Sunday, 22 February 2015

An A to Z of Notts Literature

It’s natural that Nottingham is bidding for UNESCO City of Literature status given that our literary history is so remarkable. Below is my A-Z guide of Notts-Lit. With many of the letters I was spoilt for choice (so there are some notable omissions), other letters were difficult to fill - X anyone? (Xylophone Man, our famous busker with his plaque on Lister Gate, nearly made the cut). 
Alan Sillitoe is best known for his first two works: the novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and the short story collection The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Sillitoe was born in Nottingham and drew on his experiences living in the city when writing his gritty depictions of working-class British life in the post-war era.
Albert Finney portrayed the 'Angry Young Man' Arthur Seaton in the 1960 film version of
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Bromley House Library, founded in 1816, is one of the few remaining subscription libraries in the country. The fine Grade II* listed Georgian townhouse keeps 40,000 books and is situated in the centre of Nottingham. On the first-floor is a Meridian Line, dating from 1836, which was used to set clocks to Noon local time in the days before Railway time or Greenwich Mean Time.

Charlie Resnick is the jazz-loving Nottingham DI and protagonist of John Harvey’s twelve police procedurals set in the city. The first and final novels in the series (Lonely Hearts and Darkness, Darkness respectively) are particularly good. 
Academy award nominee Tom Wilkinson played Resnick in the BBC films based on Harvey's novels Lonely Hearts and Rough Treatment 
D H Lawrence is one the 20th century’s greatest writers and poets. Eastwood born Lawrence penned such classics as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Sons and Lovers, Women in Love and The Rainbow. The fourth child of a struggling coal miner, he won a scholarship to Nottingham High School and later studied at Nottingham University. 

A bust of Bertie at Nottingham Castle
Edward Harley was a dedicated and extravagant collector adding to a library started by his wealthy father. Edward’s collection included pivotal works such as Shakespeare’s second folio and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. By the end of his life in 1741 he had amassed the largest private library in Britain containing 50,000 printed books, a collection that helped found the British Library.

Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer
Festus, the longest poem in the English language, was written by Nottingham’s Philip James Bailey. Born in 1816, Bailey was brought up on the poetry of Lord Byron. Festus is a vast pageant of theology and philosophy, comprising in some twelve divisions an attempt to represent the relation of God to man and of man to God. Tennyson was among the poem’s admirers.
“We live in deeds not years In thoughts not breaths In feelings not figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels noblest, acts the best.” From Festus.

Philip Bailey in his study at the Rope Walk
Graham Greene lived in Nottingham in the mid-1920s while he worked as a sub editor on the Nottingham Journal. His novel A Gun For Sale was set in a fictional version of Nottingham and his time living in the city helped inspire Brighton Rock. He left Nottingham after being baptized in the Roman Catholic faith.

The Express Offices. 'I have happy memories of this bizarre old building...' Graham Greene

Helen Cresswell was one of Britain's most prolific children's writers. The Nottinghamshire author - educated at Nottingham Girls High School - of many critically acclaimed novels also wrote for TV and received a BAFTA Writers’ Award. Her writing credits include Lizzie Dripping and Moondial.

Set at Belton House near Newark
International Impac Dublin Literary Award winner Jon McGregor wrote his first book, the multiple award winning and Booker nominated If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, after moving to Nottingham where he still lives. He won the IMPAC award, one the world's most lucrative literary prizes, for his third novel Even the Dogs.

Jon McGregor with his IMPAC award
J R R Tolkien repeatedly visited Nottingham, staying at his Aunt Jane's farm. He wrote the first draft of The Voyage of Earendel the Evening Star there describing it as "a tremendous opening up of everything for me" and the start of his mythology. It’s believed that he based the wizard Gandalf on his aunt who had strong physical presence and mystical tendencies.

For more on Tolkien's Gedling read Andrew H Morton and John Hayes' book
Katharine (also known as Mollie) Morris was nine years old when her first story was published in Tiger Tim’s Weekly. A publisher later advised her to write about the village in which she lived. That place was Bleasby in Nottinghamshire and it provided Katharine with the material for five novels including The Long Meadow 

Her 1958 novel
Lord George Gordon Byron was a poet, adventurer and a leading figure in the Romantic Movement. Whilst living in Southwell he wrote his first poem, aged ten:
In Nottingham county there lives at Swine Green, 
As curst an old lady as ever was seen; 
And when she does die, which I hope will be soon,
She firmly believes she will go the moon.
Byron was buried in Hucknall, Notts, and the county is home to his ancestral home, Newstead Abbey.
Tribute to Byron at St. Mary Magdelene Church, Hucknall

Mhairi McFarlane lives in Nottingham and is a former reporter-turned-feature writer on the Nottingham Post. The bestselling chick-lit author is one of Britain’s best and funniest rom-com writers. Nottingham's award-winning production company Wellington Films are working on a movie version of her debut novel You Had Me At Hello.

