The poetry buy-out

"Cultural leaders have come together to announce a massive poetry buyout: leveraged and unsecured poems, poetry derivatives, delinquent poems, and subprime poems will be removed from circulation in the biggest poetry bailout since the Victorian era. …  We estimate that for the buyout to be successful, we will need to remove from circulation all poems written after 1904."
 - Poetry Buy-out will restore confidence of readers by Charles Bernstein

(Which comes hot on the heels of the National Endowment for the Arts launching a project to build a $1.3 billion dollar poem.  Interesting times for poets.)

New story – Eat at Lovecraft’s mp3 and text

Liar's league have posted text and mp3 versions of my story Eat At Lovecraft's.  The audio is a recording of the performance given by Becky Hands-Wicks and I'm very pleased with how it came out.  The story is about Howard Philip Lovecraft struggling with a universe that makes no sense.  Download, have a listen, and leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Restorative yoga

From an interview with Toby Litt:
"Q: Is there a secret to writing?
A: Yes. There are no short cuts

It's been a fun day today.  It started with a run followed by coffee with a friend at the Meeting Place ("open 7am till dusk") where I had rock cake for breakfast.  I love being back in Brighton and having time to enjoy the seafront. 

At lunchtime I went to the restorative yoga drop-in run by Yoga with Socks On with Rosy, Kitty and L.   This is a relaxation session involving pillows, bolsters and blankets, recommended by a friend.  I wasn't sure what to expect but was very impressed.  The session involved lying in a variety of positions and relaxing – self indulgent but worthwhile.  One of our group unwound so much they had dropped off to sleep at the end.

Then I came home and did some writing.   I sometimes wish for shortcuts, that I could magically produce an exciting novel with no mental effort.  But if it were that easy then everyone would do it.  So I make a little progress each day, reminding myself to appreciate that.

PS – I love the trailer for Synecdoche, NY

Short fuse reading: Death of a Ronald


The picture above was taken by Rosy, and shows me reading at Short Fuse at the Brighton Komedia on Thursday.  The theme of the evening was 'Nights at the Circus', inspired by Angela Carter's novel of the same name.  I was very nervous, since I'd not read in a while.  To add to my nervousness I was reading a clown story, Death of a Ronald.  I wrote it a couple of years ago but this was its first public outing.  It isn't a pleasant story so I didn't know what an audience would make of it.  I probably didn't need to worry as they laughed in all the right places.

I've missed Short Fuse while I've been away in Coventry and it was good to be back.   I enjoyed the other stories, especially one about a highwayman (currently far cooler than pirates) and a beautiful story about tightrope walking in Geneva that I would love to hear again.

May contain clowns: Reading at Short Fuse, 18/9

I'm going to be reading for Short Fuse this Thursday (18th September) at the Komedia, starting 8:30pm.  The theme for the night is 'Nights at the Circus' and I will be reading a clown story called The Death of a Ronald.

It's been ages since I did a reading (there aren't many spoken word nights in Coventry) so I'm really looking forwards to this.  It's going to be an interesting piece to read too – what does Mr. Giggles sound like?

Meanwhile I need to finish packing up the flat in Coventry.  It's seems almost finished but the last stage is always the most difficult.  I've reached the point of putting things into boxes randomly now.  If all goes to plan then last night was my last in Coventry.  As of Sunday I will be fully moved back to Brighton.

My visit to the Liar’s League

I spent yesterday evening at the Liar's League spoken word night in London.  I'd decided to walk to the Wheatsheaf pub from Victoria which turned out to be a bad decision.  Central London was very busy and by the time I arrived I was sweaty and flustered.  I definitely didn't exude the calm, contemplative air of an exciting new writer.

The main difference between Liar's League and other short story nights is that Liar's League features  actors reading the stories.  This means the performances are guaranteed to be good whereas sometimes an author can produce a bad reading of a story.  The actors work particularly well with first person stories, such as the comedian in Jim Murdoch's story and the gangster in Richard Meredith's Crime Caper.

My story, Eat at Lovecraft's, was read by Becky Hands-Wicks, who did a far better job than I would have done.  It was exciting to hear my story read by someone else.  By the time I've submitted a story I will have read it out loud repeatedly.  To hear someone else read the story, with different emphases and pauses, makes it sound fresh again.

The League was also very friendly and I chatted to a few people afterwards, including Jonathan Pinnock, who wrote Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions, a funny story about dead mathematicians (he's blogged about the night here).  Thanks to everyone for a lovely evening – hopefully I'll be able to make it to the next one, whether or not I have a story being read.

