There’s always Hope

This is something I wrote nearly 24 years ago after attending an event at the Hay-On-Wye Festival Of Literature.

Saturday May 21, 1994, 12:20p

‘The First Novel’

A motley gathering of aspiring authors collect together under the grubby canvas of a  large marquee. Two hundred or so enthusiastic literary souls eagerly await the arrival of an editor from a famous large publishing house. She is to be accompanied by two of her latest discoveries – two brand new novelists just about to have their first works published. There is hope, it is transmitted by the excited breathing of the assembled scribes. Books from new authors are being published, despite the economic climate; someone with the power to rescue the diligent, lonely aspirants is prepared to take a chance with new writers.

Four smart middle-class women enter the arena and arrange themselves tastefully on the dais; the background hubbub fades, all eyes face front. A dedicated wannabe novelist, a cloth-capped round man is scribbling frantically into his filo-fax. An elderly lady with a limp finds herself a last-minute seat near the front and sits down with a tired sigh – it’s been a long road.

Let the lesson begin. The editor speaks first: OK, let’s forgive the carefully cultivated tones of her voice, the expensive haircut and the cigarette dangling from manicured fingers. Let’s give her a chance. The slush pile is dismissed immediately; nothing of any value comes from that. The audience fidget, embarrassed, thinking of their own contributions to that bane of the publishing world. OK, what is it then? That magic spell to get your first novel published.

Let’s have examples. The two new authors are discussed.

Writer A is an old friend of the editor, her father was a well-known poet and her mother is an accomplished novelist. Poor thing had a deprived childhood with her arty father, even had to slum it in the castle-like homes of her family’s aristocratic Mediterranean friends. The editor and this princess of words spent months, meeting for lunch and at each other’s houses, trimming and buffing her manuscript until it eventually emerged as a thin and delicately polished literary flower.

Writer B is a senior literature journalist with the Times. She was wooed by our editor (why?) until she produced a delightfully funny piece of work based in the offices of a gardening magazine. Wonderful gimmick – a free packet of geranium seeds with every book sold.

Both writers have got friends who are literary agents. So what is that magic?

The two authors speak about their work and read extracts to the sinking audience, and finally, a marketing superwoman from the publisher explains how new authors are launched with minimum expenditure and maximum publicity (in the literary sections of quality newspapers no doubt – ah! that’s why); but none of these discourses mattered, all hope had long vaporised along with the few quid each of us had paid for the privilege of a sharp slap in the face. Maybe that was the point of the event after all?

Go back to your kitchen sinks and your allotments, you’re a punter – not a writer; writers are smart cultured people with friends in the ‘write’ places.

There was to be a question and answer session afterwards. In the back of the auditorium, a disappointed and disgruntled working-class man stands up, touches his forelock to the dais and makes a quick exit. It is me.

NOTE (December 2017): I don’t think much has changed in the quarter of a century since I wrote the above piece. Maybe I should have concentrated on running my computer business. I was quite good at that until I walked away from it to focus on writing, a couple of years after that Hay session.

Still – that’s hope for you.

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It goes like this

it goes like this
whooooosh
Sometimes
it goes like this
piiiiiing
or
pinnnnng
you understand me
don't you?
there are gaps
where you can fit
galaxies
universes even
the theme is the same
and time
time
it doesn't care
or
it doesn’t matter
m a t t e r
- - - -

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A Poem and a Painting (and a book)

The full cover of Blodyn – my latest collection of poetry
Blodyn the Painting

acrylic on board 520mm x 670mm (20″ x 26″), 2001

Blodyn the Book

Collected poems 2017

Blodyn the poem

You are a creature
Petal-haired
Mouth-organ lipped
Smudge nose askew

You are a flower (an open flower)
A head on a stalk (A face on a stick)
Seeds like eyes
Seed-like eyes

You absorb the earth
Soak up the sun
Flow with the wind
Grow with the rain

You are raw life

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An ordinary bloke writes about the Gents

Due to my cisgender conditioning the inside of women’s public toilets are not familiar to me, but as someone who seems to urinate twice as much as I drink I am a frequent visitor to the Gents. Maybe I’m anti-social but I’ve got to the point where I prefer to use a cubicle even if all I want is a pee. I’m not comfortable standing thigh-to-thigh with strangers as we merge our steamy urine against the ceramic. It’s not them, it’s me, and that’s just the way it is.

The consequence of this is that I do spend more time than most out of sight behind a closed door, so get to hear the comings and goings of others as they use the facilities unseen. I hear them come in, position themselves at the urinals, and release their streams. Sometimes you hear only one person at a time and sometimes you can hear more. After they’ve wetted that wall I’ve noticed that people behave differently, depending on how many others are in the toilet at the same time and where they are.

