I first had the idea for Christmas Pancakes back in the mid-90s and wrote it as a half hour radio play. Due to being an inexperienced writer at the time, it wasn’t executed particularly well, but I thought the story had potential, so kept a copy in a box up my parents’ loft. In early 2015, when my mum was clearing some space, she came across it. I re-read it and thought ‘I think I’ll re-write this as a novel.’
The manuscript is complete and is currently with an illustrator. A Dexter Trumpet website will be created shortly followed by plans for a book launch and visits to schools and libraries.
Last year, I was honoured to be asked if I’d judge Denny Writers’ annual Quaich writing competition and visit the group in April 2017 to provide feedback and announce the winner. I set a short story task with a choice of two themes – ‘ambition’ or ‘clutter’ – and received a high calibre of entries.
Ellen Dickie’s historical tale of an Irishman’s plight to achieve acceptance in Boston was awarded first place, with Jim and Anne being awarded second and third respectively. Here’s Ellen being presented with the Quaich award:
I’ll be doing a set (the first one for a wee while) at The Bruery in Dunfermline as part of Fife Writes on Thursday 16th February. The evening kicks off at 7.30pm and also features writer Linda Menzies, folk band Sairbanes and established poet/performer Kevin Cadwallender. Best of all, it’s FREE, so come along for a relaxed evening of prose, poetry and music.
You can visit the Fife Writes website here.
In other news, the reason I’ve been a bit quiet on the writing/performing front lately is because I’ve been working on a children’s novel, under the pseudonym Dexter Trumpet. More news about this soon 🙂
As part of an evening of collaborations, I’m performing in the rather braw Albert Halls in Stirling on Thursday 12th May with lo-fi outfit, L-Space. I’ll also be co-hosting with Gordon Johnstone and pleased to say the bill also includes:
- Loud Poets + The Ekobirds
- Harry Giles + Atzi Muramatsu
- Angela Hughes + Paul Docherty
- Gary McKenzie + Brian McFie
Tickets available here for only £8/£7
Come along and enjoy a unique evening of collaborations.
I have a couple of pieces of flash fiction in issue 21 of East London’s litzine, PUSH. You should buy a copy if:
- You want to support the non-mainstream press
- You like reading about batteries, muppets and annoying things to say to short story writers
- You’ll be at West Ham v Swansea on Saturday, where you’ll get it for two quid
- You like the folk who have endorsed it, e.g. John King, Irvine Welsh, Jah Wobble
Also available to buy online where, for a little more cash, PUSH founder and editor will post it out to you. Details can be found here.
I’ll be performing alongside Janet Paisley, Paul Cowan, Karyn Dougan and Bethany Ruth Anderson at this event in Falkirk’s beautiful Callendar House, to celebrate the Alight Here anthology. It’s part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival and will be followed by Alan Bissett’s excellent show What the Falkirk?, which features musical accompaniment from Adam Stafford. Should be a cracker!
It takes place on Saturday 16th April from 6.30pm. Tickets £5/£3 available here.
Unprecedented, my story about dentists, GUM clinics and a great big broken heart, features in issue 2 of Freak Circus. Available here. Non-freaks are welcome to buy too :).
I’ll be performing at The Woodside Hotel in Aberdour on Tuesday 19th January as part of the regular Fife Writes events run by David McDonald, Lilian Kennedy Brzoska and George Sinclair. These are relaxed, fun events run by people who clearly care about the arts in their community.
The night will be loosely Burns themed. Although (*whispers it*) I’m not a fan of Burns, I’m sure I can weave him in somewhere.
It’s free and begins at 7.30pm. More info on the Fife Writes website here.
My story, ‘Protect Yersel wi Fire’ features in PUSH 19 and includes an illustration by Alloa-based artist Karen Strang. Not only am I pleased to have a collaborative project published in a mag that’s becoming increasingly popular, I’m delighted that PUSH has taken a story written in Falkirk Scots, given that its audience (in the main) is London-based football and music fans.
I’ve seen little bits of Scots in PUSH – Michael Pederson’s ‘Limelight Bar, Meadowbank’, for example – but I believe ‘Protect Yersel wi Fire’ is the first story to feature that is Scots throughout. Also, it’s about the referendum and I – perhaps wrongly – felt that English people wouldn’t be particularly interested in reading about a Scot’s disappointment at still being part of the union.
So this got me thinking about a few things. First off, like it or lump it, we’re still a union. In my experience, most English people are either pleased Scotland is still part of the UK or they’re completely indifferent. If you excuse the generalisation, the latter are usually London-based as London is pretty much its own entity, to the extent that folk from Newcastle and ‘The North’ (as it’s inaccurately referred to in the media on a regular basis) often feel just as cut off as folk in Stornoway.
PUSH and its readers, however, are a different breed. The mag is underground poetry and fiction at its best – it celebrates the many voices the UK has to offer and is not scared to print material other publications may shun. I believe it’s this that has made it the powerhouse it has become, thanks to founder and editor Joe England’s open mind and general frustration with the mainstream press.
Most websites offering advice to authors looking to become published recommend manuscripts be written in ‘Standard English’ (whatever that means) as regional dialect narrows the audience thus impacting marketability and sales. James Kelman recently signed with Edinburgh-based Canongate, claiming that ‘London publishers are “elitist” and don’t get Scotland’. Whilst this is referring to the mainstream press, his comments and frustrations are understandable.
As far as my recent experience is concerned though, the underground and less mainstream press may have had a slight change of heart – between PUSH publishing ‘Protect Yersel wi Fire’ with Karen’s illustration and a recent email from a West London-based publisher saying they loved the first chapter of my novel (also written in Scots) and are keen on reading the full manuscript once it’s ready.
In my opinion, Scotland made the wrong decision in 2014, but in the lead up to the vote I found it excruciating that some folk thought Yes voters were either anti-English, SNP lovers or both. No political party is perfect – I think that’s obvious in contemporary times – so I tend to vote for the party I dislike the least these days. I would’ve been happier with a Labour-run indie Scotland than an SNP majority that’s part of a union run by the Tories – but anyway, it’s done . . . for now. ‘Protect Yersel wi Fire’ deals with some of these irritations, whilst showing compassion for our neighbours and highlighting how, regardless of nationality or political persuasion, music can unite us.
PUSH 19 will be available soon from the PUSH website.
Some of Karen’s other work can be viewed on her Facebook page, here.
‘Protect Yersel wi Fire’ first appeared in issue five of Falkirk litzine, [Untitled].
In November, I was longlisted in The Poised Pen’s ‘Another Place’ flash fiction competition. The results were announced on Dec 4th at The Fly in the Loaf in Liverpool There was no prize for my flash fiction entry, An Often Inconvenient Compulsion, but given there were 174 entries, it was nice to get that far – and to receive a certificate. The word limit was 350 words and the piece had to be inspired by or relate to Antony Gormley’s sculpture ‘Another Place’ (right). You can read my entry here: An Often Inconvenient Compulsion