Simon Carmichael is appearing on the Songwriters’ Stage

12 Jun

Over the years I have been into many different types of music from classical to rock however as I get older my passion lies with the acoustic guitar. Having been absorbed in music from a young age I got listening to many styles from the likes of Paco de Lucia (thanks Dad) through to Torben Floor.

Over the last few years I came across a guitarist from Australia, Tommy Emmanuel. Just when I thought i was getting good at guitar I see this guy and think to myself “Do I throw my guitar out or practise harder?” Thankfully I chose the latter.

I have a lot of experience playing in bands in my more ‘rock n roll’ days so to speak however this will be the first time I venture out on the acoustic. Over the last year I have been practising new ideas based on the styles of everything from Tommy, Andy McKee, Kaki King,and Preston Reed to name a few and I hope my own style comes through in my music.

I am hoping over the next few years to get in the spotlight as much as possible and hopefully, just hopefully get out of the day job!!

You can check out my videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/simonjcarmichael
Also on Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/simoncarmichael

The Myspace also has some Piano tracks that I have been working on over the last few years. I will be recording an EP soon so keep your eye on the myspace for more info.

Katy McAulay steps into the spotlight.

28 May

On venturing out of the garret

Recently, I’ve been involved with some script work on a one-man show a friend of mine has been performing in the Arches. It’s called How Soon is Nigh? and it uses video, memories, stories, discussion and a bit of audience participation in order to explore our fascination with the apocalypse. I’ve been able to sit in on quite a few of the performances, and it’s been an illuminating experience to be able to see, hear and participate in an audience’s reaction to something that I have helped to create.

It’s great to see people laughing during the performance, or to overhear them discussing the experience they’ve just had in the bar afterwards. Equally, it’s discomforting to notice a yawn escape from a person sat in the front row, or to see a blank stare from an audience member who’s been asked to participate in the performance. Because I usually write fiction that is intended to be read rather than performed, I don’t often have access to this sort of immediate response. When I’m writing, I mostly work in a room on my own. The pieces that are published wing their way off to editors by email and can take weeks or months to appear in their intended publications. And when they are published, I can’t be privy to the moment when someone I don’t know settles down to read the words I have strung together.

One of my first jobs after finishing university was working as a freelance journalist. I wrote about anything and everything – homelessness to haute couture, restaurant reviews to interviews with minor celebrities. One of the columns I contributed to each week recommended bits and pieces for readers’ homes and gardens. Public relations assistants from the likes of Ikea and Marks & Spencer would send me photographs and press releases about new products, and sometimes the actual products themselves, in the hope that I would write about them. I would also trawl the independent shops, looking for interesting knickknacks.

On one occasion, my boyfriend brought home a curious item he had bought from the Boots store where he had a weekend job working in the photo lab. The product was made of green plastic; shaped like a foot, with suckers on one side and bristles on the other. He demonstrated how to stick it to the bottom of the bath using the suckers and then rubbed his bare foot against the bristles, cleaning his soles and toes. I decided to take a photograph of it and put it in my column.

That weekend, my boyfriend came home from his shift at Boots and told me how he’d sold quite a few of the foot cleaners to customers who had read about it in the Herald. I found the fact that people were actually buying an item I had written about both hilarious and mildly unnerving. It seems stupid now, but up until that point, I honestly hadn’t thought about the fact that anyone would be reading the articles that I had written.

A few years later, I experienced a similar feeling at the premiere of a short film I had made with my brother. It was our first film, and our friends and family had all piled into the Cameo cinema to show their support and see what we had made. I had not considered what it would be like to be present while other people watched the film, and as the house lights faded I had a sudden sense of panic about the fact that one scene featured a naked woman. My eighty-year-old granddad was seated just a few seats along from me. What would he think? I was in the front row, and I couldn’t decide what I wanted more – to see the film on the big screen for the first time, or to turn around and watch the reactions on the faces of the people who were watching it.

On the 20th of June, I’m going to be reading one of my stories as part of the 3 minute hero quick fire showcase. I’m nervous and excited about being faced with an audience again. But even though it may be scary, I know that taking a chance to venture out of my garret is always going to be a good thing. I may spend most of my time writing in a room all on my own; I may not get to meet some of the people who read my fiction, but what I’m trying to do is to inspire, to entertain, to provoke – to communicate. What better way to do that than face-to-face?

Katy McAulay

Introducing Michael Pederson – 3 Minute Hero

24 May

We’d like to introduce you to Michael Pederson, one of the 3 Minute Heroes taking to the boards at the launch party on 20th June. We sought his thoughts on writing and poetry in particular – he’s a busy chap and no mistake. We’re looking forward to his 180 seconds of heroism immensely.

