Monday, 28 February 2011


I'm So Kindle Single

I am preparing to be the first Kindle Single writer launched to a global audience from dear old Wales. Arrivals, my first Kindle Single – that's an Amazon ebook, Nanny, a digital book, a bit like a 45, hence the name – is the novella from my debut collection of short stories The Art of Contraception. It launches at the end of April, closely followed by nine other titles, old and new from Parthian's back catalogue.

Amazon describes their Kindle Single as an ebook that’s 'twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book' The l0,000 to 30,000 word digital pamphlets will be produced by writers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians, publishers and other big thinkers. In fact, in their announcement of the Kindle Single launch Amazon wrote that the size of these ebooks offers the 'perfect, natural length to lay out a single killer idea, well researched, well argued and well illustrated—whether it’s a business lesson, a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event.'

22 Kindle Singles were launched at the start, but numbers are sure to shoot up everywhere from Academia to quack 'health' guides. Most interesting though, is the potential that the medium offers to independent publishers and authors. As such the publishers of small magazines like this one should be pricking up their ears. The idea could fill the gaping hole in the market caused by the loss of Borders as a distributor of good specialised periodicals of small circulations. With high street book stores like Waterstone's closing more and more stores publishing has been looking bleak and money-poor. The Kindle Single provides a way in to the digital publishing market for new writers and harried thinkers lacking the time or money to release longer works. Although it remains to be seen how well it will work in practise, from what I have read publishing a Kindle Single should be relatively painless process for such new writers too. Amazon says that 'Any rights holder can use the already popular Kindle Digital Text Platform (DTP) to self-publish work in the Kindle Store, and this include Kindle Singles.'

DIY publishing and fanzines now have a whole new platform at their easy disposal. In fact Rolling Stone[] predicts a bright and inspired future for digital publishing: 'Should users take to the format, there’s no reason undiscovered essayists idly scribbling away in the off-hours couldn’t become the next John Updike or upstart indie publishing houses flourish by tackling niche topics. Theoretically, the platform could even birth a new breed of ultra-prolific author, including social media-savvy scribes propelled to fame through constant release of new material inspired by fan request or topical issues. Potentially letting anyone publish without a literary agent or expensive print run, the service may let young talent thrive by selling bite-sized, value-priced manuscripts to a small, but loyal fan base.'

Kindle Singles have their own section in the Kindle Store, and prices are generally much less than a typical book, which means they could potentially attract big global audiences. They also prove far more digestible on the Kindle App (available on Android, iPhone, iPad, and BlackBerry for starters), especially at the shortest lengths. Amazon has also released Kindle for the Web, which enables people to read and share digital book samples in their browsers without the need to install or download anything, widening the audience reach even more.

In sales terms, the Kindle is already taking off, and last month Amazon was reporting that Kindle edition sales were outstripping paperbacks in the US (120 Kindle ebooks:100 paperbacks) [] although UK Kindle reading audience numbers are lagging behind our US counterparts. At the recent Digital Book World conference in New York publishers were predicting that 2014 will be the year when ebooks reach parity with print for the first time.

Elsewhere the Man Booker prize is asking publishers to submit entries as both physical and digital books so that the judges have the option to read them on ereaders. As Man Booker administrator Ion Trewin told the Guardian: 'Traditionally we rely on proofs and hard copies, but it seemed to me if publishers were in a position to supply us with electronic downloads any earlier, it would help because time is of the essence. And it gives the judges an alternative. This is what the Kindle will do – it's not going to take over from print, but will offer another way of reading as well.' Other book prizes have taken the move a step further, such as the Dylan Thomas Prize's introduction of a new ebook category, as I reported in my previous blog on their Sony Reader Award.[]

Right, so physical books are over then? Right? Wrong. Much like Vinyl is still around, so too will books in paper form still be available albeit in special collector's editions with shiny covers for this shiny new age, or retro covers for the nostalgic bookworms. The romance is not so much fading as being shoved out, another casualty 'of the demands of sales and publicity?' like line-by-line editing? [] Or a natural part of a modern world where a fucked up ConDemned notion of The Big Society will see libraries closed or taken over by private American companies [] and further supported by in-house Starbucks-et-al franchises. There are other worries; digital books can be at risk of the remote rewriting of both books and history, a panic of censorship, another step closer to the loss of liberties and the power of the potential police state. Or for the writer with a block, or an unstoppable flow a la Grady Tripp in Wonder Boys, the fear that we will never, ever finish, not just the novel but the extended scenes, the apps, and the alternate endings. When is The End really The End?

