Follow the Yellow

Archive of ‘writing’ category

catching up


I’m back in London again, on a soft and greyish day. It’s really starting to feel like autumn here: walking through Bunhill Fields last week through the first falling leaves, wearing a jacket and boots for the first time, was a picture-perfect autumn moment.

It’s been a very, very hectic couple of weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time on trains, going here, there and everywhere in my work capacity. I’ve been to the Edinburgh Book Festival, as well as various other events and meetings, and have also been organising an exhibition of picture book illustrations and an accompanying event as part of the launch festival for the new Free Word Centre. And this weekend I was in Coventry for a conference of librarians – what a truly glamorous life I lead!

In any spare moments (few and far between) I’ve been trying to fit in my university studies, spending time in the library, and working, very slowly, on my dissertation. Even though getting it done is posing me with something of a challenge at the moment, I’m nonetheless enjoying it. I’m also glad it gives me the perfect excuse to head north on a regular basis, as I’m still studying at Manchester University.

Unfortunately, all this leaves little time for blogging or indeed writing of any kind: I haven’t even managed to write in my faithful diary for months. Interestingly, I’ve noticed this blog is increasingly drifting towards being more of an ‘arts’ type blog than the personal blog it once was. I’m not quite sure why that is, except maybe it’s simply easier to write about impersonal things – books, exhibitions – when you are super busy, because there just isn’t much time or brainpower left to have many interesting ‘personal’ thoughts.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to getting the dissertation finished and then I can (at least occasionally) have a life, and a perhaps even a brain, once again.

However, in the meantime there are, nevertheless, some good writing things happening. The most exciting is that I’m going to have some work published in the latest anthology from Litfest’s excellent publishing imprint, Flax. Mostly Truthful is Flax’s first nonfiction prose anthology, and also features work by Kate Feld, Adrian Slatcher and Jane Routh. There will also be a launch event as part of the Litfest programme in October at which we’ll all be (eek) appearing and (even more eek) reading from our work. You can check out the event and maybe even book a ticket to see it, right here.

P.S. follow the yellow brick road also pops up on Kate’s Cultureometer over at the excellent Creative Tourist this month. Check it out here.

P.P.S. Look who’s joined me down here in London Town – yep, it’s my most glamorous blogging compatriot, the fabulous Ms Coco Laverne!

[Image via lavendardays on we heart it]

Writing + Sloth

I’ve recently been trying to dedicate more time to Doing Proper Writing, but I’ve not had much success so far. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it incredibly difficult to write on a regular basis when I’m working full time, especially when it’s in combination with a demanding commute (currently involving two tubes and a train). But I do miss writing when I’m not doing it regularly. In an ideal world, I’d like to write something every day, but I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen, because most days, by the time I get home from work I feel pretty much exactly like a sloth.


I am in awe of the amazingly prolific people I come across: the ones who manage to turn out novels alongside busy lives, family obligations and full-time jobs, but I’d love to know their secret.

What are your strategies for motivating yourself to keep writing even in your sloth-like moments?

P.S. Check out my two new book reviews up at Bookmunch: poet Gee Williams’s first novel Salvage, and Aleksander Hemon’s new short story collection Love and Other Obstacles.

[sloth photo via zooillogix]

Creative Tourist + More on Procession



Creative Tourist, launched today by the Manchester Museums Consortium is a brand new online magazine about art and culture in Manchester.


Issue 1 features Jeremy Deller, Ansuman Biswas (aka the Manchester Hermit), Marina Abramovic in conversation with Maria Balshaw, Director of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Andrew Shanahan’s guide to videogames and Dea Birkett on children in galleries, as well as much more.


And as if all this wasn’t enough, Kate Feld (of Manchizzle fame) will be working alongside editor Susie Stubbs to bring in content from Manchester’s lively blogging community, commissioning guest posts from bloggers who write about art and culture… and guess who you’ll find in the very first issue?


That’s right, it’s me! Check out my post about Jeremy Deller’s Procession here. I was delighted to be the very first blogger commissioned to contribute to Creative Tourist, and I was even more delighted to be asked to write about such a fantastic event. If you read the piece, I’d love to know what you think – and whether or not I’ve managed to capture the unique atmosphere of this very special Manchester experience!


PS You can also keep up with Creative Tourist via the magic of twitter. Looking forward to reading more soon!

[Photo courtesy of the very talented Duncan Hay]

not doing well: blog vs diary


I have not upheld my pledge to write here more in May. It’s already the 23rd (how did that happen, exactly?) and I have but two measly posts.

I’ve been wondering why it is that I don’t seem to be writing this blog quite as much as I once was. Perhaps it’s partly because, in the last couple of months, I’ve got back into writing a diary much more regularly. I have long been an avid writer of diaries: I started writing when I was twelve, and have continued ever since. But I do have ‘on’ and ‘off’ phases with it – and at the moment I’m definitely in an ‘on’ phase. I’ve got back into the habit of writing every day, and perhaps that has absorbed some of my need to write here.

But that in itself is interesting. I have always felt that a private, paper diary and a blog, however personal, were inherently different, separate spaces – one very much for yourself alone, and the other, whether you acknowledge it or not, by its very nature designed for an audience, for a very public readership. But maybe they aren’t really so very different: perhaps secretly our ‘public’ blogs are for ourselves before they are for anyone else, after all…

I’d be interested to know what others think. Do you keep a diary, or write a blog, or both? Which do you prefer and why? What do you think the real differences are between them as formats – and what is it that motivates you to keep going?


Meanwhile here’s a few other things:

Emily started a very interesting discussion about blogging and anonymity, writing and autobiography on her blog which Jenn and Max joined in here and here and here.

