Category Archives: Review of 2015

I review my 2015.

On this, the final day of 2015 (where did the year go?!), I am going to review my year. I’d like to thank all of the participants of this year’s review, it’s been my pleasure hosting you. And massive thanks to everyone who has read, shared and commented on the blog – it is so appreciated. 

Here’s to a wonderful 2016 for you all! 

Sirmione

2015 has been tremendously kind to me as a writer and writing tutor. In February this year, I joined members of Elementary Writers at Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society to launch our anthology, Thrills ‘n’ Chills which was published by Wild Wolf Publishing. It was a brilliant evening that saw members of the group read their work in a fantastic location. 

Thrills n Chills launch

In April, I attended my first wedding as a wedding writer which was a wonderful, moving experience. The couple, Becky and Fraser, invited me to share their special day with the family and friends and, hopefully, my story reflected what a beautiful day it was. 

Wedding story

I’ve been lucky enough to judge two short story competitions this year, Story Tyne with North Tyneside Libraries and Jesmond Library’s inaugural short story competition. I ran three workshops for Creative Writing workshops with North Tyneside Libraries and they were very well attended. In July, members of Elementary Writers joined me and the lovely Dan Smith to launch Jesmond Library’s competition which was a lot of fun. 

Launching Jesmond Library's comp

I finally managed to write an ending for a short story that has been hanging over me for a while as well as writing an entirely new short story which was a pleasant surprise for me as, since setting up my business in 2012, my writing has disappeared somewhat. Recently, I’ve been feeling like I want to go back to my unfinished novel ‘Fix Me Up’ and the feedback I’ve had from beta readers has been very good. 

In general, 2015 has been a good year for me. For a belated birthday present, I went to London with The Boy Wonder to see ‘Ghost Stories’ the weekend before it closed, it was fabulous although pant-wettingly terrifying. I got a new car (finally!) and went on a lovely holiday to Sirmione in Italy with The Boy Wonder which was absolutely perfect. We also had a weekend break in Northumberland in September in a tiny village which was wonderful. 

Enjoying Lake Garda

This may seem vain to many but my journey with Slimming World has made an incredible difference to my life. So far, I’ve lost over two and a half stone and it’s had such a positive impact on my life – I’m much more confident and have met some brilliant, supportive people. 

Now and then

I’ve read some excellent books this year and quite a variety of genres. A fellow writer, Kay Stewart, has made some great recommendations in 2015 including ‘Olive Kitteridge‘ by Elizabeth Strout which is a story told in a series of vignettes. When we were in Italy, I devoured ‘Defending Jacob‘ by William Landay. However, my favourite books this year were by Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess. The very clever Amazon algorithm determined from previous purchases that I’d like Jenny’s first memoir ‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened‘ – and it was right! So much so that The Boy Wonder bought me her follow-up, ‘Furiously Happy‘, as he knew how much joy it would bring me. I cried laughing and in recognition when reading these books as there is so much more to them than humour. 

I’ve been on a real retro vibe this year in terms of music and films. I downloaded the greatest hits of the Bee Gees, Chuck Berry, Rod Stewart, Nina Simone, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Fleetwood Mac. I did like ‘Downtownby Macklemore though. 

WBFF blogger

As for films, I really enjoyed ‘Whiplash‘ which was a surprise, I loved the soundtrack too. I saw ‘Blackboard Jungle‘ for the first time thanks to Whitley Bay Film Festival and I thought it was excellent. I was also introduced to ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s‘ during WBFF this year and I thought that was fabulous, too. On Boxing Day, I went to see ‘The Force Awakenswhich I really enjoyed (although Kylo Ren made me chuckle quite a bit at times). And The Boy Wonder and I finally watched Inside Out‘ earlier this week which was as wonderful as I hoped it would be.

I must point out that although I don’t usually ask participants, I have watched some cracking TV shows this year including ‘Master of None’, ‘Bob’s Burgers’, ‘River‘ and the last ‘Parks and Recreation‘.

There are a couple of really obvious downsides to 2015  for me – being admitted to hospital with pneumonia, pleurisy and a cracked rib being one. The other was the death of a much loved friend. 

I’m not planning on making any resolutions really, I just want to try to be a good, kind person who has a positive impact on people. I’d love to hit my target weight but I am trying to be kinder to myself and apply less pressure. I’d also really love to write more regularly. I love doing my writing groups but I know that my writing is being sacrificed which is kinda sad. 

For 2016, I’d genuinely love world peace. I’m pretty sure I say this every year but I will keep hoping until it happens. 

