Literary Death Match: a survivor’s story

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.

Le Big Tent

Le Big Tent

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.

Blaming my bad hair on London's unpredictable weather patterns- also Nat Luurtsema, Joe Dunthorne, Amber Tamblyn

Blaming my bad hair on London’s unpredictable weather patterns- (l to r clockwise) Nat Luurtsema, Joe Dunthorne, Amber Tamblyn

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.

SS15: Baggy knees/bovver boots

SS15: Baggy knees/bovver boots

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.

Molly McGrann, Cariad Lloyd, Marcel Lucont, David Cross

Molly McGrann, Cariad Lloyd, Marcel Lucont, David Cross

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.

Memphis restaurants, Merseyside meetings

When Colonel Tom Parker died in 1997,  rather fittingly in Las Vegas, The Independent’s obituary began ‘When Elvis Presley met Colonel Tom Parker in a Memphis restaurant in 1955, it was the start of a relationship that would transform their lives …’.

I’ve signed with a new agent.  Her name is Hannah Sheppard of DHH Literary Agency.  We didn’t meet in a Memphis restaurant, worse luck.

 

Parker, Colonel Tom & Presley, Elvis

We kind of met in 1999 in the University of Liverpool.  When I say ‘kind of’, I mean, well, we did the same course. We said ‘hey’ twice, probably.  You can read Hannah’s take on it here.

Let’s assume we’ll change each other’s lives, just like old Colonel Tom and Elvis Aaron.

We’ll be working together on my second novel, ‘Alone, Together’, which I’d probably better go and write a bit of now.  It’s about loss of love and Wi-Fi signal, plus some other things, which you’ll definitely want to read in bed/on the bus/in important business meetings/at parties, even, perhaps, sometime in the nearish future, relatively speaking.

Until then, as Elvis would say, I’ll be taking care of business.

tcb

Best. Review. Ever.

Perhaps my favourite review of all time of anything ever, I found this on the internet recently.

Half Plus Seven by Dan Tyte

Some weeks ago, following a violent row with my wife, I ended up at a party full of students in the Bristol area and, under the illusion that I had somehow rediscovered my youth (actually I did to some extent – but that’s another story!) I stole this book after waking up early on a scruffy sofa.

There could have been no better companion on the National Express that morning. Not for me the wondering of how I became drunk enough to be nearly 200 miles from my house; reading Bill’s story made me realise how ordered my life actually was. I am grateful for this in some senses – I always know exactly how much shampoo I own, for example, and I can dress in formal clothing at a moment’s notice – but I was also jealous. Jealous of the carefree way Bill handles friendships, money, women and life’s other frivolities; envious of the brave face he puts out to the world in adverse conditions – even though that face might easily have been crumpled into the straggly, sleeping hair of some ne’er-do-well and soon-to-be-ever-avoided strumpet only moments earlier.

Tyte writes Bill’s plight with fight and might that could never be trite. He gives insight to a world few of us see – ostensibly glamorous but possible only by trawling the dirtiest climes. He is, for want of a better phrase, a tin miner spending days in darkness and inhaling dangerous chemicals so that we might have a kettle: this book is the comforting cup of tea for which you’ve been waiting. If I could be 29 again, I would choose many parts of this life. I am glad, however, that I do not smoke as it is truly a disgusting habit.

brit

 

Thanks ‘Vance’, truly thanks.

Master of my Craft

Digging around in some old files, I discovered this old CV from a few years ago. No wonder I couldn’t get a Christmas job…

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My career to date

  • I remember very little of my childhood.  My oldest friend retains a photographic memory of these formative years.  However, due to the uneasy dynamic of our relationship, and other forces outside of our control, he has been known to embellish, exaggerate and downright lie.  He says I cried on my first day at Roman Catholic high school.  To this day I am unsure if he is telling the truth.
  • At school I excelled at English and bravado.  In Year Nine, I played a heartfelt Romeo despite structural damage to the school hall confining the players to the desks of our portakabin classroom.  Juliet went on to play the lead in Argos’ 2009 Christmas advertising campaign.
  • My Year 11 school report closed with the line, ‘Where will he end up? Wembley or Hollywood?’  I currently live in Canton, Cardiff.
  • I first drank port in the dark, dank, paper-strewn room of one Professor Bernard Beatty in a Romantic Poetry and Prose tutorial at the University of Liverpool.  He shared his quarters with a Highland Terrier called Pilgrim.  Pilgrim jumped to his death from the second floor window on a rare hot afternoon.  The pain of his passing spurred me on to a respectable degree result.
  • For five years I wrote thousands of words of copy for a national music magazine remembered from interviews in New York clubs with messianic rock stars dressed in white.  My dictaphone never ever worked.  I got out before the beer went flat.
  • A hip music video director turned a poem of mine into a short film.  It was shown at the cinema and I nervously read the twelve lines out in front of couples on dates.  No-one offered me any popcorn.
  • Every month, I put together 800 words for a newspaper column on subjects that have included babies, stag dos and the Icelandic mayoral system.  It appears on the page above the ‘Boy’s Toys’ section.
  • The Chartered Institute of PR named me the industry’s ‘Outstanding Young Communicator’ in 2010.  By the arbitrary nature of their guidelines, I am young no more.
  • In 2011, a Hunter S. Thompson style piece I wrote on Hunter S. Thompson was published by Parthian Books.  I wore double denim to the launch and spilled red wine over the front row.

The Blond Ambition World Tour 2014

In support of the launch of the new paperback edition of Half Plus Seven, I’m doing a series of shows around the southern area of Wales. Support comes from Van Halen and Technotronic (Newport only).

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Thurs 16th Oct- New Under The Sun, Porters, Cardiff, 7.45pm

Sat 18th Oct- #SaveLePub, Newport, 4.45pm

Sun 19th Oct- Made In Roath, Waterloo Tea Gardens, 6pm

Sat 25th Oct- Do Not Go Gentle Festival, Mozarts, Swansea, 6.30pm.

Great Product/Grate Product

Fans of moving images, modern imagery and modish colours will rate this blog post at least a 7.5 out of 10.

Here’s me and Richard Owain Roberts reading a bit of our collaborative story ‘Great Product/Grate Product’.

And here’s the whole story translated into French and German by Marc Thomas. Marc is the creative director @SmallJoysCo. He is the preppy in all the right places.

Das ist magnifique!