The suns shone (sometimes) and I read some words (often).
Me and Sŵn go way back. From writing band biogs for the first ever programme to hosting an annual Kruger Magazine reunion to finding loads of music I’ve loved ever since for the first time, it’s been a touchpoint in my life for getting close to a decade.
Probably my favourite thing about Sŵn is that you can’t walk five paces without getting caught in a stop-and-chat with a friendly face. It’s like they filled heaven with your favourite people, bands and bars. Or maybe that is heaven.
This year not only was there souvlaki on the streets (ευχαριστώ Meat and Greek!), but Pyramid Scheme hosted the first ever literary stage.
Here’s what happened…
Then we got drunk and danced in Clwb til the early hours. Amen.
Big thanks to John, James and Huw at Sŵn and Lloyd at Gw Di Hw.
The last time I was in Edinburgh I went to a Pizza Hut buffet in muddy jeans. I managed 6 1/2 slices of deep pan pepperoni before the stares of my fellow diners got too much and I escaped to the outdoors, a social pariah under a moody sky.
This time, I got my southpaw jaw out at Literary Death Match at the Fringe at The Stand 3 on York Place. It was infinitely better. The sun shone. The words flowed. And later, so did the beer.
Shout out to Literary Death Match’s irrepressible Adrian Todd Zuniga and Suzanne Azzopardi, judges Mark Billingham, Declan Michael Laird and Tom Salinsky, plus writers Julie Mayhew, Alvy Carragher, Alecos Papadatos and Abraham Kawa.
You can read Literary Death Match’s version of events here.
PS The muddy jeans. Yeah. Blame T in the Park for that.
At the Caught by the River festival in Cardigan, I got caught in a bus. The bus was driven Ar Waith Ar Daith, a project celebrating Wales Millennium Centre’s 10th birthday. They’re capturing short videos with artists from around Wales. You can watch the videos in a giant cauldron at the Centre or just down below, on the internet. You should do both. Unless you live in Zanzibar, in which case, think of your carbon footprint and have yourself a little YouTube binge instead. But only for a short while, get out and enjoy the archipelago instead. Life’s for living etc.
I’m hitting the road and the skies over the next couple of weeks to read words at that venerable British tradition, the festival.
Catch me at:
Saturday 15th August 2015- Caught By The River Teifi, Cilgerran, Cardigan, Wales
Saturday 29th August 2015- Edinburgh Fringe, Literary Death Match, The Stand 3, Scotland
When you sit in a room or on a bus or sometimes in a cafe and write your novel, you never really know what will happen to it after it is born and enters the complex planet of 21st century Earth.
And then, a year later, you go to a book club and sit around a table with 30 people who’ve spent a month with your book, reading it, thinking about it, loving it, liking it, not liking it (3/30- I’ll take that), but more than anything, reacting to it. That’s when you think: yes, this is a good thing to do with my life.
It also helps when they make you cupcakes inspired by your book. Peace and love Cardiff Read . If you’re in the capital of Wales and want to meet/chat/read/drink with some smart folks, they meet every on the second Tuesday of every month at Canton Library, followed by drinks at Chapter Arts Centre.
Wales Arts Review, that venerable online arbiter, is behind a project called Story: Retold, in which contemporary writers reinterpret stories from Story: Vol. 1, the Library of Wales short story anthology, edited by Dai Smith.
I won the raffle and decided to re-do Dylan Thomas’ “Extraordinary Little Cough”. My story is called “The Rhossili Effect”, it’s a gay-with-Alzheimer’s love story and you can read it here. A rather nifty illustration accompanies the piece. Yes, that’s it below.
I was interviewed, taking in everything from white boy funk to my career trajectory. You can read that here.
And here’s a pic of Dylan lighting a fag, because, well, why not?
“Follow your dreams”, my mum said.
I had a dream.
It was set in the near future. All literature was designed on Macbooks, blown up bigger than cinema screens and daubed across open municipal spaces throughout the towns and cities of the free world.
I’ve just worked on a fun project with a clever man called Marc Thomas and a clever coffee shop called Little Man to you a glimpse of tomorrow today. Marc designed a story of mine called ‘Onwards’ and it’s currently being exhibited on the wall at Little Man.
My dream came true.
I fully understand my worldwide fan base might not be able to make it to Cardiff, Wales to see this, due to work commitments/climate change guilt/fear of flying. I present you these pics as the next best thing.
So conventional wisdom is that books are meant for the bath, under the bed-covers, that secret connection between the reader and the writer where the maelstrom of modern life is locked out and the story, plot and characters whisk you away from your relationship problems/sexually aggressive co-worker/failed new haircut. But that’s so 1.0. It’s 2015. We want a ‘conversation’. Some two-way. A platform for bilateral intercourse.
I’ve been to a thousand readings with a thousand authors who don’t want to play this game. They want to write. Maybe in a shed. Or a loft conversion. Sometimes smoke. Occasionally have some friends over for port and Gin Rummy. Or they’re so full of self-loathing that other people make them want to stick pencils in their eyes. Literary Death Match isn’t warm wine and stale conversation in a chain bookstore. Literary Death Match is sex and spotlights and words and whoops and everything egotistical limelight-bathing applause-sucking little fragile writers like me need.
I played the game in a giant tent in the shape of a cow on London’s South Bank. There were lots of people there. Like hundreds. Like One Direction 2036 reunion tour big.
The other writers were Joe Dunthorne, of the incredible Submarine infame, Nat Luurtsema who did a BAFTA and an Edinburgh, and Amber Tamblyn, an actress from House and 127 Hours whose rather lush book of poetry had illustrations from David Lynch and Marilyn Manson. I thought woah, this chick rolls deep.
We did some readings. I did a box to the crowd and then felt sad because no-one else did a box to the crowd but having watched the show reel before going on-stage it seemed like boxing to the crowd was a pre-requisite.
I read from my novel-in-progress Alone, Together. The judges seemed to dig it. They included Molly McGrann, novelist and the former editor of The Paris Review, who was a fan of the dialogue and details. Cariad Lloyd, a funny ha-ha comedian, liked the way I threw the just-read pages on the floor. Marcel Lucont, all Serge schtick par excellence, was certain that my trousers weren’t tight enough for a man named Tyte, while riffing on modern tech talk (he wants a book to turn him on, not the other way around, laydeez) and David Cross, Netflix hero of Arrested Development, who despite liking the fact the casino referenced in the the reading was in Macaw, admitted to being distrustful of Welsh people. It’s fair to say the vibe was more lit laugh than lit crit.
So, lets address the elephant in the blog here, I didn’t win (that was Nat Luurtsema for an ace reading on teenage twins for her upcoming YA novel, before winning a buzzer round on guessing 1-star Amazon classic reviews e.g. Interesting, if you’re a tie-dye hipster*), but a previous non-winner just won an Oscar. Life goals just got a whole lot harder.
PS Big thanks to my agent Hannah Sheppard from DHH Literary Agency, Adrian Todd Zuniga and Suzanne Azzopardi from Literary Death Match, @BenCMeadows, @SarahWorthy and @jadebell88 for pics and Picador Books and the lovely Kate Green for sponsoring.
* 10/10 for On The Road.