Kerry Hudson: Chatterbox

Author of TONY HOGAN BOUGHT ME AN ICE-CREAM FLOAT BEFORE HE STOLE MY MA winner the Scottish First Book Award and shortlisted for seven literary prizes including the Guardian First Book Award and Southbank Sky Arts Award for Literature.

Currently living between London, Berlin and Budapest writing a third novel.

Likes to chatter.

Where the fuck have you been? Part 1 

Hello! Do you remember me? Scottish writer? Always eating toast and posting pictures of cake? Spends a lot of time on trains and planes lately? Blonde hair entirely impervious to any form of styling? You do? Good stuff. I’m writing this in a café in Sarajevo (I am totally in love with it here but that’s a story for later) where I’ve just smashed a little chocolate croissant and I’m trying very hard, and failing, not to sing along to Beyonce.

So what’ve I been up to during this, even by my standards, epic blog lapse (I can hear some social media guru whispering in my ear ‘it’ll seal up if you leave it any longer, love’ (yeah, my fantasy guru is camp and from Yorkshire)). Well, I thought I’d give you a rundown of the last six (sorry, sorry) weeks in words and pictures. I seem to remember that’s how these blog things works.

So, August was the month of Thirst, Cambridge and London. Most of my time was either talking about Thirst, travelling to talk about Thirst, supervising with NAW at Cambridge Summer School at Pembroke College, travelling to Cambridge, reconnecting with my London life (see squeezing in multiple breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks into one day where my friends and I basically emptied our heads to each other) or trying to write, read work to feedback on and, with help from our brilliant volunteer and fellow-writing Ciara, keeping WoMentoring up and running.

Anyhow, here’s the stuff I would have written about if I had not being already operating at 120% of my actual capacity for doing All Of The Stuff…

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Hull

I started by doing one of the bestest (it’s a word) events I have ever done. Head in Book in Hull is organised by Shane Rhodes (Director of Wrecking Ball Press and all round Hull Culture Mogul) and it was the mighty Russ Litten, hugely talented writer of Scream if you Want to Go Faster and Swear Down, asking the questions. Russ and I have known each other for a couple of years on the tinternet and, as I wrote in his copy of Thirst I admire him hugely, but it was grand to meet the man himself for the first time. And because we have a similar world views, and it felt like chatting with a good pal, the event was the best sort of event. It was packed, there was wine, there were tons of questions and then people bought books and came and chattered – I met so many bloody lovely folk too. If you look very closely above those to tiny shiny circles are mine and Russ’s mugs.

The good

Fucking all of it…it was just an ace visit to the fine City of Culture 2017, Hull and be so warmly welcomed.

We shall never speak of it again

Realising, about forty minutes into the train journey home, that I was about to be smited with a hangover of biblicial proportions (though the nice girl in the buffet car did give me a free cake to celebrate the publication of my book).

Wilderness

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I’ve wanted to get a gig at music festival for a long while. The perfect mix of work and play and an audience who are mostly drunk or sheltering from rain and therefore either cheery or captive. So off me and my ex-wife went for a weekend of amicable lesbian divorcee camping. My event was with the fucking outrageously talented Deepti Kapoor (her book, A Bad Character, is one of my picks of this year) and the always excellent Susannah Otter and was a workshop On Getting Published. It was pretty packed out, we talked about our journeys to books on the shelfs. The questions from the audience were what they often are ‘is it possible to live on writing alone’ (barely but there are ways and means (jaysus, that sounds sinister)) and ‘I feel like I can do it but I’m scared to start’ (You can! You can…look at me…if I can…etc). Afterwards I signed a lot of books (one girl bought one as a present for her boyfriend – sweet!) and had some bloody lovely chats an all.

The Good

Prides (they are brilliant and are going to be huge – get on it now), The John Langan Band, front of the stage at the inestimable Joan as a Policewoman set. Also bonfires and more ‘artisan’ cheese toasties and crumpets than any woman should consume in a weekend (the food is corking at Wilderness).

Things we will never speak of again

The rain. So much rain, guys. And the poshness. So much poshness. As one fellow-author remarked ‘It’s like gatecrashing the biggest ever Oxbridge ball.’ True dat.

