Keeping Busy: A Week in the Life

Sometimes it feels like treading water. Trying to remain productive over and above surviving the daily grind, paying the bills, the regular essentials like eating and remembering to charge your phone.

Other times, things happen. Life gets even busier, but for the best. I’m not one for a ‘tour diary’ or, worse still, a regular diary, but the last week has been hectic, in a good way.

Wednesday, I made the trip to Leeds to perform at Verbal Remedies. A slightly smaller crowd than in March, they were nevertheless enthusiastic and encouraging, and my set was well received. I sold a copy of the limited, numbered tour edition of The Rage Monologues (almost half of this run has now sold) and got to chat with some really cool people. It was also something of a privilege to appear on the same bill as guest speakers Ian Winter (Hull) and Hannah Stone (York), who were outstanding. This is very quickly becoming one of my favourite spoken word nights going, and the standard of open mic performers is consistently strong. For the second time in two months, I was astounded by Lauren Butler’s lung capacity.

A short clip of my performance of ‘News’ also got shot that night. There isn’t much footage of me reading, and this is probably one of the best yet.

One day, I’ll figure out how to actually embed this video…
https://www.facebook.com/facebook/videos/10153231379946729/

Friday saw me take the rage back on the road, this time making the journey to the Scribble night at The Shakespeare in Sheffield. The journey was stressful to say the least: I knocked off work at 3:45 and caught a bus to the station, hopping on the 4:45 York to Sheffield (direct via Leeds) which was due to land in Sheffield at 17:48: ample time to make the 17-minute walk to the venue at my pace. Signal failure at Sheffield meant that we sat at Leeds station for half an hour, during which time I began to regret the chilli-cheese wrap I’d made for lunch. The train stalled again at Meadowhall and we were advised to disembark and hop on the tram. This stopped around every 500 yards, and I finally jumped off at somewhere near but not very near the station at 18:45 in a state of anxiety and bursting with rage. I figured I might channel this into my performance later, and yes, I did, although I’m not sure how well it translated. I’d got the walk from the station mapped out on my phone, but quite lost and with the even scheduled for a 7pm, start, I hopped in the nearest taxi and made it with minutes to spare.

The Shakespeare is an ace venue: the upstairs room is large and a good, plain rectangular shape with good acoustics and the bar downstairs offers 9 hand pumps and more decent beer than even I could consume. It was good to catch up in real life with Rob Eunson and to meet more new people, and while the reaction to my performance (a trio of rage monologues, during which, utterly pumped after my terrible journey, saw me leave the mic and rave manically to the audience, who looked terrified) was mixed, it was a good night. The other speakers were, again, excellent, and besides, I don’t expect rapturous applause and unanimous acclaim doing what I do.

That same day, my first new material in some time hit the market. While my February publication project, Something Must Break / Dream of the Flood, was ‘new writing’ I haven’t had work featured in anyone else’s publications in a year or two. So, for ‘Ambition’, a rage piece I only wrote earlier this year and performed for the first and only timer in Leeds in March to feature in issue 3 of The Curly Mind, the on-line zine curated by Reuben Woolley, a poet I admire greatly, is a big deal. You can read ‘Ambition’ here, and it’s worth having a nose round the other work at The Curly Mind.

Landing home after Sheffield at around 11:30am, it was an early start on Saturday for Live at Leeds, where I changed from writer / performer to music reviewer and landed early doors for some of the bands on at midday, and stuck it out till gone 10:30pm, by which time I’d seen 10 bands play in some five venues and on six stages, leaving myself with pages of scribbled notes from which to chisel a 1,500 word review for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’ by 10pm on Sunday.

Not every week is like this, and I’m now even further behind on my email than ever. But, having started to build what feels like momentum taking the rage on the road, a hometown performance in York in May seems like the way to go, ahead of venturing to Manchester in June.

