A Lad Insane

Aladdin Sane cr Brian DuffyOccasional I mishear things in such a way that they send me off on a whole new creative tangent, and it seems I’m not alone.

Apparently, when Brian Duffy was photographing David Bowie for the cover of his new album in1973, he asked Bowie what the album was to be called. Bowie replied “A Lad Insane”; Duffy misunderstood and Aladdin Sane was born.

The original Aladdin Sane Dye Transfer print will be on show as part of the V&A’s ‘David Bowie Is‘ exhibition, which runs from 23 March to 11 August 2013. Well worth a visit!

Aladdin Sane1 cr Brian Duffy

Penguin celebrates 150 Years of the Underground

150 Years of the Underground cr PenguinJourneys are always good fuel for fiction, so the 12 authors commissioned to write tales inspired by the London Tube for Penguin Lines must have had a ball. I think it’s a wonderful way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, and especially poignant as Penguin paperbacks first came into being when their creator Allen Lane was seeking quality, affordable fiction to read on a train journey in 1935.

The 12 tales include works by authors such as William Leith and Lucy Wadham, but also collaborative efforts like ‘Mind The Child’ written by the children of London charity Kids Company in partnership with Camila Batmanghelidjh.

The stories promise to show “how we are connected, and how the space in which we live shapes us and our imaginations” and cost £4.99 each. Just the thing to dip into on that rush hour commute.

Find out more.


Memoir Journal seeks gun-themed submissions for a special issue

Pink water pistol cr Judy DarleyCan’t say why, but when I hear the word ‘gun’ I get Bon Jovi lyrics in my head: “Shot through the heart, And you’re to blame, You give love a bad name…”

Oh, cringe.

Memoir Journal issue 11Anyway, the point of this post is to let you know that Memoir Journal is now accepting submissions for a special issue devoted to the topic of guns.

Guns, always a thorny issue, aren’t they? Especially in the US where opinion is so very divided on the subject.

“We are seeking essays addressing any aspect of guns,” says Editor in Chief Claudia Sternbach. “We believe that this complicated subject, currently the focus of national dialogue in the US, is worthy of discussion and exploration in a literary magazine.”

Essays must be previously unpublished and may not exceed 6,000 words. To be considered for publication as well as a contest prize of $1,000, there is a $20 entry fee for each submission. However, if you want to be the chance to be published in the issue, but aren’t bothered about the cash prize, you don’t need to pay the submission fee.

Got that?

Submissions in English are welcomed from writers living anywhere in the world.

Find full details of how to submit here. The deadline for submissions is 5 June 5 2013.

Travel, tales and imaginings

Carbis BayI’ve quite a day, tucked up in my writing room as rain has drizzled down the window. Hard to believe that this time last week I was enjoying Cornish beaches in the sunshine! I’ve been busy writing about that trip for Travelbite, and doing some other bits of travel writing for other titles too – some wonderful escapism.

A Dark Imagined Bristol cover

I’ve also been very restless because A Dark Imagined Bristol – the first anthology from the Bristol Fiction Writers’ Group – went live on Amazon this morning, with two of my tales in it!

Restoration image cr Liz AscottMy stories are ‘Restoration’ and ‘Untrue Blue’ – this artwork for the former (shown left) – a tale of two sisters wrangling their differences in a cemetery – is by talented local artist Liz Ascott, who is also a member of the writing group and has stories in the anthology.

On a separate but equally happy note, I’ve spent the latter part of my working day struggling with the back cover copy for my debut short story collection, Remember Me To The Bees, due out later this year from Scopophilia Publishing.

Exciting times!

Audio CD review – Short Stories Volume 2

Short Stories Volume 2This new release from the British Library is a feast of short stories read by their writers, mined from the library’s rich archives.

It comprises three CDs, each holding four stories, including Beryl Bainbridge’s ‘Kiss Me, Hardy’, E M Forster’s ‘Mr Andrews’ and Seán Ó’Faoláin’s wry ‘One True Friend.”

Hearing the stories in the voices of the people who dreamt them up is an uncanny sensation, rather like having a presence in their writing room, or a conversation with them over the phone. It’s wonderfully intimate.

The stories vary immensely in tone, with notable highlights including Rose Tremain’s sparky and nostalgia-stirring ‘Extra Geography’, Osbert Sitwell’s deliciously macabre ‘Staggered Holiday’ (delivered in a spine-shivering voice!), and the lift and pull of Fay Weldon’s skilfully wrought ‘New Year’s Day’.

Listening to the authors relay their tales in their own unique accents and with their own particular emphases gives you the chance to interpret the tales through their delivery – a rare opportunity! As Steve Cleary, Curator of Drama and Literature at the British Library, says: “Although writers are not always the best performers of their own work, they bring a quality of authenticity to their readings that can never be matched by an actor.”

The perfect accompaniment to any journey, and ideal auditory inspiration fuel

The 3CD set is available from the British Library Shop (tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7735 / email: bl-bookshop@bl.uk) and online at www.bl.uk/shop as well as other bookshops throughout the UK.

Dream wildlife job

Seals, Kangaroo Island, South AustraliaAs a young teen I had two career-worthy passions: writing and wildlife. I followed the path to the former, but the latter still has a warm nook in my affections, which is why this job advert seeking a ‘Wildlife Caretaker’ caught my eye.

The successful applicant will be based on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, which is also home to wallabies, possums, koalas, echidnas and platypus (or should that be platypi? Probably should know that if you’re planning to apply) as well as being surrounded by waters teaming with seals, sea dragons and more.

At Seal Bay Conservation Park, the Wildlife Caretaker will work alongside tour guides and observe Australian sealions in their natural environment.

The job will also extend to other regions of South Australia including the Eyre Peninsula, known as Australia’s seafood frontier, where dolphins, seals, tuna and great white sharks await.

The successful applicant will also be expected to promote the State across the world through blogs and social media channels and will receive a package worth AUD$100,000, including a paid salary of AUD$50,000.

Find out more and apply for this job.

Within 48 hours you should receive an email inviting you to upload a 30-second video showing why you should get the job. Video applications close on 10 April 2013 at 9pm AEST. Shortlisted applicants will be announced on 24 April 2013.

Good luck – and yes, I will be jealous if you get it!

The love lives of strangers

Falmouth sand
While visiting Falmouth Art Gallery last week, I came across a small exhibition of notes written on luggage labels by the public – some pinned to a map of the town to show when momentous moments took place, others attached to a pinboard. Each one offers enticing glimpses into the romantic lives of anonymous strangers – resembling fragments from love letters or diaries.

Love Falmouth MapMy favourites could be lines from poems or songs: “She painted my face”, “I kissed Cathy on the face in the Poly”, “one night stand ends in relationship”, and the intriguing “Donated blood together… first date!”

The starting point for a thousand love stories!

Big Sea Snog



Writing a wedding reading

St Ives, Rob and EmmaThis week we’re at the wedding of a couple of friends who are getting married near St Ives, Cornwall. They asked me to write a poem for the occasion, to read at the ceremony. This is what I came up with.

The Beginning

The beach sweeps around the lip of the bay,
bright in the afternoon sun, glinting
in places like diamonds are scattered
across its surface. Embedded.
Shield your eyes with one hand:
You’ll see a lone figure silhouetted against
the silvered sea, body tense,
Hands buried deep.

Then another figure moves into view, steps
before them, coaxes one hand from one pocket.
They walk with mutual accord, close
to the incoming tide,
waves lapping at their heels like a small dog.

As the wind builds up, they lean together, hands clasped.
Stretched ahead of them on the sand, their shadows
extend, entwined.

Happy wedding day!

Secret, forgotten corners

Totterdown At Sunset cr Simon HopkinsonSome of my favourite spaces in the city around me are those other people tend to ignore – the busy road-bridge with narrow footpaths rubbish blows along, the empty buildings with shadowy interiors and secret, forgotten corners.

It’s these areas that artist Simon Hopkinson revels in, revealing an atmospheric elegance in the areas most of us hurry past on the way to somewhere brighter and better lit.

Billboard three cr Simon HopkinsonI’ve noticed his paintings ignite a sense of recognition and even nostalgia in viewers, while simultaneously showing them a side of Bristol they’ve never thought to pay attention to before.

“It’s all there, for anyone to see, but people rarely take the time to slow down and actually take it in,” Simon says.

Simon promises that his new paintings retain his recognisable style, giving Bristol’s rough and rubbish-strewn corners an uncommon dignity through his light-infused, colour-rich compositions.

“There’s something claustrophobic about tradition, and a freedom in looking at something abandoned and accidental, which society doesn’t expect you to like,” he comments. “The conventional view is that they are ugly, whereas to me their beauty is obvious.”

To glimpse a different side of Bristol’s personality and make up your own mind, head along to Grant Bradley Gallery between 9th and 30th March 2013. 

Find out more about Simon Hopkinson at www.simonhopkinsonart.co.uk



Midsummer in March

Saskia Portway as TitaniaAs a pre-birthday treat my hubla took me to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Bristol Old Vic. It’s truly my favourite Shakespeare play, in part because of the many ingenious and creative ways theatre directors have interpreted it – the magical madness seems to allow their imaginations free rein!

Last night’s performance was comical, beautiful, grotesque, eerie and wonderful – using puppets (thanks to Handspring Puppet Company) and planks to great effect.

As a special cherry on top for me, actress Saskia Portway was playing Titania (pictured left in Simon Annand’s photo. Saskia once played one of my own characters, in a monologue written of Show of Strength‘s theatre in shops. She’s a fabulous actress, so to see her as the fairy queen and Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons!) was a real treat.