Spider in a Glass

I have caught many spiders with a glass. Usually one of my husband’s pint glasses.  The spiders have meant no harm, they’ve just come from the nowhere of their world and into the somewhere of my world, suddenly appearing and scaring the life out of me. I trap them in a glass, slide a piece of paper underneath, go outside and set each one free.

It’s a great way to have a good look at a spider. Their bodies are covered in tiny hairs and I think they use these hairs to perceive their environment; they have a lot of eyes but I think their vision is blurry and used only to pick up the movements of their prey.

The spider becomes still and is probably wondering what’s happened to it; one minute it is meandering along and the next it can’t progress, it can’t get moving. It seems to just sit and accept its fate, until it gets bored or frustrated with the inability to fulfil its purpose. It starts to use its feelers and gently taps the glass. It tries to get some leverage to climb up the glass but the surface is too smooth and it slides back down again. I wonder if it feels cheated? Disoriented? This barrier has just come down out of nowhere and stopped it in its tracks. It can still see everything that is familiar to it until it finds itself dumped outside in an alien landscape.

I’ve never really given much thought to how it survives once I have “rescued” the poor arachnid, but I have wondered if spiders are introverts. I think they probably are.

I’m an introvert and so is my husband, although I am further up the continuum/spectrum towards extroversion than he is. I can behave like an extrovert when the mood takes me, but I need to spend a lot of time on my own to recharge my batteries and think; I am someone who reflects, and I take a lot of time to reflect, but I have struggled with reflecting during this lockdown, and about this lockdown; trying to think clearly, I’m finding, is a challenge.

The other week my husband pointed out that the lockdown was having a greater impact on me than I realised (he felt). I asked him to explain:

“Well, you gave up your job to do the MLitt and you were anxious but excited about it. You were throwing caution to the wind and taking a leap into the unknown. You said you wanted to immerse yourself in the whole experience. And that is exactly what you were doing. You were going to classes, you were taking part in different projects, you were churning out creative work like I have never seen you do before; you, have never seen you do before. You made new friends, you were meeting them for coffee’s and lunches and chats about each other’s work, you were spending time in the library reading books you didn’t know existed. Your whole world had opened up…”

And all of a sudden it ground to a halt. Everything as I knew it, stopped. Everything as everyone knew it, stopped.

We are unable to immerse ourselves in the experience of university. It’s all still there but we can only access it in certain ways. The world has become virtual; Email, Facetime, Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook, Microsoft Teams: faces framed in technology, tinny voices and frozen screens.

I’d give anything to meet friends for a coffee and a chat

volunteer to discuss a poem with a class of art students

spend an hour figuring out what a gerund actually is

participate in an excerpt of a stage play at Livewire

attend a masterclass or the launch of an exhibition

give feedback on a piece of prose or a poem

have a round table discussion

book a room in the library

help out at a book launch

meet my writing buddies

eat a burger

eat chips

 

But I can’t do any of that.

 

All I can do is empathise with a spider in a glass.

 

 

 

 

When Creativity Runs Dry

I’ve long known that artistic inspiration comes in waves. One day you are being swept along on a tsunami of creativity, riding high, euphorically smug about the abundance of ideas crashing onto the shore (or, erm, blank page) before you; the next day you are parched dry, shrivelled up and flaking on a vast sandy beach, the tide is miles out and pathetically spitting its way back to meet you, in no hurry whatsoever, with complete disregard for your deadlines.

Today is a dry day.

I woke up with a humungous ‘to do’ list including finishing a piece for my Studying Writing class, generating inspired ideas for a very exciting V& A Dundee project and putting together an article to pitch to a magazine. The only thing required of me today was to be creative. Get the creative juices flowing. Pour out my creative genius on the page. Unfortunately, I’m still working on the genius part (fake it til you make it) but today I can assure you that nothing, not even a teeny-weeny bit of writing brilliance, or even competency, has made its way from my brain to paper.

Aah the writer’s life! Writing to demand is a tricky task. I did scramble together a piece of sorts for my homework and tentatively sent it to my tutor (I’m hoping my 748 words aren’t edited down to 30- it really was a dry nib day) but the V&A project will have to wait until that creative tsunami gathers momentum. I’m wondering what advice established writers would give to wannabes who are a bit stuck. I hear the best thing to do is write regardless. As a ridiculously busy person (aren’t we all) it is so frustrating to be at the mercy of when a notion or thought or idea might grace me with its presence. When inspiration doesn’t strike it just feels like wasted time.

But write regardless they say and write is what I did! Sadly, reading back what I wrote today made me question my right to be on the MLitt course as imposter syndrome reared its confidence crushing head. Sitting at my desk I drummed my fingers repeatedly so much that at the end of the day they needed a lie down. As did I.

But something happened as I wrote, no scribbled, actually more like scrawled my way from dawn until dusk. Through pages of dross and embarrassingly amateur similes and metaphors, shameful attempts at poetry and a severe absence of big words, there on my pages were a few, just a few, little ideas that might, might, just lead to something. Not the tsunami I was banking on but rather a sporadic trickle, that will perhaps be enough to get tomorrow’s ink flowing. When creativity runs dry, write regardless.

Peepal Tree Press – Another Internship Ends

Unfortunately, my time here in Leeds and with Peepal Tree has come to an end.

How do I feel?

I’m sad that it’s all over now and wish I had longer. But I’m also looking forward to going home and seeing family and friends again.

