Here’s an article I wrote for the Royal Literary Fund’s Collected showcase, in which they rather generously describe me as a radio dramatist…
You can find my other radio-related posts here.
I’ll be appearing at Birmingham Literature Festival on October 6th, talking about literary entrepreneurship. The panel, called Making Writing Work, will be chaired by Malachi MacIntosh, and also feature Nick Makoha and Crystal Mahey-Morgan.
We are in the midst of a literary revolution. Gone are the days when writers followed just one career path, as now we welcome the rise of the literary entrepreneur. As the boundaries of literature and literary culture become even more blurred, writers are disrupting their once traditional career paths and extending and intertwining their writing to include other artforms, environments, platforms and formats.
By harnessing creative thinking to generate more value and opportunities, is literary entrepreneurship the key to living a more fulfilled and successful life as a writer?
Our panel – poet Nick Makoha, publicist Crystal Mahey-Morgan and writer Martin Sketchley – will share their own experiences of writing and approaches to publishing, and discuss what it means to be a literary entrepreneur.
Then I’ll be at the Royal Television Society Careers Fair on October 7th, representing The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.
Join us on Monday 7th October to get all the latest tips, tricks and practical advice to help you land that all important first job in TV.
Alongside panel sessions with production teams and talent from the biggest shows and brands, will be bootcamps, CV advice, the opportunity to learn about the different jobs and training schemes that are available and to network with some of the most influential creatives in the business.
It’s UNMISSABLE if you have ever thought about working in telly.
It’s easy to get your writing out of Scrivener into another editor for the final polish using the Compile function. In my case, I always compile to Microsoft Word. Something I’ve wrestled with for a while, however, is getting the headers and footers in Word just how I want them. Fortunately, as with most things Scrivener, the developers have made this easy to do at the Compile stage.
Use the handy Test button to try out your settings before actually compiling.
I hope this helps.
I’ve been to some great gigs in my time. Here are five of my favourites, in no particular order.
Suede, Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 1 November 1994
I was into Suede from the first moment I heard their music, and really loved the angst in the guitar sound. This was one of the first gigs at which Richard Oakes replaced Bernard Butler, and they rocked. The night is covered in this post.
Ezra Furman and the Boyfriends, Birmingham Glee Club, 16 February 2016
I didn’t really want to go to be honest, but my wife did, having seen them on Later… and they were ace. Maybe it was something in the Birmingham audience, but there was a real buzz in the air and energy in the music. As Furman commented: “We do play quiet songs. But that’s not the mood of the room, I can tell.” The support band, The Big Moon, was later shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize, but looked scared to death throughout their set on this particular night.
Fetch Eddie, Goldwyns, 16 May 1990
The best band in Birmingham to never make it, playing funk pop with a bit of indie, and lyrics sometimes a little too close to home. On this night, which turned out to be their last ever gig, the band integrated The Cure’s A Forest into their classic Too Much to Ask For, and wowed everyone. I married one of them. The good looking one. She still does that shake and sing thing.
Alt-J, Nottingham, 8 December 2015
Our daughter introduced us to this band and was desperate to see them, so we took the drive up to Nottingham on a cold and dark December night. I had no idea what to expect but they were brilliantly inventive, and made the kind of music I’d want to play myself. Support band The Horrors, sadly, lived up to their name.
PJ Harvey & John Parish, Birmingham Town Hall, 23 April 2009
Harvey’s powerful songs and masterful use of some vocal effects doodad that added layers of complexity to already incredible vocals were underpinned by a fine rhythm section and fruity Fender Jazzmaster guitars that bathed the audience in a sound like vintage merlot. The juxtaposition of the music’s heritage against the classical backdrop of this entirely seated venue made for a memorable evening. When they played Pig Will Not, the woman sat next to me went absolutely mental.
What are your standout gigs? Post in the comments.
I know punctuation was one of your favourite things at school, right up there with long division, but there’s often confusion over certain points. I’ve put together the examples below to help clarify some of these, as a misplaced apostrophe or hyphen can cause all manner of problems. At the foot of this post you’ll find a handy PDF to download and print for reference.
Commas are widely misunderstood, and generally underused by those writing in an academic context. Common misconceptions are that they should be used “when you take a breath” and that they “shouldn’t be used before and…”. You should use commas to separate different pieces of information within a sentence. Here’s an example:
There is widespread misunderstand regarding use of commas and apostrophes, and both are important to ensure clarity in writing.
You’ll see that the comma in the above sentence is used before and to separate two distinct pieces of information.
These can be pesky little blighters that can cause all manner of confusion, but they’re essential to clarify meaning. Hopefully the examples below will help you get to grips with them.
The chair’s leg is broken.
Chair’s – this is a possessive: it is the leg of the chair.
Chairs’ legs are often broken.
Chairs’ – again a possessive, but this refers to the legs of multiple chairs; legs does not have an apostrophe as this is simply the plural of leg.
The chair’s got a broken leg.
Chair’s – this is chair has, different from the possessive chair’s above.
The chair’s broken.
Chair’s – the chair is broken.