The End.

Further Reading:

Apple has confirmed that it wants a cut of Amazon's Kindle sales made via its iPad and iPhone apps.

Which is best? Kindle or Ipad?

Information Overload. For those who find all these screens too much.

Friday, 25 February 2011

GUARDIAN CARDIFF: Preview: Fresh Apples (small bites)

Preview: Fresh Apples (small bites)

Fresh Apples is a new theatre production based on short stories from Rachel Tresize and will be previewed at two free shows this weekend. Susie Wild catches up with the Cardiff-based director Julie Barclay in this interview
Fresh Apples by Rachel Trezise won the inaugural Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006 and features themes of adultery, stalking and teenage sexual experience.
The 11 acerbic short stories are set in the Rhondda valleys with their characters on the brink of adulthood, the point where youth meets responsibilities. Five Years later, this award-winning, defiant collection is being adapted for the stage in Welsh and English.
julia barclayJulie Barclay Photograph: Claire Cousin
It's a labour of love for Cardiff-based actressJulie Barclay who loved the book so much she decided to adapt it for theatre, writing and directing for the first time ever, a long with Cardiff-based director and actor, Richard Tunley. The English version will be previewed at two free shows in Cardiff this weekend. I caught up with director and Cardiff-based actor Julie Barclay to find out more.
Q. What attracted you to Fresh Apples as a book to adapt for theatre?
A. Firstly, it was the language that compelled me to read it out loud, because of the expertly crafted characters within it, and the beautiful raw poetry in the writing. Secondly the universality of the characters.
Despite coming from the Rhondda Valleys, these stories also reflected some parts my own life growing up in London. Great writing like this has the power to transcend place and time. Finally, the book had an exciting defiant energy which I could see transferring directly to a new visceral piece of theatre.
Q. This is your first attempt at writing and directing isn't it? How has the process been for you?
Brilliant, chaotic and challenging. I spent along time writing a script which has almost completely changed and I have had to let go of any sense of ego about it. But it has been enjoyable, because the cast are genuinely creating work that inspires me to go back to the text and move the piece forward.
As the director, I started the process wanting to provide answers, but I've realised that when you get in a rehearsal room we find those together - it's not my sole responsibility, and that spirit of collaboration, the trial and error aspect, although chaotic,is the by far the most rewarding way to work.
Q. How true to the original text have you been?
A. Pretty close, and whenever I have felt myself moving too far away from it I go back to the book and ask myself why I wanted to create new connections and story lines. The nature of this piece of theatre is to capture the bigger picture of the book and we have, in this first stage of development, chosen three of the stories with aspects of others weaving their way into a new piece of theatre.
My co-director, Richard Tunley is working with improvisation leading to script to develop aspects of 'Fresh Apples', the title story, and I have been working with the script, mentioned earlier, combining the stories - 'But Not Really' and 'A Little Boy'.
Rachel has been very encouraging and supportive. Her outside eye on my scriptwriting has been so valuable. My instinct has been to overwrite a scene and her eye on the script has helped me to pare it back leaving more for the audience to think,feel and decide for themselves. I have learnt that I don't have to say it all in the writing, some of it is there in what the actors do and,of course,what they don't say.
The actors are all professionals and experienced at devising and working with new writing and include Jonny Owen (Shameless) and Shelley Rees (Pobol y Cym).
Q. What can we expect on the preview nights?
A. I'm so glad you asked this, because this is not a fully fledged production; ready for the red carpet and a huge press night. It is a piece of theatre in development. You can expect a tragicomic journey through the world of some of the characters. A heightened theatrical style, including aspects of projected imagery in a pretty derelict location. I have received a small amount of project funding from Arts Council Wales and National Theatre of Wales to pay the actors and production crew to provide a sense of what a bigger production could be like and to explore the potential of the book on stage. Sherman Cymru New Artists Development Initiative has also been supportive of the project by providing us with free rehearsal space in Cardiff and guidance as the piece is developed.'
This weekend we are staging Fresh Apples (small bites) in the exhibition space tactileBOSCH in Llandaff North – it is a 200-year-old Victorian laundry and provides just the right location for the spirit of the piece. We are also taking the piece to Penygraig in the Rhondda Valleys to perform Fresh Apples (small bites) at The Soar Centre in March. It has also been important to me that we take the piece to the people about whom these stories are written. We are hoping to tour the piece across south Wales if we can raise more funding. Hopefully the previews will promote interest in seeing a full production later this year perhaps or into next spring 2012.We are encouraging audience members to feedback their responses to the piece in order to keep developing the work and take it forward.
Q. What else in the pipeline?
A. In spring and summer this year I am acting in a Frank Vickery Comedy called 'Spanish Lies' which is touring south Wales. I am also a founder member of Be:spoken Theatre. I directed A Kind of Alaska by Harold Pinter for the company last year and we are looking to commission a new piece of work for 2012.
Fresh Apples (small bites) is at tactileBOSCH on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 February 2011 at 8pm. Entry is free.
Today's guest blogger Susie Wild is a writer, poet, journalist and editor.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

