Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New blogs: Chock full o'writers

One of the cool side benefits of running the Rainy City Stories project is getting to find out about a lot of writer's blogs. Gosh, just look at all of them:


It's Alrite, Ma (I'm Only Writing)

Gill's Blog

Broughton Writing Lives

Spooky Action, Spooky Aiden

Natalie Uninterrupted

No Chance: A Quarter to One

Jockey Full of Bourbon

Atomised Amnesia

Writing because I have to

Santiago's Dead Wasp

I am going to continue to add blogs I get tipped off to through the site to the blogroll. I am assuming here that if you write a blog that's live on the internet and are putting it forward as a link with something you submit to be published online, you're quite happy for people to find out about it and maybe go read your writing. However, I've been wrong about this before, so if I post a link to your blog and you didn't want me to, just get in touch and it will be stricken from the record. I will, however, advise you to stop writing a blog and go buy yourself a moleskine.

Over in the realm of personal blogs, we have new additions in the blogs by mothers who write about their kids but also write interesting things about themselves subcategory: My Shitty Twenties and my neighbour Adventures of a Sleepless Toddler.

Another American expat blogger in Manchester? Yup, check it out: Uncouth American

He's cynical, and his name is Ben. He's Cynical Ben

Image: Will Freeborn's Girl in White Jacket, part of the Moleskine Project

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

It's hard being an expat today, thinking of all my friends in DC for the inauguration celebrations and wishing I was there. I feel cut off over here, but I guess that this is payment for all those times I smugly joked about hating Bush so much that I had actually left the country, like some pinko draft dodger who made a run for the border. And bragged about having universal healthcare and state maternity pay.

But it's a wonderful day.

After years, decades, of the American people being so down on their country and so resigned to disappointment in politics and government it's delightfully weird to see everyone so gaga, so starry-eyed and hopeful about the future and drunk on goodwill to all men.

My country has turned into a Frank Capra movie. And I wish I was there to experience it, because the milk of human kindness has a short shelf-life. The same press that lionized Obama could turn on him at the first shaky decision or PR gaffe. He's won a questionable prize: leadership of a country with problems that would take the ablest of leaders years to begin to fix. How long will people give him?

Still, I'm going to try to put these worries aside and just relish the joy while it's here. Sometimes the good guys win, and sometimes they get the chance to make things better. Let's be hopeful while we can.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lovely Levenshulme

In the Manchester neighbourhood standings, Levenshulme seems to get more than its fair share of love. I've only been there a few times myself and didn't really spend enough time to get a real sense of the place, so I've always wondered: what is it about Levenshulme that inspires such devotion?

The newest manifestation of this good vibe emanating from South Manchester is Love Levenshulme. It's a project that invites L-hulme residents to write the things they love about living there on a special postcard, which they can give or send to people or businesses they want to show their appreciation to.

Project organiser Matt Clements describes it on the Love Levenshulme blog as "a kind of underground viral appreciation marketing."

He explains it thusly: “It all started off as a little homespun idea to try to show some appreciation for people in the community who do the little everyday things that make a big difference. I’d be strolling round Levenshulme with my children, pointing out gardens where people had made a real effort, or meeting friendly people in shops, and I wanted to find a way of saying ‘thanks.’” What a lovely idea. Visit LL HQ to find out where to get the postcards, and to read what some Levenshulme-based bloggers have to say about their hood.

(Image - which is NOT one of the Love Levenshulme postcards, Matt would like me to point out - sourced from Lady Levenshulme. Who else?)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Seven things

Okay, so I just read Follow the Yellow Brick Road and am now infected with this meme and I need to write seven things about myself here on this blog.

1. I have just joined the Ramsbottom Choral Society. I may be the youngest person there by a good few years. Nearly everyone I spoke to had been singing in the choir for 15, 20 or 25 years. I wonder if I will still be singing in this choir in 25 years. It may take me that long to learn how to sing Mozart's Requiem, which is hard, especially if you were never that good at reading music in the first place and haven't been singing for a long time.

2. I had pneumonia twice when I was three and I was seriously ill. One of my first memories is being delirious with fever and seeing pink and purple rabbits on the ceiling. I also remember that I was sick over Halloween and I was very put out about missing the trick or treating. My mom let me wear my Donald Duck mask in bed.

