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Writing projects in Cumbria, and the Borderlines Festival, Carlisle.

The books I bought at Borderlines Festival, Carlisle.

The books I bought at Borderlines Festival, Carlisle.

It’s been a while since my last blog post, my utmost apologies. I’ve been going through the motions of getting settled in Cumbria and joining the working world, so my blog posts have taken more of a hit than first expected.

In regards to writing, I am now writing for an online music journalism website called The Mixed Tape, which is very exciting! I’ve already reviewed a couple of things on there, so feel free to have a look to try and find me!

My creative writing projects have mainly been writing little bits when I can, but nothing huge. I’ve made a bit of progress with a novel idea thanks to a train journey last week, but other than that it’s mainly been poetry or small chunks of prose. It’s a habit I’m going to have to get back into, which is something I didn’t really want to do as a writer.

One fun thing I’ve done this month, however, was visit Carlisle for the Borderlines Festival on the 5th of September! I started the day at a Poetry Breakfast hosted by Malcolm Carson and John Lucas. It was a nice start to the day, sipping a cup of coffee surrounded by fellow poets. I even performed a couple of poems myself! It wasn’t the best place for it, however, because the Tullie House cafe had Museum guests enjoying a breakfast and having light conversation in the same room as the event. It would have been better in a smaller coffee shop that could let your voice carry a bit better, and even possibly have a microphone and speakers. It was still fun and I left with (another) poetry book for my book collection by John Lucas.

The next event was a lot more concerned with providing a guide for writers, as Marian Veevers (whose pen name is Anna Dean), where we looked at using local record offices for inspirations to crime novels. It was a lot of fun (after a few tech issues!) and the tasks were really interesting and insightful. Definitely something for me to consider when novel writing!

After lunch, I sat down to a talk by Tom Harper and Simon Toyne, who were talking about their latest novels (Black River and Solomon Creed, respectively) and how to write thrillers (without becoming Dan Brown). It was definitely my favourite event of the day, as they discussed fun stories, how to edit with fellow writers, the idea of using a location vs creating a location, and much more. I, again, left the event with a book. A signed first edition of Solomon Creed with some really lovely black trimmed pages. Definitely something I’m looking forward to reading!

The last event was listening to a book reading and talk by Katherine Norbury, who has recently released The Fish Ladder, which is part travelogue, part memoir, and was an interesting change in content from the other events.

The only problem, now, is that I have to wait until next year for the Borderlines festival to come back around (unless I go off on adventures to other reading and literary festivals in the future), but as a Borderlines Festival virgin, I was very much impressed.

I’ll be posting some updates about my writing in the near future, as well as typical rants and comment pieces more than likely working themselves onto here, too.

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De Montfort University, I am disappointed.

I’m sure most of you are aware of the news hitting social media recently, but in case you haven’t, De Montfort University, my alma mater, has controversially made David Cameron a Companion of the University, the highest award that they could bestow upon the Prime Minister, for his involvement in legalising same-sex marriage. Given the Conservative Party’s very poor history with this generation of voters, among other reasons, you can understand why quite a lot of people were, for lack of a better phrase, ridiculously pissed off.

In all honesty, I’m not enraged or frothing at the mouth from the situation, I’m just disappointed. The behaviour shown by the university does not reflect its support of the LGBTQA+ community, nor the voice of its students, but reflects the Executive Board’s and, most importantly, Vice-Chancellor Dominic Shellard’s delusions of grandeur.

The notion that David Cameron ‘went against’ his party to pass the marriage equality act is a complete farce. The party, as well as Mr Cameron himself, didn’t have any intention of introducing same-sex marriage during the 2010 election, and was actually the Under Secretary for Equalities, Ex-Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, who put forward the discussion for marriage equality and was the first politician to support the Out4Marriage campaign. David Cameron may have voted for and supported same-sex marriage after it started to become a political movement, but his record of voting has been anything but supportive to the LGBTQA+ community. Including his previous support of Section 28, an act which stopped schools “promoting homosexuality” that was introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1988, he also voted in favour of an act which would ban homosexual couples from adopting, and voted in favour of banning lesbian couples from having IVF treatment as recently as 2008. As well as this, there is also the fact that the Tory government has passed questionable things in regards to the LGBTQA+ community, including cutting the funding for LGBT+ charities and Mr Cameron’s appointment of Caroline Dinenage as Equalities Minister, someone who voted AGAINST the marriage equality act.

