I’ll be reading at the latest Little Bit of Theatre event at 13th Note on Wednesday 27th November. It’s the first for a while, as the lovely Marta Adamowicz was taking a break to produce a beautiful shiny new daughter, so it’s welcome back to her. Hope she brings the baby…
Given the bill is jam-packed with burlesque and comedy acts, I’m sure I’ll be the least interesting set of the night. Still, I never could resist the temptation to swear into a microphone, so we’ll see how it goes…
A really fascinating evening organised and hosted for the SWC by the elegant Chiew-Siah Tei, Diverse Voices brought together writers and artists from Polish, Indian, Mexican Spanish, Nigerian, Chinese Malaysian, Scots and Japanese backgrounds. Diverse it most certainly was. Biographies of all the readers can be found at the SWC blog, along with a brief report from Chair of the SWC Douglas Thompson, who is working tirelessly to develop the organisation and deserves much praise.
Highlights for me included Martin Stepek’s insights into his Scottish-Polish family, intriguing because they seem to have ended up in the UK after the War not by having come westward, like my father, but having taken the epic long way round, eastwards through Asia. Beautiful young Mexican poet Juana Adcock’s poetry melds English and Spanish together in a way that she describes as ‘Spanglish’ but is nowhere near as clumsy as that tourist pejorative suggests; she makes the two languages sounds as if they should be married. In addition, she generously reads the work of a young Mexican fiction writer she is translating. Eunice Buchanan’s Scots poetry can be whimsical and light, but ‘Esk’ is something of an epic; she has a lovely, lovely voice. Ryotaro Hoshino reads the original work and his translations of Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s short prose. To be honest, his Japanese was beautiful enough to listen to on its own; just soaking up the sound of a language you don’t understand is a privilege in itself. There was so much else to enjoy, such as the handsome Ogba Uweru’s charming comic poetry or Leela Soma’s passionate account of child exploitation in India.
For myself, I had been thinking about reading something lyrical set in Poland in 1921, or something meaningful about my identity as a Polish Scot, but Martin beat me to it so I just decided to stand there and swear a lot and talk about sex; it’s in my nature, I suppose. ‘XPet’ is a reworking of a scene from an abandoned novel from some time ago that I’m trying to shape into a short story. I’ve been struggling with it, but edited it down by a third for this reading and I think I may have cracked it. The pace feels right, a lot of dead wood that referred to events in the novel was excised, the emphasis shifted and it ended up working very well as a performance reading. I have no idea if it’s publishable (far too many ‘fucks’, of all descriptions) but I think I may have discovered a new party piece that might be worth investing time into learning by heart and rehearsing. And I can always try it in ‘Front and Centre’, a wee Canadian magazine that seems to like my worst excesses…
An event I hope can be repeated, it’s well worth checking out if you see it on again.
Had a great night at a burlesque version of Marta Adamowicz’s A Little Bit of Theatre tonight. Top wordsmith was my pal Alex Cox, who’s becoming a regular with his in-yer-face and laugh-out-loud monologues. He really is becoming a brilliant literary voice; highly productive and benefitting from his involvement in theatre workshops, he’s at the top of his performing game. A real stand out – as is, apparently, Ronald Reagan’s penis.
For myself, I read “Business”. It’s from Occasional Demons, and is a darkly comic Poe-inspired tale of antiques and murder. There are two versions of it: in the collection, it’s unpunctuated, and needs to be a helter-skelter rant of wild paranoia. However, it was previously published in Something Wicked, an anthology of Scottish crime fiction, and the editors had wanted a punctuated version. It’s that I do tonight, and it really helps hold the pace, allowing me to play the jokes a bit more. Love it when an audience laughs nervously as the narrator goes to fetch a hammer…
The burlesque is huge fun. Lily Minogue does a fantastic Priscilla, Queen of the Desert act, including a rip-snorting mime of Fascinating Aida’s scandalous song “Dogging“. Star of the naughty bits, though, is Raven Rose, a deliciously lovely young woman who is well on the way to perfecting the art with real charm and wit and grace. Very sweet and very sexy.