Mhairi McFarlane's 2nd novel

Nigel McCrery lives in Nottingham, the city he served as a police officer working on a number of murders and serious crimes. He later became the creator of many successful television shows including Silent Witness and New Tricks. The author of several fine novels, Nigel has also penned non-fiction titles on forensic science, the Second World War and the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege.

George Spencer Academy in Stapleford named their Learning and Inclusion Centre after former pupil Nigel McCrery.

Odyssey came from the pen of a young, headstrong, unmarried Sicilian woman, according to Samuel Butler, whose easy-read translation of Odyssey in 1900 was hugely popular. The Victorian novelist, philosopher, satirist, artist and critic often challenged the accepted views of religion, evolution, art and literature. A proud son of Notts, he was much admired by George Bernard Shaw and E M Forster, and influenced Aldous Huxley's seminal Brave New World.

St Andrew's Church, Langar, where Samuel Butler's father was rector

Peter Pan creator J M Barrie lived in Nottingham in the mid-1880s working as a writer at the Nottingham Daily Journal. It’s said that he took the character of Peter Pan from a little boy he saw walking alongside the River Trent, and Nottingham’s Arboretum is claimed to have inspired the setting of Neverland.

Barrie explored the Arboretum's beautiful park in his spare time 

Quaker poet and prolific children’s author Mary Howitt introduced British readers to the stories of Hans Christian Andersen. She learnt Danish specifically in order to translate Andersen’s tales and, at one time, they were friends. Mary lived in Nottingham with her author husband William and is perhaps best-known for the 1829 poem The Spider and The Fly.

Thumbelina was one of Andersen’s stories first translated by Mary Howitt

Robert Harris was born in Nottingham in 1957 and grew up on a council estate where he enjoyed a culturally rich childhood. The son of a Nottingham printer became a worldwide bestselling novelist with classics Fatherland, The Ghost, Enigma, An Officer and a Spy and others, several of which have been made into films.
Alternative history most chilling

Stanley Middleton won the Booker Prize in 1974 for his book Holiday, one of his 44 novels, many set in ‘Beechnall’ (his home city of Nottingham). Born in Bulwell, he attended High Pavement School, took a teaching diploma at University College Nottingham and taught English at a Nottingham school for many years. His work explored the quiet everyday lives of middle-class professional men.
Stanley Middleton 1919-2009

Tales out of School by Geoffrey Trease, a ground-breaking survey about children’s books, was published in 1949. Geoffrey, the youngest son of a Nottingham wine merchant, wrote historical fiction for children, not for any literary merit but because it helped to nurture the children of Britain. The Nottingham born writer produced 110 books in a 60 year career. One of his stories, A Flight of Angels, was inspired by the deep sandstone cellar-caves dug out under Nottingham by the old wine merchants.

The sign over this Castle Gate door marks the site of the family business of the innovative children’s author.
Unfit to Plead is one of the best of Frank Palmer’s six crime novels featuring DI 'Jacko' Jackson. The author’s second series followed Nottingham cop Phil ‘Sweeney’ Todd. Before retiring to write detective fiction Frank was a successful journalist. The first to interview Matt Busby after the Munich Air disaster, he achieved the rare feat of writing the day’s front and back page leads for the Daily Express.

In 1978 Frank won the British Press Reporter of the Year award for his scoop on the infamous sex-in-chains case involving Joyce McKinney and the kidnapped Mormon missionary.

Victoria Four-Thirty is one of Cecil Roberts’ most read novels. First published in 1937 and translated into many languages, it’s about a journey from London’s Victoria Station through Europe, and the differing experiences thirteen of the travelers have on the train. The author edited the Nottingham Journal between 1920 and 1925 and was a friend of Graham Greene.  

 Cecil Roberts receiving his Freedom of Nottingham award in 1965
William Howitt was a carpenter’s apprentice in Mansfield when Sherwood Forest inspired his poetical imagination. Together with his wife Mary, William wrote 170 books from the time of their marriage in 1821. On moving to Nottingham they joined the subscription library (at Bromley House on Angel Row). Their arrival in the city coincided with their first collaborative book, The Forest Minstrels and Other Poems, published in 1823.

Sculpture in the portico of Nottingham Castle

X-ray computer tomography (CT) was developed by Godfrey Hounsfield. Born and raised on a farm near Nottingham, his vital work delivered a Nobel Prize in 1979 and is examined in a book by S. Bates, L. Beckmann, A. Thomas and R. Waltham, entitled Godfrey Hounsfield: Intuitive Genius of CT. It includes many recollections from Hounsfield's family, friends and colleagues.

Young Robin Hood by George Manville Fenn is about a boy that gets lost in Sherwood Forest. Separated from his father the little lad meets Robin Hood and his merry men. Published in 1899, with 23 illustrations, this popular children’s story is a good example of the many hundreds of tales inspired by the legend of Robin Hood and his association with Notts.


Zoe Sharp, the award-winning author of the Charlie Fox thriller series, was born in Nottinghamshire. Her work has been nominated for the prestigious Edgar, Anthony, Barry, Benjamin Franklin, and Macavity Awards in the United States, as well as the CWA Short Story Dagger in the UK.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

For It Was Saturday Night

Loosely based on Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, FOR IT WAS SATURDAY NIGHT is the latest edition from Dawn of the Unread.

Some of Sillitoe’s 1958 novel was originally written as short stories. Now we have a new one, in comic form. The words come from James Walker, the pictures are from Carol Swain, and the techie bits are done by Paul Fillingham.

In this new chapter Alan Sillitoe is asked to try and help save libraries and get us reading but he won’t return while there’s a Toff government. Instead he sends us his working class creations Colin Smith (from The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner) and Arthur Seaton (from Saturday Night and Sunday Morning). Amid the Nottingham history and paraphrasing of Sillitoe’s masterpieces they encounter Ray Gosling before Seaton heads for the pub, traditionally a place of books and learning (honest). What will Seaton make of social media? Will beer and gin still be playing hide-and-seek in his gut? And what is Blakey from On the Buses doing there? 

Following the comic is a video exploring the work of Alan Sillitoe and how Arthur Seaton symbolises the spirit and identity of Nottingham.
Dawn of the Unread is an interactive graphic novel that is available across all media platforms (iPad, Android, iPhone, website). It was launched on National Libraries’ Day (8 Feb 2014) as a 16 part serial and finishes on 8 June 2015. Literary figures from Nottingham’s past (real and fictional) return from the grave to visit the city as it is today. There’s a zombie theme with our poorly read nation the zombies in need of saving. Keeping our great history alive and bringing our heritage to a new readership falls on the shoulders of local contemporary writers such as Alison Moore and Nicola Monaghan. Each commissioned writer has a different local icon to feature, and each chapter has a place of reading (library, archive or bookshop) at the centre of the narrative.
The chapters come out monthly and each one ends with the chance to join the Unread Library as there are optional tasks to attempt, with scores recorded on a virtual library card and the chance to feature as a character.
It’s a big project that has involved about 100 NTU students and provides much more than the comic stories. There are ‘how to’ videos at the end of each comic and loads of hidden content like essays about the characters involved that should engage many different demographics. Think of the comic’s story as the shop window, the Brian Clough if you will, with the hidden content being the goods in the back, the Peter Taylor.  
Is this project needed?
Promoting our literary heritage is important but Dawn of the Unread is taking on a more important challenge: falling literacy levels. Our libraries are having their funding slashed, bookshops are struggling (I’m told Waterstones only survived because of the money they made from Fifty Shades of Grey), and our city’s schools are propping up the tables. So how can we promote reading where it is needed the most, for the young? And why should we?
Young people read, they do, but the way they read has changed. Take the short attention span of the MTV generation and let them breed, then add new technology and social media to the mix and you get toady’s YouTube generation. They have different ways of learning. They like their information in bite-sized chunks (less character-driven, more in 140 characters or fewer) and highly visual. Ebooks have helped but being digital isn’t enough. If you can’t beat computer games, join ‘em… Dawn of the Unread also uses social media, Tumblr and Instagram, embedded links, visual storytelling, video, Apps, and modern means of communication to engage younger readers. And once you have their attention you have a chance. Nottingham people are proud of their city’s legends, when made aware of them, and piquing an interest can lead to the reluctant book reader finding out more.

Books have an image problem so far as the young are concerned, particularly teenage boys. Books, however rebellious or controversial, are seen as boring. Changing that assumption is important. There’s a lot at stake. Chancellor Gideon (he prefers George as it doesn’t make him sound like a toff) Osborne deliberately baffles us with his contradictions in a world of increasing inequality. Many blindly swallow a media agenda that has us blaming benefit guzzling immigrants and lazy NHS workers. Generating a pride in our literary history and its defiance creates a wonderful marketing tool for writing, reading and thinking.

Our schools are fast becoming academies and free schools, run by local employers or religious organisations, producing doers and followers instead of thinkers. Does the government want a nation of readers, knowing that it encourages thought?

I think it was Aristotle that said ‘It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.’ He would have liked Nottingham folk and our literary legends. Questioning the accepted, challenging authority, standing up and shouting out, all qualities associated with our history. All qualities enhanced through reading. And if it takes zombies and digital technology to create new pathways to literature then great.

Dawn of the Unread is suitable for 13 year olds and all people over that age.

The comic includes ‘embedded’ content providing additional context to the story:
 A photo essay of a 3 year interview with Ray Gosling
 A photo essay of Nottingham’s history of defiant individualism in literature
 A modern Arthur Seaton standing up for Pussy Riot (voice by Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods)
 A unique library bus service in Nottingham which picked up kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.
 Neil Fulwood on The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
 The history of the White Horse pub
 Paying homage to the opening drinking scene in the novel with the Fish Man
 The history of Operative Libraries in Nottingham
 An Arthur Seaton video game with local hobbyist David Roach






Monday, 2 February 2015

Make a Living From Your Writing

How to Make a Living From Your Writing – with Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn is coming to Nottingham in April to deliver a seminar on making money from your writing. I’ve been impressed by Joanna’s website for some time. The Creative Penn is packed with practical advice useful for writers and her free guide Author 2.0 is well worth signing up for.
I asked Joanna Penn what opportunities authors should be looking at in 2015:
"2015 will be an exciting year for authors who want to please readers and expand their book sales. You can now sell in 190 countries around the world with ebooks and print-on-demand. British authors can also produce audiobooks in collaboration with narrators through Audible. With the expansion of digital in Germany, there are also translation opportunities, as well as new partners for investigating media."
Visitors to Joanna’s website are guided through the daunting world of audiobooks, translation opportunities and the emerging overseas ebook markets. There’s also loads of information on there about being an author entrepreneur and multiplying income streams. It’s good stuff. The videos, podcasts, articles and links are a comprehensive resource for writers looking to maximise their readership and income.

Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers on the edge, as well as non-fiction for authors, professional speaker and entrepreneur, and was voted as one of The Guardian UK's Top 100 Creative Professionals 2013.

The seminar How to Make a Living From Your Writing is being held on Saturday 11th April 2015. The full day (9.30am-5pm) includes morning and afternoon refreshments + lunch, and takes place at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio.

Cost: £75 (£50 NWS members). Early booking is advised as places are limited.
Booking options:
Online. Paypal via NWS
T. 0115 8372248

Are you a writer, or are ready to become one… Perhaps you’re an aspiring author or blogger, someone who wants to use their words to change other people’s lives – as well as your own.
Maybe you have written a book already, or have a blog, but you’re not making a decent income from it and you’re ready to take it to the next level.
Or maybe you’ve never pictured yourself as an author, but you do know that there’s a book in your head that you want to get out into the world.
You’re ready to raise your game…
You’re ready to learn what it takes to make a living from your writing, and you’re ready to commit to a more creative life.
Maybe you want to publish that book that you’re always thinking about.
Maybe you want to build a high-traffic blog.
Maybe you want to create a career where you get to use your words to educate, entertain or inspire others, as well as provide a great income and lifestyle for yourself.
Starting out is scary…

Everytime you think about building a career based on writing, you hear the following voices in your head:
•Who are you to think that you could do this?
•No one makes decent money from writing these days. I’ll never be able to pay the bills.
•My writing isn’t strong enough to compete.
•I could fail.
•What if it all ends up being a massive mistake?
•You convince yourself to give up before you’ve even started.

But now is the best time in history to make a living from your writing!

The internet enables writers to reach a global audience and earn an income online. Publishing has been radically changed by the rise of ebooks, mobile technology and print on demand options that enable authors to reach customers directly across the world.
Free marketing tools empower creatives to find their fans and interact without a middleman. It truly is a renaissance for writers, and you have a chance to be a part of it!
This inspirational and info-packed day will expand the possibilities for your writing, and you will leave with personalized next steps to further your creative and entrepreneurial career.

Who is this course for?
•Those who long to make writing a more active part of their life, but are lacking the confidence to take it further. People whose creativity is being destroyed by years of corporate work and are ready to break out.
•People who write – diaries, letters, long emails, blog posts, articles, stories, books, poems, anything – and who want to make writing their career.
•Authors and/or bloggers who aren’t currently making a decent income from their words and want to take the next step.

What you’ll walk away with:
•An overview of the changing industry for writers - the rise of ebooks, digital publishing, self-publishing, global and mobile markets, changing consumer habits to support artists directly, blogging and content marketing, micro-niches and more. Why this is the best time to be a writer!
•Creating a business through writing fiction and/or non-fiction books. The definition of an author-entrepreneur. How to turn one manuscript into multiple streams of income. Building your own assets for long-term success.
•Blogging as content marketing for products, services like professional speaking or consulting and affiliate income. The hybrid approach for combining both models.
•The practicalities: Sales and distribution, marketing, income and getting paid, expenses and start-up costs, cashflow and how the money works, time and productivity, business set-up. How long you can expect it to take before you can give up the day job!
•Pre-requisites to success: Understanding customers, building your team, the mindset of the creative entrepreneur, definitions of success. Shifting your perspective and next steps.

Please note: This course will not teach you HOW to write a novel or non-fiction book. This course will teach you about the potential business models around writing – through books, blogging, content marketing and other forms of writing. You can still do the course if you don’t have a book/blog yet, but it will be focused on the business and entrepreneurial side of writing.

Find Joanna Penn online:

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Light Night, Fri 6th Feb.

Over 40 free arts and culture events are taking place this Friday evening in Nottingham's city centre (6pm till late).

NottsLit suggests you start in Hockley at the Nottingham Writers' Studio for Letters Remembered then scoot over to Central Library to catch Marty Ross with his dramatic re-telling of an Edgar Allan Poe classic.

Details of the two events follow:

Letters Remembered 6pm-7pm

Nottingham Writers’ Studio, 25 Hockley, NG1 1FH.


Join the Nottingham Writers' Studio for a celebration of letters and unheard voices from across the globe. Includes the Ray Gosling Archives, Dawn of the Unread, New Art Exchange, Jon McGregor and Nottingham Contemporary.


An event organised by Nottingham Writers’ Studio Chair James Walker. It takes Light Night back to its original routes by opening up creative spaces to the public and inviting guests in. The evening is loosely themed around letters and memories and is an opportunity to learn about some exciting local projects. James will introduce with some information about the Ray Gosling Archives.

Individual talks will be a maximum of ten minutes each. There will be refreshments available on the night and the opportunity to carry on discussions afterwards. And yes, you can bring a light sabre along with you if you want to…

SUNIL SHAH - Uganda Stories is both a subjective journey to recollect the past and a study in photography's documentary potential to reassemble history. In the current New Art Exchange exhibition, Sunil Shah explores very personal themes linked to his family's roots and heritage as Ugandan Asians, and offers wider narratives around exile, displacement and dispossession.

Letters to the City In 2013 Nottingham Contemporary invited the artist Polly Brannan to join The Loudspeaker project to develop a piece of work that would extend the project into the city and bring the women’s voices to the wider public. The result is the beautifully powerful and poignant ‘Letters To The City’

Dawn of the Unread The 5th Duke of Portland was an eccentric aristocrat who built a vast labyrinth of tunnels under Welbeck Abbey to hide away from society. Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves explores the possible reasons for this strange subterranean preoccupation, and in particular, a mysterious letter he received from his distant father years before…

False histories Matt Shelton discusses a paid opportunity for writers to fabricate histories for local craft beers he is promoting. The beers are: Ghost Rider, Twisted Genius, American Saviour and English Rebel. He will be joined by White Dolemite creator Reverend Video Matt, a master hoaxer who has created a cult around false film posters.

The Letters Page Offers an alternative to the immediacy of digital culture by taking us back to the basics of communication in the form of pen, paper, envelope and stamp. This literary journal edited by NWS Patron Jon McGregor explores what letter writing means to people - and has meant since writing was invented - in their literary cultures and their personal lives.* (tbc)

No need to book places but you are advised to arrive early to get a seat.


Falling for the Ushers by Marty Ross

Nottingham Central Library

7.30pm - 9pm

21st Century Poe. Marty Ross drags Edgar Allan Poe's classic tale "Fall of the House of Usher" kicking and screaming into modern times in his riveting one-man show. 

Tickets £2.50

Suitable for ages 13 and up.

Tickets booked on 0115 9152825 or by emailing