Recounting Our Time Away

notebooks, pens and breakfast things lit by sunlight

The twice-yearly writing courses at Ty'n y Coed, near Conwy, has become a firm fixture in the Cinnamon calendar. This November's autumn course was fantastic example of why the courses are so important to our ethos: eight writers coming together to find support and inspiration, each of them making a breakthrough with the work and leaving with a stronger commitment to writing than they had are the start of the week. But don't take my word for it. Here's Diane Woodrow's take on her time at Ty'n y Coed this November.

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Don't Find Your Purpose, Create It

Jan walking along a gas-lit back lane
The cover of Jan's novel, This is the End of the Story
The cover of Jan's novel, A Remedy for All Things

The notion that you are here for some purpose; that all you have to do is discover the one thing hidden deep in the recesses of your soul or psyche in order to fulfil your life's goal or nature or some other externally determined objective, is a pervasive one. An Internet search will bring up many and various ways to discover your purpose with the assumption that there is an esoteric 'very reason why you exist', more colloquially 'what you were put on earth for'. Yet not only are these supposedly deeply-embedded purposes hard to find, most of them seem to be described in sweeping statements so general as to become meaningless. Things like being here 'to bring peace' or 'radiate light'.

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Dream or Drudge?


An irresistible sleeping sickness had Perl in its grip.

Hard to imagine two more different people than Alfred Kubin and Eric Basso. Kubin: print maker, illustrator of the works of Poe and E.T.A. Hoffmann, sometime associate of the Blaue Reiter. Basso a novelist, poet, playwright and critic, a modernist in the best sense of the term, a man located far off the mainstream. Yet, they've both offered visions of societies collapsing under the grip of plagues of sleeping sickness. In Kubin's 1908 novel, The Other Side (quoted above), the sickness gradually overruns the city of Perl, a strange, failing utopia located outside customary space and time. In Basso's 1977 cult classic, The Beak Doctor, the sickness has already consumed an unnamed town whose deserted streets are choked by swirling fog and which teeters on the verge of collapse:

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2017 Debut Novel/Novella Prize — The Results

a candle burns beside an open book

It's never easy judging a competition and this year's entrants to the Debut Novel Prize were a particularly knotty group to unpick. But, at last, we managed to decide on a 15 strong long list to go over — and over — to arrive at the final short list of:

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Nine Essential Ingredients for an Awesome Book Launch

Close up of the book's cover, Tracey Iceton in the background
Jan reading as the seated audience listen attentively
John gesturing, eyes closed, as he reads

I've attended 4 book events in 4 countries in the last ten days and although each one has been completely different from the next, they've all been excellent experiences. From the launch of Landeg White's Ultimatum in iconic Lisbon bookshop, Ler Devagar, to an upstairs room in a pub in the Welsh border town of Presteigne, where myself and Susan Richardson read from several of our poetry collections; from an art-space café/bar in Edinburgh for the launch of Jay Whittaker's debut collection, Wristwatch, to the cosy and well-stocked Drake's bookshop for the launch of the second in Tracey Iceton's Celtic Colours Trilogy, Herself Alone in Orange Rain, there were key ingredients that meant the audiences were delighted, moved and engaged. And books were sold. So what is the magic list that makes a book event work?

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From Lisbon to Hay

A view of the bridge in the distance
Landeg White signing books at the launch of his novel, Ultimatum
Interior of the Libson bookshop where Ultimatum was launched

Lisbon is sleepy and quiet at 8.30 in the morning when I set out in search of breakfast after a good night's sleep in a tiny apartment on Rua Amadeu de Sousa Cardoso. Back at the LS Factory, a complex of restaurants, boutique shops and Livraria ler Devagar, where we launched Landeg White's novel, Ultimatum, last night, the cobbled street between former industrial warehouses and factories is totally deserted. There's a light on in the one café offering breakfast, but they don't open till 9.30 and I've got a plane to catch this morning, so I wander a little further down the hill.

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Launching The Kim's Game and In the Cinnamon Corners

Liz Hayward reads from In the Cinnamon Corners
Liz reads one of her poems
The audience listen as Stephanie introduces her novel
Stephanie holds up a snow globe similar to the one featured in the book
Stephanie explains an extract from the book
Stephanie's husband, Adrain reads an extract in the voice Hal, the book's central character
Adrian reads as the audience watches attentively
Jan Fortune leads the applause at the end of the readings

Another weekend, another Cinnamon launch? Almost. Well, hardly. It looked as though Liz Hayward wasn't going to make it at all, rushing in just in time — thanks to them wonderful English roads — but she didn't let the flusters get in the way of a great reading from her contribution to In the Cinnamon Corners.

