Saturday, 31 December 2011

Waving goodbye to 2011

And so, as the year 2011 sails off over the horizon and 2012 sets sail, it's time to climb the mast, spruce up the rigging and count the pieces of eight (excuse the nautical references, partly a flashback to the New Brighton Pirate Muster and partly because I was just watching Pirates of the Caribbean). I am reliably informed that on New Year's Eve, staying in is the new going out. Cheers! So what have been my highlights of 2011?

Poetry 24
Thanks to an unexpected invitation from Martin Hodges at Square Sunshine early in 2011, I have been involved in setting up a unique online poetry site which has since published news-related poems from contributors around the world almost daily on an extraordinary range of  subjects. Check out this marvelous snapshot review of the year from one of our regulars.

Library Centenary
OK, it's all in a day's work really, but it's been a roller-coaster ride through the year with more than 60 events for the Centenary of the library where I work. We had author visits, themed days, quizes, music, talks and performances, culminating in a ukulele-rich Centenary Weekend with John Hegley and quite a lot of cake.

Re-visiting Israel
Twenty years after I first went to Israel as  kibbutz volunteer for three months (and stayed the better part of three years) I went back. I do like to stir up the ghosts and managed to surprise two former lovers by turning up unannounced decades later. Closure, at last.

Finished my novel
I finally completed my work in progress which I started three years ago. The (Un)Dead Residents Association - a light-hearted romp through local authority nonsense and the living-challenged - currently seeking representation.

Festival of Firsts
Mixed feelings about this - proud to have been involved in a new local festival and setting up Wirral's first Poet Tree, but it also nearly sent me back to the dark side, I wasted a lot of time unnecessarily on it and I fell out badly with a member of a prominent Sixties band (it's ok - we've made up now, especially as he bought me thunder for Christmas (no - really!)).

Other highlights: I had more quality time with my mum and dad, and my brother didn't die in the Andes (which is always good news). Jet-setting to Cuba, Fuertaventura and Copenhagen. I had a story published in one of Lancaster Litfest's prestigious publications (and was profiled on their website) and 16 other stories or poems published. I met lots of groovy people online - you know who you are - and in real life (local poets mostly, also borrowers... ooh, and poetry hero John Hegley 3 times!). I had larks performing at Studio Liverpool, Vintage Radio, and Wenlock Poetry Festival... and of course I was briefly an internet sensation exactly a year ago... in a sad, nerdy sort of way.

I haven't really thought about 2012 yet... watch this space.

Meanwhile, what were YOUR highlights! Come on, share... and a Happy New Year!! *gets all teary*

Monday, 5 December 2011

10 Best Christmas Gifts for Writers

Looking for a Christmas present for the writer in your life?

Yes, it's that time of year again: sleigh bells glisten, Santa is nipping at your toes and the mince pies are burning away merrily. And here I am again exhorting readers to use my link (on the right) when buying their pressies from Amazon so I get a few shiny pennies under my tree (not a euphemism).

Top 10 Stocking Fillers for Writers for under a Tenner

Writers need to back up their works in progress or perhaps move stuff from one computer to another.  Show them you 'woof' them by filling their stockings with this delightful Humping Dog USB flashdrive.

Or, if your loved one prefers a pen... and is writing something gruesome, look no further than this Novelty Syringe Pen at just 99p.

How about this Book Lovers Calendar - a page a day of great novels they didn't write, serving the dual purpose of reminding them of how unsuccessful they are and the swift passage of time, and hence their own mortality.

Anyone who wants to write for a living is a mug - so buy them one. This one is from the Literary Gift Company (see below) at £9.95 but there are loads at £11 from Cafe Press who will also make one with your own wording on (or maybe a quote from one of your writer's poems or stories?).

Oh, you want to give them books? Anyone who loves words will love The Etymologicon from ace blogger The Inky Fool - a witty and enlightening little book described in the Observer as 'the stocking filler of the season.'

Another gift for hungry word lovers is Scrabble with Chocolate Pieces at £8.50. There is a range of other classic games with a chocolatey twist... although the Twister with Chocolate looked disappointing. I'm sure I could have been more imaginative with that idea... but it wouldn't have much of a literary bent so I digress.

Of course the classic gift for any writer - a literary equivalent of The Beano is the seminal The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2012 which is packed with useful advice we do not heed, how-to guides we do not read and lists of agents and publishers we keep meaning to submit material to. But as it's just over £10, why not look out for a pristine (unopened) 2011 one as they're not going to open it anyway!

Beware of buying your writer this gorgeous Handmade Leather Journal. Beautiful notebooks demand beautiful writing, and most of us need notebooks for demented scribblings. We will not sully our beautiful notebooks with such things and will never write another word.

Try something cheeky instead like this Marvel Retro A5 Notebook at £5.70.

Nothing says more clearly 'I'm a writer' than this typewriter pin badge which is £4 gift-boxed from the Literary Gift Company... except perhaps a pin badge saying 'I'm a writer' which would just be silly... but available from Cafe Press (above).

I mention the Literary Gift Company last because once you go to them you will be lost to me - and I don't get any commission from them!