My writing life.

I started my writing career in 1981. I was seven. In a style which I have later adopted in my poetry, my first novel didn’t have a title, it just had a giant R on the cover, which stood for Robert. I can’t remember much about if except that the villain was an entity known only as the Blue Moo. The Blue Moo was what I used to call my sister, because she wore a blue coat. Which is kind of cruel, seeing as though she was only five at the time.

I would write at school during playtime, whenever it was raining. It rained a lot, I remember, when I was a kid. I’d always get excited about rainy days because it meant that I could write. I still get excited shout rainy days, even now.
By 1984 I was at middle school and I used to fill notebooks with stories. I was encouraged to do this by my teacher, Mr Shaw, who would then let me read my stories out in class. The first of these was called Bully Bulldog’s Ship, and for reasons which I’m still not sure, all of the characters were dogs. And secret agents. The cover for Billy Bulldog’s Ship shows explosions and a radar screen and has he tag line, ‘Featuring car chases, underwater bases, kings and prime ministers and that sort of thing’. It was rubbish.
By 1986 I was still at middle school, but now I’d progressed to writing about humans. I wrote a whole series of short novels about a skier, called William Board, and his friend Ed Butf, and how they would get into all kinds of adventures during and after skiing tournaments. I have no idea why I picked skiing tournaments, but I did watch an awful lot of Ski Sunday back in the day.
In 1988 my grandparents gave me a typewriter, which I still use now whenever I’m Poet In Residence anywhere. By now William had left the skiing circuit and was a policeman in a small Surrey village called Englemede. I’d type up these stories and inject as much humour as possible, because this would make my English teacher, Mr Smith, laugh as he read them. This was probably a big moment in my adoption of comedy. The stories were still rubbish, but my grammar and spelling had improved.
By the time I got to sixth form I was still plugging away, and remarkably, William Board was still the focus of the stories, his ineptitude as a policeman and his promotion to detective providing much mirth. My magnum opus of this time was Impending Headache, set at a sixth form college in Surrey much like the one I attended. And in between chapters I’d write over the top comedic poetry.
By 1992 I had my first job and, amazingly, William Board was still my main focus. By now his detective work would take him to a supermarket in Surrey, round about the time that I worked at a supermarket in Surrey, in a novel called Bar Code Blues.
In 1994 I got a job in a village shop in the suburb of Englefield Green, and I wrote a new novel with a new main character, the trainee guardian angel Genre Philips. The novel was called Englefield Green Blues, and like Impending Headache, it would be influential on my writing career in that I’d re-use chapters and stories to form the novel I’ve been working on this year.
At this stage, I’d started sending novels off to publishers and agents, and one or two were very supportive but would ultimately say no.
By now I’d dabbled in comedy poetry, filling up notebooks with poems written with a pen I’d been using since sixth form. I’d stay at my grandmothers house in the hot summer, she lived on a hill overlooking the whole of London from the airport to Canary Wharf, and I’d listen to the jazz stations and just write whatever I felt like. This would form the basis of my one man show, Static, in 2016.
In 1995 my Grandfather passed away. I went to see the pathologist and watched as he signed the death certificate with a cartridge pen, and that afternoon I went out and bought one for myself. Amazingly, this is the same pen I use today for anything creative, and it has written every poem, short story, novel and play since 1995.
In 1996 I moved to Devon. By now I’d discovered Kafka, Camus, Beckett, and my writing became dense, impenetrable. I used my own system of punctuation which made even the reading of it impossible, and to further add to the misery, my novels had numbers instead of names. RD05, RD06, RD07, and so on. I’d send these off to publishers and I could never understand why they’d come right back.
I joined a band of local amateur actors and I would write short sketches and funny monologues for them, we’d rehearse and make cassettes, but never got anywhere near the stage. One of my monologues was about a rocket scientist who’d fallen in love with his rocket. Not phallic at all.
I came out in 2000. I didn’t write much at all for a while. I was busy with other things.
By now I had a job, and I’d studied a-levels, undergraduate and postgraduate at night school, so I didn’t have much time for writing. For a laugh, I got a part in a professional play, and while it meant I would never act again, (oh, it was so traumatic!), it led me to write a play called Fuselage. Amazingly, it won a playwriting competition at the Northcott Theatre. I remember getting off the train in Exeter thinking, wow, it’s my writing that has got me here. This all happened in 2008.
In 2009 I discovered performance poetry, accidentally, and kind of got in to that. Around the same time I wrote a short novel called Reception, based on an ill fated trip I took to Tokyo, but by now my main focus was performance poetry and spoken word, shows and comedy one liners. In 2010 I had my first paid gig, at an Apples and Snakes event in London, and amazingly, this was the first time I made any money from my writing since I was 8!
So that brings me up to date, more or less. I now write every day, still with the same pen, and I still use the same typewriter every now and then, though mostly for performance. And I’ve kept a diary, every day writing something about the previous day, which I’ve kept up since 1985 uninterrupted. It’s only taken 37 years to find the one thing I’m halfway decent at!

Performance Poetry Whimsy and Shenanigans

Photos taken by the talented Holly Collins
Photos taken by the talented Holly Collins

Its been the most wonderful month or so in the world of performance poetry, especially after the euphoria of co-winning the Exeter Poetry Slam with the wonderful Daniel Haynes. I saw Daniel at Taking the Mic this week backed up by a guitarist and keyboards and performing his poetry to a wonderful jazz beat. It was sublime and dreamy.

Last month I went to Berlin and while I was there I took part in a German poetry slam. I was the only person there at the King Kong Klub performing in English, yet in spite of this I managed to come fourth out of nine. The audience mostly spoke  English and they all laughed at the right moments. It was a weird experience. I didn’t understand a word Christian, the host, said, and some of the poems went on for ten minutes without break. In any case I made a lot of new friends.

Recently I have been involved in a musical project with a load of talented people. The idea for our first song, which I call ‘Llanfair etc’, came from John Samuel, the lead singer of my favourite local band, Future Ghosts. (Known also as Future Ghosts UK due to a copyright issue). We have been working on the sonAndorra a while and it has a wonderful chorus sung by John which has to be heard to be believed! Anyway, at an Acoustic music night at Epicentre the other week, we got together with Freakboi, Bryce Dumont, and Matt Spalding, and we improvised tunes and rhymes to the audience. Matt played the Eliza Mockingham, a broom with pots and pans attached. I think we ably demonstrated our mastery of musical and lyrical form.

Not long after this, Tim King, James Turner and i drove out to Frome in Somerset for the Hip Yak Poetry Shack. Matt Harvey was the headliner, but we had mostly gone for the mini poetry slam. amusingly, we got lost on the way and arrived late. we werent allowed into the auditorium, which was ok because se werent on for a while, but the box office and tuck shop staff insisted James perform for them. He did so, amiably and with his usual gusto, right there and then in the empty theatre cafe! Tim and I later came first and second in the slam, bringing the trophy home to Devon along the A303, to some acclaim!

And this week I headlined at Poetry Island, at the Blue Walnut in  Torquay. It was a busy night for me, hosting as well, and all of the other poets were of an extremely high calibre. Jackie Juno, Chris Brooks, Simon Blades and Joanna Hatfull to name but four. I think I did okay, though I was extremely glad when it was all over!

So it has been an incredibly busy time of late for me and I am looking forward to a few weeks off from all poenamoured about. Though I shall probably be making a couple of videos and posting them here and there.

Thanks to all of my wonderful friends this year for all of their support and laughter!