I think De Montfort University are hiding their main reasoning for giving him this award. It’s not because of their respect for David Cameron’s support of same-sex marriage (which only seemed to appear in 2011 after years of being a supporter of “traditional family values”), but more so the fact that they could go to 10 Downing Street, show off their “liberal” side, and get their names in the papers. Their lack of consultation with the student body (where both the LGBT+ Society’s Chairperson, Tim Deves, and the university’s LGBTQ+ representative, Daniel Murgatroyd, weren’t informed) shows this, as no LGBTQA+ supporting student in their right mind would deem Mr Cameron worthy of this award.

I have stuck up for De Montfort University since I first arrived at their campus; their constant support of equality and LGBTQA+ rights and listening to their students’ concerns were two of the reasons why I loved studying there. This time, however, they have been nothing short of a disappointment, putting their bragging rights and one-upmanship over the ideals of its students, and the very community in which they so heavily support.

A.N – Please read and sign the DMU LGBT+ society’s petition!

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Slam poetry and Poetry Is Dead Good

Been a while since I’ve posted on here, I’m currently stuck applying for jobs and trying to stay in Leicester, so I’ve been a bit preoccupied.

I went along to my first slam poetry night last week, and ended up doing an impromptu performance for the first time in a few months. It was a slam competition in the basement of The Exchange in Leicester, and ran by the organisers of Poetry Is Dead Good in Nottingham. The poets were beyond fantastic, and whilst I didn’t end up getting into the final in Nottingham next month, I have been invited to do my first set of poetry as a guest poet in the near future for one of their monthly spoken word nights, which is something I’m really excited for!

I will hopefully be able to post more information in the future, but for now it’s an exciting prospect and I can’t wait to get involved in such a fantastic poetry night.

For my writing, I’m working on a few poetry pieces mostly, just so I can get a collection together for the night. Other than that, I’m getting back into prose writing by planning and writing short stories to fit into my dystopian world that I started building when I studied Writing Place. It’s a nice change from course-related stuff, really.

Hopefully I will be adding to the blog in the near future, with content on my writing, as well as some discussions about writing, starting up a Leicester Writing Group, and some other fun* stuff.

*fun not guaranteed

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Politics in the UK: The Tories, more resignations than The Thick of It, and the opposition parties rising from the ashes.

Not writing related, but I thought I’d do a little comment piece on the UK general election.

So, another general election has came and went in the UK. When everything looked dead-set on a hung parliament with a slight Conservative majority, the smaller parties made their voices known. The Green Party, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and UKIP all ended up coming forward to provide significant voices through the entire election campaign, with expected victories for SNP and UKIP, and the fall of the Liberal Democrats to a fraction of the seats they had in 2010.

But, as you can see, that isn’t the case, and the Tories got a majority government seemingly out of nowhere, going beyond even the predictions of the exit polls, which is something that nobody expected after such a hit and miss coalition government, and a shaky campaign by Cameron.

As a Liberal Democrat, the election was depressing enough, but sitting around and moping about what has happened is a bit pointless now.

What is more interesting is the aftermath, which resulted in the resignations of three party leaders, the rise in memberships for the Liberal Democrats, and anti-austerity rioting in London that would make Leanne Wood proud.

Admittedly, the resignation of Nick Clegg is the least surprising, seeing his party lose all but 8 seats in parliament after being unable to survive criticism from raising tuition fees and often getting the blame for the Tory policies being passed, instead of policies that they put through themselves.

Miliband and Farage, however, were a bit more odd. Miliband, whilst suffering the worst Labour result since 1987, could have easily stepped up to fight as the opposition after the defeat, understand why he lost, and work on a better Labour manifesto for the 2020 election, as well as trying to win back seats in by-elections. This means that the two biggest English parties in the opposition now have a leadership election which completely distracts everyone from the Tories pushing forward with the scrapping of the Human Rights Act and appointing Michael Gove.

