Tag Archive: Birmingham Book Festival


I think I’d best say one thing about the Sunday Roast …

Yes, four years ago this week, way back in the good old days of Myspace, I posted my first roast. Up until then, I’d been content to write about anything that took my fancy, blogging whenever it did. Yesterday, I was reminded of the birthday when I took part in two workshops at the Birmingham Book Festival and it was while going to one of the same in 2008, I found I had loads of things to write about. It was too much for one post so I bunged them all in one pot-pourri and called it The Sunday Roast.

As I say in my About Me, section, the Roast ran every week for two years, then on and off during 2011 when Myspace went down the toilet. Finally, the Roast began here once more, earlier this year. The old blogs are still there on Myspace, but it would take you a week to navigate the mess on that site.

Therefore, something I can do (as I have the original word documents stored on my computer), is re-publish this …

From the very first Roast (12 October 2008).

I had a dream about my younger kids last night. They were playing on some climbing frames and I was calling for them to come off so we could go home. It was one of those dreams where you think things are real until you wake and then question if it was true or not. However, after a few seconds, I knew this one was a dream when they actually came after only the second time of calling.

Rascals – Circa 2008.

All work and no play make some writers … very dull boys, indeed.

As I have mentioned, I attended two writing workshops yesterday. However, as I was also going out in the evening, I wouldn’t have time to have done this roast had I not prepared it Friday night. And it is on the subject of writing workshops that I now wish to speak.

I love them. They are usually very good and I gain something from each I go to. The downside is, you sometimes come across some right arty-farty writers who are so far up their own arse, they could give themselves an enema.

Take the one I did last year. It was a great workshop at the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre – where all the exhibits are kept when not on display. There are literally hundreds of thousands of things, all in mothballs … including a collection of mothballs. Anyway, we were sent out to explore, choose an object and write about what inspired us.

Easy. You had things such as this …

And this …

And even this …

No problem with so many exhibits in this Aladdin’s Cave. No problem, unless you were Richard (real name changed). He came back and declared to the entire group that he had scoured the museum, looking for that special thing. In the end, he found it. There – waiting for him at the end of a dusty corridor. One, lonely, empty shelf. It was the only empty shelf in the museum but he chose it as his inspiration not because of what it held, but for the potential of what could be stored there.

Thing is, all the others in the group played a game of Emperor’s New Clothes and pandered to this pillock, clapping hands and commenting, “How clever,” and “How original.” I did bite my tongue at such pretentious crap but really, all I wanted to scream was “FUCK OFF!”

And that’s the downside of being a writer. Generally, most the people I meet are of a similar mind to me. However, in some writing circles there seems to be a huge desire to turn it into some kind of minority interest. Spouting complete bollocks while pretending they are the next literary or poetic genius, when really, they have absolutely nothing to say.

And that reminds me of something which was also in that very first roast …

Once again, from the Sunday Roast (12 October 2008)

I took part in my first ever poetry workshop this weekend. It was okay but I lost interest toward the end when it evolved into a self-indulgent discussion on “What is Poetry?” It would have been better if it wasn’t for the fifty-something woman who thought she was the bee’s-knees of poetry. In she floated, wearing a silken neck-scarf and arriving twenty minutes late. Next thing, she let her phone ring – twice, then proceeded to thrust her opinions without actually showing anything productive or original, herself. I must admit, I never trust women who wear silken neck scarves, indoors. What are they trying to hide? I think in the case of this one, it could have been her Adams Apple.

Blimey, I was bitchy back then, but things at these events never change. You see yesterday, as I was waiting for one of this years workshops, I spied a guy in his sixties waiting in reception and immediately, I could tell. I’d got him earmarked him as the potential knob and he didn’t let me down. The woman leading the workshop had only just begun to speak before this buffoon interrupted.

‘Excuse me,’ he said, ‘could you explain a little about the layout of the session?’

The workshop leader looked perplexed. ‘I’m just about to do so.’ She’d only been speaking thirty seconds.

The idiot did it again a while later, asked if we should do something or other. Did he want to get up and lead the workshop? We had by now got an explanation for him being such an arse. He was a priest. Say no more. Then the best. Some poor lass, trying to do her job came round to take a few photos for the festival website. Guess who objected? Yes … Father Fuckhead.

‘I don’t want my photo plastered over the internet.,’ he spouted, full of pompous self-importance. When somebody said that the photographer had spoken about making sure he wasn’t in the shots, the priest wasn’t convinced. ‘But can I trust her to do that?’

Look, Mr Priest. If you don’t want you bloody photo taken during a workshop, leave the room.

Cretin.

Yet again from the very first Roast (12 October 2008)

I wasn’t going to bother reprinting this one but also from that first ever Sunday Roast, was this next bit. Not only that, it was my opening line.

I have to hold my hands up and say I haven’t had too much time for blogging this last week or so. Even when I have found some time, I have been struggling to get online as my eldest son keeps hogging the computer … in my room. I had to tell him to go just after midnight yesterday. Well, I did want to go to bed so I think I was justified.

As I say, I wasn’t going to include that because it is mundane and pretty boring. However, as I was compiling much of this on Friday … at eleven o’clock at night, he turns up and before I know it, has plonked himself at my computer.

Some things never change, do they?

Cheers.

Nick

I must have a liking for all night events on a weekend. A fortnight ago, I was ghost hunting at Woodchester Manor. Last Saturday, it was writing while deprived of sleep inside a historical building while taking part in an event laid on by the excellent Birmingham Book Festival. Unlike two weeks ago, I wasn’t actively seeking ghosts but still found many as there were plenty to experience with all the exhibits on view. And that’s what a ghost is, an image or echo of the past.

The Locksmith’s House – Willenhall, is a museum dedicated to the town’s once thriving lock-making industry. A working forge, period décor and furniture; who could not be inspired by such surroundings?

The Locksmith’s House – Willenhall. As seen during the day.

Many writers find they work well during the early hours. Let’s face it, this is a time when the kids, allegedly, are in bed and lucid thoughts can hopefully prevail over the weapons of mass distraction during a typical multi-tasked day. In fact, as a writer of so much dark fiction, it’s only once the house goes quiet that I can finally rest at ease – before the screaming begins on my laptop. Therefore, what better than a few hours after midnight in surroundings a little different to that which you are used to.

On Saturday, the setting was excellent and the group of writers assembled, were the nicest bunch I’ve ever done a workshop with. We were well-led on this night-time literary feast by Anna Lawrence-Pietroni, author of the novel, Ruby’s Spoon. Good, useful exercises, all managing to stimulate the mind and inspire creativity. As well as writing, the evening included a demonstration in the art of making a sliding bolt and other items at the forge. There was also a tour of the house plus toasting bread in front of an open fire at nearly four in the morning.

Middle of the night feast. Toast made the traditional way.

Being a writer whose tales often include a higher than average body count, I was delighted by the array of ready-made murder weapons at my disposal, should I choose to write historical fiction. The bolt from the forge, any number of tools and even the toasting fork would prove painful, positioned in the right place. There was also the gas lighting. Surely some devilment could transpire from a little tampering with a valve or two?

Those gas lights were a high point for me. They were something I’d never seen before. Holding a taper (burned too near the end for my liking) then hearing the pop as the ball ignites was an experience surely destined for a place in a short story, somewhere in the near future.

As for the writing? I have to admit, I found it hard going that night, which is unusual for me. I’d been struggling with a bad cold and nearly thought of crying off but am glad I didn’t. Besides, I’d already paid and I’m mean when it comes to cash.

I noted down many ideas for stories during the night but did flag as the hours grew long and dawn approached. This wasn’t through tiredness. My cold had, unfortunately, decided it was time to raise the temperature a bit and by the last exercise, my head was spinning and not with multiple plot lines, either.

There was a bed in the house, but this was for display purpose, only.

This is the second night writing event I have done and it surpassed that of last year. Hopefully, there will be more to come in the future. The Birmingham Book Festival is a fantastic event and one which writers local and beyond ought to have firmly written in their planners. I’d recommend it to all. You may even find a few ghosts of your own.

Cheers.

Nick

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