25 August 2010

Got an "aks" to grind?

Oh looky here: it's a shiny new blog. It's called Ask Ben & Clare. It's nice, isn't it? Subtitled "What's your problem?" (ha!), you can send in any "contemporary conundrum that needs contemplating", and some nice people called Ben and Clare will offer a succinct solution to cheer you up while you chow down on that tasteless cold wet sandwich you made the mistake of buying for lunch. Again. You never learn, do you? Perhaps you should email Ben and Clare for some hot new ideas, fresh out the kitchen.

Clare, now that's a name I recognise... oh, it's me, isn't it? Quelle coincidence!

So, this is the soft launch of mine and Ben's new blog. (Don't worry, dear reader, I'll still be blogging independently and just as often here on Words & Fixtures.) Maybe one day we'll have a proper launch. If I have anything to do with it, it will be in a pub. It won't be anywhere la-di-da or in a "special bit" of somewhere that makes it sound like we hired it out. There won't be free drinks. In fact, we'll probably be hoping that you buy us drinks; after all, ABC is the brainchild of two poor writers on the breadline (as tradition insists). We'll let you know.

In the meantime, here's a direct quote from Ben about our collaborative project: "We think it is dead dead good and that." I think that just about sums it up. Tune in every week (or so) for regular fixtures and fill your boots with happiness and goodwill. Stick with us - you never know what life-saving tips and interesting information you might pick up along the way.

18 August 2010

It's all about me

Last week, some survey by some person somewhere revealed that Manchester is the third biggest European user of Twitter. We come after London and Paris, so we're in good company. It goes without saying, but I will anyway, that I have lived in all three of these hip'n'happening cities and no other conurbation (unless you count Liverpool which I inhabited for perhaps as long as a month).

Anyway, as if to prove the Rainy City's position of social media status, yesterday was a busy old day in Manchester's interweb.

First off, some bloke from The Guardian did some live Tweeting travel feature thing: "armed only with a mobile phone – and ready to go wherever the best of your tweets take him". He was called Benji Lanyado and it was called the TwiTrip. Yawn. Still, somehow me, along with many of the other regular Manc Twitterers, got sucked into the whole thing and started blatantly self-promoting and showboating, and desperately bigging up places for this bloke to go in a "my suggestion's better than yours" kind of way. I was finally namechecked at about 7pm, along with my Chorlton mate Gill: "@benjilanyado: Instalations at the Cornerhouse, thanks to @Wordsnfixtures @Gillmphoto & @popisthis http://flic.kr/p/8tt24N". If you're remotely arsed, you can see the TwiTrip to Manchester in its entirety here.

Secondly and very bizarrely, @wordsnfixtures starting trending on Twitter. WTF? This is what the Tweet said: "@TrendsManc: Sarah-Clare Conlon, @wordsnfixtures is now trending in #Manchester http://trendsmap.com/gb/manchester". My colleague Josh (aka @technicalfault) loudhailed this announcement across the office (which was rather embarrasing as it does probably mean that I'd spent more of the day dicking about on Twitter than doing any actual work. And we all know that such a thing would never happen, right? RIGHT?). He then showed me how to do a screengrab, for proof, like. Look, I'm right at the top, above that Benji bloke:

Thirdly, the first-ever South Manchester Tweet-up chugged back some ciders and shimmied into its sparkle boob tube for a night out in Didsbury Village. Such a glamourpuss, this latest social media mover and shaker has not one, but two hashtags: #southmcrtweetup and #southmanchestertweetup. Organised by Tom Mason (@totmac) and Nicola Cooper-Abbs (@ncooperabbs), the get-together went swimmingly with quite a gaggle of creatives, SEOs, PRs, developers, local business reps and even some "normal" folk, and lovely Laura from Airy Fairy Cupcakes put on a spread of sweet treats. Didsbury Life's Helen (who I didn't recognise because I am a complete dunce, although, in my defence, it has been a while) is going to do a write-up about it, so look out for all the action shots down on the DL blog. Rumour has it the next SMTU might be in Chorlton. Hold on to your hats, kids, I'll be able to crawl home!

17 August 2010

An other world

Wow. I'm so totally beside myself with excitement that I can barely type. To prove it to you, let me put up the smallest possible logo I can find to illustrate this post. Let me also inform you that, as well as some terrible spelling which I've been trying to keep on top of as I go along, I'm also afflicted by an ongoing accidental pressing of the delete button. Idiot.

Anyway, what I'm excited about is this: some of my witterings have today been published on Other, which is a fabulous online magazine I (and many others) have been very much enjoying since back in, ooh, April. Contributors chalked up from the start included Chris Killen, Tom Fletcher, Jenn Ashworth, Nick Royle, Joe Stretch and Lee Rourke.

