Tag: book

The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness: Graham Caveney in conversation with Deirdre O’Byrne

On the snowy evening of Wednesday 28 Feb, at Middle Street Resource Centre, Beeston residents were treated to a talk and exploration of Graham Caveney’s book The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness.

51tjWPwZrML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

His book, described as ‘a memoir of adolescence’ is a powerful recounting of Caveney’s life growing up in Accrington, from a working class Catholic background. It explores his love of music, literature, and brings to the fore issues such as class, religion, and the abuse he was subject to by his teacher and headmaster at his local grammar school during the 1970s.

Having kept his abuse quiet from his closest friends, and parents, his book comes at a time of recovery from years of mental anquish, drinking problems and trips in and out of rehab. At the start of the event, after everyone has settled with hot drinks, Graham Machin, chair of Beeston Community Resource (BCR), and one of our Beeston Heroes, speaks about the history of MSRC and its role as a mental health day centre.

Attendees of the event were encouraged to donate money towards a fund which helps people with mental health problems when they are in need of emergency support. This was done on a pay-what-you-can basis, and that Caveney agreed was a fitting cause for the event to raise money for.

Deirdre O’Byrne starts off the conversation by asking Graham about how his book came to be written in the first place, revealing a link to the hosts of the event, Five Leaves Bookshop, who had given Graham a job when he proclaimed himself as unemployable. It was then being surrounded by books that struck the right chord and enabled him to begin telling his story. What began as an attempt to rewrite Kafka’s Metamorphosis, became the courageous and endearing book that now exists as an object in the world (something Graham appreciates in books generally).

He’d sent paragraphs to his friend Julie Hesmondhalgh as a way to tell her about himself and his past, and she asked him if he’d thought about having it published. “When writing it, it never occurred to me that it would be published, and that was a good thing, otherwise I’d never have written it,” he says.

He had contacts that would be able to help towards publication, but, “I wasn’t prepared to cash in on those friendships,” he reveals. He then received an email from Julie with the subject heading ‘oops’ saying that she’d sent it to Jonathan Coe, an old friend and author in his own right, who got in contact with Graham’s former agent, who sold the book within 3 months.

The conversation is split up with a few readings, each of them read wonderfully, and eliciting laughs from the listeners. Deirdre picks up on this, and asks about the humour and presence of quite dark jokes in the book. Graham says humour can be a great way to express trauma and abuse, and that he didn’t want to write a sad, gloomy book which expressed how bad abuse is. He wanted the focus to be on the stuff he liked as a fourteen-year-old and his adolescence, which the abuse happened to occur and coincide with.

I wouldn’t have been able to write it without the education given to me by my abuser, and that’s something that I’m deeply grateful for.

The event as a whole gets into the heart of the story behind the book, and Graham provides listeners with many insights, such as the book’s publication leading to the un-naming of a performing arts centre which had previously been named after Graham’s abuser, something which Graham says is a ‘minor victory’. He also tells of a few instances of negative reactions, such as one person telling him that Graham, by writing the book, had just ‘pissed all over my childhood’ and another pointing out that he’d misspelt a teacher’s name, thereby throwing everything else into question. In reaction to this, he says: “People are eager to find ways to discredit it.”

He discusses class, memory and the issue of trigger warnings, which he says suggests that there’s a process to solving a problem. He reels off a list of seemingly insignificant things that can trigger him: a certain perfume, the texture of someone’s collar etc.

When receiving questions from the floor, Graham is asked what it’s like having the book out there being read and reviewed. ‘Strange’ is his main feeling towards it, but he says that the strangest part isn’t the book being reviewed by publications such as The Guardian , The Times and TLS, it’s actually when he’s in a coffee shop such as The Bean in Beeston, and someone comes up to him and says ‘I read your book’.

He says those are the moments he realises that the “book doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to the world.” He doesn’t regret telling his story, that he feels both “insulated and exposed” by it, but that ultimately its existence “validates something that I’ve carried around with me.”

The book itself holds a number of fascinating realisations in terms of Graham’s being able to write it in the first place. He says, “I wouldn’t have been able to write it without the education given to me by my abuser, and that’s something that I’m deeply grateful for.”

