The 2010 List

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Hamlet with John Simm at The Crucible, Sheffield
The Dumb Waiter at The Library Theatre, Sheffield
Beautiful Burnout at The Crucible, Sheffield


Biffy Clyro at Sheffield Academy
Frightened Rabbit at The Leadmill Sheffield
Turin Brakes at The Memorial Hall, Sheffield
Outroads at The Redhouse, Sheffield
Fightstar at Corporation, Sheffield, supported by The Xcerts and Cars on Fire


Best book I read this year was ‘Grab onto me Tightly as if I Knew the Way’ by Bryan Charles – not a new book, but totally amazing!


Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
Shutter Island
Four Lions
The Wolfman
Alice in Wonderland
Cats & Dogs 2 – The Revenge of Kitty Galore
Clash of the Titans

Other amazing stuff – Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery –Free, although probably not anymore, to get in – Pre-Raphaelites, Walter Langley and the beautifully sad ‘The Death of Chatterton’ by Henry Wallis.
Cadbury World – amazing! They hand out free chocolate as you walk round!

I like looking back over my end of year lists. At the end of 2009 I listed loads of gigs and albums, only three films, and complained about the lack of good theatre! Less music, more film and theatre over 2010.


Just A Matter Of Opinion

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Here is what the reading panel of a small American magazine said about one of my short stories last week –

This piece is disjointed and doesn’t make me care about the character.
Weak beginning…I´m not hooked by her inner dialogue and lack of action.She´s in bed, thinking. And then after that, we get some backstory. This needs to change.
There is so little that happens here, no real character-defining conflict. No hook. It´s a lot of introspection.
Funny typo – “The enemy were soft sheets.” So these soldiers were shooting linen with their machine guns?
What exactly about Barney was so horrifying to Kelly’s mother? Go into more details on why this union was so frowned upon
The timeline seems odd. Barney could not have joined the army before the age of 18. However, Kelly would have been 18 when she married Mark and first became pregnant- but it says that she ran off and tried to live her own life. Unless she immediately met Mark and got pregnant immediately and moved back to her home town, there doesn’t seem to be enough time for her to have done all of this.

All this might have been totally crushing… if I hadn’t already sold this story twice before, once to a magazine and once into an anthology. It was also short listed in the Sid Chaplin prize. I’m actually really proud of this story, and the editors who did choose it had only good things to say. So, while these readers obviously had problems with it and it wasn’t right for their magazine, that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the story. Usually I would say when you get feedback you should listen to what is said and act upon it, however, this situation seems to prove that’s not always the way. There are some pretty specific comments in this feedback ‘weak beginning…some backstory. This needs to change’ normally I would run back to my story and change the thing that ‘needs to be changed’ but, obviously, in this case I won’t be doing that. I would still say, though, that if an editor, and I stress AN EDITOR gives you advice or feedback and says something needs to change, you should act on it and change it. But if the advice comes from members of the public, friends, family, or a reading panel made up of god knows who, perhaps you don’t.

… also, and I don’t want this to turn into a rant really, but… well, I had limited contact with an editor whose magazine I was writing an article for last week. When I politely asked him for his writer’s guidelines he emailed me with a short and abrupt ‘we expect our contributors to look at the magazine and work out want we want’ …

ok then.

I have noticed that most UK magazines like to make it really difficult for writers. I don’t know if this is to cut down on the submissions and give them less to wade through. But when you look at US magazines in comparison it is a bit odd. Most US mags publish guidelines on their websites, and I’m talking about details like formatting, word counts and, god forbid, payment rates, not style and content. If this editor is not particular about formatting and word counts then fine, he could have just said so, but some editors are fussy about those things.

..urgh, I’m going to go and take some deep breaths now…

Just lately I have been…

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Going to see plays, The Dumb Waiter and Hamlet – shameless link to my other, nonsensical blog

Listening to Mariachi El Bronx which makes me want to stamp my feet, shake some maracas, eat fajitas and go back to Mexico

Watching True Blood

Having chats with, cuddling and feeding small, severed finger like treats to Stitch the dog.

