Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Hunger: A poem

 I was running a creative writing workshop yesterday. I usually take part in the exercises, for kicks. Here's a poem that came out of it:


There he is again.
So tiny, to start with.
Flipping a coin, he smirks in the sun.

Under the cracks he creeps,
Tipping his hat, so ruefully,
Brushing the dust off his sleeve.
He squats in the fridge,
Nibbling the potatoes,
Sticking his thumb in the cream.

I let him dance on my table,
Too lazy to banish him.
He uses my fork as a cane.

He’s bigger now: as tall as a
Candle. He yammers, and
Blows out his cheeks.

I put on some toast.
He flickers his tongue.
To end him, you’d have to be dead.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Launch of Philipp Meyer's The Son

To Soho, last night, in the heat, for olives, peanuts, rosé, and also for the launch of Philipp Meyer's The Son, a book that has been garnering impressive reviews in America and Australia. Meyer apparently spent years researching this sprawling Texan family drama, including going on tracking courses. Which is pretty cool. The book's definitely one to look out for. As I left, Meyer appeared to be practically drowning under female attention - those tracking courses must have paid off. Sometimes I wish that my novels required more research than, er, sitting on the sofa.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Launch of Daniel Metcalfe's new book, Blue Dahlia, Black Gold

To the South Bank, incidentally my new favourite place in London, and the BFI, for the launch of Daniel Metcalfe's new book, Blue Dahlia, Black Gold. It's a study of Angola, and how it's starting to take matters into its own hands - a microcosm of the rest of Africa. Metcalfe is no stranger to travelling in out of the way places - his last book, Out of Steppe, took in various groups of people whose troubles are little known in the West, such as the Volga Germans. It's refreshing to find a light shone into murky areas. Congratulations, Dan, and here's looking forward to the next one.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Launch of the First Story St Augustine's Kilburn anthology, The Gods Amongst Us

We recently launched my First Story Group's anthology, The Gods Amongst Us, at St Augustine's, Kilburn, where I've been writer in residence for a year. Carnegie winner Sally Gardner was there to cheer us on, and the afternoon was both moving and special. And involved lots of fizzy pop. Seeing all my students reading out their work to a large audience was wonderful. The launch has made it onto the Kilburn Times website - have a look here.

I've reproduced here the text of my introduction to the anthology. You can buy it, via the school website here, or even via Waterstones, here.


Did you know that the gods are amongst us? Some of them are out of sorts: nobody prays to them any more. They sit in their cloudy palaces, filing their nails and twiddling their thumbs. Some, like Bacchus and Diana, are still very much with us: they look at us from out of the frames of paintings, but watch out – they might turn you into a star, or a stag, if you cross them.

Did you know you could meet Revenge in Starbucks? Or that you can write a letter to a comb? That King Arthur is burdened by memories, that death is a device that tells the time, or that not remembering can be more effective than remembering?

Over the past year I have made the journey to St Augustine’s, on a Monday – traditionally a day associated with the blues – but for me (and, I hope, for my students) it became the most exciting day of the week. My First Story group have been keen, intelligent, challenging; they’ve delighted me, surprised me, frustrated me; they’ve made me laugh more than I can remember (I refer, specifically, to an exercise called ‘Ten Ways to Lend Your Wheelbarrow’.) We’ve eaten more sweets than my diet usually allows.

Most of all, we have looked at language and stories, and seen how they can be found everywhere: on a walk, in a picture, in an object. We’ve seen how the most striking images can come from unlikely conjunctions. We’ve marvelled at the strange ways of the ancient gods, and made something new from their tales. And each week, my group produced witty, charming and insightful pieces. This anthology is called ‘The Gods Amongst Us’ for a reason – not only have our best pieces come out of interaction with those ancient myths; but we have also discovered that the divine, the numinous, the powerful, can be found in our everyday lives.

I would like to give my special thanks to Chris Rhodes and James Casey of St Augustine’s, for their sterling support over the year; and to all at First Story for making this stellar anthology happen. Take note of the names of this group: I’ve no doubt we’ll be seeing them again.

So here is a selection of some of their work. We haven’t been able to fit all of it in. Take a look, read, indulge, think (as our final poem urges you to do) – and next time you’re on the bus, be careful – you might be sitting next to a god.

How to Academy: Courses for life; how to write YA fiction

Morning, I'm running a short, eight week course for the How To Academy in how to write Young Adult fiction. Have a look at the website, here.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Interview with Tishani Doshi in PORT

Tishani Doshi. Photo by Laurence Ellis for PORT
I've interviewed the poet, novelist and dancer Tishani Doshi, for PORT magazine. You can read the interview in the latest issue, or check it out on the PORT website here.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Laure Eve's Dream Collective

Debut author Laure Eve is collecting dreams. Here's one of mine from last week, on her blog, about being a soldier in the reign of William and Mary.