Article for Hippo Reads and event at the Ilkley Literature Festival

Last night, Emma Claire Sweeney and I met up at the Southbank Centre for the pre-award celebration for this year’s SI Leeds Literary Prize. As a former runner-up, I really wanted to go along to support the 2014 shortlistees – not least because of the help Emma Claire and I have received from three of them.

Season Butler, Reshma Ruia and Kit de Waal were all kind enough to answer some interview questions about their friendships, as was prize advocate Irenosen Okojie. We’ll be featuring a new creative piece inspired by their answers during our talk at the Ilkley Literature Festival next week. This is a free event and we’d love to see you there.

 

SOMETHING RHYMED

~ the literary friendships of famous female authors

Ilkley Playhouse Wildman

Wednesday 15th October

9.15-10.15 pm

 

 

For a taster of the sort of thing we’ll be discussing, you can also read our article for Hippo Reads, which went live on their website yesterday.

Update on Something Rhymed

emily - 154 H cropped
Copyright: GREGphoto

Emma Claire and I have had a busy summer with our website Something Rhymed.

Following our article for the Independent on Sunday, we wrote another related piece about female writing friendships for Writers & Artists.

We’ve also been working on plans for some related events and projects, including an appearance on 15 October at the Ilkley Literature Festival.

I’ll be posting some more information about this event over the next few weeks, but you can go to this page to find out what we will be doing that evening.

As I mentioned in a recent post on Something Rhymed, Emma Claire and I are very keen to celebrate positive representations of women’s friendship on-line. With this in mind, we’ve just launched our #SomethingRhymed hashtag on Twitter with this tweet:

Women’s relationships are too often seen as bitchy & backstabbing. Tell us about a time when a female friend supported you. #SomethingRhymed

We’ll be sharing our own stories (in 140 characters or less), and, whether you’re a writer or not, we’d love to hear about your positive experiences of female friendship too. If you’re not on Twitter, but would still like to add your voice to the conversation, you can leave a message in the Comments section at the end of all of our Something Rhymed posts.

Do remember too that you can keep up-to-date with the blog by typing your email address into the box beneath the banner on the right hand side of the screen, and then clicking on the ‘Follow’ button beneath. On mobile devices, you need to scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the box and ‘Follow’ button.

Blog tour: The Writing Process

My friend and frequent writing collaborator Emma Claire Sweeney asked me to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour, for which all the writers involved are asked to answer four questions about their work. You can read Emma Claire’s answers, and follow the tour back, here.

1. What am I working on?

These past few months have been all about juggling. I have been working on an overhaul of my first novel A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing, a longish short story ‘The Happiest of Homes’ due to be published later this year, a number of commissioned feature articles, the most recent being this one for the Independent on Sunday co-written with Emma Claire, and also our joint literary website Something Rhymed.

 2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I’ll limit myself to talking about just a couple of things, the novel and the website.

A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing is set in the Japanese city of Ōsaka. It’s the story of an intense friendship between a young English teacher and a Western nightclub hostess, and what happens when the hostess disappears. It’s a book about lost things – a vanished jade necklace, the protagonist’s mother who’s deserted her, and a missing best friend. I’ve also woven traditional Japanese folktales, family stories and national history into this literary thriller.

Osaka at sunset, on my last visit there a few years ago.
Osaka at sunset, on my last visit there a few years ago.

Friendship, an important theme of A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing, is the main focus of my website Something Rhymed. In this case, Emma Claire and I have been looking at the literary friendships of some of the world’s most famous writers. We’d noticed that, although information about the likes of Wordsworth and Coleridge, or Fitzgerald and Hemingway can easily be found on-line, the literary pals of, say, Jane Austen, George Eliot or Virginia Woolf tend to be a bit more hidden. Something Rhymed attempts to redress this balance, and asks why these important relationships so often seem to have been written out of history.

Emma Claire and me
Emma Claire and me

3. Why do I write what I do?

My novel was influenced by my years living and working in Japan when I was in my early twenties, and also my own cultural background. I’m half-English, half-Japanese and I was brought up on my mother’s stories of her life in Japan many years ago. I have often found myself wanting to write about these things in my fiction.

With Something Rhymed, Emma Claire and I just felt that there was something missing from the record where female literary friendships were concerned. We’ve long relied on each other as writing allies – celebrating successes together and providing much-needed support when the going gets tough – so were convinced that, if we looked hard enough we’d discover other writerly relationships comparable to ours. With the help of Something Rhymed readers, we’ve made many new discoveries this year.

4. How does my writing process work?

At the moment, I write every morning in the week and sometimes at weekends too. In the afternoons, I do other things: teaching (creative writing), cleaning, marking students’ work, errands, admin, lesson prep. There’s always lots to do, but I try to keep my writing time sacred. I make a note of what I want to accomplish each day in my diary and attempt to stick to it. This keeps me mostly on track.

 

Next week I’m passing the blog tour to writer and freelance Arts Project Manager, Irenosen Okojie. She has worked with the RSC, the Southbank Centre, and programmed for Duckie for their series of interactive nights. She was a selected writer for the Flight project run by Spread the Word and for the 30 Nigeria House Project by Theatre Royal Stratford East. Her work has been featured in the Observer and the Guardian, and her short stories have been published internationally..Irenosen is penning her first novel and a collection of short stories. She is 2014 Prize Advocate for the SI Leeds Literary Prize, currently obsessed with her family beagle Gogo and addicted to Viennese whirls.

