Sunday, 28 February 2010

To Facebook or not to Facebook?

When I've informed people that Spoken/Written Bulletin has a Facebook page, or mentioned that it has 'fans' or that it has information in it that often doesn't fit the deadlines for Editions, some of them groan at me, and ask why should they go to Facebook to find out things that should be in the newsletter? Or alternatively, that even if they like something, they hate the idea of becoming a 'fan'. Or just that they really don't want to join Facebook because they have a dread of being contacted or looked up by x, y or z old 'school friend', hated ex-boy/girlfriend, stalker from some workplace, etc., etc..

Well firstly, you don't have to give your real name! Or why not start a page for your book, chapbook, website or poetry night, story circle, etc. rather than one for yourself? I know friends who have had trouble from people they didn't want to be in touch with, but you don't have to get bogged down in all that.
Secondly, in Facebook terms 'fans' simply means that you're saying you like something. And the more you become a 'fan' of a magazine you think is quality or an arts organization that does work you're involved with or approve of, then the more you come up on their listings, and the more serious you look about your artform. Or the more well informed or even 'connected'. you appear. And they'll become 'friends' of yours too. This all is good for work and getting yourself known as a professional or a writer or whatever with a professional attitude.
Thirdly, Facebook is a vast networking resource - it's a way you can leave comments that might interest editors and other people you might want to know you're around, in you and hence perhaps your work. It has pages dedicated to listings of all kinds like poetry competition pages, and allsorts of special interest groups you might want to join and hear from or network with. It also means that, (because you can be in touch with people who you'd never have had the e-mail address for) you can have professional yet informal conversations with others about important issues which you would never have just e-mailed them about, with the Chat facility.
Like everything else on the web, Facebook is a resource, and if you don't want to get any of the downsides, just follow the protocols! It's like ignoring the online gambling ads when you go on YouTube! You can just watch a rare film you never thought to see again, OR click a gambling site and lose your house through gambling debts - I strongly recommend the former!

Check out Spoken/Written Bulletin S.W.'s Facebook page at;

Friday, 26 February 2010

Latest Book from Cartwheels Collective Publishing!

And today the new proof copy of 'Not What One Was - A Brief History of the Concept of Justice' arrived! Cartwheels Collective Publishing's latest book with all the required changes, including a red cover instead of blue, and looking good! It should be printed and ready for sale by mid-March. And excitingly, after all the hard work and heartache of agonizing page number layout and font size alterations, the nightmare of Contents page number switches and all the rest that goes with the printing process, we have our first pre-order, having only announced the book a couple of hours ago on Facebook!

There's been a lot of tough administrative stuff lately, and never mind printer-stress, some negative scene things on the work front, as well as more financial worries, so this is all the more heartening and cheering for our tiny editorial team of two at C.C. Publishing!

The new book is a project I'm really proud of. 'A Brief History of Justice' by Matthew Hammond, is a brilliant series of 67 short snappy essays, charting the history of the concept of justice in bite sized pieces from Plato to pretty much the present day. As illustrations/practical examples, the essays take each week's news from last year (and some of the year before) and show how they're influenced by philosophical ideas. It's a completely unique take on both current events, the political landscape, and how the media presents us with the news! Think Roland Barthes' seminal book of popular essays on pop culture 'Mythologies' combined with the lyricism of Walter Benjamin's terrific 'Illuminations' and then mix them with a dash of Pierre Bourdieu's iconoclastic 'On Television' with a dollop of the wonderfully perceptive Michel Foucault, and you may have some idea of what the book's like. It's a great book to 'dip into' as each essay is short, and a fantastic bargain at £9 for a 426 page paperback plus 50p P&P.

The author is an inspirational lecturer, storyteller and stand up philosopher, who has lectured in universities and cafe bars, delivered papers at many academic conferences and performed at many festivals. The essays are taken from his 'Rants of the Week' essays on the Cartwheels Collective website, so if you want to check them out, go to;

It will soon be available to order from the Webshop at;
(alternatively e-mail me at;

The Fencing Philosophers & Poi Poetry

Oh wow! So much seems to happen at the moment. On Sunday I performed in a couple of slots for the 'Cabaret Theatrique' at the new Bike Shed Theatre with fellow performer Deor. Our first set was trying out our new 'Fencing Philosophers' act, where we clash swords (literally!) delivering philosophical aphorisms, maxims, propositions and bon mots in the characters of two C17th contemporaries - the philosopher Benedict de Spinoza (described by Gilles Deleuze as 'the Christ of Philosophers') and the extremely and wittily cynical Duc de La Rochefoucauld. It was the first time we'd shot it past an audience, and they seemed to like it with lots of laughter and applause. The next slot was another recent idea of ours - that of Poi Poetry, as I delivered a fast rhyming piece with tight rhythm, plus fast moving poi twirling. No tricks, just speed (I'll work up to the former!). The space is just a great new venue for the city. The decor of white stage plus pillars, and ice cube style lighting of the bar counter, then red walls and fairylights with comfy sofas and leather squares for the bar - well done to everyone involved for all their hard work in making it such a great space!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Gathering Momentum

It's been all go - the nightmare of proofing or at least having another proof read of, Cartwheels Collective Publishing's latest book, a Brief History of Justice, has been continuing, as author and printer negotiate what went wrong with the galley proofs. As I've observed in previous blog entries, no one publishes a book without being crazy or at best prepared to deal with a lot of stress. So another morning has been spent changing the layout and font of the main text, which in turn necessitates changing all the page numbers...for some 67 the prelims...and then noticing with horror that the last chapter doesn't seem to have been proofed at all! so of course, it has to be done too...Never mind finding those places where a word has been put into 'find and replace', and of course the computer has found a word within a word - say 'rent' in 'apparently' and changed them all regardless so you get a word like 'appatornly' as it takes out the said rent and replaces it with a 'torn' just to use an example. Printing a book is a nightmare, and printing a philosophy book, with all its complex use of language and names of philosophers and philosophical terms, (even in an accessible book of short essays!) is doubly so. Expect a deal of shouting and wondering how your co-editor could possibly have missed this or that.
The answer is of course you/they did. Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason' or J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' spent years, decades indeed before all the typos were gone - a single work, especially over three hundred pages or four hundred pages long will suffer from such mistakes until printed more than once, possibly more than several reprints. It's far too big a task for anyone with three jobs, or for two people with three jobs, to ever get right first time. But the thing is that it is getting done.

Despite (as I've also written before) the easy bit being the writing, the printing being the nightmare, and the actual selling the real hard work, I'm looking forward to seeing a shiny new book by the press ready for sale.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Days Out of Time

Just returned from Bath and Bristol, and a packed weekend. Not long after a brilliant warm-up night at the Storyclub, on Wednesday, on the Sunday, we storytellers were performing as part of Awen Publications' and Icepax Productions' Garden of Awen cabaret night at the Chapel Arts Centre in Bath. The event was beautifully decorated and the venue a really nice one. Unlike many religious buildings converted to other uses, it had intimacy and wasn't draughty. The stage area was quite high, and a nice size. Black and a few white circular bistro tables with upholstered chairs filled the rest of the space, with a bar at the back. Candles were lit on the tables which made play of the mirror-like surfaces, and the house lights were globes on the walls above, shedding a soft indirect glow.
The stage was a vision in red panels which glowed with the lighting rig changes, adorned in red roses for the love theme, with bird cages like Cocteau-style aerial scribbles, all surreal and hanging at different heights behind which were remarkably effective. The evening was excellent with a good turn out, great turns from the likes of Kevan Manwaring (of Awen) who was launching his latest book of poetry, and Saravian a very fine singer/songwriter who sang hauntingly of the theme. The lighting turned the backdrop from crimson to magenta, darkened the background to make everything vivid... Our own couple of sets seemed to go down well, and we had brought plenty of red fabric and pink organza for the theme!
By 2am, I was ready to collapse, having caught up with the ever-hospitable Kevan, renewed contact with two other members of Fire Springs storytellers who I had not seen in too long, had a quick look round beautiful Bath, lugged prop and book boxes to and from town and van, and all in suspense (more of that in a moment). The next day, up early and onward to Bristol, to meet a philosopher friend in the Arnolfini - the perfect place for it, and much catching up was also done! Before finally returning to base, tired but full of good coffee, and a succession of images and conversations...
I had hardly put down the boxes, when I got a call. I had applied, not without concerns as to how possible it would be with 3 jobs, one of which being Spoken/Written with all its attendant commitments, plus another two newsletters to research! - for the post of Apples & Snakes S.W. co-ordinator. The interview had been before the weekend, involving a panel of questioners and a presentation. The decision was to come on the Monday, and so while I was equally divided about concerns for giving the fullest attention to this or that role at any one time, the news came. In a way the best of all outcomes - Spoken/Written and my own role in the scene, the work that it and I as editor do were called 'inspiring' but I was not going to be called on to attempt to juggle four roles, and possibly (and agonizingly) pass on the editorship (of Spoken/Written), even temporarily to another, nor to leave key administrative tasks for the Collective to the others (who had expressed mixed emotions about possible changes).
I felt that perhaps an opportunity of another kind had opened up - a mental space to take with even more seriousness the three tasks which are already mine. And it had clarified the areas on which I (as many artists) need to expand and work to better hone - those of marketing, fundraising, and turning key relationships with the likes of promoters to better account.
I had already learnt so much just from the process of writing such an application, a presentation, answering key questions put by those involved in a large arts organization, perhaps most rewardingly, calling on those I admire or have worked with to give testimonials in favour of the skills I offered...and debriefing with another artist who had applied for the same post. So the whole thing felt worth having done.
And after a weekend of architecture, events and catching up with friends to take my mind from the suspense or uncertainty, it was ended. Another extraordinary weekend. Big thanks must go to Kevan, fellow performers, Will, and Chris, Jon, Dave, and Clive of the Storyclub, Kirsty and Anthony, all those who have made Spoken/Written what it is from readers, subscribers, donors or the Arts Council, and finally to A&S for a most interesting experience.