No chance following that…
Thanks to Marta Adamovicz for giving me a second spot at A Little Bit of Theatre this afternoon. Fellow performers included Glasgow Writers’ Group pals Emma Briant and Mary Dowds, two young women who have very distinctive voices and oodles of talent, along with comedian John Sheppard and poet / rappers Bram Gieben and Leon Deeside.
As it’s Easter, I decided to read something a little more redemptive than usual, so went for an oldie, “Teuchter Dancing when the Lights Go Out”. It was the default performance piece when “Occasional Demons” came out and I was whisked about all over the world to do readings; well, Inverness and Ullapool, anyway.
I’m not happy with my reading, though. It’s a piece that relies on pace, and I didn’t get it right. I was up on stage a couple of acts early after a rejig in the running order, so hadn’t quite composed myself: but the couple of stumbles and misreadings were my fault. Still, I think I managed to get the timing of the key moments just about right, and the joke about a marriage proposal got the biggest laugh of the afternoon…
… until Caroline McKenzie took the stage. Her recounting of her night-time reflections on the relationship between the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote and the Acme corporation was the highlight of the set. Perfectly nuanced, beautifully paced and very, very funny, McKenzie should have an awfy bright future ahead of her. Great stuff.
Was at a lovely book launch last night for J. David Simons’ third novel, “An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful”. Set in Scotland and Japan, Simons describes it as a story about political and personal denial.
I really like David’s writing: it is elegant and beautifully crafted, and he has a distinctive voice redolent with lovely rhythms. Think about the all the information and connotation packed into the first sentence of the first chapter:“‘Your favourite season is the one you are born into,’ Edward’s mother, a bitter child of winter, used to tell him.
I could spend half an hour analysing that sentence with a class full of teenagers. What made Edward’s mother ‘bitter’? What kind of person was she? Why “used to tell him”? What has happened to her? How do we imagine Edward feeling about that? Is he a child of winter? How do we know? What would be the effect of a winter mother on a summer child? A spring child? What does it mean to have a favourite season? Do we know any fortune-telling idioms or sayings similar to this? “Monday’s child is fair of face…” – why do we believe these sayings?
And that’s just one sentence. David is such a nice guy and such an accomplished writer, I’m very much looking forward to reading “An Exquisite Sense…”; I’m battering through Hilary Mantel’s wonderful “Wolf Hall” to get to it as soon as I possible can…
For all sorts of reasons, I’ve been very quiet of late; hopefully I’ll be doing more in March. However, it was nice to be given the opportunity to stand in for a late cancellation at Marta Adamovicz’s “A Little Bit of Theatre” event at 13th Note in Glasgow. Since the demise of Words per Minute, there has been a dearth of regular opportunities for live reading in Glasgow, so this is a welcome relative newcomer.
An informal spoken word and music event, it has a nice, eclectic feel about it, with readers, performers, film, music and comedy to keep the interest levels high. Marta herself is a charming, warmly eccentric hostess and a pretty mean film maker. Amongst the highlights was fellow Glasgow Writers’ Group pal Alex Cox giving an excoriatingly funny reading of “Jesus is a Fat Fuck”, full of sly metaphysical wit and tons of grab-you-by-the-throat vernacular. Star of the show for me, though, was final stand up Keiron Nicholson, a guy with an instantly likable personality and well-worked routines on everything from computer geekdom to the inanities scrawled on the walls of Phnom Phen torture memorial site Tuol Sleng. He’s effortlessly funny and, I hope, destined for stardom. He’s in a new show for the Glasgow Comedy Festival on March the 29th at the State Bar: well worth checking out.
For my own slot, I satisfied an itch to read the whole of “The Beauty that Brendan Sees”; I’ve done sections of it on podcast and live, but I’ve been pretty desperate to do the whole thing. Called in only the evening before, I didn’t have enough rehearsal or editing time, but managed to perform it with minimal reference to the script and, I hope, a fair amount of the required charisma. As for the dodgy American accent – well, now that’s out of my system, I can put it to bed and revert to in-yer-face scary Glaswegian stories. It may be more authentic, but audiences are much less likely to sleep at night…
Hope that title gets my blog lots and lots of hits!
