Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Half way up

I have a curious relationship with heights. I can easily lean out over a parapet on a castle and enjoy the view – but put me on a stepladder to paint the ceiling and I’m in a cold sweat.

So I faced my fears at Clip’n Climb in Maryport, and lived to tell the tale – because I bottled it.

The setup is fantastic (perfect if you’re looking for something to do on a rainy Cumbrian day), with a load of individual climbing walls you get to use without fear of bumping into another climber. The waist harness is rigged to an industrial safety rope, which lets you down very slowly if you fall away from the climbing wall. I could see it working brilliantly for all ages and sizes, who scrambled up, hit the button at the top of their wall, then slid gracefully down, ready for the next climbing challenge. Then it was my turn.

I gave every wall a go – the simple ones, the tricky ones, the ones where you use ‘ice pick’ pegs to haul yourself up the side of a fake glacier- and each time the furthest I got was half way up.

Because I looked down, and focused on how far I had to fall.

And even after testing out the harness and the safety rope time and time again, I still had to climb back down.

Because I looked down and focused on how far I had to fall.

I had lots of fun while I was there, but I learned something about myself that I need to sort. I realise I have the same struggle with my writing every day. In the safety of a blank page, I can take risks, push my luck, and fall as many times as I like without a scratch – but I feel sometimes I only achieve half of what I could be doing, because I look at how far I have gone, and worry about how far away the bottom is.

Or worse still, how far I could go.

Fear holds us back from doing daft, dangerous things for very good reason. But when you’re in a situation where there is next to nothing to fear, where you are encouraged to take a chance in safety, and you still don’t, you need to sort it. And the only way to do that is to face that fear, again and again, until it gets bored of seeing you and goes away.

So I’m thinking about how annoyed I was with myself as I struggled back down instead of letting go at Clip’n Climb – and putting that energy into my writing. To push harder, climb higher, and learn to fall and fail with style. And stop looking down.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Nottingham Festival of Words Blog Hop

Nottingham Festival of Words

logo1Nottingham is holding its second Festival of Words in October this year. It will be a celebration of the spoken and written word, as well as a key part of the city’s bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature.  After reading Sarah Dale’s great opening blogpost, it's my turn to pick up the baton and tell you a little bit about my connection to the festival and hopes for what it can bring to Nottingham. Then I’ll be passing the blog baton on to two great writers that embody a lot of what I’ve talked about in this blogpost - Emily Cooper and Pippa Hennessy

What’s your connection with Nottingham and its written and spoken words?

Words have welded me to Nottingham since I arrived here in my old red Peugeot in 1997. I came to Nottingham after getting a copywriter job in advertising, so it’s likely you might have heard some of my writing without knowing it!  After a few years of doing that, I had a story that kept coming back to haunt me, so I took a deep breath, left my old job and began writing fiction. Shortly after that, I heard about Nottingham Writers Studio, and sent off my application – one of my smarter decisions. Through meeting other writers at the Studio and events members were involved in, I’ve met, talked to and been inspired by brilliant Nottingham writers who’ve been kind enough to support and encourage me to keep doing the work of telling my story. Without them, I’d still be trying to get chapter one right of that first book, rather than working to finish my third.

What do you love about Nottingham and its creative scene right now?

I love the sheer variety of talent and passion for supporting creativity we have in Nottingham at the moment. Wherever you look in the city there are people sharing that enthusiasm week in week out, from The Mouthy Poets, to Broadway Book Club, to emerging comic, music and book stores like Five Leaves, to the programmes celebrating Nottingham’s creativity on Notts TV – I can only see it growing.  I joined over a hundred readers in the Dawn of the Unread mass read recently – it was fantastic to see how many people were willing to say how important stories were to them and how important it is to share that passion. I was involved in promoting last year’s Nottingham Festival of Words, and was amazed by how much talent is here in the city, working away to bring amazing new things for Nottingham audiences to experience. I’m looking forward to seeing more of that when the festival launches later this year.

How would you describe Nottingham to a visitor coming to the Festival of Words?

Nottingham is born from stories of rebellion, beginning with Robin Hood’s literary legacy, and continuing through rebel writers, rebel printers, rebel booksellers, and since Dawn of the Unread’s flashmob event, rebel readers! If you want more from your words, so do we - we’re a city made of stories. All you have to do is come, look, listen and get involved- you won’t regret it.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Great Writing Starts Here

Write Club, downstairs at Nottingham Writers' Studio
If you've followed my @Andrew_Kells tweets and Facebook updates recently, you'll know my start to 2014 has been dominated by the launch of Nottingham Writers Studio. Based in Nottingham's Creative Quarter, I've been working hard with a dedicated team of other writer volunteers to create a real home for writing in Nottingham. And it looks ace!

If you want to know more, here's a link to my guest blog post for Creative Nottingham - and if you'd like to see it for yourself, you're more than welcome to pop in and say hello - I should be the one writing on the pink chair.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Black Glass at Derby Quad

Had a great afternoon meeting readers and writers at Leicester Sci-Fi Festival this weekend - I joined Alex Davis of Boo Books and fellow writers Gary Budgen and Mike Chinn to launch After the Fall, our collection of short stories around the end of technology.

I really enjoyed reading The Black Glass, and it was interesting to see how other people received our ideas on a world where the technology we take for granted was no longer something you could rely on. Stories shared, books signed, friends made - a good day. Big thanks to Starbase Leicester and the festival goers for making us feel so welcome.

If you missed us at Leicester, you can catch up with us at Derby Quad cinema on Thursday 15th May - we'll be reading and discussing our work from 7pm as part of the Derby Film Festival, with the genre defining Mad Max to follow. 
I'm really pleased to be reading at Quad, it's a fantastic venue for Derby, and a key location in The Black Glass, my short story in After the Fall - if you want to find out more, come and say hello!

If you can't make it but you'd like a copy of After the Fall, it's available now - visit the Boo Books website now.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Flatpacks, Anthologies and Interviews

The Sillitoe Workspace at
Nottingham Writers Studio
I’ve been knee deep in allen keys and instruction booklets this week while helping to build the writing workspace in the new Nottingham Writers’ Studio – transforming a derelict pram shop into a new focal point for writers in the city is a lot of work and dedication, but it’s worth the effort, and coming together brilliantly.

It’s been fantastic to see the reaction of people as they come to visit the space for the first time (thank you for calling in, Paula Rawsthorne) and it’s exciting to see new people see the potential of the space as we get closer to our launch event later this month.
Which is why I’ve only just managed to blog about next week’s reading at Leicester SF Festival – and why I’ve only just started to get nervous about it…

I’ll be reading The Black Glass, my short story in the new Boo Books Anthology of post-technology tales, After The Fall. I’ve read work at the festival before, and the crowd are always really friendly and receptive to writers they may not have heard before, so I’m really looking forward to it. I just hope they won’t ask me a tricky question in the Q&A session.
After the Fall from Boo Books, featuring The Black Glass

Sarah Dale, author of Bolder and Wiser
Being interviewed about your work is tricky, but interviewing someone about their work can be even trickier – so I’m choosing my questions for Sarah Dale very carefully when I head back to Waterstones Nottingham and talk to Sarah about Bolder and Wiser, her collection of interviews with women aged sixty and older.

So… if I plan to be kind to Sarah in the evening, will the festival goers at Leicester be kind to me earlier in the day? Should I be thinking about timeslippery shenanigans like this, or should I get on with writing? I think we all know the answer to the last one…

Tickets are still available for both events!
If you’d like to join us at Leicester SF Festival, click here.

If you’d like to join us at Waterstones Nottingham, click here.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Boo! New short story to appear in 'After the Fall' from Boo Books

Although it's February, I've just seen the result of a great start to my writing year - my YA short story 'The Black Glass' has been accepted for Boo Book's forthcoming anthology, 'After the Fall' - it's a real honour to have your work read and commended by your peers, especially when they like it enough to share it with others in their book.

The theme of 'After the Fall' explores a world where the technology I'm using to write this blog, and that you're using to read it, is gone. After a lot of scribbling off-grid with a crayon in January (as low tech as I dared to go), the first line of the story appeared out of nowhere, challenging me to write the rest.

It's one of the first 'longer' short stories I've written (about three and a half thousand words), and I'm really pleased I stuck with it to make it work.  Big thanks to everyone who listened very patiently to me talk about The Black Glass while I was trying to get my head around telling the story of Mad Alice.

'After the Fall' launches in May 2014 - looking forward to reading the other contributors and seeing their vision of a very different future appear through the pages.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Write. Finish things. Keep writing.

Write. Finish things. Keep writing.

That's what I've been trying to keep up across 2013, which has been backed up by the brilliant Neil Gaiman (or rather, Neil Gaiman's brilliant hand), and the results are pretty good - I've done a quick rundown of the milestones I've left for myself in the past year as I launch myself into 2014.

I'm working on finishing Red, my contemporary fairytale very soon, and am really looking forward to the Costa Book Award event at West Bridgford Library this week after winning a pair of tickets with my winning Letter story in a Tweet:
For 40 years, it waited in a locked drawer to be sent. But it did not worry. It knew unspoken words said enough 40 years ago.
If you've not had a quick look back, do it now - you'll be surprised what ground you've covered.  And the stuff you didn't do - that's 2014 planned.

Write. Finish things. Keep Writing.

Didn't See Nothing at Word of Mouth

It's all been a bit full on since my last blogpost (buy me a coffee and I'll talk you through it - all good, but blimey), but a quick thank you to Pippa Hennessy for her support in bringing the Word of Mouth Event to Antenna at the end of 2013.
I had a great night listening to a world of crime-related tales, and a terrifying but worthwhile five minutes performing 'Didn't See Nothing'.  Thanks also to Leftlion for the review of the event.

If you'd like to read Didn't See Nothing, it'll cost you precisely nothing - take a look below: