Robert Paul Weston's Blog

July 13, 2016

Silas Hawkins—reads with aplomb.

Silas Hawkins—reads with aplomb.


Earlier this month, one of my short stories was featured at the Liars’ League, a monthly reading series where professional actors read new short fiction. It seems like an obvious combination, akin to writing for the stage, but as far as I know the event is relatively unique (not counting other chapters of the League operating in other cities).


I’ve learned the idea for the Liars’ League was born at a somewhat dull reading, when some actors in attendance were disappointed by the writers reading their own work. Who were these stilted, stultifying mumblers? I have no idea. I’m much too polite to pose such questions. In any case, there’s a brutal truth here: sometimes we writers are best kept on the page.


The theme for the evening—they each have one—was Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I submitted a story called “The Anonymity of Buses”, which was subsequently read with aplomb by Silas Hawkins.


Have a listen:


The other stories that night were


A Model World by Owen Booth

Greenlanders by Cherry Potts

500 Miles by Liam Hogan

The Connection by Ingrid Jendrzejewski

Arkham Roadside Assistance by Gregory Adams


You can hear/watch them all, read by various actors, via the League’s Youtube channel. If you happen to reading this in New York, there’s a Liar’s League chapter over there, too.


Good times.

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Published on July 13, 2016 04:11 • 37 views

June 12, 2016

It will always strike me as odd to think that if were I born a few years earlier, my whole existence would be illegal in many parts the U.S.


Until the summer of 1967, sixteen America states still had laws prohibiting human beings of difference “races” from getting married and having children together. The law was struck down as unconstitutional on June 12 of that year, in the now famous Loving versus Virginia, in which Mildred and Richard Loving fought for the right to fall in love with, marry and reproduce with a person of their choosing.


The Lovings were married in 1958 in Washington, D.C.—where interracial marriage was legal at the time—but were arrested upon returning to their home in Virginia. The police raided their home in the night with the hope of arresting them red-handed (i.e. while having sex). They were initially convicted of miscegenation and banished from their home and their state for a period of twenty-five years.


The trial judge in the case was quoted as saying, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”


This I find particularly odd because the best way to judge reproductive fitness is by the health of offspring, rather than political geography. On top of this, genetic diversity has so many advantages. Recently, a massive study of 350,000 people from around the world found that having a more genetically diverse background improved height and cognitive ability, though it appeared to have no effect on other health factors, such as cardio-vascular disease. (Mind you, I certainly bucked the trend when it came to the height bit. Alas.)


For years, the Lovings lived in Washington, while fighting for the right to return home. They finally won their case in the U.S. Supreme Court on this day, 49 years ago (as of 2016).


I wanted to blog about this because, as someone with a British-Turkish father, with a Grenadian-Indian mother, with a spouse who is Japanese, June 12 is an occasion close to my heart. For obvious reasons.


If you’re interested in learning more about the Lovings, I recommend this episode of All Things Considered, which outlines their story, the court case and its implications. Also, look out for Jeff Nichols’ film about them, which hit theatres this fall. I enjoyed his science fiction film, Midnight Special, and I particularly like his casting choices, so Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as Mildred and Richard Loving ought to be excellent.


Happy Loving Day, everybody!


From the Mixed Up Family of Robert Paul Weston

Me (at the back, centre), hanging out with my very well mixed family.

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Published on June 12, 2016 04:38 • 36 views

May 22, 2016

One of my favourite quotes about the city of Norwich comes from Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Never Let Me Go. “The lost corner of England” he called it, referring to the fact that Norwich is on the east coast, where the land juts into the channel towards France. This makes Norwich slightly out of the way, just left of many of the major north-south routes linking southern England to Scotland. The implication is that travelling to Norwich requires an expressed reason to do so. Last month, I had quite a good one.


Doing my spiel about Zorgamazoo.

Doing my spiel about Zorgamazoo.