3. I am a science fiction and fantasy geek, though these days its much cooler to call it speculative fiction. I worship Ursula Le Guin, Diana Wynne Jones, Neil Gaiman, Robin McKinley, Kelly Link, David Mitchell and Roger Zelazny. When I was 14 I joined the Doctor Who Appreciation Society and they sent me an "intergalactic passport." I still have it. Haven't used it yet.

4. I am partial to polar bears. Also, otters. Not so sure about the ferrets.

5. I have two scars. A crescent shaped one on my knee is from New Year's Eve, um... 2005, I think, when I was dancing somewhat creatively at a party at Islington Mill and fell down on a grate. The other is a fingertip-sized depression on my ankle, my souvenir of a motorcycle accident in Taiwan in 1997. The doctor said I didn't need stitches, which was totally wrong, but what did I know?

6. Today I am obsessed with the song Safety Dance by Men Without Hats. I forgot about this song for a long time and need to make up for that by playing it a lot until I get tired of it and move on to a different song, like Jenny (867-5309) by Tommmy Tutone.

7. I take milk and honey in my tea, which British people seem to find bizarre.

There. If you've read this and you have a blog, you've caught the meme. You are so infected. The only cure is to go write seven things about yourself on your blog and link back to this post, if you feel like it and you have the time. Don't feel compelled to. But you should. I think it's interesting to learn random things about people. The trick is to do it fast and not think too hard about what you're writing.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Mules, soup and other literary matters

Did I say I had a billion things to blog about? Make that a billion and ten. No, wait, twelve. Two more very important things just winged their way into my inbox. Here's some literary things...

Tim Woodall writes to us from Chorlton to tell us that he and Joe Patrick will be managing a writers and artists blog by the name of SOUP.They're seeking submissions, but no old farts of 27 or 34 need apply: "To submit, you need to be between the ages of 20 and 25 and currently live in Greater Manchester. It might seem strange that we are only accepting submissions from people within this age bracket, but... as practicing young artists it is much easier to find established publications with strict submission guidelines and stiff competition than it is to stumble across platforms more suited to our most recent creative efforts."

M. from Manchester indymedia wrote to let us know about The Mule Magazine, a collaborative, UK-wide grassroots news site for justice and peace. They're not big on bylines, but they have a smattering of stuff excerpted from speeches and znet articles as well as other pieces presumably written by members of the collective. And they have a pretty interesting Manchester page which is strong on local activism news, though it could use some updating. Anyway, check it out.

Peter Hartey of Poetica has passed on news of an online poetry competition designed to raise awareness of Mines Advisory Group, an NGO based in Manchester. The MAG Poetry Prize has an interesting setup - the entrants are the judges, and their entry fees add up to the prize money. The prize is being run by Poetic Republic, an offshoot of Poetica, the writer's group based at the Central Library which has been going for yonks. Nice website, great cause.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Rainy City Love Stories contest

Welcome to 2009, our shiny new year. I have about a billion things to blog about, but they will all have to wait 'til tomorrow. I can tell you this, though: We're running a Valentine's day themed contest on Rainy City Stories. Yeah, I know the holiday was created by the greeting card industry and is just an excuse for hapless couples to be overcharged for bad food served on pink doilies once a year. We're celebrating with writing. See below (and apologies if you've already gotten this in another format since I'm cutting and pasting here. You people can stop reading now.)

Rainy City Stories wants your love. We also want your love stories and poems. In honour of Valentine’s Day, we’re offering a wonderful prize for the best Rainy City Love Story we receive in the next month.

Whether you're an old romantic or a cynic, we invite you to tell us your tales (real or imagined) of falling in, out, or over love in our city. But don’t restrict yourselves to traditional romances; we’re willing to interpret “love story” in a wider sense. The winning submission could be about a more abstract kind of love. It could even be an anti-love poem, or a rant against all things loved-up
The winning piece of writing will be published on our website on the eve of Valentine’s Day amid a shower of cupids and lace bows and twinkly-eyed kittens. And the winner will receive a big fat £50 Borders gift voucher (the kind of thing that really makes us writer-types swoon), kindly donated by our friends at the Manchester Literature Festival.

Here’s the lowdown: Entries must be submitted by close of business on Tuesday, February 10. Please submit short stories or poems through the cunning mechanism on our website and put the words “love contest entrant” at the top of the story. Entrants should only submit their own original work, and writing that has not previously been published. Also, by entering the competition you grant RCS the right to publish the piece online.

(Picture by Gregoire Chabrol.)

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