The Word @ Astley Hall

I have noticed, for some reason, that I have two Neverending stories site and keep reblogging this post to the wrong one. Anyway! Looks like it would be a really good event for local writers and readers.


The Word @ Astley Hall

30WednesdayMay 2012

Posted by  in The Word venue

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THE WORD festival Astley_Hall_Chorley

The Word – the first one-day writing festival for Lancashire writers – is confirmed for 22 SEPTEMBER 2012 at the beautiful ASTLEY HALL in Chorley.

It is a wonderful venue that is sure to get the creative juices flowing for anybody who appreciates good writing. We’re speaking to some superb writers who will host some fantastic events throughout the day. Details to come.

The event is aimed at fiction and non-fiction authors, copywriters, ghostwriters, journalists, editors and lecturers – add another category here if you don’t fit into any of those!

We will have the run of the coach house, which houses the excellent Cafe Ambio and is situated next to the walled garden. Astley Hall will also be open and FREE on festival day, so writers can take a peek at this Elizabethan manor when they’re all written out.

Put 22 September in your diary now. Tickets will be on sale shortly.


UPDATE: Award-winning North West authorJenn Ashworth is now confirmed as one of the speakers at The Word Festival.

Jenn’s 2009 novel A Kind of Intimacy was included in the Waterstone’s New Voices promotion and short-listed for Sam Jordison’s Not The Booker Award at The Guardian. In 2010 it got a Betty Trask award from the Society of Authors, and Jenn’s second novel, Cold Light, has also received excellent reviews:

‘Another cleverly skewed tale told from the self-conscious perspective of an outsider’ ‘arrestingly observant’ ‘Ashworth’s second book confirms that  the first was no one-off… her talent could take her a long way’.    The Guardian

More details on what Jenn Ashworth will be doing at The Word Festival to follow soon!

And The Word is that Kindle chart-topping Kerry Wilkinson has also confirmed – more details soon!

Face-to-face courses

For those of you who don’t know, I also co-run Creative Writing the Artist’s Way. We offer distance-learning creative writing courses and now, face-to-face courses in Manchester and surrounding areas.

The difference with our courses (we think) is that we approach teaching creative writing in a different way to teaching Creative Writing. See Andrew Cowie’s enlightening comments on this for more info.

The point is, we really care about the development of our particular writers and how that productivity and creativity can be realised. To do this, a lot of the exercises we do are nothing to do with writing. Strange, yes. Useful, hopefully. They have been to us! Learning creative writing within an institution / UG/PG framework can be stifling. It can be liberating and wonderful, but it does have its own particular requirements and outcomes.

Our courses are underpinned with understanding gained from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. However, they also combine our own unique experience as university lecturers and writers within the academy. (A curious bunch!) We also work outside of universities, within the community and with adult learners. Developing with us is not like studying. It requires the same vigour, but our goal is in line with your goals as writers, whatever stage in your career.

We’ve been asked quite a lot if we do face-to-face courses and decided it was time to take that leap. So, if you are in or near Manchester and would appreciate one-to-one or group tuition, please have a look at our website. You can also follow us on Twitter.



Individuals: £20 per hour.

Groups (up to 10): £50 per 4 week intensive course

(2.5 hour sessions: Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced)

NB. We can tailor-make courses around you and your group. Whatever your specific requirements, do get in touch.

Pearl Jam – MEN June 2012

I first listened to Pearl Jam in my parent’s bedroom (they had cable). Flipping through channels and coming across MTV and Pearl Jam’s Unplugged session for ‘Ten’, their first album. Maybe I was about 17. I recorded it on VHS and played it over and over. I’m 32 now. So what is it about this band, and absolutely no other, that can still have the same effect on me when I listen to their music?

I’ve rolled my eyes at people in tears at Take That gigs. Well, the footage of this. I never went (obviously). But I sniffled twice at this Pearl Jam gig. It’s been about 12 years since I first saw them live (also at the MEN). And I suppose I was taken aback by the emotion. The nostalgia, and the force of it.

