Friday, 9 August 2019

Levenshulme Pride 2019

So proud of Jeremy - organising Levenshulme Pride for the third year in a row. He's worked his socks off on this every day for the last few weeks and months. It's 16th-18th of August, with events in 26 venues - and everything is free!

My own small contribution is helping out with the artwork for the brochure and the map!

Also, our Gay Men's Writing Group - Fambles - will be celebrating our first anniversary with a reading at the Klondyke Club at 6pm, Sunday 18th August, as part of Levy Pride. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Thoughts on Bullies, Braggards and Buffoons

I know loads of people who are really, really good at what they do. Many have been overworked or bullied or they've burned out while doing the thing they are great at. Others haven't even been given a chance to get into their chosen fields.

From my own experience I know that the people who most often do really well in this idiotic world are buffoonish, bullying, talentless braggards who've coasted by on flummery and show. And often they're posh as well. I'm really fed up with that sort. And that's all I have to say about that today.

Monday, 22 July 2019

'Callum and the Mountain' by Alan McClure

I'm giving some space on my blog today to Alan McClure to talk about his first novel, which is about to be published...

Over to Alan!


"I have a slight issue with children's books which try to explain every bit of magic and mystery in them. Callum and the Mountain, as well as being exciting and funny (I hope!), is supposed to create a whole in-world atmosphere which leaves a lot of questions only vaguely answered and trusts the reader to apply some imagination. I want it to haunt readers, to pop back into their heads years after they've finished it, and I want the language to leap off the page. I'm a primary school teacher by profession and I've huge faith in the intelligence and judgement of young readers. Despite the march of technology, today's kids still have the access to magic that we all had as children, and I hope this book  provides a gateway for that. Finally, I wrote this as a man who reads aloud to his kids - if you're a parent, I'd love this to be a story shared at bedtime so that you can jump into the peculiar world of Skerrils along with your kids!

Writing is my passion and I do it because I'm compelled to - this became crystal clear during a week long course at Moniack Mhor in 2018, led by Paul Magrs and Joan Lennon and attended by a diverse and talented group of writers. I'm tremendously grateful to them for their encouragement, and for making writing a thing to be shared and not hidden away."

You can pre-order copies by following the links below...


Back to me... and here's what I wrote about the book when I first read it:

There’s a lovely musical dialect running through the whole of this book, with all these sweet, sparkling, squashy and sometimes unfamiliar words. We get glimpses of a place with its own lore and legends – of Trogs and strange green Things. The second person address means that the book is speaking straight at us, confidentially, with great panache, giving us the feeling that we’re listening to a born storyteller, and he’s unpacking a great shaggy monster of a tale for us.

I love the feeling in the early chapters, that something is turning everything Callum knows upside down and that some ‘sleekit beastie’ has him in a ‘total dwam.’ These sections remind me a little of Edith Nesbit’s Psammead stories, especially when the magic has unpredictable results, like in the brilliant scene when the dog starts talking so politely, and is at such pains to reassure his humans.

There are touches of Susan Cooper, Diana Wynne Jones and Alan Garner, too, when the elemental forces of the Things enter fully into the story. There’s something primal and disturbing about their amorality and their reminder to us that nature isn’t always ‘friendly, or even safe.’

There’s a great zest to all of this book: it reminds us of being Callum’s age, when everything is both perplexing and exciting: ‘another day, another adventure.’ Though it rattles along at a good pace, it’s never at the expense of lovely, descriptive language: especially in the rather beautiful episode, underwater with the selkies. I found that this tale of ‘crazy cavemen, treacherous friends and troublesome nature sprites’ was exciting and rich, but it also wasn’t without realistic jolts of sadness, like when Callum thinks his beloved Papa might be dying.

The book builds to a very unusual, poetical climax. It’s a spartan, lyrical interlude that feels a bit like we’re reading a guitar solo. It’s the bit when our hero is isolated and facing all the forces that his story has unleashed.

Following that, there’s a coda that has a lovely logic to it, as it talks us through the magic of forgetting at the end. Everyone in town seems to benignly remember that something tumultuous has been sorted out, and our heroes have forgotten some of the specifics of their adventures. Yet everyone agrees that the day has been saved by Callum, and this leaves us with a sweet sense of closure.

I really like the inclusion of a glossary, and that description of the way Scots words can be said to spice the English.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Lovely Workshop Feedback

Last week I gave a writing workshop at a government office in Stockport, as a part of the Pride week activities. I just received the nicest email about it, including this report from one of the participants:

                                             Summer of Pride Event

Workshop with novelist Paul Magrs

I attended this workshop, arranged as part of the DWP’s  ‘LGBT Summer of Pride ‘ celebration. I really enjoyed the session with the novelist and artist, Paul Magrs.
Paul immediately made the group at ease, with his friendly manner. Paul explained what he tends to do in these workshops, and usually starts by reading to the group. On this occasion; as most people in the room had attempted to, (or were thinking of ) writing a novel. Paul decided to get us all ‘Burning off steam’, as he phrased it.
This exercise was to get our brains in action but not racing. It was the first step in Paul’s list of 9 pointers. He asked us to think of a favourite word, and then write something about that word. Mine is aardvark. Never been sure why, but now I’m thinking about it! What is an aardvark? Where do they live? What do they eat? Who thought of the name?  Who named everything in the world?  Is it a favourite word because it breaks the rules? Two vowels together, but not e’s or o’s! Absurd!
‘Ok’ says Paul, breaking my thoughts. ‘That’s enough of that exercise, 10 mins should be enough to get you prepared’. 
‘I want to tell you all of someone who inspired me as a child, and maybe this will encourage you too. My first school  Teacher, gave each of the class an exercise book   , to be known as ‘your busy book’. She explained that no one will be reading it ; She would not be looking at it. It was your private book to write in, draw in, anything and everything you want to put into it.  I still have a ‘busy book’ on the go, and find it enormously helpful, when I want to write.’
What a great idea, I’m thinking. I have 2 helpful hints already, and we have only been here for 15 mins.
Paul gradually listed the other 8 helpful hints on his list. All really valuable , to the ‘budding writer’.
He encouraged us to use all our senses, to remember through sounds and smells as well as the spoken word.
Paul, cleverly, manipulated the group into interacting with each other, through conversation and thought processes. He showed his note books which ‘live’ in his leather bag. I identified with the contents as; like me, Paul writes on bits of paper, backs of envelopes, bills etc. He notes ‘trains of thought’, situations, overheard conversations and characters, he encounters each day. All of which can provide invaluable material, for when your ready to start that book! 
  Before I knew it, the session had to come to an end.

Well, I’m truly inspired! I feel more confident, feel empowered , feel I could actually write my memoirs that  have been stored in my head for ever !
Watch out! Maybe the next J K Rowling is about to emerge!!
Thanks Paul

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Distilled Writing Advice...

Asked elsewhere for writing advice, I've managed to distil almost everything I've got left to say into a few sentences...
Roy covers it pretty well in his answer! I hope my books that he's kindly recommended will help out. I think - having mulled this over for years - that the best way to find out is by doing. Not studying, necessarily. Forming or joining a writing group that gets together because it wants to. To have writing peers and critics and a chance to read your work aloud to other people. Having a chance to read widely and to read fiction in genres that you've never tried before - that's very important. To write every day and to learn to keep writing journals, and do writing practise. And not to feel harried and hampered by the market and the idea of publication. All these things are somewhere near the heart of the thing, for me. Best of luck with it all! and don't let anyone spoil it for you.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Summer Cats and Dogs

I've started a series of drawings of people's cats and dogs. I'd like them to have the nostalgic glow of an old, favourite children's book. Thanks to those friends who've helped by contributing photos and telling me their stories.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Judith Krantz

Bizarre that, the very weekend that I immerse myself in the giddy and gaudy world of her books, Judith Krantz dies at 91. She's someone I was aware of being in the bookcase at home, and I'd never read her properly until recently. She's in that wonderfully frothy, catty, gossippy tradition that goes from Jackie Susann to Jackie Collins and I am delighting in her work. What a fab career - ten stonking, huge-selling glitzy novels and then dead at a fantastic old age. Well done her! Now I've got Princess Daisy and all the rest arriving from Ebay.

In 'Dazzle', which I'm reading now, two of the characters have dinner in a fancy LA restaurant and their intense conversation is interrupted by the arrival of one chatty character after another. Gradually you realise that they are all the lead characters from her previous novels, butting in and doing a cameo, one after the next, and frustrating the lovers. It's hilarious and wonderful - and a reminder that literary games and novels themselves are supposed to be scandalous *fun*.