Two very favourable reviews of ‘Live show, Drink Included’ came out this month (May 2019). Writing in the Glasgow Review of Books, Lynda Wardle says: ‘the stories open with characters jogging away on the treadmill of life, and then—deliciously for us—something is tweaked;’ […]’Her descriptions catch both the sense of twenty-first century living and the nuances of emotion that give these stories their humanity.’ […] ‘the story that fittingly closes the collection, ‘Into the Valley’, stands above the others in its refusal to deliver [a] neat punchline. This collection should be bought and shared for all the pieces, but most especially for this last one.’ Full Review here.
Reviewing the book on the US Amazon site, writer and translator Olga Núñez Miret, says: ‘This is a great collection of short stories. The author has a talent for being able to create a vivid background for her stories and she also gives us a good insight into who her characters are and what makes them tick. I am mostly a reader of novels, and I am aware that sometimes, even after reading a whole novel we still don’t have a clear sense of who these characters are, so this is a skill I particularly appreciate. The stories are beautifully observed; we get to see what is going on through the heads of the characters and also the situation that develops around them.’ And: ‘I was impressed by the quality of the collection and this is an author I intend to keep a close eye on in the future.’ This review has been reblogged by many US bloggers so I’m hoping that will generate sales in the States. Full review here.
On Thursday 6th December I was at the warm and wonderful Word Factory Christmas party in Bloomsbury. I met so many lovely people and was lucky enough to be one of the five readers picked from slips of paper in the Santa hat. Here I am reading from the story ‘Saucers of Sweets’ in Live Show. Word Factory apprentice Ushi told me afterwards that she’s been reading my work since the Asham Anthology, which came out in 1999: she even remembered the last line of that story. It’s so heartening to know that these stories do find readers, even though I might not meet them for twenty years or so.
I took part in a reading organised by the Mechanics’ Institute Review team on November 17th at the gorgeous independent bookshop Brick Lane Books in London’s East End. There were seven of us reading work from the current issue of MIR15, and Julia Bell, course director of the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck, came along to give us a preview of her cycle of autobiographical poems Hymnal. Wine was drunk and nothing spilled, friends were made and many books sold. A lovely evening. Mechanics’ Institute Review 16, which will be published in 2019, is now open for contributions.
The launch of Live Show, Drink Included took place on Thursday 11th at the October Gallery in Bloomsbury and more than sixty friends, family, former colleagues and students came along to join in the celebrations – even Alexei Sayle stopped by. I read extracts from two of the stories and Michelle Williams did an impromptu translation into British sign language, which added a lovely touch; 47 books were sold. Many thanks to Bernadette and Arnold of Holland Park Press for organising the whole thing.
I had a great time on Monday at the Brixton Bookjam, reading to a great crowd, which included many of my friends and neighbours. My friend Kathy Page had arrived that morning from Canada to promote her new novel in the UK and heroically stayed awake all the way to the end of the evening (pic of the two of us by Oscar Williams-Grut). The final picture is of the writers in the Green Room: (from left) Anna Mazzola; Tamsin Grey; Dulwich Raider, one half of the blogging duo Deserter; comedian Stevie Russell, AKA Glenda Read, Crack Librarian; Dirty South, the other half of Deserter; Marianne Kavanagh and me with my fractured wrist (pics by Zelda Rhiando).
Here I am at the Keynes Library, Gordon Square on Thursday 20 September 2018, with some of the other contributors of The Mechanics’ Institute Review 15 (MIR15):
Back row: Sarah Dale, Vicky Grut (messy hair), Amal Adams, Valentine Carter, Lou Kramskoy, Jay Barnett, Ian Critchley (face obscured), Mykola Moss, Kate Ellis. Front row: Len Lukowski (standing), Sogol Sur, Arhondia, Jane E. Roberts. Other contributors include Ailsa Cox, Megan Bradbury, Jonathan Kemp and Leone Ross.
‘A fabulous collection,’ says the fabulous Kevin Barry.
‘Daring, intimate and zeitgeisty stories,’ says Arifa Akbar.
This morning’s post brought me two lovely lime-green copies of Harvard Review #52, all the way from Cambridge, Massachusetts. My story is the final piece in the whole journal and they’ve mentioned me on the back cover – a real honour. I’m dazzled to be in the company of Lee Gutkind, ‘Godfather of Creative Nonfiction’, and the wonderous Paul Muldoon.