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Speakeasy

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This was my second time at Speakeasy, the excellent literary night run by Ian Ellard and Nicki Cloke that takes place at Drink, Shop, Do each month. I was reading with the all-lady line-up Sarah  Perry, Hannah Vincent and Emmi Itaranta - all of whom read stunningly. There are cocktails (though I always drink little bottles of IPA for fear of slurring when I read), it’s in this gorgeous basement bar, you wear something a bit dressy (I.e. If you’re me, you get to get out of gym kit or pajamas) and lean against a bar to do your reading. I love this night, the hosts and the venue. Not just because I thought I’d just do a short reading, as was at the end of the night, and got shouted at for some more. And not just for those little bottles of IPA or the fact on my way home I stopped for frozen custard. Before I was a writer this is sort of what I imagined being a writer would be like. And that’s because Nikki and Ian are writers too and so they know this and they put on a very fine bash with hip literary crowd.

The Good

Getting a whoop from the crowd for my character Dave’s love of the humble Breakway biscuit. Getting a proof of Nicci’s new novel Lay me Down (I have read the beginning so far and will collect it from my pals house when next back in London…it is truly outstanding so far). Sarah Perry and Peter Moore practically marching me off to Gladstone Library – apparently I have to go immediately (after Sarajevo).

Things we will never speak of again

Because I’m fairly relaxed about readings this being my second round of this stuff, I sometimes forget myself. That is how, mid-reading, I found myself unthinkingly in ‘tree pose’ (think flamingo…) like I do absent-mindedly while doing the dishes sometimes. It’s not a good ‘I’m a proper author’ look, guys.

So, that was the first twelve days of August and that didn’t include Cambridge and catching up with pals and the 1.3 million emails…so, do you see? Do you see why I haven’t been in touch and why I arrived in the Balkans looking and sounding like Iggy Pop on a bad day…and just you wait to hear what happened from the 12th to the 30th…go on, yer a wee bit curious, admit it (there’s a trifle story if that adds to anticipation…).     

Well that was something else

Oh hello. Sorry. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a week. Instead I have been doing lots of other types of writing (more of which later) and travelling back from beautiful Berlin to London for the next six weeks oh…and yes, launching my second novel, Thirst, just over a week ago and trying to not Completely Lose My Shit (with varying degrees of success - also more of which later).

I think most of the people who read this already know there is about a year and a half gap between selling a book (and that only happens after you’ve spent at least a year writing it) and it hitting bookshelves. Plus this is a second novel and a very fatalistic voice (sounds like a mean-drunk Bill Nighy (though I hasten to add I’m sure Mr Nighy is an excellent drinking partner)) is saying ‘if you fuck this up, if this fucks up, you don’t get to publish a third’ - which is maybe or maybe not true depending on ho many internet articles you read and your state of mind (I have read approximately 2683). Anyway, my point is there’s a bit of a build up and then, there it is happening, you’ve got a book in the shops and Other People are reading it and talking about it.

So, how did it go? Well, pretty bloody all right I think. The most scary thing about having a book out (for me…) is the very public nature of any criticism it receives. But actually, what I’ve felt instead is just such a massive amount of well-wishing, warmth, support and general g-ing up. And while most days for the last few week I’ve been on an anxiety rollercoaster - oh, look! A great review! Pass the gin! They say I’m here to stay. Maybe I am! I should get back to writing my third Ach but this one says they like Dave/Alena/Hackney/Siberia better than Dave/Alena/HackneySiberia…my career is over. What’s that temp agency’s number? Pass the gin! I can learn to touch type…and on and on in a high-pitched loop…- it’s also been amazing feeling like people are willing Thirst to do well

Kerry Hudson WaterstonesYeah it’s a can of Pina Colada…sing me a song about it…I also like getting caught in the rain. 

And things have been good. I made sure they started good by making my publication gift to mesel’ a ticket to Brazil (on impulse, which I could maybe/maybe not afford and probably can’t actually but fuck it…so first the Croatian coast, then Sarajevo, then three months in Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina). When I have felt Losing My Shit was imminent I reminded myself to ‘work hard, be kind, don’t be an arsehole’…this is all I can ask of myself. And then I had a strong drink and ate something sugary. I also realised, pretty much as soon as I got back to London, that (holy shit!) it was happening so I might as well enjoy the crap out of all the exiting stuff. 

And then? Then all of this happened… 

I wrote about:My travels across Siberia // Writing routines // Being working-class // The WoMentoring Project // Falling in love on Charing Cross Road // The terrors of writing your second novel // My favorite vintage things (but also how I’m not really into ‘things’) // Alena and how I conjured her and her fox’s fur hair and baby shark teeth // how many people it takes to launch and make a novel

And I answered many, many questions…

On my Thirst soundtrack // On gin or tequila // On the intersection between love and need // On my favourite word (cunt, clearly) //On my ideal boozy dinner party // And…how I remind myself not to be an arsehole every day (singalong! you should too!)

Oh and I did a live interview on the BBC Scotland Culture Show with him from that there Deacon Blue where I *lost the ability to read the own words*…(I blame the fan-girl-itus) and an interview for The Observer

kerry hudson interview

And yep, the reviews came…here I have to say a particular thank you to the internet reviewers who God bloody bless them made sure my publication week was full of lovely exciting stuff each and every day. What was interesting about both the online and print reviews was how much the interpretation changed from reader to reader. In a way that never happened with Tony Hogan people related to and felt strongly about different stands of the story…I hope that’s because it’s a more complex story (it is) but whatever, it’s fascinating for me to read people’s varying interaction with the story.  

And so yes, there were *blush-making-a-bit-teary-punch-the-air* reviews from Sara at A Salted, Eric at Lonesome Reader, Thom at Workshy Fopp, Helen at Fiction is Stranger than Fact, Dan at Utter Biblio, Simon at Savidge Reads, Naomi at The Writes of a Woman and Jessica and Writer’s Little Helper. All people and reviewers who I enormously respect.

And yes…then there The Papers and Mags…and here what they said…

'It explores the lives of people not generally considered fit for literature and does so with wit and a shrewdness that makes Hudson’s subjects zing from the page.’ (Louise Welsh, The Guardian)

'…an exquisite, stimulating mash-up…A brilliant, enthralling saga' (Joseph Crilly, The Irish Times)

'Funny, inventive, delightful.' (Viv Groskop, Red Magazine 10 Best Summer Reads

'Fresh and original…it’s an unsentimental love story' (Sam Baker, Harper’s Bazaar Best of British Reads)

"Tremendously affecting… impressively unostentatious in its instinct for a common story within a city of millions that never gets heard" (Claire Allfree Metro)

"Kerry Hudson has consolidated her position with this second novel as a writer who is prepared to face the injustices and the grimness of life, and tell of lives usually ignored… Thirst is hardly an easy summer read… but it is probably an essential one" (Lesley McDowell Scotsman)

"A classy will-they won’t-they romance with a difference… Sheer escapism from start to finish" (Bella)

"Both funny and touching… Hudson’s debut was highly praised and this is a terrific follow-up" (Woman & Home)

"As the last few chapters crescendo into a breathless, sob-inducing finale, Hudson marks herself out once again as a terrifically talented storyteller who, luckily for us, is here to stay" (Yasmin Sulaiman List)

So basically what I am saying is ‘holy fuck, that was a few weeks and a half and..THANK YOU lucky stars, readers and bloody lovely folk’.

I’m off to have a can of Pina Colada. 

Try again fail better

Would you like the good news or the bad news first?

It won’t surprise you to hear that I am very much a ‘good news first’ type of woman… so – HOORAY – I am in excellent company on The Bookseller’s 2014 list of Rising Stars. I said it on Twitter but I’m going to say it here too…this was for The WoMentoring Project and so also belongs to each and every one of the ninety amazing women who offer their time and knowledge for free as mentors. It only exists because of them. Anyway, very lovely and especially to be on there with fellow Womentorers Sarah Savitt and Sarah Rigby (the project has a fair few Rising Star alumni too).

More good stuff…I’ll be appearing at Edinburgh International Book Festival event with Simon Van Booy on the 25th August. We’ll be talking love stories and ‘the calm violence of attraction’.

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And the bad. 30kin35 ends today and I managed 13k-something so just under half what I’d hoped. My excuses are plentiful and creative: WoMentoring, being back in London and then at Lumb Bank teaching Arvon, the Thirst promotional ball starting to roll. These are all facts but also, honestly, I could have hit that target if I’d really wanted. The truth is I wanted to take time off to see friends, to cycle about Berlin, browse at Neukoln flea market, eat delicious torte (I’ve set up an Instragram called ‘Kerryeatsalot’ because cake this good deserves to be revered), to go rollerskating at the park that used to be an airport, get my hair cut like Japanese schoolgirl’s, have sweat run up my nose while downward dogging at ‘hot yoga’.

Guys I know, I know: you’re not angry you’re disappointed. But look, I have my second novel coming out in four weeks and that’s really (super, fucking, very etc.) exciting and a privilege but also a little (wee, tiny etc.) bit stressful. So I want to do things that make me feel happy. And it’s summer and I’m in Berlin and I want to enjoy that too. That’s not to say I’m slacking, as my gran would say, I’m ‘working my dogs off’ but I kind of felt I had enough going on.

So, I hang my head in defeat over 30kin35 but will now probably go and have a hullumi wrap in the sun unrepentant. It was useful though, I realised posting my daily wordcount motivated/shamed me into writing more than I ever usually would and that the whole thing helped me return to the story when I’d been away from it for a while.

In other news yesterday I found a whole box of old photo albums for sale at the market, full of family pictures, new born babies, birthdays and weddings. The writer magpie in me rejoiced but the more human part of me felt a bit sad to be honest as I wondered how they’d ended up there…except I suppose each photo represented a moment of life, something important to whoever took it. Anyway, they were beautiful and a bit sad and I looked at them for a long while in the sunshine trying to imagine who had taken such time with them. I’m going to make stories from them.     

how cities can become love stories

Let me set the scene. It is a hot summers night in Berlin. I’m sitting outside the Café Cortado (their motto is ‘you can’t buy happiness but you can buy coffee and that’s pretty close’) in Friedrichshain. There’s the usual constant birdsong, small sparrow-like birds hopping from table to table, sharpening their beaks on chair backs. To the right there’s an Eis shop (ice-cream shop) and there are people sitting on sofas out on the street. Earlier a little girl with a head full of curls demonstrated clipping on her giant yellow earrings to me. Before that, a four piece band came by and sang ‘All of me’. The city is full of activity and life and gentle at the same time. It’s full of conversation and colour and possibility. You know, I don’t think I’m coming home.

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It’s funny, it wasn’t like Budapest – a quick, intoxicating falling for the city – instead, Berlin has slowly and persistently won me, revealing its charms slowly. I had no idea how I felt until I realised I was meant to leave on the 15th of June and that I desperately wanted to stay and see what the city had in store for me. So now I am staying to see what that might be. Still London is a heady ex that I can’t quite quit so am home for the whole month August to indulge.

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Because I can’t stay away, I also spent last week at glorious Lumb Bank, Ted Hughes old cottage, looking out at the rolling valleys of God’s own country. I was teaching a Queer Fiction course with Jonathan Kemp. It was a special week, a week where I worked like bejesus to try and make sure it was worthwhile to the other writers, a week where I learned a lot too. I took a 6am flight back to Berlin, arrived back at my flat at 11am thought I’d have a ‘nap’ and slept the sleep of the dead for seven hours. I hadn’t realised how tired I was but I woke up contented, went and ate Turkish food and some ice-cream, glad I’d done something scary (yes, tutoring for a whole week is scary no matter how amazing the group you’re facilitating is…) and that I was back in sunny Berlin with so much to still explore.

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And now? Now it is just four weeks until Thirst comes out and I feel so happy and grateful that I get to say that but also somewhat removed from it - because I am here, because I’m already over a quarter into my third book. But good things are happening too. In another one of those strange incidents I would never have imagined the very posh Harper’s Bazaar picked the very not-posh Thirst as one of its six Summer Reads. I have an interview booked in that I don’t want to jinx but which I’m bloody delighted and grateful to have been given. People are hosting me on their blogs which is hugely kind (would you like to too? Drop me a line…more the merrier!).

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And I’m doing some wee ‘hurrah I wrote a book and someone published it’ type events.

First: Short Stories Aloud in Oxford on the 1st of July where an actress (so not me with my dodgy accents) will read the story that inspired the novel I’m working on now and I’ll answer some questions (maybe with dodgy accents).

Then: Support-acting for Nikesh Shukla at his Bristol launch of (the excellent novel) Meatspace on the 3rd July. There’ll be him (he is bloody brilliant live) me (doing sex scenes and Siberian accents) and…Funk DJs, Funk the Trunk, that’s right, moves will be busted.

Otherwise things are quiet or as quiet as they get these days. I’m reading through entries for the IdeasTap/Writers Centre Norwich mentoring competition (the talent out there is stupendous). Writing novel three (30kin35 is seriously behind but I am writing a lot and the story is there, it’s waiting, it’s over-layering my life like a coloured filter…that last bit is hard to explain actually…). WoMentoring goes from strength to strength – ninety mentors, amazing bits of mentee feedback that make the work worthwhile. Writing a story about food that changed my life. Practicing my Siberian accent.

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So, these are all the things.

I sometimes wonder if, along with all the other things I juggle, I should keep doing these posts…which are really as much an emptying of mind onto the internet as anything purposeful or useful. But honestly, I want to remember this time of travel, hard-work and new experiences. I know these things don’t last forever but while they are happening I want to celebrate and acknowledge them. So, there we go.

Lumb Bank Loveliness

Hello from the wilds of Hebden Bridge. Some of you might know that, along with Jonathan Kemp, I’m in Yorkshire at the moment tutoring a queer fiction Arvon course at Lumb Bank. I’ll wait to write about it but I will say we couldn’t have wished for a lovelier, livelier, more interesting bunch of students. Lumb Bank, Ted Hughes old cottage, is an extraordinary place and I am sure I am learning as much as the participants about all sorts of things.

Yesterday, after tutorials and before tutor reading night, I went for a walk. I saw these two nanas, just sitting on a bench looking over the valley, having a right good gossip. It made me very happy indeed.

 

Things from yesterday

#ThingsISawTo(yester)day 

By Wiener Strasse, two benches side by side. On one bench sat two old Turkish men. Suit jackets and white shirts, leaning back, legs wide. They talk in occasional heavy sentences, slow nods. On the next bench three old Turkish women, with heads scarfs, dark clothes, socks and sandals. They too lean back, legs wide but they talk faster, add hand gestures, over-step each other’s words. All five are short and solid looking, they make me think of pigeons, sitting and passing the day in the sunshine, trilling away, tired of the city but still in love with it enough to sit and watch it pass by them. I listen to the men’s short slow sentences combined with the women’s more energetic conversation. I think they’re making a kind of music and probably have been for decades in the same way on that same bench. Without any obvious reason it’s time to leave. They stand slowly, hands on knees. The men walk one way, the women they other.   

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#30kin35

1671 words yesterday. So basically that’s me kicking the novel’s arse after a long weekend in London where nothing got written (except in my head (which doesn’t count for these purposes)). The simple truth is the more you write the easier it becomes. The more you let the story you are trying to conjure inhabit your real life the easier that becomes. The more you respect and commit to your project the easier it becomes. It’s never easy (not for me anyway) but it does become easier. I tell writing students this all the time while often forgetting this myself. It is good to remember.

Before yesterday…  

I wrote a review in The Guardian of Emma Jane Unsworth’s outstanding novel ‘Animals’. Getting to write a review in the Guardian is one of those surreal happenings that I thought would never happen in a million years and then suddenly do and from nowhere. There’s a lot of instability in a writer’s life (more than most would imagine - I might write about this at some point) but the adventures, these sorts of strange opportunities make it well, well worth it. Anyhow, read the review if you’d like and definitely read the book. You have my word that it’s a corker.  

Things I saw today and gay cake writing fuel

#ThingsISawToday….the sun fleeing the city in the most beautiful way…

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#30kin25

1089 words today (some not total shit either)…largely thanks to finding a wee candlelit gay cafe, where the waitresses were hot and the cake was delicious…if it works it works, right?

0kin1 and #thingsisawtoday

30kin35

So , twas a bad day for 30kin35 (30,000 words that I’m trying to add to my first draft in 35 days for those not in the know (and really, why would you be))…I managed zilch. Partly because I moved apartments today to my more permanent sublet (more of below), partly because Thursdays is when I do the bulk of #WoMentoring Project work and also…because I took a two hour nap this afternoon. But guys, if you take a two hour nap you’re very, very tired yes? If you’re tired you should sleep…so says me and my body even at the expense of words today. So tomorrow is the day to pull it back…

#thingsisawtoday 

Largely what I saw was my new sublet. Smack bang in the middle of Kreuzberg and above an excellent coffeeshop - it’s pretty sweet. My room has polished wooden floors, white walls, a white sofa, giant desk and a bed…except for all the white (I am a spiller, I just am) it’s perfect for working. Also the window looks out onto this busy intersection which is perfect for people-watching (just behind that tennis court there is an open air cinema…yes!). 

Photo: View from my new wee sublet...& there's a brilliant coffee shop downstairs. All Of The Things.

Otherwise I went to the library via the ice-cream parlour of my dreams: Fraulein Frost. I’m sure a psychoanalyst would have a field day with my love of ice-cream but, quite simply, it takes me back to the sweetest, simplest pleasures of being a kid. This parlour is also filled with adorable kids in beanies having highly entertaining sugar tantrums…which is a bonus.

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The last thing I saw was an accident on one of the busiest roads here. Only a little one…I heard the usual screech of tires and felt the note of alarm in the air as people stopped to stare but the cyclist was already getting up from the busy road, smiling, clearly feeling foolish. When he reached my side I asked him if he was ok and he put his hand on my arm and said ‘oh yes’ he waved his other arm around his head ‘I was just thinking about…so many things’ and shrugged…I looked down to see if his bike was damaged…but no, no bike…it was a fucking unicycle he’d fallen off while ‘thinking about so many things’. Only in Berlin.   

Hudson on House and words and things I saw today

That’s right my disbelieving friends, two blog posts two days in a row. I treat you good. So here are some things that are happening:

Hudson on House 

On Sunday I am ‘in conversation’ with Richard House, Booker Prize longlistee and author of the epic and awe inspiring ‘The Kills’…one of my favourite books of recent years. It’s at Gay’s the Word in Bloomsbury (one of my favourite bookshops in the world run by two of my favourite booksellers in the world). It’s at 4pm. Today I described it to my German flatmate as ‘me and Richard just having a chat but with an audience watching…’ And that’s basically it. But I would love, LOVE some of you to come. So do. It’s free. It’ll be pretty fucking good. Do come (pretty please etc.).

Details here…

#30kin35

So I’ve been mightily busy and the auld third novel has taken a right back seat. But I write fast. I’m very lucky that way - in that if I carve out the time, and put my arse on the seat, the words do come. But it has been harder and harder to carve out time among deadlines and other demands on my time. So I decided to set myself a very public challenge. I’m writing 30,000 words in 35 days. Lots of folks over on Twitter are joining in too. If you’d like to as well then use the hashtag #30kin35 and tweet your word count each day. It’s amazing how, as Anne Lamont would say, ‘bird by bird’ (or 1000 words by 1000 words) a novel can be built. In the last two very days I’ve written 1366 words…a decent start and 1366 more words than I’ve written in the last week…it works. 

#ThingsIsawtoday 

Another wee project I’m starting largely because of how busy I’ve been. When I’m busy I find it hard to stop and properly look around me, to observe and appreciate where I am. Not only is that dangerous for a writer like me, who channels lots of observational material into her work, but it’s also a fucking crime when you’re in Venice or Berlin or Budapest. It’s about mindfulness, properly seeing things and being grateful. 

So. So starts #thingsisawtoday. Each day I’ll make a note and maybe take a picture of something I saw that made me stop for a minute. Today it was a blackbird singing its heart out on a bare branch outside the library in the middle of the city. I stopped, watched the way its body moved, took note of its little dark silhouette against the grey of the sky, enjoyed its song and then went on my way. A single moment of something good.

I didn’t get a picture so instead here is yesterday’s….a scrub of grass by a busy road filled with dandelions so the the sunny sky was filled with their spores like the softest snow tangling in your hair….

#thingsisawtoday

 

I think we’re going to need a bigger tumblr…

Brace yourself, get yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit, hell, a packet of biscuits…this will be a long one.

