Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I stole the video above from Alex's marvellous Blog on the Bookshelf. I don't know why I like watching it so much, but maybe because it's like a game I don't even have to play myself. It's curiously mesmeric. Perhaps it's hypnotising me into alphabeticising my bookshelves?

Friday, June 25, 2010


... is just a brilliant novel. Honestly. Read it this summer, and then get yourself along to the Wellcome for one (or both) of these events...


Wellcome Collection | 10 June–26 September 2010

Michelle Lovric will present a lecture about her Venice and Peru-based novel,
The Book of Human Skin, at the Wellcome Collection on Saturday July 3rd at 2.30pm.

She will also lead a personal guided tour of the exhibition on Wednesday July 28th at 2pm.

Admission to both events is free, but it is advisable to pre-book an e-ticket for the July 3rd event:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


There’s nothing wrong with the boy, his mother says, apart from liking attention.

So they ignore his dresses, the songs he screams, even his self-inflicted injuries. But when he replaces the faces in every photograph with his own, they worry.

He's deserves a better audience, says his mother.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


So here are Rachael and me....

No really! These are our little stitched selves for an exhibition coming up at the Science Museum, and they are looking for YOU to put yourselves in too. Find out more here.

There's still time to make an exhibition of yourself. Just. But if you do, please send a picture - would love to make a collage of stitched blog readers.

And in case, you're wondering, Rachael does really have lips, but I rubbed her lipstick off. Hmmm, teenagers nowadays.

Here's what we really look like.

Not much difference really....

Monday, June 14, 2010


There were some great comments to help find new poetry, after my last post about it (here), and here's another book to try...

Bodywork by Dilys Rose.

Thanks to Catherine Smith for this recommendation, because although I came across Dilys Rose's work when I was living in Edinburgh (she's a fantastic short story writer too), I hadn't heard of this collection.

The poems here all focus on the human body, and many are fresh takes on particular, very particular, illnesses - Baker's Itch, Mat Hatter Syndrome, Beethoven's Ear, Grace Darling's Lungs, Weaver's Bottom, Clergyman's Throat, Sailmaker's Palm (all of which have notes at the end to explain more. Weaver's Bottom for example is a form of bursitis, often caused by long hours of sedentary work. Shouldn't that be Writer's Bottom?)

But through a series of persona poems, absolutely perfectly drawn, often with real humour but never cruel, a whole world is created, both real and imaginary. It's like reading a mix of Jane Austin and Neil Gaiman. Perfect!

Here are some of my favourite lines:

her name was whatever you fancied
her eyebrows a twin-peaked cliche
her mouth was a magnet
her tongue swung between sweet chariot and Uzi
her throat was a tool of the trade

(from Obituary)


Hers isn't a bit like those she's seen
in grand old paintings of her namesake -
all pale and quivery on a plate
like junket or blancmange;
a sweet treat at the end of a feast.

(from Aggie's Boob)

And here's one of the poems from the Collection, and another here.


Saturday, June 12, 2010


How could I not love the Bristol Short Story Prize?

Most of the pictures on their website are of people writing and reading short stories on benches!

So it's a particularly thrill to be invited to speak at their prize presentation this year.

You can find out more, and read an interview that I did with the talented Ellen Grant, a writer and student at Bath Spa University here. I particularly liked her last question: 'And finally, would you rather be re-incarnated as Samuel Taylor Coleridge or Samuel L. Jackson?'.

However, nothing really beats an interview I once did in America during which I was asked, 'what sort of cake are you?'

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Well, this won't tell you much about it, but it made me laugh. Cleve West, Joe Swift and James Alexander-Sinclair take us round the show their way (but don't do the pirate speak I thought they were promising. I'm very disappointed about that, ooar me hearties. Maybe next year....?)

James has a good blog here btw, and he also can sometimes be persuaded to organise coach journeys via Twitter. Follow him and demand tickets. It's about time we had another.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


I've been working with the Teuxdeux to do list website for some weeks now and it's just perfect. It even looks pretty. Can't recommend it enough, apart from the fact that it doesn't get through my tasks itself when I'm doing other things.

Or make coffee.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


Further to yesterday's quote about trying new things, I'm going to start putting up my thoughts here about the poetry collections I've been reading.

I was at a talk at Sussex University a couple of weeks ago by Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing and he was talking abut how many people are writing poetry as compared to reading it at the moment. Then I got (from the excellent Happenstance Press) a copy of the useful How (Not) To Get Your Poetry Published which makes a similar point.

So I got all hot under the collar about this, until I was talking with a friend who made the point that actually it's very hard to find out what kind of poetry you might like to read. There are novel reviews, even short story collection reviews, by the dozen but not that many actual poetry collection reviews. Or mainstream ones anyway. You can't even browse in your local bookseller because most - although not all - have limited selections, and these are mostly the popular anthologies. So how do we know where to even begin if we're not going to poetry readings, talking to poets, and reading literary journals? And let's face it, not all of us are. I'm not as often as I'd like, for starters.

Hopefully you'll all write in and prove me wrong, and that would be great because I can start a list of places to go to find out new poets to read, but in the meantime, I'm going to start putting up here some of the collections and poets I've been enjoying - or not enjoying - recently to give you a flavour of what's out there. Please do let me know your suggestions too - and why - so again we can share the good news, and even those of us who write poetry can read some more too.

First up is Caroline Bird's Trouble Came to the Turnip, not because it's my favourite ever collection but to be honest, because it was the first from my 'special shelf' that came to hand. The fact it was on that 'SS' in the first place though shows I value it!

Caroline is disgustingly young, born in 1986, but has already won masses of awards and written plays for the Royal Court, stories for the BBC etc etc. She also runs workshops in schools, and there's an enthusiasm and vitality here that I can imagine the kids loving. I did too. She's a prime example that accessible poetry doesn't mean dumb poetry.

Even the titles make me smile - 'The Leprechaun Thinks It Matters', 'A Gentlewoman's Pornography', 'My Lovely Legless Acrobat', 'The Fairy Is Bored With Her Garden', 'My Love Made Me a Hat', and of course the title poem itself, but this is a book of more than just titles. Listen to some of the images:

It has been scribbled in the stars,
we will all trade our brains for lava lamps.
The ones with the thinnest eyebrows will survive.
(It will come to Pass)


The mementos start off small.
The jelly baby that you never ate
that's gone all hard and statuesque.

Once you stop playing with the pencil on her website (and be warned it took me a long time to get over the novelty of it but then I'm easily pleased), you can read some of the poems from this collection here, and here, or listen to Caroline read a poem here ...

Friday, June 04, 2010


Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not.
Virgil Thomson

Thursday, June 03, 2010


But what do you do in there? Melissa asks.

Think, he replies.

Don’t be ridiculous, she says. You can't think without me to tell you how to.

He doesn’t say he disagrees. Later though, in his shed, he thinks about how she’s wrong. He swears the shed moves slightly. Nodding.

This story is inspired by Shedworking, the book.

More 50 word stories here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


And for the second day of our Shedworking celebration, here are just some of the famous people who have created beautifully in their sheds.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

SHEDWORKING, The book....

And about time too...

It's no secret that one of my most treasured posts - as well as the RLF Fellow at the LSE - is Literary Editor of Shedworking magazine, so I'm delighted that the book by Alex Johnson comes out this week.

So to celebrate, this blog is having a week of Shedworking matters.

To begin with, today is all about the details of the book itself. Take a peek...

And you can buy a copy here, or better still order it from your local independent bookshop.