I sometimes become a stallholder and attend fairs and markets with my partner and Arcane Publishing designer Matt ArtPix .
Our first event of 2014 is taking place THIS SUNDAY on home turf in Southend!
I will have a few copies of I Am a Muse for sale at the event and will be promoting my next novel, The Book of Thoth.
For this fair, we will be concentrating on classic cinema and icons, as well as fashion, here's the stock of second-hand books I will have with me at the event!.
Then Sunday 9th March, we will be in Bexleyheath in London, more details soon!
2014 is the year we start trading in London more often!
Yesterday, I attended the press briefing for Village Green 2014 at Metal’s beautiful HQ, Chalkwell Hall in Westcliff-on-Sea - about 25 minutes walk from my house, lucky me!
The briefing was led by Metal’s Managing Director Colette Bailey and Sean McLoughlin, Senior Producer; they were ‘assisted’ by well-known comedian/actor/cartoonist - and local - Phill Jupitus, who gladly posed for the assembled photographers... He has performed at Village Green himself, and he has also worked with Metal on several occasions. He actually purchased the first two tickets himself at the press briefing!
Below are Phill Jupitus and Sean McLoughlin (photos: yours truly)
Village Green has become one of the most important events in Southend’s cultural and artistic calendar; last year’s headliner, Wilko Johnson, attracted the national press to Chalkwell Park – and I hope they will come back again this year, because I strongly believe that the work Metal do in the area deserves wider coverage.
Arts organisation Metal have been running the event for six years now, and it has grown bigger and better every year. This good-natured celebration of arts and culture is truly for everyone, aged 0 to 110 - and a few well-behaved pooches!
There’s music, of course – spread over several stages and including classical, folk, world, hip-hop, rock, indie, electro, etc. as well as an art and craft market, workshops, live visual arts, cabaret, comedy and spoken word, film – with a cinema provided by the always excellent local company The White Bus who also run the fab Southend Film Festival – and performance artists including stilt walkers, acrobats, jugglers, etc.
Want to get a taste of what the Village Green experience is like? Watch this lovely little video of last year's event!
It is an exciting experience for all the senses: you can listen, taste, look, watch, participate, make, try things out… There is even a whole day (this year, it will be Friday 11th July) for local schools to have their own mini-festival on site: Village Green: The Next Generation.
New for 2014 will be the Kid’s Village, a whole area of the park dedicated to children and families and allowing them to get involved in loads of different activities.
The Metal team also revealed some of the headliners who will be gracing various stages on the day – they are in talks with some more headlining acts, but couldn’t reveal anything as no contracts had been signed with them yet.
So far, have been confirmed: Scottish singer Eddi Reader – she had a hit in the 80s, “Perfect”; hip-hop duo Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip; New York ska band The Slackers, Londoners Man Like Me, Sheffield indie band The Hosts, the world-renowned Philadelphia Boys Choir, popular local band Youth Club and also local, the extremely entertaining Goldmaster Allstars . Also confirmed are four visiting visual artists from Shangai who took part in the prestigious Liverpool biennial.
Now, we are coming to the controversial bit:
Village Green has been a free festival until now. Because of its growing success, audience numbers reached 30,000 last year, and costs have gone up at the same time as funding of the Arts has been drastically cut.
This year, an entrance fee of £10 per adult (plus booking fee, as the tickets are issued via an agency) has been introduced. Children 0-10 go free, and 11-17 are £5.
At the press briefing, I really got the impression that deciding to charge an entrance fee had been quite a difficult decision to make for the team. But this is the price to pay to keep this event going, and we should be grateful for it happening at all.
Now, I could probably write a 10-page essay about the importance of art and culture in society, but it probably wouldn't change anything. I could also write another 10-page essay about how wrong it is to think that anything creative (music, books, art, etc.) should be available for free all the time. It involves a lot of work and costs.
As we were reminded in a short promotional video during the briefing, a big part of Metal’s work is to get schools, children and teenagers involved in and inspired by the arts and culture. Throughout the year, they give Southend children the opportunity to come into contact with artists and their work, as well as getting them to create and express themselves.
I think about the kids who have attended and will attend Village Green and realise how lucky they are. You never know, it might ignite a spark in some of them...
And also, would you like to live in a town where nothing happens? Culture puts towns and cities on the map and improves them, makes them alive. Southend is lucky to be so close to London, and if it keeps up the good work, it could economically and socially benefit from the interest generated by events such as Village Green.
So really, what is £10 for an adult in that case?
I have bought my tickets and I am looking forward to discovering new artists. Let's hope the weather will be on our side!
To get more info about how to buy tickets and the various ticket options, line-up and the event in general, head HERE.
