around his head. ‘Put that down,’ I said, struggling to keep my voice level. It would be unprofessional to lose my temper in front of a visitor. He made an obscene gesture with the sword before lowering it. ‘In view of the ironmongery around here, the osteologically challenged hoodie is, no doubt, the unlamented Richard III.’ He sprang over the back of the couch and wagged his finger in Richard’s face. ‘We’d better get you home, laddie. There are no princes in a tower round here for you to murder.’ Richard moved so fast I had no chance to stop him before I heard the whack of his fist on the ghoul’s face. He turned to me. ‘I didst my duty,’ he said. ‘The country could not
be left in the hands of a child.’ He clasped both my hands in his. ‘Thou must understand, Mistress Carrie. My nephews had to die so that I could claim the throne and keep England safe.’ ‘You were a man of your time,’ I said. ‘It’s not my place to judge you. I know you did what you thought was right.’ The ghoul struggled to his feet rubbing his jaw. ‘So, Miss Moonface is sweet on the crookback psycho, is she?’ he said. ‘I thought he was supposed to be a villain, not a lover.’ ‘I didn’t know you were familiar with Shakespeare.’ ‘Talking of Shakespeare,’ he said, ‘you’ve got an email about him from our man in Bangkok.’ ‘Have you been hacking into my computer again? I’m warning you, Nicholas, stop it, or I’ll make sure you get the sack.’ ‘Oh, I don’t think so, Carolina. I have influential friends, remember?’ He snatched his designer leather jacket from the arm of the couch and strutted to the hallway. ‘I’m giving myself the day off. The relocator’s charged up. Do your job. We don’t want a repeat of the Joan of Arc fiasco.’ He slammed the door. ‘That is a rancorous enemy,’ said Richard, returning the sword to its scabbard. With the emphasis on rank, I thought, as I accessed my emails. I found the one from Colin Spencer, in Bangkok, ‘Carrie, visitor alert: Shakespeare wished he could find the perfect male actor to play Rosalind for the first staging of As You Like It. He’s currently all loved-up with a lady boy in a Thai brothel and he’s enjoying himself so much he won’t come out. As I can’t get him back to the office I need a portable relocator. Bring one asap. Thanks. Colin.’ ‘Richard,’ I said, ‘have you ever wondered what it’s like to fly?’ ‘No, fair Mistress, but I have often wondered what it is like to stand up straight.’ Our eyes met. I realised I’d never seen him smile. That was when I knew I wasn’t going to send him back. ‘We’ll see what we can do about that another day, but in the meantime the sky awaits us.’ I shoved my portable relocator in its case, and retrieved my permanently packed overnight bag from the bottom of the wardrobe. ‘Come on,’ I said, leading him back to the car park. I drove to the private airfield where the MWD planes are held in readiness and fifteen minutes later, at 10. 00am, we were on our way to meet the Bard. The food and toilet facilities are considerably better than those provided by commercial airlines so we had a comfortable journey. I slept some of the time but I doubt if Richard did. He was like a child opening his eyes for the first time, to vistas beyond his comprehension. He looked down on the clouds, then he looked up. ‘How far from here is Heaven?’ he said. ‘Further than a plane can take us.’ Due to the time zone difference it was 8.00 am on Tuesday morning when we arrived. Colin was waiting. He drove us to the MWD courtesy suite where we showered and breakfasted. A range of clothing in all shapes and sizes was provided for historical visitors. I selected a clean outfit for Richard, but he’d fallen asleep on the bed. ‘Just as well,’ said Colin. He might have found it distressing seeing old Will relocated. I’ll make sure someone takes care of him until we return. Why did you bring him anyway?’ ‘The ghoul was getting trigger-happy,’ I said. ‘He doesn’t believe in giving them a bit of fun before we send them back to die.’ ‘What a twerp,’ he said. ‘You know his Uncle George, don’t you? Can’t you persuade him to take the blighter back into the bosom of the family?’ ‘No chance, Carrie. They can’t stand him. They’ve done their duty by finding him a cushy job and they’d be happy never to clap eyes on him again.’ He squeezed my hand. ‘I’m afraid you’re stuck with him, old love.’ He drove us to the exotic love nest where England’s finest had found his Dark Lady and his Lovely Boy in one package. ‘What happened to your own portable relocator?’ I asked.
Quite Short Stories | 29
‘It was irreparably damaged in the fracas with Attila the Hun a few years ago. I’ve requisitioned a replacement but I’m still waiting.’ ‘Did you ever manage to relocate Attila?’ ‘Not a hope. He found another way to screw the enemy and rule the world, running a hotel and casino in Las Vegas.’ ‘Do you keep in touch?’ ‘Yep. He gives me a discount on the weekend deals.’ Colin parked on the pavement near a narrow doorway.’ Here’s the place. Shall I do it or do you want to come in and meet the Bard.’ ‘I’m coming in. Lead on, MacDuff.’ Will was alone when we reached the boudoir ‘She could not be my Rosalind,’ he said. ‘She was perfect but for the language difficulty. I must look nearer home.’ I turned to Colin, ‘How come he speaks modern English?’ I said. ‘He picked it up in no time, even in Bangkok.’ ‘Get dressed Master Shakespeare,’ I said, tossing him his doublet. ‘Where’s your ruff?’ We turned our backs, and while he dressed I said, ‘Tell me one thing. How did you know that Richard III said ‘a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse?’ ‘If Crookback did indeed say that, fair lady,’ he said, ‘life must have been imitating art.’ When he was decent I aimed the relocator. ‘Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest,’ I said.’ His eyes sparkled, ‘I must write that down.’ ‘Don’t worry, Bard, I said, ‘You will.’ I pulled the trigger. On the flight back home Richard said, ‘Sweet Carrie, the rancorous enemy spoke of Joan of Arc. Was this the maid of Orleans who bedevilled my imbecile cousin, Henry VI?’ ‘It was,’ I said, ‘When she was tied to the stake and getting uncomfortably hot she wished to be somewhere cold and wet. We picked her up wading ashore at Dover with singed eyebrows and an irritating cough, due to smoke inhalation.’ I cast my mind back to poor schizophrenic Jeanne. We couldn’t send her back to be burned to death. She’s deputy stage manager at the Sydney Opera House now, putting her flair for theatricals to good use. As long as she keeps taking the pills the only voices that bother her are the ones coming from the stage, so she wears earmuffs to protect her from the onslaught of the sopranos. Richard was watching me reminisce. ‘You saved her?’ he said. I nodded. ‘Then save me. I knowest Henry Tudor will kill me and steal my throne.’ ‘The problem is, Richard, we mustn’t leave historical anomalies. It wasn’t an issue with Jeanne. We knew the Church fathers would cover up her disappearance. The last thing they would have wanted was the populace muttering about a miracle. They probably chucked a few pig bones into the ashes.’ ‘I have to go back so that the armies can see me die?’ ‘Not if I can help it, but I need to work out what to do.’ When we arrived back at the office the ghoul was prancing about in Richard’s armour, slashing at the air with his sword. Time seemed to slow down as several thoughts tumbled over each through my brain in the space of a split second. The MWD held all his documents from his birth certificate onwards. He wasn’t the only one with influential contacts. I could have a photo replaced on a passport or driving licence with no questions asked. He had no friends and his family loathed him as much as everyone else. I could relocate the armour with him inside it and make the world a better place. He stopped prancing. I think he sensed my intention. I aimed the relocator and before he could scream I pressed the trigger. ‘Richard,’ I said, ‘If you’re prepared to be known as Nicholas GoolePinkerton from now on, there’s a job vacancy for you in my office. I’ll call
30 | Quite Short Stories
you Nick.’ He smiled, and his face became beautiful. The sensuality of Edward II and the fine bones of Eleanor of Aquitaine defined his features. ‘When do I begin?’ he said. ‘Make us both a coffee while I call in a few favours to tidy up loose ends. Oh, and first thing tomorrow we’ll make an appointment with the MWD’s surgeon to find out what can be done about the hump.’ About Maureen I am an ex-patriate Liverpudlian, living with my husband, on Anglesey, where we attempt to avoid the onslaught of two grown-up children, one former foster-daughter and nine grandchildren. I write for fun and I have had ten short stories and four poems accepted for publication.
Flash 500 - The Results We are pleased to publish here the winning entries of the Flash 500 Fiction and Humour Verse Competition, third quarter 2012 Although winning entries of Flash 500 competitions are published in Words with JAM, the competitions are independent, so please make sure you visit www.flash500.com for details on upcoming competitions and closing dates.
Legacy by Moira Ashley Post- Olympics they’ve gone crazy in our sleepy little village there’s not been this much action since the Vikings came to pillage; in the baker’s, giant rock cakes disappear while they’re still hot but they’re not for consumption they’re for those who put the shot. The ducks have fled the duck pond now it’s colonised by yachtsmen on the High Street lycra’d sprinters could outrun the Flying Scotsman. At the WI, members are shedding their girdles their jam’s gone to pot now they’re limbering up for the hurdles. On allotments, sharpened bean poles are being used as javelins, while the vicar beats the postman to complete the fastest mile. They’re boxing at the ‘Black Bull’; it’s Taekwondo at ‘The Crown’ and wrestlers on the village green have knocked the maypole down. The sandpit from the toddler group’s been hi-jacked from the hall but they’ll need a few more truckloads when they play ‘beach’ volleyball. At the Senior Citizens club they are donning their shorts; whist drive abandoned, they’ve turned to competitive sports Well it used to be that any exercise would leave me cold Now, although I’m no Jess Ennis or Mo Farah with their gold I jog daily to the chippy. In my eagerness I stumble: my head is filled with memories of their exploits as I tumble. ‘No pain, no gain,’ I mutter as I land upon my bum I know practising makes perfect: look out Rio, here I come!
