Guernsey Literary Festival

The first Guernsey Literary Festival seemed to me to be a success. I think the benefits of this festival will be immense in the long term. If Guernsey is an island that, with its many other blessings, is seen as a place where writing and culture happen, this can only enrich the lives of its people and greatly encourage a new generation of visitors.

For my part seeing the faces of the children from Vauvert and Le Murier schools light up with delight when I began telling them an adventure set where they live, made the whole trip worthwhile. I donated books to these schools and to St Martin’s primary too.

It was excellent to secure the backing of Barclays Wealth. It was a win-win too. Good for the sponsors because from a PR perspective, they have an image problem they need to fix. Projects of this sort that reach benignly into the island should be exactly what they should be looking for.

For my own part any time when Richard and I manage a BBC radio appearance and three poetry readings to promote the A Guernsey Double is a success in itself. I was also able to launch Defenders of Guernsey in two sessions with schoolchildren, attend a poetry cafe reading with some fine poets, and meet people like Annie Barrows, Edward Chaney, Sebastian Peake, Caroline Carver and Tim Binding, do some protracted networking on the island, and know that the best part of 160 Skelton Yawngrave stories are now in the island’s schools.

Thanks to the Guernsey Literary Festival I returned home full of a revived interest in writing and performing, in Mervyn Peake, in the poetry of Caroline Carver, the singing of Olivia Chaney and with new friends made and old friendships strengthened.

Well done Guernsey. And well done folks like Catriona Stares, Richard Fleming, Jane Mosse and the many others who dedicated enormous time and effort to the whole thing.

Guernsey Literary Festival

Here is a link to the festival website, showing an excellent range of events. A great effort from Catriona Stares and her team, to get this up and running for the first time on the island.

To see me here’s my timetable:

Thursday 12 May
3:00-3:30 at the Festival Hub, reading from a Guernsey Double with Richard Fleming.

Friday 13th May
9:30-10:20, and 10:30-11:20, Fesival Hub, Skelton Yawngrave children’s workshops.

3:15 at the White Horse Writers Group in Les Cotils, reading from a Guernsey Double with Richard Fleming.

Saturday 14th May
12:30-1.00 at the Festival Hub, reading from a Guernsey Double with Richard Fleming.

My Guernsey Literary Festival schedule so far

On Friday 13th May (not at all worried about that date)I shall be leading a session on writing for children in a large tent erected in the Festival Hub. There is a school party of 60 booked on it from Le Murier School, where some of the children have complex needs. Again I’ll be out of my comfort zone but I am very much looking forward to this. I also have a secret weapon in my glamorous assistant Lorraine, who as someone currently on a head teacher’s course could come in very handy.

Also on the 13th Richard Fleming and I are reading at the Les Cotils Centre at 3:15 at the White Horse Writers group Writing Course. Richard and I will also be doing a reading in the Hub during the weekend, but these times have not yet been confirmed. But I can’t wait to be back on the island for this!

Success

Of course the trick to having a successful year is to decide what success looks like on your terms.

For me to be successful this year I have sought a happy medium between business and other creative projects. It’s simple: if I neglect one, I don’t eat, if I neglect the other my head explodes.

Happily I have eaten and my head is still intact. So here’s what a successful year looks like to one Brighton-based writer.

  • I have earned enough money through my work with agencies to finance my craving for time. This year agencies have tended to invite me to work on pitches or as cover for absent creative directors. A few months ago I was offered a creative directorship but turned it down. I was flattered but not tempted.
  • The publication of A Guernsey Double, written with Richard Fleming, was supported by the Guernsey Arts Commission. For a writer, the buzz of seeing your name on a book’s spine is hard to underestimate. And it has directly led to several radio appearances, and readings with Richard booked for next year’s Guernsey’s first Literary Festival. Also it compelled me to spend time in Guernsey, the place I love most in the world
  • My collaborations with the composer Matthew Pollard have given me the opportunity to work in a completely different field. Our first work together, called This concert will fall in love with you is due to be recorded next year after its premier in the Brighton Festival Fringe this May. More performances are also planned for next year. Our second work together a short piece called Found written for Brighton’s Rainbow Chorus, and given its premiere in the World Aids Day concert on December 1st. Matthew and I are now working on an Operatic piece around a doppelganger theme which will be performed next year. Learning these new skills is rejuvenating and fascinating. While working with classical musicians has been an extraordinary experience, and the prospect of becoming a recording artist at 51 is extremely cheering.
  • I have put in the hard yards on my children’s novel Skelton Yawngrave. I had the opportunity to workshop it in two Brighton schools, Downs Junior and Stanford Junior, has proved a fascinating experience, leading me to drastically revise the story. The experience of talking to children about literature and the process of creating characters has led directly to me also being booked to lead some children’s sessions at the Guernsey Literary Festival.
  • My short play Wrong will probably be given another short airing in Brighton this February. I am particularly looking forward to this as it involves working with young actors.