Metal will be keeping everyone up-to-date with the line-up etc. on social media, so go to their FACEBOOK or TWITTER ACCOUNT
Whilst editing, I am listening to the NO DEAD SEAS: NO RED SEAS VOL II compilation which you can purchase HERE.
Compiled and conceived by musicians Lesley Malone and Caroline Jago, the compilation features artists from eleven countries.
This compilation has been put together in support of the fight against over-fishing and it raises awareness of the urgent need to protect our oceans and their wildlife. This is an incredibly atmospheric, beautiful and inspiring compilation, and its mood is absolutely perfect as a background for the editing of my novel!
I have almost finished Draft 2 of The Book of Thoth. Draft 2 should be finished by the end of this week.
Next step for me is the re-read everything from the first to the last page without making any corrections, to check whether the narrative flows, whether the story is easy to follow and makes sense...
The Book of Thoth is a Gothic novel inspired by Wilkie Collins's work, and therefore it is not meant to be scary, but rather atmospheric and mysterious.
I loathe seeking permissions.
In my previous job as senior editor for an educational publishing company, I spent over six months chasing up people, invoices, copyright lines, even got threatened by some venal French hippies (!). So when I became a freelancer, I decided that I wouldn't do any permissions. My sister though was brave enough to take up the title of "permission editor" and has been working on quite a few things over the past few years.
When I decided to include the lyrics of the PJ Harvey song "The Wind" in my third book, The Right Place, I first thought that it was a terrific idea, as I got the inspiration for the book partly from the lyrics...
My sister has been given the job to seek permission to print the lyrics, and I am waiting with trepidation to hear about the results of her work. In the meantime though, I've found this EDIFYING ARTICLE ABOUT THE COST OF QUOTING LYRICS IN A NOVEL and it's made me slightly worried. Especially the bit below:
I still have the invoices. For one line of "Jumpin' Jack Flash": £500. For one line of Oasis's "Wonderwall": £535. For one line of "When I'm Sixty-four": £735. For two lines of "I Shot the Sheriff" (words and music by Bob Marley, though in my head it was the Eric Clapton version): £1,000. Plus several more, of which only George Michael's "Fastlove" came in under £200. Plus VAT. Total cost: £4,401.75. A typical advance for a literary novel by a first-time author would barely meet the cost.
I am an indie author who publishes her books on her own indie imprint in print runs of about 100 copies, and there is no way I can afford that kind of fee. For The Right Place, I am going to apply for an Arts Council grant, but the chances of my getting it are pretty slim...
I wanted the permission to print the whole song, and if too expensive, just a few lines, but even that might prove to be too prohibitive...
Old Spitalfields Market is a brilliant place to be every day of the week. We were back there specifically to buy a piece of jewellery from Lelong Designs, who create pieces inspired by the 20s and 30s, Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles - my favourites!
I am not usually big on jewellery, but their stall is simply wonderful and I had to try and concentrate on the task at hand: purchase something to add to the back cover of The Book of Thoth - the cover itself is very minimalist, and we thought adding something completely different at the back would work well.
Matt ArtPix, the Arcane Publishing designer, helped me choose between some Egyptian-inspired pieces or some insect jewellery.
In the book, one item in particular plays an important role in the story: a dragonfly pendant. As Egyptian imagery is already well represented throughout the book - on the cover and inside - we decided to go for the wonderful dragonfly brooch above, which looks very, very close to the jewel I had in mind. And it is very, very wearable, isn't it? I had a little chat with the stallholder and was thrilled he agreed to have his work on the back cover of my book... Of course, credit will be given where it's due!
I also HAD to make a detour and buy some tea on the Yumchaa Tea stall. Honestly, they are the best teas around. I knew I was going to a gig in the evening, and yet, I still bought three bags of tea and carried them around the whole day and night. How Rock'n'Roll is that?
OK, I admit it: I can be a terrible snob from time to time, and I refuse to set foot in your average cinema like the Odeon, for example, ever again. People eat, talk, check their phones, fidget; their attention span doesn't exceed two minutes... It just spoils it for me. So we've decided to only go and see films in "civilised" surroundings, like the Curzon cinemas and the Barbican Centre. Below is a picture of Cromwell Tower opposite the cinema at the Barbican, pure Brutalist style!
Talking about Brutalism... There's a great programme on at the moment about Brutalist architecture: Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness, presented by the impossibly cool Jonathan Meades. It is absolutely bonkers, with Mr Meades's very, er, original presentation style. I'd love to get the script; it's wonderfully written in a rich, kaleidoscopic vocabulary... And it's very inspiring for me, with visuals close to what I'd like to achieve with my fourth book.
We went to see the not-very-critically-acclaimed The Monuments Men. I've never seen any movie with George Clooney or Matt Damon, so I have now. Clooney has some kind of Cary Grant, twinkle-in-the-eye thing going on, and Matt Damon is... err... a bit bland, perhaps?
I liked the movie because it had a sort of old-fashioned charm you don't really find in modern movies - I have always been a lover of classic cinema me, from the 20s to the late 50s. Also, it is rare in a mainstream movie to have references to art and its importance in our society. True, the movie doesn't go very deep into any of its topics, but I never go to the cinema to see movies making deep and serious social/political points - I leave that to pseudo-intellectuals.
I haven't been to the cinema for ages, and then bang, several films turn up all at the same time! I also want to see Only Lovers Left Alive, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Under The Skin, and they are all out in the forthcoming weeks!
When we stepped into the Lexington on Sunday, we entered a parallel, beautiful, lyrical world.
I have already written a little bit about cellist and "looper" Jo Quail - when she supported Rasputina in November. It was a pleasure to see her play again - and it was even better the second time! Not only is her music truly mesmerising, but watching her play is fascinating. Music inspires me and has always played an important role in my life, but the process of creating music and playing it is a complete mystery to me. To witness the alchemy practised on stage by Jo was simply awesome. And her music is definitely otherworldly.
On Sunday night, we were treated to a brand new, not quite finished piece - temporarily called "DD" - the music note I hasten to add - a "baby" track that still has quite a lot of growing up to do according to its creator, although it sounded pretty grown up to me already!
We continued our journey into a realm of magic and shadowy beings with the excellent Seventh Harmonic (for some reason, my computer refuses to open the website on either Chrome or Explorer, which is a real shame!). Sunday was their new singer Liza Graham's first gig with the band, and if she looked slightly uncomfortable at the beginning, this changed pretty quickly as she literally beamed as the set went on... Jo Quail joined the band for their track "Winter" and added a layer of cords to the already rich ensemble.
Experimental, dark and seductive stuff indeed...
Daemonia Nymphe do know how to put on a show. Costumes, masks, ancient Greek instruments - made especially for them by craftsman Nikolaos Brass, and a dancer. On Sunday, they were presenting their new album, "Psychostasia".
Spyros Giasafakis and Evi Stergiou, the core members of Daemonia Nymphe, have worked for film and theatre (in particular The Theatre Lab Company), and it shows in their taste for the subtly dramatic; they also know how to surround themselves with talented musicians, and joining them on Sunday were among others Tanya Jackson (whom I had seen perform before with the Mediaeval Baebes) and ex-Dead Can Dance member Peter Ulrich - I still remember reviewing his fabulous album "Enter The Mysterium" years ago, so was particularly chuffed to see him there!
Also present was dancer/model/actress Denise Moreno.
Hypnotic, evocative and full of Ancient Greece's rhythms and flavours, Daemonia Nymphe's world is infused with myths and legends and carries the words and stories of Hellenic literature.
This is dark, ritualistic, spellbinding music, plucked from ancient times to speak to the soul of modern audiences.
To conclude, I would just add a word or two about the audience. Everyone should be proud of themselves: attentive and respectful of the silent/quiet bits in the sets, holding their breath at the end of each song before applauding enthusiastically. It was just a pleasure to be there.
I have heard so many negative things recently about acoustic/quiet sets being completely spoilt by drunken idiots, blasé crowds speaking over artists and heckling...
Well done, everyone.
When I am not wandering around London - something I will need to do a lot for Book 4 which will be set in the capital - I edit The Book of Thoth.
I am being quite ruthless and some sections are being drastically cut - I am already down to 145,000 words from 151,000, and I am about half way through the book. Draft 2 is still on schedule for early March, I am happy to say.
For this book, I hope to be able to find a reader - not an editor, but someone who can spot a few things for me.
I expect the typesetting to take place over July/August, so we're still on schedule for a December publication date!
In the meantime, I need to make a decision about attending The London Book Fair in April. It's £30 and I would only go there for one day, but it would have to be worth it! Decisions, decisions...
Last Saturday, we spent another great day in London. There was an exhibition we wanted to see and we had a gig in the evening. As usual, we ended up doing a few detours along the way...
We were making our way to GRAD in Little Portland Street when we thought it would be a good idea to go and have a quick look at the BBC Broadcasting House just a few streets away. We got in to have a look at the Art Deco reception and the lovely security guy gave us a flyer for the tours organised there - this is a new attraction that launched in April last year.
Just opposite Broadcasting House, you can find the imposing and rather fabulous Langham Hotel. Quick literary diversion here: the hotel was popular with writers such as Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle - whose Sherlock Holmes stories The Sign of Four and Scandal in Bohemia are partly set there! - and Oscar Wilde...
It was then a short walk to Little Portland Street and GRAD (Gallery for Russian Arts and Design) to see their fabulous little exhibition "Soviet Posters of the Silent Screen". The gallery is not big, but we still managed to stay ages. The exhibition is free and really, you should go! (It's on until 29th March).
My partner Matt ArtPix has written a great little blog about it, so go and have a looksie. Of course, I adored it; the 20s are my favourite era, and I am fascinated by silent movies. We sat down and watched the absolutely wonderful 1925 film "Chess Fever" in its entirety.
And you're lucky: I have just found it on YouTube, so you can watch it too! - Warning: contains cute kittens and a killer actress who rocks the 20s look beautifully!
From Fitzrovia, we walked to Covent Garden via the stunning All Saints Church in Margaret Street.
I am hunting for a perfume, but I loathe the usual fare on offer in mainstream shops, especially as women's perfumes are mostly floral and "fresh". I don't want that rubbish: I like heavy perfumes, with wood, patchouli, spices, neroli, that kind of thing... In Covent Garden, I came across a shop that made JUST what I'd been looking for - with a seriously vintage/heritage twist and marvellous bottles to boot: Penhaligon's. I adored their Elixir one, but there are too many amazing concoctions in their collection!
Have a look at their website, it is fascinating and real treat for the senses... Unfortunately, I simply cannot afford their prices...
I might get tempted by their £3 samples one day!
Talking about heritage, we also spent a bit of time in the very chaptastic shop Thomas Farthing on Museum Street, a stone's throw from the British Museum . Their cloche hats are lurvely and I was tempted to steal all their nice vintage wooden crates for my Arcane Publishing stall!
We made a short visit to the venerable institution that is the British Museum to pick up flyers for the next big exhibition I absolutely have to go to: Vikings: Life and Legend.
Then we were off to the Islington O2 Academy for some choons...
I have written about Red Sun Revival and The Eden House before - read my review of their gig at The Lexington HERE.
We didn't catch RSR this time around but were in for co-headliners And Also The Trees, who play very rarely in this country. Elegant, atmospheric and poetic, their music took us far away from our urban landscape.
The Eden House are one of my favourite bands and their set was as good as ever, albeit a little bit too short for my taste... I always want more of their beautiful music!
I don't usually read French novels; French is the language I've grown up with and I use it in my freelance career, but I admit that my ability to write and speak it has been declining over the years - language is a tool, and if you do not use it on a regular basis, it goes all rusty... and I don't listen to, speak, write or read French in my day to day life.
So two weeks ago, I came back from France with some magazines and a book in my bag to try and brush up on my French language skills; funnily enough, I decided to buy Glacé ("The Frozen Dead" here, published by Mulholland Books)because I had read an article in an English newspaper and it had given it a good review and saying that it was a Gothic thriller set in an asylum...
Hell, that sounded like my cup of tea!
I'll now know if it is.
The editing of The Book of Thoth is well under way... Today, my work is fuelled by music - I am listening to the fabulous The Eden House ahead of their London gig tomorrow - I absolutely cannot wait! I am also looking forward to seeing And Also The Trees, whom I have never seen live.
I have reviewed The Eden House's concert at The Lexington last year HERE and therefore will not do a full review of the gig this time around, but I will most certainly try and take pictures...
I have also written a review of their new album Half-Life HERE.
Here is some footage from the Lexington gig:
I have been thinking about it for a while... Now, I have decided to actually act upon it!
I would like to start posting on this very website interviews with authors and publishers: about their inspiration, their writing processes, how they self-published (for self-published writers) or their journey towards traditional publication for those lucky enough - or not! - to have been snapped up by an agent/traditional publisher, how they set up their publishing company (for indie publishers), etc. It will be very much focused on their current and future work.
I will try and keep the articles short enough to be read online - I personally cannot read long texts on a screen and need them to be printed!
What I have in mind is to do email interviews with people who are not your "traditional" writers/publishers, but people whose road to publication has been a little bit different.
I am also interested in people I consider more interesting than your average writer; most certainly not the "Oxbridge/MA in creative writing/bestselling writer" journey to being published.
I will be honest, it will be based on my personal taste, as I want to interview people whose books I have actually read - and I do not read books I don't want to read.
There won't be any literary stars here - only potential future ones -although if I could get Michel Faber to answer a few questions, I would be over the moon!
I was going to post them as blogs, but I think those will require their own section on the website, so I might fiddle a bit with the structure of missgish.com when I am ready to post the first interview.
I am happy to say that so far, the three people I have contacted have expressed an interest, so thank you to them.
I hope to start the series in the spring, hopefully the first interview will be available by the end of March. I might post one every month or two months, depending on people's (and my own) availability.
I already have a few more people to contact and add to my list!
I think therefore I write.
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