Held in Trust by Susan Howe “Trust me,” you said, as you guided me through the school gates. “You’ll love it. They’re the best years of your life.” You hugged me and I could smell your aftershave on my skin for hours afterwards. Whenever I felt afraid, it reminded me of home. “Trust me,” you said, one hand under my chest and the other under my belly. “I won’t let you drown.” You didn’t believe in water wings. That isn’t real swimming, you said, as I watched the other children splashing about in the deep end. “Trust me,” you said, when Mum went into hospital. “We’ll get through this together, like we always do.” You were right. My life didn’t change that much. You took me to school and out for Friday treats, the same as ever. My uniform looked a bit scruffy and the fridge was empty, but Mum came home and seemed okay, except that she got tired and couldn’t eat much. “Trust me,” you said, when the other kids laughed at me for getting fat. “They’re only jealous. Men like something to get hold of. You’re beautiful just as you are.” You handed me a bag of crisps and had one yourself. We sat and watched telly and got a takeaway. We often had them because Mum needed special meals and you said it wasn’t worth cooking for two. “Trust me,” you said, after my only proper friend said you were creepy and she didn’t want to come round any more. “You don’t need her. We can have plenty of fun on our own.” You took me to the cinema, bought me popcorn, and sat with your arm around my shoulders. I wished Mum could have been there too, so we looked like a proper family. “Trust me,” you said, when Mum died. “She’s in a better place. We’ll be fine, you and me.” I tried to be brave, and daytimes weren’t too bad, but at night I heard you crying and that made me cry too. “Trust me,” you said, as you got into bed beside me. “Mum would have wanted us to comfort each other.” You said my bed was too small and made me sleep in yours, but it never felt right. I started to hate the feel of your hands and the smell of your aftershave. I lost weight and you started looking at me as if I frightened you. My teacher noticed how skinny I’d got and took me to the school nurse. That night you said we were better now and I could go back to my own room. The Friday treats stopped, too. “Trust me,” I say, as you lie in hospital, shocked and bruised from an attack outside your front door. “You’re not going to die just yet.” Your eyes snap open, still betraying your fear, after all this time. Now you’re the one who’s small and vulnerable, and you don’t know if I’ve forgiven you. I keep wondering about that myself.
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Where Story Meets Technology by JJ Marsh
Like a Pavlovian pug, I respond to some sensory stimuli with automatic physical responses. The sound of polystyrene, the scent of roasting rosemary, the taste of burnt porridge, the feel of fresh sheets all result in predictable, yet uncontrollable behaviour. As does the sight of certain words. Such as apps, enhanced content, interactive user experience, augmented reality, interdisciplinary content, remediation, discoverability, civic media and interface fluidity. I just finished typing that sentence and looked down to see why the dog was whining. It wasn’t the dog. These terms and concepts make me feel panicked and stressed and clueless. I’ve only just got the hang of hashtags. I know I need to know, but who’s going to explain what it all means? So when I discovered The Literary Platform and its associate site, The Writing Platform, I did something immature and inappropriate. I punched the air. The Literary Platform is dedicated to showcasing projects experimenting at the intersection of literature and technology. http://www. theliteraryplatform.com/ “an inspiring browse around some of the innovative and collaborative experiments taking place in the exciting physical-to-digital realm” Michelle Pauli, The Guardian TLP is a London-based editorial team who also offer consultancy services. They work with various agencies to create apps from Shakespeare to Monty Python to Peppa Pig. In 2012, they ran the Douglas Adams
Animation Competition, to find an animation to complement the prophetic words of Douglas Adams on the Future of the Book. As well as helping the National Literacy Trust launch its Words for Life website, they programmed the second annual FutureBook Innovation Workshop while managing the Fiction Uncovered FM project – a popup digital and FM radio station at Foyles Bookshop in London. They also launched The Writing Platform, (more of which below) and published predictions on digital publishing trends for 2013 from those working in and around the industry. In summary, a handy place to find out what’s happening at the cutting edge. While TLP’s own achievements are impressive, it doesn’t stop there. By curating select content, they inform, educate and update readers, writers, technologists, publishers, booksellers and marketers. Check out Beside Myself, by Jeff Gomez, where the reader can choose the way to experience the novel. Here’s how he does it. You get asked a set of options: “I want to choose my own order” or “I want to choose my own narrator” or “I want to read the story straight through”. And that’s nice. It’s nice because you, as the reader, feel in control. You feel like you are helping to shape the
story, you are somehow playing a part in these narrators’ different fates. For children’s books, the field is wide open. HarperCollins released an animated ebook version of Judith Kerr’s children’s classic, The Tiger Who Came to Tea. The production team worked with iBooks Author – Apple’s free application built specifically for the creation of multi-touch books for the iPad. Tom Conway’s account is an education in story sensitivity and limitations of technology. And the involvement of location, via the use of maps, in something like Mapping the Sillitoe Trail, based on Saturday Night and Sunday Morning intrigued me. “Maps are crucial in accessing Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Sillitoe wrote his Nottingham-based novels with a street plan to hand. From that perspective, he was able to map his own ‘spiritual turmoil’ and the turmoil of others.” Professor David Trotter. The Literary Platform is heavily weighted towards all things Apple, but its generosity in sharing and breadth of inclusion made this a definite Bookmark. So a troglodyte writer can bob along in the slipstream, maybe waving, but definitely not drowning.
The Writing Platform - http://www. thewritingplatform.com/ All writers need to be better informed. We need to have access to clear, neutral, information about digital transformation and how it affects us; we need access to informed opinion and debate. The internet is full of information, of course, and a new future-of-publishing event or conference takes place every couple of minutes somewhere in the world, or so it seems. But very little of this information is aimed directly at writers. And that’s where The Writing Platform comes in; a website for writers, created by people who are dedicated to sharing knowledge and information. Kate Pullinger, Professor of Creative Writing and Digital Media at Bath Spa University This site (and its event programme) is funded by the Arts Council and National Lottery, run by The Literary Platform and Bath University and features content from experts – from Margaret Atwood on social media to Simon Appleby of Bookswarm on best author websites. It’s currently in Beta format, so do give feedback. Three key sections - Resource, Opinion, Experience - take you through the basics in a personal, friendly tone. A glossary explains such stuff as CSS and SEO in perfectly simple terms so even my Nan could understand. Michael Bhaskar on Metadata delivers solid, useful advice; content is broad, encompassing Naomi Alderman on narrative and gaming, and the writers have their eye on exciting opportunities, for example, Joanna Ellis on collaborations. A curious fact which appealed to me, as an indie writer, was this extract from the survey carried out before launching the project: When asked ‘Where do you find out about developments and new opportunities in writing and publishing?’, writers listed websites (85%), other writers (63%) and live events (36%), with less than ten percent mentioning publishers (9.8%). The rise of self-publishing has disrupted the writer-agent-publisher trajectory; the one key thing that the successful self-publisher possesses – and that the successful traditionally published writer often does not – is an insider’s knowledge of how to publish a book. Such a wealth of resources informs all of us, whichever route we take to publication. I’m no longer whining, I’m purring.
On Content – Extras Iterative ebooks Nick Ruffilo, in Publishing Perspectives’ Tips for Technologists, suggests making the most of the updateable advantage of ebooks. “Offer an updated version of the book including an epilogue, along with promotions on the last page for your other books. Alternatively, you could provide additional content, like a newly found letter from the killer in your thriller or a brought-to-light love scene between the two main characters. Reward your customers for buying your books. Anyone who pirates your book loses access to updates, so by frequently updating content, you’re providing additional value to those who pay.” http:// publishingperspectives.com/2013/03/tips-fortechnologists-12-the-iterative-approach-topublishing/
The Disappearing Story Snapchat -- the service that lets you send photos and texts that quickly self-destruct as soon as the recipient has seen them. Impermanence is the point. The app first become popular with teens as a way of ‘sexting’, but the possibilities soon exploded beyond smutty chat and ... erm ... intimate images. Could this be a way of delivering an exclusive, just-for-you, never-seen-again, ethereal stories? Guerilla narrative! Exploding shorts! Poems which vanish, leaving nothing but a residue of emotion in the reader’s soul.
Extra, Extra, Read All About It A development in a different direction Waterstones is selling exclusive extra material in attempt to generate greater loyalty to print. The paperback edition of cover star Joanne Harris’s novel Peaches for Monsieur le Curé contains an extra chapter which won’t appear in copies bought anywhere else. Waterstones also sold limited editions of Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens: A Life, containing gold foil and a map of London. Alexander McCall Smith has written an extra short story only available with the purchase of a print version of his new novel, Trains and Lovers.
Ebooks in, lettuce out The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has added e-books to the basket of goods and services used to calculate inflation as part of its annual review. An ONS spokesman explained: “E-books represent a significant and growing market, with recent increases in the number of people reading books digitally.” Other new items include blueberries and white rum. Items which have been taken out include a bottle of champagne and a round lettuce. http://www.thebookseller.com/news
Random Stuff | 33
Château Ventenac sits on a hill beside the Canal du Midi in the Languedoc region of the South of France. The Château faces south and nearly
every room overlooks our attractive gardens, the canal and lush vineyards,
Inspirational Creative Escapes
with stunning views of the Corbières hills and, on a clear day, the Pyrenees
Poetry & Writing Courses in the south of France at
Château Ventenac Writing & Poetry Workshops, plus Writing Retreats Tutors for 2013 include: Sean O’Brien
Inspiring location beside the Canal du Midi Spectacular views over vineyards to the Pyrenees Lovely gardens and pool, great food We look after you whilst you relax and write
Lovely, thank you! Nothing is too much trouble and you looked after us very, very well, making
feel like a home from home! Thank you. I’ll be back! G. P.
and majestic Mont Canigou. It provides a haven of peace and tranquillity and is the perfect backdrop for our courses, workshops and retreats. Several convenient
well placed for rail and road travel.
