E is for ebook

When is a book not a book? Tom Uglow spoke at Port Eliot about the ways in which ebooks and the digital experience could be more interactive than a mere saddle-stitched paperback could ever dream of. Being by nature a bit of a Luddite, I'd yet to fully embrace the virtual book, but I could see that my expectations of what an ebook is (or will be) were very wide of the mark.

I saw it as little more than a PDF of a 'real' book. Another helping of humble pie. please.

There is a wide range of ebook devices and platforms, so many that it's easier for me to provide you with a link than attempt to sound knowledgeable.

Cue Wiki:

As you may recall, I put together my own ebook as an experiment and a way of commoditising some comedy sketches. (And yes, I did use the word 'commoditising' to goad you!)

Mark Coker has created a fantastic tool, enabling any writer to upload a formatted Word doc and hey presto (actual process takes a few more steps) your ebook is born. He has also put together a list of artists who will produce an affordable book cover to your requirements.

So, why am I such a convert to ebooks all of a sudden?

The image above is a bit of a clue and more will be revealed around October 14th.

Port Eliot 4 - Enough Already!

Okay, just this one and then I'll shut up about it. As you'll have gathered, we enjoyed Port Eliot a great deal - all the photos are Anne's, by the way. There's such a range of authors and performers that there'll always be something to inspire, entertain or crush you (because the person speaking is just so damned GOOD at what they do). A special mention has to go to The Idler Academy tent, which managed to combine an engaging programme of speakers with an atmosphere all of its own. Think Tom Brown's Schooldays meets a student revue and you're halfway there.

Altogether, we saw James Attlee, Simon Day (twice, in my case), Dr Mark Vernon, Simon Munnery, John Cooper Clarke, Tom Uglow, Jackie Juno, Ed Harcourt, RSVP (where we learned to dance Bhangra style) and Sea of Bees. We saw two films at the open air Cinena Paradiso- North by Northwest (where the mozzies did their own biplane tribute by attacking us) and The Red Shoes, while indoors at the Paradiso Piccolo we watched The Barley Mow. Peter Gordon's cooking demonstration was very good, as was the tour of the house and nipping out of the venue and around the corner to see the church at St German's with its Burne-Jones stained glass windows.

I never expected...
- Wheelbarrows as the preferred mode of transport for small children.
- To see so many pregnant women - it was like something out of Dr Who. Or Alien.
- To see Suggs from Madness, sitting in an audience.
- To find Bob the Builder nappies dumped on the floor of a chemical toilet cubicle.
- To hear people laughing at Homer - the Greek one, not from The Simpsons.
- To see a performance poet I met on a comedy writing course two years ago.
- To meet someone from a yoga class ten years ago.
- To see vandalism.
- To hear that some locals were determined to get in without paying - and had.
- To hear the music through my sternum. At two in the morning.
- So much litter on the last morning - bottles, plastic glasses and Ocado receipts.

Port Eliot 3 - Observations

Notes jotted down from Port Eliot:

1. The literary scene is an exclusive club made up of people who went to Oxford or Cambridge and / or who have an MA in Creative Writing. There are other clubs, however.

2. It's de rigeur to have at least one friend named Harriet, Chloe, Marcel, Rudyard or Parsifal. I once adopted a cat and named him Einstein, but I don't think that counts.

3. By sheer coincidence, the children of authors, agents and editors have a tendency to become authors, agents and editors. This is either the result of osmosis or having parents who can bear the brunt of the unfunded internship.

4. Embittered, unpublished writers often can't see the wood for the trees - which is a pity as there are some beautiful trees at Port Eliot.

5. An unofficial creche system is in operation, whereby wayward parents leave their wayward children to roam about all day (and much of the night), relying on the kindness and patience of strangers. On the plus side, it was probably one of those children who dropped the fiver that I found in a field.

6. Perception is like the weather. Give it a few minutes and everything changes.

Port Eliot 2 - Caravan Envy

I imagine that staying in a Gypsy bow-top caravan is a lot like having a novel published. Not only is it a satisfying experience, but it also provokes a wide range of responses from other people (especially when it's raining).

These include:
- People pointing and staring.
- Some cutting to the chase and asking how much it cost you.
- People pressing their faces up at the window and then apologising.
- Children playing with the handbrake while their parents watch.
- Small children insisting they're allowed to come in and look around.
- People staring from their rain splattered cagoules with thinly veiled contempt.
- People asking if it's yours and telling you how lucky you are. (And what do you say to that?)

And this relates to writing how exactly?

I was coming to that. When you have any success, be it with writing or any other endeavour, it creates ripples. There will be times when you end up in the spotlight whether you planned it that way or not. And wherever possible, try and enjoy it. Even if you're the luckiest so-and-so on Earth and wrote that piece on a gap year while staying at The Ritz, you still wrote it. Never justify and never apologise for your success. And if the Blue Meanies are giving you a hard time about your achievement, write a story and turn them all into monsters.

Port Eliot 1 - Now that's what I call recycling

First it was a bag to carry shopping on to the site.

Then it was a ground sheet to watch the open air screening of North by Northwest.

Then it was a breadboard.

