The 10th anniversary edition of Manchester Literature Festival was a grand affair that stretched through October into November and filled the city with an eyewateringly impressive slew of poets, fictioneers, short storyists and nonfictionistas. This year I hosted more events than ever before, including (deep breath) May-Lan Tan and Mai al-Nakib, Jami Attenberg and Liza Klaussman, doing three in a day at Rising Stars Day (Louise Stern/Benjamin Wood then Mary Costello/Stuart Evers then Sunjeev Sahota/Stephen Kelman), laughing to a borderline unprofessional extent onstage with Tim Key and Jesse Armstrong and hosting two more panels at the ace Northern Lights Writers’ Conference.
These were all wonderful. But my favourite event was the in-conversation with Carrie Brownstein (above), whom I have long loved in both her Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia incarnations. Her new memoir Hunger Makes me A Modern Girl (Virago) is astonishingly good and talking with her about writing, music and being a dork was heaven. I continue to be delighted that talking to interesting people about writing I love is my job.
Our Manchester creative nonfiction project The Real Story has been cracking along, with four live events this year and a move into posting audio of the stories we publish. I’ve also been reading my own work at events all over Manchester. I’ve had three stories published in Neon, a story published and recorded on MacGuffin, and a story included in the Tapes and Tales podcast. On the nonfiction side, I’ve had an essay published in Caught by the River and another is forthcoming from Litro. I was also featured in the first End of All Things podcast talking about nonfiction, women writers, writing about sex and making a living (or not) as a writer. You can listen here.
With all this creative writing my journalistic output has slowed down somewhat. I’ve recently ended my long association with Creative Tourist, a great publication which will, I hope, continue to prosper. I continue to write occasional food and drink columns and reviews for Time Out Manchester, however.
I’ve enjoyed lecturing at Salford University on the online journalism MA this semester, where we’ve been venturing into the outer limits of digital storytelling (and even took an actual ‘field trip’ to Pomona Island. ) I’ve got a couple of guest lecturing gigs coming up, discussing writing about place with MMU’s architecture students and visiting Edge Hill’s creative writing programme to preach the gospel of creative nonfiction. Another thing I’m preaching about to anyone who will listen are some wonderful books I’ve read lately: Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett, I Love Dick by Chris Kraus and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. Go read them. No really, I insist.
Once again, I’ve been so busy that a whole season has escaped me. Autumn 2012 whooshed past in a blur. It was a good kind of blur, with lots of interesting stuff happening inside it, but the blur didn’t leave much time for blogging. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to since last summer:
- I organised the first ever Blog North Awards, which were a big success. We had 543 bloggers from across the land enter and ended up with a pretty amazing bunch of winners, who were revealed at a packed event during the Manchester Literature Festival, which featured readings that ranged from funny to touching, from thought-provoking to hell-raising. Basically, the whole experience reaffirmed my love for blogging and for doing the sometimes strange work I do spreading the gospel of BLOG.
- I ran two all-day blogging workshops for the Arts Marketing Association in London and Birmingham. I met some lovely people, and everyone seemed to get a lot out of the day’s work. I even made them write in longhand but they were very good sports. Here’s some nice things they said about the workshop:
“Great blogging workshop with Kate Feld and the AMA yesterday. Feeling inspired – watch this space!”
“Buzzing with ideas after today’s ‘Art of Blogging’. Cheers for an insightful day!”
“Huge thanks to Kate Feld and the AMA for such a stimulating & inspiring training day on ‘the art of blogging’ today. Highly recommended.”
- In February I ran a 2-hour workshop on Creative Nonfiction in Lancaster as part of Litfest’s fascinating Castle Park Stories project, which aims to uncover some of the hidden stories of this historic place and bring them to life. It was a great session with a really diverse and enthusiastic group of writers. And I got to revisit what is probably my favourite form of writing, the much misunderstood format of Creative Nonfiction, which I previously explored in The Real Story project. It’s inspired me to go back and read one of my favourite collections of reportage (Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel. That’s him up there.)
- I’ve recently moved to the post of contributing editor at Creative Tourist, as the ever-capable Susie Stubbs was ready to return to editing the site. While out of the role, she was busy overseeing a complete redesign of the site and a pretty exciting restructure of Creative Tourist generally. Once part of the Manchester Museums Consortium, it has now become an independent entity and has moved into new geographic areas, covering culture in Liverpool and Cumbria as well as Manchester. Another change is the creation of a cultural tourism consultancy firm, CT Consults, which I am now a part of along with the whole amazingly talented team behind Creative Tourist (go on, hire us!) I’m still writing a lot for the Creative Tourist site, and some of my favourite recent pieces include this review of the Jane and Louise Wilson exhibition at Whitworth Art Gallery, and this review of new Manchester restaurant Neighbourhood.
What am I working on now? Well I’m planning some more bloggy/literary events with Creative Industries Trafford and others. I’m helping sort out the next Blog North Network event (probably happening in Leeds, in April.) But now I’m mostly around talking to people about Rainy City Stories, Openstories’ Manchester-based writing project that is fixing to emerge from its long hibernation this spring. Planning and plotting; brainstorming, budgeting and grant writing. All will be revealed soon.
Hello! I’ve suddenly got lots of interesting things happening this spring. It’s so good to be getting out and about after the long dark winter, which is still looking very dark and glowery from where I’m sitting, but it surely can’t be here for much longer. Right?
Putting my Openstories hat on: On March 27th I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion about new writing communities at the National Association for Literature Development’s spring conference, The Space Between Us, at The Tabernacle in London. Really looking forward to this one; the two days of the conference are packed with interesting talks, workshops and readings. I’ve done a post on the NALD website on the topic of how working online has changed what writers and editors do.
I’m running another public session on The Art Of Blogging at Cornerhouse in Manchester on 17 April. Will add link as soon as the booking is up. I’ve also just done a mammoth new blogs update on Manchizzle. It’s great to see so many wonderful new Manchester blogs about.
I’m also reading my creative writing at the Prestiwch Festival on May 17 at The Church pub at 7:30pm – more details on that as I get them. Trying to decide between reading an essay or a short story, depends what’s ready first. (And if none of them are I shall be forced to stand and silently stare at my shoes in public. Oh dear.)
Lots of exciting developments on the Creative Tourist front, but nothing I can share yet. In the meantime, I’ve been commissioning, editing and even occasionally writing content for Manchester’s finest cultural web magazine. I really enjoyed doing this little piece about Manchester’s independent record shops, and this chat with artist Leo Fitzmaurice just before he won the Northern Art Prize.
I’ve also reviewed Jackie Kay’s memoir Red Dust Road over on the excellent For Books’ Sake blog.