LeftLion 50

LeftLion celebrated its 50th birthday on 1 December and to celebrate we sunk a few beers in the ridiculously expensive Orange Tree. We decided not to milk this in the magazine because it’s not really our style. We’ll save that for 2014 which will mark our tenth year of surviving on wits alone in the brutal realm of print media. Instead we celebrated our latest significant anniversary by interviewing Shane Meadows who appeared in the first ever issue. It made for a nice bit of symmetry while also giving us the excuse to break our number one rule that you only ever get one interview in the magazine.

The front cover was shot in my front room but you wouldn’t be able to tell as the background was blurred out to focus in on the main image of a Quality Street tin which would later become ‘Clumber Street – an unsavoury assortment of chattiness and trainer shops’. Dom Henry popped over to take the image and brought an array of Christmassy treats with him – wine, smelly cheese, chocolates, to be used in the shot which was wolfed down shortly after.

The Quality Street tin was painted white for the photograph so that it would be easier to draw over when it was handed over to our illustrator. Now when people pop over the house for a glass of mulled wine they look at the tin and think that I’m some kind of minimalist who likes chocolate but has a Naomi Kleinesque aversion to branding.

WriteLion saw the return of a bumper book reviews pages, with reviews of Graham Joyce, Alan Sillitoe and Zoe Fairbairns as well as NottsLit Blog stepping in to review three books from Pewter Rose. I really like the idea of featuring guest reviewers looking at specific publishers as it offers a little bit more promotion for both. Our poetry page also included three bonus reviews of Sue Dymoke, Kathryn Daszkiewicz and Alan Baker. Katie Half-Price was given a Santa’s hat courtesy of our wonderful illustrator Rebecca Hibberd and got stuck into E.L.James, Naomi Wolf and Graham Rawle. It was great fun to write as always and a scary reminder of how easy it is to get into character. My girlfriend always looks a little puzzled when she reads it.

The literature interview was with Alison Moore who was recently shortlisted for the Booker Prize for her debut novel The Lighthouse. The illustration came from Michelle Haywood and as always is an example of getting your work (and brief) in early to allow an illustrator time to work on their design. The Lighthouse is a wonderful book, full of subtle warnings that become clearer on a second read. It also has a wonderful rhythm to it, a little like John Banville’s The Sea. Alison is a genuinely lovely person and will go on to be a very significant writer. Salt are definitely my publisher of the year for having the bollocks and faith to submit the novel, given all of the financial risks this entails.

There is a lighthouse and it never goes out

I’ve been so busy with my Sillitoe project for The Space that I haven’t had time to announce through this blog that I’ve since become the Chair of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio. One of the first thing’s I’d like to see is greater publicity for our members as some are signed to smaller publishers and so could do with additional help. Other members are simply very humble and could do with being reminded that they deserve the attention. Seeing your work reviewed in more publications as well as more coverage from local media is one way in which we can help out. It’s amazing how many writers are in denial, feeling that they are unworthy of such a weighty label.

Alison Moore is the most recent success story, who, perhaps, doesn’t need our help as she’s been shortlisted for the Booker, although her publisher Salt are a small press in the grand scheme of the publishing industry. I would imagine they’ve taken quite a gamble in pushing her novel (a gamble in the sense of money, not choice of author) which thankfully has paid off. The benefit for the studio is that we gain in prestige and reputation, something which is essential if we’re ever going to lure agents and big fish caught inside the loop of the M25.

Below is our first PRESS RELEASE to promote Alison Moore. On releasing it we were instantly contacted by another NWS member who pointed out we had missed Sarah Jackson off our list which I’ve added now. The fact that a member contacted us on behalf of someone else shows that the process is already working and that Nottingham has even more reason for celebration.             

“To celebrate the success of Nottingham Writers’ Studio member and Booker Prize nominee Alison Moore, we are urging the whole of Nottingham to show their support by reading her book The Lighthouse. But don’t just read it at home, read it out and about, on buses, in cafes, in pubs, the library, everywhere!

You are also encouraged to tweet your support on the eve of the Man Booker Prize judges’ announcement on 16th October, using the hashtag #booker. This could be photographs of people reading the book in public, comments about Alison’s debut novel, or simply a good luck message.

James Walker, NWS Chair, said, “2012 has been a fantastic year for members of the Studio. Jon McGregor won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for Even the Dogs; Sarah Jackson has been nominated by readers for the Guardian First Book Award; the Alan Sillitoe Committee have their second Sillitoe Day on 27 October, where they will launch a Mobile App literary trail commissioned by the new multimedia platform The Space; Ian Douglas has been commissioned to write for the V&A Museum of Childhood exhibition; Michael Eaton has worked on various plays to celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens; and now Alison Moore has been shortlisted for the Booker. It just goes to prove that publishing exists outside of the capital.”

Nottingham Writers Studio is committed to supporting and developing emerging and established writing talent in and around the city.

Twitter: @NWStudio

Twitter: @thespacelathe