Then it was a rain hat because someone (that would be me) forgot to bring a cagoule and it peed down for a day.

Then it was a rather fetching blog picture.

It's not just a bag, it's an M&S bag.
And now it's in the bin.

Work Backwards

One of the things that always fascinates me about writers is the search for a formula. It's a quicksand trap that's easily to slip into, especially when you hear of other writers you know who are doing rather well. In the blink of a green eye, you can lose yourself in the delusion that one woman's meat is another man's main course.

Which is not to say that models aren't useful. If NLP teaches us anything (and I know the jury is still split on that score), it's that behaviours and approaches can be modelled. So, recently, when I was discussing ways in which freelance writers can map out a strategy, the following idea came up.

1. Start with what you know. This should be precisely what your product or service is.

2. What problem or issue does it solve?

3. How does it solve it? (This will get you thinking about how you define what it is that you offer.)

4. Who would need that problem / issue resolved?

5. Where would you find them?

6. How could you communicate with them?

This approach might be especially useful for people who see life as a set of problems to be solved, rather than an opportunity for aspirations to be realised.

The joke's on me

When I was a kid, one of the highlights of the run-up to Christmas was the epic Woolworths' advert on TV. It was always longer than any other ad and starred proper celebrities like The Two Ronnies.None of which has any relevance to this post, but I thought I'd mention it.

What I do want to tell you about is my latest eBook - a Showreel Sketchbook that I've put together for non-profit events. It was created for people who want to try their hand at comedy sketches, but who don't have their own material, and draws upon my experience writing for The Treason Show, The NewsRevue and several one-off shows.

The Showreel Sketchbook is available for £2.99 and you can purchase it here. There are no restrictions on non-commercial use, so the book could be used for showreels, drama groups, corporate events (one of my first comedy adventures) and parties.

The collection is a mixture of two-hander quickie sketches and longer set pieces, covering a range of topics including sex, drugs, teens and religion.

1. Work Rage
2. ID Card Secrets
3. Religious Service
4. Non-Emergency
5. Tony Tears Quickie
6. Pensioners Strike
7. The Three Rs
8. Jesus Woz Ere
9. Cyber-Bullying
10. Psychic Warning
11. Sex Talk
12. Human Hybrids
13. Nursery Rhyme
14. Gravedigger
15. Cash For Your Gold
16. Fertility Treatment
17. School Daze
18. Ambulance Quickie
19. Middle-Aged Teen
20. Vatican test
21. Dirt Quickie
22. Pets
23. Donor Fatigue
24. D-R-U-G-S
25. Chuggers
26. Surrogate Mum
27. A Bitter Pill
28. A Risky Business
29. Just The Ticket Quickie
30. Troubled Teens
31. Prison Service
32. Sharks
33. Church Against Yoga
34. He-Mail
35. Rule Britannia

And here's a sample...

Donor Fatigue

Cast of two: Customer and Café Barista.

Customer: All the international disasters these days – it’s simply appalling!

Barista: I know! There was the tsunami, that hurricane, those wars, the famine and the nuclear you-know-what; it just goes on and on. It’s terrible.

Customer: Exactly! I mean – I’m not made of bloody money!

Barista: Right, then. That’s one large latte, one organic Danish and an Amaretto biscuit. That’ll be £8.20, please!


Don't delay - purchase today!

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Co-Dependence weekend

When you think about it, people care more for mythology than they do for truth. Over the years I've met people of all persuasions (forgive the irony) who refused to shift their position in the fact of new evidence.

Whether it's Churchill's proposal for a United States of Europe or whatever really happened on that fateful September 11th in 2001, we tend to treat our beliefs and opinions like football teams - once we've bought the scarf there's no going back. Personally, I like the cross currents of ambiguity and firmly believe (at least for today) that opinions are for entertainment purposes only. While I can't manage the egolessness of Plato's 'This I know- that I know nothing', I make a point of regularly questioning my own values and viewpoint.

People have gone to war over beliefs and ideologies and yet, when it all comes down to it, surely our similarities are always greater than our differences?

So, the main purpose of this blog post is to allow my fellow writers and readers from the A Word with You Press online creative community to get a proper look at the graphic above. It comes from a back issue of As Above So Below magazine and features my spoof on the US Declaration of Independence and David French's stylistic eye.

Now, I know that July 4th has a mythology (or history, if you prefer) all of its own. In my brief time out there, I came to see the reverence and relevance in which it's held. I've also read books such as The Temple and The Lodge, which delve into the influence of freemasonry in the creation of the USA. It's a slightly different history, but the ending is the same!

So why did David French and I point a satirical finger at the United States of Europe? Because, as all lovers of comedy know, the ambiguity of no-man's land, where something 'is and is not' is fertile ground for squishing ideas together and then adding your own topping. We liked the idea so much that the USE became a regular feature of our magazine and some of our readers liked it too (apart from the ones who hated it).

So to conclude this circular path, mythology is important. And okay, if we start to veer towards religious ideas, you can use a different word now if it makes you feel happier. In writing, what occurs is less important than what the characters and the readers believe and feel has taken place. As that quintessential American writer Mark Twain (or Samuel Langhorne Clemens if you prefer) put it so well: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.