Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category
As if getting an email from Alain de Botton wasn’t a surreal enough experience recently, I received an offer the other day to represent Great Britain at football.
The best explanation is simply to share the email I received:
We’ve no met but here goes something a bit different. You might be interested, you might no.
There is a European Writers football tournament in June (18th – 24th) in Israel. The GB team have had some call offs. Firstly, do you play fitba? And would you be interested in playing in Haifa in June? Cost is 250 euros per player, all other costs covered by Israeli hosts.
Mad, I know, but let me ken if this is for you, or if you need more info.
My surprise was obvious. For a start, I’m not very good at football, but also I’m hardly a prolific or well-known writer. For the barrel to be scraped sufficiently for me to be a potential player, the call-offs must have been numbering in the tens of thousands. Has there been a flu epidemic?
I had indeed not met Matthew, nor did I recognise his name. But I did discover that he is the author of a book I’ve often flicked through but never read – But N Ben A Go Go, the first science fiction work ever to be written in Scots.
I can’t find much information online about the European Writers football tournament (which makes me think it might perhaps be a slight level or two below the European Championships), but did find this report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about a previous tournament.
The idea of a writers’ football match also brings to mind the suitably absurd Monty Python sketch about German and Greek philosophers squaring up on the football pitch.
On a more serious note, at the back of my mind linger a couple of ethical dilemmas. While I am not convinced I fully support the BDS movement with regards to Israel I still do have concerns about going there. And also, I’m not sure if a passionate supporter of Scottish independence such as myself could really square his conscience with representing Great Britain.
Maybe the call will come again whenever the tournament is next held. By then, perhaps, I’ll have more than one three year old book to my name…
I’m in the process of writing my Inverness to Edinburgh rail journey The Next Stop. I’ve been getting on quite well with it in recent weeks, thanks for asking.
I’m at stage two out of four in the write-up, and this morning I’ve been working on the part when I travel from Dalwhinnie to Blair Atholl on the morning of the trip’s third day.
But when I wrote the corresponding part at stage one – which involved merely typing up the notes I took – I spent a considerable amount of time simply staring at my notebook in confusion. Because in between my notes on Dalwhinnie and Blair Atholl were the the simple words:
Now the whole idea of taking notes when travelling is to make it easier to remember what happened. When you don’t have time to write extensive notes, you obviously resort to clues or prompts – short words or phrases that later trigger the story, image or detail that you were registering at the time.
It’s obviously not a failsafe process, because I simply could not remember why on earth I’d written “Indiana Jones”, and it seems that at the time of writing it I had more faith in my powers of word association than was deserved. To my knowledge, there is no particular connection between the action hero and either Dalwhinnie or Blair Atholl.
So why had I written it? Was there someone on the train who bore an uncanny resemblance to Harrison Ford? Was I failing to recall a conversation with a fellow passenger about the film series? Or had I completely forgotten about that moment when someone ran, terrified, down the aisle of the train, followed by a lumbering ball of rock?
I was pretty sure it wasn’t any of those possibilities, so I just typed the name up along with the rest of the notes and left it as a problem for the next round of editing.
And that brings me to this morning’s efforts, as I battled anew with the meaning of this cryptic message. It’s perhaps the sort of strange code that one would need the famous archaeologist himself to decipher.
Until I became, I would strongly wager, the only person in the world ever to have googled the words “Indiana Jones Dalwhinnie”. And, to my relief, I found my answer on two webpages about hillwalking here and here: a bridge crossing a river that was described on both pages as like something out of an Indiana Jones film.
The pictures on each page show the rickety nature of the flimsy-looking swing bridge, and you can imagine an intrepid adventurer being just one misplaced step away from being breakfast for crocodiles. Except for the fact that the bridge is barely a metre or so above the river, and there are no crocodiles (to my knowledge) in that part of the world.
And having seen it online, I now remember it quite clearly.
Not far south of Dalwhinnie the train passes between mountains as it heads south, the A9 on the left and a river on the right. At this high altitude, and in winter months at least, the river is often frozen and the ground covered in snow. In the early morning the bright, low sunshine from the south glints on the river, and it’s a beautiful, dramatic scene. And I have noticed the bridge countless times because it stands out on the hillside as a lone human structure and really does look like the sort of bridge that could easily fall apart in bad weather.
