Saturday, 31 January 2015

Brilliant Books - 28th January 2015

I don't like snow. I also don't like gale force winds. I especially don't like snow AND gale force winds mixed together. It's why I'm looking at moving to Los Angeles.

So it was no surprise that it was the coldest, windiest day of the year when I dragged myself from my warm bed while it was still dark. I didn't want to. I wanted to stay wrapped up in my duvet burrito. For a brief moment, I debated emailing the Wiz and spinning some tale about snow and leaves on the line and trains that had disappeared into a time sucking portal (fairly normal for the British railways).

But I couldn't. My people needed me!

And by people, I mean a bunch of really cool kids who were going to teach me a thing or two about being a writer.
The bookmarks I took with me.

Back in 2014, I was asked to take part in a project called Brilliant Books. Aimed at children who don't really read, the idea is to bring in people who love reading and encourage another generation to do the same. Along the way, the children work on ideas and short stories. These are compiled into a book that anyone, including you and I, can buy.

So probably against their better judgement, the team asked me to go. I went through a list of things I could do do with the kids to get them interested in reading. All of them, including the indoor rockets, were vetoed. Something about a thing called “Elf N Safety”. After a couple of days of being grumpy, I hit on an idea. I'd read from my favourite book (“War of the Worlds” by HG Wells), talk about Victorian inventions, and then get into another of my favourite things. Music. Victorians perfected recording music and I just happened to have an original wax cylinder (with a recording by Billy Williams on it) lying around. Handy, that!

So, with the wind and snow whistling around my ankles and my trusty pink suitcase by my side, I boarded a train for Nottingham...

To say I was nervous was an understatement. I've talked in front of most age ranges. But I've never talked to school age kids before. I managed to work my way through the portion of the book I was reading (Chapter 2 for anyone who's interested) before gathering up the pile of goodies and doing what I do best: Sitting on the floor and spreading them around me. I took with me a variety of items, including the wax cylinder, an LP of Fleetwood Mac's “Rumours”, CDs of Jeff Wayne's “War of the Worlds”, and my slightly battered MP3 player.

That was it! Suddenly any barriers had crumbled and the kids and myself had a blast talking about inventions, spooky farms, and music. Nottingham has a worldwide claim to fame in that it was the first city to have a road paved with tarmac back in 1845. We talked about the possibility of life on other planets, of what aliens would look like and how they'd act. We especially enjoyed talking about Skinwalker Ranch in Utah, a place that supposedly has portals to other worlds and some shady links to the US government. The kids seemed to love that and I learned something valuable; kids love spooky stories! We didn't want to stop talking and I feel like we'd have still been there now, eating fruit and chattering away.

Needless to say, it was an inspiring and humbling day. From a reader's point of view, it was amazing to see the next generation picking up books and reading. It was wonderful to sit with them and talk about the books we had read and the ones we planned to get next. From a writer's point of view, it was heart warming to sit with them and help them work on stories and ideas. I loved listening to them read their pieces and I'm not ashamed to say that I cheered and clapped. I may have cried a little on the way home, the happiness and exhilaration of the day overwhelming.

I can't wait to go again! It would be an honour to be asked to return. And I can't wait to read the book these guys produce at the end of it! Loved them and everything they were doing and I can't wait to see what they do with their ideas! Thank you for allowing me to come and talk to you. Most of all, thank you for all the love, hugs, and high fives. I'll see you again soon!

Thursday, 22 January 2015


Have you ever felt like you're on this planet to do something? Has there been a gnawing feeling in your stomach, one that, no matter how hard you try, you can't ignore?

When I was six, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. By the time I was sixteen, I was telling everyone I was going to Hollywood. When I was nineteen I had offers from film schools in Los Angeles, New York, and the Netherlands. Up until that point, all I'd wanted to do was make action films. That was it.

Then it all came crashing down when I was raped.

That one moment, that single night, killed something inside of me, crushed my spirit and made me forget my dreams. The film school I'd chosen offered to put my place on hold for a year but I couldn't do it.

I finally did go to film school, albeit in the UK but, by then, it was too late. I was desperately trying to forget my past and, in doing so, started to destroy my life. I was argumentative and uncooperative. I most certainly wasn't in the best head space to be at school. I began drinking and taking drugs as I desperately tried to prove that I was still a human being, a creature with a soul and a spirit.

But that spirit had been crushed. It was withering and dying and I was becoming an empty husk.

You know how the story goes next. I was told I needed to quit drinking as, if I didn't, I'd be due a new liver in a matter of weeks. Then I overdosed.

That shit had to stop.

For the next ten years, I pulled myself back together, bouncing around the country from place to place and job to job. Settling wasn't an option as, in the ruins of my soul, there was this inkling that I needed to be doing something. I couldn't survive doing the regular 9 to 5 routine. I didn't want to have a house or a car or any of the other trappings of life. Not until I got to this unknown destination.

I started writing again. It took time and it took effort. I had to battle through the haze of medication I'd been given in the wake of my overdose. I had to learn to discipline myself into putting words on to paper.

Writing screenplays 101: Make new "friends".
So I did and I got lucky. I've had a few things published and picked up a couple of awards along the way. I'm very proud of everything I've done in these past few years and I thought that was it. My books were getting into peoples hands and I was happy.

Then the gnawing started again. My feet became unsettled and I found myself stressed for no reason other than being stressed. I got shouty and angry. My moods were swinging and I began to question life. Was this all there was? Was I going to spend the rest of my life in a tiny town and occasionally leave to go somewhere nice for a few days?

In June 2014 I had an email from a friend who religiously reads everything I put out. “This needs to be written as a screenplay. Do NOT do anything else with it. Screenplay first.”

This needs to be written as a screenplay.

Those words whirled around my head. Could I? Should I?

Suddenly that gnawing went to a whole new level. It began to take over me until I couldn't ignore it any more. So I got to work.

It took several months of going through notes, rewriting ideas, and generally making friends with my crippled soul again. But, by the end of it, I had a passable first draft. And, for the first time in years, I felt at peace. Suddenly the stress had melted away and I'd stopped caring about so many things which, quite frankly, didn't need my energy to care about. I stopped worrying so much. It felt as though my body was singing a different song. It felt as though I was on the right track again. My gut feeling says that it is. Over the past few months I've learned to listen to that sixth sense a little more so I'm going to do it now and follow this path. Let's see where it goes!

Next stop, Los Angeles?

Saturday, 10 January 2015

6 Dave Grohl Quotes For Every Creative Person

Dave Grohl knows he's not the best singer-songwriter on the planet, but he certainly has a way with words. Especially when it comes to inspiring quotes. While most of them are aimed at musicians, they can also be used no matter what you do. Are you feeling a little deflated? Scroll through these classic quotes and see if inspiration strikes.

If you need a little more of Dave's wisdom, check out his SXSW keynote speech from 2013. It's essential listening for anyone who's feeling that creative funk.