It’s also apparent that he couldn’t write it until his parents had passed away. His mother clung to her faith, and Graham believes that it was this that kept her going after his father had died. Revealing his abuse from his priest and teacher “would have been like telling her that God doesn’t exist.” So it was only after her death that he was able to write about it.

At the end of the event, the attention turns to his next book, which he’s 25,000 words into already, and which will be on the history of agraphobia. He says that he never made a conscious decision to write another book, he just carried on from this one.

A wonderful, insightful evening with plenty of books bought and signed by Graham, it was enough to make everyone want to get home and start reading (or re-reading) the book, with the added knowledge of all that he shared with us.

Read our interview with Graham Caveney.

JM

Sojo Publishing Mouse

There’s a new publisher in town. They’re called Sojo Publishing Mouse, and they are a children’s publisher who are throwing the publishing rule book out of the window, and are seeking the best stories around. Here’s theirs…

Helen Goodbarton and Sophie Johnson-Hill are the creative minds behind the publishing company, and I met them both at The Milk Lounge in Beeston, surrounded by children…which was the ideal setting really!

Helen, 39, runs a performing arts school for young children in Beeston called Sprouts, and has been for the past 10 years. It was through this that her and Sophie, 36, both met, as Sophie’s children used to attend the sessions.

Sophie is the creator of Sojo Animation, which she started whilst doing an MA in Puppetry and Digital Animation at Nottingham Trent University. Her research on the course was focussed on encouraging creativity in children.

“I’d just chat to a little one and find out how they think and how they feel about certain things,” says Sophie. “If they said something particularly brilliant I would take that sentence and get them to draw a self-portrait and I would animate their words coming out of their artwork.” She called these individual animations ‘Thunk of the Day’, and they can be found on the Sojo Animation YouTube channel.

So while Sophie was doing this, Helen was working with children through Sprouts. “There’s a theme each term and a story the kids follow. There are poems and songs that we learn that I wrote,” explains Helen. “I’ve written four years’ worth of adventures.”

It was when Sophie was in the process of making some puppets that she had an idea to involve Helen in her preparations for a Christmas workshop with children. “I wanted to make giant puppets out of willow and paper, I wanted to make glowing snowmen,” Sophie tells me. “I asked Helen to join forces with me so the kids can understand the story of this snowman. I asked her to make up a story about a snowman who swallowed a firefly by mistake and then doesn’t know what to do about it. I handled the making of the puppets while Helen took them on this huge adventure,” says Sophie. “Afterwards Helen read me the story and it was a beautifully written book with rhyming couplets.”

The Glowing Snowman tester9

“I’d written a few things before and I’d even sent one story off to a publisher,” explains Helen. “Then I wrote this. You know they say everyone has a story in them that needs to be told? This is mine.”

At this point, they both decided to see if they could find a publisher, going with the idea that the story would be Helen’s, and Sophie would be the illustrator. But after exploring the world of children’s publishing, they discovered a few rules that would stop them in their tracks.

“Aside from lots of other rules that publishers have, a lot of them won’t take a book that’s already illustrated by somebody else, because they have in-house illustrators,” Helen tells me. “I feel it would be wrong if it wasn’t with Sophie’s pictures.”

Sophie adds: “There are rules about which of the pages needs to be a double page spread regardless of what’s happening at that point in the story, or how many times a theme should re-occur within the story. It’s like a guide to how a kids book ‘should’ be.

“We needed this creative publishing company that cut out all of these ridiculous rules”

In an industry that is all about something that is so beautifully creative, to cut creativity with rules is just frankly insane,” she says.

This made them realise that there must be other people out there in the same position as them. Sophie says, “We’re not the only fantastically, originally talented authors and illustrators in Nottingham, there’s loads of us, and there must be loads of people who aren’t telling their stories because of the restrictions.”

Helen adds: “That was where we stopped and went, shall we do this ourselves? How do we do it ourselves?”

And that’s exactly what they did. They set up Sojo Publishing Mouse with the intention of throwing the rule book out of the window.