Lying in bed

Reading Jean Rhys and Dorothy Parker (again, although it’s now so long since I read either of these women’s works, it’s almost like reading them for the first time)

Eating pasta

Wondering why all editors can’t be as nice as some.

Writing new short stories and really short prose, and staring at novel 3 in bewilderment.

Beginning and planning (yes, actually planning!) novel 4

Getting paid…thank god.

Drinking wine.

Waiter Waiter…

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Remember when I said I was going to attempt writing a novel in 5 weeks? Yeah… not quite managed that one. I’ve written a couple of pages though, so that’s a start, and I have also done something I have never done before. I’ve outlined the plot beforehand. In other words, I have actually thought through what this story is going to be and where it’s headed before I’ve written a single line. This a bit of a departure for me, but then, I do have the sense that this novel will be… not my usual sort. Maybe I should get a pen name…Maybe I should write my chaotic ‘me’ books under my own name and my ‘thought through and methodical’ books under another…

Went to see a brilliant production of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter the other night. I haven’t been to much theatre in a while, mainly because there’s very little on I want to see, but this reminded me just how much I love it when it’s good. We have three theatres all together in the centre of Sheffield, and I’m constantly amazed by how much crap they put on. The Dumb Waiter was the exception. Spanking new theatre company Chief Theatre impressed me in a way I haven’t been impressed since Matthew Rhys stood in front of me in a room no bigger than my living room and worked his way through Simon Bent’s The Associate.

But I’m going to say more about that (The Dumb Waiter, not Matthew Rhys in The Associate… unless anyone wants to hear about Matthew Rhys in The Associate) and them (Chief Theatre) in a couple of weeks, probably over on my other blog, when I’ve been to see John Simm playing Hamlet…so I can include that too.

Other than that I have mainly been talking to small dogs, flogging short stories, though, unfortunately not writing nearly enough of them, and eating Indian food.


It’s All Me Me Me

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I was going to write a ’10 things you didn’t know about me’ blog, which I’ve seen done on other blogs, but it seems a bit ‘me me me’. Anyway, as I began writing the 10 things you didn’t know about me I found that a, I couldn’t get past 4 and some people would already know even those and b, it all made me sound completely mad, and bored me when I read back these stupid useless facts about me.

1, I used to write short stories for Take a Break Fiction Feast, but decided it wasn’t the kind of fiction I wanted to write, which was stupid of me as they paid better than any writing job I’ve had since. – This is actually the most interesting of the things you probably didn’t know about me.

2, I have a rib missing or I am deformed in some way in the rib department. I never even noticed this until a boyfriend pointed it out to me when I was about 15. I still don’t know what is going on with my weird ribcage or why I never knew there was anything odd about it – you’d think I’d know if I had a rib missing or was born with an odd shaped ribcage or something…

3, When I can’t sleep I try counting American states in my head, but never get much past 20.

4, I have a problem with any kind of rubbish or wrappers being in contact with used plates, cups or cutlery. If this happens I can’t touch the items and have to get someone else to come and move them… – one or two people will already know this.

Now, I was reading Sarah Pinborough’s blog, as I often do, and in it she says twitter, blogging, facebook, and all that stuff, is full of a bunch of people just going on about themselves all the time and no one really wants to know what they had for tea and what their dog’s called. She has a point. But as writers and musicians and artists and actors and film makers, we are in a difficult position with this. Agents and publishers now insist that you use twitter and facebook and regularly update your blog. Even if you don’t have an agent or a publisher most understand why we need to do all this. If you don’t do it, someone else will, and that someone else is then getting the attention you could be getting. It may make you feel as if you’re banging on about yourself too much sometimes and can even make you feel a bit uncomfortable, but if you don’t blog and tweet you are being left behind. So, while I only came up with 4 useless facts about me (there are obviously loads more, but none that I’m willing to share just yet), and they are lame, I’m using the excuse that I have to do it.


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Pile ‘Em High


So, I’m guessing if Sarah Pinborough can write a novel in 5 weeks, so can I … right?

I’ll let you know.

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