Workshop at the National Portrait Gallery

I was in Liverpool on Wednesday evening for the Writing on the Wall festival’s ‘Top Girl’ event, in conversation with Helen Walsh and the Women’s Organisation.

My next event is part of a collaboration between City University London and the National Portrait Gallery. ‘The Blank Page’ writers’ workshop, in association with Anxiety Arts festival, takes place at the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday 12 June.

The practical session will use visual prompts to explore ways of creating believable characters on paper. It’ll be suitable for participants of all abilities and levels of experience, and I hope to see you there.

Time: 18:30-20:30

Tickets: £10 (£8 concessions and Gallery Supporters)

For more information and to book your place, please click here.

Writing on the Wall festival, the Yorkshire Post and more on Something Rhymed

I’m delighted to announce that I will be reading an extract of my as-yet-unpublished first novel A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing at the Writing on the Wall festival in Liverpool on Wednesday 14 May.

As a former third prize winner of the SI Leeds Literary Prize, I’ll be taking part in an event at Siren Café headlined by Helen Walsh, author of gripping new novel The Lemon Grove. My book A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing also won third prize in the Yeovil Literary Prize and was long-listed for the Mslexia Novel Competition.

Me reading my work at the SI Leeds Literary Prize ceremony
Me reading my work at the SI Leeds Literary Prize ceremony

In other writing news, the Yorkshire Post recently featured an article on Something Rhymed, the literary website I run with Emma Claire Sweeney. Throughout 2014, Emma Claire and I are profiling the writing friendships of well-known female authors, and this month we’re turning the spotlight on Emily Dickinson and Helen Hunt Jackson.

We’re still actively looking for more literary pals to consider for the site, so please keep letting us know your thoughts by Tweeting us, or contacting us via somethingrhymed.com.

Tangled Roots anthology out now!

The Tangled Roots anthology is now available to buy here.

Tangled Roots cover

The book features a total of fifteen true stories of mixed and multi-racial families from Yorkshire and the North of England, including my short memoir ‘The Memory Album’.

It has been a privilege to be involved with this Arts Council-funded project devised by Katy Massey, and I’ve really enjoyed reading the often unexpected and deeply moving tales that make up this collection.

Tangled Roots book launch

And some non-Something Rhymed news too…

Book launch invitation:

Tangled Roots: true-life tales of mixed and multi-racial families in Yorkshire

You are invited to the launch of the TANGLED ROOTS anthology of true stories by mixed raced people and their families. For launch night only, the book will be available to buy at £8 – 20% off the cover price.

Date: Wednesday 5 March 2014

Drinks reception: 6pm – FREE

Performance by Tangled Roots writers: 7pm – FREE with a copy of the book, £4 without

Venue: The Café Bar, Seven Arts, Harrogate Road, LS7 3PD

Please join us for a drink, to buy the book, and to hear some of the great stories unearthed by the project.

Something Rhymed: guest post for Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books and interview with Read Me Something You Love

Ever since we launched Something Rhymed at the start of the year, Emma Claire Sweeney and I have been kept happily busy with research, monthly activities and weekly updates for our website. Throughout 2014, we will be profiling the literary friendships of well-known female authors, so if you have any ideas about famous writer pals we could consider, do please keep those recommendations coming in.

Weve written a few one-off feature articles about the project too, most recently for Women Writers, Women[’s] Books, and this month we’ve also recorded a podcast – a new experience for us.

Me listening to Emma Claire's reading of Virginia Woolf
Me listening to Emma Claire’s reading of Virginia Woolf

We were already fans of Read Me Something You Love, so when Steve Wasserman asked us to record an interview with him, based around the writer friends we profiled on Something Rhymed in January, we jumped at the chance. Emma Claire read (and deftly defended) a section from Virginia Woolfs Mrs Dalloway and I read the opening of ‘The Garden Party’, one of my favourite short stories ever since I first encountered it.

We both had lots of fun doing the interview and, perhaps partly because it was a joint interview, I actually enjoyed reliving it via the recording – which hasn’t always been my experience when I’ve listened to myself again in the past!

Book Oxygen and Yorkshire Post feature articles

Keeping with my New Year’s resolution to not to leave it ages between posts on this blog, I thought this would be a good opportunity to let you know about the progress of two projects I’ve been involved with recently.

Emily's letter seal

Something Rhymed

This is the new website I began at the start of the year with Emma Claire Sweeney, which profiles the literary friendships of well-known authors. Throughout 2014, we will be looking at a different pair of female writer pals every month and challenging ourselves to complete an activity based on a prominent feature of that particular friendship.

In January, we’ve been focusing on Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf, and the activity Emma Claire and I have been doing is letter writing, which we’ve talked about in more detail in our weekly updates.

We were also lucky to be able to feature a guest post by writer friends Jill Dawson and Kathryn Heyman, regular correspondents by letter themselves. You can read more about our plans for Something Rhymed this year, in this feature article for the literary website Book Oxygen.

Tangled Roots

Katy Massey’s project, showcasing the experiences of mixed-race families from Yorkshire continues to go from strength to strength. You can read the latest news and stories here.

I was pleased to see Nick Ahad’s article about Tangled Roots in Saturday’s edition of the Yorkshire Post magazine. As one of the featured writers, I’m of course looking forward to the book of the project, which should be launched in March.