I can’t remember if I mentioned it at the time, but I’ve had my first article appear in Liberator magazine this year. It’s called ‘The Failure of Localism’ and you can read it – along with the rest of the issue it’s in – here.

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Elsewhere

As I’ve written enough about Eric Pickles here this week, I decided my next piece about him should go somewhere else, so you can find it on Liberal Democrat Voice.

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Nanowrimo 2012

November starts tomorrow, having settled into its new role as the month where you do something a bit different in order to give you something to talk about on the internet. As I already have facial hair, I can’t take part in Movember, so instead it’ll be another attempt at National Novel Writing Month. Amazingly, despite the fact it’s spread far and wide from its origin as something attempted by a group of friends in San Francisco to become a worldwide phenomenon, that stubborn ‘National’ clings alone to the front, with no concerted efforts to either delete it or add an ‘inter’ before it it. That’s probably because people don’t want to work out how to pronounce ‘NoWriMo’ or InNaNoWriMo’ after putting so much effort into learning to pronounce NaNoWriMo.

(Of course, if National Novel Writing Month didn’t exist, it’d be the sort of thing the National Office of Importance would have produced a poster about)

Yet again, I will be attempting to produce fifty thousand words of something during the next thirty days, and as this will be my fifth attempt after four previous successes, I thought I should share my wisdom with you all and collate the lessons I’ve learned over those previous 200,000 words. I may go on at length, so if you want to read more, you’ll find it beneath the cut.

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As you’ll have noticed from my twitter feed yesterday, I managed to get a joke I’d written featured on BBC Radio 4 Extra’s Newsjack last night. If you want to hear it, then it’s available on iPlayer for another week, which you can listen to by clicking here. You should listen to the whole thing of course, but if you’re in a rush, my joke is at 21:20.

It’s the first time I’ve ever submitted anything to Newsjack, so maybe it’s beginner’s luck, but having something I’ve written appear on air does feel rather good. Now I just need to get on and try and think of things to submit for next week’s show.

Newsjack is open to anyone who wants to submit, so if you think you can do better than me, go ahead! The official website is here and the information on how to submit is here. Good luck!

UPDATE: And thanks to Jennie for reminding me that it’s available to download as a podcast as well.

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I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned before that I’m a member of the Colchester WriteNight group at 15 Queen Street. We’re a group of writers that gets together twice a month (on the 2nd and 4th Mondays) to write, talk and go to the pub afterwards – all the traditional things that writers do.

As this week’s meeting was just two days before National Flash Fiction Day, tonight we had a flash fiction challenge, and as I’m trying to put more content up on this blog again, I thought I’d share what I produced. The challenge was to produce a 300-word story containing twenty words from a list (in order, if possible) on any subject, in any setting you wished. So, my mind came up with this:

“Green.” He said, satisfied.
A rather presumptuous statement, I thought, and wondered how to respond. It came in a flash.
“Archetypical opening.” I countered, hoping to inject a small bug into his processing. He grimaced like a disgruntled gargoyle, deep routines within him mulling over its meaning, staring through me as if I was transparent. Higher intelligences had a tendency to regard us humans as fleshy interruptions in their communing with the deep strata.
“The inevitable decline of Sparta.” He said, and the pencil in my hand snapped. My subconscious had ascertained the meaning of his talk, even if the near-infinite levels of complexity buried within his manner were incomprehensible.
My mouth was arid. Their simulacra were almost perfect, brash in their ability to replicate humanity to, but there was always something instinctively wrong, like an oval trying to pretend it was a perfect circle. Thoughts like that could make you psychotic if you kept them too long.
“Babble.” I said. “Balderdash, piffle and tosh.” Instinct told me the right response, and instinct was why I’d been sent here. I tried to relax, feeling like I’d sent my queen forward on an attack, then realising I’d not checked the location of his knights.
I was just to restore the balance with them, make up for the negligent way my predecessors had negotiated. I didn’t have to push for victory, just phone it in until sufficient respect had been paid.
The transition in him was sudden. “Policing.” He said, and I suppose that’s the closest his kind get to admitting error. Or announcing our immolation in seconds with barely a thought. That’s the problem with higher intelligences and symbol-based communication, it’s like us humans trying to talk to our gut flora and expecting witty repartee.

Not the greatest story ever told, but it uses all twenty words in order, and if you’re trying to work out what they are, I’ll point out that only one of them – ‘green’ – is used in dialogue.