Who knows, I might even find the time to write some new material before then. But meanwhile, it’s bank holiday Monday, it’s chucking it down and I have DIY to do…

 

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Literary Life Admin

Arguably the hardest part of being a minor-league author in the current market is self-promotion and administration. Writers aren’t by their nature the most gregarious of people and would prefer to spend their time actually writing than adopting the role of media whore. But needs must, and it’s not always a matter of being unable to get an agent or publisher.

To look at Steve Albini’s no-messing take on the music industry, the more people you’ve got working ‘for’ you, the more people you’ve got taking cuts from your already meagre royalty. The best way to go, especially in the Internet age, is to become self-managing. It does of course require immense discipline, and not inconsiderable balls.

Needless to say, I have these (at least on a good day), and have not only been sorting (and continue to sort) platforms to perform segments from my ongoing project The Rage Monologues, but I’ve assembled an A5 pamphlet containing a selection of (but by no means all) the monologues penned so far.

This evening, ahead of performances at The Black Light Engine Room’s night in Middlesbrough (Westgarth SC, Saturday 25th July 2015) and Clinicality Press’ evening of Spoke Word (The Fleeting Arms, York, 19th August 2015), I hand-numbered the 20 copies of The Rage Monologues pamphlets which arrived last week. I’m not vain enough to sign them.

They look pretty great, if I do say so myself. They’re going to cost £3.50 / 1 pint.

My set and performance style is evolving as the project goes on, and I’m hoping to announce more dates in the near future. Meanwhile, if you;re in or around Middlesbrough on July 25th or York on August 19th, do come on down. You know there’s nothing more you want than to have some guy shout in your face.

 

 

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The Rage Monologues: a hand-numbered edition of 20. Buy them so I can eat.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at christophernosnibor.co.uk

The Jinx

You often read that projects are or were ‘ill-fated’ and I’m starting to get that feeling about my latest project, ‘The Rage Monologues’.

I’d written a couple of pieces that seemed well-suited to spoken word nights, not because they were exactly accessible, but because they weren’t stories, but fiery rants that straddled poetry, prose and performance art. I read them at a few spoken word nights, and they were successful (at least by my standards), and so the concept of ‘The Rage Monologues’ was born.

In short, I devised to write a collection of pieces that were designed with performance in mind. I’d take them on the road, do as many spoken word and open mic nights as I could get to, and maybe when I had enough, end it all with a one-man show where I did maybe 40 minutes of ranting and publish the pieces as a pamphlet / chapbook.

Things started well enough, with a well-received slot at Speakers’ Corner at The Golden Ball in York, and an even better received turn at Platform Thirsk a week later. I decided it was time to build momentum and hit every night going, and with a slot secured at ThreeVerse at Nevermind in York, I delivered another successful performance with some new material at Speakers’ Corner.

Alas, the ThreeVerse slot was cancelled due to several of the other performers cancelling. I got my slot rescheduled, but the week before I was due to perform, ThreeVerse got pulled by the venue.

Then I got news that Spokes, a night I had performed a number of times, and probably the best spoken word night in York due to its curated nature, announced it would be calling it a day in June.

The Leeds events I had previously attended seems to have stalled, but keen to maintain some kind of momentum, I decided to try my luck at the open mic might at City’ Screen’s Basement. I was revved, but anxious – open mic nights are a major gamble, especially for a fringe performer like me.

I arrived ten minutes before doors – just as the poster stating that the night was cancelled due to the venue flooding went up (seemingly a problem with the drains).

After three successive attempts to perform have been foiled and two regular nights have called time, I can;t help but feel that I’m something of a spoken-word night jinx, destined not to bring The Rage Monologues project to fruition.

But I’m not done yet. And if I have to resort to bellowing on a street corner before I get beaten up or moved on by the police, so be it. But if you’ve got any spoken word slots going and want to give a platform to an angry man spouting stuff in a fashion that may captivate or clear the room, give me a shout.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at christophernosnibor.co.uk

Christopher Nosnibor’s Guide to Working as a Music Reviewer – Part Three

No two ways about it, the 9-5 is a pain in the proverbial. No doubt if you’re an aspiring reviewer you’re resentful of the humdrum desk job, bar job, whatever, and who would blame you. Unfortunately, it’s the humdrum desk job, bar job, whatever that pays the bills.

