Saturday, 29 October 2016

with great pleasure, raleigh park, sophia blackwell, kellogg college centre for creative writing, soa/wio annual party, balliol


One of the great pleasures of my new-ish walk to work, since the axing of the Number 18 bus service, is Raleigh Park and the wonderful view of the city as you enter from the Lime Road footpath. (See posts of 20th and 23rd July 2016.)

The park is a twenty-seven acre local wildlife site that is described on the Friends of Raleigh Park website, as follows:

"Raleigh Park is located in the village of North Hinksey near Oxford and contains lightly managed fields with three ponds linked by a stream, very unusual alkaline bog areas, trees, grasses, marestail, stately marsh thistle and wild flowers. Ridges from medieval strip farming are visible parallel to Westminster Way. Buzzards, red kytes(sic), roe deer, muntjac deer and foxes are frequent visitors while badgers, moles, song birds, rabbits and other rodents are resident."

Isn't it brilliant that there are places like Raleigh Park!

On Thursday, I attended the first of the two Michaelmas talks at the Kellogg College Centre for Creative Writing. The speaker was the performance poet, poet and novelist, Sophia Blackwell, and her title was, Showing the Brushstrokes: Unorthodox Routes to a Literary Career. The title was inspired by an article written by Mad Men creator, Matthew Weiner, Hiding the Brushstrokes, which Sophia recommended her audience read.

Sophia's career doesn't seem quite as unorthodox as her chosen title suggests - an Oxford English Lit and Lang graduate, performance poet and high-end publisher. Nevertheless, her talk was very inspiring - celebrating stories ("one of the most powerful forms of communication") and the virtue of hard work (99% of what's needed to succeed as a writer). Sophia's choice of quotes was as vivid as her delivery - her supremely confident performance was, she said, down to her musician father.

For example, this quote from Michael Cunningham's The Hours (spoken by Cunningham's Virginia Woolf):

"One always has a better book in one's mind than one can manage to get onto paper."

She also quoted from Porter Anderson, editor of the US magazine, Publishing Perspectives, on the shortcomings of the publishing industry:

"Imagine the auto industry dependant on freelance designers for its new models, and you get an idea of how precarious [publishing] is."

Not that Sophia entirely agreed with this analysis, believing that many people in publishing management are passionate about writing and end up earning very little (not just the authors who get very little return, then!).

For Sophia, working in publishing with big-name novelists gave her encouraging insights: "knowing they were human and flawed was a big revelation... very liberating."

And ultimately, Sophia's message was about demystifying creativity, emphasising hard graft and advocating the importance of writing every day. She ended the talk by referring her audience to Jo Bell's "52" project: "Write a poem a week. Start now. Keep going."

After the talk, I headed south to Balliol College for the annual Society of Authors and Writers in Oxford party. It was terrific to catch up with old friends!

What an evening!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

autumn colours, last of the runner beans, sophia blackwell at kellogg college centre for creative writing, facing the strange pre-publication discount


























The autumn colours are coming into their own, although the relatively warm October means that many plants are still in flower.

The grass is certainly growing well on the allotment.

Today we had the last of the runner beans with Sunday lunch but there are plenty of courgettes left. Only a tiny handful of cherry tomatoes to go, though. Almost at the end of the summer veg.

On the plot there are leeks, spinach, turnips, beetroot and carrots.

Looking forward to attending a talk by Sophia Blackwell at the Kellogg College Centre for Creative Writing on Thursday. After which I'll be heading to the Society of Authors and Writers in Oxford party.

Meantime, Facing the Strange, SB Sweeney's superb debut novel, is now available from the StreetBooks website at a pre-publication discount - officially published on Thursday 9th February 2017.

'One great long drunken rambling guitar solo of a novel.' Tim Pears.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

mist, oxford abuzz, finals marking, mellow fruitfulness, log fires



A beautiful walk to work on a misty October morning earlier in the week.

Oxford is suddenly abuzz with the new term and we are back in the frenzy of a fresh academic year. A wonderful energising experience!

Finals marking coming to an end this weekend. It has been fascinating and rewarding.

Took down the runner bean wigwams this morning and grubbed up the courgette plants. Sad to be doing this in one sense but I enjoyed digging this last patch then strimming the paths. The plot is getting tidy and ready for winter. And there are still beetroots, carrots, turnips, spinach and leeks to harvest - not to mention all the spuds in the old piggery at home. Also, the courgettes that were picked up to today will last us for a couple of weeks.

Haven't turned on the central heating yet, but we're into the second week of log fires. Log delivery tomorrow. AUTUMN!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

leaves, memories, digging, finals marking, inductions week, relocation


Drifts of dry colourful leaves in the Bampton streets triggering memories of long ago, especially kicking though horse chestnut leaves at Stowe in autumn 1976. Vibrant, fresh far-off days!

Digging on the allotment early. Still some runner beans and courgettes to be harvested. The grass has not stopped growing!

Marking finals papers this weekend.

Pleased the library inductions week went well. Also, some lovely, and much appreciated, feedback about the Relocation.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

happy memories, antique brass sunlight, tabs relocated, new roles, uncorrected proof edition of trust: a family story, slow process, getting feedback, getting messages across, tricky weather...








Very happy memories of walking in Somerset near Batcombe.

It was great to be away for a few days and the weather was wonderful. Antique brass sunlight during the last afternoon walk. Autumn's reaching us at last, albeit fitfully.

TABS is finally relocated, two days before the deadline. Such a relief, having lived with the project for eighteen months. An amazing team effort.

Enjoyed beginning of term drinks at Kellogg on Wednesday. Lovely to meet new colleagues.

Starting restructured posts at the libraries, as from today.

Some months after the Uncorrected Proof edition of Trust: A family story was typeset, copies have been printed. I'm looking forward to getting feedback from family, writing colleagues and close friends. It is so necessary to take the process of completing the book slowly. I want to be fair, while also getting messages that might help others in similar situations across.

Grounded as far as the allotment is concerned. I was just about to set off when down came the rain - a full two hours ahead of the forecast time. The weather seems to have caught the met professionals out quite a bit recently...