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Lancashire Writing Hub is a writing development project. We exist to provide writers across the county opportunities to network, develop, publish and perform. Whether you are a poet or a copy writer, a novelist or a screen writer, a journo or a blogger, we've got something for you...

News 

THE WORD 2013 is almost here.

Thursday, August 15th, 2013


There are still some tickets left for The Word, the one-day writing festival at Astley Hall, Chorley on 21 September.

Last year was a sell-out success and with the calibre of speakers this year it is bound to sell out again.

Booker shortlisted Carol Birch, travel writer Peter Moore, and short storyist Zoe Lambert will be joined by book designers Ned Hoste and Ed Christiano
for a great day of inspiration and networking for writers in the serene grandeur of Astley Hall, surely one of Lancashire's most beautiful houses.

And there's curry for lunch!

Go here for news and info: http://the-word.org.uk

Go here for tickets: http://the-word-es2.eventbrite.co.uk/?rank=1

An Interview With Sam Mills

Thursday, April 18th, 2013
Described as the literary equivalent of Being John Malkovich by BBC Radio 2′s Art Show, The Quiddity of Will Self is a quirky, inventive novel about obsession at its most macabre.  Guest Editor, Alex O’Toole, talks to author, Sam Mills, about her nine year labour of love.
Do you think readers of The Quiddity of Will Self have to have read a book by Will Self to truly appreciate your book, The Quiddity of Will Self?

I don’t know. I’ve reached a point where I can’t imagine never having read a Will Self, or what it’s like to unknow words such as quiddity and stetorous and flocculent and all those other gems he favours. However, the narrator of part 1, Richard, is a Self virgin until he encounters the WSC (the Will Self Club). At which point, he wanders into Waterstones Piccadilly, picks up his first WS text, Great Apes, and then works his way through the oeuvre.  At first he doubts whether he will like Self, feels intimidated by his prose – as though he has been invited to a party where everyone else is a sesquipdelian and he can only stand in a corner feeling dumb. But soon he becomes obsessive, and devours his books in a gluttonous frenzy until they are all read and then, on realising that he can’t buy yet-to-be-published Book of Dave, he curls up foetal and weeps himself sick (a perfectly normal and healthy reaction, I feel). People have told me that this sequence works well as an introduction to Self for those readers who haven’t read him. My agent loved the book when he read it, and he’s only ever read Cock and Bull, so I guess it works for the uninitiated, yes. I hope so.

 

There are moments in our lives when a piece of art performs alchemy on us. We listen to a piece of music, view a canvas, real a novel and emerge a different person. Often these moments are a question of timing, of the fateful choreography of our mind meeting the artist’s mind in a moment of perfect union.’  What was the fateful moment and /or piece of art that sparked you to begin writing The Quiddity of Will Self?

When I came up with the idea in 2000, I decided to cast Self in my novel on the basis of reading just one of his texts, Cock and Bull. The Kafkaesque premise – a woman who grows a cock, a man who develops a vagina on the back of his knee – was so brilliant, the writing so daring, sardonic, imaginative and unexpected that I just knew that, in literary terms, Self was the One. Nine years on, Self remains my favourite author. I do think he is our greatest living novelist (and he really ought to have been crowned with the Booker for Umbrella). Someone once said to me that they don’t like his books because they’re trying to be clever, but I don’t think they try to be clever, they are clever, and they’re challenging, and they demand a little more from the reader than some books – but that’s what I love about them. The more books you read, the more picky you become as a reader and the harder you are to please. There was a time a few years back when I would wander into Waterstones and pick up a debut novel and I could tell within a few lines of reading the opening that the author had graduated from UEA. UEA have produced some writers I love – Andrew Miller, Ian McEwan to name a few– but there seemed to be a season when their authors all seemed to be writing in a certain style and tone that was quite uniform. Pick up a book by Self and within a few lines you’ll recognise his voice. I don’t think Self would have fared well on a creative writing MA, for that matter…

 

As part of your research for The Quiddity of Will Self you set up The Will Self Club (www.thewillselfclub.co.uk), a real organisation, whose members worship the author, Will Self. How would you feel if a Sam Mills splinter group was set up in its wake?