I was invited to participate in a day of writing workshops and readings on writing for children at the rather gorgeous Norwich Writers’ Centre. The lineup was as eclectic as a selection of books for young people. Nadine Kaadan spoke about writing and illustrating picture books; Alexander Gordon Smith spoke on writing horror for young adults; and Helen Szirtes, a freelance editor working with Bloomsbury and others, spoke about the industry in general and what publishers are looking for. As for me, I submitted my two cents on poetry and classic story structures.


It was a pleasure meeting Nadine, Gordon, and Helen, as well as the gracious, welcoming staff at the Writers’ Centre. Having seen it first hand, I can attest to what a wonderful project it is. For anyone interested in literature and writing, it is more than worth a short sideways jaunt to Norwich—especially for one of its special events. Writers from across the country and around the world frequently visit for talks and readings, and the venue itself is beautiful.


The walled garden inside the Norwich Writers' Centre.

The walled garden at the Norwich Writers’ Centre.


It all happens in a building called Dragon Hall, originally a merchant storehouse built in 1430. The fate of the building was murky until 2003, when an alliance between the city of Norwich, the Arts Council, and the University of East Anglia (where Ishiguro himself once taught creative writing), decided to turn it into a Writing Centre. Currently, plans are underway to expand further and for the site to become a National Centre for Writing in 2018.


In any case, it was a pleasure and an honour to present there; I hope very much to have a chance to do so again!

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Published on May 22, 2016 05:58 • 43 views

February 22, 2016

WCN : NCW landscape colour


Good news, everyone. This year on International Children’s Book Day (2 April), I’ll be part participating in a full day of talks at the Norwich Writers’ Centre. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a wonderful venue in Norwich’s historic Dragon Hall.


I’m very honoured to be presenting workshops alongside author and illustrator, Nadine Kaadan, Alexander Gordon Smith (the Furnace series of books), and Bloomsbury editor, Helen Szirtes.


Each of us will talk about our work, our lives in the world of children’s literature, and offer instruction and advice on writing and getting published. We’ll also address our various areas of expertise. I’ll be doing my bit on poetry and novels for children, while Nadine and Alexander will cover picture books and young adult prose respectively. Helen will be speaking on what editors are looking for, and the publishing business in general.


If you’re interested in writing for young people, if you live in Norwich, or if you simply fancy a trip to that lovely city for a day of all things children’s literature, please join us!


You can book a place here.


Bloomsbury editor, Helen Szirtes.


Alexander Gordon Smith, author of the Furnace series.


Illustrator and picture book author, Nadine Kaadan


Norwich THM

Plus…Norwich! How can you resist?

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Published on February 22, 2016 03:55 • 36 views

January 7, 2016

To whom it may concern (which includes anyone who consciously experiences the passage of time):


Happy New Year!


With some welcome holiday downtime, Machiko and I celebrated with some baking (and punning). Our logic went like this:


In Western Europe, the winter holidays have a strong association with gingerbread. In Japan, the biggest celebration in December is New Years, when most people make a visit to their local Shinto shrine. The Japanese word for shrine is “jinja” (神社).


Jinja…ginger…see where this is going? If not, all is revealed in the following video:


 


2016 ought to be an eventful and interesting year. Here’re some things I’m looking forward to.


January: Electronic Superhighway is an art exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery about the way computers and the internet have inspired artists over the last fifty years.


February: I will become an uncle. As I write this, my sister is very pregnant. And that’s at least one more reader covered.


June: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opens with Noma Dumezweni playing Hermione. I know some people raised (obviously racially-motivated) questions about the casting, but there’s no doubt she’s a great actress and it’ll be a big, popular show. (I saw Dumezweni star in Linda, which Machiko worked on with that show’s production design team, so when I say Dumezweni is good at her job, I speak from experience).


May: On the 9th, the transit of Mercury will take 7.5 hours to pass between Earth and the sun. It’ll be visible from eastern North America, as well as most of South America, western Africa and Western Europe.


July: Director Shinji Higuchi (“Attack on Titan”) releases his new Godzilla movie. I will always have a soft spot for the big scaly behemoth.


August: The Rio Olympics. Enough said.


