The other day I had a text from my neighbor telling me she’d almost driven into a hedge because she’d heard my first novel being discussed on the radio. I would have driven into a hedge too, as I hadn’t had any warning that Lillian on Life was Harriett Gilbert’s pick for discussion with Mathew Baynton and Aasmah Mir on BBC4’s A Good Read. Listen to the whole show for discussions of Iain Banks’s The Crow Road and George Saunders’s Tenth of December as well. Jump to their thoughts on Lillian from 18m30s.
Yesterday evening was the final step in the wonderful process of the West Midlands Readers’ Network 2018 Short Story Commissions project. Having visited the reading groups we were paired with, the four other writers and I took time over the summer to write our stories, inspired by our discussions of the narrative elements they were interested in. We returned to our groups to read them our stories in the early autumn, and yesterday we came together at the Birmingham and Midland Institute to speak with the wonderful organiser, Roz Goddard, about the process, and read excerpts from our stories to an audience made up of members of the participating reading groups, friends and family.
‘None the Wiser’ by Kate Innes takes place in a haberdashery in recently bombed WWII Shrewsbury.
‘The Government is in Place’ by Susan James has a Hungarian woman reflecting on the shattered hopes of the 1956 uprising, and wondering whether or not to trust Gorbachev.
‘The Last of the Real Men’ by Paul McDonald offers us the dying minutes of an offensive and unrepentant comedian in a future where heterosexuality is no longer the norm.
‘Milly’ by Ashok Patel follows the development of the relationship of a Shropshire boy with his childhood playmate, and with his embarrassingly old parents.
In my story, ‘Tiyanak’, an elderly widow hears the cries of an infant every night, and finds help for her troubles when she meets the Filipino carer next door.
It was a joy and an honor, very challenging and very fun, to be part of the Salisbury Literary Festival again this year. Not only did I get to run a mini version of my Improv for Writers workshop as a warm-up activity to the Writers’ Day on Sunday, I also interviewed three TERRIFIC authors – Claire Fuller, Caoilinn Hughes, and Matt Haig – on Saturday. (Thank you to Andrew Gurnett for the great photos!)
Next up on the calendar is participation in the second Salisbury Literary Festival. I enjoyed it so much last year, when I interviewed Sarah Winman and ran my Improv for Writers workshop.
This year I’ll have the honor of being in discussion with Claire Fuller and Caoilinn Hughes on the Saturday afternoon, and with Matt Haig in the evening. On Sunday morning I’ll run my workshop again.
Come if you can!
Oh what a feeling it was to have my short story about the awkward crush ageing band-leader Sam has on lovely young back-up singer Lily May performed by actor Tom Clarke-Hill at The Warehouse Cafe in Birmingham this past Monday! Organized by Brum Radio, the event also featured the poetry of Darren Cannan and the music of James Summerfield. ‘Talking About Lily May’ includes the lyrics to a song I wrote for the story, and the amazing Tom Clarke-Hill and Phil Bond both wrote the music for the song and performed it with verve and virtuosity.
Watch this space. I’ll soon have a link to the recording of the event!
It is a great honor to have been invited to do some live non-fiction storytelling in London!
Billed as 'A night of unforgettable stories of strength, courage, beauty and love', Walking in Beauty offers the audience seven international women opening up about how they developed their concept of beauty, and what they value. I look forward to being on stage at Theatre Delicatessen on Saturday, July 28th, both because it will be a reunion for me with some wonderful people I knew in Singapore, and because some of the storytellers will be new to me.
Tickets are £10 in advance, £15 on the door, will concessions as well.
As my trendy son likes to say, 'Come through!'
Guess who will be running her Improv for Writers workshop on May 20th at the Dublin International Literature Festival – at the International Comedy Club, no less?? I'm so excited to be travelling to Ireland for the first time, with Dublin as my first port of call.
The workshop is part of the festival's Stories from the City theme, so we'll be improvising stories that draw from cities both experienced and imagined.
Details here: http://ilfdublin.com/events/workshop-improv-for-writers
London readers, I'd love to meet you! If you'd like to meet me too, come to Daunt Books on South End Road in Hampstead at 6.30pm on March 8th. For the small fee we'll be able to talk AND have a drink. Hope to see you there!
Yuki Means Happiness is the chosen paperback in SwiftLit's January book box! What a beautiful collection of relevant goodies is included! They clearly were paying close attention when they read the book!
It is with great joy that I announce the publication of Hong Kong Market Cats, a book of vibrant, tender photos by Marcel Heijnen. Marcel invited me to write the haiku that accompany the photos, and I enjoyed the collaboration so much - studying the details of his fascinating images, seeking to see what he saw, sharing with him what appeared to me.
My short stories tend to be quite long, but this one is under 1000 words. Titled 'Umbilical', it concerns the relationship between two Cambodian-French brothers and their mother...and a motorcycle. I'm grateful to the beautiful Synaesthesia magazine for publishing it!
I'm excited to announce that I'll be doing my Improv for Writers workshop at the inaugural Salisbury Literary Festival this October 29th. They've had the great idea to offer creative warm-ups for writers on day two of the festival, which is dedicated to writing where day one is dedicated to reading. You can read about how improv has benefited my writing, and watch a video of me improvising stories on the spot, here.
What are the advantages to the traditional publishing route, despite the patience it requires? What's essential for the self-publisher? How do the hybrid, crowd-funded options work?
These are some of the questions fellow American author Suz Korb and I addressed at our talk last Saturday, 5 August, at Wayland's Yard in Worcester. We had about 25 participants in the lovely Community Room upstairs, and while the weather lurched between sunshine and rain outside, inside we grappled with our dreams and the practical considerations of the writing life.
As these are things we also discuss in our Twitter feeds, you can have a look at @A_J_Lester and @SuzKorb for more. I also highly recommend following @FionaMoMitchell, as it's her regular subject as well, and her blog does a great job of laying out the ups and downs of getting one's work into print.
(Fortunately, Wayland's Yard is a dog-friendly café, so our miniature schnauzer, Jasper, could chill in the back row...)
Yesterday evening was like a dream - the best kind of dream. There were surprises, but they were all good! I have to thank Birmingham Waterstones for their bright space and enthusiastic staff, and Blake Woodham of Brum Radio for being such a seasoned and interested MC.
I took the opportunity to read from Lillian on Life as well as Yuki Means Happiness, as I was living in Singapore when my first novel was published, and didn't get a chance to do any readings here ("It's my party and I'll read what I want to."). The assembled crowd was so warm and attentive, and it was wonderful to hear how much people enjoyed being read to. We do as children. We do as adults. Lovely.
I also sang ("It's my party and I'll sing if I want to") a Japanese folk song, 'Habu no Minato'.
In order for everyone to have at least a tiny taste of Japan, we poured sake - Japanese rice wine - into disposable shot glasses and offered bowls of rice crackers and wasabi peas. The sake was drained, and the books sold out.
This week I've been short on sleep, and long on satisfaction.
Many thanks to everyone involved.
Fellow American writer Suz Korb and I will be speaking to writers and readers at Wayland's Yard in Worcester on Saturday, 5 August, about the diverse ways we have gone about getting our work into print. Suz writes in a range of genres, and is a master of self-publishing techniques, and I'm really looking forward to the discussion, and to much Q&A!
The very dynamic Waterstones bookstore in Birmingham (UK) will be holding the publication-day event for Yuki Means Happiness on 27 July at 6:30pm. I'll be doing a short talk and reading, and then will be in discussion with Blake Woodham of Brum Radio's Book Show. More details here: https://www.waterstones.com/events/yuki-means-happiness/birmingham
My second novel (well, of course I've written more than that, but the second novel fit to sell) will be published by John Murray on 27 July 2017! Details can be found on the Yuki Means Happiness page under 'Books'.
After 25 years in Asia, I recently moved to the UK! Looking forward to connecting with UK readers and writers!
I really enjoyed thinking about Lauren Michelle Brock's questions in this interview we did via email. I thought she came at Lillian on Life from a very interesting direction. Then she made this neato jpeg too.
You know how busy the end of the year gets. Maybe you're behind in your To Do List too? Here are a couple of things I've been meaning to put up but traveling and writing and mince pies got in the way.
In November - The Singapore Writers Festival. Wonderful! I was delighted to have been asked to host sessions featuring the likes of Madeleine Thien, Xinran, Whiti Hereaka, Samanth Subramanian, Elizabeth Pisani, and Kelvin Tan. I also shared the stage in the 'Real to Print' session with Thaddeus Rutkowski and Siow Lee Chin, where we discussed using our own lives in our writing.
In December - The 48 Hour Film Project. I was invited by the writer/director (also brilliant painter) Leo Poloniecki to join his team, not to help with the writing, but with the acting! In this international project, teams are each given a genre (we got 'Detective/Cop'), and all teams have to include the same three elements in their film. In Singapore's case, it was a character called Mr./Mrs. Anderson, President; the line "Look what you just did, you..."; and a set of barbecue tongs. The writing began at 9:30pm on the Friday night, filming took place on the Saturday, and editing began after that, all finishing at 9:30pm on the Sunday. At the awards ceremony on the following weekend, we learned that we'd won! Our film has now been sent off to join the winning entries from the rest of the world, to be judged at the filmapalooza festival in Atlanta in March. Fingers crossed!