Vic x

Review of 2015: Col Bury

Col Bury has been a mate of mine for a few years now and he’s always a pleasure to chat to as you’ll see from his 2015 review.

Thanks for taking the time to do this, Col.

Vic x

Col MKOJ Launch2015 was a great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?
Favourite memory has to be the launch of my debut crime novel, My Kind of Justice at Urmston Library in a room packed to the rafters with family and friends, and of course, how positively the novel has been received… so far!

My Kind of Justice - Cover.jpg

And how about a favourite moment from 2015 generally?
A few standout ‘moments’ are connected…
I won a reading slot at Bloody Scotland and shared a green room with the very supportive and friendly Martina Cole. After the yearly Harrogate trip (and this time going as an author, not just a fan) I bagged a hat-trick for The North in our 6-0 win over The South in a crime writers’ football match and ended up on stage being presented the trophy by Val McDermid. So, while at Bloody Scotland, it was a no-brainer when asked to help restore some English pride (after last year’s debacle!) by netting twice and bagging two assists in a respectable and entertaining 5-5 draw. Incredibly, to me, I played alongside the likes of Simon Kernick and ‘nutmegged’ Ian Rankin. You can’t say that every day!

Favourite book in 2015?
Due to a particularly busy year, including adapting to a new full-time day job, my reading has unfortunately suffered and my TBR ‘pile’ is more akin to a TBR ‘mountain’! However, I’m currently enjoying Angie Marsons’ Silent Scream and the way it’s shaping I can see why Angie’s such a popular author. Graham Smith’s debut novel Snatched from Home is a damn good read too.

Favourite film of 2015?
Mad Max: Fury Road and Jurassic World, but the best thing I watched was a box-set. Earlier in the year I sacrificed all TV (except the footy!) and devoured the whole Breaking Bad series – fantastic writing and thoroughly gripping.

Favourite song of the year?

Blue Moon, every year. Seriously though, copying Howard Linskey here and going for Uptown Funk.

Any downsides for you in 2015?
Personally, not writing and reading enough because ‘life’ took over.
Globally, all the terror attacks and people suffering. Why can’t we all just get along?

Are you making resolutions for 2016?
Yes… to crack on!

What are you hoping for from 2016?
To snag an agent’s interest in a new series I’ve been playing with for too long now, and to add to the DI Jack Striker series. Also toying with a comedy book about puns, which will hopefully help me turn over a new leaf and open another chapter… (I’ll get me coat).

Thanks for having me, Vic and all the best for 2016.

Review of 2015: Rod Glenn

Today, Rod Glenn – author and actor extraordinare is here to let us know what he’s been up to in 2015. Enjoy!

Vic x

Rod Glenn

Where the hell did the year go? My feet didn’t touch the ground and I barely had time to blink.

So what’s been happening, you ask? I finished the sixth novel (currently editing). The Fortress is an action adventure Wild Geese/Lord of the Rings-esque mash-up which should be out around March.

I’ve been doing a bit of acting too… some roles I’ve completed this year include a film adaptation of Stephen Fry’s The Hippopotamus, acting alongside Roger Allam; Wander, a short film about possession, acting alongside Alistair Petrie; Ripper, a short film about Jack the Ripper, acting alongside Bill Fellows; The Sceptic, Sweat Pea, Bullies, Wolfblood, Midwinter of the Spirit, Scott and Bailey, Coulrophobia, Murder at Dawn and Bliss! I think that’s most of them!

On top of all the acting, I have also been busy developing the film adaptation of my most successful novel to date, Sinema: The Northumberland Massacre. We’ve got some great names already attached to it – James Cosmo (Game of Thrones), Eileen Daly (Razor Blade Smile and recent Big Brother contestant), Nicholas Vince (Hellraiser I & II and Nightbreed) and Warren Speed (Zombie Women of Satan) and we’re hoping to start filming March next year. Who will I play, you ask? Well, the infamous Han Whitman, of course.

Sinema

As well as a lot of ups, there have also been a few downs. There have been the inevitable deaths and struggles of those close to me. The problems of the world seem to ever worsen, with the mighty dollar always a root cause. Death, suffering and bloodshed abound, much like many of my books, I’m sorry to say. But one glimmer of hope has arisen – a political figure with integrity – more rare than a bloody unicorn in this day and age. Let’s hope Jeremy can exact some real change in coming years. Here’s to a bright and hopeful 2016!

Review of 2015: Andrea Anastasiou

I’ve known Andrea Anastasiou for over ten years now and her bravery has always been a massive inspiration to me. Andrea never lets fear get in her way and I really admire her for that. She’s here to share her 2015 with us today. Thanks Andrea! 