MS: So Long, Farewell


Dear readers, the time has come for me to take off  my Mslexia blogging hat. The year of blogging as self-appointed literary it-girl for Wales has flown by and now it is time for some other voices to be heard. See Sophie’s exciting news entry below for details on how you could be writing rather than reading this here blog. Please don’t cry. I am not going to disappear. You can follow me on twitter (@soozerama) and also read my soon to be much more regular blogs about both sexes of writer over on ace literary mag The Raconteur. I am pitching for one of those three month stints on the Mslexia blog too, so you may see me here again too, you just never know your luck. Wishing you happiness, inspiration and good literati parties. Take care all, Susie x
About Susie:
Susie Wild is a freelance journalist based in South Wales. She is one of Parthian's Bright Young Things and her debut collection of short stories, The Art of Contraception is out now. As a poet she performs regularly, and publishes here and there, including the recent Bugged book. She likes good live music, Old Man Pubs, patterned tights, hair dye and avocados.

Monday, 14 February 2011


The Globe, 125 Albany Road, Cardiff
Sat 12 Feb 2011
Punk poet dandy John Cooper Clarke rocks onto the Globe stage in his trademark big hair and skinny drainpipes combo, dark shades obscuring half of his face. The room is packed. The crowd braying for the expected long set of laughs, biting wit, shambolic tales and ales. JCC certainly does not disappoint his rescheduled show audience, nor avid fan, me.
The legend that is JCC made his name as the support act for many seminal punk bands such as the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, The Fall, Joy Division, Elvis Costello and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Today three of his poems are even in the GCSE syllabus. Now in his sixties, the Lowry-meets-Burton performer is showing no signs of flagging.
A month ahead of his forthcoming spring tour he rolls through a superbly lengthy set of all the favourites including ‘Hire Car’ and many, many gags in his renowned Salford twang:
Hire-car, hire-car
Why would anybody buy a car?
Bang it, prang it, say ta ta
It’s a hire car baby
We laugh and laugh and then have to say ta ta far too early, running to catch the last train to Swansea before the set is over. Gutted. (insert usual gripes about Saturday train scheduling here or quote some JCC lines: I wish ‘The fucking train is fucking late.’ Your choice!) But we don’t cry too much for JCC is back in Wales in April appearing at The Laugharne Weekend, as am I. Come along and see us both there.