Friday 30 July 2010

The Honesty of Bodies

My WIP has been a troublesome, tricksy beast. Originally going by the title A Life Drawn Freehand, it started as a tale of a grieving 50-something mother comng to terms with her grief by pursuing the career she put on hold in her 20s. I have struggled and struggled with the voice but I finaly think I have it, in the context of a very different story, but one with the same heart, the relationship of mutual discovery between an older woman and younger man.

This is the new chapter one. The book is now called The Honesty of Bodies, from a line in the beautiful poem of Kirsty Logan's, Ways of Making Love.

It should probably come with a content warning - but you probably all know that by now :)


“It’s not like I’m not hungry,” she says. “I just can’t eat. It’s like eating is a memory my body knows it has but can’t ever reach.”

A distant memory, I think, looking at her. She has so little energy her head’s just lolling back in the pillow and she can’t even look at me. Not that it matters, I guess. I shift in front of the sun coming in the window and her eyes are unresponsive. She’s shutting down.

“And I don’t even know if I want to remember. You know?”


“No you don’t.”

“I guess not.”

“I keep trying to figure it out.” Her speech is slow now, and she’s not looking at me and she’s not looking at the ceiling and she’s not looking anywhere else, so I find it hard to place the words at all. “This thing. This whatever it is that made me forget how to eat. Where did it come from?”

“Who knows,” I say, but the question’s not for me.

“I just don’t know. Am I killing myself? Or is someone, some thing doing this to me? Or did I just get sick?”

Her breathing’s as loud as her words by now. I look at her chest to see the rise and fall but there’s nothing there.

Eventually she says, “Kiss me.”

I bend over and press my lips to hers, leave them there a second, and pull away, half expecting the room to be silent when I do.

“That was nice,” she says. “I always thought it would be.” She runs the tip of her tongue around her mouth and I think I see a movement in her throat.

“You thought about us kissing?”

But she’s already somewhere else.

Lifting her into the chair is so easy, even though I haven’t worked out in months. I fix the drip like I was shown, and wheel her down the ward.

“Just getting some air,” I say to a nurse, who smiles back at us.

I put her in the front of the car, leaving the drip and the chair, pop a couple of warfarin, and take her back to mine. She’s still alive when I place her in the bath, because it’s been an hour now and she feels as warm as the water I’ve run for her. I wash the smell of hospital from her skin, dry her down, and smooth oil on her and in her, leaving it slick on the surface of her sores.

The silk falls over her and she’s so slippery I make sure I have a good hold of her as I carry her downstairs, and back into the car.

We’re driving for half an hour and I haven’t heard anything from her since she left her bed. I don’t carry her far from the car. The trees are tight and the summer growth is thick.

The silk slides off her as easily as it slid on, and in the sun, Bella’s skin, her whole body, is almost transparent. And cool, even in the heat; my hands warm the oil and its scent merges with that of the leaves. The light tricks me and for a moment I think she’s becoming solid, like she’s drawing the sap into her.

I remove my clothes slowly, and lie on top of her, and even when I come the only sound is the grass underneath us.

I lie beside her, reach out, feel the cloth, and take out the blade. I slide it through the skin on each of her arms, leaving lines of red that seem to rise and then hover, the fluid as still as the summer day.

I draw the same lines on my own arms and watch as the warfarin pushes my blood.

I take Bella’s hand and lay my head on the forest floor, and I wonder if the scent of blood will draw foxes or badgers before the insects come, or maybe someone will follow their dog through the undergrowth, or maybe a gamekeeper tracking his gundog after a kill, or maybe Julie.

Maybe Julie.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Authors on Show

Lorraine Holloway-White first came to my attention on Harper Collins' site Authonomy for the very silly but very obvious reason that we share a surname (you can read more cool stuff about Lorraine and her really rather good writing at the end of the interview). I soon realised how much more there is to a person than a name, and it was no surprise when, earlier this year, she announced she was setting up the website Authors on Show, a showcase for talented writers seeking representation (there's also a super Facebook Group and a great blog that's constantly full of informative, fresh material). Utterly unpaid, and by sheer force of will, hard work, generosity, and passion for her writers, Lorraine has attracted a super team around her on the website who work tirelessly to expose their writers to the people that matter, and shine teh spotlight each month on a few of their finest.

As I've just started my own press, the site is now even more of interest to me, and I was delighted to speak to her about the site and how it can benefit writers, agents, and publishers. Before you take a closer look at what Lorraine has to say, why not go and look at this month's featured writers on the site:
Margaret Callow
SueAnn Jackson Land
Craig Saunders

1. How and why did Authors on Show come about?
My agents said I needed to be seen and get my name and books known. It made me think about how other authors had to do the same and I thought we could help each other with that by me promoting their book, them promoting mine. The snowball effect if you like.
That isn’t what happened though is it? I don’t think this is what my agents had in mind. My book is rather lost on the way somewhere in all this, but I love what we’re doing for others.

2. What do you offer authors that other sites don't?
Well for one, our authors can’t dump their books and walk away. We expect more off them than that. We offer a quiet, friendly, calm place to visit where everyone supports, promotes and encourages each other.
There is often voting, which readers can take part in
We hope to get agent interest for our authors and have already been working on that for one author in particular.
We are mailing all agents and publishers informing them about the site and hope the fact we have so few books to look at each month means they can spare the time to look at them. The big sites have so many there, that it takes forever going through it all.
By keeping it select, there is more chance someone will be ‘spotted’
We promise to promote those we showcase as much as we can and wherever we can in order that they may be seen further afield. We hope those showcased at any one time will do the same for each other as well. That way, word spreads and more people see them.
We offer editorial advice, competitions, interviews from authors, publishers and agents, help and advice where able and there is more planned for the future.

3. As a writer, you must have an elevator pitch for your book. So what's the elevator pitch for the site?
Authors on Show is THE site for all agents and publishers to find their next big best sellers. Small enough to look through quickly, but big enough to make a huge impact in the literary world. Come to Authors on Show if you want quality not quantity

4. You describe the site as a showcase. To whom are you showcasing, and how do you go about reaching them?
We are showcasing to people around the world, fellow authors, readers and more important agents and publishers. As I already said, we are contacting agents and publishers to ask them to visit and take a look from time to time. We know this has already been done by some, but we want to make it THE place for them to come first when looking for new talent.

5. Could you say a little about the website networking principle you operate? How do you get around the usual problem sites have of being by writers and read mainly by writers?
Mainly because, we aren’t a site where anyone can upload their books and then walk away hoping someone will read it. It is by submission and selection process only and judging is very strict and rigorous.
Also one of the conditions of being showcased, is that our authors use their social networking sites to help promote us as well. Instead of just other authors looking, we reach their friends, family and work colleagues. In other words, people who buy and read books. Even authors do that you know. They in turn tell others and so it goes on. Again, the snowball effect. On our FaceBook page I know there are quite a few following Authors on Show who aren’t authors themselves but are readers. Also we have agents and publishers following us, which is rather good

6. What is the unifying factor for the work on your site? Are there any kinds of book or material that you wouldn't have? And is there a kind of book you're looking for?
We accept all genres and hope to have a good mix each month. We wouldn’t show outright pornographic material or needless violence, but are willing to look at all submissions with an open mind.
Like any agent and publisher, we are looking for books where the quality of writing stands out from all others, but we especially support authors who promote and help themselves. Books we are likely to turn down would be from authors who expect to dump their book, walk away and expect others to do their work for them. That is something Authors on Show won’t accept or tolerate.
Show us you’re serious about yourself and us and we’ll be serious about promoting you.

7. How do you ensure that all your authors get coverage whilst maintaining quality levels to keep people looking?
By keeping the numbers down of those we showcase it is easier to be more selective. Each month we aim to showcase six authors and they are chosen by the three main team members of AOS. We each like different genres, which helps tremendously when it comes to reading. One thing we all agree on though is to only show the books that are well written, edited properly and have an author willing to work hard to achieve success.

