Tag: Storyhouse

Two essential events at this year’s Chester Lit Fest

A busy day at Chester’s Storyhouse, then.

It was the final full week of the Chester Literature Festival and I was running two events last week — a morning discussion [first two slides] and a lunchtime workshop [latter two slides].

The former was based around my book, Inside Fatherhood, and took the form of an audience-participation discussion about modern masculinity, fatherhood and male role models.

The latter was a writing workshop, serving as a taster for anyone trying to their idea into print, albeit fiction, journalism, blog or memoir.

Mark Chester, founder of the organisation Who Let The Dads Out, joined me.

He helped to lead the discussion and then bounce ideas in the workshop about more creative writing, while I focused on writing for magazines and websites.

Thanks to Mark and everyone who turned up on the day, including those we dragged up to join the discussion. We appreciate your support.

And we had some good feedback afterwards:

“I throughly enjoyed it and as usual, found some like-minded people to chat to. I’d enjoy any [future] event that makes me write something.”

So, here’s to the next one … watch this space.

Spotlight: a profile interview for amble magazine

I’m normally the one who asks the questions.

But, this week, I did an interview with amble, the new online magazine for Chester.

It’s strange talking about myself when I’m used to being the interviewer, not the interviewee. It’s for a profile piece about the creative community around Chester.

So what did we talk about?

How to get into journalism. Is print dead? Chester as a place to live and work. Black magic in Cuba. Barbie cruises. Hosting a forthcoming event at the Chester Literature Festival.

Writing a review of the recent Nick Cave gig to mark a quarter century since my first ever published article.

And, finally, a sneak preview of my new book, Inside Fatherhood, coming out in March next year.

Read the full article, Inside the world of a professional writer.

#WriteHereWriteNow: How to write reviews

I was reading an interview with Danny Baker last week.

You may remember him as the man from those Eighties TV ads for Ariel, the hungover wingman to Chris Evan’s Britpop benders in the Nineties or the first one voted off last year’s I’m A Celebrity.

But, back in the summer of ’76, he was one of the Depford punk-rock gunslingers behind the legendary punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue. No, really.

And he had a motto for his early reviews of The Sex Pistols and The Clash, notes scribbled under a hail of spit and stale beer down the front of the moshpit.

“Sometimes right, sometimes wrong; always certain.”

Could we all learn from Baker’s juvenile chutzpah?

Here’s the issue: when it comes to writing reviews, it’s easy to be dull. Reviews are, essentially, a form of features in style yet it’s a format many even experienced writers struggle with.

Try this one, a review of the new Titanic hotel by the Belfast-born writer Glenn Paterson — a writer I admire.

Does it inform? Does it entertain?

Reviewers tread a fine line between information and entertainment. After all, most people reading reviews have no intention to ever buy the album/ see the film/ eat at the restaurant.

It’s a vicarious pleasure.

And the writers that tend to stand out are the ones with a distinctive voice, as well as in-depth knowledge of their specialist subject.

Think the late A.A. Gill of Sunday Times restaurant reviews fame, or Charles Spencer’s description of Nicole Kidman in The Blue Room as “pure theatrical Viagra” in a 1998 Daily Telegraph theatre review.

Gill died of cancer last year and, indeed the critics generally are dying off in the face of celebrity bloggers.

The media commentator Peter Preston laments this in today’s Observer. He writes:

“I think that, in small but important ways, critics help civilise journalism.”

This month at #WriteHereWriteNow we will consider the art of the critic.

Before the meeting on October 26, let’s try to write a 150-word review of something — a TV programme, a film, a new CD etc.

Can you channel a youthful Danny Baker to establish your voice?

Be right, or be wrong; be always be certain.

Liked this? Try also How to make the most of direct speech

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#WriteHereWriteNow: How to make the most of direct speech

We love direct speech.

As writers, nothing brings life to our work more the actual words people say.

Quotes, dialogue, comment — whatever you call it. We need the words of others to add emotion, opinion and drama.

Just try reading a book by the journalist and author Jon Ronson.

The man behind The Psychopath Test and others has made a career out of using direct speech to optimum effect.

But quotes mean handling interviews and therein lies the issue: sometimes interviews go wrong.

Try this clip, for example. Unluckily for the Channel Four News presenter Krishna Guru-Murthy, this car-crash celebrity interview has since gone down in history.

Next step forward Rhys Ifans. The Ruthin-born actor became legendary for all the wrong reasons a few years ago after a magazine interview turned into a study in interview hell.

Handling interviews is not easy and a skill only acquired through practise over time. That, and making mistakes.

We’ll be discussing how we use direct speech and how to get the best out of our interviewees at the next #WriteHereWriteNow meeting at Storyhouse, Chester.

Share your experiences and join the conversation before the next meeting by posting below.

Over to you …

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