I resent the humdrum desk job as much if not more than anyone, although it was while working my day-job that a not insignificant realisation hit. I’d landed the task of leading a group of colleagues through a session on letter-writing. These are people, adults, who write detailed letters to customers daily. It’s their job. I was shocked, and indeed appalled, to realise just how far back to basics I had to take things.

I found myself having to explain not only the possessive apostrophe, and the difference between affect and effect, but also the definition of a noun and a verb, singular and plural.

I expect the bulk of my readers will laugh or feel a wave of despondency. However, anyone who aspires to be the next Nick Kent and who’s stumbled upon this blog in the hope of finding advice or otherwise gleaning some tips for making it – whatever that may be – as a music reviewer, I will proffer the following: learn to write.

If their / they’re / there is beyond you, give up, immediately. Enjoy the music, but please don’t inflict your illiterate drivel on others.

Similarly, if you’re reading this and have no idea who Nick Kent is, you don’t have a hope. Writing about music requires a knowledge of music, and ideally, a knowledge of music journalism. This is true in almost any field of critique. Yes, it’s all about opinion, but your opinion only has weight if you can qualify if with some kind of evidence. No-one’s going to respect your opinion if you don’t know shit.

Word ends in

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Writing about Writing (Again): A Slap of Reality in a World of Fiction

On TV and in films, and even in many novels, writers are often – if not almost always – portrayed as high-profile media types, living the high-life, traversing here and there in sharp suits and fancy dresses, to interviews, readings, launches and high-profile media events. they’re inevitably best-sellers, and vaguely eccentric, and live in nice, even vaguely grand homes or apartments (if they’re American): they get stopped in the street (and, if you’re Castle, at crime scenes) by fans who simply love your books, live and breathe your characters and want to marry you., or at least have an affair.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the literary circles I move in are toward the lower end of the industry. By which, of course, I actually mean they exist outside of ‘the industry’. They work regular jobs, have families and chisel out their works in stolen hours late at night and early in the morning. They do it out of compulsion, a need to purge and splurge, rather than for the money. It almost goes without saying I count myself amongst these. Writing isn’t some hobby or light-relief pastime.

The writers I know and associate with are, believe it or not, more representative of writers than the popular portrayals of writers. With a few notable exceptions – Stephen King, JK Rowling, for example – writers tend to be fairly anonymous. Unlike actors, writers don’t get their faces splashed over huge billboards. Writers aren’t usually the most photogenic of people, which is often why they’re writers and not actors. Do you know what E.L. James looks like? Dan Brown? John Grisham? Jodi Picoult? Donna Tartt? Toby Litt? And these are ‘bestseller’ list authors, not the majority of people who constitute the world of publishing in all its guises.

It’s ironic that actors get paid megabucks for playing out the scenes laid out in the pages of books penned by anonymous writers, and earn significantly more for doing so, given that without the writers, the actors would have no scenes to perform. it’s all about having a face and an image that sells. ‘Game of Thrones’ author George R.R. Martin didn’t get rich posting selfies and posing for Vogue.

Fiction is often escapist: it doesn’t have to be fantasy or sci-fi to take the reader beyond the confines of their hum-drum daily existence. And so it may be that even writers who earn royalties of pence and cents may portray high-living celebrity writers in their works. I have no gripe about that, per se, other than the observation that it flies very much in the face of the first principle of writing, which is ‘write what you know.’ This doesn’t mean fantasy and science fiction are out by any stretch, so much as that it pays to at least research scenarios that exist beyond your knowledge, because a savvy reader can spot a bluffer. Research plus imagination is, of course, another matter entirely and can be the very essence of creative genius.