Farage resigned after his party gained one seat and he ended up losing his battle for South Thanet, before immediately stating he might run for the leadership role again in the summer. It’s pretty odd, because UKIP were never expected to get more than 2 seats according to opinion polls all through the election campaign, and it wasn’t even a catastrophic loss, with 12.6% of the vote.

After the hangover of the election, however, has been a lot more interesting for the LibDems. The Liberal Democrats have had over 5,000 people join their party after their crashing defeat at the polls. This all leads me to suggest that the Liberal Democrats may well come back exceptionally strong in the 2020 election. Sorry to say it, but Nick Clegg resigning has probably done the party a significant amount of good. Him staying would have kept the tuition fees situation stuck to the party for even longer than it already will be (because they have kinda pissed off a significant amount of the next generation voters…). However, the surge in membership will not only provide more support for the party, but also will give them more opinions on future policies, the direction of the party, and of course, the choosing of the party’s next leader. Not to mention the fact that these new members provide extra choices for MP candidates in the future…

This gets me onto the Labour Party, and more specifically, their monumentally important leadership election. With famous faces such as Tristam Hunt, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, and Chuka Umunna being suggested to make leadership bids, the only person to have confirmed their running for leadership is my own MP, Liz Kendall, MP for Leicester West. Whilst there is little news on this topic so far, Liz was interviewed on Sunday Politics, where she stated where Labour went wrong, and what should be next for her party. She sounds like she has big ideas for Labour, but with no other candidates coming forward as of yet, there is a lot more to discuss on this.

Of course, there is also the anti-austerity protests that have been happening in London and Cardiff, too. Whilst it is all fine and well sharing your political opinion in the form of protest, some of it got out of hand, resulting in at least 15 arrests and graffiti on a Whitehall war memorial. It’s okay to make your voices heard, but where were these people literally 3 days ago when people were voting? You can’t complain about the outcome of an election if you don’t make direct attempts at spreading alternative options to the party you don’t like. Even if you do complain now, you don’t have to be a dick and be violent, as well as spraying paint on war memorials. Stuff like that directs attention away from the reasons behind the protest itself, as well as giving the opposing arguments even more strength by passing you off as “violent rioters” and being “disrespectful”. Hence the BBC’s article being heavily biased towards the negative aspects of the protest, and away from the monumental shitstorm of cuts that the Tories are going to put in place. Don’t give them a chance to report negative things, because that’s all they will report.

These have been a few comments on what’s been happening recently and my opinions on them. If you wish to comment on anything, feel free to leave comments on the page!

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Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe!

A few weeks ago, I got 30 questions from Tor.com’s Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe off my tutor. It was a class about getting press opportunities and getting your writing (and yourself in general) out there.

So, I have decided I’m going to do a 3 part blog post where I answer 10 questions from the pop quiz, just so you get to know me a little better.

So, here it goes.

1) Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the internet.
Well then, this is a good one to start with. I have a phobia of bees/wasps/hornets that I’ve had for as long as I can remember. Apparently I was stung by one when I was very little, so that’s probably why. I’m more than okay with the concept of bees, I understand they’re necessary, but it doesn’t stop me freaking out when I see one.

2) If you could be incarnated as any historical figure, who would you like to be?
I answered this one in the class, actually. It’s either Ramses II or George Orwell. Two very different people!
Ramses II because he was arguably one of the biggest Pharaohs in Egyptian history, with his legacy being plastered (or, more accurately, built by slaves) all over Egyptian temples, including Abu Simbel, which is often considered an “8th Wonder of the World”, and most certainly in the 7 wonders of Egypt.
George Orwell because he is one of the most intelligent and thought inspiring writers of the 20th Century. His fictional work has changed society in so many ways, as well as his equally spectacular non-fiction work. It would be an honour as a writer to be able to step into his shoes, even if only once.

3) What is your favourite short story?
Now this is a tough one. I really like Angela Carter’s work, especially The Bloody Chamber. It’s pretty messed up but fantastic writing. I really enjoy The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, too. I understand these are both novellas but I don’t often read that much short fiction (I am trying to get myself into it, however.)

4) Describe your favourite place to read/write?
My favourite place to read/write would probably be a coffee shop? It sound kind of stereotypical and student-y but I always manage to relax and get into a certain mindset to concentrate there, especially for writing. I also find it easy to read in bed, too. I sat down the other day and read pretty much half of Gone Girl in one go. I got into a zone.

