Poem: Inappropriate Behaviour

Aug 26 2014

This poem was part of my portfolio for the poetry module at university. Getting a 1st for the poetry module was undoubtedly the biggest shock of the three years I was there. I celebrated by buying a bottle of absinthe, as poets drink absinthe, don’t they? This poem came about because I had the lines ‘I want to smile / but smiling’s not appropriate’ buzzing around my head and knew they had to be in a poem and yeah, well, it would be a bit inappropriate to smile because your husband’s just killed himself after finding you in bed with someone else, wouldn’t it?

Inappropriate Behaviour

You see us in the bedroom,
smile sadly,
slip off your gold band,
leave silently.

One week later
it’s your funeral.

I’m on one side
of your grave,
with my lover on the other.

I want to smile
but smiling’s not appropriate.

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Leave The House Friday – Costa Coffee

Aug 22 2014

I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit of a hermit. When it comes to leaving the house, I don’t actually like doing it. I frequently cancel social engagements because I don’t want to leave the house, even though I know I’ll enjoy myself once I’m there. So, to force myself to leave the house at least once a week, I invented a thing called Leave The House Friday -  you can guess what it involves. The last two Fridays were easy as I had optician and dentist appointments but today was less easy as I didn’t have a reason to leave the house and couldn’t be bothered to cycle into town for no reason. Then I remembered the Tesco down the road has a Costa Coffee inside, so I decided to have my lunch there.

Earlier in the week, I’d decided to write a guide to the ‘athons (the ‘athons being the Juneathon and Janathon yearly events I organise), so obviously a new project requires a new notebook and as I walked through Tesco to get to the cafe, I bought a new notebook.

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I chose this notebook for it’s ‘go faster’ stripes which I thought were appropriate for the ‘athons. While I was spending far too much time staring at stationery, I saw these little cuties.

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Are they the cutest notebooks in the world or what? And only £1.50 for the pair. Bargainacious! After also buying a fountain pen (which, being plastic, isn’t as posh as it sounds) and a packet of animal-striped biros (I’m not even going to try and make that sound posh), I eventually got to Costa Coffee and bought a mozzarella and basil panino. Luckily, the panino was pre-made, so I didn’t have to a) look like a smartarse by knowing the difference between ‘panini’ and ‘panino’; and b) make the girl behind the counter think I’m a weirdo for asking for a panino, not a panini. Although, when the panino was brought to my table, it had been cut in half, which led me to wonder if, when a panino is cut into two, does it then become panini?

I was faced with a dilemma when, while I was waiting for my hot chocolate, the girl behind the counter asked how I was today. I did the British thing and replied with ‘I’m fine, thanks’ instead of the truth which was, ‘Slightly hungover, but on the whole okay’ but then wondered if social etiquette demanded that I return her politeness by asking how she was. I decided not to ask her. Not because I’m an impolite old tart but because … actually, I don’t have a reason, I just decided there was no need for me to reciprocate. I’m sure she was fine though, in case you’re worried. If I go back there next week and she’s not there because she died of a terminal illness, I will feel suitably guilty, although even if I had asked her how she was, she’d only have responded, ‘I’m fine, thanks’, not ‘I’m dying of a terminal illness’, anyway.

In the queue behind me was a woman who, when it was her turn to be served, said, ‘Can I get a hot chocolate please?’ As she was a) standing in the queue; and b) not wearing a Costa Coffee uniform, I assumed she was a customer and not a member of staff asking if she could help herself to a hot drink, so I waited for counter girl to reply with, ‘No – you don’t work here and we don’t allow any old riff raff to help themselves. I will get you your hot chocolate while you stay on that side of the counter where you belong’ but unfortunately counter girl just smiled and made the hot chocolate.

The cafe is upstairs in Tesco, which means you can look down on the people doing their shopping. And by ‘look down’, I mean you can look down from above, not look down on them for shopping in Tesco, not Waitrose. From my window seat I could see three aisles with ‘Click & Collect’ signs at the end of them. The first one said ‘Everything from Musical Instruments to Kitchen Utensils’; the second, ‘Lawnmowers to Laptops’ but the third I could only see ‘Dulux to’ and I really hoped the missing word was Durex but I had to go and disappoint myself by checking on the way out and finding out it was ‘Dyson’. Bah.

Does Waitrose has a cafe? I bet the customers in there don’t say ‘Can I get …’.

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Guest Post: My Experience of Working With Illustrators, by Nik Perring

Apr 29 2014

Collaborating with Kirsty for the cover of The Flash Mob was a nerve-wracking experience. Would we like it? We absolutely LOVED it, but what if we hadn’t? I’ve known Kirsty for twenty-five years and it would have been heart-breaking to say, ‘sorry mate, hating your work’. Obviously, I needn’t have worried as Kirsty’s designed stuff for me before – most notably the Juneathon and Janathon banners and logos, so I knew we were in safe hands. It made me wonder about other authors collaborating with illustrators/designers though and so when Nik Perring said he was available for guest blogging, I thought, aha! I know what he can talk about. And so here he is, talking about collaborating with illustrators on his books.

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Hello. My name is Nik Perring and I write books. On April 7th my latest, Beautiful Words, was released. Beautiful Words is my fourth book and what’s a little unusual is that it, and each one preceding it, is illustrated. Yep, every one of my books, one for children and three for adults, have been illustrated but all in very different styles. And it wasn’t simply the styles that differed, the way I worked with the illustrators differed too, and the lovely and talented Cathy (we’ve been in a book together) has asked me to talk a bit about them.beautiful-words-nik-perring

My first was a small children’s novel where Jack, a young boy, time travelled to different eras in history (coincidentally, to places that feature on the national curriculum for history) and those illustrations are pretty straight forward cartoons. Thinking back to 2006, when it was published, my publishers asked for a general idea of what I wanted, which I gave, and then largely left it to Derry, the illustrator. My publishers would email what he’d done and asked for my thoughts on it, which were, mostly: that’s great! I don’t think I spoke with Derry once during the whole process.Roman

My next, Not So Perfect, was a collection of short stories for adults. And again I trusted my publishers with the illustrations and cover. I was encouraged to make suggestions but my publisher, the wonderful Roastbooks, pride themselves on making the books they publish as beautiful as objects as they are good to read. So again I trusted them to get it right, which they definitely did. I LOVE the illustrations in that book an awful lot. I seem to remember only asking for one, perhaps two, to be slightly altered out of the twenty-two.

The third was a completely different experience. I co-wrote the book, another collection of short stories dealing with people with strange super powers, with a fellow author and the illustrations were provided by the very talented comic book illustrator (and author) Darren Craske, only this time the illustrations were done before the book was submitted to The Friday Project/HarperCollins. So that meant that we had a lot more input and basically told Darren (sorry mate!) what we wanted. There was plenty of discussion and direction and a fair few times when we had to start from scratch. There’s even a strip in there that I wrote the script for – that’s how much direction poor old Darren got. But the results, I think, are brilliant.freaks

And now, here I am, on book four – a picture book for adults about beautiful words and the story of Lucy, Alexander, and Lily. It’s another Roastbook so the experience was pretty similar to that of Not So Perfect in that, basically, I provided the words and trusted them to find the right illustrator for it. And in Miranda Sofroniou they found a gem. Seeing how she’d interpreted my words was a wonderful thing – the illustrations are stunning (in my very biased opinion) and I think they’re that good because I didn’t have any input, because I didn’t tell anyone what I wanted, and because Miranda was trusted to interpret them however she thought best. And I think that’s a really important point: illustrators are people too (something that I think can easily get forgotten), and as such they have their own minds and their own ways of seeing the world and I think it’s no bad thing, in the right circumstances, to trust them to do their job. It is what they do, after all. And putting together a book is a collaboration.ineludible

The most important thing is getting the finished product to be as good as it possibly could be and I think it doesn’t matter, too much, how we arrive at that. Trusting good people to do good work is definitely a very good start.

Nik Perring is a short story writer and author from the UK. His stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They’ve been used on High School distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and recorded for radio. Nik is the author of the children’s book, I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? (EPS, 2006); the short story collection, Not So Perfect (Roastbooks 2010); and he’s the co-author of Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012). His online home is www.nikperring.com and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring

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Wreck This Journal – Day 23 – Figure Out How To Freeze This Page

Apr 22 2014

Blimey, freeze a page? How am I going to do that? Take it to the North Pole? Pour liquid nitrogen on it?

freeze-this-page

I pondered this and pondered this and pondered this and… oh, hang on. I didn’t ponder it at all, I just bunged it in the freezer on top of the pumpkin and mozzarella ravioli (£2.49 from Maidstone Morrisons).

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Wreck This Journal – Day 22 – This Page Is a Sign – What Do You Want It To Say?

Mar 19 2014

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There was only one possible thing for a sign to say today.

wreck-this-journal-selfies

 

If, however, you have been moved by all these attention-seeking selfiers (is that a word? Probably not. Ho hum) who probably got so lost in the ‘OMG, LOOK AT ME, I’M SO BRAVE FOR POSTING A PIC OF ME WITHOUT ANY MAKE UP ON’ ‘DON’T BE SILLY, HUN, YOU’RE GAWJUS’ stuff, they forgot to donate, and want to donate to charity yourself, you can choose a charity that doesn’t test on animals from this list.

I’m an over-40 female. It’s my prerogative to be grumpy.

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Wreck This Journal – Day 21 – Collect Dead Bugs Here

Mar 18 2014

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My friend Claire and I used to collect woodlice and take them to the pub. That was a couple (okay, about twenty-five) of years ago though and my bug collecting days are over. Plus it says dead bugs and although I think my house in London has approximately two-hundred-and-thirty-million dead wasps in the attic, I’m not about to make a 120 mile round trip to get them and I’m not about to go into the garden and start squishing things, either.

So I drew some happy spiders instead. I think they’re happy anyway. They could be crying inside, I suppose but let’s pretend they’re happy.

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A couple have only seven legs, to give it some realism. Convincing, huh?

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Wreck This Journal–Day 20 – sdrawkcaB etirW

Mar 17 2014

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I got very bored very quickly writing backwards, so I decided to just write words where the letters looked the same backwards as the right way up but I could only think of w, o, I and l (and ‘n’ if you cheat and leave off the spiky bit), and writing ‘wool’ once was enough excitement for one day.

wreck-this-journal-backwards-writing

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Wreck This Journal – Day 19 – Take This Book In The Shower With You

Mar 16 2014

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You’ll have to excuse the splodge from the apple and chocolate parcel – I used the book as a saucer. I don’t usually put pastry based products on my books, honest.

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It doesn’t actually say the shower has to be on, plus it had a paddle in the sea a week ago and I’m not sure it’d take another soaking.

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Wreck This Journal – Day 18 – Pick Up The Journal Without Using Your Hands

Mar 15 2014

I said to Shaun, ‘you’ll have to take a photo of me doing it’, but he said as I’m not using my hands, I can take my own photo.

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So, I picked up the journal with my feet and took a photo.

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Do you like my slippers? £4.99 from Tesco. Bargain.

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Wreck This Journal – Day 17 – Glue In A Photo Of Yourself You Dislike And Deface

Mar 14 2014

It didn’t take long to decide which photo to use. I didn’t even have to think about it.

london-duathlon

Although, I don’t actually dislike it, as it sums up perfectly how I felt during the London Duathlon last year. I was cold, wet, bored, fed up and thoroughly pissed off. But as potential photos to post on a dating site go, this probably wouldn’t be one of them. Would you take this girl home to meet your mum?

So, I printed off the photo and stuck it in the book.

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And gave myself a smiley face instead of my i’m-really-pissed-off-can-we-go-to-the-pub-now-please face.

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