It’s the little things that matter

My name is Michael Pedersen and I’m a 25 year old poet and arts enthusiast of Caledonian stock –http://www.michaelpedersen.co.uk. I got a little side-tracked into qualifying as a charity lawyer but have since fled the law and taken to full-throttle wordsmithery. My inaugural chapbook ‘Part-Truths’ (Koo Press) was launched during the Edinburgh Word Festival 2009 – it has been listed as a Poetry Book Society Choice and is currently a Callum MacDonald Memorial Award finalist. I am widely published in magazines, journals, e-zines and anthologies.

My advice is to serve yourself in many slices, emerging poets have to be prepared to wave their own flag and jump aboard every ship seeking crew.  For most keen scribblers, a febrile fervour for the poetic arts is an absolute must – you have to craft, create and catch fancy. But if poetry has long been your raison d’être then all this will be very visceral/impossible to suppress.

I’ve spent these past nine months in Cambodia which has served up a fascinating cocktail of the sinister, spiritual and sanguine and has proven to be philanthropically and poetically rewarding. Alongside teaching English, running reading groups, building dens for a population of Royal Turtles and delivering a weekly pub quiz, I’ve been completing my first full collection. It’s at this point I began to truly value the medley of artistic endeavours I’ve engaged in/am on the brink of engaging in. When answering questions like ‘Who will buy your book’ ‘Why should we publish you’  ‘Will you be actively selling the book yourself’ ‘Is anyone actually reading poetry’ – it’s most beneficial to have a kit-bag full of tantalising trinkets.

These sort of statements are best accompanied by a few choice cuts of creation (viola) -what I’m currently working on:

  1. I serve as script-editor for forthcoming play and motion picture Dream Tower Inn – www.dreamtower.com. The project was a finalist on the BBC Documentary MacMusical – endorsed by Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Other members of the creative team include seminal director/composer Bréon George Rydell and internationally revered visual artist Gianni Scumaci. To date, the team has done interviews with Fred MacAulay on BBC Radio Scotland and Steve Wright on BBC Radio Two, with things set to crescendo in 2011.
  2. Allied to this, I am working on a music to mantra performance with the unfathomably talented musician (founding member The Coral) Bill Ryder-Jones www.myspace.com/billryderjones and www.myspace.com/puffpoetry.
  1. I also hope to produce a second chapbook with Jane Mckie of Knucker Press – a specialist verve and visuals publisher with whom I would produce a handful of poems to be married to bespoke illustrations from some of Scotland’s most exciting emerging artists – www.knuckerpress.com .
  1. Another collaborative arts piece I am involved in is a ‘Poetry Animation Shortclip’ with London Based Cartoonist Dan Jones – www.iamdanjones.com.

Of paramount importance to almost every poet is the festive frissons of live-readings – keep a keen eye on the local arts scene (fortunately Scotland is a chieftan of the arts) and skip blithely along to the events whenever time and temperament coincide. It is in this respect I pay homage to Forge of the Wordsmiths – hurrah – and let’s see you all there next month.

I’ll be available for nattering to, purchasing chapbooks from or in the refreshment rubric.

Toodle-oo

Polish your party shoes.

13 May

Forge of the Wordsmiths Launch Party

Sunday 20th June

The Flying Duck, Renfield St, Glasgow

8pm-2am – Admission £4

New writing club night to flaunt the new, audacious talents of Scottish song, prose, poetry and spoken word.

Featuring;

3 Minute Heroes quick fire showcase,

Songwriting Stage – some of Scotland’s blazing new songwriting talent performing live

Pop-up bookshop – for all your new writing needs

Live spoken word and intelligent rap

Radical soul power spoken word and beats for your feet on the wheels of steel.

Poetry and visuals collaboration by Kevin Williamson and Mediaheroic,

DJ set by Steev (Errors)

More details and full line-up will be announced shortly.
In the meantime, take Monday 21st June off work.

The Whys and Wherefores of 3 Minute Heroes

6 May

So I’ve been getting some great submissions for 3 Minute Heroes. Really great. But I still want more.

I’ve also been getting some interesting questions about it, which shows that people are curious, intrigued, yet suspicious. So I thought I’d address the why?s wherefore?s and wtf?s of 3 Minute Heroes. What’s it all about?

Well first of all, 3 Minutes – that’s a bit short, you might think. Why 3 Minutes?