I just can’t imagine it! Will Self is worthy of worship. I am not. However, the WSC pet Dodo seems to be getting a lot of fans and will no doubt soon have his own following. Pigeons already sing songs about him; people never stop petting him and taking pictures when I take him for a walk.

 

The last section of the book is voiced by a fictional version of the author, Sam Mills, who you have created as a male character. If art is imitating life, why not remain female?

I got my first novel published by pretending to be a man. It was a YA novel and I sent it to Faber and they pulled it off their slush pile. I allowed them to believe Sam was a Sam-man for a while before I enlightened them.  All of my crossover novels before Quiddity were published from male viewpoints. I find it much easier and more natural to write from the point of view of a man. So whenever I turned up to literary festivals and events, people were expecting a Sam with a goatee beard, not a Sam with long hair who looked a bit girly; their mouths would form ‘O’s and they’d blink hard and stutter a bit. It’s not that I crave a sex change, as Sylvie does in Part 2 of Quiddity. But I think it still sucks to be a female writing in today’s publishing world. Just look at the covers that female writers have to suffer. Feminism has a long way to go in the literary world, a long, long way, and not putting silly Mills & Boon images of dreamy couples on the cover of serious novels by female authors would be a start. The publishers of Quiddity originally wanted to publish me as Samantha, but I won them round and insisted on Sam.  (besides which, my full name is not actually Samantha anyway…)

 

You took nine years to write The Quiddity of Will Self and the novel is clearly a labour of love. Is there a particular part or aspect of it that you’re most pleased with, or a character who you feel most affection for?

When I read through the novel the other day, I was already beginning to fall out of love with it, to feel I had matured and moved on, and it made me feel sad in a way, knowing that three years ago I was so proud of the novel and in a decade or two I’ll no doubt look back on it and cringe – such is the natural progression of any author. I think I like Part 4 the best, because Mia was one of the first successful female characters I’ve created.  I enjoyed writing something slightly sci-fi, that satirised rather than celebrated technology, which I feel we all put far too much faith in. I tend to agree with John Gray’s viewpoint that most technology is not going to lead to progress, that you can’t predict how any new technological innovation will play out once released and in fact many technological advances will probably be misused and lead to tragedy. People who believe that GM foods will feed the world, for example, are naive, given that farmers in Canada are being sued because pollen from nearby GM crops have accidentally blown onto their fields and mingled with their crops and therefore they are ‘stealing a patent’ . How fucking ridiculous is that? GM foods are just about making money for corps. If we wanted to feed the world, we’d have worked out a way long ago and the fact that we haven’t is not about supply, distribution or technology but human nature.

 

The Quiddity Of Will Self references so many different texts in its construction, the language used and concepts explored. Aside from the obvious, Will Self and Being John Malkovich, which other writers, books and films influenced you while writing the novel and how?

Eyes Wide Shut was an influence on the WSC’s orgiastic rites sequence at the end of Part One, because by chance, back in 98, I happened to be staying in one of the places where it was filmed. True to legend, Kubrick’s team came along and put up all the sets several times, then tore then down again, before Kubrick finally decided that he was happy with the location. David Lynch was an influence, especially Blue Velvet, my favourite of his films. Flowers for Algernon was key  because I read it when I was a teenager and I was fascinated by the way it showed a character in metamorphosis,  a simple man who undergoes an experiment to raise his IQ.  I loved the way his voice/the prose displayed his transmogrification, and I decided to explore this in Quiddity – Richard’s prose is flavoured by Self’s, and the character in Part 5 begins to lose his ‘voice’ when he is sucked dry by a parasitic lover. My father was an influence, because he suffers from schizophrenia, and though I am sane (well, as much as any of us are) I can feel the ghost of his madness inside me, so I made a conscious decision to let it unfurl and swirl out in this book – which is why it is such a crazy read.

 

In the disturbing future section of The Quiddity Of Will Self, worship of Will Self has reached such a level that, after his death, parts of Will Self’s body are carved up and reanimated to allow them to exist without being attached to the whole. One of his eyes retains Will’s consciousness and communicates through blinks.  What inspired this particular nightmarish twist?

