I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’ve got a book out. Indeed, it is my first published book, my first proper collection from a real publisher, Burning Eye Books, rather than a self published effort. I can’t begin to describe how great it feels! Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a published writer. While other kids would daydream and talk about winning some football match or scoring a winning goal, I would dream about there being a book out there with my name on the cover. I would repeat, over and over to myself on those long suburban sultry nights, the image of opening a box from the publishers and seeing all the books there inside, ready to go out into the world.
It’s taken a while!
Burning Eye are the most dynamic and wonderful company I can imagine. They’ve published all my favourite names in the spoken word community, such as Megan Beech, Vanessa Kisuule, Rob Auton, Salena Godden. I have devoured every volume over the years, and when the chance came up to send them some material, I didn’t hesitate. I heard nothing for a while and I thought, well, on to the next thing, then.
Then last year, while staying in Bristol and supporting Vanessa Kisuule at the Hammer and Tongue event, I received an email from Clive Birnie inviting me to send in a manuscript, because he’d chosen me to be published! I was so happy, but I didn’t want to jinx it by telling anyone. The only person I told was Vanessa, and then I carried the secret around for months!
I cannot stress how incredibly professional Burning Eye have been. I’ve worked with editors and proofreaders, going through the poems and clarifying every last mark of punctuation or dodgy example of bad grammar. (Like this sentence). Hours spent enchanting emails about the rules on brackets and semicolons, hyphens, and the fact that one poem had to change its content in order not to be sued by a large film company which has a mouse shaped logo! Burning Eye were brilliant, it felt so good to be a part of their system.
So, what is Nice?
First of all, the title. I’ve always hated the word ‘nice’, because it’s so floppy and undescriptive, and it can be used sarcastically. But I wanted the book to be positive, to contain only funny or life affirming poems, and I needed a one word title that was positive in itself. The original title was ‘Nice One’, then I went with ‘Responsible’, and then back to ‘Nice’. I was also going to call it ‘Poems’.
So, Nice is a collection of fantastic upbeat silly funny poems which don’t tax the brain and make no claims to literary excellence, but they are the ones that I enjoy performing the most and the ones that the audiences like. There are also one or two brand new pieces in there which I’ve not yet performed, such as a rap about fuchsias originally written for my music group Croydon Tourist Office, and another about, ahem, weird sexual fetishes. Indeed, a first read of the manuscript shocked me at the amount of sex mentioned in the book, although there was nothing exactly graphic. I did wonder what a psychologist might think!
The cover is deliberately bright and clean. It’s based on the sort of design that you might see on a 1980s album cover, I wanted to create something simple and iconic, easy to replicate, and easy to put on posters. I think it looks clean and fresh, and the motif is repeated on the back. The colouring also could represent the rainbow flag, though this is not explicit and I only thought of it after I’d designed the cover!
On the whole, Nice represents the last two or three years of my performances, and now it’s out there in the open for the whole world to enjoy, and I can go on to the next thing.
I’m hugely proud of the book and the reception so far has been great. I’ve been working on it for a year and it still hasn’t lost its magic with me, so I hoping that this remains the case for the reader, too. The next step is a couple of events to help launch it, such as a book signing in Paignton in December, and a mini book tour taking in Torquay, Exeter, Bovey Tracey and Woking.
You can buy the book here http://burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/nice-by-robert-garnham