White Night: How to escape from a WW2 POW camp

The coming weekend is going to be one of the largest in Brighton's year. Saturday afternoon sees Beach of the Dead IV, Brighton's zombie parade, which starts 3pm at the station. Then, that evening, from 6pm to 7am the next day is White Night.

I will be appearing at The Marwood Cafe at 9pm, giving an extended version of my talk, How to Escape from a WW2 POW Camp. This is as part of the 13 Steps event, curated by David Bramwell. More details here. I'm currently working on my talk and adding various anecdotes that had to be cut from the version of the talk I gave at the Catalyst Club in January.

White Night will also feature a workshop from Ellen de Vries as part of the What is Enlightenment event at the Brighton Bhuddist Center from 10pm-Midnight, with a workshop on making 'little books of enlightenment'. 

A likely highlight of the night will be Jake Spicer and the Brighton Life Drawing Sessions with their Enlightenment Project. Three carts will travel around the town carrying life models and drawing materials. The dry-run for the project, at London's Big Draw, appears to have gone superbly, and there are photos on Kate Kamikaze's blog.

Saturday is going to be a long, exciting day. I will be spending Sunday, Halloween, slumbering and watching horror movies.


Why I love Brighton: Laura the Lamppost’s birthday

Walking through the North Laine on Friday night, I found this decorated lamppost on Kensington Gardens. The sign read: IT IS LAURA THE LAMPPOSTS BIRTHDAY TODAY!!! PLEASE SIGN THE CARD 


The attached card had been filled with messages (along with several pictures of cartoon cocks). It is magical, weird things like this that keep me in Brighton.


New story at Are You Sitting Comfortably Brighton, Wednesday 13th October

A new short story of mine, Lockcharmer, is being read at Are You Sitting Comfortably, a Brighton short fiction night where the stories are read by actors. I went to their previous Brighton event in June and had a great time so I'm really looking forward to this. The night is held at the Basement in Brighton with doors at 7:30pm. Tickets are £6, or £4 for concessions. 

I'm very excited about hearing this story read out. It is one of two stories that I wrote during my holiday to India. The initial idea is one I had a long time ago, about a girl who has a strange relationship with locks:

I'd been having a bad time of it when I locked myself out of the flat. I couldn't afford a locksmith, and the friend who had my spare key was away. All I could do was phone my friend Rory and ask if I could stay a few nights.

-Actually, I've got a friend who can help, he said.

-What, he's a locksmith?

-She's a she. And sort of. I'll give her a call and see if she can come round.

One Sentence at a Time (Brighton Creative Writing Sessions No. 4)

Someone once asked Raymond Carver how he wrote his stories. Carver replied "I write the first sentence, and then I write the next sentence and then the next."


On Saturday, we held the fourth and final session in this season's Brighton Creative Writing Sessions events. People worked throughout the day on writing stories, starting with first sentences and building on them until a story was completed.

The first part of the day was spent coming up with first lines. Ellen and I provided prompts, as well as a 'magic box' filled with inspiring objects. We heard some strange and provocative ideas. Selecting the most promising from these, people then produced first paragraphs. 

In the afternoon, everyone took their favourite opening and developed it into a finished piece. The session was intensive, with lots of writing, so Ellen and I provided distractions to give people a chance to relax, including party poppers, fortune telling fish and sweets. Despite the hard work, everyone seemed to have a great time, and we heard some fascinating stories.

Running the four sessions in this season has been fun. We've met some fantastic people and enjoyed leading the groups. We were particularly excited when one of the students arrived for the session with home-made cake. Thanks, Sandy!

We have one more session planned for the year, about the Tarot and Writing which we should be announcing soon. We are also going to be involved with something exciting for White Night. Details to follow…



The Beats (Brighton Creative Writing Sessions No. 3)

  • Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  • Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition 
  • Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better 
  • No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge 
  • Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind 

(from Jack Kerouac's Rules of Spontaneous Prose)


The theme of the third Brighton Creative Writing Sessions workshop was the Beats, and we had various activities based around the work of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs. To set the mood, Ellen and I started with a reading of Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl. We read the whole of part one, taking turns with the lines. Howl is a powerful poem, and an amazing thing to read out loud.


We warmed up by writing about morning routines, capturing those little details of life that are easily overlooked and forgotten. This was followed by discussing the impressions of the beats we came to the workshop with, and an outline of the group's history. 

We then picked the most mundane objects we could think of and wrote pieces casting them as Great Things, just as Ginsberg did with a soot-covered flower in Sunflower Sutra. We also looked at the Ginsberg and Kerouac's transformation of the rules of Haiku into English, and played with producing examples.


In the first part of the afternoon, everyone experimented with William Burrough's cut-up method. To set the mood I showed an excerpt from Towers Open Fire, an experimental film produced by Burroughs and Antony Balch. The group cut up newspapers and stories, making new texts from them. Some of the results were amusing, including a text made by slicing up the lonely-hearts ads from the Argus.

Ellen and I did a lot of work to prepare this session, including finding audio samples of Ginsberg and Burroughs discussing their working methods. Everyone was encouraged to consider writing in new styles and responded in interesting ways. I was pleased with how it went.

We have one more session in this season, One Sentence at a Time (tickets available here). We also have a very exciting workshop planned for December – more news soon!

Thanks to Jake Spicer and Tom Hume for providing photos (Tom's flickr set from the day can be seen here).




Some things I love about twitter….

I've been on twitter since February 2007, although it took a while for me to get it. I even closed my account for a time, but restored it just before the six-month change-your-mind period ended. Twitter has introduced me to some amazing people, found me work, and helped me discover events and books that I might otherwise have missed. 

I always find it hard to explain exactly what I love about twitter. I'm not sure whether it's the protocol, the service, or the other users, but somehow I have gathered a timeline of people that are always interesting and friendly. For me, there is no obvious separation between twitter and the 'real world' – the two fuse together in fascinating ways.

Here are some specific things I love about twitter:

  • One of the problems with small-talk in the real world is that it requires you to stand next to someone. Often there is not time to build friendships and relationships before you both wander off. The almost-passive communication of Twitter means that small talk can continue for weeks or months, allowing relationships to develop slowly.
  • Twitter is not pointless chat, despite what some critics claim. It is a great example of phatic communication, but without the need to be in the same geographical location as the people you're communicating with.
  • I love the latency of twitter. It works well with a mixture of occasional posters and regular posters, even with people disappearing for a few days then coming back – a little like persistent IRC, perhaps. 
  • Hannah Donovan gave a talk on improvisation at dConstruct 2010 which used the banter on twitter as an example of improvisation. There are definite 'rules' to Twitter banter, but they are all implicit. They also seem very localised to specific groups.
  • Something Tom has pointed out is the power of constraints. The 140-character limit often produces something close to haiku, or at least close to the variations invented by Ginsberg/Kerouac. 140 characters forces people to be precise in describing images – the #foundwhilewalking tag often provides good examples of this.

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