Anyway, if that inspires you, National Flash Fiction Day is on Wednesday, and the next meeting of WriteNight is on Monday 28th May.

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I happened to be glancing through Adrian Mitchell’s Heart on the Left
this morning (as you do) and rediscovered the poem ‘My Shy Di in Newspaperland’, in which he took lines and headlines from the press coverage of Charles and Diana’s engagement in 1980 and turned them into a poem. Having many better things to do this morning, but in need of an excuse to defer them, I thought I’d try the same with a different public figure in today’s news, and see what the result was.

(Each line is taken whole from media coverage of the event – thank you Google News – and the link in the first word of each line will take you to the story it came from)

Relaying their personal thoughts

Surely the most well-connected woman in the country
Had not predicted the Paulsgrove riots
She said “persuasion” was more accurate
She believed a donation was made

Messages sent by the aides of politicians, but relaying their personal thoughts

It is at least surprising that any one person could be cosy with them all
It was a question she raised herself
I happened to relate this gem to a reporter from the Daily Mail
She considered Mr Blair a friend

Messages sent by the aides of politicians, but relaying their personal thoughts

On occasion and not very often
They went sour after The Sun switched
Tended to look like she was going to the office party
Hardly the incendiary display that many observers had anticipated

Messages sent by the aides of politicians, but relaying their personal thoughts

Those who feel she is in no place to complain
This is the list submitted to the inquiry
Number 10 Downing Street, from Number 11, the Office of the Treasury, from the Home Office, from the Foreign Office
Who she said was not at the dinner

Messages sent by the aides of politicians, but relaying their personal thoughts

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On writing

Something I forgot to mention last year was that I did complete NaNoWriMo again, though it was probably the most difficult time I’ve had of it in my four successes. This time I was a rebel in that I produced my 50,000 words in unconnected short stories rather than as a single novel. This was because I’d just finished an early draft of a novel and wanted to try out all the ideas that had sprung up in my head while I was writing that, ready to clear out my brain ready to go at the next draft.

(And don’t get too excited about me finishing a draft, as it’s still a really rough version and needs lots of work and a complete rewrite before anyone’s going to see it)

But the point of this post was to plug something else that arose from that. For the first time in my knowledge there were some NaNoWriMo write-ins here in Colchester (at 15 Queen Street) where a group of us got together to write, talk about writing, share experiences, drink tea and eat biscuits. As that was a positive experience for everyone who attended – and not just because of the biscuits – it was decided to carry them on as a regular thing and thus, Writenight was born. It’s a roughly fortnightly meeting taking place at 15 Queen Street, open to all and the first meeting of 2012 is tomorrow night. Why not come along if you want to know more?

Yes, I’ve managed to finish National Novel Writing Month again, and have just passed 50,000 words. (Anticlimactically, the 50,000th word was a simple ‘a’)

It was harder this year than the two previous times I’ve tried it (2006 and 2009) because it became clear to me after a few days that the idea I had wasn’t really working. There’s the core of something interesting in there, but the way I’d chosen to tell it didn’t really fit with it and the characters weren’t really sparking into life and jumping off the page for me. Still, I carried on and just let the story wander where it wanted to, dropped in some lengthy digressions and diversions and just kept buggering on until I finally staggered across the finish line. In the end, it’s all good practice at finding ways to keep motivated, and that’s something I need to remember when I switch to working on a new project after a suitable break.

Peter Porter

The poet Peter Porter has died. He was one of the firs poets I can remember studying in any depth at school, especially Your Attention Please.

Some of us may die.
Remember, statistically
It is not likely to be you.

I can also recommend Mort Aux Chats, probably best read in a voice that sounds somewhat like Nick Griffin.

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I’ve been messing around with writing poetry recently, and my thoughts went back to those glorious days of yore when artists didn’t have to worry about pleasing the masses. All they sought to do was win the attention of a single wealthy patron, who would shower them with sufficient coin to ensure they could continue to produce their art with only the occasional diversion into hagiography of the patron or their family.

With that in mind, I decided it was time to demonstrate my hagiographical skills, but who should be the lucky recipient? Then, I caught sight of someone who had risen to a position of power with all the skill of a Renaissance Venetian and seemed to be be in possession of great wealth, such that writing cheques for five-figure sums was something she could do without a pause for thought.

So, beneath the cut, please find my tribute to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. I happily accept cheques or cash, and can probably arrange something through PayPal for credit cards.

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