My wonderful publisher Headline, or rather my wonderful publicist Maura, has been busy sending out review copies of ATGAS (as I refer to my new book) and suddenly lots of people are showing an interest. In the last two days I've had two offers to write articles for magazines, a request for a radio interview and an invitation to appear at an arts festival.
So, I should be getting on with Book 2 of my memoirs series but when opportunities for publicity come along, you have to jump!
It’s ages since I last went camping but this weekend brought it all back. First there was the joy of putting up my tent in the rain. And wind. And cold. The forecast said it would be blue skies and heat – this was June! But no, the gusts made everything flap manically and I wouldn’t have managed if there hadn’t been a friend there to help.
So eventually the tent went up and I crawled inside with my bags of already-squashed things. I’d forgotten that you can’t stand up in my tent: three days of lurching around in a hunch like Quasimodo or crawling like a toddler and spilling drinks or kicking over the light. Then someone, some genius tent designer, decided that the guy ropes should be blue. Dark blue. So no matter how often you remind yourself that they’re there, you still trip over them at least four times an hour. And in the dark they’re completely invisible so I probably peed on them as well…
Ah, the dark. In houses we don’t care about the dark – we nonchalantly flick our light switches and know that we can see things at all hours. But in a tent you reside in a gloomy world of half-light, of shadows and murk. I bought a feeble little battery lamp to hang up but it possessed all the luminosity of a smouldering fag-end. Reading was hopeless and I found myself relying on touch and, after a couple of days, smell.
Of course there’s sound too and as I lay down in a paper thin oversmall sleeping bag (on the airbed with the slow leak) there was no shortage: the howling wind bashing against the tent was probably the loudest, followed closely by the rain beating tom-tom like on the nylon above, with the traffic from the nearby busy road in third. And when the next night the weather did improve there was the jolly revelry of my fellow campers, discussing beer and having a farting contest.
But back to the first night. I slept for about 8 minutes and then dawn arrived about 4.30 am. Birds tweeted and soon people got up and bashed metal things. They shouted to their mates. They moved around. I fell back into semi-consciousness but then emerged, crusty and blinded into the day. The zip stuck. My back ached. I tripped over the guy rope. Some of the tent pegs had come out so I put those back in and headed for the showers. There was a queue. I found an empty toilet but there was no loo paper.
Breakfast was a banana (brown, having been trodden on frequently) but lunch demanded that the stove be lit. It was raining again so it had to be inside the teeny awning. I found some pasta. Now where was the water? Where was the pan? A spoon? A bowl? I looked across at a burger van and was tempted but no, I had to do this properly.
The pasta was actually very good and I recalled that food always tastes better at camp. And then the rain stopped. We had a day of wind and cloud before the predicted sun arrived. The temperature inside the tent went from 9 degrees to about 40 in a few minutes. The margarine and cheese didn’t like it. Nor did I – it was too hot. Ah, camping… (and no, I wasn't at Glastonbury!).
After ten years of research, writing, rewriting, posting, waiting, rejection, abandonment, rebirth, more rewriting and then editing, my first book for adults ALL TEACHERS GREAT AND SMALL is here. It has just been printed and my lovely publishers Headline rushed me a copy by special delivery.
What a thrill to actually hold the book after a decade of ups and downs. I now have to wait patiently until it's published on July 21st... The hardback is lovely to hold, with an excellent cover and really attractive design (in my view). It's exciting to have a book printed on good quality paper after seeing some recent children's books suffering from unwelcome economising.
One of the problems with contemporary life is that there are so few opportunities to create a diversion. Diversions are created aplenty in films, comics have loads and they rarely do anything else in cartoons. In fact, I can't recall the last time I did create a diversion. Who did I divert and what for? Anyway, I intend to make up for this serious shortfall so watch out in the next few days because you may well end up having your attention distracted while the real action is going on elsewhere...
And back to writing. I've now penned around 25,000 words of the follow up to All Teachers Great and Small (or ATGAS as the editorial team know it) - my memoir of working in a madcap rural school in the Eighties. It's slow going and the target of 100k words seems a long way off but it's fun reliving some of the ludicrous things I got up to in those days as a teacher.
Writing is a lonely occupation and authors tend to get very excited about social events as a result. I'm no exception and will shortly be setting off for the Big City darn sarf to quaff free drinks and scauff multiple canapes at the Headline 25th birthday party. It's being held at One Marylebone, a former church now converted into a swankier than swank venue, and I expect the place will be heaving with editors, publicists, agents, sales directors, comissioners and even the odd writer. Or very odd writer in my case.
It's usually hard to hear anyone speak above the rising babble on these occasions and I'm sure that many others, like me, will grin stupidly and nod to all sorts of statements which are completely inaudible but also possibly rude and libellous:
Talker: So you write books?
Me (nodding, unable to hear a word): Hmmm, yes.
Talker: Where are you from?
Me: Yes, yeah.
Talker: I bet they're rubbish.
Me: Mmmm, that's right.
Talker: In fact, you're a complete moron, aren't you?
Me: (still nodding): Oh, yes.
The only advantage to this state of affairs is that it works both ways. So, tonight I shall head for the nearest celeb author and start mumbling...
I visited a secondary school in Rochdale last week to work with a science class who were writing picture books for younger children to explain concepts like habitats, adaptation and food webs. It's an inspired activity and the students had some clever ideas about storylines once I'd explained how narrative arcs are constructed. Some of the illustrations are priceless too and I'm hoping to see a video of the class reading their stories to a group of infants.
Then there was the afternoon... I was given a one-off session with a group of Y8 students who had an English class. I was asked to do some poetry and took in a few light-hearted pieces to read out to give them an idea of what I write. I read the following poem of mine, a tribute to the mighty John Cooper Clark, to the bemused class, who didn't know what to make of it. The teacher, however, was laughing her head off in the corner.
I had a wonderful, witty hand-made fathers' day card from my delightful daughter today. My two boys have long flown the nest and now reside in far-flung places which don't resemble Yorkshire at all. It's good to have one sprog still at home even if she's now big, occasionally lippy and liable to be playing very strange music at any given time.
Two of my offspring are photographers, one professional and the other just very talented. It's great to see the quality and imagination of their pictures. Here are just a few images I like:
A woman friend explained ‘buy one get one free’ to me today. I don’t know why she felt the need to do this but I found it immensely entertaining.
‘You see, you buy one item, and they just give you another one for nothing,’ she said earnestly.
‘Hang on, hang on,’ I said. ‘Can we just go through that again from the beginning?’
She looked at me for a second, unsure if I was serious or not then we burst out laughing.
Well, I did anyway.
I always think of Yoda from Star Wars when I see BOGOF signs in shops and imagine him wandering in and proclaiming in that alien voice, ‘Ah, get one free buy one!’ Now that would really confuse my friend.
Another blog? What's it all about? OK, let me explain. I'm an author who has spent ten years waiting for the arrival of a certain book and it's now nearly, almost here. All Teachers Great and Small is the title and it's a memoir about my days as a village school teacher in the glorious, beguiling Yorkshire Dales.
The book is humorous, moving, nostalgic and full of true stories about bluff farmers, scary teachers, crazy kids and much, much stranger things including a donkey wheel, a model sewage works, a flying octopus and killer caterpillars. You'll love it!
The book is published in hardback by Headline on 21st July this year, and this blog essentially tells the curious story of the book, about its author and what it's like to have an autobiographical undressing out there which at times makes me sound like a buffoon!
Oh, and I'll also be posting news and bits 'n' bobs about the life of a writer.