8. You would be most happy in one year if...
On the personal side good health is the most important thing to me as mine has been pretty bad for the last 2 years and I’m just coming out of it all. On the writing side, to see my book accepted for publication.
Professionally, I (and the team) would be thrilled beyond belief to have one or two of our authors from Authors on Show get representation or a publishing deal from having been on our site. That would be incredible. Finding a way of getting paid for all our hard work on the site would be nice too.

9. How do you think the publishing world is changing, and how do you see what AOS offers fitting into the new landscape?
Things are changing a lot in the publishing world, but I firmly believe books with pages will never stop being very popular. That said, I think some of the ways forward now are excellent and we, at AOS, will be offering advice and having people from all aspects do articles and give interviews where they can advise our authors on all aspects of publishing..
We are even looking at maybe acting as literary agents ourselves at some point and maybe arranging publication in conjunction with others, such as yourself, for those who want it.

10. Can, and if so how, do people approach you to join?
There is no membership or signing up necessary to be a member of AOS. All you need to do is follow us on Facebook, Twitter, our blog or Authors On and promote us wherever possible. If anyone wants to be showcased, there are Q&A’s on the main site, which talk about submissions, how to contact any of us and what is required.

11. As a new publisher, how would you suggest I go about using your site to find great writing?
We would be happy to see you there and hope you will be from time to time. If there were specific genres you were looking for, we would be willing to mail you when those were due to be showcased. Likewise, if a publisher/agent contacted us asking if there was anything in particular we thought truly stood out in a field they were looking for, we would be happy to keep an eye out for them and notify them when we found something we thought fitted the bill (as we have already done).


Lorraine Holloway-White is an author of two books and is presently working on her third. Becoming well known throughout the world for her mediumistic photographic readings and absent healing, she is also the Founder and main Team Leader of Authors on Show, a writing site showcasing authors from around the world. In only two months, the site is already very popular and is being viewed in over 60 countries. That number is growing steadily each day.

Within a couple of months of placing her first book, A Guide’s Guide to Mediumship and Healing on a well known writing site, she secured a Literary Agent. Her book is presently with a well known publishing house under consideration.

Her third book, and editing of her second, is presently on hold as she works full time now promoting others on Authors On Show. She is joined by permanent team members and fellow authors, Nicole Scheller (editor) and L Anne Carrington (blog and entertainment news). As well as these permanent members, there are also AOS helpers and friends, Robert Dean (Bobby’s Blog), Louise Wise (Interviews) and Sessha Batto (Ongoing Flash Fiction Competition).

It says something about Authors on Show, that these people give their time free of charge and willingly work so hard in order to help promote their peers. It is the combination of this team, which makes Authors on Show such a success. Lorraine hopes that they too in time will achieve success with their own books and hopes by working on the site, it helps their own exposure.

Work by the Team Members can be seen on the AOS Blog

More can be seen about Lorraine and her books on her private blog

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Valve Works

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Rob Sherman's Valve Works, a collection of illustrated poems published online for free by the really rather excellent Philistine Press. There were one or two things I didn't quite "get" on first reading, so it was a pleasure that Rob was prepared to take the time to talk to me about Valve Works. The illustrations are by the fantastic Sarah Ogilvie.

Rob will next be working on a few plays, including one of King Arthur's bowel movements. He is moving back to London to continue writing music and producing as much material as possible. These are a few of the ways he can be found online.
Twitter -
Tumblr -
myspace -

1. Why did you choose Philistine Press?
Philistine Press was recommended to me by one of those circular emails that come around and you pay very little attention to; however, I had been reading a lot about Creative Commons, Fair Use Licenses, censorship and ownership in relation to the internet. It was something I was passionate about. And Philistine seems to be somewhere that artists can produce and publish their work without compromise, for the joy of it, for the exposure; when money is removed from the equation it is quite liberating. Obviously money would be lovely, but poetry, as a singular product, makes very little money nowadays anyway. Philistine seemed to share my philosophy, and I was happy to work with them.

2. Can you tell me about the introduction, and how it fits with the rest of the collection? That's something that didn't quite click. It felt very contemporary, yet the collection feels like it has a very 18/19th century sensibility. On the other hand if the electricity reference were tied in to Frankenstein, that would make perfect sense... (um, and what do you say to people who say steampunk to you?)
The introduction, I will admit, is a bit of a strange thing; on its own, it is entitled "A Theory", because that is really all it is; a theory of behavioural constructs and human biology, albeit put much less professionally than that! I can understand the feel of different centuries at work; I guess that the introduction is fulfilling the role of an introduction like in any other form of media. It is the voice of the author, or the editor, in a much different voice than the poems, espousing the philosophy of it all. The body for me is terrifying and wonderful, and its baser elements are not to be ignored; the electricity compels us mentally and physically, to both reproduce and create. I suppose the metaphor was pleasing, rather than a concious choice. I would not go as far to say that it is steampunk, though I am a huge fan of the genre and it certainly informs my work.

3. The chimpanzee - Basement Jaxx?
Haha! Do you mean the drawing or the poem? It didn't come into my head; perhaps it came from Sarah's (the illustrator's) imagination. It does look similar though, doesn't it? Perhaps not as grumpy; I think he's quite cheery, with his gargantuan plug socket.

4. How did the illustration process work - did you simply hand over the collection, and take what you got back, or was there toing and froing?
Well, Sarah is my girlfriend, so it is a close working relationship to say the least! The poems were written a long time before the drawings were produced, and I was really starting to see what she was capable of as an artist. I asked her to do them, and we both benefitted, as they were part of the portfolio that got her a place at Camberwell art school. But yes, I pretty much left her to it, to let her put a mark on it herself. Her drawings are quite nightmarish, quite warped in a beautiful way, and I thought it suited the whole aesthetic of the piece. I also paid her back with fancy meals and flowers, so I think business was done properly!

5. Tell me a bit about the fascination with medical textbooks
I am a huge fan of technical language in poetry; one of my tutors, Andy Brown, is an ecologist and a poet, and the beautifully onomatopoeic technicalities of the various disciplines of science work so well; they should not just be kept for dry lab reports. Though it sounds clichéd, the human body is a fascinating subject for poetry, and the body of knowledge mankind has in relation to it can only aid creativity.

6. The actual poems felt at times as though they were almost like Keatsian odes. Is that fair?
I am not that knowledgeable on Keats, so I will just nod my head slowly... though I know what you mean. There is a grandeur to it, especially in "Hypothalamus"; I particularly enjoyed it there as the hypothalamus is such a vital yet obscure part of human anatomy; it has a hand in almost every bodily process, and yet is hidden under the brain, about the size of a pea. Such a poetic opportunity couldn't go to waste!

7. I see you are also a musician. Could you explain a bit about your approach to combining different arts in your work? Do you see boundaries between arts that you are blurring, or do you see it all as essentially aspects of the same?
To be honest, there is no method to it. Most artforms work very well together, drawing from similar themes, tropes, traditions and ideas. There are definitely boundaries; without the boundaries there would just be a huge mess of unprofessional, amorphous ideas; wonderful, raw stuff, but with no discipline they are of little use or importance. Music is music, and should be its own discipline, as well as writing, or theatre; but when they encroach on each other, whether slightly or massively, interesting things happening. They are aspects of experience, but it is important to me, that they remain distinct, and any blurring remains just that.

Friday 23 July 2010

Not for (self/vanity/e/un)published writers

I've just started a small press. All very exciting and more anon but this post isn't about publicising that. Rather I wanted to focus on the primary reason for setting up eight cuts gallery press. I want a pplatform for creating some hoopla about the amazing writingout there that will never be a sure fire enough mass seller to land a mainstream deal without being substantially rewritten. And part of that platform creation is entering amazing books for top literary prizes.

That's a bit extreme, isn't it? Setting up a whole press so books can be entered for prizes? Afetr all, the Booker Prize, for example, is open to the best novel published in the UK, so people can just send their own in?

Well, no. It's awarded to "It will be awarded to the author of the best, eligible full-length novel." And in taht sentence is a whole world of things the literary world frankly needs to get its act together about.

Most writers will have entered a competition at some point, and will know that, in general, they are for previously unpublished work. The Bridport Prize, the acme fo the short story and poetry comp world, defines entries "must never have been published, self-published, published on any website or public online forum, broadcast nor winning or placed in any other competition." OK, no one wants recycled stuff wandering off with top prizes (er, I guess, though as an author who regularly posts my work online and on critiquing sites I find the rule perplexing).

Fine, so if we've put our stuff out there at all, we're published. We no longer have first rights, blah blah, end of. So, whatever we put out there we can enter for a competition for the best book that's been published, right? Wrong. The Booker rules state "Self published books are not eligible where the author is the publisher or where a company has been specifically set up to publish that book."

So published means something different in each case. You can see the Booker Prize's point, though, can't you? They don't want every Jane, John and whoever entering their precious pile of crap. After all, other competitions designed to find the best of the best have similar restrictins. You can't just enter your local football team for the FA Cup. Or pitch up as a golfer and hope to qualify for he Open. Oh no, wait that's wrong. You can.

So what's going on? Well, I'm not going to claim there's some kind of cabalistic conspiracy to keep us alternatives out. There isn't. Aside from anything else that would be to attribute to "the mainstream" a level of organisation it's just not capable of. Rather, it's systematic of an inbuilt prejudice that runs so deep it's barely even noticed.

The fact is it's just assumed in the mainstream that we know what publishing is (and assumptions are illustrative of the worst kind of prejudice). Only then us slippery awkward independent types come along and point out that means we're published, and we can play in the playground too. And each time that happens, a new lock is put on the gate to keep us out.

So we have two choices. We can either simply play in our own playground. Or we can keep breaking the locks and point out that something is amiss. I am greatly greatly in favour of the former. It's what I do at Year Zero, and what I'm doing at eight cuts gallery. But it's not entirely fair on the reading public at large for them not to be aware what's happening, unseen, to keep books away from them (admittedly most of them are awful, but that's not the point, the point is they are not being told they are there at al).

Which is where eight cuts gallery press comes in, a press set up for the express purpose of not hiding exciting alternative books under the carpet, and making our literary elite, our gatekeeping judges, not just ignore but actively reject them. Or, of course, say that after all they might actually have some value. But surely that would never happen...

Charcoal by Oli Johns and The Dead Beat by Daisy Anne Gree will be appearing at major competitions near you in 2011.

Friday 16 July 2010

Beautiful Photos

Here are the first pics from last week's amazing gig at The Good Ship. With huge thanks to everyone who took part, especially

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Beautiful Things that Happen Today!

It's here at last! The biggest Year Zero Live event to date. We have three amazing bands and four fantastic writers, and we have the complete run of one of the fabbest venues in London all night. Sarah was just fantastic last Wednesday, even after 30 sleepless hours after setting off from California, so she's set to be even more awesome tonight.

Here's our running order for the night:
7.30-8 doors open to a set from Rabid Gravy

8-8.15 Beautiful Things - Sarah, Dan, Marc reading pieces chosen by Sarah

8.15-8.50 Rabid Gravy running straight into

8.50 Dan Holloway reading SKIN BOOK

10.00 Marc Nash

10.15 Sarah E Melville reading her own set

11 (or thereabouts) finish

Here is a little something about Becca, whom we're delighted to be welcoming for the night:
Becca Fenton likes words and playing with sounds and likes you too, for coming to listen to hers. She used to run the 'wordPLAY' spoken word night at The Good Ship and is very excited about the current spoken word and new writing scene in the UK. her favourite cheese in Lincolnshire Poacher and her favourite film is Truly Madly Deeply.