“We needed this creative publishing company that cut out all of these ridiculous rules,” says Sophie. “We’re gonna set out our book just as we want to, just as it’s calling to be set out. The whole ethos was calling for people to get behind it and be a part of our journey.”

The Glowing Snowman tester

They actually had the idea a couple of years ago, but with Sophie doing her MA and Helen having a baby, they’ve only just got round to launching it properly. They set up a Kickstarter campaign as a way to get more people involved in their vision for children’s publishing. Sophie described pressing publish on the campaign as a “moment of impending doom.”  When I met them, the campaign for their first book The Glowing Snowman had only recently gone live, but they already had around £800 raised.

They had no reason to panic, as their final total came to £3, 986 which was almost £1000 above their original target. After this incredible result, Helen has this to say:

“We were so pleased and overwhelmed with the success of our Kickstarter campaign; to see so many people take interest and belief in our project, and not just to reach our target but to surpass it so well. It means we’ll have more funds not only to invest in selling this book, but in creating our next one too! We’re very excited to get cracking with this little publishing mouse!”

Make sure to like them on Facebook at: @sojopublishingmouse

JM

Women, War and Writing

A catch up with local author Clare Harvey…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I met local author Clare Harvey and her black Alsatian-cross Jake in Froth, which is part of the aptly named Creative Corner in Chilwell. I’d met Clare quite by chance at the re-opening of Beeston’s library in September. Clare has written three novels so far: The Gunner Girl, The English Agent and The Night Raid, with a fourth currently being penned. Her stories have all featured independent, strong women in a World War II setting.

I firstly asked Clare about her beginnings and how she got into writing. “I was born in Barnstaple, North Devon, but spent time growing up in Mauritius, as my dad worked at a teacher training college there. After some more moving around, I took a Foundation Course Diploma in art at Plymouth University, before reading law at the University of Leicester. After graduating, I took some temping jobs in London and then spent a year doing voluntary work and travelling in sub-Saharan Africa. On my return, I moved to the Peak District to work for an overseas development charity, and later returned to London to take a postgraduate course in journalism at the London College of Communication.”

She proposed to her soldier boyfriend Chris in 1996 in Split, Croatia during a 72-hour leave pass from his operational tour in Bosnia. The couple married in early 1998. They moved to Beeston, as Chris was posted to Chetwynd Barracks with the Royal Engineers, and Clare divided her time between an administrative job at Boots’ Head Office and freelance journalism. The couple were then posted to Northern Ireland for two years, where Clare worked as a freelance journalist. It was there that Clare began writing short stories, but she didn’t start work on her first novel until 1998 when they were posted to Germany and pregnant with their first child. “Being an army wife can be a lonely existence, and my writing became a kind of companion in the years when I was the trailing spouse to my husband’s military career.”

“…the revelation that my husband’s mum had been a teenage soldier in the Second World War was an inspiration.”

By 2011 Clare had three children, moved house seven times and written three unpublished novels. Finding herself back in Chilwell, with a husband about to go on a six-month tour in Afghanistan, Clare enrolled on a creative writing MA at the University of Nottingham. That’s when the idea for her debut novel came about. Her husband was polishing his medals ready for the Remembrance Sunday parade, when she remarked that he had more gongs than his dad. Clare’s husband was a third generation career soldier. He replied that his dad didn’t have that many medals, and that the joke in the family was that Mum had seen more enemy action. “How had I not known that my mother-in-law saw active wartime service? I was intrigued. Although she was sadly no longer alive, the revelation that my husband’s mum had been a teenage soldier in the Second World War was an inspiration.”

Whilst her husband was away on active duty, Clare used her MA as an opportunity to write the beginnings of what would become The Gunner Girl. Clare graduated in 2012, just after Chris returned from Afghanistan, and carried on working on the novel, alongside teaching English learners with Voluntary Action Broxtowe, and running art-inspired literacy workshops for primary pupils at Nottingham Lakeside Arts.

