Flight Paths

Writing in 2009

5 January 2009 | Comments (0)

I’m not very good at New Year’s Eve but I do try to spend some time thinking through my hopes and plans for the forthcoming year.  I don’t come up with resolutions but I do have ideas about what I do want and don’t want to have happen… sounds vague, and it is.  This year I’m going to spend more time on my own creative projects - writing - and less time on administration.  I’ve got a couple of immediate deadlines to meet.  Here’s a little list of what I’ll be working on over the next few months:

  • the final final draft of my new novel, ‘The Mistress of Nothing’, which is due on Thursday
  • the final final draft of a short story called ‘Public Image Ltd’, which is due yesterday
  • a new draft of my children’s book, ‘Daisy’, due end of the month
  • five story hotspots for ‘Flight Paths’ which I meant to do before Christmas

Chris and I are hoping to get a big commission for a series of multimedia stories which will require lots of work over the forthcoming year; we will know whether or not that’s going ahead by the end of the month.

I’m in discussion with a software artist called James Coupe about a new project for an LED installation in Seattle; that would be fun.

There is more stuff, but this list is making me start to panic about everything I need to get done!

Any my colleague Sue Thomas is off to California for four months.  We shall miss her!

Immigrant Song on Flight Paths

17 December 2008 | Comments (0)

The poet Simon Perril gave us poem ‘Immigrant Song’ to put on ‘Flight Paths’ recently.  Since then, he has recorded a podcast of himself reading the poem for the website PoetCasting.

Immigrant Song by Simon Perril

If you want to find it on the ‘Flight Paths’ site, where it resides with a copy of the text, click on the link and go to the Chapter Two tab.

Flight Paths update

10 December 2008 | Comments (0)

I had a mail on Friday from Carolyn Guertin, Director of the eCreate Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington, asking for some guidance for her students who want to contribute to ‘Flight Paths’.  It’s great to have her interest in and support for the project, but it is slightly alarming that these media arts students, doubtless highly web-savvy, are a bit baffled by how to contribute.  This supports the conversation that Chris and I have been having about finding ways to make the project more accessible, and more inviting to contributors.  I sent Carolyn the following as a reply:

“Chris and I are actually in the midst of rethinking the overall structure and approach as it is clear that people find it hard to find a way in to the story.  However, unconnected fragments are often very fruitful we find - so feel free to send us those as well.  We are going to create five little flash story hot points over the next few weeks and maybe if I run through those for you, this will help your students:

1)  Yacub before he stows away - working in Dubai in construction, alongside many other Pakistanis.  He’s a young man working hard to try to get ahead.

2)  Yacub at the airport at home in Pakistan before he stows away.

3)  Harriet in London on her way to do the weekly shop for her family.  She’s a middle-aged woman with a radical political past that she’s put behind her - has tried to forget in some ways.

4)  Harriet as she watches Yacub fall from the sky.  Yacub as he falls.

5)  Harriet and Yacub after his fall:  Yacub wakes up dead, but to Harriet he is alive, and a story develops here as he follows her through her life.

These might change, but we are thinking if we create five little flash stories around these points, people can then add their own bits and pieces.  It might be useful for them to enter the story via the point of view of either Harriet or Yacub.  Any kind of media is good for us. “

Hopefully, this will help her students and, once we get these little stories up and running, help make ‘Flight Paths’ more accessible in general.

Tunis day-dream/ banned sites on the internet

1 December 2008 | Comments (0)

Just back from Tunis where I spent a couple of days working as part of the Medi-Cafe group for the British Council.  We had a productive time, mixing discussions about the art and craft of writing with discussions about the Maghreb, in particular, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria.  As always, the Tunisians were great hosts - we spent our working sessions in a palace on the sea in Carthage.  Seriously. A palace on the sea in Carthage.  I sat by this window for a while during one session - I could hear the sea outside and the sun shone on my legs.  Sun!  In November!  Why do I live in northern Europe?  Why did that seem like a good idea at the time?

An issue that arose during some of our discussions was this:  the Tunisian government has taken to banning websites, including You Tube and the Daily Motion, two of the most important sites world-wide for sharing videos. One of my students was telling me that she can’t access most of the videos on ‘Flight Paths’ and we wondered why… but of course many of those videos are hosted on You Tube and linked to from there into the Netvibes Universe that hosts ‘Flight Paths’.  Chris and I will need to rethink the strategy of keeping videos on You Tube.