My internship has been so enjoyable for several reasons:

Working with great people

I have to say, that working at Peepal has allowed me to meet some great and inspiring people who love the same things as I do: books and everything to do with them.

From Jeremy and Hannah, who have been so welcoming, to the visiting writers and other interns, everyone has brought something unique and memorable to the experience.

 

Learning the business

Of course, one of main things is being able to get real in-house experience doing all the things I have and learning as much as I have.

If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that I’ve covered a lot of things. I think my favourite things to do were editing and typesetting.

 

A wider reading scope

The major perk of working in a publishing house is obviously the free books.

So, being constantly introduced to new writers, picking up names that were repeatedly mentioned and discovering new texts I may not have come across otherwise was very exciting.  There was always something/ someone know of interest everyday.

 

Creative stimulation

I don’t know if it’s just being at Peepal Tree or if every publishing office is like this, but being in the office was very stimulating for my own creative writing.

I’ve come up with dozens of ideas that I can take home with me and make something of.

I found myself returning home from work most nights, despite being tired, filled with enthusiasm to write, whether it was my own creative work or ideas to include in my dissertation.

This is linked to the point above, but also because of Peepal Tree’s open door attitude in which writers drop in and out all the time.

 

Overall, I’ve learned that moving to a new setting, even for a short while, can be so beneficial both personally and creatively, for all the reasons I mentioned and more.

Thank you to Peepal Tree for having me and making me feel welcome.

Hamzah

P.S. Now to write this dissertation…yay (!)

 

Well Over Halfway

My time here in Leeds has flown in!

With just under two weeks left, I’ve been getting into some proper meaty publishing work; editing and typesetting that is.

Over the last week or so, I’ve been working through the manuscript for a book of interviews.

Delighted at the chance to ‘feel like a proper publisher’, I was ecstatic when the huge pile of paper landed on my desk.

The main thing with this MS was to condense it down. With it being full of interviews, the writer had added in some unnecessary repetition and remained a little too faithful to the spoken word.

It took me a few days to work through the title, averaging on around fifty pages per day.

Using a ‘cheat sheet’ that we were given last semester, with all the proofing symbols and how to use them, I marked up the MS. The changes will later be added to the electronic copy.

While this was fun and got me to put on my editor’s cap, my favourite task so far has been typesetting.

By using an existing non-fiction book as a style guide, I have made the pages, set the formatting parameters and designed the look of the book on InDesign.

I have to say, it is very satisfying to be able to ‘make the book’ myself.

 

This job takes a lot of care, attention to detail and time. So patience is key!

But I’m having a great time learning how to do this, how to solve the problems that arise – thank god for online tutorial – and make something I can be proud of.

Apart from this, there have been couple of new releases from us. Check them out here!

Judging A Book By Its Cover

We all know how the saying goes. It doesn’t bear repeating here.

Whether we like it or not, we do judge books by their covers.

How many times have you been in Waterstones, casually browsing, and picked up something because the front cover looked cool?

(Side note: the Waterstones here is really cool!)

Minimalist Faber cover or graphics heavy and funky, we all judge books by how they look.

If you haven’t heard of the writer, haven’t heard about the book from somewhere or haven’t heard a reading of it, this is the main way of getting you pick it up.

This week at Peepal Tree has been all about front covers.

We are publishing a debut collection by poet Marvin Thompson. Having been in touch with him, I got a brief outline of the type of things he is looking for.

The collection concerns various places; Jamaica where his parents are from, London where he was born and South Wales where he currently lives and works. The collection also features the poet’s father quite heavily.

To begin with, there was only a  loose idea of what Marvin Thompson wanted, along with some old photographs he hoped could be used.

Throughout the week, I have been using his brief and photographs in various ways to come up with cover designs. I’ve found that they all start off terrible, but the more I do, the more I churn them out, the better they get, and the more interesting the designs become.

I’ve been using my InDesign skills to layer and arrange texts and images. It’s been a lot of fun! I’ve enjoyed the challenge and the chance to be creative in a different way.

In other news…

A might have mentioned in a previous post about designing an advert for people tree which was to appear in The Bookseller magazine.

Well, it was printed and released in the current issue (Friday 28 June).

Here it is!

Peepal Tree ad in The Bookseller – Friday 28 June

 

 

 

Another Summer, Another Internship!

This is now my third summer in a row as an intern.

My last two were at DC Thomson in Dundee but this latest one takes me much further afield – to Leeds!

Peepal Tree Press Entrance

Over the next six weeks or so, I will be doing a new type of dissertation module which involves me doing a placement with Leeds publisher, Peepal Tree Press – yes it is very fancy, thank you.

Peepal Tree is a UK-based publisher which specialise is Caribbean and Black-British and South Asian in the UK. It publishes writers from both the UK and the Caribbean in Poetry, Fiction and Non-Fiction.

There are lots of different parts to this dissertation placement which I’ll explain as I go along and as I begin to understand better myself.

As for my first day…

It was great! I have already done a whole range of things I had never done before:

I looked at submitted manuscripts that were in Peepal Tree’s pile and read to see if they could be taken further. That’s right, I make the decisions around here.

I was given an introduction to things like Consonance, a software where publishers manage all their data for their titles.

And a look at Submittable from an organization’s point of view.

It was interesting to get a feel for working in-house at a publishers. Reading manuscripts and navigating around the software has already allowed me to use some of the skills I have picked up during my degree – so that’s a good sign!

There was plenty to do on this first day and, by the sounds of it, plenty of more great things to come.

Drop by later to find out how I get on!

Hamzah