A row of urinals in the toilet at an arts centre

For example, in scenario one; if I am alone in the cubicle and a solitary bladder-emptier comes in to the room, it’s more than ninety-percent certain that when they’ve done their business they will leave immediately without bothering to use the hand-washing facilities. That is probably the most consistent behaviour pattern I have observed but there are many other scenarios and responses, for example:

Scenario two: If when I walk into the gents there is only one person already relieving themselves, then after I’ve gone into the cubicle and they’ve shaken it dry the probability of them walking out without washing their hands is reduced to around sixty percent, although I think that more than half of the people who do visit the sink don’t actually wash – they just push the tap and walk. The other half of those ‘gentlemen’, splash about a bit then put their hands under the blower for a couple of seconds in a pretence at cleanliness.

In scenario three, when there’s more than one other person using the urinals then the first one to finish will actually wash and dry their hands. All the others will behave the same except for the last one to finish, whose behaviour will revert back to that described in scenario one above.

Scenario four is a variation of scenario three, based on the times when I finish and come out of the cubicle and there is still someone lurking or peeing. Of course I walk immediately to the sink, wash my hands then dry them thoroughly. If the other person is ready before I leave then they too will walk over to the sink and go through the motions. If I leave before they finish then my educated guess is that they revert to scenario one.

There are many other variations on these scenarios but the moot point is that if no one is looking then the overwhelming majority of people using the male toilets to urinate do not wash their hands or at best make a feeble pretence at washing them.

I don’t even want to think about the other things they do in the Gents, especially when they’re cosy and invisible in a cubicle.

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This is a writing exercise

This is a writing exercise

The time when I went after a cow there were sounds carping on in that friend’s boat.

A pound of small oranges entails mucking under those twelve toadstools.

Smart moon then, Idris sparked on them after hell fried upside.

Leave young mellow fluffy badgers mind there one bantam weight.

Why don’t youth mix yesterday’s balloons.

In the end of the day I went to the shopping centre and found a yellow juggling ball.

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An ordinary bloke writes about being culled

Have you ever been ‘culled’?

Yes, removed from the herd because you are surplus to requirements; more than that – you are persona non grata. I’m talking about social media in general and Facebook in particular.

The other day I was browsing my wife’s Facebook page, as you do. After decades of being together we don’t have any secrets, not one, zilch; well apart from the little bit of ‘private browsing’ I do now and again, just to see what it’s all about like. Anyway, enough of that . . .

DJ Self Portrait digital version

So there was a post in her newsfeed from one her ‘friends. Not that they’ve ever met in real life of course, this was one of her ‘Facebook Friends’ who only added her up as a friend because they mistook her for someone with influence in the publishing industry. They are more of a networking contact than a friend, but that’s how it goes on social media – everyone’s got something to flog, even if it’s just their blog, the one where they like to entertain you with ramblings about what sludge they had for lunch or what they thought of the over-hyped gig they went to last night,

OK, I know it’s ironic that I’m doing the same thing – sort of, but I’ve long since given up actively trying to sell or promote anything. I won’t even draw any attention to this post except maybe by way of a solitary tweet to my meagre hundred or so alleged followers.

So this post, from one of my wife’s friends said “Congratulations! If you’re reading this then you have survived the cull.” Now I was initially quite pleased by this, because I had thought of this ‘friend’ as an interesting person who possibly had some talent in the writing department, and who was my Facebook friend as well as my wife’s. But then I remembered that I was reading my wife’s Facebook feed instead of my own.

I jumped back to my computer and looked at my own Facebook feed, just to make sure. Nope not a sign of that post, and when I checked my friends’ list the person was missing.

So yeah, I had been culled.

What am I supposed to do about that? Do I just accept that I’m the sort of person that gets culled, i.e. either a non-entity or an annoyance, then just shrug and get on with my pathetic life? Or do I log in again to my wife’s Facebook account and defriend the offender on her behalf?

I don’t know what to do, I’m just an ordinary bloke.