I had a couple of hours to kill before my bus so I walked back through London.  The weather was better and I enjoyed drifting through the streets.  Victoria Coach station near midnight was much less peaceful, as was the coach journey.  Throughout I kept waking then looking at the dark road outside and wondering how I knew I was on the right coach.  I reached Coventry without problems, but it's very odd to be back here – I'd been feeling very at home in Brighton.

I'll post links to the audio of my story from last night once it's up on the Liar's League site.

Brighton Barcamp 3

I spent this weekend at the Brighton Barcamp 3, which felt like a good music festival in that there was a wide choice of things to do and everyone had completely different experiences. The schedules kept changing so you sometimes missed something you planned to see and ended up being surprised by something else. There was also an incredibly friendly atmosphere and I met some great people.

I saw a number of different talks, some of the highlights being:

  • Premasagar from Dharmafly gave a good introduction to content aggregators for both technical and non-technical folk, covering Planet, lifestreams, Yahoo pipes and hAtom – definitely things I plan to play with.
  • Coding in Yarn by eam31 was one of those sessions that opens your mind to something you'd not considered before. The talk compared computing, knitting and engineering, as well discussing the impact of the web on knitters. It may not have made me into a knitter but it is making me think about some very different subject.
  • Copywriter Ellen de Vries gave a workshop on branding and product naming, leading a group through an example. The session was a lot of fun but also managed to teach a great deal in a short time.  Ellen's business website is here.
  • Tom gave a talk on how SCRUM has worked for him over the last year. He crammed a lot into a short presentation and it worked well for those who knew about SCRUM and those who didn't.  After my six months of SCRUM it was good to compare the experiences I'd had with someone else's.
  • Rebecca Cottrell's talk on typography was so packed it had to move into another room. This was yet another session where I learned a huge amount about a subject I knew nothing about beforehand. Thanks to Rebecca and Jeremy Ketih I now have a pile of links to check out over the next few days.
  • I also attended David Hayward's talk on the Uncanny Valley in AI ("checkers has been solved but not King Lear"); Relly Annett-Baker's talk on 'Content without restriction' – what happens when people are not held back by copyright (the number of Prince of Tennis spin-offs blows my mind); and an introduction to the life of Hedy Lamarr by Jeremy Keith
  • I managed to miss loads of talks I wanted to attend, such as the session on Scratch, a talk on band homepages since MySpace, and sessions on Death and Social Networks, the history of the right angle, and GTD & meditation.

I was impressed with the amount of work that went into the event. Meals were provided by a range of sponsors, from Brighton and beyond, and the university gave us the run of the union building. I learned a lot over the two days while having fun. Thank you to all the sponsors, organisers and volunteers. Hopefully there will be a Barcamp4 soon.

dConstruct 2008 – first thoughts

I'm back home drying out after the treacherous conditions at Audio, which hosted the after-party for dConstruct 2008.  Today's event was the first dConstruct I've attended and I had a great time.  I spent the morning helping staff the registration desk, which was a very pleasant task thanks to the team I was working in.

During the afternoon I was in the auditorium watching the talks.  I've been a little jaded about the web lately.  Sitting through the four afternoon sessions I felt an excitement I've not felt in some time.  Rather than make me feel sceptical, the ideas, particularly around the 'social internetwork', were fascinating.  I filled many notebook pages during the talks so it will probably be next week before I get around to summarising my thoughts.

dConstruct was also a very friendly conference.  I've been to some tech events that felt cliquey but everyone I encountered today was chatty.  Congratulations to Sophie for putting on a great day.

And, for the record – M. Night Shyamalan wrote Stuart Little.

My talk at Barcamp3 – xkcd and deconstruction

I've now finished the slides for my Brighton Barcamp 3 presentation.  I used Impress, the Open Office presentation tool, which was mostly easy to use.  I had some trouble setting up bullet points to progressively reveal but found some good tutorials through google.

The final title for the talk is 'Bad XKCD: A Programmer’s Introduction to Deconstruction'.  I've enjoyed writing the presentation, which is obviously important, but it's going to be interesting to see how it's received (and if anyone attends!).   While the title does mention xkcd, literary theory may not be an obvious choice of topic for barcamp.  Still, it has been interesting to look at deconstruction from a different angle and it's made me reconsider certain aspects. 

I imagine the next two days will be very busy as I'm helping out with dConstruct 2008, but I should have time to rehearse the talk enough to polish it for the weekend.  I've not spoken in front of an audience for some time so it will be good to have the practise.