A Super Time in Salisbury

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!)

 Here is Claire Fuller reading from her extremely atmospheric, tense new novel,  Bitter Orange . Her other novels are  Swimming Lessons  and  Our Endless Numbered Days .

Here is Claire Fuller reading from her extremely atmospheric, tense new novel, Bitter Orange. Her other novels are Swimming Lessons and Our Endless Numbered Days.

 And here is Caoilinn Hughes discussing her debut,  Orchid & the Wasp , and how difficult it is for people to accept an ambitious female character whose decisions can’t be traced back to some sort of trauma. She is also a poet, with an award-winning collection called  Gathering Evidence .

And here is Caoilinn Hughes discussing her debut, Orchid & the Wasp, and how difficult it is for people to accept an ambitious female character whose decisions can’t be traced back to some sort of trauma. She is also a poet, with an award-winning collection called Gathering Evidence.

 The setting for the evening event – Salisbury Cathedral – was so dramatic, it deserves its own photograph.

The setting for the evening event – Salisbury Cathedral – was so dramatic, it deserves its own photograph.

 Hundreds of people await the arrival of Matt Haig, whose newest work for adults,  Notes on a Nervous Planet , offers thoughts and strategies for anxious readers. His just-out book for kids,  The Truth Pixie , does the same, via a charming story.

Hundreds of people await the arrival of Matt Haig, whose newest work for adults, Notes on a Nervous Planet, offers thoughts and strategies for anxious readers. His just-out book for kids, The Truth Pixie, does the same, via a charming story.

 Matt Haig, on stage! It was an exciting experience to be up there with him, listening to him be so candid, and so funny, about his mental health struggles and the various ways forward. Just look at my expression. There were lots of wonderful surprises in his talk!

Matt Haig, on stage! It was an exciting experience to be up there with him, listening to him be so candid, and so funny, about his mental health struggles and the various ways forward. Just look at my expression. There were lots of wonderful surprises in his talk!

Salisbury Literary Festival, October 17-21

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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!

Talking About Lily May

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!

 Ready to catch my train to Birmingham before the show, heavily weighed down by many copies of my short-story collection and two bottles of wine.

Ready to catch my train to Birmingham before the show, heavily weighed down by many copies of my short-story collection and two bottles of wine.

 Phil Bond and Tom Clarke-Hill warming up before showtime.

Phil Bond and Tom Clarke-Hill warming up before showtime.

Walking in Beauty, Saturday 28 July, London

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!'

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Improv for Writers at the Dublin International Literature Festival

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

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Haiku in 'Hong Kong Market Cats'!

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. 

 

 Pictured on the cover is 'Uncle Pork' and his devoted friend.

Pictured on the cover is 'Uncle Pork' and his devoted friend.

Improv for Writers

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.

Two American Authors, Many Paths to Publication

 A sunny moment at Wayland's Yard 

A sunny moment at Wayland's Yard 

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...)

Yuki Means Happiness. So Does Sake.

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. 

 Brum radio's Blake Woodham was clever and engaging

Brum radio's Blake Woodham was clever and engaging

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. 

 Everyone had a little taste of Japan

Everyone had a little taste of Japan

 The questions from the audience were great

The questions from the audience were great

 This is my favorite photo from the event - I'm talking to a young man who is studying Japanese. Behind me a friend i met in China 32 years ago is laughing with a friend i met in Japan 23 years ago. 

This is my favorite photo from the event - I'm talking to a young man who is studying Japanese. Behind me a friend i met in China 32 years ago is laughing with a friend i met in Japan 23 years ago. 

This week I've been short on sleep, and long on satisfaction.

Many thanks to everyone involved.

Two American Authors, Many Paths to Publication

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! 

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Yuki Means Happiness Publication-Day Event

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

 

 

Update!

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.

 Real to Print panel at Singapore Writers Festival

Real to Print panel at Singapore Writers Festival

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!