Vic x

Andrea Anastasiou

2015 has been quite the year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?
Finishing the first draft of my memoir was a big moment for me, as well as ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo. I cried tears of joy! I’ll always remember 2015 as the year I finally started to write books.

And how about a favourite moment from 2015 generally?
Finding out that my sister had beaten cancer was definitely the highlight. I also spent a lot of my time travelling in countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, Greece, Spain, Germany and Austria. A highlight of the travels was the writing retreat that I did in Skyros; I made friends for life and rediscovered my love for creative writing. It was magical! I’ve also enjoyed documenting my travels on my blog, Scribble, Snap, Travel. 


Favourite book in 2015?
I’ve read loads of great books this year, but if I had to choose one it would be Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I cannot believe it’s taken me so long to find Kate’s work – I love her writing! I’m utterly mesmorised by this book.

Favourite film of 2015?
I’m not big on watching movies (I’d rather be reading!) so I have probably only watched a handful of them this year! I recently watched The Descendants, which stars George Clooney, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And no, it’s not just because he’s in it! Although admittedly he doesn’t hurt the eye.

Favourite song of the year?
It’s extremely difficult for me to pick a favourite song, however, I’ve written to Josef Salvat’s remix of Rihanna’s Diamonds a lot this year. It reminds me of writing from a branch of Starbucks in Saigon every morning back in February; I then subsequently found myself writing to it while I was briefly in Salzburg this month, and it brought back a lot of memories. So I guess this song defines my year in some roundabout way. 

Any downsides for you in 2015?
My life completely changed over the last six months – my long-term relationship ended unexpectedly, and all the plans we made together went out of the window in the space of a week. But I now see it as a blessing; the breakup has set me on another path, one in which I’m focusing solely on myself and my career, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m really looking forward to focusing on my writing and my wellbeing in 2016.

Are you making resolutions for 2016?
I don’t really believe in NY resolutions, as I don’t think you need to wait until January the 1st to start making changes. However, saying that, in the New Year I’m going to start learning German, and I’m also vowing to continue to write every single day. I guess these can count as resolutions.

What are you hoping for from 2016?
I have so many goals for 2016 – it’s unreal! However, the main thing is to be happy. I also have plans to move to a different country in a few months, which is really exciting. I’ll be revealing more on my blog over the coming weeks! 

Review of 2015: Dan Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful day. On this special day, we have Dan Smith here to review his year. Dan was kind enough to co-judge Jesmond Library’s inaugural Creative Writing competition with me this year and it was a real pleasure to work with him. 

Thanks Dan!

Vic x

Dan Smith

2015 was another good year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?
The publication of Big Game, and everything surrounding it, was very exciting – translated into numerous languages, sold all over the world, a private screening of the film, non-disclosure agreements, that sort of thing. Signing the movie option agreement for The Child Thief was also a great moment, as was doing an event at the Hay Festival, finishing my latest novel, selling it to USA and Germany (so far) . . .  so many great memories to choose from!

And how about a favourite moment from 2015 generally?
I can’t really think of a standout moment. Overall, it’s been a good year and I’m always so thankful for the health and love of my family, for having a great publisher, and for any professional success. Sounds a bit cheesy, I know, but that’s the truth of it!

Favourite book in 2015?
Such a difficult question – I’ve read so many books this year, I can’t remember what they all were! The Son by Philipp Meyer gripped me from the start but lost me a little towards the end. If You Were Me by Sam Hepburn was great, and I also enjoyed the Bodyguard series by Chris Bradford.

Favourite film of 2015?
Ask me this question on Friday 18th, after I’ve seen The Force Awakens! I’ve got everything crossed for that one! I’m also looking forward to The Revenant which promises to be something special. Otherwise . . . I’ll go for Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s completely bonkers and full of mad imagery.

Favourite song of the year?
Not ‘Hello . . . it’s me . . .’ Definitely not. Just, no. Actually, it’s hard to pick one song but I’m going to opt for ‘Psycho’ by Muse. They’re a great band and I’ve managed to get tickets to see them next year!

Any downsides for you in 2015?
I try not to dwell on things like that. I do dwell on them, of course, but I try hard not to.

Are you making resolutions for 2016?
Do people really make New Year resolutions? I never do. If you want to do something, why wait till Jan 1st to make a resolution?

Boy X

What are you hoping for from 2016?
Health and happiness for my family, of course, and continued professional success. It would be great to see people enjoying my new novel for younger readers, Boy X (out in Feb) 2016. Oh, and a royalty cheque to be proud of would be lovely, thanks!