Everyone’s been through that lonely stage I suppose, and everyone’s found a band/author/vice that nods at you like, I get that. I understand. Here, me too; this is what I think. For me, that was Pearl Jam. I’m not listening to Pearl Jam in my parents’ bedroom on VHS any more, or wondering when I’d be ‘the star in someone else’s sky’. (Or is it sun? – never sure). This song was like a promise to my future self. To me, now. Things will change, you’ll grow up, you’ll learn to live with things the best way you can. Happiness…the yellow brick road.

Listening to Ten especially is a window back to 1997 and I’m so chuffing grateful that it’s 2012. So grateful that I got to watch them again, and not feel disappointed. (Some bands that last like this start to look like your dad, no?)  I got to time travel a couple of decades of life and sing my little heart out. As evidenced on some of these videos.

Here’s a little snippet of Black. Hope you love it.



Free ebooks – you know you want ’em!

In various roles over various years, I’ve been lucky enough to co-create some collections that have some chuffing great writing in them.

Sensitively observed truths in many forms – essays from teenagers about their hopes and disappointments, memories of youth, stories about community, or lack of it. About chips and dancing and ‘slippy baths’ (you’ll have to read it to find out). Startling writing from new writers who are finding their voice.

But writing needs to be read.

20 June is National Short Story Day in the UK and we’re giving away free ebooks to celebrate. We want you to enjoy our writers’ work as much as we have. You can find out more details here!

Creative Writing the Artist’s Way – Bookstore

Throughout the day, we’ll be making these titles available for free. Take advantage!

ImageImage  Image




*Spoilers* (but let’s face it, you should have watched it by now anyway if you’re any kind of movie fan) 


I seem to have gone to the cinema to watch this with the only two people who didn’t know it was connected to the Alien franchise. And they call themselves scifi buffs. Sheesh.

I suppose I can’t talk, I didn’t realise Ridley Scott hadn’t done Aliens, or any of the other increasingly pointless movies. That said, the first two rank in my Top Ten of All Time, but does Prometheus? Nope. It’s a really good movie. It’s pretty. It could have been great, but for some reason, it isn’t.

I think that great movies give you an experience, whether that’s visual or otherwise, that you’ve never had before.

(see: Matrix (1); Terminator 1 & 2; Avatar etc)

So originality is possible even with a (sort of) prequel. The difference between both Ridley and Cameron’s films and Prometheus is that the tension is missing. I can watch either of the first two over and over (and I have) and always be tense, always be nervous. Prometheus replicates the terrors we’re exposed to in Alien and Aliens, but never equals or matches them. More importantly, they’re not terrible. They’re upsetting (a big cock-like creature forcing its way down some poor guy’s oesophagus is always going to seem a bit ick) but the psychology is missing. The sensitive and subtle study of character and society is not present.  

It’s a bit confusing, too. At the opening, it looks as though the big man (you’ll see what I mean) willingly transforms himself into the alien we know. Apparently this isn’t the case, but it looks so similar. So for the whole movie I’m trying to work out how we get back to that point, but we never do, because it’s not a actually a point.

The big reveal at the end is only useful if you haven’t been thinking that’s what it’s going to be all along. Not a fault of the plot particularly, but a flaw that’s resulted from all the talk (and leakage) around the movie. 

The one thing that was interesting, apart from David the android (Michael Fassbender), although perhaps it’s interesting as a study, is the representation of female strength. In Alien, Ripley is ‘feminine’ but emotionally tough. In Aliens, she’s also physically ‘masculine’-tough. Noomi Rapace (Dr Shaw) is sweet in a way Ripley wasn’t. Her quest and faith in finding the answers about ‘the engineers’ is touching, if fatalistic.

Despite all this, after losing her boyfriend, finding out she’s having an alien baby and aborting preternaturally-fast-growing-foetus herself, she still staggers on and sort of saves the day. I quite like that. I do wonder about the images sometimes though. Why is the parasite so (aggressively) sexual, why, when it is Dr Shaw’s strong desire to have a child, is she impregnated by something hideous that she has to extract from her own body and kill? It’s all rather curious stuff and, at least, keeps me thinking about it.

Still, disappointing, if only because you can clearly see how it could have been amazing. Borrows too much from the second film, which is, essentially stealing as he didn’t make it. 

What’s next then? Hobbit? Yet another repetition of something already seen?