This is just so true. For me, the writing has to be done at the desk, surrounded by books, pictures, pens and paper, and most of all SILENCE.
But the ideas come to me suddenly, usually when I am outside the flat, staying somewhere else, or at the theatre, an exhibition, walking in the countryside, reading an article or a book. I think stability and familiarity are good for the actual writing process, but change, unusual environments and exploration do stimulate the production of ideas.
I call these "brainwaves" because they do come in waves, and I usually get ideas for several books at the same time.
During my recent stay in North Devon, I woke up at 6.30am and thought about the various ways I could sell/promote my books, then several plot lines for The Book of Thoth materialised in front of my eyes, and then some background biography details for some of the characters in The Right Place appeared out of nowhere.
I have two days of writing in front of me this week. Better make the most of it!
I love working from home, but as I cannot afford a Victorian detached house surrounded by fields just yet - it might come one day *one can always dream* - I just need to escape the lack of space, the neighbours, the constant noise and filth and go some place where nature is Queen, where one can sleep without being disturbed and one is able to get some proper thinking space.
I do this by escaping to Dorset and Devon a few times a year.
This weekend, we fled to Ilfracombe, North Devon, where we have family. It immediately proved rather productive, as I woke up the first morning at 6.30 with ideas for The Book of Thoth and The Right Place pouring into my head - I just HAD to write them down.
First a theatre dubbed "Madonna's Bra", then a logo that looks like a cheeky little sperm has got itself stuck to the letter "i", and now Damien Hirst's hideous Verity statue. Some people really must have something against this slightly downtrodden yet charming Victorian seaside town...
Instead of celebrating and making the most of its fabulous 19th century architecture - it has some of the most impressive houses I've seen - the local authorities seem adamant about imposing their somewhat weird, misplaced vision to bring Ilfracombe up to date with the modern era.
Well. What can I say without being rude? I have quite a lot of things to say about Verity, but I will not voice them on here because 1) this is a blog on which I'd rather waffle on about things I like and 2) what I have learnt by reading other people's blogs and websites is that it is far better not to post anything controversial anywhere on the web. If it makes me a coward, then so be it. I really can't be bothered to start having stupid online fights because I have got a life, like, a real one.
Anyway. Let's say that I find Verity disgusting, but I find anything by Damien Hirst or most other YBA (hello, Tracey!) completely abhorrent anyway. (My own, ignorant-of- the-subtlety-of-the-Art-World opinion, mind). I wouldn't have minded a sword-wielding Amazonian mermaid or a Poseidon-like warlord figure, you know, something related to the sea - hey, the statue is on the HARBOUR . Not a pregnant woman with half her body sliced open. I am used to "alternative", even darkly beautiful, anatomically challenging works of art, but there is a time and a place for it, and I genuinely do not think Ilfracombe harbour is one of them.
It will bring some more celebrity-worshipping tourists, though, which can only be good for the local economy, at least let's hope so.
To forget about Verity, nothing beats two hours at Woolacombe Beach - I would also suggest Saunton Sands a few miles away. Local and visiting dogs will approve. Sadly, we don't have a dog (yet). The wind was crazy and made the rain sting our faces as if thousands of tiny pebbles were being hurled in our direction. We had to abandon ship and walk the other way with the wind behind us. We reached Combesgate Beach as the rain stopped.
Along The Esplanade, we found this abandoned house, The White House. This is a lovely, lovely building in a prime spot. The gate was open, and we climbed up the steps to have a nose... Looking in the ground floor though a window, we could see that the inside was in a sorry state but still salvageable - just. Pictures and furniture were still in place if a little worse for wear - an antiques dealer's dream. The whole house is probably full of great stuff.
At the back of the house, a kind of summer kitchen/scullery was full of books, objects, letters, clothes, all apparently left to rot. How I yearned to unlock the door, get in and explore!
If I had the money, I would buy it, refurbish it and turn it into a writer's retreat.
I'd love to know more about this house, and how on earth such a big, beautiful building in need of a lot of love can stand abandoned like this in one of the most popular places in the country!
Give it to me!
All pictures © Carya Gish
The willow tree is a recurring motif in my first novel, I Am a Muse.
While listening to The Mediaeval Baebes latest album, The Huntress, I realised that Under The Willow Tree is just the perfect song to accompany I Am a Muse.
The following verses are particularly appropriate:
My Love is dead,
I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I Am a Muse will be typeset by Steve Pottinger at Ignite Books and printed by Bell and Bain Ltd in Glasgow.
I am finishing off the last check of the manuscript this week.
It looks like I Am a Muse is now on its way to be released in the Spring, at last. After one year of sending submission to agents and publishers and another 10 months of trying to understand how to self-publish on Lulu.com - I haven't wasted my time entirely there, as I have learnt a few things along the way - it feels extremely satisfying to be doing things like a real publisher, with complete control.
If everything goes to plan, then I am hoping to use the same people to take care of The Book of Thoth and the other forthcoming Arcane Publishing releases, although I would like TBOT to be a little bit special. If possible, I would like to release two different editions of the book: one basic novel with text only, and another version, this one illustrated. I will be working with artist Sabine T on this and on the possible release of Dysfunctions as well, although I am still a little bit unsure about this one.