As such, I resist the urge to yell at the TV when ‘celebrity’ writers are portrayed. Of course, my initial thought is ‘when do these people get to do any writing, given the time they spend travelling around to premieres and being famous?’, but the answer is obvious – namely, the rest of the time. Because unlike the writers I know, they don’t work the 9-5, and their maids and the like take care of the kids while they swan round in the name of ‘research’.

Recent research suggests that the prospects of a writing career are pretty dismal if you’re looking to get rich, even if you do achieve a degree of fame: Prospects.ac.uk report that ‘The median earnings for professional writers (those who dedicate more than 50% of their time to writing) was only £11,000 in 2013, and only 11.5% of professional writers earned their incomes solely from writing.’ The Guardian reports that ‘The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 in 2000.’

This is nowhere near a luxurious salary. It’s not even minimum wage. It’s certainly well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. It means that writers don’t live in palatial mansion-type homes, resplendent with antique furniture (unless they’ve inherited it) or plush penthouse apartments. They may have heaps of books on their shelves (the majority likely either purchased second hand or sent to them for review or in trade) but the chances are most writers don’t rise around brunchtime and slip on a silk bathrobe before a serving of eggs Benedict and then chip out a page or so while sipping sherry or 50-year old single malt in their resplendent superbly plush leather-upholstered chair at a Louis XIV desk in the prime spot in a mahogany-panelled library. No, writing is work: hard work, even for ‘successful’ authors. And given that in the region of 99% of all books published sell fewer than 100 copies, what hope is there fore the rest of us to break through to the major league?

The rest of us – the writers who can’t even qualify as ‘professional writers’ and who are obliged to work for a living and write on the side, in their spare time… well, what about us? We may be by and large fringe producers of culture, but collectively account for much of the vital undercurrent that breaks new ground and ultimately inspires the commercial mainstream. We’re the lifeblood. We stay up late, typing with our eye bags instead of our well-manicured fingers, using stolen moments to render those ideas that poke and prod and gnaw at us during the ours of the 9-5 into words that will ultimately purge us of the torment of drudgery.

Some, perhaps maybe many, harbour ambitions of the palatial mansion-type homes or plush penthouse apartment with a capacious library suite and luxurious office. Maybe they’ve bought the fictional representation of the author, like the office temp I worked with once – a guy in his early twenties who was convinced he could pen a novel that would become lauded as a literary masterpiece, after which he would never have to work again. I didn’t delight in shattering his illusions, and equally, I don’t delight in the author’s plight, because it’s my plight as much as the next minor-league author’s. This isn’t about highlighting that plight, either. It’s not a grumble and grouse about how artists don’t reap the rewards they deserve, but a meditation on the vast disparity between the fact and the fiction. And what beggars belief is that the fiction, as presented in the media, of the wealthy, famous and esteemed author, is propagated by authors at all levels. After all, ‘big’ films, TV dramas, series and the like are as likely to be penned by breakthrough authors, who are accustomed to the real world rather than the privileged world of the top flight. Where do they get these ideas from?

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality. Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see… Originality is dead. Legend and myth isn’t the life of the author. You’re not Stephen King, you’re not Castle. This is not ‘Murder, She Wrote’. This is life. Now write it.

 

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Cramped, cluttered and anything but the image of a palatial literary person’s writing space…. the ‘office’ of part-time literary nonentity Christopher Nosnibor, today.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk.

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blog On…Why I Quit Blogging Part 2

I couldn’t give a shit about your blog. I’d say it’s nothing personal, but in truth that’s exactly what it is, because your blog is you, your life, your innermost thoughts, out there, in the public domain. I should admire your courage, your openness and honesty. Your brutal truth. Your disarming humility, your humanity. The fact you’re so willing to open up and reveal your insecurities, the mechanisms of your daily existence. You’re real, you’re normal: we’re all insecure, we all eat, sleep, dream. I almost feel as though I know you, as if I’m living your life with you, like I’m there, a part of you and your life, your beautiful, brilliant, ordinary life, where I’m sharing your dreams and hopes, your knock-backs, disappointments and failures, the long, hard hours you put into your work, your family, your writing, your emotional release.

