11 July 2019

Time's sailing by...

Life as the inaugural Writer-in-Residence at Victoria Baths has been bobbing along very well and while I've not been in attendance at the Hathersage Road bathhouses much this last month, I've been busy behind the scenes - taking a tour of Withington Baths, for starters, with its fuggy full pool, and researching Chorlton Baths, now sadly shut to the public.

Weekend Of Words at the beginning of June was well attended and received a deluge of lovely comments - the creative writing workshops seemed to go down a treat, the Poetry Panel drew a crowd (including the Poet Laureate, still then, I think, Carol Ann Duffy) and Saturday evening's Re/Place(s) event featuring six specially commissioned completely new short stories saw our quota of deckchairs filled (see below; thanks to Gwen Riley-Jones for the fab photos), and someone who works at The Portico Library was overheard saying how much they enjoyed it. All kinds of book-based and literature-leaning activities took place on the Sunday, and the Baths were abuzz with writers and readers alike enjoying performances - poetry, plays, storytelling and even singing.

It fired me up to write a kind of coda to the piece I premiered at Re/Place(s), revisiting my character in later years as he looks back on his time as the caretaker - this will be something like the seventh story, each of varying lengths and voices and perhaps even genres, that I've been inspired to write since diving in to my Writer-in-Residence role. They're not necessarily about swimming or the pool per se, but each has water as a quite significant feature, and I've been setting them free into the world; more on that below.

The Gala Pool at Victoria Baths is filled once a year, and the next Swim Weekend will be 7 and 8 September, when I'm aiming to put on a performance of some of the work I've been whittling away at, alongside, hopefully, the winner and runners-up of the Splash Fiction writing competition we're currently inviting entries for. Full details of that can be found here - please send in stories on the theme of water, up to 300 words long, by midnight on Sunday 4 August.

Following on from my (possibly) creative non-fiction piece The General Synopsis At Midday finding a home in the upcoming Port anthology, coming out with Dunlin Press later in the year (as reported in my last missive), I have written another longer piece (for me) about sailing, this one going the opposite direction on the Irish Sea in trusty boat Hedhyu, and featuring (at least for the time being) another Shipping Forecast-inspired title. I'm allowed; I'm a Day Skipper. I'll be performing Falling More Slowly at the end of the month as part of the rather unique FaxFiction project and performance, when short stories meet sound installations at Waterside’s Refract:19 festival as myself and five other writers (and a sound artist) premiere brand-new work about old-old tech… more on that in Creative Tourist here and ShortStops here. Tickets are available here.

Meanwhile, an experimental 'prose poem' (maybe), Let's Go Round Again, was spurred on by memories of rain-soaked canal journeys through France with Hedhyu brought to the fore by spotting the Canal du Rhône à Sète from the Paris-Barcelona train while I was abroad recently, and the 600-word piece (that's normally massive for me!) Warning Signs also had its beginnings in the very same holiday notebook (Barcelona-Paris this time), and puts into words some of the experiences of taking Hedhyu along the French rivers. Let's Go Round Again appears soon in the 'Alice' issue of Midlife Crisis zine, hopefully with a launch in Manchester; Warning Signs has just been accepted by Lighthouse Journal. Which is rather apt, don't you think?

10 May 2019

It's all going swimmingly

Got to say, 2019 is panning out quite nicely, creativity wise. My secret New Year's Resolution to try and write and submit pieces every month isn't going so badly, and as well as finding a home for a 250-word short-short story Feet In A Yard in the lovely-looking anthology Story Cities, out next month on Arachne Press (with a launch event at the shiny new Manchester Blackwell's bookshop on 27 June), a longer piece, possibly even creative nonfiction, The General Synopsis At Midday, harking back to life on yacht Hedhyu as we traversed the Irish Sea, has made its way into Dunlin Press's upcoming Port collection of poetry, prose, paintings and beyond.

Sticking with the water theme, and remember that funding application I mentioned earlier in the year? Well, I'm over the moon to say that it was successful, so now I'm immersed in a new role as Writer-in-Residence at Victoria Baths. As part of this (but not exclusively - more on life as a Writer-in-Residence very soon... watch this space!), I'm helping to put together the first-ever Weekend of Words festival, running over three days from 7 to 9 June 2019. (What the heck, read my write-up for Creative Tourist here.) As well as inviting some great writers on board to run writing workshops in flash fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction on Saturday morning and join the Poetry Panel on Saturday afternoon, I've also had the privilege, once again, to commission brand-new stories in the third iteration of the Re/Place project, to be performed on Saturday evening. 

Re/Place(s) - with "s" for "swimming" - invites you to dive into the public places and secret spaces of Manchester’s Water Palace via six specially commissioned site-specific short stories performed by established and emerging writers against a backdrop of magical projections. Alongside me, there's: Kate Feld, recently spotted in Jon McGregor's The Letters Page and also Hotel, no less; David Gaffney, currently polishing his third novel and working on his second graphic novel with comic book artist Dan Berry; Phil Olsen, the brand-new Fiction Editor of Sabotage Reviews (so be nice to him); Joe Stretch, whose third novel The Adult won the Somerset Maugham Award and who's working on his fourth, he tells me, and Lara Williams, the author of short story collection Treats and also the novel Supper Club, which is due for UK release in July with a very snappy cover. 

Grab a drink and a deckchair and enjoy the evening! I'm planning some surprises, but I'm hoping it will be ace anyway - and, let's face it, sitting in a swimming pool is pretty special.

More details of the event and info about the contributors over on the Re/Place website here, and - roll up, roll up! - get your tickets here.

23 April 2019

European collaboration

I was delighted to be invited to participate for a fourth time in the now annual European Camarade, part of the European Poetry Festival, put together by poet-organiser extraordinaire SJ Fowler. Last year, I collaborated with flash fiction maestro David Gaffney; the year before that with Fat Roland (of Flashtag and Bad Language fame) in Manchester and Tom Jenks, formerly of The Other Room, in Leeds. 

This year, Jazz Linklater, of Carcanet Press and one-third of avant evening No Matter, kindly agreed to collaborate with me and we had much fun creating some brand-new work and performing it at Manchester's International Anthony Burgess Foundation on Saturday 13 April.  Our piece "900" was a mash-up of three gallery trips each, three sets of cafe-bar scribbles each and three dreams each. We wrote for 15 minutes flat on each occasion, then combined the results into a piece per gallery, per cafe and per dream each, and then swapped out the nouns, adjectives and verbs between our two lots of pieces. The resulting text was slightly surreal and at times funny and other times slightly sinister. You can watch us reading it here.

Here's the intro: One Five Oh times three equals four-fifty times two equals nine hundred. 900.
 To dream of the number 900 represents feelings about an ending or closure that feels chaotic. Unpredictably ending something. Alternatively, it may reflect an attempt to use creative skills to plan an unusual ending to a situation.

22 March 2019

Smokes and smokelongs

I've been asked to read at Peter Barlow's Cigarette, which is a real honour as it's one of my favourite regulars on the brimming Manchester live literature scene. I'm sharing the stage with three other writers: Gilbert Adair, who co-founded and curated the Sub-Voicive poetry reading series; Patricia Farrell, whose most recent publication is the visual text series A Space Completely Filled With Matter, published by Veer, and Colin Herd, who has tons out, including with Knives Forks & Spoons, Boiler House Press, Red Ceilings Press and, upcoming, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, so at least we share the latter. Still, please don't tell them I'm not an avant garde poet. Having said that, I am currently tinkering away on some new work with constraints other than just wordcount and have had my nose in a lot of books about OuLiPo and by OuLiPo. 

PBC#31 takes places Saturday 6 April, 4-6pm, at Waterstone's Deansgate, in city centre Manchester. It's free in and you get a glass of wine, so what's not to like? More here.

01 March 2019

Time marches on

Gosh, it’s only 1 March (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus to you) and so much has already happened in 2019 in Live Literature Land (see all the pictures here and keep up-to-date with upcoming developments over at Creative Tourist) and with Project Writing. On that front, January saw the publication of one of my Re/place stories with Reflex Fiction and the signing of a contract (official!) agreeing to another flash fiction appearing in the University of Greenwich anthology Story Cities, to be published in the summer by Arachne Press. I’ve been sticking to last year’s resolution to submit pieces at least once a month, and I’ve also been busy writing new things (not just previews and advertorials, I promise) and tinkering with an application to fund a very exciting commission, which will include events and the creation of a body of work, so fingers and toes crossed for a successful outcome. I’ve had the honour of being asked to perform at the European Poetry Festival, and will be teaming up with Jazz Linklater at the Burgess Foundation in April, and also at Peter Barlow’s Cigarette the same month, at Waterstone’s Deansgate, and I’ve been back “on stage” at February’s outing of The Other, swapping work with poet Martin Kratz and wearing my readers in public for the first time.

Top left: PN Review launch Benjamin Nehammer 23 January; Top right: Poetry Pop Jukebox Co-op Emily Oldfield 24 January; Middle left: Manchester Prize Matthew Frost & James Draper 1 February; Middle right: The Other Steph Lonsdale & Hilary Robinson 7 February; Bottom left: Peter Barlow's Cigarette Dan Eltringham 9 February; Bottom right: Poets & Players Lavinia Greenlaw 23 February.