5) If you could choose your own personal theme music/song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?
I originally said 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, which would be pretty awesome. But I think the Game of Thrones theme song would be amazing, too.

6) If you regenerated as a new Doctor, what would your signature outfit/accessory be?
I think a Doctor with a broken pocket watch would be cool as a kind of plot creator. Like, it would be kinda odd for someone who travels space and time to have a pocket watch that didn’t even work, and it had some kind of significant use to it that saves him at the last minute, or something.

7) Do you have a favourite underrated/unknown/under-read author?
I would most certainly say Jonathan Taylor. I had the pleasure of being taught by him in the my second year of university before he left, and his debut novel, Entertaining Strangers, is one of my favourite books. I am looking forward to his new novel coming later this year!

8) Battle to the death, which weapon do you choose: A) Phaser, B) Lightsaber, or C) Wand?
I’m pretty much stuck between the lightsaber and the wand. The phaser would be useless against the other two. The wand would be the most versatile and dangerous (If you know what to do with it…), but the lightsaber is much cooler (from the perspective of someone raised on the Star Wars films), so it’ll probably have to be B) Lightsaber.

9) Do you have a favourite word/phrase/etymology?
I’d probably say… shenanigans. As well as it being very fun to say, it also has an interesting history. It is a word that first came about very recently, as new as 1855, according to the OED. It was also first noted in America, so it was less than 100 years after the country became independent from Britain that the word first came about. It is also interesting because it doesn’t have any clear etymology, where it came from prior to that, and is pretty much unknown, even to the OED, which is pretty fascinating. It’s as if it came out of nowhere.

10) Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
Hm. I’m not too sure. I was doing research for a poem in my first year of university and I pretty much memorised one soup recipe that I used as a structure. Other than that? I did a lot of research into phobias for a project once, and that Nyctophobia is the fear of night and/or darkness.

Thank you for reading the first 10 answers! I will post up another 10 tomorrow!

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States of Independence Review – De Montfort University, 14th March, 2015.

Logo owned by States Of Independence

Logo owned by States Of Independence

On Saturday, I went along to the annual States Of Independence book festival in Leicester, hosted by the Leicester Centre for Creative Writing and Five Leaves Bookstore from Nottingham.

I went to the festival last year and it was a lovely day, but this year was extra special, the official launch of the novelette I co-wrote, Going Nowhere, and I was selling it at the festival along with fellow students’ work.

The day got off to a great start, the official launch of the publications. This featured readings or summaries of each book, and a chance to sell our books for the first time, which was very exciting! Unfortunately, this meant that I have to miss out on a talk about Leicester murders, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to go up with my co-authors, Charlotte and Thom, and read extracts from the book we worked so hard towards.

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa - CivicLeicester

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa – CivicLeicester

The next event I went to was The Speculators – A Model for Tea Drinking and Writing. The name pretty much sold it to me. It was an interesting talk, with conversations about the Leicester based writing group and how they came to be, as well as conversations about Fantasy and Sci-fi, which were also interesting. It wasn’t what I expected, but that isn’t a bad thing! I also want to apologise to the people at WORD! for missing their talk, I’m sure it was a lot of fun, as it always is!

Next up was Rod Duncan’s Steampunk Safari, which was probably my favourite event of the day. He ran through lots of different aspects to Steampunk culture, from video gaming, to cosplay, to Steampunk literature! (Though the last one was expected, given his Phillip K. Dick award nominated Steampunk book, The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter.)
The talk was very interesting and Rod covered a lot of ground (impressive for 40 minutes…), and definitely opened my eyes a lot more to Steampunk. The event ended with a delightful extract from Rod’s book, before answering a few questions from the audience.

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa - CivicLeicester

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa – CivicLeicester

Torn between a talk on Doctor Who and the future of future-fic, I decided to go with the latter, and saw Alex Davis cover the tricky subject of what’s going to happen to dystopian, fantasy, and sci-fi novels in the future, and, potentially, all novels in the future. This resulted in a great discussion between the crowd and Alex, the man who runs Boo Books in Derby, and was a very thought-provoking and interesting talk, especially to those who are writers and readers of future-fic, such as myself.