Banned sites has been a bit of a feature of my teaching of late, as on the online MA in Creative Writing and New Media we’ve discovered that our students in Oman and Ethiopia can’t access Skype - banned by the gov’ts who have done deals with phone companies to prevent access to free telephony.  We use Skype a lot in our teaching, but will find alternatives now.  Also, Oman bans googlegroups. Banning You Tube seems particularly draconian.  But that’s the Tunisian gov’t for you.  Maybe being allowed to live in northern Europe isn’t such a bad thing after all…

Flight Paths and this blog

25 November 2008 | Comments (0)

Yesterday I posted a new blog post but, bizarrely, was unable to upload any links into the text, so here are the missing links, so to speak:

Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media

and Medi-Cafe:  Trans-Mahgreb Creative Writing Project

As well as this, Chris has put a new banner on our Netvibes Universe site for Flight Paths - lovely!

Flight Paths

18 November 2008 | Comments (0)

Working on Flight Paths today; oddly, the more dispersed the narrative becomes, the more coherent it seems to me.  Jeremy H has been sending in a series of small fragments, and some of them are developing a single character; a young man looking back on when he left his family to go start university.  Flying back and forth between two completely separate lives, noticing the changes that take place in his family, now that he has left them.

These pieces evoke strong memories in me of when I left home.  I was seventeen, which seems practically a baby to me now, a baby even when I think of the seventeen year olds I know currently.  Like Jeremy’s character, I got on a plane and flew away from my family - in my case, I flew from Vancouver Island to Montreal - a mere 3000 miles or so.  That was it, I was gone after that.  And, like Jeremy says in his piece, the patch that I inhabited in my family grew over until there was no sign of me.

Not completely true, of course, on a fundamental level; but completely true on another.

To find Jeremy’s most recent piece about this character, go to Chapter One, the bottom of the page - it’s called ‘Gone’ - at

A new sky

27 October 2008 | Comments (2)

Sitting at my desk in my new office for the first time, I see that I have a great view of the sky.  I wasn’t expecting this.  It reminds me of when we first moved to this house; we were amazed by the extraordinary wide open sky vistas our garden afforded.  Twelve years on, the trees have grown up to obscure the sky-view in that direction.  But now I find my new office has re-oriented me, giving me a whole new view:  and there it is once again, the sky.

In Dubai

24 October 2008 | Comments (0)

for Flight Paths

In Dubai Yacub worked long hours.  The bus from the camp to the site took nearly two hours most mornings, and the day on the site was ten hours long, and then the return journey took another two hours.  At the camp there wasn’t time for much more than washing, cooking, eating - the queues for all the facilities were always long.  When he was in Pakistan and dreaming about the job and the money he would make, he hadn’t anticipated any of this - although much of it was as his uncle had described.  He’d listened to his uncle but, he realised now, he hadn’t believed him. It was good to be working, and he liked watching the building rise from the dirt of the desert, knowing he was contributing to that.  But he hadn’t paid off the money he’d had to borrow to get the job in the first place. He wasn’t sure how long that would take.

At night Yacub lay in his narrow cot and dreamed that the building he was working on was his own.  He was building a silver tower for his family to live in, his parents and brothers and sister, his uncles and aunties and his grandparents, the wife he didn’t have, the children he hadn’t had.  They would all live in grand flats on the top floors of the building, while he ran his business from grand offices below.

At night he had these dreams, and in the morning it was time to get on the bus to the site.

Hello world!

20 October 2008 | Comments (2)

Hello.  My plan is to write a blog for a year.  During this year, I’ll be working on a number of fiction projects, including ‘Inanimate Alice’, ‘Flight Paths’ and ‘Lifelines’; as well as this, my new book, ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ will be published - July 09 in the UK, autumn 09 in Canada.  I’ll continue to teach on the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media at De Montfort University; I’ll continue to mentor students privately; I’ll continue occasional one-off speaking and teaching and reading gigs.  I’ll also attempt to stay abreast of the discussions around the current state as well as the future of reading and writing and publishing. I don’t plan to post anything personal - just a collection of things to do with writing.

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