Clare finally finished her novel in early 2014, and sent it to the Romantic Novelists Association for feedback. They suggested a few tweaks. By October she had signed with an agent. Then in November she got her first two-book deal with Simon & Schuster. The Gunner Girl was published on the 8th of October 2015, with the paperback coming out three months later. She then had the hard job of writing book number two.

Clare had come across the story of Vera Atkins, who worked for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War, and had the idea that one of the characters from The Gunner Girl (Edie) gets the opportunity of becoming an SOE agent in France. “Setting the book there meant that I had to go to Paris for research purposes. This just happened to be around Valentine’s Day!” The English Agent was published last year.

DOgNwvaW4AAtQ9k.jpg-large

Clare’s third novel, The Night Raid, features lots of Nottingham locations including Bromley House Library and artist Dame Laura Knight as one of the main characters. It was published in July. There is going to be a very special launch for the paperback edition on December 14th. Clare will be officially launching the book at 11am with a ceremony on the ‘Dame Laura Knight’ tram at the NETtram depot, with help from pupils from George Spencer Academy. At 2pm she’ll be at Nottingham Lakeside Arts to talk about how Dame Laura helped inspire the novel and signing copies of her books (booking essential, via Lakeside Arts: 0115 846 7777). Then at 4pm, she will be more signings at Lady Jayne’s Vintage Tearoom, next to Toton Lane tram stop, where there will also be mulled wine and homemade mince pies on offer.

It’s always interesting to read about what routines authors have for getting their words down, so of course I had to ask Clare what hers were. “I manage to do about 45 minutes in the morning, before everyone else is up and then take the kids to school.  I’ll then usually work through, until its time to do the school run. I storyboard everything, like a film director does, and I always write in longhand, before typing it up on the laptop. I prefer to write in silence, but am happy to listen to music when I’m at the editing stage.”

Finally, I asked Clare about book number four. “It’s a two-timeline story. One takes place in Germany 1945 as the Red Army move in, and the Iron Curtain falls. While the other is set in 1989 in the UK and Berlin, as the Berlin Wall falls and the Iron Curtain rises.”  The Escape should be published in hardback next August.

You can find out more about Clare on her publisher’s author page: http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/authors/Clare-Harvey/576635850

Her website: http://clareharvey.net

Or catch up with her on social media:

Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth
Facebook: ClareHarvey13

CDF

Interview with Graham Caveney

Graham Caveney is an author who, up until now, has written books about other people. He wrote the biographies of two great writers, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. But having put time, effort and research into the lives of others, he finally got round to writing his memoir…

The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness is a memoir like no other, and is a true testament to not only Graham’s adolescence, but his ability to turn his life around and produce something to be proud of.

The book explores Graham’s early life growing up in a catholic household in Accrington during the early eighties. The book is packed full of endearment for the working class society he lived in, his trips to Blackpool, and his parents. The events of his early years are described with a steady balance of nostalgia and wit. Yet, casting a shadow over his memories of growing up is the abuse he suffered from his head teacher and priest, who, with an affinity for culture, theatre and literature, at first seems like a friendly, literal father figure in the book. Graham has done well to present ‘Rev Kev’, as he is called, in a way that lets readers make their own mind up about him, rather than lacing his words with resentment or retrospective suffering. Graham takes us back to that time, and puts us exactly where a young, teenage boy stood.

The memoir almost doubles as an exploration in the memory process. There are a few layers to it, although it remains uncomplicated and surprisingly easy (and addictive) to read. Graham’s memory works more like a film, but he acknowledges that his past relationship with drug and alcohol abuse affects this, as he writes: “You cannot live the life of a drug addict and/or alcoholic and still expect to trust your memory.” This is where the chapter titles come in. Each chapter starts simply with ‘Next’, ‘Next’, ‘Next’…which, he tells me, wasn’t the original intention for the book.

“It was a way for me to remember where the chapters were, and when I finished it I thought ‘I’m gonna keep that’”. He adds: “I was trying to get the weird way memory works. There’s no linear cause and effect ‘abc’ structure, they have a life of their own, they’re all over the place and that temporal shift is what I wanted to get at.”

