Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Performers Wanted for Live Poetry Special 2022

Want to perform your poetry on the radio?

The annual Hannah's Bookshelf Live Poetry Special is back! (With a couple of little changes...)

On Saturday 26th March, Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM will be broadcasting its annual Live Poetry Special. And once again, I’d like to invite poets and spoken word performers to get involved and perform their work on the show.

For the first time in nearly three years, I'll be inviting poets into the North Manchester FM studio to perform their work live on the show! However, I have to admit I've enjoyed being able to feature work from poets from further afield on the last two poetry specials, so I'll also be offering a limited number of slots for poets outside Manchester to pre-record their performance for inclusion in the broadcast.

Whether you’re a veteran performer or new to reading your work, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line via the Contact page, tweet me or message me on Facebook if you’d like to perform or would like more information about how to take part. Slots are limited, and will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Please let me know if you want a live or pre-recorded slot when you contact me.

The Hannah’s Bookshelf Live Poetry Special will be going out on North Manchester FM on Saturday 26th March at 2-4pm. It will be broadcast on 106.6FM (in the North Manchester area) and online (for the rest of the world). Performance slots are 6 minutes long.

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Stories to be Read with the Lights On 21: The $2,000,000 Defense by Harold Q. Masur

I've probably got time for one more story from my Hitchcock reread today. The next story in the book is 'The $2,000,000 Defense' by Harold Q. Masur. This story wasn't as immediately familiar as the previous ones, and I wasn't sure if I remembered reading it before when I started.

After a few pages, this one really wasn't ringing any bells. It's so weird the way I remember some stories and not others.

'The $2,000,000 Defense' is a typical 'Tales of the Unexpected'-type story that's very much in-keeping with the rest of the book. You can sort of see the ending coming, but there's an added sting in the final reveal that might be a surprise. I absolutely knew what was coming with this one, but it's because I guessed the ending, not because I remembered it. 'The $2,000,000 Defense' is a pretty standard story of someone getting their comeuppance. What I liked about it was the way you didn't realize it was comeuppance until right at the end (you think he's just a victim of something bad).

But, I have to say, I 100% do not remember reading this one before.

­čáäPrevious Story

Stories to be Read with the Lights On 20: Guessing Game by Rose Million Healey

The next story in the book is 'Guessing Game' by Rose Million Healey. And after the last two I was curious to see whether I remember anything about this one. 'Guessing Game' continued my streak... it definitely seemed familiar from the start. It feels like I'm remembering the middle of this book more clearly than the beginning.

A couple of paragraphs in, and this one is totally came back to me. I even thought I remembered the ending! As I continued reading, the story came back clear as a bell. Now I'm wondering (as with some of the others) if I've read it in another anthology more recently. It was just so familiar!

And I was right about the ending. As soon as the creepy kid asked Martha to guess what was in his creepy kid box, I remembered the answer. I wonder why this one stuck so clearly in my head?

­čáäPrevious Story

Stories to be Read with the Lights On 19: Agony Column by Barry Malzberg

Back to my Hitchcock reread this afternoon... the next story in the book is 'Agony Column' by Barry N. Malzberg. And even before I started reading, this story seemed familiar. It's very much about how people shouted into the void before social media existed. I feel like I definitely remember reading it the first time round.

I'm not sure where 'Agony Column' wants our sympathies to lie. There's a suggestion that we should relate to Martin Miller, who says he's just desperate to be "recognized as an individual" and whose frustration escalates as this doesn't happen. But, on the other hand, Martin Miller is sending unsolicited and sometimes uninformed opinions to a variety of people in an attempt to "correspond" with them. There's an incredible arrogance to his assumption that, if he has an opinion, he must be entitled to an audience.

You could literally reformat this story as a series of tweets, rather than letters, and it would feel very current. Weird to think that the last time I read it, I'd only just got my first email address!

­čáäPrevious Story

Sunday, 13 February 2022

My Year in Books 2022: January

I'm a bit late posting this... not a great start to my year of posts! Sorry about that!

Once again, I'm going to be writing monthly blog posts with short reviews of all the books I've read for fun, rather than for research or review (not that those books aren't often fun, of course). Hopefully, the rest of the year's posts will be published on time! But for now, here are the three books I read this January:

The Haunting Season (2021)

The first book I read this year was sort of a reread, but not quite. I skim-read The Haunting Season back in November, as part of the prep for my Hannah’s Bookshelf Christmas Special. (I know… I probably shouldn’t give away my secrets like that!) I knew that it was the sort of book I’d enjoy reading slowly, so I put it on my to-read pile for a proper read over Christmas. I ran out of time in December, but since we’re celebrating the seasons more thoroughly this year, it seemed like it might be the right book to pick up between Christmas and Imbolc. And I was right – this collection was perfect for the dark winter nights of the post-Christmas period. The anthology contains eight short stories, all set in winter, and all about haunting (though not necessarily ghosts). Although these are all new stories, they’re mostly set in the past. In some stories, this past setting is quite specific, but in others there’s just an eerie sense of an older, other time. All eight stories were beautifully written and very readable, and I’d struggle to say that I have a favourite. ‘A Study in Black and White’ by Bridget Collins had me hooked from the start, and ‘Thwaite’s Tenant’ by Imogen Hermes Gowar had a powerful sense of place and setting. I also liked the very visceral folk horror of Andrew Michael Hurley’s story ‘The Hanging of the Greens’. Perfect winter reading, and a strong recommendation from me!

The Hoarder by Jess Kidd (2018)

Something funny happened with this one… I knew I was planning to read Starve Acre later in the month, and I’d just read one of Hurley’s short stories in The Haunting Season, so I thought it’d be best to break the two books up with something completely different. I’d picked up The Hoarder, because I’d seen it on a list of must-read Gothic books and I liked the look of the blurb. It was only as I started to read it that I realized the author’s name seemed familiar. Ah… that would be because Jess Kidd also had a story (‘Lily Wilt’) in The Haunting Season! I guess this month has a bit of a theme after all! In some ways, The Hoarder is quite different to ‘Lily Wilt’, but in others there are some definite similarities between the two stories. The Hoarder is set in the present day, when careworker Maud Drennan is assigned to the home of Cathal Flood, the hoarder of the title. She discovers a towering pile of rubbish (and a towering old man guarding it), but also some hints of a decades-old mystery that she becomes determined to solve. I was hooked from the start by this one. The characters are quirky, but still very sympathetic, and the way the mystery unfolds is really engaging. I did guess one of the reveals, but I really liked the way the story plays with the ambiguity of memories and the stories we tell ourselves about our lives.

Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley (2019)

Since I always read festive books for Christmas and Halloween, it wanted to choose a seasonal book for Imbolc this year. I struggled a bit to find a book set at the end of winter, as most ‘winter fiction’ tends to be set in the run-up to Christmas or around the solstice. Fortunately, Starve Acre is set at just the right time of year. I’ve also read a bit of Hurley’s fiction already, so I knew I’d be getting a folk horror-inflected take on the season. I also knew a little bit about the publishing history of Starve Acre, an earlier version of which was published as part of Dead Ink Book’s Eden Book Society project, but then withdrawn when the novel-length version of the book was contracted. I read four of the other Eden Book Society stories a couple of years ago, but I was a bit late to get the earlier version of Starve Acre. Time, then, to read the longer version. Starve Acre is the story of Richard and Juliette who have moved to his old family home, a place with an acre of land that was once home to a mighty oak tree but where nothing now grows. Richard and Juliette’s son Ewan died before the story begins, and the novel is an exploration of their grief, of landscape, and of the dark tendrils of history. Starve Acre is sad, but in an unsettlingly detached way and with moments of real horror. Perfect for the season.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Imbolc: Day 7

It's the final day of our Imbolc celebrations. I'm a bit sad that we'll be taking the lights down tomorrow, but we've had a lovely time inventing new traditions and enjoying some festive fun.

Imbolc Lunch

I don't know if this counts as a seasonal celebration, but I had a lovely afternoon out with my mum today (including some very nice cake).

Groundhog Day

There's only really one film to wrap up our seasonal celebrations... it's Groundhog Day! (And I've also been enjoying learning a bit about the history of Groundhog Day and its European precedents.)

And so the wheel of the year turns... We'll be celebrating again at the Vernal Equinox.

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Imbolc: Day 6

Tonight is the big night... the festival of Imbolc begins and it's the feast day of St Brigid. So we decided to mark the occasion with a new tradition... a candlelit Imbolc Dinner with some seasonal dishes.

Imbolc Dinner

Candlelight doesn't make for great food pics, but we had sweet potato, butternut squash and nut roast with colcannon and roast parsnips.

Imbolc Gifts

And another new tradition for the year... after dinner, Rob and I exchanged Imbolc gifts. We've decided that we're going to get each other seasonally-themed whisky drams throughout the year, and then we'll try them all when we're on holiday in December.