This book takes you into the guts of a fractured family in the aftermath of a death. Old enmities, old pains flow in the novelâ€™s veins. Told from the perspective of four characters, the narrative weaves around the familyâ€™s tense life. It never feels overloaded, and resolution is always just out of reach, implied creatively in Gavin Broomâ€™s direct, often surreal narrative. The story swings wonderfully across continents, time and realities. Dialect and language are well-handled, giving the characters authenticity. Itâ€™s a funny book too, despite the underlying miseries in the charactersâ€™ lives. That mix is managed well, the humour as punchy as the rest of the drama. Mythological references are there (implied clearly in the title), but again, these are never overplayed. The Scottish Book of the Dead succeeds in drawing disparate, pained lives together into a very enjoyable read.
I’ve gone back to writing short stories this year and put a couple forward for prizes. I was fortunate enough to be shortlisted for both the Cambridge Prize and the Bridport Prize.Â For the former, the publisher TSS will include the story in their first anthology, due out in early 2019.
One of the things that really helped me was getting a hold of Fires by Raymond Carver. I’d read a few of his pieces over the years, but this collection of is writings, often about writing itself, is really focused. I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to do more, to get better. Big thanks to Donal McLaughlin, the Derry-born writer and translator who gave me the book as a gift.
You should look Donal McLaughlin up. His short story collections, An Allergic Reaction to National Anthems and Beheading the Virgin Mary, contain most excellent examples of the short story form. His translations from German have made him an award-winning writer in two languages: German and Derry English.
The first novel from Charlie Gracie, To Live With What You Are, will be published later this year by Postbox Press: their first Scottish novel.Â It’s been a fair ould gestation, and I’m very pleased that Sheila Wakefield,Â owner of leading poetry publisher Red Squirrel Press saw both the poetic and Â prose value in the story.
Maura Weightman, one of the leading public artists of our time, and her husband James, are masters of malice, creative and callous: but what is it that makes them tick? You’ll have to wait till November 2018 for the book’s launch.
Before that, on a calmer note, I’m teaming up with the wonderfully creative and centred Teresa Johnston of Sunrise Holistic. We’re running a short series of workshops at West Moss-side entitled Our Inner Emotions & The Written Word. Teresa will lead participants in meditation and I will support people in creative writing. The first will be on 24th March and it will be a very special day.
I’m building on my sequences of Irish poems too this year. Tales from the Dartry Mountains is based around my maternal grandparents’ home in the west of Ireland. Several poems were published in 2016 and 2017 in places such asÂ Gutter and Southlight magazines, as well as Jackdaws being recorded by the excellent Pefkin (AKA Gayle Brogan) on her Murmurations album from Netherlands based Morc Records. Tales from the Shore Road is a Belfast sequence, based around my paternal grandfather’s life there and after he came to Baillieston. These are coming together to be a bigger project than I’d first imagined: one that takes the whole diverse histories and ecologies and up to wee Charlie in Baillieston. Me and the ould yins, that’s it.
Oh, and back to the fiction: after the first novel, number two is finished. I’m looking for a agent for this one, so it is out and running about in the Rejectosphere. Secrets. Maps. Kicking up the leaves. More good news to follow I hope.
To Live With What You Are will become theÂ first Charlie Gracie novel to be published, following up on my poetry collection Good Morning. The publisher is Northumberland based Postbox Press, run by Sheila Wakefield, an imprint of Red Squirrel Press.
Sheila is renowned as a publisher of poetry and has a growing list of fiction.Â To Live With What You Are will be the first novel by a Scottish author from Postbox. I had the pleasure of going down to Newcastle last week for the launch of Postbox’s latest publication, Ren and the Bluehands by the wonderful Ellen Phethean.
Two sections of the novel appeared (a long time ago now) as short stories in consecutiveÂ editions of the annual New Writing Scotland anthology from Glasgow University’s Association of Scottish Literary Studies.
Publication will be in 2018. It seems like a long way away from here, but there is a good deal of work to be done, as well as other Postbox Press books in line. I’ll keep you up to date with progress.
Creative Scotland is looking for writers and other artists to become peer reviewers for their funded projects.
It is part of their overall programme of evaluation of the work through their development of an Artistic and Creative Review Framework to create an open dialogue with our Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) around the artistic and creative quality of their work.
How does it work?
The Framework is designed to help Creative Scotland, the sector and stakeholders to support a culture of continuous improvement and to better understand how we consider quality and excellence across the wide range of work that we fund. We will do this through a process enabling 3 perspectives on the work of the 118 RFOs:
Self Review (by the RFO)
Creative Scotland Review (by Creative Scotlandâ€™s Lead Officer for the RFO)
Peer Review (by independent, relevant expertise from the sector)
Zoe will give me support over the period to work on a novel I am writing (more to follow on that). This is a great chance to link with an excellent writer who has been widely praised for her work over a number of years.
For any writer, the search for an agent is a hard one. I have recently started and have three rejections to my name to date. I feel confident that the novel To Live With What You Are will fire an agent’s imagination. Till then, I am in good company with the best of novelists facing a similar journey.
So, a positive message taken in the rejection message from Rogers, Coleridge & White ofÂ London whose submissions team described the novel thus: “To Live With What You Are is intriguing and original”. Let’s hope the next time it is original, intriguing and spot on for us.