This shows that great minds think alike – that three different people can see a bridge and all be reminded of Indiana Jones. But it also shows just how good human memory can be. It demonstrates that, having travelled that line more times that I can remember, images from the route are buried deep in my mind – so deeply, in this case, it requires a brief bit of detective work to tease them to the fore.
To be honest, I have done this journey so often that I could probably give a reasonable description of the scenery from Inverness to Edinburgh purely from memory.
Thankfully though, I won’t need to rely on my memory too much when writing The Next Stop. My notes aren’t that consistently bad.
Pretty much anywhere in Luxembourg City is close to a cliff.
The heart of the upper town (la Ville Haute, which I’ve explored in my previous post) is built on a network of long fingers of rock that tower over the low town (la Ville Basse) and the two rivers that run through it.
Quieter than the city above, and invitingly different, la Ville Basse is no less interesting and indeed has a curiosity amongst its quietness, giving an opportunity for a long, meandering and interesting walk following the course of the rivers.
We took an afternoon to follow this route, starting out up the hill at the lovely forest tracks (left) around the Dräi Eechelen museum, itself not far from the city’s European Union buildings and offering great views across town.
Though a hike up or down the hill is not the only option of switching between the high and low towns. In a marvellous nod to both practicality and unnecessary opulence, you can at one point in town take a lift – which is a surreal experience and makes me think that Luxembourg will be the first city in the world to bring in escalators on hilly roads.
The lift, incidentally, is accessed at the lower level through a long tunnel (right), at the end of which you can find public loos, a small art space, and a security guard, who is presumably watching to make sure you don’t nick the paintings and flee to the higher levels of the city via the lift.
Dropping down from the EU quarter and museum to ground level, through more forest tracks, we hit the river Alzette, the bigger and wider of the city’s two rivers, and began our walk.
We meandered our way past the attractive little settlements of Grund and Pfaffenthal, effectively distinct districts that form the low levels of the city, but towered on either side by the cliffs and fortifications that blended into each other in a rather Tolkienesque spirit and were betopped by the spires of castle and churches in the high town.
In a remarkable twist of fortune early on in our walk, a moment after we decided it was lunchtime and beer o’clock we stumbled across the bright and modern Hostelling International youth hostel, discovering to our delight that their surprisingly pleasant restaurant boasted lovely hot sandwiches and beer on tap.
We pressed on under imposing bridges and past houses, streets and churches that snuggled alongside the gentle river, making for a thoroughly relaxing afternoon’s stroll. Despite it being a Sunday in late autumn, there were still a few folk about – tourists out taking photos, locals walking the dogs, and the occasional cyclist or jogger.
The low level felt more like the peaceful countryside than the bustling and historic capital city to be found at the top of the cliffs. At one point the smaller river Pétrusse branches away from the Alzette, and we followed this back to our hotel, just a short climb back up to the high town.
It was noticeably cooler down in the depths, with the cliffs of course limiting the amount of direct sunlight, but it was a nice way to see a quieter, more peaceful side to the city.
It was interesting to think that there were two sides to Luxembourg City, and satisfying that we’d explored a little of both of them.
If you’ve missed them, the rest of the Luxembourg photos are here.
Over on the BBC News website, there is an interesting article about the occurrence of lying in travel writing. It outlines some pretty severe deviations from truth, one or two by very well-known travel writers. Transgressions include creating characters that did not exist, describing first-hand events that the writer didn’t actually witness, and even making up entire parts of a journey.
It’s sad, really, because when the world is so interesting, why rely on anything other than your ability to retell a story? Although it must be tempting to sex things up sometimes and enliven parts of the story that might be boring or repetitive, I still don’t see the point. Not least when some of the greatest travel writers out there have a lyrical and descriptive richness that is better than many famous novelists I’ve read.
I heard a talk from travel writer Peter Moore some years back when he talked about how he didn’t need to make things up, because the people and places he encountered on his travels were often so curious and odd, that fiction would never be as good as what actually happened.
Of course, making things interesting and readable is always a challenge when a journey might not be 100% packed with hilarious, dramatic, jaw-dropping experiences. But that’s why you should skip or summarise the boring bits to speed up the story – you might spend a few pages describing a single conversation or event, and then use a single paragraph to gloss over an entire day or two in which nothing of note or interest happened. You should use the quiet bits of a story as a chance for flashback or tangent. Perhaps you could explore the boringness in depth to allow the reader to empathise with what you were experiencing, or drag it out for comedy effect. You might even find something deeper within the silence or stillness of what on the surface seems boring but which might, with a bit of digging, be a scene of immense hidden detail.
That’s not to say that there aren’t good reasons to change certain minor details. In the same talk by Peter that I mentioned above, I recall him also describing how he visited a country with a notoriously oppressive government, and a local he met spoke at length about their problems with the regime. To protect them, Peter changed the character substantially. Fair enough, I’d say.
And on a similar but less dramatic level I’ve changed minor details about one or two people I met in my forthcoming second mullet book, mainly so I could feel more comfortable in accurately writing about their negative qualities. I’ve also paraphrased dialogue on a few occasions where my notes or memory failed me as to the precise wording people used. Mind you, I don’t feel that paraphrasing is unethical in any sense and I’m not convinced it is included in the point of the BBC News article I referred to. Sometimes you have to speed things up, generalise a bit, and get to the point. That’s the point of travel writing – it aims to be interesting, entertaining and inspiring. While I believe it should be the truth, I’m not sure it makes for coherent, flowing storytelling for it to constantly be the absolute whole truth.
However, the closest I came to the sorts of travel writers’ honesty crimes mentioned in the article above was in my first book, when I reattributed one sentence of dialogue to a very similar participant in the same conversation. The character I “wrote out” was not essential to the scene, and the only thing I remember them saying of any substance was that one line. It was a line I wanted to use, but the paragraph or so it would have required to explain and introduce the person who said it would have interrupted the flow of the scene. I decided, on reflection, to put those words into the mouth of another character – one who was dominant in the scene, who was very similar to the person I wrote out, and who was very much a part of the sentiment of the words in question.
Was my reattribution of one sentence an example of lying? I’d be keen for your thoughts, but I’m not sure it was. I thought long and hard when I wrote that bit, and figured that the version I settled upon was entirely in keeping with the spirit of the scene and the dialogue as it actually happened. In any case, there was yet another person present at that conversation who I entirely wrote out, because they contributed nothing at all of substance to the scene, and their exclusion left no footprint on the story.
While I’m happy to criticise the sort of untruths mentioned in the article, I’m also happy for thoughts about my example of dialogue reattribution. It’s probably not crime of the century, but others might think it was a change too far. What do you think?
A few folk have asked me lately about how “TROTMH” (as I’m nicknaming The Return of the Mullet Hunter – it’s either that or “Mullet 2″) is getting on. By which I mean there really have been a few folk asking, and not that I just feel it would be nice to talk about it despite the fact nobody’s asked. And that people have been enquiring is nice. I’m chuffed and humbled (chumbled?) that there’s sufficient interest in the sequel that there’s a level of demanding enquiry. Or enquiring demand. You decide.
The short answer is that there’s no substantive news about TROTMH or indeed my other current writing project, The Next Stop. However, there are a few interesting bits of micro-progress to report regarding TROTMH, so I thought I’d give an update. And as for The Next Stop, while progress is unremarkable I thought this post would nevertheless be a good opportunity to explain a little more about my experience of the writing process.
The Return of the Mullet Hunter
Towards the end of this summer, just as I had finished the final edits of TROTMH, I noticed that Hi-Arts‘ wonderful talent development programme for writing had announced a non-fiction competition. In conjunction with a literary agency in Edinburgh they were looking for new, commercially viable non-fiction writing that could be supported and developed. Perfect timing, no? Naturally I entered.
The response I got back was a “sorry, no, but let’s meet”. I discovered in the subsequent meeting that although TROTMH wasn’t felt to be quite as commercially strong as other entries (and as a sequel to a less than storming first book about a somewhat niche concept, I can see the point), they did think there was some mileage in exploring things a little further – both for the mullet sequel and my other writing ideas.