 

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Do as the sign says and love yourself a bit more

 

And therein lies the problem. We all do exactly the same, fundamentally, and it’s no secret as to what it is to be human. Get a fucking grip. you’re not special.

Half the people who have blogs harbour ambitions of being a writer. Stop telling me about how you’re so engrossed in mapping the plot, how you’re starting to live and breathe the characters, your creations, your babies and get on and write it. The endless hours spent writing blog posts about your writing process could be spent actually writing something. But then, so could the hours spent arranging flowers (and posting pretty pictures of your arrangements on your blog), baking (and posting semi-pro shots of your magnificent cakes and mouthwatering confectionary), taking coffee with friends, making – and photographing – endless pots of speciality teas in your humble, small but tasteful cottage kitchen. So you like Earl Grey, love brownies and hate confrontation but more than anything you want to write that book and see it published.

 

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So many blogs, so little time

Me, I like to keep quiet about my personal life, what I get up to. No-one gives a fuck that I suffer chronic insomnia, woke up at 4:30am in a state of panic and drenched in sweat as I wondered how I’m going to pay he next electricity bill and the rent while reeling amidst tumultuous thoughts whereby my abject failure both as an artist and a human being scream at me until the dawn breaks.

No-one cares that I stumbled downstairs in my dressing gown at half past six with a raging hangover, crazed and delirious from a fitful sleep punctuated by nightmares to make a cup of tea – no-brand with semi-skimmed milk from Asda, five days out of date and on the turn – that went cold while I emptied my bowels, a lose movement with a small trace of blood, before hauling my sorry arse into the spare room where the computer – hopelessly out-of-date and only semi-functional – sits and attempt to hack out some words. You don’t need to know how I pissed away my day in isolation, fielding phone calls from my mother and three different offshore sales departments. How I cooked a bland meal of pasty oven chips and a tepid frozen pizza before vegetating on the sofa in front of some brainrot ‘reality’ TV because there’s nothing else on on a Saturday night. No, you just don’t want to know.

Better just get on with it.

 

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You don’t have to have anything (important) to say to blog about it.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Midlife Crisis

I will be 38 very soon. Some might say I look it, others less polite that I don’t, because I look 20 years older. They’re twats, but it doesn’t matter.

When I turned 30, I found I began to care less. That doesn’t mean I stopped caring altogether, or that I stopped experiencing fits of anxiety over various things, but that having realised I was old enough to be taken seriously while being young enough to be up-and-coming, and having been around a while and seen some things, I was beginning to be comfortable (enough) in my skin to not worry about trivial matters such as peer pressure and looking ‘cool’ (and since true cool is about not giving a fuck, my coolness soared by default).

So, being almost 38, I don’t really care that I look like a burned-out trampy mess. I’d rather spend time and money on doing stuff than on clothes and preening in front of the mirror.

Therefore, it may be because of my age or it may be because of the times and the culture, that I’m fed up of emotional depth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not insensitive, and music and films and writing with emotional depth still move me, when well executed. But I’ve no time for all this heart-on-the-sleeve, bleeding-heart, introspective emotionally-wracked tortured soul crap any more. Artists who feel every heartbeat, and agonise over every exchange between themselves and the many individuals who have a high emotional impact on them, for whom every conversation involves trawling the depths of their souls and agonising over their every move…. I simply haven’t got the time.

Forget this creative soul, artistic genius bollocks and move on. Get a grip and get a life. It’s quite possible to have resonance without picking at the scabs on your navel and sharing with the world at large the minute details of your tempestuous relationships and near-misses and all of the other ephemeral emotional highs and lows that punctuate or even define your otherwise dreary life. Because that isn’t life: it’s five minutes of your life, and no-one else cares. Least of all me.

 

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk