An unexpected start to the year, with a brand new p/t day job… closely followed by a welcome acceptance for the next poetry collection, The Complete Electric Artisan, which I’d submitted during July last year. This will be published by Shoestring Press, hopefully in the Spring – although you never know with small-press schedules. I’m hoping to announce any readings on Twitter when the time comes; in the past I’ve had fantastic launch venues like Lowdham Book Festival and Leicester’s Shindig, or the States of Independence Press Fair which is normally held at DMU in March. So here I am battling through the early weeks of a new job, plus making the final adjustments to what will be my fourth for Shoestring, and a fifth collection overall.
Not only that…. in late 2016 I applied for an Arvon grant so I can have a go at musical theatre writing. I missed the course in November, and not being able to do it without a grant, I applied again and – hooray – was awarded one! So I’ll be heading for that old mill-owner’s house in Heptonstall instead of going on my summer hols. I know the area anyway because I’m from West Yorkshire; those folded valleys with long chimneys sticking up above the trees are part of my landscape. But I’m hoping the unique Arvon atmosphere helps me to write some song texts then I can devise a touring show in the future.
I suppose this entry illustrates one thing above all – no matter how much rejection you might have experienced in the past, sometimes the door opens and you can go roaring in. You have to prepare the ground in advance and not give up. It’s the only way. And, when you get a sudden upswing of interest for no apparent reason, you won’t go headless-chicken with the sheer enormity of it all, and what it really means to your deepest self.
Hello again. And it’s new release time, because Part 2 of the Vicarage trilogy is available on Kindle from 6th October. The first book in the series is advertised on here, but of course there’s that handy function on Amazon where you can read a much longer extract before deciding whether to download the whole thing. Part 2 is A Tiny Rural Parsonage, and it continues the story of the trouble-hit Devauden family, this time relocated to a horrible parish in a rural wasteland far away.
As you might expect, things don’t go according to plan, and the unlikely pairing of Alice and Derek struggles onward through a mire created largely by themselves. I’m pleased to say that their children aren’t turning into fragrant middleclass offspring any time soon, and Alice’s dreadful friend Rosemary continues to snipe from the sidelines. I didn’t base the rural location on anywhere exactly, but it’s a kind of parallel Midlands – one of the featureless parts where you step off the motorway and you could be in any of five or six counties. However (sssh!) the Cathedral you hear mentioned from time to time in both books corresponds roughly with Gloucester. ‘Cos it’s lovely, and I imagine most readers will know of it as one of the finest medieval buildings.
I sent part of the Tiny Parsonage script off to the TLC editing/critical read service because I qualified for a free session this time – and I can recommend this service to any nervous novelists out there. I gained a few useful insights and even acted on them before uploading the whole thing. There isn’t much guidance for writers once you’re out in the world marketing your stuff, so if you need that extra push, try the TLC. Our regional writers’ orgs. generally advertise when the free reads are on offer, so you can’t lose if you fall into that shortage-of-regular-salary bracket….
Well, it’s the usual mix of frantic activity contrasted with empty periods when there’s not only a whole stack of rejection notices, but no poems coming from my end! Thankfully the pendulum swings on, and eventually there’s something to show for it all; a set of poems in an anthology, opportunities to pursue, the chance to participate in a festival.
Something Happens, Sometimes Here came out in late 2015, showcasing several of Lincolnshire’s poets – including the Carcanet authors Rory Waterman and Alison Brackenbury, fellow Shoestringers Robert Etty and Kathryn Daszkiewicz, Sam Gardiner (who got into the TLS, no less!) David Cooke and Mike Blackburn. You can obtain a copy of this fine representation of rural strangeness by contacting Five Leaves Press or the usual distributors, Inpress or Amazon.
As a result of the anthology, I was recently recorded for the special collections archives at Lincoln University. On a boiling day in a glass-walled room like a pressure cooker, yours truly performed into a small audio gizmo, avoiding the sounds of students dropping books and scraping chairs next door. It was a whole lot of fun; thanks to sound engineer Mark Mullen and archivist Claire Arrand. I’ve also signed up with Soundcloud, so if anyone hasn’t heard me read (and given the vast number of good performing poets out there, it’s quite likely you haven’t) a few audioclips can be found under my name with poems including ‘The Plaque, The Chandelier…’ and ‘My Tabloid Relationship Hell Scenario’.