My parents were interested in religion so when I grew up I had the Bible and The Bhagavad Gita in the house. Many religions are preoccupied with the idea of the body being a prison for the soul and many rites seem to seek ways to transcend the body, or even punish it –from the medieval Christian preoccupation with flagellation to the cutting of breasts in ancient Hindu/Buddhist traditions. So I think I was playing with the religious theme, for Self effectively transcends death within the novel and suffers a certain resurrection – but it is a suitably warped one.

 

The fourth part of the book, is set in the dystopian future of 2049, where books inspire criminals, rooms speak and schools sedate their pupils with government issued drugs to keep them in line. These themes mark a return to those explored in your last book, Black Out, which deals with censorship and tells a story in which books are banned because of the threat of social disorder and terrorism. What is it that interests you most about this idea and how has writing The Quiddity Of Will Self allowed you to explore the theme in a different way?

I’m just fascinated by the dynamic interplay between art and life, and the impact that books, films and culture have on our perceptions of life, on our political viewpoints, on our behaviour – whether the way that Lenin was influenced by Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s  novel What is to be Done as much as The Communist Manifesto or soldiers who watched John Wayne movies and lost their lives because they imitated his squat when shooting, which looked glamourous on screen but didn’t work too well in the battlefield, to the impact of 24 or Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty on our attitudes to torture. Quiddity is a more surreal and exaggerated exploration of the idea, whereas Blackout is more of a straightforward sci fi novel.

 

Do you plan to carry through any of the themes of The Quiddity of Will Self through to your next book? If so, can you give a taste of what readers can expect?

My next book is called The Bankenstein of London Fields. For a while I was toying with this title and The Banker & The Hoodie but in the end I’ve gone for the former. (Though it echoes Amis, there are no Amis refs in the book, nor is it a nod to him). I think it is a more serious novel than Quiddity – though I never really saw Quiddity as being a comic novel either. Someone recently said to me, “I do want to read Quiddity –it looks such fun” and I just cringed. Sam Byers made the point to me recently when we were discussing this issue over emails that over in the US the literary world is much more accepting of novels having a comic thread and seeing it as part of the tapestry of the novel rather than putting a novel with humorous moments in it into a shiny yellow box marked ‘comic’. Anyhow, the new book is more of a satire. It starts off as a state of the nation novel but I promise you that it won’t be one of those tedious epics which has six token stereotypical PC-jacketed characters (one of which is inevitably a Muslim terrorist planning an attack who doesn’t quite go through with it) exploring their lives against a post 9/11 backdrop. It begins with an exploration of the riots and then it takes a surreal twist and heads into much more strange territory. I’ve enjoyed researching it, whether it’s been chatting to Hackney gangs or reading Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death, or interviewing bankers or delving into Marxism. It will be out next year or early 2015. I think it’s a more serious book because I’ve been in a more sombre mood over the past year. My mum died at the end of 2011 and now I care for my Dad. So the new book also explores death, the afterlife, and the apocalypse.

 

Find out more about Sam and The Quiddity of Will Self here

Find out more and apply to join the Will Self Club here.


A Review of Journey To The End Of The World

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

 

Phil Ormrod

I’m guessing that, if you live in Preston, it’s quite easy to find your way into the bus station. And if you arrive on a bus, of course, it’s just a matter of sitting there and being delivered. I don’t know Preston that well, and get easily mazed by the one-way system. So, on Saturday night, I was flushed with success at finding a parking space within visual range of the iconic Brutalist bulk which is currently Preston’s transport hub. With the wind blowing straight from the brutal plains of Siberia, however, it was not so good to realise that I had no idea of how to get in. Bent against the icy blast, the end of the world felt uncomfortably close as we followed a chain link fence around the side of the concourse, and clambered over a wall.

Bus stations tend to be big and draughty and largely composed of concrete. That’s how I remember the bus station in Swindon when I was growing up. I’ve just been to check what that one is like now, and Google images reveals that it’s been tarted up with some snazzy red metal and glass canopies. Preston’s finest looks as if it won’t get a chance for a facelift, being earmarked for destruction by the council some time in the near future.

Noizechoir

The evening’s event, Journey to the End of the World, started with Noizechoir. We’d all been given headphones, through which we were fed the eerie sound of a thousand bus stations. The multi-layered result – the shhhing sound of sliding doors being closed, the reversing beeps and revving engines – was amazing. I forgot to listen to the overlying prose from poet Bruce Rafeek, what with watching the faces and mouths of the choir, although the odd line came through. I particularly liked the image of the station breathing crowds in and out, and I know the idea of a secular cathedral came up a few times, along with a call to the populace to take what was their right. My boyfriend unwrapped his scarf for long enough to mutter something about ‘Communist polemics’: a little harsh, but it was very cold. And his comment made me see the whole as a kind of Socialist Workers’ requiem mass, which seemed fitting.

Poet Shamshad Khan started her performance with a moment of silence: this may have been a technical glitch, but it

Shamshad Khan

linked her contribution beautifully to the bus station theme. You know the one, wait for ages for a poem to come along, then you get four at once. And they were poems suffused with a personal immediacy, a feeling enhanced, as with the choir, from having the sound delivered directly to my ears. Working along the lines of mortality, the first poem looked at the movement towards death. I loved it, and had my phone out jotting down memos of significant lines. It turns out, though, that noting ‘theatre end’ doesn’t mean much the following day. An image that did stick, perhaps because of the transport setting, was that of people leaving for death early, to avoid the rush. Inspired.

MC Brad Bromley

It turns out that bus stations are perfectly designed for performance: those queuing-up pens are made for the gathering of an audience. MC Brad Bromley led us around, his disembodied beatbox sounds pulling us along like the Pied Piper. His stories reflected the everyday drama of the station, telling of love and betrayal. He had silent actors waiting at each stage, sometimes almost indistinguishable from the drifting youngsters who appeared to be waiting for more than a bus.

And on to David Hartley, who didn’t need to worry about not finding a volunteer for the role of protagonist in the ‘Choose Your Own

David Hartley

Apocalypse’ story: Emma leaped into it. And it was gripping, even if (or perhaps because) at every turn she chose the other option to the one I would have taken. Would the world have been saved if David had been following my choices? Maybe not. But I wasn’t the only one to be fully engaged with the progression: everyone present had their mouths open in anticipation of the next step. When Emma chose to cut the yellow wire on the bomb, one audience member let out a shout of ‘Nooo!’ I knew how she felt. But Emma did a great job, in spite of having her nose flattened, a gun held to her head and, ultimately, choosing the wrong wire (well, we could have told her…) and blowing up the world. I really wanted to come back for the second performance to see what happened to them. Anyone? The overall question being asked was whether we really can choose our endings, or whether our attempts at self-determination are always doomed to failure. And how you decide who is telling the truth. As anyone who has been watching Utopia can tell you, it’s hard to spot the real secret agent…

So we’d had endings. Thoughts of mortality. The demise of relationships. The options of alternative apocalypses. Shepherded back into the slightly warmer sanctuary of the bus station café, we came to the end of our journey. Phil Ormrod’s performance brought to life a couple taking a break in the café. Unknown to either one or both of them, they are facing life and death decisions. She is plucking up the courage to tell her boyfriend that she is pregnant. He thinks she’s in a bad mood because his idea for her birthday present isn’t good enough. Beyond the windows of the café, the signs of world annihilation are rolling towards them. Will they be in time to resolve this misunderstanding, or will outside events sweep them away before a resolution is reached? Echoing the earlier poems of Khan, Ormrod skilfully brought us to a consideration of threshold moments, those small everyday events that might just be the last things we experience.

I was asked at the end how I felt about the bus station and, by implication, its imminent demise. I had to admit that, before it was pointed out to me, I’d never really noticed it. And, of course, that’s the point. We rarely notice things when they’re around all the time. We don’t miss things until they’re gone. I’ve been sitting here for some time now trying to think of ways of describing the building, not in the general terms of ‘iconic’ or ‘landmark’, but what it actually looks like. It’s surprisingly hard, perhaps because it looks like nothing else on earth. A vast, sideways radiator? Doesn’t quite capture it… The interviewer told us that a Saudi prince was so taken with the bus station that he had a replica built in his back garden, the swooping white layers turned into hanging gardens.

What did the evening’s event bring to the discussion? Partly, it was a sense that everything has its appointed end, however much we rail against the prospect. But also, it showed that the moment of destruction often comes when we least expect it, when we no longer have the option to act. The destruction of the bus station has been foretold in very concrete (sorry) terms. We know about it, therefore we have the opportunity to do something about it. If you Google ‘Preston Bus Station’ you will find, among the many incredible images, a vibrant campaign to save this moment in time. Who’s to say, after all, that 60s Brutalism is less valid in culture than Tudor half-timbering or Victorian grandeur? In the meantime, whatever the final result, I’m very glad that I was there on the Journey To The End Of The World. Long live Preston Bus Station!

Review by Sarah Jasmon. 

Sarah Jasmon has written a novel and various short stories, and posts reviews and interviews with other writers on her website: http://sarahjasmon.com/.

Photographs by  Bernie Blackburn.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bernieblac/


FlashTag Collective Launches Third Chorlton Arts Festival Writing Competition

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

The FlashTag writing collective is pleased to announce its participation in Chorlton Arts Festival (CAF) for the third year running, and is now inviting entries for its annual short-short story writing competition.

The FlashTag Writing Competition is now open for submissions with the closing date set for midnight on Friday 26 April. Entry is free and stories are invited from anyone over the age of 18, be they published authors or first-time storytellers. Tying in with this year’s CAF theme, stories must be inspired by “past, present and future”, although this can be interpreted in any way.

Rules: stories must not exceed 400 words; stories must not have been published previously, in print or online; multiple or simultaneous submissions are not accepted; offensive material will be disqualified.

All entries will be judged anonymously and the shortlist will be announced on Friday 10 May. The winner and runners-up will be revealed at a fun spoken word event during Chorlton Arts Festival, on Wednesday 22 May, with prizes including a goody-bag of signed books and personalised postcards from some of our favourite authors.

Full competition entry details are at flashtagmcr.wordpress.com with updates on Twitter @FlashtagMcr. The group can be contacted via flashtagmcr@gmail.com.

FlashTag writer Sarah-Clare Conlon says: “We are delighted to be teaming up with Chorlton Arts Festival for a third year as we’ve been really pleased with the quantity and quality of entries in our previous competitions and we always enjoy holding a fun event with live readings and games and, of course, the glittering awards ceremony!”

Left to right: David Hartley, Tom Mason, Benjamin Judge, Sarah-Clare Conlon and Fat Roland

FlashTag consists of five award-winning and critically acclaimed micro fiction writers: David Hartley, Tom Mason, Benjamin Judge, Sarah-Clare Conlon and Fat Roland. The collective has collaborated on a number of writing projects, including short story competitions and spoken word evenings at Chorlton Arts Festival in 2011 and 2012, Smut Night at Didsbury Arts Festival 2011 and Word>Play at DAF 2012, and a “flash fiction flashmob” as part of the first-ever National Flash-Fiction Day, in May 2012. The group regularly performs together at spoken word events around the UK and their work is published with Salt Publishing, Comma Press, Gumbo Press, Flax, Paraxis, Ferment, 330 Words and others.

Chorlton Arts Festival runs from Friday 17 May to Sunday 26 May. It is a showcase for visual and performing artists, both local and international, and one of the largest multi-arts events in the north of England. Tickets and Chorlton Weekender wristbands are now on sale via the website:chorltonartsfestival.com.

 

 

 


Penwortham Live 2013

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Penwortham Live 2013,  a weekend of music, arts, poetry and drama in Higher Penwortham is taking place on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th  April 2013.

Across these dates, there will be 13o live performances from musicians, drama groups, comedians and magicians, with demonstrations by local jewellery and food outlets.

Up to seventeen different venues will be hosting four acts each night across the weekend, ranging from restaurants and pubs to cafes and shops.

For entry to any event on the Penwortham Live Programme  you need to purchase a Penwortham Live wristband.

Wristbands cost £5.00. These get you into every performance, walk, talk, demonstration, workshop, etc. on BOTH nights AND anything happening during the days

To purchase a wristband email  Tony Noon at tony@ajnoon.co.uk or Nigel Stewart at nigel@creatives-network.co.uk

For the full programme of events, which features: rock, folk, blues, jazz, country, choirs, classical, excerpts from musicals & show tunes, hip hop, rap, ballad singers, samba drummers, percussion groups, drama, dancing, street gymnasts, and belly dancing, see here.

Find out more at www.facebook.com/penworthamlive or go to www.creative-networks.co.uk