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My Career as a Professional Bullshitter

 

So, the day of The Book Launch is almost upon me. The books are at the printers, the merchandise has arrived, the venue is confirmed. And yet, I’m still panicking. Why? Well, firstly, whilst it’s a moment of accomplishment and joy, it’s also bloody stressful. And really, so far, things have gone smoothly. So why the stress? Is it the idea of talking in front of a crowd? No, there’ll be wine to deal with that problem. Is it the judgement, the idea that people will be reading your work and forming opinions and not all of them will be good? Maybe, but as writers we become accustomed to that. Is it, perhaps, that all of this is going swimmingly, and yet I still feel like a bit of a fraud? Bazinga.

Writing is about bullshit. Writing itself is a world of lies. Talking about writing is giving opinions on something that may mean something different to someone else. Talking about your own writing is pointless, because it should speak for itself. When we teach writing, it’s a different kind of bullshit again. We are determined to make ourselves sound good, because no-one else will do it for us.

I am destined to say ‘I’m a professional writer and teach workshops’ for a very long time, and will almost always be confronted with questions of what my ‘real’ job is, and sniggers of derision. That’s fine, they don’t really get what I do. My job will always be a patchwork of various opportunities coming together at various points in time. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s a colossal mistake. But that’s what my job is. Bullshit about how much I’ve achieved, bullshit other people’s CVs, bullshit my way through interviews, editing, talking about my students’ progress. This is not to say I’m lying, that I don’t do the editing, that I don’t have experience, or my students aren’t improving. But with everything we do, as creative entrepreneurs, it feels like we’re just winging it.

Tote bags!
Tote bags!

So, the book launch will no doubt be a lovely event where I’m surrounded by people who love and support me, even if they’re not sure about my writing. But here’s some things to think about when considering launching your book:

  •  Appropriate excerpts. I don’t know about you, but I write a lot about sex and drugs, with a lot of swearing. Finding a family friendly excerpt is proving pretty difficult. Similarly, finding something where family won’t assume I AM my narrator, or people present won’t be looking for themselves in my fiction is pretty damn hard.
  • Swag! Man, who doesn’t love merchandise? I do! Big time. So I’ve had some tote bags and bookmarks made up that the first hundred people can claim with their buy. Added value, and extra publicity for me.
  • Press release. Despite having written these on my MA, it’s pretty hard going. Again, it’s a form of bullshittery. What sounds good, what fits the theme? What do people want to hear? Some may fight back against pigeonholing but it’s the easiest way to draw in your target market.
  • What do you want from your evening? I went for laid back, dingy pub, making use of my excellent creative friends by having them perform or get involved. Themes are also useful. I’m all about collaboration and creative community, so anyone who wanted to be involved was.
Launch poster
Launch poster

Okay, so there’s my guide to bullshitting your launch party. Act confident, be proud, and enjoy it. I’m sure I’ll be talking about my event once it’s happened. Which, if you’re about in London on 10th May 2013, can be found here.

And here you can find the press release:

Press release one adjusted

Here’s some of our performers:

 

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A Word on Mic-Night Etiquette

So yesterday I performed and eagerly watched as many creative people gave it all they got, at The Coffee Affair in Colindale. Except I was so fuming with anger over the rudeness of one poet that I got all on my high horse.

Luckily, this did not detract from the awesomeness of the evening, and I’m so glad I got to try something I find rather difficult surrounded by so many friends. I’m also lucky that I have so many talented friends who do stuff I’ve never really witnessed before.  There’s an art to performance poetry and fiction that is completely different to writing.

I’ve been doing the writing thing for a while, but I’ve never really performed anything. And writing for performance is so different. It’s really opened up a new world to me, and though I am not a poet, I think all writers can benefit from the teachings of the performance poet.

So, a word on etiquette (Or, me getting back at Mr Rude Poet).

In the words of the immortals Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip: Thou shalt not attend an open mic and leave before it’s done just because you’ve finished your shitty little poem or song you self-righteous prick.

So this guy rocks up, and puts his name on the list, but it’s okay, because we’re cool like that. Artists and hippies are okay with spontaneity. Except he then proceeds to LOUDLY inform us that the mic isn’t working, and why aren’t there enough chairs downstairs, and this venue isn’t arranged very well and can’t someone do something about the air-conditioning? Which are all fine complaints except they’re DURING the first two acts.

This is the worst thing, beyond performing then leaving. In fact, it’s worse. Talking through another artist’s set is rude, self-obsessive and just plain irritating. We’re meant to respect each other’s art. I think he was bitter because he was competing with a younger generation. Either way, after talking obnoxiously through other people’s sets, I’d decided to hate him. And I was entitled.

But just because you hate someone doesn’t mean their poetry isn’t any good. And I’ll admit, I don’t know much about poetry…Okay, that’s a lie, I did a Literature and Creative Writing degree. All I mean is, poetry isn’t my thing, I can’t always tell if it’s good. I can tell when it’s absolutely mind-blowing, and I can tell when it’s boring.

This guy’s work was fairly okay. Who hasn’t written love poems? And he ripped off the title of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience in his little self-published book. Well, Ya boo sucks buddy, because I’m a creative entrepreneur, and I get how self-publishing works. I also understand that for poetry, if you’re not an excellent performer, it’s sometimes the only way. But blah.

I have constant trouble reconciling the fact that ‘I’m a writer because I couldn’t be anything else’ with these other people who proclaim they’re writers and are, in fact terrible. Anyone got any answers on this? I’ve always assumed you’re a writer if you can’t not write, if you have to be writing. But if you’re smart, you’ll not just be writing about yourself, you’ll be aware of the market, of your audience, of where you can be ‘placed’. Yes, it’s art, but if you want it out in the world you’ve got to consider it a product.

So, I’ll be updating more and more with what I’m writing, writing exercises and thoughts, as well as how the workshops are going. I’ll be visiting the London Book Fair and also teaching creative writing at Larmer Tree Festival this year. So there’ll be pictures and stories galore!

Happy Writing!