Review of 2015: Becci Sharrock

Today sees the wonderful Becci Sharrock reviewing her 2015. Becci is a writer, blogger and creative producer, she currently produces for Precious Cargo and Leo Burtin. Becci blogs  mainly about food but with the odd political rant. 

Thanks to Becci for taking part in the 2015 reviews. 

Vic x

Becci Sharrock

Favourite memory professionally:
It has been a massive year professionally.  On 6th January 2015 I handed in my notice to become a freelance producer.  It seemed like a very scary decision when I started thinking about it in December of the previous year but actually, once I made my mind up, it was like a huge relief and I haven’t looked back. So it’s hard to pick a favourite memory as everything has felt really exciting and new but I’d say it would be very difficult to top having a rehearsed reading of my debut play Yes Chef! at ARC, Stockton.  I was really lucky to have an exceptional cast and director (Cast; Chris Foley, Shane Headlam, Lauren Pattison and Phil Corbitt, Director; Ali Pritchard) and I was really pleased with the result.  It surpassed all of my expectations.  That’s not to say the writing was perfect by any stretch of the imagination but there is nothing that compares to having the words you’ve written, worried about and rewritten, finally read aloud in front of an audience of people you love and to have them laugh or cry or just get caught up in the action, caring about the characters you’ve created.  I’m not sure I would ever have got the play written if it wasn’t for my brilliant mentor Ali Taylor (Fault Lines, Cotton Wool, Overspill) and the wonderful warm fuzzy support and encouragement of the other members of Writers ARCADE.  There was something very special about eight playwrights all going through this process together, learning and making mistakes along the way that I’ll never forget.  It’s also given me the confidence to realise that writing is not just something I enjoy but something I’m good at.  Again, that’s not to say it’s not going to take a lot of development and hard work but I’m now ending the year having made the decision to cut down on my producing to allow time for me to focus on writing and my own creative projects.

Favourite moment from 2015 generally?
I’m not sure I could pick a favourite moment from the year but I’ve definitely been working hard to get a better work life balance, a perk of having control of your own workload and not commuting every day.  So it’s been a year of seeing old friends, making new friends, spending more time with my family and in particular my beautiful cheeky nephew and weekends away in the Lake District.  I’m very lucky to have a partner who supports the slightly chaotic lifestyle that comes with being freelance and working in the arts and it’s been brilliant to be able to spend more time with him this year.  Something else I’ve done more of this year is to have more dinner parties.  Food is a big love of mine and there is something so heart-warming about bringing some of your favourite people together and sharing nice food and conversation around the table.  I’m constantly surprised that people might not all know each other when they arrive but leave feeling like they’re old friends having had lots of laughter along the way.

Favourite book in 2015?
As part of my research for Yes Chef! I read lots of books about life in the kitchen.  The best one was Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.  It was a really gritty, no-holds barred telling of a chef’s life and so vividly described all the kitchens he worked in and the characters he met along the way.  It gave me lots of really useful terminology and helped me think about the setting for the play and what my central character might have to deal with.

In terms of fiction I’ve discovered a couple of chick-lit authors who I now always look out for in my local charity shops; Jenny Colgan and Jane Fallon.  I love Jenny Colgan as there’s more often than not a strong food element in her books (sweet shops, cafes and chocolate shops) and Jane Fallon because though still chick-lit, the stories are less predictable and the characters more ‘real life’.  These are complicated love stories simultaneously exploring complex family relationships, modern moral dilemmas or hidden secrets.

Top song of 2015?

Whenever I’m working from home I always listen to 1xtra, not least because I’m in love with Trevor Nelson.  One of my favourite songs of the year has to be Lady Leshurr’s Queen’s Speech 4.  The song includes the lyrics, ‘I can’t believe it, I can’t believe the cheek, some girls wake up and don’t even brush their teeth.  That’s a dead ting, that’s a bad breath ting’.  It’s a song that always makes me smile and I’d recommend a listen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyodeHtVvkA).  I heard a great interview with Lady Leshurr where she said she was trying to bring back the fun into hip hop.  She referenced Missy Elliott who I’m a big fan of and it made me think of the likes of Ludacris and the Beastie Boys, who I used to love growing up.  I remember watching the music videos on MTV and these guys always made them a piece of entertainment in their own right.  And of course, when you’re working from home and barely remember to get dressed it’s always good to be reminded of the importance of dental hygiene…

Any downsides?
The biggest downside of the year for me was seeing a Tory government re-elected in May.  I won’t get too political (if you want the full rant I wrote an immediate response blog on the morning of the results here) but it really felt like I was witnessing something important, and not necessarily positive, take place.  Nothing since the election has changed my mind that this is not a good thing for our country.  The plus side of it is that it has made me much more politically aware.  I’m more sure than ever that the arts and theatre in particular has a role to play in encouraging political debate and providing a voice for people from different backgrounds and communities.

