|Image: Hank Ashby|
First today is some late news that came in last night, all the way from Greenock on the west coast of Scotland.
One of my Harrington wearing buddies (shouldn’t say that; Stevie’s a Morton fan) is one of the proudest Dad’s on the planet today after his son became one of the youngest ever to swim across the River Clyde.
Andrew Ward was taking part in the Annual Clyde Swim, which involves swimming across the Clyde from Kilcreggan to Greenock, a distance of approximately 2 miles. He’s only 12! And not only did he raise £140 for The Port Glasgow Otters where his brother Cameron is also a member, and his mother Nuala a coach, but he makes people like me ashamed of being unable to swim a single length without collapsing in a heap!!
Attention American blog readers! Keep an eye out for this wee lad because you’re reading about the British version of the next Michael Phelps! Click here to read the article in the Greenock Telegraph
One of my poems, MIDDLE AGE, has been accepted for publication in a new collection coming out. A few months ago I entered a competition based on ‘The X-Factor’ television programme called Poetry Rivals. The winners would be invited to London to perform their poems in front of a panel and audience, and then be voted in our out. A kind of Poetry Slam tournament I thought sounded like fun.
Anyway, I never won, but my poem is to be included in a new anthology containing some of the entries called Poetry Rivals’: Lines of Light and Shade. It turns out the competition was being run by Forward Press who also published River Monkeys in one of their children’s books.
Yet I remain sceptical about FP’s motivations; they remind me sometimes of the scam organisation poetry.com, who accepted everything they ever received then published the work in a book, which the author would then have to buy at an exorbitant price. I once submitted a poem that was garbled nonsense—I scraped my fingers across the keyboard—and they accepted it!!
But while FP do retain a decent reputation as a publishing house, and I have submitted and got nowhere with them before, I’ll let them have it. Does that sound arrogant? They do seem genuine enough, it’s just a feeling I have in the pit of my stomach.
As I write this the Edinburgh Book Festival for 2009 is over. Last night was my final night treading the boards, and the final night of the festival itself. All very sad.
When I arrived in Charlotte Square at about 7.30pm, the weather was just as it was on the day it opened—grey, overcast and raining. The Square was quieter than normal and the closing Ceilidh was just beginning. I popped into the book shop, also quieter than normal, and browsed around for the last time, found some books from authors I would have liked to have seen at the festival but weren’t on the agenda, and generally took in the ambience one more time.
I took my seat early in the Scottish Power tent and at 8.30pm Candia McWilliam came to the stage with Jenny Brown. After her well publicised admission of alcoholism a few years back, followed by her losing her sight, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
When she took her seat she reminded me of an old colleague I used to have in that she appears to be quite an intimidating person. Then she opened her mouth and how wrong I was. Such a lovely woman, and as I was about to find out, a wonderful speaker of the written word.
One of the first things she spoke about was her blindness, but she took everyone by surprise when she announced she had recently undergone an operation to relieve her of her blindness. She could now see, and the warmth of her smile as she said it sparked an emotional applause from the audience.
She went on to read two wonderfully written stories and chat with the audience and Jenny, and truly she was the warmest of people I have heard speak at any of the book festivals I have been to. Captivating, intelligent, and warm would be my best attempt at a description. She finished with an emotional poem praising Catherine Lockerbie, the outgoing book festival director.
When I left the Square it was in darkness other than the lights from the book shop, signing tent, and the Spiegeltent, happily filling the air with the sound of highland music, the whoops and whirls of the kilted guests inside more evident now the whisky was flowing fast.
I took one last walk around the boards, paused to look around the place one last time, and thought about everything I had absorbed, learned, and gained from this year’s festival. It’s all there in front of me, all of it available if I want it, and so with a wide grin I walked out into George Street with a wide stride and an unrelenting grin.
This year was a great one and I’m missing it already. I’m sad that it’s all over, but over the next year I vowed WILL make things count. I have to up the stakes for myself.
And then I had an idea on the way home on the bus, an idea that may sound quite controversial. My Goals, Dreams and Resolutions (GDRs), which have been such a source of inspiration and light on my writing are something I want to keep because I value them greatly. However, I think they are out of sync with my life.
Where I traditionally use the start of a new year to start a new set of GDRs, I think it would be much, much more beneficial for me if I were to use the book festival to generate a new set of GDRs, re-motivate myself, and re-assess everything I am doing.
Why don’t I use my three weeks in Charlotte Square as my “Writers’ New Year”?
Just a thought, but I’m considering it seriously.
Taking my place tomorrow will be the talented author, Christina Katz, who I have interviewed for Freedom from the Mundane. Please make her very welcome and I’ll see you all again on Thursday.
And now, my monthly wrap up.
* Complete writing Baccara Burning – not finished, but on fire after EBF
* Re-submit all rejected/recalled short stories – done
* Enter a couple of writing/poetry competitions – done (several)
* Write at least one poem per week – not completed; new avenues and styles have opened up I am playing with
* Work on new chapbook – not done; need to develop more themes
* Stay on top of RR submissions – done
* Prepare RR issue 8 for September – done; published
* Try and get a few gigs to review for NotW – done; Stranglers; Vertis; Bluetones; Ian Broudie (cancelled)
* Do more work on amalgamation of web design and freelance writing websites – Not done; very low priority at the moment.
Marketing and Promotion
* Publish newsletters – done (except August)
* Slimdown and keep to GDRs – done
* Keep website(s) up to date – done
* Look for Stella marketing ops – slowed, but continuing to promote online, EBF, and Fringe.
* Bring Podcast ideas to life – IP
* Bring YouTube ideas to life – not done
* Record MIS sound bites – IP
* Edinburgh Book Festival – IP; met several authors, networked, distributed promo material
Reading & Learning
* The Butt by Will Self – IP
* Dixie Dust Rumors by Devon Ellington – read
* Sisters in Time by Ginger Simpson – IP
* Keep diet going – least said the better
Things That Turned Up
* Opportunity to record short story reading for radio broadcast
* Met William McIlvanney for catch-up
* EBF always an opportunity too great to miss
* 12 short and flash fiction submissions made, several for competitions.
12 short fiction
Slick still with two publishers/agents
* EBF – got everything I wanted and more out the festival this year, and feel ready to take on anything. I have confidence again.
* GDRs – slimmed down and prioritised from what I feel I should do to what I want to do and can realistically fit in.
* FICTION – I should have finished Baccara Burning by now but I have to forget about the lost time and of the other unfinished projects to complete them.