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa - CivicLeicester

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa – CivicLeicester

Last but not least, we have the delightful East Midlands Book Awards Shortlist! A pretty much packed lecture theatre watched over glasses (okay, plastic cups) of wine as the nominees were announced, followed by a short reading from each of their books. To my surprise, one of my current course tutors, Rod Duncan, was announced in the shortlist with The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter! Even though this resulted in hearing the same passage from the book that we heard at Steampunk Safari, it was great to see that he was a contender! Another nominee which was a surprise for my friend was Kim Slater, with her book, Smart! Both are great contenders for the book, so I wish them both the best of luck!

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa - CivicLeicester

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa – CivicLeicester

Then it goes on to the book stalls at the festival. As usual, the festival was filled with tables full of books all around the ground floor of DMU’s Clephan building. It was a beautiful sight for readers, not so much for the bank accounts of said readers. I started out by buying other publications by fellow students. These were Let Me Explain by Graeme Tait and Adam Womersley, The Other Half of Me by Jennifer Masters, A Citizens’ Guide to Lungsod by Maw (Matt Watts), Jamp (James Parnell), and Suzwo (Suzi Woolley), and The Nemophilist by M. Haggerty-Wood and Gryphon Moffat! I will comment and cover their books on a separate post some other time.

Third Year DMU Students' publications

Third Year DMU Students’ publications

Next book I bought was After The Fall, which is an anthology of short stories about what would happen if technology failed us, and the effects it had on the world. This is an anthology by Boo Books, and it features work by Adam Roberts, Allen Ashley, Mike Chinn, Caren Gussoff, and more.

Boo Books anthology, After The Fall

Boo Books anthology, After The Fall

After that, I got Kim Slater’s book, Smart, after the shortlist was announced, and got it signed by the author. It’s the story of a teenager with learning difficulties who finds a body of a homeless man, who then decides to investigate when the police don’t care. It has been compared to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and looks like a fantastic read.

Smart and Incognitum definitely win my choice of best cover designs!

Smart and Incognitum definitely win my choice of best cover designs!

Then it comes to the poetry books. The first purchase was Incognitum by Aubrie Marrin. What first attracted me to the book is its absolutely beautiful cover. The poetic content inside was just as fantastic, too. I am very excited to read through it.

The next few poetry books were all one large purchase. Nine Arches Press had a 3 for 2 sale, so I kinda did that. Extra poetry books (or just books in general) are a great way to get me to buy things

The first book I picked up was Earth Records by Alistair Noon. It looks at place, and, like the title suggests, has content which covers most of the world with a turn of the page. The next was Issue 14 of Under The Radar. I’ve wanted to buy previous issues of this anthology but never got around to doing so, so it was good to finally get a copy. The third book (that I was also looking at before Earth Records) is After the Goldrush by Peter Carpenter. Just flicking through it, I found some great poetry, and was definitely worth getting.

Nine Arches Press' poetry books!

Nine Arches Press’ poetry books!

Overall, States of Independence was a fantastic (yet costly) day for me. As usual, it delivered a large amount of culture and book related fun right on my doorstep, bringing the East Midlands writing community together for an entire day of talks, book launches, shortlist announcements, and more. The only problem is we have to wait until next year to do it all over again.

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa - CivicLeicester

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa – CivicLeicester

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Going Nowhere

Lovely little post from Going Nowhere co-author, Charlotte Selby. 🙂

charlottereadsthings

Blurb: “Life has changed since university. Robert, Louisa and Jim’s careers are going nowhere. Yet when the three friends are brought together once more, their past regrets will lead them on a trip of ambition, recognition and revenge. Evan Hargreaves is dead. Faced with a new appreciation of their own mortality, the former-classmates embark on an impromptu getaway. But what starts as a simple writer’s retreat to the Sunshine State quickly goes awry.”

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While the purpose of this blog is to deliver book reviews, this time I’m going to be sharing something a little different. I am a third year Creative Writing student and sadly in a few months I’ll be entering the  “real world.” For one of my final projects, we had to produce a publication with the end goal being to sell it to the general public at the big Independent publisher fair which happens every year in…

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