So there you have it. Although this may seem self congratulatory, there are plenty of things that can be done better, a theme I shall return to.

Back from the book Launch

Back from Guernsey now after a very successful book launch. Perhaps most enjoyably we managed to get on BBC Guernsey with Jenny Kendall-Tobias twice. She’s an excellent radio host and a lovely woman, and we did an entire two hour show with her. What we couldn’t have predicted was that she loved our work.

The book launch itself very successful too, and we were introduced by Jane Mosse who did a perfect job, and the event was hosted in The Greenhouse in St Peter Port – and we signed dozens of books right away. There is a buzz about seeing your book in a shop window, in this case The Guernsey Press shop, where we did a signing the next day.

Online, a the first edition of A Guernsey Double is currently available from anthologyofguernsey.com — and before too long it will be on Amazon too.

Below Richard and JKT in our first BBC interview, me in reception, a book display.


Launching a Guernsey Double

Flying to Guernsey tomorrow, and while there will be launching A Guernsey Double. Really looking forward to this a great deal.

Richard Fleming and I will be on BBC Radio Guernsey at 10:00am on the 1st July, interviewed I think by Jenny Kendall-Tobias. Then at 5:30pm we will do a launch reading at The Greenhouse, St Peter Port. 2nd July we will be in the Guernsey Press Shop in St Peter Port doing a book signing between 1-2pm. And then a beer may be called for.

Radio streamed live here at 10:00 on July 1st, which should feature an interview with Richard Fleming and me.

A surfeit of locusts

The publication of A Guernsey Double is imminent. I have been experiencing a weird kind of anti-natal anxiety. I know Richard went through the same thing a few days ago. Not at all what I expected to feel. It’s a kind of vulnerability I suppose.

I asked an old friend Mario Petrucci, who has had several books published, and he said by email: Those anxieties you speak of are natural. We spend so long in the wilderness we forget how food tastes. Enjoy it while it’s there!

A Guernsey Double

Delighted to say that my book with Richard Fleming has received an endorsement from the Guernsey Arts Commission. Additionally Edward Chaney, who is the literary executor of G.B.Edwards, who wrote the best novel about the Island ever, has agreed in principle to write a short introduction for us.

Richard and I are now in the last throes of making sure our material is up to scratch.

BBC Guernsey

Just a quick update. Will be in Guernsey next week and am due to crop up on the Jim Cathcart show on BBC Guernsey 27/01/10 after 11.10am, talking with my pal Richard Fleming about the Anthology of Guernsey and more.

Being Brian Eno

A few years ago I read a book by Brian Eno called A Year with Swollen Appendices. This made a big impact on me. Not only do I think he is an interesting man, who makes amazing music, and has a thoughtful approach to culture. He also has fascinating friends, and I envy his ability to zoom about the world being involved in a variety of projects, in different media.

For me this book was a tremendously aspirational vision. And I wanted my life to be a tiny bit more Brian Enoish.

Lately I have been going around lately saying I have more projects than Brooklyn, few people laugh at this excellent joke. But that’s not the important thing. I think I’ve edged a fraction towards Brian Eno territory, and it makes me feel very happy. Here’s a snapshot of some of my current activities:

  • Working with London agencies. In the last six weeks I have worked with Gray Healthcare and RAPP London, and WalkdontWalk.
  • Pitching my children’s novel Skelton Yawngrave in the Second Kind of Darkness. Cart before the horseishly, this could morph into something that appears on Internet radio. A pilot has been made and pitched, and I await the outcome with interest. The children who have read it love it (as do many of the adults).
  • Creating an anthology of literature for Guernsey. I’m kicking this off as a website first, but has been hampered by absurd computer problems. Curse you Vista!
  • Working on a two man poetry collection with the excellent Guernsey poet Richard Fleming.
  • Embarking on a music and words project with composer Matthew Pollard. This very much a journey into the unknown for me, and so is very exciting. We will stage this as part of the Brighton Fringe in an event entitled This concert will fall in love with you.

Of course is there a long way to go. But the variety enlivens the creative work I undertake commercially. When nothing feels stale, and every day is brings something different to think about, who could ask for more?