I was at the royal wedding last week. I mean, I wasn’t actually sat in the church of course – I was around the margins, doing my PR job. Sorting out media interviews, sitting in green rooms, arguing over wrist bands, pushing through crowds.
That’s my role at important events – I’m there but nobody notices. Do you remember Zelig? It was a film by Woody Allen, back in the day, about a character who was always on the fringes of history – popping up anonymously in the back right corner of photographs. That’s me, I’m Zelig. And that’s most writers I think. We like to be where the action is, but we don’t want to be part of the action, we want to observe it.
Friend of ours told us a story about her dad. When he was a little boy his parents put him on a train. He was five, six years old, he didn’t really know what was going on.
When the train pulled into the next station he looked out of the window and his mum and dad were there waving at him from the platform, his mum in a dress with flowers, his dad in a suit and tie.
Blood Brothers is something of a phenomenon, one of only three musicals to have more than 10,000 performances in London’s West End, known as the Standing Ovation Musical because it brings audiences to their feet. It’s a huge hit. And it’s current UK tour seems to be heading the same way, it’s a hot ticket. If you are looking for a seat you’d better be quick because they are in short supply.
It’s currently at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham where I am off to see it on Monday and you can find more details about it here.
Just a quick blog this week to urge writers to enter story competitions. This is partly because I’m currently judging one which is now open so big plug for that:
That’s the Evesham Festival of Words Short Story Competition. It’s now open for entries and you can find all about the rules and how to enter if you click here.
I was talking to a fellow writer at a recent book signing event, he was telling me he had never once, in all his days, entered a short story competition, though he had written many stories. His main issue with competitions was that you have to pay an entry fee. Well yes, you do, but it isn’t massive and it usually goes back out in prize money and in paying the judges. In some cases, such as the Magic Oxygen competition for which I have regularly been a judge, it goes to charity.
Not everything can be free is the message I suppose, some things have a value. That goes for the books which people have spent time writing and it goes for writing competitions too.
Old age is a tricky subject to write about I’ve always thought. Tricky and important. Because it comes to us all in the end, if we’re lucky.
The difficulty with portraying old age in art is that it can become maudlin, without hope: “And age, and then the only end of age’ as Philip Larkin wrote. But Ronald Harwood deals with his tough subject matter beautifully in his play Quartet.
I’ve always been a fan of Facebook and always used it as a writer – to meet readers and other writers, to talk about things which interest us.
I’ve never had a Facebook page though, only my profile, and recent changes to the way Facebook works have just underlined why I made that decision.
Pages, it seems to me, are for business users, I use them in my day job in PR. But I am an individual, not a business, not even a small trader. I’m not one of these people who styles themselves an ‘authorpreneur’ what an awful word. I write the books I want to write, find a publisher willing to take them on and they sell to those who are interested in reading them.
A drive through the bright winter morning to sell my books at a book fair in the lovely Cotswold town of Evesham. Unfortunately when I got there I found no punters – plenty of other authors but nobody actually wanting to buy books.
This isn’t unusual for small press authors, events like this are often hit and miss. It’s in no way the organisers’ fault – they had made sure there was plenty of publicity both in the local media and by word of mouth, but sometimes, people just don’t come. Perhaps because of the location or the timing or whatever. So instead of talking to readers the authors talk to each other.
I’m delighted today to welcome back Roz Morris, novelist, ghost writer, long-time friend of this blog and now travel writer. Her new book Not Quite Lost is about her journeys around the UK and it’s currently picking up lots of nice publicity and rave reviews!
Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?
I’m an over-expressive person trapped inside a shy one. An inquisitive person who is more entertained by questions than answers, and ‘why’ rather than ‘what’. I love stories, especially stories that flirt with the edges of science fiction or fable and seem to suggest new metaphors for life. I guess all of this makes me the ideal temperament for an author.
I’ve kicked around the world of words and publishing for all my professional life. I’ve run the editorial department of a small publishing imprint. I’ve ghostwritten bestselling novels that famous writers put their names on. I’ve been a writing coach for one of the literary consultancies and I’ve mentored prizewinning authors. I’ve taught masterclasses for The Guardian and written a series of books for writers.
I love being involved in the many processes of making books, but my dream was always to write and make my own mark. I’ve completed two novels – one about going to a future life by hypnosis (My Memories of a Future Life) and the other about a theme park set in the last surviving piece of countryside (Lifeform Three). I’m working on a third – which I can’t talk about – and I’ve just made a diversion into travel diaries.
One of the untrammelled joys of the authoring lark is that, from time to time, you get to meet fellow authors who turn out to be talented and interesting people. I met John Holland when we were both involved in last year’s Evesham Festival of Words in Gloucestershire, John as judge of the festival’s short story competition me giving a talk on writing stories to win competitions. John is a short story writer who reads his work at lots of events. He also runs a popular event here in Gloucestershire called Stroud Short Stories – I thought it would be great to get to know him a little better.
Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?
I’m a Yorkshire man who has been living in Stroud in Gloucestershire for 25 years. A librarian by profession and a library campaigner (I was on News at Ten!), I also wrote topical satirical gags freelance in the 1980s and early 1990s until the BBC gave me a contract. My gags appeared regularly in Punch magazine (Sideswipes), on Weekending on Radio 4 and The News Huddlines on Radio 2. I also wrote for a few short-lived TV comedy shows, the names of which happily I have forgotten.
As well as short stories and comedy, I’m an avid fan of modern jazz and rock music, Wolverhampton Wanderers, nature, modern art and studio pottery.
I am getting married (to Christiane) on Saturday 7 October 2017.
When did you last see someone reading a book? Not someone you know, just someone you happened to pass who was reading.
Of course, I know it’s not a spectator sport, there wasn’t some point in history where the public used to gather in concert halls or football stadiums and hold mass book reading ceremonies. It’s always been a private activity, which takes place behind closed doors in small groups or in isolation, almost as though there is something shameful about it.
But I do feel that these days I just don’t see people reading books as much as I used to.