First, here are some facts for you. The average length of a TV advert is 30 seconds. The average internet user spends less than one minute on a web page. The perfect length for a pop song is said to be 2.42 minutes.

Attention spans are getting shorter due to television viewing and browsing the internet. The classic estimate that an adult’s focussed attention span is around 20 minutes is now being revised to around 15.

Now I personally have a not bad attention span. Even so, I have found it very difficult to remain interested at author events, book and poetry readings and found that a requirement to read for 10-15 minutes (or more) can actually work against the reader in engaging their audience. And there is nothing that turns me off more than seeing someone supposedly promoting their work by reading it aloud – when they clearly haven’t prepared for it. Haven’t thought about their tone of voice, their pace or any of the other wee things that can make all the difference. What YOU don’t even rate it that highly that it deserves a good run-through beforehand? And you WROTE IT! Well it hardly inspires confidence that it’s going to be worthwhile reading it myself – does it?

Then there is the chemical state of you, the reader. When you are getting up in front of a crowd to read, it’s likely that you will get a little boost of adrenaline to help you through. How long does an adrenaline rush last on average? Exactly 3 minutes, 5 seconds and 2.314 milliseconds. Apparently. This is not a scholarly article but 3 minutes is enough time to enjoy your steadying, confidence boosting rush of adrenaline and know that you’re going to be up there, delivering the hot goods and then off again before you have time to panic. 3 Minute Heroes is designed for everyone – not just the experienced public speaker.

If you are of a nervous or bashful disposition, trust me when I say that it’s not hard to get through 3 minutes without even noticing.

The 3 Minute Heroes performances will take place without preamble or digression. There will be no introductions, no explanations and no thanking your mum afterwards. This kind of waffle definitely makes people switch off.

Reading your work well is something you can practice and refine, you can work on it and make it shiny. Having quality onstage banter and coming across well in unscripted explanations is much harder and takes a certain set of skills and experience to get right. Why would you want to prejudice your wonderful writing with  all that baloney? Let the words speak for themselves, or else why have you gone to the trouble of writing them anyway?

This very weekend, the Festival International des Tres Court (International Festival of Very Short Films) is taking place in 72 cities. Having it’s origins in Paris, the festival screens films of less than 3 minutes, without title or credits. This is it’s 12th year and it looks to be getting bigger each time.

You can watch some of the very short films on their site and test your own attention span. See how much of an impact can be made in 3 minutes or less.

A piece that can be read comfortably in 3 minutes is around 500-600 words long. For fiction writers perhaps this would seem a little restrictive, but James Wood, literary critic at The New Yorker and author of How Fiction Works has some advice in this article about the shortest form of fiction. There are also some fantastic 3 minute stories on the page – check them out.

3 minutes is also a very good length for poetry – but don’t just take my word for it, ask Farrago London Poetry SLAM! – pioneers of pugelistic poetry in the UK.

So to summarise, 3 Minute Heroes is designed to keep the audience gripped, to challenge you to thoroughly prepare for your live reading and to really showcase what is important about writing today. It needs to be immediate, vital and stand on it’s own two feet, or however many feet it has.

Post script; Some other things that support the concept of 3 Minute Heroes.

3 is The Magic Number according to De La Soul.

You can make a chocolate cake in 3 minutes. True!

If you want to submit 500 words and be a 3 Minute Hero at our launch party on 20th of June in Glasgow, email forgeofthewordsmiths@googlemail.com

3 Minute Heroes?

30 Apr

Wordsmiths of Scotland- there are some 3 minute slots to perform your writing up for grabs at our launch party.
The launch party is taking place on the night of Sunday 20th June in central Glasgow.
If you write poetry, prose, sketches, spoken word pieces or drama, send 500 words to forgeofthewordsmiths@googlemail.com

The revolution will not be televised.

19 Apr

GIL SCOTT-HERON’S EDINBURGH GIG HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO THE NO-FLY ZONE SITUATION. See The List magazine online for details.

Spoken word legend Gil Scott Heron is playing in Edinburgh and Aberdeen this week. As far as I know the Edinburgh show is now completely sold out. This is hardly surprising. If you have any chance to go and see him, you should grab it.

If you think you have never heard Gil Scott Heron in action – you may be surprised. Have you ever heard the words “The revolution will not be televised.” spoken in a ringing, angsty tone over a dance tune? That’s him in probably his best known track.

I would recommend “Pieces of a Man” to get a flavour of the personal and you can listen to previews of his new album ‘I’m New Here’ on a fancy widget on the Guardian music blog.

Details of this week’s gigs are on The List website.