Saturday 26 March 2022

States of Independence, 2022

I went to Leicester today to attend the first "post-covid" States of Independence. A few people were missing that I hoped to see, but I bought a few books (from Green Bottle Press, Indigo Dreams, and Scratch Books) and went to a worthwhile talk about small presses. It was interesting to hear about how they operated.

  • The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses rewards the best fiction published by publishers with fewer than 5 full-time employees - it's helped with promoting books.
  • Epoque Press's long-listed author had previously been rejected 176 times. When choosing what to publish, the author's social media footprint isn't a factor!
  • Fitzcarraldo Editions, one of the more successful small presses, will publish an author's 2nd book if the 1st sells more than 500 copies. With big publishers, at least 5,000 copies are needed. The average figure for literary fiction sales is more like 200.

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Rabat revisited

I went there in the early 1980s, Interrailing. I was at a loose end. I recall little about the visit except that on the journey there I met students going home from Paris. One of them hosted me. I helped briefly at his family's stall, speaking French all the time.

I went again in 2017 by chance, during a tour by minibus with a group - our silver wedding anniversary treat. I popped to the railway station (now very smart) while the group were resting, and looked at the rail tracks that had led me back home after my exotic adventure all those years before.

One meaning of the term storification is the imposing of a story structure onto raw historical facts - being selective and even changing the order of events. One story would be that the older self meets the young self. Perhaps the young self wouldn't recognise the older one who'd tell him not to worry, it'll all be wonderful in the end, like a dream. Or perhaps the older one merely recalls the freedom of his earlier life, the not-knowing what will happen next. Maybe he'll re-introduce some of those features into his life now that retirement's looming. Perhaps when he returns to the group he's known for a week or so he'll surprise them, breaking out of the role he's too easily slipped into.

And I remember another thing about that train trip in the 80s - the Moroccans sang the Cat Stevens song "Father and Son", the one that goes "It's not time to make a change". I was puzzled at the time how they knew his music. I didn't know that Stevens had converted.

Tuesday 15 March 2022

The road not taken

I once thought I might combine being a freelance computer (games) programmer with writing. My partner then was a self-employed artist. It seemed a good combination to me. Here she is, sat outside our kitchen before she left to live in London.

She once sat under a tree and drew this while I read. I'm sure she could have supported herself somehow. I couldn't have - my lifetime writing income is about £1,200, and my computer games career fizzled out after being self-sufficient for a year or so. But it would have been fun trying.

Friday 11 March 2022

Jigsaw puzzles

Life is a puzzle. From left to right - Varenna, where I was married; Wareham, where my father was born.
Then some we designed ourselves - my son's wedding; a Morocco holiday; my grand-daughter; my Zoom/Teams backdrop.
Making a puzzle of something and reconstructing it is one way of getting to know it better. Sometimes the details matter, details that get lost in the whole.