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Reviewing the Evidence

Reviewing the evidence
he just walked up to me as if it was an hour ago
my legs were shaking
Oh he sang better than you.
It’s gonna bring tears to your eyes, I promise you
I’m just practising, excuse me
Yes I still want that
Falls asleep ’til about 9 o’clock
Tell-tale signs
New underpants
I found a number of dirty shirts in the wardrobe
Always going to collect money
I couldn’t fault him on that
I told you that the other day
He thought I was bloody thick
It was all in my head
I failed my MOT test

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Three thoughts

To be a good gardener, sow the seeds with love
Believe in what you’re doing, do what you believe in
Even the best words dissolve into mush when you read them too many times

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Some birds and their poems

A few short poems

about birds

from my last poetry collection

 

 

Blodyn

Robin
Pecking up the scraps of summer
He comes hopping –
and perching –
in cute poses;
Makes you wish you had a camera, ready.
Pictures of Robins
do well at Christmas.

Jackdaw
Where I live
There are families
of Black Birds
They live on our roofs
and ramble on our lawns
They never stop nodding
and they make you feel
cynical.

Turkey
These are birds too,
even though
they’re cajoled
and crammed
and clipped
and co-erced
until they bleed for us,
at Christmas.

Gull
A varied people
Albatross-sized
or sharp white darts
tipped with black.
They argue a lot,
eat anything you throw at them,
and try to tell us
about the weather.

Duck
They are mostly seen
on man-made ponds,
and amuse us,
occasionally,
with their courting.
You somehow
feel obliged to them
and wish you’d brought
some bread.

 

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The Flying Boy – Work in Progress extract

A short passage of work in progress from ‘The Flying Boy’
(one of the novels I’m working on)

There was a girl once, almost fifty years ago, at the end of the sixties, beginning of the seventies. You were seventeen or eighteen; she was a year or two younger. She played a guitar and sang her own songs. You can’t remember now if she was any good and don’t know if she became successful, whatever that means, but she at least had potential, and now and again over the years you think about her and wonder if she ever got anywhere with her music. According to Wikipedia there is a singer with the same first name as her from the same town who might be the same age and could be the girl herself, but you don’t want to research it any deeper than that because whatever the result it would tarnish your timeline. Continue reading

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FREE BOOKS

Kindle versions of some of my books are on a FREE promotion for a limited time

Click on the links below to access the books

BUMS
Dead Flowers
For the Time Being
Boys from the Backfields
Cheats and Liars
The Three Bears

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Croeso – Welcome

Herein you will find scribbles and daubs, words and images, poems, photos and paintings, stories and comment; some stuff will be finely cut like a diamond, while some other stuff will be like a shattering of smashed glass.

Both glass and diamonds are nothing without light, so I can promise there is a light in all the work here and every glimmer is precious.

Scroll and click for more, tarry awhile and turn over some stones. Continue reading

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Work in Progress – TV Scripts

I’m not sure what type of writing I prefer but if I can probably narrow it down to two – they are writing novels and writing film or TV scripts.

I think it’s because each of those forms allow you to write proper ‘stories’ with plots and characters. For example it’s exciting to throw a random plot twist at the characters and see how they react; then follow them to the end to see how everything gets resolved.

There’s time to get to know the characters a bit, time to chill with these new and interesting people. It’s also a bit like that with painting, especially painting portraits, where you don’t know where that first mark on the canvas is going to lead, who is going to emerge from that mess of form and colour.

I suppose that it’s a bit like that for all art-forms – the creation of something out of nothing but an idea. But then, isn’t it a bit like that for science and engineering too? Isn’t it a bit like that for every facet of human existence, from making a cup of tea to designing a spaceship?

There’s nothing special about writers and artists.

Anyway, my work-in-progress includes adapting two of my books into television scripts.

It’s going great so far, in fact both books seem to lend themselves to the visual style of a television script. The books are Bums and Boys from the Backfields and each story is being developed into a six part TV drama. Both books are set  in the industrial/post-industrial town of Elchurch on the South Wales coast but they are very different books in other respects.

Click for more about the books : BUMS or BOYS FROM THE BACKFIELDS

Here’s a sneak peek

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In the dark

A little poem from my new collection – Blodyn – click here for more info

In the dark

In the late dark, a visitor
From a summer, long departed
Teased from winter’s slumber
Deceived by central heat
And a wall to wall mat
A microdot of consciousness
For a moment sharing awareness
As it slips across my clutter

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verses for a purpose

(This is a very raw and unedited bit of rambling, posted here as an example of the sort of thing that I write when I’m thinking about what to write but can’t actually get writing.)

Around ten past midnight on the cusp of Monday February 7th and Tuesday February 8th, 2017.

I wrote a little blog article between yesterday (Sunday) and today (Monday). It’s all about Trump and Brexit. Its premise/conclusion is that the ‘Libtards’ have to apologise before we can move on and develop a better system (if there is even a need for a ‘system’). But, a better system of what?