These are exciting times.
It's good timing, as I will be attending the British Library talk on THE STORY OF CRIME FICTION on February 8th.
There was an article in last week's local newspaper confirming that the second edition of the Shorelines festival of literature of the sea will indeed take place next autumn. It is rather nice to see this confirmed, even though it is months away.
We were told about it when we attended Metal Culture's Creative writing Lab last October - I was one of the lucky participants. You can find my blog about it HERE (pictures of speakers Christopher Fowler, Cathi Unsworth and Julie Myerson).
I am a Muse should be out by then, and I know exactly what I want to do for this festival - if I am allowed... We will see... It will involve The Right Place, pictures of St Catherine's Chapel and PJ Harvey's The Wind.
When I was at university, there were no social events - or at least I didn't know about them. I had been waiting to go away to university to maybe, just maybe, open my horizon a little bit: so far, I had been stuck in a small provincial town in the middle of France dreaming of another kind of life. Then I got stuck in a bigger provincial town STILL in the middle of France. Well done me.
If I genuinely adored my studies and worked like crazy for five years, the content of the lectures and the structure of the courses were very French: very dry, academic, deprived of any kind of joy, creativity or imagination-stimulating opportunities. I studied English and American literature and civilisations and NOT ONCE were we shown a movie, a documentary, or were we taken to the theatre (Shakespeare only existed on the page...). As to having writers and other speakers come and talk to us... I'm not even going there...
I had to look for them myself, as I had always done... But in the 90s in France, it was not exactly that easy. Boohoo.
At the time, I had wanted to be a writer for years and years; I would have cried of joy if I had been offered the chance to attend a talk about self-publishing - which admittedly was probably still pretty rare at the time.
Anyhow, the students who attended Ignite Books' publishing talk should be incredibly grateful to have been given such an opportunity.
They were also lucky to have Steve Pottinger and Joolz Denby on hand to explain self-publishing to them: two genuinely passionate and driven people just telling you how it is, why and how and when they set up their own small publishing company, Ignite Books.
It was also important, I think, that Steve and Joolz were not your average "publishing" individuals (and believe me, I work in publishing, thankfully freelance now, and there IS a "publishing type", and, well, hum, what can I say... It is good for young people to know that you don't need to fit a certain profile (i.e Oxbridge, a publishing degree/internship, nicely ticking boxes and obeying the rules, being and looking awfully nice, etc.) and generally please others all the time to be published. That if you believe in what you are doing and work hard at it, then you too can become who you want to be: a writer, a publisher with as little compromising as possible.
But you won't be doing it for fame and fortune, that's for sure. It's all a matter of CHOICE.
I am no longer a student, but I was there and walked away with my belief boosted and punching the air: yes, that's the way I've always wanted to do it, and that's the way I'll be doing it.
Ignite Books has been an inspiration to me, and will continue to be so.
Let's hope the young people in the room will treasure those ideas and build on them.
This was QMU's very first Spoken word and live poetry night and they were very brave indeed to invite Steve Pottinger and Joolz Denby as their first guests of honour. They could have gone for a blander and safer option from London, but no, they chose two talented and abrasive poets from the North - maybe Joolz could have done one of her new poems, Barbarians, just to make a point "We are the barbarians from the North", it goes...
Certainly, they brought a very northerly weather with them on the day!
The audience was small - entrance was free for students, and there were a lot around outside in the bar... Let's hope that the word will go around and that more students will come and enjoy those evenings in the future.
Five brave young people opened the proceedings, and I was in quiet awe, to be perfectly honest. As a student, I would rather have DIED than stand in front of a small (or medium, or large) audience and read my writings.
It is only in October 2012, years and years after having left university, that I did my first two readings in front of an audience, a strange sensation at the pit of my stomach the whole time. Oh yes, you would have thought that having spent several years as a teacher, standing in front of classes of 30-odd semi-feral teenagers would have cured the shyness, but when you are reading your own words, your very own creation... It's quite something else.
Therefore, well done to the five students below who did their bit in front of an attentive audience that included two veteran poets and artists and a rock star. Beat that!
There was some quite brilliant stuff there, actually.
Steve Pottinger and Joolz Denby were fascinating, as usual. The - apparent -ease with which they come up with those emotionally charged poems of theirs is quite beyond me, a non-poet.
Steve Pottinger has a new collection of poems, Island Songs, out now.
Watch Steve read his rather fabulous poem: No-one likes an angry poet HERE
Joolz Denby has a new CD out - a collaboration with Mik Davis from the dreamy outfit Utopian Love Revival - The Black Dahlia (which will be reviewed before the end of this month on this very website.)
Yesterday, even though the snow was falling hard, we walked to the Cliff Pavilion on Southend seafront - it is only a five minute walk from our home. The Cliffs Antiques Fair, organised by Hallmark fairs, is a popular event.
We got out several hours later with some wonderful things. Here are some of our finds... These will go and add to my collection. Matt ArtPix bought at least as much as me!
Coming up on this blog...
A little report of our evening at QMU with Ignite Books with pictures!
And a review of Joolz Denby's Black Dahlia CD...
Watch this space!
Now to get rid of that pesky job that seems to never end...
I think therefore I write.
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