Many thanks to the lovely people at Edinburgh live event organisation “Illicit Ink”. They invited me to do one of their website podcasts, and I recorded it with the charming Tom Moore last month. You can find it here:
I’m reading an extract from “The Beauty that Brendan Sees”, the gay-themed story I was proud to have had published earlier this year in New York gay magazine “Chelsea Station“. While it has the usual dose of rampant sex you’ll find in many of my stories, here, it’s done much more gently; I must have been feeling very good about the human race when I wrote it. I also answer some of Tom’s rather unusual questions in which I display some sadly geeky knowledge about Kazakhstan that I will now never be able to verify in person…
Hope you enjoy it. I’m hoping they’ll let me perform at one of their upcoming shows, which, interestingly, are always themed. Coming along soon is “School”, and while I have quite a lot of work that would fit that particular subject, none of it could remotely be described as gentle. I love the job, love working with kids – but it’s a treasure chest of misanthropy!
I’ve been very quiet lately – always the same at the start of the academic year when I’m chasing my tail – but I’ll be back on the gig trail soon and have a few film outings to report.
However, I’ll be workshop leading at the Aberdeen City Council’s annual “Northern Writes” event – my third year in a row, so they must be getting sick of me by now – on the 19th September in the Belmont cinema. It’s a day I always enjoy because of the creativity of the young people I get to work with.
Videos of last year’s event are available online. In part 2, at around 18 minutes, you can see me reading “Bellflowers”, which was published in the “1000 Cranes” anthology in support of Japanese earthquake relief. You can get a good sense of the workshops we all did, as well as an interesting Q&A which showed just how perceptive these young people are. Unfortunately, sound and vision don’t always tally.
Then on the evening of the 17th October, I’ll be leading a workshop as part of North Lanarkshire’s “Encounters” Cultural Festival. I worked with a creative writing group last year, and they were kind enough to want me back to do some more work with them. The workshop will be at the Sir John Wilson Town Hall in Airdrie, from 6.30 to 8.30pm. It’s free, but if you fancy coming along, book up at the Encounters website. Perhaps see some of you there…
Just a quick announcement!
I’ll be reading a short extract from “Spree Killer” at the Glasgow launch of “A Little Touch of Cliff in the Evening” on Friday 7th September at 7pm in Waterstone’s, Argyle Street, Glasgow. It will be hosted by one (or both) of the editors, the terrific Zoe Strachan and Carl Macdougall. Should be good!
I’ll be reading at the Scottish Writers Centre SpeakEasy, a members only event, on Thursday 19th July. I’ve been really busy lately, so it’s my first visit to this great new initiative to support Scottish writing. I’m looking forward to it, especially as it’s held at the CCA, one of my favourite Glasgow venues. The line up looks interesting, with a healthy dose of Gaelic writers – and even some Gaelic drama! – on the bill.
Gaelic Drama: ‘Daolag’ (‘Bug’)
Reading: DOUGLAS THOMPSON – 3 Poems
Reading: J. DAVID SIMONS ‘PALESTINE 1919 – DECISIONS, DECISIONS’ [extract from novel, The Land Agent, forthcoming (Five Leaves, 2014)]
Reading from the Gaelic Writers’ Group; DAVID EYRE, ALISON LANG
Reading: RAYMOND SOLTYSEK, ‘The Beauty that Brendan Sees’
Reading: ANGELA BLACKLOCK-BROWN – 3 Poems
Readings from the Gaelic Writers’ Group; MAUREEN MACLEOD, CATRIONA LEXY CAMPBELL
Reading: JACQUELINE SMITH, ‘Dumbie & the Devil’
I’ll read an extract from the story about to be published in “Chelsea Station”. It requires three accents - New York, French and Russian – so we’ll see how badly that goes!