Couldn’t have been looked
We can provide transport to & from
after better – Julia, you had
local airports (Carcassonne and Bezi-
just the right touch, relaxed and accommodating. Oh, and great
important to feeling one’s arrived in the right place!) A. S.
ers) and Narbonne railway station.
www.chateaulifecourses.com Contact Julia: +44 (0) 7773 206344 email@example.com
1st prize: £2,000 2nd prize: £400 3rd prize: £200 Closing date: 17 June 2013
Judge: Kathleen Jamie
www.mslexia.co.uk/poetrycompetition 0191 204 8860 firstname.lastname@example.org
budget flights and Ventenac is very
WOMEN’S PAMPHLET 1st prize: Publication of the pamphlet by Seren Books in 2014 Closing date: 17 June 2013
Judge: Amy Wack, poetry editor at Seren Books
www.mslexia.co.uk/pamphletcompetition 0191 204 8860 email@example.com
Comp Corner Corralled by Danny Gillan
‘I love a party with a happy atmosphere’ sang Russ Abbott terribly in 1984. Hellish song. I wonder what happened to him? Is he dead, or did he end up in Eastenders like everyone else from the olden days? Anyway, I digress. Happy atmospheres do not appear to be at the forefront of your writing minds judging by the entries to our last Comp Corner. We asked you to create a mood, a feeling a, yes, atmosphere in just a few short words and without dialogue. And boy, are you all miserable. It’s all fear and tension with you lot, isn’t it? We got some cracking bits of scary prose with loads of suspense and terror. Psychedelia and gigglefits, not so much. Ah well. We only have one prize-winner this time, because we only have one prize. It’s a good one, though. £50 worth of writing books from those lovely people over at Bloomsbury. Without further ado, here’s our big winner. This one stood out from the herd for its conciseness, subtlety and subject matter. It conjures a pleasing mix of apprehension, nervousness, tragedy and despair. I lift the spoon of veg-mush to her popping mouth, and she takes it. She watches me as she pushes it back out, assessing. Seeing if I’ll break. I catch it and wait a moment. My own mouth feels alien; my lips a post-box grin – my teeth fused, jaw locked.
mantelpiece, where beside the photo of his wife, they’d left it. Tick tock replied the bomb. Sharon Boyle Huge congrats to our winners and thanks to everyone who entered. Without you we’d be nothing but idiots typing to ourselves in the dark. For this issue’s competition, let’s have some fun and return to an old favourite – insults! Send us your finest, funniest, most cutting, creative and devastating insults. Prose or dialogue, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s under 40 words and you’re fine. Please avoid insulting real people as we have a very limited legal budget (politicians don’t count, say what you like about them). We’re okay with swearing but unless you’re Malcolm Tucker try to use it creatively rather than relying on it to do the job for you. As is usual, entries in the body of an email to danny@ wordswithjam.co.uk no later than 5th May. Let’s get nasty!
Carlie Lee Congratulations, Carlie. Your prize(s) will be in the post post-haste! Although we only have the one prize, here are a couple of our other favourites for your delectation: Dusk shadowed the forest long before sunset. The trees were still and silent, bound by vines, suffocated by moss. Vague fog drifted but no breeze came to move it along. We pushed on through heat and haze. Whispers shushed in the darkness. Hearts leaped. Feet froze. These whispers spat venom. Elaine Smith
WIN one of three ies cop paperback
Tick tock went the clock. James sweated out a prayer. Somewhere a siren screamed before fading in the wrong direction. They’d bound him wire tight to a chair. He stared at the
Competitions | 35
Is Cyberspace a Place? by Dan Holloway
When I was told the theme for this issue was going to be location, I got very excited – I love writing about places. Places are characters in all my books. Yay! Only...only I write about social media. Boo! And then I thought, hang on a minute. It was only in November that I wrote a piece for the Guardian talking about the way so much contemporary literature deals with the realities of the social media age. Or rather the way it doesn’t. Because, after all, the place many people spend more time than anywhere else is actually cyberspace. Large portions of my two novels of which I am proudest take place online – on blog comments, in chatrooms, on interactive artistic websites. It not only seemed a natural place to set books, but the internet seems to me to be the place where the most fundamental questions about our identity are being asked and answered in the 21st century. So I was taken aback at the surprise fellow writers expressed at the use of the internet as a setting, a location for my characters. Given the amount of time we spend online – and let’s face it, we as writers are hardly one of the most offline bunches of people – it seems somewhat strange that we write about it so little. The reasons why we don’t, though, are illuminating and important, and the last thing I want to do is shoehorn people into writing things no one will want to read, so I want to look at them first. The most common reason writers give for omitting our internet lives is pretty much the same as the reason they don’t linger over their characters’ breakfast habits, or how long they spend doing what in the shower. Our tweets and statuses, the cat pictures we share, the inspirational messages we “like” as we scroll mindlessly away are part of the background of everyday life, the minutiae, the wallpaper and not the mileposts that move our stories forward. Literature, the argument goes, deals with the great themes that tie us together, the moments in life we all share, those points of
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change and decision that make us human. Either that, or our books are all about narrative arc, driving the plot forward relentlessly, stopping only for world-building and characterisation which deals in the distinctive and not the mundane. A second concern that writers nod their head and sagely rehearse is that technology dates a work just as much as the hairstyles and the size and shape of lapels in “authentic” TV period adaptations. Again it comes down to the same point, that literature should deal with the timeless and universal, that it must speak to every time, and that means stripping it of those specifics that root it in one particular time. Both these are important concerns, and address essential parts of the writing process. In short, every word must count towards the picture we are painting, and no one wants to look like the Tomorrow’s World presenter proudly unveiling something so state of the art they’ll feel like hiding under the sofa when the clip’s played back in 10 years’ time. On the other hand, no part of life is “special”, hived off from every other. Everything is part of human experience, and forms a part of the world our characters inhabit that can shine a vital light onto their stories. Furthermore the internet has changed our world and our lives in unique ways and cast new light on many of life’s most important questions – Who are we? What is real? What is love? Friendship? As writers, it seems arbitrary and wanton to excise it wholesale. And to place our characters in a world devoid of technology can seem not timeless but out of touch. So, I understand that there is nervousness about writing cyberspace, but for many of us it’s an invaluable dimension of our fictional world, and for many more ignoring it strips far more from our stories than including it ever would. So, let’s assume we’re up for the challenge. The bad news is that those nagging doubts will turn out to be more than justified if we get the way we write cyberspace wrong. The good news is that getting it right involves applying exactly the same principles as getting the rest of your writing spot on. Without further ado, let’s take the first click. Social media is essentially dialogue and that means that, whatever the differences from normal conversation – and they are many and varied – the basic rules of writing dialogue apply.
Miss out the ums and ahs. It’s one of those myths that the internet is full of mindless space-filling nonsense. There’s a reason it looks like that. Look at a page of your Facebook timeline. Or your twitter feed. Compare it to people talking in a novel, and the comparison really isn’t a great one. But that’s not a real comparison, as anyone who spent five minutes on my commuter bus to work each morning would soon find out. One of the first rules of writing dialogue that sounds great, sounds “real” is that whatever you do you don’t make it real. You cut the ums, the ers, the ahs, likes, justs, you knows and repetitions that make up most of any conversation. Writing social media is just the same. Of course you can make a thing out of those idiosyncracies and boring repetitions, but there’s absolutely no obligation to – that’s no more being true or authentic than writing off every novelist for their dialogue.
Capture the rhythms More important than the individual words people use are the rhythms of a conversation. Internet conversations have very distinctive rhythms, and the key to making them both integral to your story and realistic is learning to capture those rhythms, and that requires spending a lot of time online, which is no more than the kind of research you’d expect to do for any aspect of a novel, and let’s face it is research you’ve probably already done way beyond that level. Of course, the internet is not a homogenous thing (we’ll get onto that) but certain things tend to mark out internet exchanges, such as an often rapid descent into entrenched disagreement, random tangents thrown into the mix suggested by previous comments or as tension defusers, requests for reiterations of a point/argument in different/ more easily explicable terms (I find this feature in particular an invaluable device for exposition).
Polyphony Unlike text conversations by phone, internet conversations are rarely just two-way exchanges. Whether you’re in a chatroom, on Facebook, on twitter or the comments section of a blog, the chances are there will be a whole flood of voices chiming in both contributing to and distracting from the central thread. This can be very tricky to handle for two reasons. First, there is the question of authenticity and
boringness we’ve already touched on – to make it readable, you will need to present a conversation in a far more rigorous format than it would appear in real life. But that’s exactly the same kind of editing we’ve already touched on and a skill that needs already to be in your novelist’s toolkit. The key is knowing what you want a conversation to do from a character/plot perspective and then letting it play out according to the natural rhythms of an internet exchange – my advice is to let this happen freely and let all the irrelevancies creep in, and then go back and edit them out, retaining the structure that you put in place, but with your focus fully on the aim of the conversation. Second, there’s making the voices distinct. Again, this is a skill you should already have mastered. If you haven’t, then writing internet conversations is a great way of doing it that will help you immensely with your regular dialogue. This is because internet voices tend to be ever so slightly exaggerated in order to be distinctive or to stand out, so writing them makes us think like a cartoonist about exactly what it is in someone’s persona that makes them unmistakable. I write about dialogue quite a lot, and one of the things I usually say is that in a multi-way conversation you should never need tags to tell you who’s speaking. This
is easier to do on the internet because of those exaggerations – characters can have quirks and idioms that are all their own and you can have great fun constructing them (they can be stylistic or “physical” – one of my internet friends has a non-functioning “r” key on her computer so she w*ites eve*thing with an * like this).
Dialect These last two points are, I think, the practical things that put most people off writing internet communications. Get them wrong and the fear is that they will jar hideously. Get them “right” and there’s still the fear that they are so unlike what readers are used to it will pull them out of the story. The first of these is internet-speak, that terrifying, syntax-defying, grammatically dysfunctional mix of emoticons and misspellings that sends the grammar Nazi in us running for sanctuary. But this is no different from a choice we face every time we write characters who haven’t walked out of a 1950s radio studio – how to deal with dialect. There’s no question that dialect done well (James Kelman, say) is breathtakingly wonderful, and there’s no reason at all why we shouldn’t attempt realism in this way. But yes, get it wrong and it will be just plain awful. But as writers we’ve mainly taken the choice to
flatten out the dialect in our dialogue, offering maybe a hint but by and large “normalising” our speech, letting sentence structure and word use rather than phonetic spelling do the work for us. And that is a perfectly acceptable approach online as well.
Presentation and tagging I think this is psychologically the biggest barrier of all. What do online conversations look like? How do we tag them? Do we learn a whole new set of verbs? Did she tweet? Does he status or does he update? Whichever way, it sounds weird. I agree, because these things are rare in novels, the words we use for them feel odd. But that’s self-perpetuating. My personal preference for a tag word is simply “type” – she typed, he typed, I typed. It’s a catch-all that needs no adverbs but can happily take them when required and has an unobtrusive ring to it. And as for the actual laying out of a conversation on a page, you have a choice. You can proceed as per normal dialogue, replacing “said” with “typed”, or where there is a big chunk of dialogue you can simply lay it out on the page, starting each person’s contribution with their online username. That’s actually incredibly liberating – both as a reader and a writer.
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A Mini Masterclass with Kathryn Price The Bronze Box by Amy MorseByzantium - 350 BC ‘Our sins are more easily remembered than our good deeds.’ Democritus “I have the package.” He spoke in Greek. “Shhh, keep your voice down! Come here!” Democritus tugged at the wide woollen sleeve of the Arab’s kaftan, hauling him into the shady alleyway. “Careful!” hissed the Arab merchant, stumbling on the dirt track. Democritus chuckled at his protests, a nervous laugh, as he gave his attention to everything but the young man. “And my passage to Odessus - is it arranged?” Democritus asked – something he had paid handsomely to ensure. “You’re sailing on the Majestic, it leaves the harbour at dusk.” said the Arab. “Good, good.” mumbled Democritus. He pulled the hessian-wrapped package from the younger man’s arms. It was heavier than it appeared. The young merchant was strong, and Democritus, who felt himself getting frailer by the day, lost his balance and staggered back on his wizened legs to take the weight of the box. An amused smile tugged at the Arab’s lips when Democritus humped the package up under his arm, rested it on his hip, and cursed the burden. The Arab slipped back out of the alleyway and into the crowded bazaar, leaving Democritus to do what he had convinced himself he had to. The air was thick with dust and the smell of incense mingled with spice. Voices reverberated around the honeycomb of mud brick - Greek, Latin and Arabic he was unnaturally aware of every nuance of sound and the movements of traders bustling backwards and forwards. He hurried through the labyrinthine corridors, dodging hustlers and beggars. The giddiness of the bazaar assaulted his senses as he tried to pick his way through everything around him and wrestle with the confusion of self doubt and righteousness that flooded his thoughts.
This passage establishes some great, potentially page-turning
gives the passage a nice flavour of secrecy and espionage, but it
elements. The setting is exotic, vibrant and rich, and there’s an
feels lacking in context and colour and it’s harder to engage with
air of mystery to this interaction that should certainly pique the
it as a result.
When we reach the vibrant description later in the passage
However, there’s more that could be done to root us in-scene right
there’s some great sensory detail – incense, spice, the sound of
from the outset. The initial exchange is a touch confusing because
voices reverberating (a strong verb which gives a vivid sense of
it’s not clear who the first dialogue tag refers to; this risks wrong-
crowds, chaos and claustrophobia), and the honeycomb of mud
footing the reader by raising some initial uncertainty about who
brick which manages to evoke both taste and colour – lovely.
our viewpoint character is. The fact that the first speaker talks
Immediately the reader is drawn deeper into the scene, and closer
in Greek also makes it harder to align him with The Arab in the
to Democritus as a result. In fact, it’s probably unnecessary to ‘tell’
second line. This could easily be amended to “I have the package.”
us that the giddiness of the bazaar assaulted his senses – we can
The Arab spoke in Greek to ensure total clarity.
see this from the description anyway, and the commentary tends
In fact, it would be worth introducing him as The Arab merchant
to undermine the dramatic effect.
straight off, rather than spreading out the pertinent information
It might work well to extend this section to incorporate even more
over a few lines of dialogue. In an opening sequence it’s crucial to
dramatic ‘showing’ and at the same time remove the necessity of
give the reader the detail they need when they need it, rather
telling us that Democritus is wrestl[ing] with the confusion of self
than keeping anything back without good reason. We want to
doubt and righteousness that flooded his thoughts. For example,
be totally immersed in the world of the story, clear about the
perhaps instead of skimming over the hustlers and beggars and
mechanics of who’s who and how they relate to each other. That
summarising the nuances of sound and movement, we could
said, there���s always a value in playing your cards close to your
witness some of these interactions more directly, interwoven
chest and keeping your story’s secrets – we’ll come back to this
with Democritus’ inner thoughts. Perhaps a beggar grabs him
later – but we do need the basic facts of setting and character in
by the arm, nearly making him drop the precious package and
order for the scene to have a solid foundation.
interrupting his musings just as he’s coming to some sort of
In addition to this simple clarification, a firmer grounding in
Democritus’ POV would help the scene to feel more focused and
Certainly it would be a good idea to show us at least some
involving. Once we pull closer in to his perspective with the line
snippets of what’s going through his mind. This doesn’t have to
who felt himself getting frailer by the day there’s immediately
give too much away – in fact, keeping back the exact nature of
a greater emotional connection with the reader (though take
Democritus’ self-doubt and righteousness will help to maintain the
care that we don’t then withdraw to a distance again – would
atmosphere of intrigue and carry the reader forward – but a few
Democritus really think of his own legs as wizened or is this an
snapshots of thought would, in themselves, be more revealing and
external, authorial view?), so a touch more of his inner voice, even
immediate than explaining or ‘telling’ us about the emotions he’s
earlier in the passage, would help to draw the reader in.
For instance, look at the sentence Democritus chuckled at his
Finally, it would be worth giving this passage a careful proofread.
protests, a nervous laugh, as he gave his attention to everything
There are a couple of minor punctuation errors, particularly
but the young man. It’s not obvious what’s going on here. Why
around dialogue, that tend to undermine the otherwise polished,
is Democritus laughing? If it’s because he’s nervous, why is he
professional feel. Whether you’re self-publishing or submitting to
nervous; and if he’s nervous, why is his attention wandering,
the trade, the best way to stand out is to ensure that your work
rather than wholly focused on this shady individual? Reworking
has been carefully edited and this applies to minor surface detail
to incorporate some direct or free indirect thoughts would help
just as much as to major structural considerations.
both to clarify the dynamic between them (the Arab seems to hold all the power here but again, if this is the case then Democritus’
Good luck with fine-tuning this promising piece.
reaction seems slightly off-key), and to give us some insight into why this interaction is tense and significant for him. Once Democritus has the package, we’re plunged directly into the setting of the bazaar, and here the scene starts to come to life. Might it be possible to bring some of these descriptive touches forward to the very beginning of the passage so that we have a stronger sense of scene-setting right from the beginning? At the moment, the opening dialogue is spare, punchy and dramatic, and
If you would like to participate in the Cornerstones Opening Page Mini Masterclass, send your opening page to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject ‘Cornerstones Masterclass’.