  • Democracy
  • Politics
  • Society
  • How do we get on and look after each other?

Anyway, despite it having been a miserable day in some ways, the fact that I finished an article of sorts has made it a good day. It wasn’t easy and I had to plough on despite feeling that it would never make sense. In the end I think it does. It’s called ‘It’s not too late to say sorry’.

Less than a week ago, I published Blodyn, a book of my poetry, old and new, despite having only recently written blogs about how rubbish poetry, or at least the poetry industry, is.

Anyway, putting Blodyn together has sparked anew my interest in and love of writing poetry, so here goes:

Verses for a purpose

They need bundling
collecting in a net
They need releasing
one by one
They need repeating
repeating

Each one is a gem
a coruscating gem
A method of seeing
understanding

Caress them in your hands
Speak them with your mouth
Stroke them with your voice
Bring them home

Let them gather
together
Let them drift
Let them fly
Catch them as they pass
Love them while they last

—–

Stars are special
Stars are light
Stars are real
Stars are bright

—–

Must be time for bed; it’s nearly one a.m.

Nos da!

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Blodyn set to Flower soon in New Poetry Collection

** Paperback now available: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1904958621/

More info: http://openingchapter.com/2017/01/30/blodyn/

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Reading and discussion at Cardiff Central Library Open Space Event

On December 15th 2016 from 5:45pm until 7:00pm I will be at Cardiff Central Library reading from and discussing two of my novels – Boys from the Backfields and Cheats and Liars. I might also discuss some of my other books and possibly talk a little bit about the publishing process.

Backfields-front 1 cover oct 8-2013Cheats-and-Liars-Front

The two novels

Boys from the Backfields  is a murder mystery set over half a century. The story begins in the 1960’s when Mick a young teenage boy and his little gang witness the murder of Betty Fish while out blackberry picking around the Backfields council estate in South Wales. Mick is haunted by this tragic event for the next 50 years until finally the truth is revealed and the mystery is solved.

Cheats and Liars is set in an affluent inner suburb of Cardiff and follows Brian Llewelyn, ‘The Greatest Living Artist in Wales’ as he comes to realise that his success depends on the sycophants, cheats and liars that share in it. The novel follows Brian as the foundations his life is based on crumble from under him and he has to redefine what is important.

There will also be plenty of time for any questions from the audience.

This is part of the Library’s Open Space Events series and it’s free but space is limited so it might be best to book through Eventbrite where if you search ‘Open Space Cardiff’ you should be able to find them, though, as I write this it may be too early for the December event’s listing.

More about Cheats and Liars

More about Boys from the Backfields

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The BEBS Award for Best Ever Book

Winner-The-BEBSWell, I did it, I won the Best Ever Book Award.

The BEBS is a very prestigious award made just once – I mean how could it be awarded more than once – it’s for the Best Ever Book after all.

My latest book ‘To Me’ beat all other competition from all time, past, present and future hands down.

I would just like to express my thanks to the BEBS and to myself for writing such a marvellous award-winning tome.

Thank you

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Help to publish

book-text-djI love publishing

I have published ten of my own books including novels, poetry, short stories and miscellany. I have also published or helped to publish books for many other people.

Sales of my books are steady but modest but I still have to publish them and will continue to do so. I love publishing and I’m good at it. So, if you feel the same and have to publish your own work but don’t have the time or skills to do it yourself then come to me and I’ll help you.

I won’t rip you off but I will charge you for the work I do. How much work I do is up to you, for example if you just want the book designed, typeset and formatted for printing the cost will be between £300 and £800 depending on what condition your original document is in and how much there is to do- average is probably £400 – £500.

This service depends on you supplying the manuscript as an electronic document such as Word. It does not include editing but does include cover design and the help you need to get you set up with Creatspace and Amazon so that you can publish the book as a paperback and/or as an ebook.

If you want any editing services then I will charge you a reasonable rate for my time.

Everything depends on exactly what you want help with so please contact me by filling in the form below to start the conversation.

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To Me – New Book coming soon

To Me is the title of my next book. It’s been written specifically for myself and it is dedicated To Me, but I don’t mind if others read it.

I think everyone should have their own ‘To Me’ book. Luckily I have the experience and skills to publish my own.

Using Print on Demand it doesn’t really cost anything but time plus the cost of any printed copies, and you can buy just one copy if you like.

I’m working on the final edit, it looks like it will end up being about 103,000 words and 310 pages long in an 8.5″ x 5.5″ format.

Here’s a sneak peek of the cover:

TO-ME-308pages-FULL-resTO-ME-308pages-FRONT-res

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