Hear ye, hear ye all you citizens who are right and just: there will be no May blog. I repeat: there will be no May blog.
I know what I said at the beginning of the year about monthly posts but I feel that May deserves a respectful silence to mark the passing of another birthday.
Inevitably there’ll be one smart alec who quips that this no-blog message still constitutes as a blog post, but I’m declaring it an “announcement” instead. So go do something valuable like cutting a hedge or cleaning your makeup brushes… Leave me to my woe.
It’s my birthday and I’ll not-blog if I want to!
I recently had lunch in Venice with a group of artists. One of them, Luis Simoes – remember the name as you’ll hear it more and more during his world takeover – told us about his undertaking: World sketching tour – five continents, five years. Having spent many years chained to a desk as a graphic designer, he decided to follow his ultimate calling, namely that of sketching, and sold everything he owned (house, cars, kidney (joke)) to fund his passion project (or should I just say ‘his passion’) and is slowing touring the globe (for the next five years) and capturing it in his incredible sketches.
A few hours later I watched him produce something from nothing (by nothing I mean, his sketch pad and water colours) while within that same time I’d managed to achieve only a mild heat rash and more acute level of self-loathing. Luis – 1, Chioma – 0.
As well as an exceptional natural talent, he’s also an outstanding human being – one that clearly knows himself, which was really interesting to be in the presence of. I’ve drowned me out with caffeine, insomnia, music, Grey’s Anatomy and a soundtrack of negative thoughts that aren’t ‘me’ so it’s always a surprise when I stumble upon the real Chioma, yet Luis seems to have spent some formative years listening to his inner being and learning what he enjoys, what inspires him, and he’s at last surrendered to that calling.
I wish him the best in what is sure to be one of the greatest experiences I’ve had the privilege to encounter someone embarking on. I’ll attach his sketch and its muse at some point but first I’ll ask his permission as he proclaimed mid-drawing that that attempt was like a five-year old with crayons – at which point I did my first bit of writing in a while as I plotted battering his head against the side of a gondola and rowing over his body down the nearby canal while throwing his watercolours above my head like confetti and shrieking ‘Amore!’
Did someone say Man Booker?
Like Kenny in 30 Rock said, ‘God gave us two ears and one mouth as I guess he wanted us to listen more than we talk…’ Of course this quickly unravels into bumpkin idiocy when he wonders why we have ten fingers (stay with me) so my April’s blog, or wish, is that you find the silence to truly hear yourself, and that when you do, you’ll follow your bliss, wherever it may lead you to. Until then – you can follow Luis here: http://www.worldsketchingtour.com/
Currently reading (or should I say re-reading) signed… Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy as it’s such a delicious jewel of a book that it should be read more than once.
Yikes… I appear to be stumbling at the third hurdle. Having set myself the task of a monthly blog, I’ve avoided March the way a dog would circumvent the appointment to be snipped if he knew what was in store post doggie-treat. Why oh why is it so hard to blog? Surely it’s nothing more than seven tweets in rapid succession? It’s not as if March hasn’t held many plot twists; so much has happened in a matter of weeks my head is still spinning.
There’s so much I could be writing about, but I think I haven’t ultimately decided whether these new events are positive or negative, hence my slight emotional turmoil and hesitation about how to process and catalogue present events. Still, with change comes opportunity and so the end of March feels like a natural page break before we embark on the new chapter that is April. Memo to self: write the sh*t out of your April post.
The older I become, the less I like surprises. They feel more akin to life’s betrayal than deviations from an anticipated plan but this week away reminded me that there can be good ones – like my brother’s expression as we sauntered into his party in New York for a milestone birthday. Talk about ‘surprised’. The bottom line is: we may think we know – and we have hopes, goals and expectations – but we never truly know what’s coming. We just have to hope we can swim/tread water/yell for help* when it does.
After the dizziness of March, I’m looking forward to some steady footing… Shakes are fine, but major knocks or electronic probes to the gonads I can do without, universe, so let’s keep my incoming surprises at a PG-13 level or hear my roar. Okay?
You have been warned.
* delete as appropriate.
Some might consider this cheating as this event technically happened in January, but I’m reporting it today so here beginneth my February blog. Be thankful – you’ve been spared the Valentines rant that I was plotting.
Anyway, where to start? At the exciting cloak and daggery that was the month of November when I learned that my short story Trompette de la Mort was shortlisted for the inaugural Costa Short Story Award 2013 perhaps… Over 1800 submitted entries but yes, me and my typos-aplenty made it into the top six, which were then posted anonymously on the Costa site for public vote. If I’m completely honest, I found that a little frustrating – the need for secrecy – when I’d finally had legitimate cause to tweet (as opposed to boring people about my diet) but oh well… Complain? Who me, sir? No, thank you very much.