I showed an interest in submitting when it was still a cheeky glint in its creators' eyes and was very much encouraged by editor Socrates Adams-Florou. It took me a while, but I finally rustled up a concept last week. (It coincided with a Tweet in which I revealed I was "practically puking ideas", if you were watching closely.)

Here is a chunk of my email. I reproduce it here as it kind of explains my idea:
Basically, I collect lists. Discarded shopping lists, to be more precise. They are sometimes quite dull, but largely they are immensely interesting and often even amusing. People even use special paper to write their lists upon, and sometimes they reuse sheets which have fascinating tales of their own to tell on the reverse. For a while, I have been wondering quite what to do creatively with my lists, and I suddenly realised they might offer me an opening into the wonderful world of Other.

You can read THE TAXONOMY INSPECTOR #1 by Sarah-Clare Conlon here.

Yes, that #1 means it's going to be serialised! And yes, I am sharing a section with Nicholas Royle. NICHOLAS ROYLE!

13 August 2010

Too cool for school

It's Friday, I'm tired, I meant to blog something really witty and wondrous to ease you into the weekend, but hey. What I'm going to do for you instead is show you a picture of a fantastic spelling mistake which is a fixture out there in the public arena. Thankfully it's on the other side of the pond, otherwise I'd be worrying about the state of our education system because a) some of my friends have kids and b) some of my friends are teachers and c) some of my friends have kids and are teachers (imagine that as a Venn diagram).

Anyway, I thought it might raise a smile on a dreary August afternoon. If you have the energy.

Obligatory pic cred: AP Photo/News & Record/Joseph Rodriguez. First seen here.

09 August 2010

Speaking volumes

Plans are well and truly afoot for this year's Manchester Literature Festival, and I'm awfully excited about it kicking off good and proper on 14 October.

Firstly, last year I met lots of lovely talented blogger types by working on the Manchester Literature Festival blog as both a reviewer and an editor. For starters, there's that Cynical Ben chap and then there's that Parklover lady, and they're just sat atop the tip of a very immense iceberg, waving and smiling.

Secondly, I got to go to a stack of literary readings, from poetry in the halflight to prose in the Salford Lads Club. In fact, the festival opened many doors I'd never before been behind: circular side rooms in Central Library, the elaborate Lord Mayor's Parlour in the Town Hall, the voluminous Friends Meeting House in the city centre.

Thirdly, my knowledge of the current Manchester literary scene increased inconceivably. This has totally broadened my reading list from 2009 into 2010.

Fourthly, the Manchester Blog Awards are affiliated with the festival and take place during the whole shebang. Obviously I am endebted for ever more to this glittering shindig for raising the profile of this little old site by naming it "Best New Blog" and stamping it with the pretty pink seal of approval you now see at the top left corner. Nominations open soon for the Blog Awards 2010; let's speak no more of it (winks and doffs cap).

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, the new website is up and running for Manchester Literature Festival with details of all this year's events. I'm giddy with anticipation about the launch of the Bugged project, and I also have my eye on a few other dates. Tomorrow evening there is a meeting for anyone who fancies getting involved in the festival: it starts at 6pm and takes place at the new City Library in Elliot House on Deansgate. See you there.

Peruse the Manchester Literature Festival blog here (maybe this link takes you to one of my reviews, what of it?).

Hang out at the Manchester Literature Festival website here.

Follow Manchester Literature Festival on Twitter here. Use the hashtag #McrLitFest if you mention them, won't you.

Check out details of the Manchester Blog Awards here.

04 August 2010

Telling tales

This week, it's all been about short stories. Well, it's been about other stuff too, but short stories is what I'm blogging about today.

I wrote a little fella last Thursday when I had to go to Hope Hospital for an appointment. This involved me sitting on my own in a small room for a length of time. While waiting, I managed to squeeze out 330 words, just perfect for a creative writing receptacle called 330 Words. I tweaked the piece slightly this week, submitted it to the lovely Tom Mason who curates the site and, lo!, here it is. Its title is Hope. That is a play on words.

While you're on 330 Words, scroll through the older submissions and you will stumble across a piece called Your Cat by Dave Hartley. Dave's feline ditty is ace, as is Dave. He has a sonic screwdriver, you know, and a number of guinea pigs. What's freaking me out, though, is that the picture which accompanies the story (330 Words is all about words and pictures - something we at Words & Fixtures obviously approve of) appears to include my pink sneakers and one of my cats; with that fluffy tail, it looks like Resho. Those most certainly aren't my jeans, but it's still a little unsettling.

Li'l Dave's piece was also recommended on Twitter by my good friend Ben using the fab new #StorySunday hashtag brought to us by Tania Hershman. This is good. I think I will use it.

Ben is none other than Benjamin Judge, with whom I am currently "developing" a new project. Ben also has a story on 330 Words, and I'm privy to the fact that there'll be a new one up soon, once my own glory wanes. Ben and Dave know each other through the Speculative Fiction Writing Group, which has its next Madlab meeting on Wednesday at 7pm. Last night, the pair of them joined Bristol Prize-winning Valerie O'Riordan and others for the launch of issue 4 of Bewilderbliss magazine. They both read, and Ben's reading was of The Story Of The Month for August from his wonderful blog Who The Fudge Is Benjamin Judge? It is called Lost and it goes like this.

(I nicked the pic off a blog called Fundamentals Of Interactive Journalism, BTW. It hasn't been updated for a while and the authors are based in the States, so hopefully they can't come round and twat me for it.)

03 August 2010

A moment of fiction #6

This edition of A Moment Of Fiction sees a few new issues of zines we've talked about before hit the shelves, plus there are some submissions deadlines looming I thought I'd better mention.

To celebrate its first birthday, The Shrieking Violet is gorging itself with a epicurial special and issue 10 (no, I didn't get it either) features all sorts of food-related articles and recipes, including a review of the infamous Manchester Egg by poet, photographer and my neighbour Hayley Flynn, a cake map of Manchester by the Loiterers Resistance Movement's Morag Rose and a guide to foraging the very best berries by Alan Smith (also of the Loiterers Resistance Movement). Nom. The cover is by David Bailey of Good Grief! in Afflecks Palace, where you can pick up copies of the zine (also try Oklahoma, Cornerhouse, Manchester Craft Centre, An Outlet, Koffee Pot, Nexus Art Cafe and Piccadilly Records while the Salford Zine Library is outta town on vacation in Durham).

Thursday, meanwhile, sees the launch of issue 4 of Bewilderbliss, complete with a party and readings and everything in the NQ's Cord from 7pm. The outgoing team (as in they will shortly be handing over the reins, not as in they are a bunch of extreme extroverts, though they may well be that too) includes none other than Bristol Prize-winning writer Valerie O’Riordan, and the latest issue includes a story by my blogging friend and not-so-secret project collaborateur Benjamin Judge.

Following a successful launch a couple of weeks back, copies of the fragrant 3030 magazine ran out due to popular demand! I've been assured Common and Piccadilly Records have been restocked, and the issue is now up on the website too.

Pantheon magazine are looking for submissions for their second issue. The closing date is 4 September and full details are here.

The Bad Language creative writing posse are also inviting you to send in work for consideration for their second anthology, this time by 6 September. All information is here.

If you'd prefer to express yourself through visual rather than written means, I can think of worse projects with which to get involved than Papergirl MCR. Head girl Janice Stainton (@PapergirlMCR on that Twitter) is looking for artists and designers to submit up to 10 pieces of individual works or prints of up to 20 copies (doodles, photography, screenprinting, painting...) as well as cyclists willing to get involved in delivery. Submissions close on 1 September; to submit, send an email with your name and a link to your website to papergirlmanchester@gmail.com then hand in your work at Nexus Art Cafe, Dale Street, Manchester, M1 1JW, or post your work to Papergirl Manchester, 7 Ophthalmic Works, 2 Naples Street, Manchester, M4 4DB. (What a great address, by the way.)

ARCHIVE: Here are all the most recent posts of this ilk, if you need to look back over the various creative writing groups already mentioned and publications open to submissions: A Moment Of Fiction #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5, plus the Mini Moments Of Fiction: #1 and #2.

And don't forget to let me know if you want anything mentioning on this humble blog!

02 August 2010

Another Mini Moment Of Fiction: Short but sweet

A month has passed since author Beryl Bainbridge left us for other worlds, but one of her last pieces of work was a six-word story to help the Arvon Foundation promote its writing courses with a wee little competition. The full details of the contest are here, but basically you need to submit a piece of flash fiction of six words by 1 September to competition@arvonfoundation.org or via that Twitter to @arvonfoundation. (Thanks to Benjamin Judge for bringing this to the attention of W&F, BTW.)

BB's six words were: "I drowned. Angels arrived in submarines", which is pleasantly intriguing. Perhaps the most famous (and probably the inspiration for this task) is "For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn" by Ernest Hemingway. Anyway, now it's your turn: get cracking.