So, long story short, I’ve submitted TROTMH to Hi-Arts’ Work in Progress critical reading service. I used Work in Progress some years back when writing my first book, and the feedback was incredibly helpful. By working with Hi-Arts this time around, the idea is to link this critical feedback with an exploration of potential marketing dimensions and other publishing options.
Obviously that’s not to assume or predict anything, and nor will there be any clear response to my Work in Progress submission for several weeks. Perhaps, though, at some point in the first half of 2013 I’ll be clear as to where I stand. If it’s in a good place regarding traditional publishing avenues, then terrific. If not, then I remain determined to self-publish if all other options seem closed. If it comes to that, it’s probable it will be in the second half of 2013.
That’ a long time away, I know, but keep watching this space for more news.
The Next Stop
With regards to my other main ongoing writing project, I’ve been really enjoying writing up The Next Stop. Given that it is a stop-by-stop journey between twenty-three railway stations, it’s not too much of a gruelling, thankless, never-ending thing to write up because the next milestone is never too far into the distance.
The problem is, though, that the occasions I’ve been able to sit down and write have been sadly few and far between. Work and various other bits and bobs of life have been incredibly busy, not least with the day job, with continuingly planning and executing new travel plans, and with trying to keep up my studying and reading of Esperanto. Among many, many other things.
Of course life is about priorities, but even with my writing as high up the list as it can be, it has simply not been possible to devote much quality time to it. An hour or so here and there does frequently present itself, but I get on much better with writing if I am able to get stuck in for a few hours at a time and experience a sense of real progress.
As such, it’s still very much early days and I’m now not convinced that my aim of the end of 2012 is remotely achievable. I’m about a third of the way through the first of four broad phases of writing that I am predicting for The Next Stop, and so I suppose I’m in a good position in that while I’ve not got as much writing done as I’d want, I at least am very clear as to the path I will be taking.
The first of these phases is quite simple in a way, basically turning my notes into a coherent prose: writing up what I scribbled along the way into something that has a vague appearance of storyline and structure.
The second will be to map what I’ve written against my photos. Sometimes, whether for speed, discretion or laziness, I found it easier to take a photo of something I saw – maybe a street scene, a road sign or an interpretation board – rather than write down details or my thoughts. This isn’t with any particular vision of the book as being illustrated with photos. The point instead is that the photos will trigger in my mind the reasons I took them, and spark some padding out or elaboration about what I did, saw and thought. Of course, it could be that they don’t trigger anything and I’m left with hundreds of meaningless, blurry and squint photos that leave me scratching my head in frustration as to their intended purpose. Hopefully not, though.
Thirdly, I’ll undertake whatever brief research I need to underpin some of the things I’ll be writing about. I intentionally (and not just because I couldn’t be bothered) avoided extensive prior research of all the places I’d be visiting. The trip was borne out of curiosity about these places I normally just rushed through on the train, and one of my guiding questions was whether each of these places would be of interest to a curious visitor, what sort of first impression they’d make, and whether having gained a sense of the place or scratched the surface of its character I would be interested in returning. That said, some retrospective research will be necessary to explain things I saw along the way or to provide a bit of background. This might include facts and figures, some brief local history, or maybe some information about particular places or buildings I visited. It will also help confirm my understanding where I am not sure that my notes or memory are sufficient.
From this I should end up with a workable draft, and so the fourth phase of work will be a number of rounds of editing. This process sounds the easiest but I imagine will be the longest. Going over the text again and again, often leaving it a while to come back afresh, is the best way to ensure that the language is right and the story flows entertainingly and engagingly. My lesson from my first book is that when you think you’ve approached a state of completion, there’s inevitably a whole heap more to do.
Once this is done, and only once I’ve drafted and redrafted a number of times, will the book be ready for sharing with anyone. That, in the first instance, is likely to be Simon, my namesake who did such a fine job of editing TROTMH earlier this year and who provided such a valuable external perspective. Upon receiving and acting upon Simon’s comments, I will only then be happy that the book might be approaching something like completeness.
And then the thoughts about publishing will kick off once more, making it feel once again like the beginning of a process rather than the end.
It’s a slow process. For any of you who very kindly find themselves in any sense of anticipation of expectation about either of these books, my thanks for your support and my apologies for the slowness. Not least if you’re one of the folk who’ve directly asked about them in recent days. Such enquiry does genuinely provide motivation.