Cut to last week, where I was gussied up and mixing with the glitterati, literari and just plain illiterati (c’mon – you know who you were) at the Costa Book Awards ceremony which took place in Quaglino’s. Sadly there was no time to steal an ashtray for posterity; I was too busy trying not to faint as the moment approached for them to make the announcements. Despite the email detailing event protocol I opted to position myself nearer the middle/back of the room – completely flouting the instructions. But I thought it was better to place myself there and do the mad, sweaty dash through the masses should my name be called, than hover at the front so my bitter face of disappointment was potentially in camera shot if I didn’t make it into the top three.
Luckily for me, the sweaty dash won out – I was “runner up”, in more ways than one as I literally did have to sprint up there, smile, yank an envelope out of the Costa MD’s hand and make room for the ultimate winner. Congratulations to Avril Joy, author of the award-winning Millie and Bird, and if you’d like to read the silver place story that has surely put me on some government watch-list as a future murderer, or indeed all the shortlisted stories, here’s the link. http://www.costabookawards.com/short-stories/shortlist.aspx
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Happy 2013 y’all…
I for one couldn’t wait to see the entrails of 2012 in my rear view, and if you had a year like mine, no doubt you feel the same. Now as I open any newspaper, magazine or click any website I’m lambasted with articles about new resolutions, hopes and dreams for this year, particularly on how to improve on yourself. But a voice inside me shrills ‘what if I’m not the problem, what if it’s the year’s fault?’
I’ll be honest – I haven’t made real resolutions for a while. You reach a certain age where denial and deprivation seems wholly unnecessary and drastic personality overhauls unrealistic, but this year even vague daydreams about detoxes or gym-ing are equally a fantasy too far for me. I endeavour to do everything the same and hope that the year jolly well pulls its socks up and does what it’s meant to!
The old me wasn’t bad – if I do say so myself – so the 2013 version will strive to enjoy the pleasures that is an evening glass of wine (detox be-damned), to jog (only if it’s warm and I’m not hung-over), and to relish plotting the demises of commuters/colleagues/friends and families that have stirred the bull-dragon (in the moment, or later in the evening with the bottle/glass of wine)… It’s my right and privilege in this most glorious of new years.
So out with the old (year) and in with the old – me. I ain’t broke so I ain’t fixing…
How fitting that I should pop my blogging cherry with this Next Big Thing post currently doing the rounds in the writers’ universe. Answer ten questions then tag five authors who do the same (but possibly not before emailing you to abuse you for convincing them to do it in the first place given that the question part is easier than assembling the accompanying W-crew). Here goes…
The Next Big Thing!
• What is the working title of your next book?
The World On Its Head
• Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had an image of a father driving his daughter to church – meanwhile maintaining a grudge with God for his current circumstances – and wanted to know more about such a person.
• What genre does your book fall under?
• What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I would say someone you wouldn’t automatically assume as a natural parent but who would also handle the requisite complexity of his losses (his wife and oldest child) masterfully. So Michael Fassbender or Alexander Skarsgard… and I reserve the right to sit on the casting couch right next to them!
• What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
How aware are we, truly, of the life we’re living, and once we are, would we still make the same choices?
• Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m represented by AP Watt and my publishers are Virago Press.
• How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Approximately a year. It’s a tricky dance writing alongside the day job. At the same time it’s hard for me to imagine bashing out a novel in one go. I’d still require a bit of time for my characters and the story to marinate…
• What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
To do that would do me the greatest disservice!
• Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Probably subconsciously trying to create someone with a life worse than mine to boost my plummeting self-esteem?
• What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
As devastating as grief is, it can also be funny. I think readers would be pleasantly surprised by where this book takes them.
The incredible – and globe-trotting – writers I’d like to introduce are:
Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters Street and 2012 winner of Nigeria’s biggest prize for literature, the NLNG Prize. www.chikaunigwe.com
Rosa Rankin-Gee, Paris Literary Prize 2011 Winner and author of The Last Kings of Sark, forthcoming by Virago. en-gb.facebook.com/rosarankingee
Bassey Ikpi, a featured cast member of the National Touring Company of the Tony Award winning Broadway show, Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry Jam, poet, writer and founder of the Siwe Project – a global non-profit dedicated to promoting mental health awareness throughout the global black community. www.basseyworld.live
Jamey Hatley, conjurer, myth maker, dream-singer – her writing has appeared in the Oxford American and Torch and has been beguiling me for longer than I can remember. jameyhatley.wordpress.com/