Monday, 28 October 2013

Found and Lost

There was a moment last week when, instead of working, I spent a minute searching the internet, as writer's often do. It's that or having a look at twitter or facebook maybe. Easily distracted, writers. I put in the first of two or three names, people I look for every now and then. People who were important to me once but who I've lost touch with. One is now a doctor in British Columbia, I search to see if there are any pictures of him rather than just the 'rate your doctor' listings. I then happened upon a photograph of my niece at a fancy party in London, and then her website. Finally, aware that I was wasting time, I put the final name in, the name of a friend who unfortunately shared the same name as a relatively well-known actor, comedian, director so that whenever I'd searched before there were just too many pages to plough through. If I had thought, and remembered that my friend had been in an indie band in the mid eighties that did pretty well, John Peel was a fan, I might have found him earlier, but instead I found him too late.

The search engine found him for the first time in ten years of looking. It was an obituary. An obituary written for The Guardian less than a month ago. I held my breath as I clicked on the link hoping that it was someone else with the same name but I knew it wasn't, I'd seen the reference to the band he'd been in. I lost touch with him a long time ago, almost thirty years, but I'd always expected to catch up with him sometime. I'd found other people, lots of them unexpectedly through social networking sites. In the last couple of years I've renewed contact with lots of old friends and I just thought that one day soon he'd pop up. Now I'm too late, and just too late which makes it more difficult somehow, though I have learnt from the writer of the tribute that he died unexpectedly, telling few people of his diagnosis.

My head these last few days has been full of memories, of bands we were in together, saw together, listened to on my sister's old record player. He'd asked me, out of the blue, to front a band he was putting together. We were both 17 and went to different schools but a friend of mine who went to his school suggested me. God knows why, I had no confidence, I'd only ever sung in the church choir and I seemed to be incapable of remembering the words to any song. In the few gigs that we did I had to have the lyrics written in a jotter sitting on a music stand by the microphone. This was the punk/new wave era so this rig up looked like an arty affectation rather than a necessity. The other three band members were excellent musicians so I suppose I was able to get away with it, warbling incoherently at the front was the style of the time after all.

I'm still coming to terms with the fact that I will not get a chance to laugh over these early gigs with my friend, to find out how life has treated him because instead death has caught up with him first. I just have this overwhelming need to write about it, to somehow make up for this loss by conjuring him up again with words.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Next book? Fiction is Easy!

I was recently asked to write a guest post on Louise Gibney's blog misswrite. It was all a bit last minute, but as a journalist I work best when facing a deadline. I decided to write about a question I'd been asked at a reading event the previous week. I'd read from my new book, which at that point hadn't been published, but during the interval one interested reader asked what my next book would be? It seems churlish to find this a tad annnoying, after all the questioner clearly liked my work and was keen to read more, but when you're only just coming up for air from the months of writing and researching, it did mean taking a deep breath before answering. 

I've been asked the same question several times now in the last three weeks since my book was launched, and I remember having the same conversation with people after my first book four years ago. BUT I have to say that the conversation I had yesterday really took the biscuit. In a lull in the conversation one of my in laws asked how my new book was selling but this was closely followed by the 'and what's your next book going to be question'. (Screaming inside  but trying to smile) I replied that I have to make sure this one sells first. Whilst still trying to stop the smile from turning into a snarl, it was then suggested to me that I just write a fictional book, after all, that didn't take much work as it all comes out of your head. I could rattle off one of those novels in no time couldn't I? I believe I deserve a medal for the patience I showed as I, not too calmly I confess, explained the difficulties of writing books, fiction and non fiction. It was all I could do not to start ranting.  

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A Small Part of Something Big

Things are happening in Dumfries and Galloway and it's great to be a part of is, even in a small way. When I moved here twenty one years ago, first to Dumfries and then to Wigtownshire, it felt as if I was moving to the wild west. I'd always lived in small towns near cities, Leeds and Bradford, Hull, Nottingham and Edinburgh among them, so moving to a very small village more than two hours (by car or ferry) from the nearest city came as something of a culture shock. Perhaps just a shock, never mind culture. 

But being part of a small community has given me space and opportunities that I probably would never have had in an urban environment. I'm delighted to be a member of a writing group that has become a real force in Wigtownshire. In the last three years Book Town Writers has established itself as a group providing support for anyone wishing to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) for the first time whilst also arranging workshops with leading authors and creating a respected short story competition. I joined the group with little confidence about my writing despite being the author of a non fiction book. I have recently published a new non fiction title whilst also developing my creative writing with work published in Southlight magazine, The Fankle, Running Out of Ink and guest slots in other blogs.

Wagtongues, a new initiative founded by a writers' collective in the east of the region, was launched with a pop up bookshop at Wigtown Book Festival last weekend. The group plan to provide further pop up shops in order to support and celebrate the growing number of excellent writers living in Dumfries and Galloway. With the imminent launch of a new monthly writers' salon at Reading Lasses cafe bookshop, creative types will be able to meet up over a lovely meal and chat, network and bond. It's all good and it's great to be a small part.