But slow is really the operative word here. When you read about some full-time writers’ approaches to their books, they can still take several months to undertake a single stage of bringing a book into the world. For me, writing is just a sideline in a packed life, so progress is especially difficult and frustrating at times.
The main positive, though, is that when opportunities to write present themselves, it is with a sense of urgency and keenness that means I do really make the most of the time I have.
And yes, I could have got loads of book writing done in the time it’s taken me to write this blog post…
In between my two stints in Inverness (second one still going, of course, with no end in sight – which is no bad thing), I spent eighteen months in Glasgow. Apart from the rain, pollution, accent, insular attitude, sectarianism, Buckfast, traffic and lack of access to the hills, I really enjoyed it.
Glasgow boasts (and boy, does it boast) a compelling character, some lovely green space, a great nightlife, fabulous museums and so much diversity between the city’s different areas. Plus it has a subway and a suburban rail network, which for a train geek like me is great.
That’s all slightly by the by, though. While living in Glasgow, it was around the time I was trying to write up my early mullet-hunting adventures into a book, and I made huge progress while living in Glasgow (it was probably the rain). One factor was some routine I managed to instill in myself, meeting weekly with a friend to write in a west end coffee shop. It was a lovely wee place, with a friendly owner, Lou, and lovely drinks – not least the quite magnificent and never-since-matched white hot chocolate (cream, no marshmallows, thanks).
It was called Biblocafe, so-called because it was also a place to buy second-hand books (not to mention the occasional photo or painting that people exhibited).
When my first book came out back in 2010 and I was looking for somewhere to do a Glasgow reading, Biblocafe was suggested to me. Having owed a lot to the place for getting the book written, I thought that a highly appropriate idea and approached Lou who very happily hosted my event.
It was a lovely evening, with something in the region of twenty or so people stowing out the ground floor (see picture) and being awfully sporting in buying a good pile of books between them.
Not living in Glasgow, of course, I’m not convinced I’ve been back to Biblocafe since the reading. I was sad to discover on Facebook the other day, though, that it’s now closed.
Here’s the full story from Lou herself – it’s sad that it’s down to circumstances that were totally outwith the business’s control, and in a part of Glasgow that thrived on friendly independent bookshops, it’s a really sad loss, not just for the area but of course for Lou who as the owner who worked so hard to make it a really enjoyable place to hang out.
When, in thirty or forty years’ time, they do the inevitable documentary about the making of Up The Creek Without a Mullet, they won’t be able to visit Biblocafe and say that this is where most of it was written.
Neither will they be able to get a white hot chocolate with cream and no marshmallows. Come to think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen white hot chocolate served anywhere else since then.
Admont is a quiet little town in the Styrian mountains that, while pretty and a great base for exploring the Gesäuse National Park, wouldn’t normally be big enough to register much on a week or so’s visit to Austria. We have a pile of great friends there (why we do is a whole other story that goes back over half a century), but that aside one other noteworthy thing that might pull in visitors is a nine hundred year-old Benedictine monastery.
On our previous trip there two years ago we were privileged to receive a private tour of its famous library – the largest monastery library in the world and a stunningly beautiful place too.
This year, we took a tour of its museum, a testament to many years’ research in various subjects such as natural sciences. There’s a strong educational streak through the monastery, not only with its library and museum but also an art gallery and schools in the town that the monastery runs.
The museum, in which you’re not allowed to take photos (ahem), there’s an incredible range of dead animals, the fruits of the efforts of one monastery official who was a keen biologist. Somewhere near Admont there is probably a very happily retired taxidermist.
One of the highlights, however, is a mirrored presentation room where a screen tells the story of the monastery. It’s not just any old screen, though. It’s a screen you watch through a slightly curved glass, with mirrors above and to your left and right.
The effect is to make the screen you’re watching appear a part of an enormous globe, hanging in deep, black space. Look either side of you, and you see reflections of yourselves on your promontory curving around the globe.
The photo here on the left doesn’t really do the scene justice but best way of describing it is like the Galactic Senate scenes in the Star Wars prequel. I don’t remember much of the museum film itself (it was in German) but the set-up was phenomenally engaging and brilliantly disorientating.