Resolutions for 2016?
My main resolution for 2016 is to find more time to write.  As a creative producer, I find it immensely satisfying to play a role in helping artists to get their projects of the ground, particularly working with new and emerging artists.  I don’t think that will ever change and next year I’ll be mentoring recent graduates as part of Northern Stage’s NORTH scheme.  However, I think I also owe it to myself to give some of that same time and energy to my own practice and finding out what kind of writer I could be if I put my mind to it.

What are you hoping for in 2016?
I’ll be kicking 2016 off by embarking on a new participatory arts project called Letters to Myself and an exciting new project funded by the Leverhulme Trust. For Letters to Myself, I’m thrilled to have been awarded seed funding from Cultural Spring which will allow us to spend time in communities in South Shields and Sunderland working on the project.  The main focus of the first 6 months will be asking people to consider writing a letter to their past, present or future selves.  I’m really interested in what we would say to ourselves when given the time and space to reflect and within this looking at shared knowledge and experience and how we become better at being our own best friend.  Later in the year, I’ll be creating a new theatre piece, using some of the text from some of the letters (where permission has been granted).  In a world where tragedy and war is common and the news a sometimes constant stream of horror, I hope this piece will be a gentle revolution helping us to take a step back, reflect and learn to love ourselves and those around us.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and wishing you many brilliant things for 2016.

For anyone interested in taking part in Letters to Myself, please email Becci at rjsharrock@hotmail.co.uk

 

Review of 2015: Nicola Cameron

Today we have the brilliant playwright Nicola Cameron to review 2015. Thanks for taking the time to do this, Nicola!

Vic x

Nicola Cameron

2015 was a great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?
2015 was the year I wrote my first proper, hour-long play, ‘Wasters’. It took six months of writing, redrafting and workshopping to get it to a point where it was ready to be performed; and I worked with some absolutely fantastic actors and directors, all under the mentorship of the talented Fin Kennedy. Sitting in the audience watching Wasters, seeing something I had imagined come to life, has got to be my top memory this year.

Wasters

And how about a favourite moment from 2015 generally?
Performing ‘451’ by Periplum at SIRF 15. SIRF is Stockton’s International Riverside Festival – one of Europe’s largest outdoor theatre festivals and is definitely worth getting along to in the summer. I volunteered to help out with a show, thinking I’d be tearing tickets, but when I arrived I was given a black coat, a balaclava and a whistle! The show is a large-scale retelling of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’, complete with flame-throwers, acrobatics and a gang of balaclava-clad firemen (me!) scaring the crowd into burning their books. It is a truly incredible show and a brilliant thing to be a part of, and has encouraged me to look into outdoor theatre as a career.

Favourite book in 2015?
This was the year I discovered Jose Saramago. ‘Blindness’ – where an entire town goes blind out of the blue, was the book that I could not put down. Saramago has an interesting way of writing, in that his sentences are often pages long, with the dialogue incorporated in them. It gives his work the feeling of being told the story rather than reading it, as the writers’ voice and personality are a part of the text. I’d also recommend ‘The Gospel According to Jesus Christ’ and ‘Death at Intervals’.

Favourite film of 2015?
The Lobster’. A thousand times! Amazing film. It’s set in a dystopian sort of world where everyone must be part of a couple to live in the city and lead a normal life. If you are single you are sent to a hotel, where you have so many days to pair up with one of the other singles, otherwise you’ll be turned into an animal. If you run away, you have to live in a forest as a Loner and be hunted by the hotel guests every night. I won’t say any more, just that I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much at a film. So see it!

Favourite song of the year?
Prince Johnny’ by St Vincent. I don’t even know why but I can’t get it out of my head. Also St Vincent is amazing – beautiful voice and great lyrics!

Any downsides for you in 2015?
It’s been a tough year financially but I think that’s true for most people at the moment. Here’s to a better 2016!

Are you making resolutions for 2016?
I think it’s time I tackled the big one: procrastination. It needs to be stopped. And it needs to stop stopping me. Also I’d like to try and move around a bit more. And actually update my blog regularly like I’m supposed to!

What are you hoping for from 2016?
I’d like to get another play written just to prove ‘Wasters’ wasn’t a fluke. And I guess by saying that it’s clear that I need to be more confident in myself as a writer. I think that’d be a good thing to aim for.

You can check out Nicola’s blog  or her filmpoem