Last Friday I left Budapest (insert melancholy music – I recommend something from Cat Power’s Covers album). I’d spent the week before wrangling with deadlines – I have literally never been busier - but each day I went for a walk at dusk and along the river, when the whole thing looks like a watercolour painting and it’s so fucking beautiful it  squeezes your heart a bit to look at it. I packed up my stuff in my old apartment in my beloved 8th district where I’d just started to make friends: the local cafe owner, the lady who sold me vanilla cookies to go with my morning coffee, the green grocer, the kids who played in my courtyard (Hello! Hello! Hello! Giggle, giggle, giggle). All just getting used to this strange smiling foreigner often wearing sweaty gym kit. I knew when I arrived I would love the city and I loved my time in it just as much. As the airport bus wove through fields with wildflowers just starting to appear I was already thinking about returning. I’m not done with Budapest, this I know.

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That airport bus was taking me to my flight to London. At the airport I sent off a short story I’d been commissioned to write for Freight Books, an anthology of LGBT Scottish Fiction edited by Zoe Strachan, it will launch in August and Freight are sure to do a gorgeous job of it. My story is about queerness and love and sex – it has chip wrappers tumbling along a beach, a squeaky rubber bacon rasher, anallingus – let it never be said I don’t go to All Of The Places.

In London I caught the train directly to Norwich where I’d be teaching a day-long workshop for the Writers’ Centre Norwich on redrafting your first draft. A day long. On novel redrafting. I was nervous, really really nervous. Because of this I prepared like my life depended on it – which when you’re standing in front of twelve expectant participants who’ve paid good money for it, it does. The day was brilliant though and, as you always hope will happen when you’re teaching, I left feeling like the participants will go off and do very good things indeed. I got the feedback and it was bloody…well, glowing…which has made me so happy. I celebrated with an ice-cream sandwich and G&T on the train home and a weekend in London with all of my favourite people eating, drinking and laughing so hard I ruined my eyeliner every twenty minutes.

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Picture of food I have eaten number 1…

Then I was off again, on another plane to Italy, this time to visit the brilliant writer and human being Lisa O’Donnell. For the past two years Lisa has been intermittently renting a beautiful wee house just outside Treviso to Get The Writing Done. She kindly let me come visit and together we laughed like drains, swore like fishwives and ate like fat lads…there might also have been an Aperol Spritz or two involved. I had four glorious sunny days in Treviso, Venice and Fagare (home of beautiful rose gardens and multitudes of tiny rabid dogs) and then I found myself back at an airport looking out at planes gliding on and off the runway with a tub of gelato and Kundera’s ‘Unbearable Lightness…’ to keep me company…oh, and this…why Italy? Why?

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And now? Now I’m in Kreuzberg in Berlin where I’ll be for the next month or so. I’ve cycled from one end of the city to the other on a rattling old Dutch bicycle. Kreuzberg feels a bit like they’ve transported Dalston, mixed in a bit of Camden and introduced rye bread and fixed pricing – there’s the same skinny jeans, freelancers lined up in front of Macs in minimalist coffee shops, the same artfully distressed cafes serving really good food. No complaints here. It might be hipster but it’s sunny, good to cycle in, cheap and full of art and books - all things that make me happy.

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And that’s the point of this post. The last month might have been the busiest in my professional life: two trips back to London for multiple events, three big deadlines which I needed to do a good job on, the launch and management of the WoMentoring Project, the bazzillions of emails that having a book out in a few months generates…I also just worked out I transited four countries in the last seven days. 

But, but…fuck, I am happy. Today I found myself doing a little dance in my pants from sheer joy. And of course I have the occasional whinge about being knackered or stressed but I make sure I have a word with myself and stop being an ungrateful fuck good and quick. I’m remembering every day this is the life I always wanted, one full of change, adventure, productivity and completely on my own terms. This month I learned that working hard brings rewards but making time for happiness is important too and, if you are very lucky, the two will be entwined.

Are you still reading? You deserve a medal…or just have another biscuit…

Tomorrow I’m going to write about these things…(TOMORROW…I know this level of blog productivity is unheard of but in Kreuzberg if you’re not hunched over Tumblr you’re nothing…)…#30kin35 - #ThingsIsawtoday and how you should all come to this at the weekend and say hello to me and Richard House