Both then and on the Sunday morning we visited the monastery’s chapel. Though to call it a chapel is to rather understate what would pass for a pretty impressive cathedral in most cities. With two tall towers and a lush, ornate interior, there is all the pomp and grandeur of large churches coupled with a one or two bits and pieces were were specially shown, such as some tapestries behind the altar normally hidden by a curtain.
So with a church, school and museum, it all sounds rather scholarly. However, as I mentioned in my previous post they also produce fantastic wine and own various other enterprises such as a wooden flooring company.
The monastery’s influence is not only in Admont itself, though. Their reach historically reached throughout Austria. That’s a topic for my next post.
I feel that you, dear reader, are long overdue an update on the progress of my second mullet book. This will be the sequel to Up The Creek Without a Mullet and will bring the account of my mullet-hunting adventures more or less up to the present day, charting my trips to England, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. There’s much to update on, so this is a bit of a long post.
Delays have been plentiful, primarily due to my own lack of progress with finishing, that that in turn has been a result of busyness and not a little writers’ block. It’s been a hard slog in the past year or two, and I am sure had I been better organised and motivated I could have finished the book much sooner. However, it’s now just about ready, and will be titled Return of the Mullet Hunter.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the publishers of Up The Creek Without a Mullet, Sandstone Press, have declined to take the sequel. There were some concerns about the quality of the book (more on which in a moment), but to be honest sales of the first book haven’t been what either I or Sandstone would have hoped, and if a gamble on one book by an unknown author fails, then a publisher has every right to be cautious about a second gamble. Also, and much more excitingly for Sandstone, they’ve been very successful in their rapidly growing contemporary fiction output, with many titles by well-known and respected authors, and some releases having won longlists, shortlists and even prizes in very prestigious competitions. It’s exciting times for Sandstone on the fiction front, so is entirely understandable with that growth in fiction that they conclude that there’s no room for another whimsical travel title such as my continuing mullet adventures.
Disappointing though that rejection was, I simply regarded the decision as an opportunity to try other avenues. The day I got the news from Sandstone, I was searching around online for other publishers and agencies who the second mullet book might suit, and over the coming weeks I will be pursuing those avenues, difficult though it will be to pitch a sequel to a brand new publisher.
So the alternative avenue I am also thinking of exploring is self-publishing, a route I’ve been hearing more and more about in the last couple of years. Largely due to the rise of the ebook, self-publishing has been seen as increasingly easy and viable, not to mention empowering in terms of giving authors full control over their text and the means and tone of publicity. Of course there are drawbacks, not least in terms of the numerous tasks from proofing to designing to marketing that instantly pass from publisher to author upon adoption of this route. Plus, sometimes – often – authors’ judgements are wrong and their skills are insufficient, which is precisely why there is a array of editors, proof-readers, type-setters, designers, marketers and so on working on any traditionally published title.
But there are certain things I have been able to do to at least try to mitigate some of that gap, and of course ready the text for submission to other agents and publishers. One thing is good editing.
As I say, UTCWAM didn’t make a huge number of sales, and neither did it particularly set the book world on fire as I saw disappointingly few reviews of it. However, there was one review that was my favourite. Not because it was the most glowing (it wasn’t), but because it was the most thoughtful and the only one to directly address perceived problems and weaknesses in both the wider genre and the book itself.
It was written by friend-of-a-friend Simon Bishop, and in subsequent correspondence Simon said he’d be very happy to take a look at any future manuscript I wrote. So, when the second book was rejected by Sandstone I asked Simon to read it and give me some general comments about what worked and what didn’t.
The feedback I got was pretty mindblowing. It was as if Simon had been inside my head and knew what I was trying to do better than I knew myself, combining as he did the dispassionately forensic eye of a scientist with the creatively empathetic eye of a keen traveller. He suggested moving certain bits around, leaving some parts out, and elaborating on others. With perfect accuracy he could tell the sections I’d most struggled to write. The action points I’ve taken from Simon’s feedback were hugely satisfying to get stuck into.
I mentioned earlier Sandstone’s concerns about quality when I submitted the manuscript to them, and now feel I’ve addressed them and improved the book to the best of my ability. I probably should have done all this before submitting it to Sandstone, but hey, you live and learn, and as one door closes, others will open. This just shows that you cannot put value on a good editor, and I’m grateful to Simon for putting in such a lot of work, not only into commenting on the manuscript as I described above but also taking a second look to provide a more detailed copy edit.
So, having just about finished addressing the points Simon recommended I look at, and being really happy with the end result, I am now ready to pitch once more. That will be the task for the coming weeks. I am not sure how confident I should be that someone will be interested in it, or whether I should conversely be realistic about having to resort to self-publishing.
Either way, there’s been delay enough, so I am determined to make progress soon down whichever route it works out to be. If the book is snapped up, then there will be further (though entirely welcome) delays. If not, then I’m determined to self-publish it by the end of 2012.
And with the bulk of the writing out of the way for the mullet sequel, I can really turn my attention to my other ongoing task: writing up The Next Stop.
Well, I’m all packed up and ready to go to the Solas Festival – camping gear, clothes, waterproofs (the weather forecast looks miserable) and a pile of books that hopefully people will be interested in buying. As you can see in the photo, it’s been quite a test of compact packing.
My long train journey kicks off later today.
I’ve actually now been lined up for two slots, and if you’re coming to Solas then here’s the key information.
The second of the two is what I announced before: a talk about travel, writing, the mullets and other bits and pieces. This will be in the Southern Cross tent at 12noon on Sunday. I’ll read from UTCWAM and the just recently completed draft of my second book, I’ll talk a little about travel and writing generally, and also witter on a little about my forthcoming write-up The Next Stop.
Before that, though, I’ll be appearing on the panel of the festival’s comedy quiz on Saturday at 2pm in the Milky Way tent. Inspired by all the best TV and radio panel shows, this will be a mix of all sorts. I hope they know what they’re letting themselves in for by asking me to be a part of the panel.
If you’re going and you see me, say hi. If I don’t drown over the weekend, I’ll give a full report when I get back.
I’m thoroughly chuffed to announce that I’m going to be appearing at the Solas Festival later this month.
If you’ve not heard of Solas before, it’s a wide-ranging annual arts festival based in Biggar, South Lanarkshire, and it features music, talks, performing arts, literature and a wide range of family-friendly activities. This year it will be held over the weekend of 22-24 June.
Solas has a broadly Christian ethos, with a strong emphasis on justice and equality – so it’s broadly comparable to the bigger and more famous Greenbelt Festival, but I’m told that Solas is has a real strength in its small size and sense of community.
I’ve never been to Solas, or Greenbelt for that matter, though many friends have persuaded me that I would hugely enjoy both of them. It is a great privilege, then, to be invited to Solas as a presenter. As I say, it’s a Christian-inspired festival, but the content is not particularly religious, so I’ll be talking about my travel writing – in particular the mullet mission, but also my approaches to travel and writing more generally.
I’ve yet to firm up precisely what I’m going to do, but I think I may focus on the theme of the unexpected under our noses, an idea that lies behind The Next Stop and which is currently stirring a few other projects in my head. I might also give a little preview of my forthcoming second mullet book (an update on which I’ll be blogging next month, I promise) and I’ll hopefully have some copies of my first book for sale too.
It’s my first big event since the Inverness Book Festival last year, so I am a little nervous. Not least because – the location effectively being a few tents in a field – there’s not going to be any capacity for a technological accompaniment. The story of my adventures – and I am sure anyone’s adventures – is always easier to tell with visual aids. So I will have to rely purely on my own spoken word to enthuse people about getting out to explore the world and picking up their laptop or pen to write about it.
I’m looking forward to it, though, and to taking in the wider event as a whole. There are a number of interesting things on the bill, including various writers, speakers and politicians who should be worth hearing, and a number of big-name bands (some of whom I’ve even heard of). I’m also excited to see that Calamateur, of whom I am a friend and fan, is also playing.
I don’t yet have full details about the timing of my talk, and I’ll no doubt blog or tweet again once things are confirmed, but I do know that it is going to be on the Sunday. If you’re coming along, it would be lovely to see you. If you’re interested, there are still tickets available.
It’s not that far away now, so I’d best get preparing. And I’d best dig out and dust down my tent.
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