Home Game

Being born in Falkirk, I qualify for the official status of a “Fawkurt bairn” and I’m always keen to support any arts event in the area.

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I’m also behind any fundraising efforts for Foodbanks, the existence of which seems appalling in 2014, especially in a week when shops promote ‘Black Friday’ to encourage consumer greed.

So when I heard about Untitled’s latest event as part of the wonderful Book Week Scotland (in partnership with The Grind) I was keen to go (even although the poster showed a scene from a football match and I panicked for a nanosecond that I’d be forced to suffer anything remotely related to sport).

 

for-websiteUsually, I have my bestie by my side but she was busy (my fall back of dragging hubby was a no-no as a full night among “arty farty folk”, his words, not mine, would be a step too far) and it was a case of me feeling like Billy Nae Mates or missing out on a great line up showcasing some of Scotland’s best new talent. I’m a big girl (sadly in width more than in height) so I braved dreich weather and took myself along to Behind the Wall to enjoy the spoken word acts which included the launch of Dickson Telfer’s new short story collection, Refrigerator Cake.

I’ve heard Dickson perform his work before and he really is an engaging speaker who thoroughly entertains with his offbeat take on everyday life.  As before, Dickson won the audience over with his unique style of performance. After this taster, I can’t wait to read my copy of his new book.

 

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Stephen Watt wowed the audience with his performance poetry.

Other highlights of the night were local writers Samuel Best reading from his WIP, Bethany Anderson reading from her novel Swings and Roundabouts and Stephen Watt who knocked it out the park (surely the Home Game theme merits at least one or two cheesy football puns?) with his performance poetry.

And even better, I needn’t have worried about being there on my lonesome, I met writers I follow on Twitter and could’ve spent hours talking to the lovely Suzanne Egerton, Vicki Jarret and Mairi Campbell-Jack. A win on home ground!

Do you have a local spoken word scene? Is feeling part of a community important for you as a writer?

 

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The Harder I Work, The Luckier I Get…

magcover63I’m a subscriber to the excellent Mslexia magazine and look forward to it dropping through the letter box every quarter. I always find something of interest but sometimes a particular article really stands out and it’s easy to kid myself on that it was written purely for my benefit.

The feature that spoke to me directly was ‘First, Stalk Your Agent…’ written by Sarah Hilary, a writer I follow on Twitter. In the piece, Sarah describes her relentless pursuit of securing representation by her ideal literary agent – Jane Gregory. The gist of it is that Sarah worked hard, really hard, to respond to feedback from Jane, to raise her profile on social media, to put herself and her work out there and she continued to write and rewrite until her efforts resulted in representation and having her debut novel, Someone Else’s Skin published in the UK, later this year in the US and the rights sold to six other countries.

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Jammy! An understandable reaction to a success story like Sarah’s except it wasn’t down to luck. Sarah feels that it was stamina that bagged her an agent and a book deal, “If we believe too much in luck, we might neglect the hard work that’s far more vital to success”.

The reason Sarah’s words appeared so personal to me was that her outlook mirrored my recent application to the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Award. I hate having to ‘sell’ myself in applications and although I take my writing seriously, I try not to take myself too seriously so in the opening lines of my personal statement, I’ve also considered the role of luck.

If I said that I hoped it would be a case of ‘third time lucky’ in my attempt to receive a New Writers Award, it would imply that I’m superstitious.

For the record, I do not: own a rabbit’s foot, search for four-leafed clovers, have a horseshoe nailed above my door, avoid walking under a ladder… you get the picture, ask anyone who knows me, I’m too cynical to believe in all that hocus pocus guff.

Another issue that needs clarification is that by referring to my application as ‘third time lucky’ I commit the crime of using a cliché in my writing, which would suggest that I am lazy and show a lack of originality in thinking.

Once again, it’s easy for me to refute these characteristics. Years of commitment prove, beyond doubt, that I could never be described as lazy as I’ve written three novels and if my writing is worthy of publication in Gutter literary magazine then it must be original.

So I’m unrepentant in my use of the ‘third time lucky’ phrase (here’s another cliché – ‘rules are made to be broken’) but I would never rely on luck, whether I believe in it or not, as the reason for a successful application. A recipient of a SBT award needs to be justified through hard facts.

10615523_717819518287446_5539425465759396936_nI can demonstrate that if lazy isn’t an appropriate word to describe me, tenacious is accurate. How else could you describe someone who has relentlessly pursued their writing ambitions for almost ten years?

My application rambles on with a list of reasons why I might be considered worthy but the common denominator is determination. Since applying, like Sarah, I’ve literally put myself and my words out there and read aloud at Woo’er With Words organised by Untitled for the second time. I actually felt more nervous than my debut at the local spoken word event, mainly because the subject matter of my story was a Catholic POV on sectarianism and it contained a few ‘bad’ words which I wasn’t sure would go down well with the audience.  I lived to tell the tale and the most stressful part was knowing that Eddie, the photographer, was sitting in front of me pointing a camera upwards and would be able to capture several chins on camera.

When I read the Mslexia article, the tone of my application and attitude to achieving my dream sounded so familiar, it could’ve have been written by Sarah. It’s not easy trying to follow Sarah’s example to keep going but I live in hope that one day I’ll also be able to celebrate and share how perseverance won in the end.

How do you keep yourself motivated? Do you believe in luck making the difference between success and failure?

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Facing up to the Spoken Word

downloadAccording to Eleanor Roosevelt, you should do one thing every day that scares you. That’s a great theory but unrealistic for most folk. But I do believe it’s a good idea to step outside your comfort zone as often as possible, or life would be pretty damn boring if you never challenged yourself to try something new.

So, with this ‘he who dares wins’ attitude, I accepted an invitation to read my work at a new spoken word event,  Woo’er with Words (WWW). The idea behind WWW is to provide a platform for writers and poets to perform their work in a relaxed and supportive setting. This type of opportunity is rare in Falkirk which doesn’t have an established literary scene although that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a huge amount of talent in the area. And this was proved to be true throughout the afternoon with a diverse range of entertaining and thought-provoking short stories and poems shared with the audience.

Bmi1dkVCUAIbwY0As I was born in Falkirk Royal Infirmary, I’m officially a bairn, the nickname for those born in Falkirk (or pronounced as Fawkurt if you’re local). It seemed appropriate then to deliver my first EVER public reading in my native town and in a café I’ve used for years. And for moral support, I had my wee sister, best pal and hubby there to cheer me on.

Although I’ve been writing for years, I’ve never read my work aloud in public, which is ironic considering public speaking is what I do for a ‘day job’. I stand in front of large groups of teachers training them in a maths resource and it doesn’t faze me in the slightest but ask me to read something I’ve written myself and my stomach churns.

It was the thought of baring my soul and feeling judged that made me nervous. And stupidly, I’d built the scenario up in my mind to be something to avoid rather than embrace.

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Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

At work, I know from the evaluations that I’m good at holding an audience’s attention (not easy when the subject matter is numeracy and there’s nearly 400 PowerPoint slides to get through), so I needed to transfer my ability to ‘perform’ into reading my own work.

In the end, I LOVED it. And of course I now wish I’d put myself and my words out there a lot sooner. It was a much bigger buzz than getting a tick in the ‘excellent’ box on an evaluation form at work.  Having others compliment my writing was an amazing boost to my confidence and I’d like to thank Untitled for the chance to push my boundaries and achieve a long-term goal. It’s true what they say, FEAR stands for Fear Exceeds Actual Reality.

Do you enjoy participating in spoken word events or does the thought of public speaking make you break out in a cold sweat?