It’s clear that Graham is a book-lover, both from meeting him in person and reading his book. On the day of the interview, Graham had been reading Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso. This is a fitting choice for the man himself, as another feature of his book is that every chapter begins with a quote, whether from a book, song, or film, each quote holds meaning for Graham.

“They’re all quotes I wrote in my journal,” he reveals. “I used to keep a journal, and still do.” At this point he points out that after writing his memoir, he burnt the journals from his teenage years. His reason? “I’d got what I needed to get out of them, it was time for them to go.”

Graham moved to Nottingham in 1999 to begin teaching American Literature at the University of Nottingham, but sooner after his mum died, and drink took over. Living in Beeston during his time with alcoholism, his life used to consist of journeys to and from Sainsbury’s. He describes himself at the time as having “a deathwish, but with cowardice about doing it” and that it was self-harm on a scale he will never return to. He acknowledges the kindness of local ‘Dutch friends’ who came to his rescue, “They were kind to me and helped me out in ways I will never be able to repay.”

During this period, he still read books, particularly those by Anita Brookner. He read poets, listened to music, but he’d stopped writing altogether. In 2009, he finally went into rehab, and the next few years were taken up with having therapy and attending AA meetings which he did for two years.

Sobriety came in early 2010, at which point he was unemployed, which fed into the reasons for him writing the book. He also volunteered for a short time at Oxfam Books and Music in Beeston, a place which allowed him to “learn what it’s like to be in the world again, at an age when you are too old to learn.”

But it was while he was working at Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham (the first place to give him a job) that he began writing his memoir. Previously, he’s written three books: Shopping in Space: Essays on American ‘Blank Generation’ Fiction (with Elizabeth Young); The “Priest”, They Called Him: The Life and Legacy of William S. Burroughs and Screaming with Joy: The Life of Allen Ginsberg.

It was being surrounded by books, objects which he is ‘in awe of’ that provided him with the boost he needed to begin writing again. Originally, The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness was going to be a semi-autobiographical novel called ‘Meta-Metamorphosis’ taking the opening lines of Kafka’s Metamorphosis for inspiration. However, this idea was scrapped, and he began putting together scraps of memories which would form the early process for his completed memoir.

He then shared these scraps with close friends, “a way of introducing them to a bit of me”, and it was Julie Hesmondhalgh, known for her role as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street, who read some of these scraps and offered encouragement, which was greeted by him with reluctance. She sent some of these to Jonathan Coe, who Graham says he has “never been out of touch” with and this was the springboard for him getting the memoir published by Picador. “All my heroes were published by Picador,” he says. “They were my dream publisher.”

The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness is out now

Secret Beeston: book available now!

New Book Available From August 2017
Secret Beeston
by Frank E Earp and Joseph Earp

“The Nottinghamshire town of Beeston as we know it today began life as an Anglo-Saxon settlement close to the banks of the River Trent. By the late eighteenth century the town had developed into a thriving textile centre. The nineteenth century saw a new mix of other industries, including famous names like the Humber Works and Boots the Chemist. Over the last decade Beeston has witnessed its greatest change with the introduction of an extension to Beeston of Nottingham City’s Tram Network. Local authors and historians Frank E. Earp and Joseph Earp delve into the town’s murkier past in this unique approach to the town’s history, blending the serious with the not so serious, and seeking out its hidden secrets”.

Available from all good book shops and also available on-line. The book can also be ordered directly from Amberley Publishing:

https://www.amberley-books.com/secret-nottingham.html

Telephone: 01453 847800

JN

Stephan Collishaw: Interview

We caught up with Stephan to find out about his latest novel and how Beeston played a role in his writing career…

Front Cover

If you’d have told a young Stephan Collishaw that one day he would be a published author he probably wouldn’t have believed you. Yet his third novel The Song of the Stork has recently been released by Legend Press, and he’s set up Noir Press, which is the only publishing house in the UK dedicated to Lithuanian Literature. Not bad for a man who failed his GCSEs twice.

Collishaw, 49, who currently lives in Colwick, grew up in Basford and attended Ellis Guilford, and despite failing his exams, he did leave school with a love of literature.

“They introduced me to Guy de Maupassant, which is the only thing school did for me,” he reminisces. “My poor mother was at her wits end and got me onto a Youth Training Scheme back in the 1980s. I went to work at a bookkeepers and lasted there 6 months until I got sacked.” However, this proved to be a crucial moment in his life.

“At that point in time, I decided I wanted to be a writer. So I started reading as much as I possibly could,” he says, “but when I was at work the cleaning lady caught me going to the toilets with Jane Austen and cup of tea.” We laugh at the memory. “She reported me to the manager who didn’t think it was appropriate, and sacked me.”

In 1995 he decided to go on a whim to Lithuania after teaching for two years in Radford, and that decision has made his life what it is today. “I’d gone with the start of a novel stuffed in my backpack,” he says, “and when I got there, life was far too much fun to be writing a novel. I ended up getting married to a Lithuanian.”

Now, he has three children, speaks Lithuanian and visits the country regularly. “When you explore a country, one of the things you want to do is explore the writing,” states Collishaw. “It’s almost impossible to actually read Lithuanian novelists,” he adds.

It was this that became the driving force behind Noir Press, which he set up about a year ago. “Until this moment in time,” he tells me, “there was only one living Lithuanian novelist in translation in the UK and that’s the one I published. It’s the only one.”

So far, Noir Press has published Breathing into Marble by Laura Sintija Černiauskaitė which won the European Union Prize for Literature. The publishing house is also set to release three books this year: The Easiest by Rasa Aškinytė; Shtetl Romance by Grigory Kanovich; The Music Teacher by Renata Šerelytė.

“All the books that we’re publishing have been award winning or in the top five books in Lithuania,” he tells me. “The concept is not to do more than one of each writer so that we build up a showcase. This is Lithuanian fiction as it stands at this moment in time.”

I ask him about his latest book Song of the Stork, a historical fiction novel set during the 1940s amid the Second World War which tells the story of a fifteen year old Jewish girl, Yael. While on the run, she meets a village outcast who is mute and they form a relationship.

“Before I’d started writing it,” explains Collishaw, “I hadn’t thought about how you would develop a relationship between two characters who can’t speak to each other. But in some ways that was a powerful, energetic part of the novel because I had to think how I was going to develop that relationship rather than falling back on normal tropes of writing.”

Although he doesn’t live in Beeston, Collishaw does have links to our town particularly with the Flying Goose Café along Chilwell Road. “I’ll be doing a reading there,” he reveals, “and at the moment Hilary [Cook] is very kindly selling my books in preparation for the talk.”

Beeston was one of the first places I was taken seriously as a writer

It’s not just recently that Flying Goose has played a part in his writing career, as he explains: “Years ago I did one of my first ever readings as a novelist at her café back in 2001-2, so for me it’s a special place. That was when I first felt as though I was a proper writer and had any kind of identity as a writer.” It’s not just the café he likes to visit when he comes to Beeston. Jen Glover who set up the micro-brewery A Pottle of Blues is one of his former colleagues. “We worked together for many years at a school in Radford and it was enough to send us all off crazy,” he laughs, “so for Jen it provided the impetus for her escaping from teaching and living a dream of hers; opening a bar is the most appropriate thing she could possibly have done.”

The Beeston-based publisher Shoestring Press also holds a place in his heart, not only because he considers John Lucas a “godfather of literature” but because his first published collection was a Shoestring edition.

Collishaw explains: “I entered East Midlands Writers Awards and won. They published it with Shoestring, so I was first published by a Beeston publisher and it was the first time I’d ever made it into a proper publication.” He adds, “Beeston was one of the first places I was taken seriously as a writer.”

Stephen will be at the Flying Goose Café on Wednesday April 12 where he will be reading from Song of the Stork.

To find out more about Noir Press and upcoming publications, visit: www.noirpress.co.uk

Jade Moore

Contact Us
I agree to the Beestonian using my data to process this order as per their Privacy Policy. I also understand that the Beestonian will send one e-mail letting me know when new editions are published. I understand I can opt out at any time by using the 'unsubscribe' link.
reCAPTCHA

BEESTLY TWEETS: