Elementary Writers have been in demand this year and as part of our Halloween performance at Old Low Light, guest Rob Walton performed an original ghost story set in North Shields. It was a pleasure working with Rob and I hope I get to do so again in the future.
Thanks for being involved in the 2016 review, Rob.
Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
There were a few things connected to my children’s poem, Letters, appearing in the lovely Emma Press anthology ‘Watcher of the Skies‘.
I was obviously really pleased to have it accepted and published in the first place. Then I had a couple of lovely days in London in the autumn. I did a workshop with a great group of Year 3 children at my friend Claire’s school, and got them to decorate a shirt, which I wore at the following day’s launch (see above) where I finally met the wonderful editors, Emma and Rachel, and a big bunch of great poets. The icing on the cake was when the poem was chosen to be on the National Poetry Day’s website. I thought that sort of stuff happened to other people.
And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
Not exactly a favourite moment, because of what preceded it, but I was moved and inspired by the dignity, resolve and compassion shown by Jo Cox’s husband, family and friends. The message to concentrate on what unites us is one to carry forward from this difficult year.
Favourite book in 2016?
My friend Matt bought me Patrick deWitt’s ‘The Sisters Brothers‘ a while ago, and it’s been on one of the shelves in one of the piles – I’m so pleased I eventually picked it up. It was instantly one of my all-time favourites. Superb dialogue, great pace, fantastic characters, really funny and unlike other novels I’ve read. I also loved the brilliant invention of Angela Readman’s short story collection ‘Don’t Try This At Home‘, and I’m really looking forward to reading her new book of poetry, ‘The Book of Tides‘, which has just arrived in the post from Nine Arches Press. In non-fiction I finally got round to Harry Pearson’s ‘Slipless in Seattle‘, which was a joy from cover to cover.
Favourite film in 2016?
I went to the Tyneside Cinema to see Woody Allen’s ‘Café Society‘, but it had sold out, so I was directed towards ‘Hell or High Water‘, which was an unexpected treat. I hadn’t realised how much I like Jeff Bridges. He’s been great in so many top-quality films over such a long period. My favourite, though, was probably Brady Corbet’s ‘The Childhood of a Leader‘, telling the chilling and gripping tale of a ten-year-old boy destined to be a fascist leader. I saw it because I’d read that he was influenced by Michael Haneke, who I’ve loved since seeing ‘White Ribbon‘, another chilling masterpiece. It’s great when one good thing leads to another (and it’s not being dictated by Amazon or some scary algorithm.)
Favourite song of the year?
When I sit at the laptop in my study (ooh fancy!) I often do a search for something vaguely chilled to play as I write. Using this method, I recently came across Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott playing Saint-Saëns’ ‘The Swan‘. Sublime – but it worked against me because I found I had to watch them playing, which pretty much defeated the object.
Also, although from 2015, Sufjan’s Stevens ‘Carrie and Lowell‘ was totally brilliant.
Favourite sports team of 2016?
Has to be the mighty Iron, Scunthorpe United. Little money and tiny crowds, yet sitting proudly at the top of League One as I write.
Favourite cake of the year?
Linda and Rich gave me some cooking apples, which lead to Mary Berry’s delicious apple and almond cake.
Any downsides for you in 2016?
I found I had a serious case of anaemia, which stopped some of my plans – but the upside was that (a) I found there was a reason my park-runs were so slow and tiring and (b) I volunteered at a few park-runs, which I’d always intended but never quite managed. Everything seems to be heading in the right direction now.
Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Not as such. There’s more of an ongoing thing about focus and application. I’ve given myself a year out of teaching to concentrate on writing and other creative projects. I’ve been working hard and doing lots of writing in all sorts of forms and genres, but maybe I need to narrow it down just a little bit! On the other hand, I’ve got to pursue the picture book ideas following the fantastic Arvon course I attended, and the adult poetry collection and the flash fictions and the children’s and YA novels…Bugger!
What are you hoping for from 2017?
To continue supporting and performing at the fantastic nights we have in the North East like The Stanza, Newcastle Literary Salon and the events Vic Watson organises!
I’m also looking forward to the Fountain17 work I’m making with artist friend Russ Coleman.
There’s also an iron or two in the fire with another friend, Steve Drayton. All will be revealed – well, maybe not everything – we’re a couple of middle-aged blokes.
I’m intrigued, Rob, I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings for you! Thanks for your support this year.