Ben unmasked himself as the author behind not only the Although I am not as delicious as I once was… blog by the mysterious ‘Rosetta Hampshire,’ but of a whole Patchwork Labyrinth of slowly-unravelling blog-based metafiction! I am looking forward to reading more…

Booooooom! and Design for Mankind’s Free Encouragement project (which I blogged about back here) has now launched its much-anticipated second stage. Take a look at their beautiful Free Encouragement postcards here.

I have another book review at Bookmunch – this time for Anne Michael’s second novel, The Winter Vault. You can read it here.

Manchester Writing is a new and most useful blog bringing together news and reviews of writing and readings around Manchester. Check it out here.

Main things I am doing at the moment: eating, sleeping, reading obscure 1920s prose poems for my dissertation, playing the piano (item number seven on this list), rock pool dabbling, baking cakes, watching the kittiwakes, contemplating whether or not to buy myself a bicycle with a basket, admiring bluebells and paddling in the sea.

[Pictures are via We Heart It here and here]

a visit from fiona robyn


Throughout March, writer Fiona Robyn has been travelling from blog to blog to celebrate the publication of her first novel, The Letters, in her very own blog tour.

The Letters is the story of Violet Ackerman, who has “drifted through a career, four children and a divorce without ever knowing who she is or what she wants. After moving to the coast, she starts receiving a series of mysterious letters sent from a mother and baby home in 1959, written by a pregnant twenty-year-old Elizabeth to her best friend. Who is sending Violet these letters, and why?”

It also features a cat called Blue, an unexpected twist in the tale, and (according to Aliya at Veggie Box at least) an impressive number of references to vegetables. What’s more it has already won praise from everyone from Scott Pack at Me and My Big Mouth who described it as ‘an accomplished and promising début novel‘ to Vulpes Libres who admired Fiona’s ‘wonderfully descriptive writing‘ to Caroline Smailes who described how she ‘devoured [The Letters] within a couple of days‘.

Fiona has already visited 16 other blogs as part of the tour (you can read the full list here, including where she is going next). As it’s now Day 22 I reckon she’s probably getting a little weary, so I suggested she put her feet up and then asked her a few questions:

Firstly… it’s Day 22 of your blog tour, and you’ve already visited 16 other blogs. Are you getting at all tired of answering questions about yourself and The Letters yet?

You’d think I would be, but nobody is asking the same questions! It’s really interesting how different people have approached the book in different ways, and are interested in different things…

Do you have a favourite question you’ve been asked on the tour so far?

‘Tell us what you grow in your veggie patch’ by Aliya at the Veggie Box and Lane asked me lots of good questions about cats. Caroline also asked me some good questions, one involving Mr. Men. You can see that I like to take things very seriously…..

You’ve already been asked a lot of questions about The Letters: the idea for the novel, the characters, and how it came to be written. To make a change I thought I’d ask you a few questions about the three blogs you write as well as your novels: a small stone; a handful of stones and your personal blog, planting words. How do your blogs fit in as part of your overall writing practice?

I try not to let them interfere with my novel-writing – if I’m writing, then I’ll always do that before I do anything else (including checking Facebook). a small stone usually only takes a few minutes a day, and a handful of stones maybe takes half an hour a couple of times a week. I only write Planting Words when I feel the urge, and again this can take a few minutes or up to half an hour. I do sometimes wonder if three is a bit excessive, but it’s been ok so far!

What first got you started writing blogs?

I started writing a blog called Creating Living when I was working as a coach, as a way of promoting my services. It was a little bit like Planting Words, and resulted in my book A Year of Questions: How to slow down and fall in love with life. a small stone came next.

What gave you the idea for your blog project a small stone?

The phrase literally arose in my mind one day when I was driving back from the sea. I was thinking about starting another blog for my poetry at the time, but I didn’t even know what it meant, and it felt a bit boring as a blog title. It was persistant, and then I happened upon the idea of picking a small stone up and carrying it home from a long walk – something little that you could save from every day.

Which other blogs do you read regularly?

I’ve always been a big fan of whisky river and have recently found lassie and timmy, both of which have a strong zen flavour. Sarah is always finding good stuff.

I recently wrote a post about how much writers enjoy the actual process of writing, which provoked a bit of discussion. Is the process of writing itself something you find pleasurable?

I find parts of it pleasurable – and parts of it horrid. It’s hard to sit down and get started, especially with first drafts. I’m sometimes struck by terrible doubts. But I love reading back a sentence and thinking ‘ah, that’s a good sentence’, or finding something new out about my character. Intensely satisfying. Really, nobody is holding a gun to my head – I’m a writer because it’s supremely important to me – and things that are important aren’t necessarily fun all the time.

What inspires you? Where do you go to find inspiration when you need it?

Being outside in my garden is good for me – whatever the weather – but I do prefer sunshine! I’ve been lucky enough to wait for inspiration to find me so far, rather than going out and looking.

Tell us a little bit about what you’ve got coming up next…

The Blue Handbag is out in paperback in August, and then Thaw in February next year, both with Snowbooks. I’m currently working on a novel about a young boy that goes to stay with his aunt in Amsterdam – I’m off for a research trip this summer. What a life, eh?

And finally (just because I had to ask) do you own any red shoes?

I’m afraid I’m not much of a shoe person – black trainers is pretty much it… I do think they look nice on other people though – I’m sure yours are lovely!

Perhaps you’re just more of a handbag person, since your next book is called The Blue Handbag? Anyway, thanks very much, Fiona (for visiting and for complimenting me on my shoes!) and enjoy the rest of the tour!