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Space, the Final Frontier, or Where do Writers Write by Sarah Bower
When beginning a piece on the locations in which writers write, it seems de rigueur these days, even if you’re not a woman writer, to make some reference to Virginia Woolf ’s diktat that ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ Given the shifts in sexual politics since Virginia Woolf ’s day (although how significant or permanent these are is questionable, but not for discussion here), I am going to permit myself to apply this assertion to all writers, whatever their gender, and I am going to go on to ask if it’s not, in fact, a truism which reveals more about Virginia Woolf than it does about the necessary conditions in which writers write. No doubt we all aspire to have money and a room of our own, and not just because we’re writers. It’s a good, practical ambition to have, modest, reasonable, humane. Everyone
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needs a room to live in and money to live on. So perhaps it’s time to debunk the feminist mystique surrounding Woolf ’s essay and think about what all writers need in order to write. Once we exclude the blooming obvious such as something to write about and the energy and know-how to translate ideas into words on the page or screen, the next thing we come to is a space in which to write. Let me be clear here. I am not talking merely about a physical space. I am, arguably, not talking mainly about a physical space. One’s writing space is so much more – and less – than the place in which one writes. You have to begin with finding space for writing in your head and heart. We know how ideas come. They arrive randomly, in dreams, in odd juxtapositions that generate images, in overheard conversations. Once, on a car journey with a fellow novelist, we were both drawn, simultaneously, to the sight of a supermarket carrier tied to a five bar gate in the middle of nowhere. We laughed about this, and agreed that, probably, no-one but a couple of novelists would have noticed it. For a couple of novelists, there was a story in it. Rarely, a set of ideas arrives in ordered ranks like a small army and all the writer has to do is transcribe them in the order in which they present themselves. More usually, they resemble a crowd in a mosh pit or a gaggle of refugees. They need sorting
out, understanding, ranking in all kinds of formations from emotional import to chronological occurrence to colour to intellectual complexity. This process demands head space. In order to assimilate inspirational ideas and transform them into the raw material of fiction, the writer must clear an area of her brain where the work of growing and fertilising ideas can be done. Virginia Woolf had rooms galore of her own. She was, if not wealthy, very comfortably off, without children and with a husband who understood her need for solitude. But let’s look at this another way. Virginia Woolf had a large, messy extended family, a complicated love life, a business to run, several households to maintain, and a husband who did not exactly treat her badly but did have relationships outside the marriage. So, while it might not have been too much of a challenge to find an empty room in which to set up her writing materials, it is clear from her diaries how difficult, and painful, it was for her to make the necessary space in her head for the ideas to mature into words and sentences and paragraphs to be inscribed on to the empty page. Nowadays it is, arguably, even harder for writers to ring fence that necessary space because of the double-edged sword which is social networking. We have to engage with it because it gives us the oxygen of publicity,
but it is also a crippling distraction, even an addiction, if not handled with care and discipline. I recently heard Zadie Smith give an account of the occasion when, in a desperate bid to stay focused on his work, her husband, the poet and novelist Nick Laird, actually cut through the phone cable in order to disconnect the internet. She didn’t say what he’d done about his wireless devices… Having the passion to destroy the telephone network in order to avoid distraction when writing also tells me the writer has found the heart space for his work. It is no good to clear a space in the brain in which ideas can be planted if there isn’t the weather to make them germinate. For ideas to become stories they need sunshine and rain, cool, fallow periods and days hot enough to warm the soil. Partly, what I’m talking about here is inspiration. Inspiration is what makes the writer remember a carrier bag on a field gate and transform it into a mystery, a comedy, a tale of unrequited love or murder most foul. Inspiration, however, is not enough on its own to carry a story through to completion. We are all familiar with the old adage, one per cent inspiration, 99 per cent perspiration, and, like all old adages, it is full of truth. For the creative writer, however, something more is needed. The will may not – cannot – sustain the white heat of creativity which often attends the beginning of a project, nor can discipline
and hard work alone produce writing whose emotional charge can capture and hold a readership. Even when the heart is no longer aflame with inspiration it must continue to smoulder if the work is to transcend the merely utilitarian. Graham Greene spoke of the novelist needing to have a sliver of ice in his heart. He was talking about the way in which we must be prepared to cut up our own life experiences, and those of our nearest and dearest, and use the pieces as raw material for our fiction. But perhaps there is another way in which this is true. Whatever emotional demands are made on us by life’s exigencies, by our partners, children, parents, friends, we must learn to ring fence a part of our hearts where we can protect and nurture the embers of inspiration. There must be some emotions which are not worn away by life and the everyday living of it but are kept full of the power needed to make our writing real, true and fresh. We must protect ourselves from the demands of others, even if to do so lays us open to the charge of being heartless. Of course we need a physical space in which to write because writing is a physical activity, but it is too easy to fetishise this, to convince ourselves writing is impossible unless we are in exactly the right room, or garden shed, or caravan; unless our laptops or pens and paper are laid out just so, or there is coffee
at our elbow in our favourite, most talismanic mug; unless we are wearing the right hat, or have done an hour on the treadmill before starting work or have an unopened packet of chocolate digestives in the top left-hand drawer of the desk. These are delaying tactics. Nobody is better at delaying tactics than writers. I have been guilty of all of the above (except the hat thing) and many more besides. If, however, I have the right space in my head and heart, I can write anywhere. I have written under the bedclothes after lights out with a torch in my mouth, in a pad propped up on the steering wheel while waiting for my children at the school gate, in pubs and cafes and a basement in Robin Hood’s Bay. When I had dogs to walk I used to dictate stories to a pocket sound recorder while tramping around the fields. It is a fine thing to have a room of one’s own in which to write, but it isn’t essential. The essential writing space is the space inside, where the ideas can germinate and grow into stories. As long as you have that, you are mistress, or master, of the imaginative universe.
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Scripts: Setting the Stage by Ola Zaltin
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It so happens that I’m developing a TV-series on my lonesome (no one has been insane enough to fund me - yet), so I’ll take this opportunity to “think on paper”, which often works for me when I’m trying to form a great big lump of confused ideas into a coherent - and streamlined - storyline. So bear with me, and don’t mind the bear with me: In TV, location is god. Great location plus fantastic characters equals outstanding TV. It’s as simple as that. The trick is to weave it all together. Think of all the TV-series that use a location as their title: Cheers, The Office, Downton Abbey, Coronation Street, M.A.S.H., The West Wing, E.R. The list goes on and on. It’s a pretty brilliant piece of advice if you’re starting up your own little TV-malarky. It sets the location and central stage before people even turn on the telly. I mean, not many people wonder what a TV-series called TAXI is about, now do they? Another type of title (apart from the typical crime-show surname titles like Morse, Foyle’s War, Wallander and Rebus, i.e. unfit white men past their prime...) are the thematic titles. This is also a great way of showcasing what your series is about, before the punters even reach for the remote. Take titles like Friends, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Mad Men (great, great title: Ad Men on Madison Avenue who are Mad), Generation Kill, Californication (location and theme in one word, brilliant). And so on. Are you in any doubt as to what these shows are about? Not me. Having chosen your location - universe, arena, space, whatever you want to call it - it’s time to collect a group of characters that will meet, interact, fight, struggle and collide on this location. What you want to do here (at least what I
aim to do) is create a bunch of characters that are opposites: they’re very different to each other. Different in age, status, income, religious beliefs, background, dreams and political views, skin colour, to name a few. The more different they are, the better it is. Differences and opposites creates friction, equals drama. The location that works the best is the one that can connect the largest number of characters with as many differences as possible - a location where they not necessarily want to congregate, but have to (M.A.S.H.). Or a location where they want to go, and hate to but have to - interact (Cheers). Let’s use one of the above mentioned series as an example, Downton Abbey. First of all and most obviously, there’s that
The location that works the best is the one that can connect the largest number of characters with as many differences as possible - a location where they not necessarily want to congregate, but have to (M.A.S.H.). Or a location where they want to go, and hate to - but have to - interact (Cheers).
upstairs/downstairs thing going on. The land of gentry in their huge rooms and amazing privileges and their servants in the cramped quarters down below. To begin with, the two “levels” of characters have their own individual conflicts and frictions. Upstairs there’s the rebellious and romantic Sybil, who frequently clashes with her stern papa and horrified sisters. Her opposite is the cool and calculating older sister Mary and in between them the rather timid (but opinionated) Edith. Lord of the manor, Earl Grantham (ramrod straight and filled with duty and honour) has a laid-back American wife, and this in turn creates conflict not only between him and her, but also them and their daughters. Not to mention a very pesky dowager countess who one minute sides with the young generation, the other with their parents, and turns on a coin when it suits her very own political and familial agendas. Downstairs, in the servants’ workplace, we also find a wealth of characters and conflicts. There’s the conniving and lying first footman Thomas, who frequently clashes with the saintly and stolid new valet Bates. There’s the very uptight and righteous head butler Mr. Carson, who is often at odds with the kindly
Random Stuff | 43
and humorous Ms. Hughes the housekeeper. And so on. These two parallel worlds are set up with their own protagonists and antagonists. Having established the vertical conflicts on each level, the creator and writer of Downtown Abbey, Julian Fellowes, ups the ante by creating horizontal conflicts, as in: Tom Branson, the Irish revolutionary chauffeur, who is madly in love with Lady Sybil. Thomas the footman makes a pass at a visiting nobleman. Carson is mortified when a person from his past - a man of the people - walks in through the front door (!) and demands to speak to Earl Grantham. Watch the soup thicken: the different conflicts and plot-lines not only go vertically, but also criss-cross horizontally, tying everyone into a web of friction, conflict and ultimately drama. So then, you have the location, you’ve congregated a great cast of different people to occupy it. How to set the ball rolling? This is the narrative incident that sets the whole storyline in motion. It should also, hopefully, set up the central question that drives the whole series, at least for a season or two. For Downton Abbey, the incident that sets the whole shebang in motion is an event of historical significance, but most importantly of personal cost to the Crawley family: the sinking of the Titanic. The universal becomes personal. The cousin meant to inherit the title, drowns. Who now to succeed and take over the hereditary title? Enter centre stage Matthew Crawley, a man from the upper-middle classes, from Manchester with a job - gasp! - who enjoys his weekends - eeek! (“What is a weekend?” - the dowager countess famously asks.) See how already the location he has chosen and the characters he has created are giving Mr. Fellowes delicious scenes to write? People of different backgrounds, beliefs, hopes, opinions and class all colliding on one great location: Downton Abbey. So not only have we got a great historical event setting things in motion: we have a fish out of water - cousin Matthew - who we can experience the strangeness and majesty of Downton Abbey through. However, let’s return downstairs. There are two levels to this story, and we need introductions downstairs as well. The character that does the honour is the first face we see in the whole series (whom I would argue is, in fact, the main character) - Mr. Bates - Earl Grantham’s old batman and new valet. Through him we are introduced to the servant’s world; rules, friends foes, allies and enemies. Hence, the first episode sees the arrival of Mr Bates. The second episode sees the arrival of Matthew Crawley. Two episodes, one for downstairs one for upstairs, and a multitude of plots and intrigues are set in motion. It is worth noting that both men face very similar conundrums: will they be able to remain at Downton Abbey, or be cruelly rejected? This is both their central dilemmas for over two seasons. This leads us to the central question that has to be set up at the start of a long-running series. With Downton Abbey, it would be something like: Will cousin Matthew take over Downton Abbey - and if so: with or without Lady Mary at his side? This is the one over-riding issue that is the central question - and story engine - of the first few seasons. (Note that once it is answered - when Matthew Crawley is a happily married father - he is promptly killed off, to create new tensions and plotlines.) Other classic central questions are: who killed Laura Palmer? (Twin Peaks), who killed Nanna Birk Larsen? (The Killing), will Walter White be able to amass enough money before he croaks of cancer? (Breaking Bad), will Hank Moody ever grow up? (Californication), etc. As mentioned above, the central question is most often also the engine driving the story. The easiest example is the crime-show: someone is killed in the opening and the killer caught in the end. Question: who killed? Engine: find the killer. For me, myself and my own TV-series proposal? Location: check. Title: check. Action that sets story in motion: check. Story engine: check. Characters: work in progress... Am I going to share any of the above? I could, but then I’d have to kill you. (Now there’s an idea for a TV-series...) Wish me luck.
“A tour de force of psychological obsession that demands your attention.” ~ British Fantasy Society
LEGACY Available from all good bookshops, Amazon or direct from http://www.wildwolfpublishing.com
Also available - The Tyranny of the Blood and A Child of the Blood
Wild Wolf Publishing Fiction with Teeth www.joreed.co.uk
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Question Corner Co-author of The Writer’s ABC Checklist, Lorraine Mace, answers your questions ...
Trevor from Leeds wants to use clichés because he feels they do the job. He asks: are clichés really that bad? My writing group members are forever banging on about them, but sometimes they get across exactly what I want to say. Yes, clichés really are that bad. They are phrases that were once fresh and new, but are now stale and tired. To make your writing stand out and bring your own unique voice to life, you need to create your own original expressions. The words and phrases you use have to help flesh out your characters and also make the narrative sparkle. You might well have a character speaking in clichés and there is nothing wrong with that. You’d be using it as a character quirk. But if the narrative is littered with clichés, or more than one character uses them, that is a sign of lazy writing. Be bold – create your own similes and metaphors. You never know, in years to come your phrases might be so frequently used that they will be classed as clichés. After all, when Shakespeare and all the other great writers wrote what are now considered clichés, they were then original and fresh. It’s because they so exactly fitted the characters and situations that the phrases have been used over and over again. As a writer, it’s your job to use words to the best effect. This means being innovative and allowing your voice to come through via your use of words.
emotions in check. Bloody agents seem to have everything their own way. Most of them don’t even have the decency to tell us why they don’t want the work on offer. I bet some of them don’t even read half the stuff they receive. Sometimes I just want to lash out and tell those agents how bloody rude they are. I bet they wouldn’t like to be treated as they treat writers. I know I’m not the only one who feels like this. Loads of my writing friends say the same. Dealing with rejection is hard. But it is part and parcel of being a writer. I doubt there is a published author anywhere on the planet who hasn’t had work rejected at some point in his or her career. A certain Mr S. King, who is one of the most successful novelists of our age, claims he was once able to paper a room with his rejection slips. So, when you receive a ‘no thank you’ slip, you’re in good company. It’s what you do after rejection that is important for your future career. If your manuscript comes back with a form letter saying it isn’t right for a list, you need to look critically at how and why you chose that publisher or agent in the first place. If your subject matter isn’t suitable, then you’ve wasted their time, and a fair amount of your hard-earned cash in ink, paper and postage. If you’ve researched properly, but still receive a ‘not right for our list’ letter,
Cathy, who writes to us from Edinburgh, is more than a bit fed up with receiving form rejections. She says: I spend a fortune on postage following agents’ guidelines to the letter. So many of them still insist on paper submissions. God knows why in this day and age, but they do. Not that they reply by post. Oh no, if they reply at all, it’s usually via a form email! I often feel like sending an email in return asking for some feedback in exchange for what it’s cost me to send my work to them, but I manage to stop myself because I know it won’t do me any good. However, just recently I’m finding it really hard to keep my
although it’s hard, you have to accept it and move on. Agents and publishers receive huge volumes of material every week and sometimes work is rejected without being read. It happens; as writers we have to be thick-skinned and get over it. Any pointers as to why the manuscript failed to make the grade should be acted on. Agents and publishers are busy people. It is very rare for anyone to take the time to tell you what’s wrong with your work, so treat this information with respect and revise accordingly. Whatever you do, don’t fire off an angry letter, or email. It was rejected – end of story. Venting your spleen won’t change anyone’s mind, but might make you a powerful enemy in a profession where word rapidly spreads.
There is advice on every possible question you might ask. --Writing Magazine Regardless of the writer's level or ability, there is something extremely daunting about putting together a submission. It doesn't matter if it is for an article for a magazine, or short story for a competition, a humorous anecdote, a play or TV script, a novel or non-fiction book, "The Writer's ABC Checklist" will provide answers to questions you didn't even know you should ask. With its A-Z format, references can be found quickly and effortlessly. Unfamiliar terms are explained and bullet points at the end of most sections provide a quick reminder of the main items covered. This unique book is packed with writing tips and is something no aspiring writer can afford to be without. Available from Amazon
Do you have layout issues, problematic characters, or struggle to get to grips with your grammar? Email email@example.com
Pencilbox | 45
What we think of some books Floccinaucinihilipilification: the estimation of something as valueless Tacenda: things better left unsaid 5’9”: The average height of a British adult male Deipnosophist: someone skilled in making dinner-table conversation Logodaedalus: one who is cunning in the use of words
As well as the location, the passage of time influences the ambience. Seasons, routines, life and death, cycles and ticking clocks all play a role, but whether tragic or comic is up to interpretation. There is dry humour, achingly lovely description and a deft touch any writer could learn from, not to mention the use of symbolism and metaphor. I read The Twin on Kindle and it’s now stuffed with highlights. The ending is a surprise and challenges the reader’s conviction that nothing can change. I looked up the Dutch title and it seems to say ‘Above is Stillness’. I find this a far better title – ambiguous, reflective and not what it first appears.
Kimi’s Fear by John Hudspith A novel of dislocation between parallel worlds and between childhood and adulthood Reviewed by Anne Stormont Rating Logodaedalus
The Twin – Gerbrand Bakker Reviewed by JJ Marsh Rating Deipnosophist What should have been. Helmer and Henk. The twins. But Henk has been dead for thrity years, Helmer is alone and their father is bedridden and dying upstairs. Helmer is alive, he’s in control of everything – the farm, the house, his father – everything except his life. Then Riet, Henk’s exfianceé, asks if her son might stay awhile. The prose, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer, is precise and sparse, reminding me of Ishiguro. It’s apt, reflecting a novel of frustrations and could-have-beens. The setting, in the rural Dutch countryside is depicted with similar accuracy and cool observation. The weight of the past and the unrealised future lie over this book like low cloud. But wait! Firstly, it is not depressing, more thoughtful and considered. I thought frequently of the paintings by Dutch masters – how much can be evoked by an apparently simply rendered scene. Secondly, I love the way the atmosphere of place permeates the mood of the book. Reminds me a little of Graham Swift’s Waterland. Also, the blend of repressed disappointment, unfulfilled potential and those who influence our lives for better or worse made me think of JM Coetzee, or John Gardner.
46 | Reviews
A second book is vulnerable to all the pitfalls of a ‘second’ anything – especially if the debut novel that it follows was exemplary. There’s the weight of expectation, the pressure not to betray the existing readership’s trust, the challenge to overcome the possibility of being a one hit wonder. And, if anything, the pressure is even greater if the second book is a sequel -and is planned to be one of an extended series – as is the case with ‘Kimi’s Fear.’ However, Hudspith and his readers can relax. This new book delivers. It more than meets expectations. It keeps faith with the readers of the first book, ‘Kimi’s Secret’ and proves that the author is certainly no one hit wonder. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that ‘Kimi’s Fear’ is better than ‘Kimi’s Secret’. And I loved ‘Kimi’s Secret’ - as did the many young people I know who read it. I find it hard to believe, but the new book is a pacier, rather slicker read than its predecessor. Its themes of love, loyalty, betrayal, and challenge are more boldly stated. Kimi and her world(s) are even more vivid. Kimi’s adolescence – her awkwardness at being caught not only between the worlds of Earth and Heart but also between childhood and adulthood are movingly described – and this will surely resonate with all readers. Because Kimi is a year older in this latest book, then the handling of the themes and the vocabulary used are more grown-up – but Hudspith has pitched it just right for his core pre-teen and young teen readers. As in the first book the plot is stunningly imaginative and complex – but as with Babbage although there’s a
danger of disintegration – Hudspith has complete control and maintains the rigour and integrity of the whole throughout. The twists are unpredictable - the Perry/ Gorgeous scenario to name but one – and the end leaves you wanting more. Although largely set on this planet’s parallel world of Heart (still love that anagram) – the book is earthy, real and rooted in the modern world. The shift in Kimi’s location is a fantasy but it has a lot to say about real life too. In ‘Kimi’s Fear’ it’s as if J.K. Rowling meets Enid Blyton - and then Stephen King comes along, takes their best bits and does a mash-up. Hudspith – one hit wonder? No fear!
The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland Review by Liza Perrat Rating: Logodaedalus Having loved and reviewed Karen Maitland’s previous two books, Company of Liars and The Owl Killers, I was expecting great things from The Gallows Curse. I was not at all disappointed. Set against the backdrop of Pope Innocent III’s Interdict imposed on England in 1208, after King John refused to accept the pope’s appointee, Stephen Langton, as Archbishop of Canterbury, The Gallows Curse is a dark and complex historical mystery. The cast of characters is diverse, yet linked by many invisible ties. The author depicts the loneliness and terror of life as a runaway villain through the eyes of Elena, one of the main characters. The reader sympathises with her terrible predicament, and yearns to see her take revenge on her tormentors. The other main character, Raffaele, is fascinating: tortured and full of flaws, at the same time enchanting and repulsive, hero and anti-hero. Sexual deviance, violent death, treason and cunning women with ancient grudges feature along the winding road of this story, as Elena and Raffaele, both together and alone, attempt to elude the treacherous snares thrown in their paths. The way Karen Maitland seamlessly weaves the supernatural into the story, I could easily believe in the magic, the spells and potions, as did these medieval people. And the “mandrake” as narrator adds even more intrigue, firmly grounding the story in this age of myth and superstition. 13th-century England is depicted so vividly I could almost feel, taste and smell it, and I was mesmerised from the beginning. I would
What we think of some books
highly recommend The Gallows Curse to lovers of medieval fiction, especially to those with a taste for the darkly humorous and a few surprise twists in the tale.
The Old man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway Reviewed by Brijesh Luthra Rating: Logodaedalus
this applies here. Savage sharks attack Santiago and his catch. He manages to see them off with rudimentary tools but the sharks succeed in tearing every morsel of flesh from his prized catch. He returns dragging only a worthless skeleton. What do you see – victory or failure? Are you reading an expertly structured reportage layered with symbolism waiting to be interpreted, or a pointless collage of words describing an unremarkable event? If you are in the symbolist camp, you could be moved by the relationship between hunter and prey elevated to compassionate brotherhood. From the other side of the fence you might only see a moribund account of the tug of war between man and fish peppered with tedious fishing terminology. And what about Hemingway’s way with words? If the apex of the struggle is described as “The fish came alive, with his death in him …” Is this saying more with less, or is it just protracted word play? One way to discuss Hemingway’s novella could be by returning to the sea. By daring to compare it with a dish of oysters. Nothing special at first glance, just grey blobs on crushed ice. But as you taste one, explosions of intricate yet overwhelming flavours smother your taste buds. Either you are mesmerized by them and relish as many as humanly possible or violently expunge the one lodged on your tongue and heave a sigh of relief. The point, whether it is acknowledged as a great culinary delight or not, is moot. You need to decide for yourself by experiencing it first-hand, not based on others’ opinion. It’s the same with this book. That’s for certain.
perhaps especially when, he has no idea what he’s doing (the essay entitled “Faking It” includes the following gem of a quote: “This is an essential element of the business of being a man: to flood everyone around you in a great radiant arc of bullshit, one whose source and object of greatest intensity is yourself.”). Also on offer are some more oblique approaches to manhood – “The Art of Cake” finds the author expressing thanks that his mother encouraged him to muck about in the kitchen – and riffs on topics like suicide, religion, and music, that are more human than man.
Manhood for Amateurs - collection of essays by Michael Chabon
The recurring theme is Chabon’s role as husband and father to four. When he goes to the grocery store with his youngest child and is told he’s “such a good dad,” he considers that his wife might not have received the same compliment for doing the same thing. This sets him to wondering what a woman would have to do to garner praise while shopping with her offspring. “Perhaps,” he muses, “perform an emergency tracheotomy with a Bic pen on her eldest child while simultaneously nursing her infant and buying two weeks’ worth of healthy but appealing break-time snacks for the entire cast of Lion King, Jr.” Nota bene, would-be men: this is how you win your female fans. The superb diction and dazzling use of metaphor Chabon is known for are everywhere in these pages. A discussion of how to manage the prodigious and overwhelming quantities of artwork produced by four children (the solution, according to the author, involves constant furtive disposal of all but the best pieces) turns into a reflection that the individual days of our lives are like children’s drawings, “offered…with a strange mixture of ceremoniousness and disregard.” Another essay, on his family’s geeky obsessions, becomes a discussion of whether families themselves may be a kind of fandom, built around the “primal text” of a parental relationship. It turns out that manhood, in this version at least, is not such an exotic wilderness after all. It is, instead, a place with great writing and searing insight; a zone of much humour and humanity. And it was a pleasure to visit.
There are no certainties in life. You could be one of the oldest and the shrewdest practitioners of your trade, but you will not always meet success. Our protagonist, Santiago the fisherman, fell prey to this folly of fate. What does one do when one comes back without a catch for 84 days, tagged ‘salao’ – the worst form of unlucky – and one’s young apprentice forcibly aligned elsewhere? Either give up and blend into obscurity or try to turn the tide. Santiago chooses the latter and heads out to sea again on the 85th day full of hope and trepidation. He does manage a prize catch – a beautiful Marlin, and dreams of change in luck and stature, but the Marlin is not the kind to succumb easily. An epic struggle ensues where he not only battles Nature and his catch but also the greatest of man’s adversaries – his own wits. The tussle, described in measured, succinct, yet highly descriptive and nuanced prose – the Hemingway trademark – forces him to dig into his deepest reserves of skills, willpower and persistence. One of the defining aspects of great literature is that it touches the reader in ways that the author did not originally intend. Let’s see how
Reviewed by Kristen Coros Rating: four stars Michael Chabon is widely considered to be one of the finest writers working today. A good fiction writer, however – even a highly decorated one like Chabon – is not automatically a good essayist; sometimes the magic fizzles when the fictional mode is disengaged. I took a chance on this book of essays because of its title. As a woman, I’m consigned to permanent dilettante status where rites of masculinity are concerned, but as a writer, I thirst for details about male experience. Manhood for Amateurs would, I hoped, escort me to uncharted places – places like men’s washrooms, and the dark corners of their psyches. The book’s short essays, which number about forty, cover a range of man-specific topics, including circumcision, the argument for a man purse or “murse,” the relationship between a man and his fatherin-law, and the tendency for a man to display extreme confidence even when,
Reviews | 47
The Rumour Mill
sorting the bags of truth from the bags of shite
Heard a rumour but you’re not sure if it’s a bag of truth or just a big bag of shite? Send it to us and we’ll get our top investigative journalist Kris Dangle to look into it for you.
Some bloke down at the welfare office told me that WH Auden said – All we are not stares back at all we are. Now I know this is not strictly your field, but what the fuck was he on about? Despite many hours of looking into this, I’m afraid the simple answer is – Fuck knows.
I was listening in to a conversation some nerdy looking people were having on the tube the other day and I overheard them saying that there’s a new app you can get that automatically posts the words ‘Fuck off!’ on every self-help quote that people post on Facebook and that there’s another one in the pipeline that will automatically dispatch a heavy around to anyone who asks you to join Farmville and kick them up the gicker. This couldn’t possibly be true, could it? I’ve had the team trawling through every app on every platform we can find over here at WWJ Towers since your query arrived, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to find anything. If we do find this Holy Grail of apps we’ll be sure to let you know. Until then, try not to get repetitive strain disorder from manually typing in ‘Fuck off!’ to all those Facebook posts.
Some guys who were chanting at a football club said that Jordan only takes it up the brown eye and that because of this her current pregnancy is a miracle. Could she really be the mother of the new Jesus? We have no way of verifying this rumour, but on the face of it, it seems
Guess the Book
Try to guess the books from these real reviews. This time round we’re going for controversial titles, so not all the reviews listed are necessarily one-star. 1. These are the words of wisdom of the one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century. Love him or hate him, there’s simply no denying his depth and genius … So get over your textbook-influenced prejudice, and gather your OWN OPINION. Read the book and think for yourself. 2. I thought it was religious, but it was not. I found it hard to follow or make sence at all. 3. All I could think of after 20% (kindle speak) was ... too bad his wife didn’t shoot him in the forehead instead ...
unlikely. I have looked into the matter by talking to many football chanters and there seems to be a dizzying array of rumours involving the much maligned Ms Price and I’d like to dispel some of them here. As far as can be reasonably ascertained she doesn’t do it with sailors on the kitchen table for fifty pence, can’t suck a golf ball through a fifty foot length of garden hose, and isn’t on a diet consisting entirely of tramp’s spunk. We wish her only the best and hope that people just leave her alone.
Dear Words with Jam, Is it true that this letter has been printed on the wrong page? Yours truly, Con Fused Yes. It’s true.
I’ve been told by a bloke that works in a chip shop that Jeremy Clarkson is a talented and skilled ventriloquist and that he operates Basil Brush as
4. Yes, it’s important. Yes, it’s well written but does that make it an less an evil influence on society. I would recommend this to peopl ewith analytic minds who are not too easy to lead. ULTIMATELY EVIL THOUGH hence 1 star 5. Outdated and Irrelevant; the masses cling to this book as an excuse to act like unethical animals. I wish the world would move on from this mindless drivel.
well as pint sized Richard Hammond. This couldn’t truly be the case, is it? This rumour has done the rounds before, with variants including that the of the more idiotic ideas he has before actually saying them himself. But there’s no truth in it. Mental as it may seem, Hammond is an actual human being of sorts. I’m not sure about Basil Brush, though.
48 | Other Stuff
Answers: 1. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler; 2: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie; 3. The Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs; 4: The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels; 5. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
puppet Richard Hammond was invented so Clarkson could test out some
Found at the back of Professor Kirke’s wardrobe. (6)
Hardy’s Mayor lived here. (12)
Legolas was a prince here. (8)
Lurid sea rants about Evil pirate. (8,6)
Spin dark leaf around Mother for an Austen estate. (9,4)
Birthplace of Anne Rice’s vampire antihero. (8)
Where Isak Dinesen emerged. (3,2 6)
Hiding place of Uris’s libel plaintiff. (6)
13. Body of water that connects Charlotte Bronte and Jean Rhys. (4,8,3)
Esther Summerson’s gloomy abode. (5,5)
Lawrence sought wisdom here. (6)
15. Death came to von Aschenbach in this watery place. (6)
10&16 Setting for Peter May’s Hebridean trilogy. (3,4,2,5)
17. Which famous half of a well known TV couple has just written her debut book set in Cornwall? (4,8)
11. The further in you go, the bigger this Fairy place gets. (8)
18. Wingfield’s frosty fictional setting (6)
12. See 19 down.
20. Neil Gaiman’s London Below. (10)
14. Jean Paget dreamed of a town like this. (5)
21. Le Carre’s spy pressed his own suit here. (6)
16. See 10 down.
22. Poles apart for Elizabeth Gaskill. (5,3,5) 23. The Two Cities of Dickens’ Tale. (6,3,5)
February 2013 Answers
19&12 Both Winifred Holtby and Noel Langley wrote of this spicy place. (3,4,2,5,6)
Random Stuff | 49
Dear Ed Letters of the satirical variety
Dear Words with Jam, As a casual sexist I thought I would write in and point out that the game Angry Birds is well named because every time I play it my wife gets very cross. In fact, she often neglects the cooking and cleaning to rant, so the joke is on me! Ha ha. Do I win anything? Sincerely, Colonel A Truman MP Would any other readers care to offer a suggestion for what the Colonel might win? Ed
Dear Words Editor, I’m wondering if you could help me to find someone who speaks Klingon and/or Tolkien Elfish. Things haven’t being going well in my life lately and I just want someone to look down on. Thanks for your help, U F Reaks Dear Jam people, My wife and I saw the funniest thing ever on the electric television the other night. We laughed and laughed for ages.
Dear Editor, What has the world come to when you sink to the level of actually printing letters written by self-confessed sexists? I am, of course, referring to the letter printed this issue immediately above this one. I am extremely disappointed and so is my husband. Aren’t you dear? He says yes. I think in future you should think twice about publishing this sort of nonsense and my husband agrees with me, don’t you dear? He says yes. I didn’t burn my bra in the seventies for nothing, you know. Did I dear? He says no. Harumph and good day to you sir, Mrs N Charge
However, I can’t remember what it was that was so funny now.
Dear Writers of American films and Television, Please write that characters lock their fucking cars when they park them. I can swallow vampires and magic and space aliens, but I just can’t cope with people not locking their cars. Sort it out, Carl Ocker
thing he has over his shoulder. What I want to know is – where’s
Dear People who say ‘I could have written that’ when they read some shit book at the top of the charts, Shut the fuck up, will you? Sik N Tyred
Dear Words, I am very disappointed that you didn’t print more letters about the sexism stuff. I hate sexism, especially page three stuff. Could you please print some page three pictures to illustrate my point? Thanks, Juan K Basket
pounds in the bank and it is just sitting there as I have not got
50 | Some Other Stuff
Could you tell me please? Yours sincerely, Brian Dead Uhmmm, not sure I can help here, sorry. Ed Dear Words with Jam, I can’t be the only one who noticed that Chewbacca out of Star Wars goes around in the nip all the time except for that belt his whanger? I mean, when you think about it it’s not very realistic. Yours truly, H O Les
Dear Wuds wit Jam, I am writing to tell you that my good friend has died recently. His name was also Wuds wit Jam. He left 25 squillion the correct name to get it out. If you give me your bank details I will transfer the money to you and we can split it evenly, 12.5 squillion each. It is what he would have wanted. Do I win anything? I hope to hear from you soon, my friend, Kachunga Kitanga
Officia as accu lly rate as the Mayans
Horoscopes by Shameless Charlatan Druid Keith The belief that your entire life has been written in
doesn’t work, you may have to move house.
the stars isn’t the only ridiculous certainty you need
begins its slow progression through your house this month, now would be a good time to
to cling to if you want to have a happy life. You also
remember that you are right about everything and
need self-belief and to this end you should read
Mars makes a brief appearance in your house
anyone who disagrees with you is obviously a twat.
every single self-help book out there to make sure
from the 27th to the 29th this month, and that
You can help these people by aggressively pointing
you know how to function in society. Any problems
would be the perfect time for you Saggitarianists
out how wrong they are at length. The more they
you encounter will obviously be the fault of other,
to begin writing a thriller about Jesus and the
resist you, the more they need the help.
time he did Kung Fu on all those bankers in the Temple. Reworking and reimagining old superhero
stories is very popular at the moment and all you
With the arrival of Saturn into your house this
need to do is believe you can do it and you will be
month it’s time for you to wake up and smell
guaranteed success or failure.
the coffee, Leonianists. You can do this simply
TAURUS Mercury wings its way into your celestial house this month, Taurusianists, so it’s a perfect time for boosting your confidence by sending Farmville invitations to all your friends on facebook.
by moving your percolator to the bedroom and
leaving it plugged in all night or simply by sleeping
Many of you Capricorianists have suffered from a
in the kitchen.
invitation at first, so be sure to send them new
sense of worthlessness for some time now, but as
ones every other day. The key to your happiness
mighty Jupiter enters your house this month it’s
Remember, they might not realise they want the
depends on them joining the game.
time for a new beginning. Be positive! Be strong!
Although many overweight Virgonianists believe
And think on this – if you were to calculate the
that self-help refers only to a buffet, it is time for
monetary value of all the chemicals in your body, it
you to realise that the power to change lies within.
would come to about $4.50 (in American money).
It’s time for all you normally self-sufficient
Now, with the transition of Mercury through your
Who’s worthless now?
Geminianists to take the plunge and get help. You
probably think you’re doing just fine, but you’re
house, it is the perfect time to think about who’s really to blame – it’s probably the government for
not writing this is full of fat on sausages.
Aquarianists, this month the Sun will be in the sky every day, although if you live in Britain you may
not. With the exit of Pluto this month you will increasingly notice that the coming of age novel you’re working on isn’t very good and instead of fixing it what you need is some self-help quotes
not actually see it. So remember this – The light
Studious Libranianists with your innate sense of
that burns twice as brightly burns for half as long.
justice and your desire to share your knowledge
Keep this in mind this when British Gas send you
off – An apple is only an apple while the watcher
with the world can find your place this month by
a fucking outrageous bill and all will be well with
believes it to be so. Sounds cryptic, doesn’t it?
scouring through every self-help book you can
But no, look deeper and you will see that it is also
to make you feel better. Here’s one to start you
get your hands on and putting random quotes from them on your facebook status. Everyone
loves them and will love you too for filling their
Don’t let your confidence be knocked by trolls
newsfeeds with this.
this month, Piscesianists. Simply post loving and
You Canceianists have the opportunity of a lifetime
helpful quotes in response to their messages
this month with the arrival of career driving Saturn
and allow your self-belief to spread. A good one
in your house. You will get the opportunity on the
As the Moon appears in the night sky this month,
might be – Whoever smelt it dealt it. This approach
12th to become a Tory MP and you can bring self-
this would be the perfect time to go out and hug
will prove they are wrong and that your book is
help to the masses by getting rid of any benefits
local youths who are hanging around in gangs
they might be claiming. Just tell them they should
making a nuisance of themselves. If you don’t get
help themselves and not rely on others to provide
the living shit kicked out of you it just might help
everything for them and they will understand and
with your self-belief and maybe even theirs. If it
As Mars, the patron planet of you Ariesianists,
Some Other Stuff | 51
PAGE Competition ST
NOW OPEN 1st Prize £500 2nd Prize £100 3rd Prize £50 Closing Date: Friday 31st May 2013 Entry Fee: £6 for one entry or £10 for two Results: All three winning entries will be published in the August 2013 issue of Words with JAM. For more information visit: www.wordswithjam.co.uk/ firstpagecompetition
Judge: Sue Grafton Sue Grafton is published in 28 countries and 26 languages—including Estonian, Bulgarian, and Indonesian. She’s an international bestseller with a readership in the millions. She’s a writer who believes in the form that she has chosen to mine: “The mystery novel offers a world in which justice is served. Maybe not in a court of law,” she has said, “but people do get their just desserts.” And like Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, Robert Parker and the John D. MacDonald—the best of her breed—she has earned new respect for that form. Her readers appreciate her buoyant style, her eye for detail, her deft hand with character, her acute social observances, and her abundant storytelling talents. www.suegrafton.com/sue-grafton.php