Someone should really mend these chairs…
No apostrophe for chairs here, as this is simply the plural of chair.
The kids’ bedroom is untidy.
Kids’ – this is the bedroom of more than one kid.
The kid’s bedroom is untidy.
One lazy kid who can’t tidy a room.
The children’s playground…
Children’s – apostrophe-s here, as children is already a plural. Similarly, the people’s champion.
There can be confusion over whether to put an apostrophe before or after the s regarding names, etc. Officially, if there’s an s then the apostrophe goes after, but there’s also a school of thought that this only applies if the s actually has a z sound:
James’ coat was wet.
James ends in a z sound.
Thomas’s coat was wet.
Thomas ends in an s sound.
However, if you’re referring to a brand or company that has an apostrophe, then you have to keep it:
McDonald’s’ burgers are very popular. Similarly, M&M’s’ market share…
ITS, IT’S and ITS’
OK, the easy one first: its’ does not exist. Never has, never will. So, that established…
It’s is only ever it is or it has.
The chair’s broken: it’s one of the legs.
Here we’ve got chair’s for chair is, then it’s because we’re saying it is one of the legs. The colon separates the statement from the reason (more on that later).
The chair’s wobbly; I think its leg is broken.
Chair’s here shortens chair is, but there’s no apostrophe for its, because we’re not saying it is or it has. There’s a semi-colon for the run-on sentence.
If unsure just ask yourself whether you’re saying it is or it has. If not, then its.
COLONS AND SEMI-COLONS
Use a colon to indicate a list, reason or example to follow:
There are three primary colours: red, yellow, blue.
Unattended belongings will be removed after 30 minutes: this is a security issue.
Also use semi-colons to separate several longer clauses after a colon:
Today the student asked me about punctuation, and we covered several points in depth: the correct way to use an apostrophe in several contexts; use of a semi-colon in run-on sentences and to separate clauses; the difference between hyphens and dashes.
Also use a semi-colon with a run-on sentence:
Library attendants regularly patrol the building; unattended belongings will be removed after 30 minutes.
HYPHENS AND DASHES
Use hyphens to join related words:
Peer-to-peer sharing… / One-to-one tutorials… / This is a long-term trend.
However, examples like the latter can be context-specific, so:
The trend is evident over the long term.
Dashes can be used to indicate text that deviates from the main point:
Apostrophe use needed some explaining – so many variations! – but we got there in the end.
But use brackets for supporting information:
The Cold War (1947-1991) was a state of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies following World War II.
Some spelling mistakes are invisible to the spell-checker, and other words are commonly misused for one reason or another. Here are some to look out for, and a few examples of unnecessary text.
If you’ve been here before you’ll know how I love my BBC audio drama, particularly Pilgrim by Sebastian Baczkiewicz, starring Paul Hilton as William Palmer “compelled to walk […] between the worlds of magic and of men”. Well, BBC Radio 4 Extra is repeating every episode, giving you the opportunity to listen again or discover for the first time what all the fuss is about. Highly recommended.
Sometimes you just want to make a note on your Mac. Nothing fancy – just a text file that’s searchable, giving you quick and easy access. There are several ways to do this, but most are more complex then necessary. If you have Keyboard Maestro, however, you can easily create a simple macro that provides a streamlined solution using TextEdit.
Such files store simple snippets of information. For example, I’ve recorded my Writers’ Guild membership number in this way, so if I ever need to quote my number all I have to do is use Spotlight (I actually use Alfred but it’s a similar thing), type the file name, and hit return to open said file. I have lots of others, and storing these in a Dropbox folder called Notes means I can access them using the Files app on my phone.
TextEdit is a stalwart of the Mac, but for many uses, such as blogging or coding, it’s been supplanted by more use-specific apps with added functionality. Yet it’s TextEdit’s simplicity and lack of bloat that make it particularly appealing in this case.
First off, launch TextEdit, open Preferences, and set a couple of defaults. In Preferences, I set new documents to open as plain text, to streamline and simplify, and set the plain text font to Menlo 14pt so it’s nice and easy to read.
The macro itself is quite simple, requiring the following steps:
Then all you have to do is type your note, and quit when finished. When saving in TextEdit for the first time, navigate to the folder in which you store your notes, and the app will continue to use this path unless you dictate otherwise.
To make this process really convenient, assign a hotkey to the macro – I have OPT+1 set to several macros, which gives me a palette; I just hit the appropriate number – in this case 6 – and Bob’s yer uncle.
I previously used nvALT to create such notes, but when I upgraded my computer it was one of those apps I didn’t bring to the new machine. iA Writer, in which I’m drafting this post, can also be used for this purpose. Yet while Writer’s a great-looking and functional app whose files are searchable, for something as simple a one-line or even one-word text note, there are just too many layers to the processes of creation, saving and organisation.
As with most things Keyboard Maestro, thinking about each step is key – there are often more than you expect, and you may need to add pauses to allow each step to be completed before the computer tries to take the next. The real trick is examining the way you work, and finding ways to utilise Keyboard Maestro’s extensive capabilities.