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Launching Girl Without Skin

A view from the back of a packed room
Connie reading from her novel
Jan introduces the book at Connie looks on
Connie gesturing as she explains the background of the book
Connie, seen from a middle row, introducing the next story
Connie, seen from a middle row, introducing the next story
Connie, seen from a middle row, introducing the next story
Jan and the audience clap at the end of the reading

Last Monday (18th September) saw the launch of Connie Ramsay Bott's gripping novel-in-collage, Girl Without Skin at the Leamington branch of Waterstone's.

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Maria Jastrzebska on The True Story of Cowboy Hat and Ingenue

Front cover of The True Story of Cowboy Hat and Ingenue
Photo of Maria Jastrzebska standing, gesturing as she reads to an audience
Photo of Maria Jastrzebska sitting, talking to an audience

In this fascinating article, Maria Jastrzębska talks about the genesis and background of her eagerly awaited new book.

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Maria Jastrzebska Comes to Liquorice Fish

Front cover of The True Story of Cowboy Hat and Ingenue

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2017 Annual Short Story Prize

It's been a bit of a wait but we're happy to announce that the annual short story prize has now been adjudicated. The competition for the winning slots was close, the gap between third and first place was tremendously narrow, so the job of deciding was particularly hard. However, here are my final choices:

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The Story Continues

Cover art for Jan's forthcoming book

If you've been following Jan's blog you'll know she's been hard at work on the sequel to her extraordinary novel, This is the End of the Story — a book described by one reviewer as "incredible … one of the finest examples of experimental contemporary fiction I have read" and one we're very proud of indeed. Meanwhile, Cinnamon's intrepid team of artists have been labouring over the cover to this next volume, A Remedy for All Things (okay, not so much a "team" as me and Freyja, who generally works in an executive capacity although she's not above rolling up her sleeves and helping by, say, sitting on my keyboard or swatting the mouse to the floor). A much anticipated and debated cover it has been, too (at least by Jan and Freyja … mostly Jan, if the truth be known) and, at last, in this exclusive preview, we can unveil the finished artwork. Drum roll, Don …

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What Rain Taught Me


To celebrate the official launch of her new collection, What Rain Taught Us, at the Cinnamon Summer Picnic in Wirksworth on 2 July, Gail Ashton tells us something of the background of this remarkable new work:

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Approaches to Writing


A photo of Nigel Hutchinson
A photo of Nigel Hutchinson

With the official launch of his debut collection, The Humble Family Interviews, at Waterstone's, Birmingham, this week, Nigel Hutchinson offers some thoughts to the hows and whys of writing.

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Poetry at Chichester University

Emma-Jane introducing her book
Emma-Jane introducing a poem from her book
Emma Jane listens as Donna introduces her pamphlet
Donna reading from her pamphlet
Donna reading from her pamphlet
Emma-Jane and Donna share a laugh before the start of the Q&A
Emma-Jane answering a question
Donna considering her answer

We travelled back to Chichester University last week to launch Emma-Jane Hughes's debut collection The Mechanics of Love and Donna Kirstein's pamphlet Borderlands.

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Richard Douglas Pennant at Kyffin

Richard talking to poet Gwynne Wheldon Evans
Richard signing a copy of Lines in the Sky
Richard chatting while signing books
Jan and co chatting at the end of Richard's reading

Richard Douglas Pennant's delicate debut collection of prose poetry, Lines in the Sky received an intimate but intense launch at the end of April.

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New Eden Poets

Jacci with Kenneth Wilson and members of the New Eden Poets

Saturday, 22 April saw the 'New Eden Poets' plus cellist Kenneth Wilson performing and fundraising at a great new venue, The Old Fire Station, in Penrith. Jacci Bulman, who organises events through 'Eden 4 Poetry', was very glad to see a happy audience enjoying a night of brilliant poetry and music, all raising funds for the charity 'Practical Action'. Over £100 was raised, and everyone enjoyed a great evening together, celebrating poetry in Cumbria.

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To the Middle of Love - Punch-drunk?

Cover design for To the Middle of Love
Omar reading from To the Middle of Love
Omar reading from To the Middle of Love

Okay, terrible pun but great book …

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High City Walk Shortlisted

The cover of High City Walk

It came as quite a surprise to find my collection, High City Walk, shortlisted for Best Short Story Collection in this year's Saboteur Awards — a very pleasant one, I might add. Voting in currently underway to decide the winner and we'll find out the results on 13 May.

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Launching Under the Pipal Tree in Greenwich

The audience before the reading began
Anjana shares a joke with the audience during her introduction
Anjana laughing with the audience
Anjana explaining an aspect of the novel during the questions session afterwards
Anjana talking with her hands
Anjana laughing

Anjana Chowdhury launched her novel, Under the Pipal Tree at an event organised by the wonderful Irene Hill of in-words. West Greenwich Library was filled to capacity by a very enthusiastic audience who were thoroughly enjoyed what was a warm and captivating launch.

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