November: The United States general election, which seems to take for-ever to arrive. I know I’m not alone in thinking Donald Trump has badly lowered the bar for public discourse in America. By November, we’ll discover if it stays there.


December: The last remaining American, British and Australian troops withdraw from Afghanistan.


Like I said, eventful and interesting. A bit like all the others. Happy 2016!

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Published on January 07, 2016 06:25 • 33 views

July 29, 2015

Dr Seuss Robert Paul Weston BBC Breakfast

An extremely nervous me, on BBC Breakfast, discussing Dr. Seuss (28 July 2015).


This week a strange, unexpected, and rather wonderful thing happened. I appeared on television. And I have Dr. Seuss to thank. It happened like this…


In 2013, a nearly complete manuscript by the famous American children’s poet, who died in 1991, was found by his wife, tucked neatly in a box and hidden away in his home. It was a book called What Pet Should I Get? and starred the same boy and girl from his most famous work for early readers, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.


Flash forward two years—to yesterday, in fact—and the title was at last hitting bookshelves across North America. BBC Breakfast, BBC One’s morning chat show, were looking for someone to talk about the good Dr.’s new offering. The producers heard that I was a fan and aficionado (of course I am!) and that my own work was inspired, at least in part, by Seuss-ian verse (of course it is!), so they gave me a call.


“Would you mind appearing on the show at 8:40AM?” the producer asked me.


“Are you serious? Is this a joke? No? In that case, I’d love to!” I gushed, or something to that effect.


“And what about 5 Live Radio? Could you do a programme a bit earlier, around 6:50AM?”


“Yes-yes, sign me up!”


I had woken up to 5 Live Breakfast on my alarm clock that very morning. Now I was going to be on it.


“And did you know we’re based in Salford? In Manchester?”


“Ah…”


This conversation was taking place in the early evening of Monday, the day before. I had no choice but to dash off to Euston, hop on a train, and arrive at a hotel in BBC MediaCity just in time to go to sleep. Only I didn’t. I was too nervous.


There had been one more question.


“I know it’s a big ask, but it would be great if you wrote a poem about the show. We might have you read it on air.”


Gulp. Poetry? My poetry? Smack in the middle of Britain’s flagship morning show? It was my duty as a professional scribbler to rise to the challenge!


I knew that the best readings are the ones you perform by heart, so if this was going to work, it would have to be a reading from memory. As it was such short notice, I decided to adapt the opening lines of Zorgamazoo to include BBC Breakfast and—hey, presto—a personalised poem for the lovely hosts, Bill Turnbull and Louise Minchin.


In the end, in spite of my nerves, they seemed to like it. Thank goodness!


Here I am in all my nonsense-versifying glory:



Finally, a massive thank you to BBC Breakfast, 5 Live, the show’s respective producers, Natasha, Jillian, and Phoebe, and the Manchester Children’s Literature Festival for making this happen. It was a wonderful experience. Thank you!

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Published on July 29, 2015 08:25 • 45 views

June 29, 2015

Manchester Children's Book FestivalQuestion: Are you reading this in North West England? If so, please consider coming out to say hello this weekend, 4-5 July 2015.


I’ll be in Manchester for the Manchester Children’s Book Festival, where I’ll appear with the wonderful Mandy Coe, award-winning author of the collection, If You Could See Laughter, and editor of the beautiful, eye-opening anthology, Let In The Stars.


Mandy is a vocal advocate for children’s poetry, arguing it ought to be taken more seriously, especially at a time when it’s availability is on a sad decline—a fact recently lamented by none other than Roger McGough.


As such, this weekend’s festivities couldn’t come at a better time. Both Saturday and Sunday feature events promoting poetry for children. Everything you need to know is here.


Hope to see you there!


PS: There is a VERY good chance (hint, hint) I’ll also be popping up at Saturday’s open mic event at the Manchester Central Library, so watch out for me!

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Published on June 29, 2015 15:46 • 29 views

May 26, 2015

May 2015 Toronto 04

Perfect timing: Cherry blossoms at the University of Toronto.


Earlier this month, I took an incredible, whirlwind trip to Canada. It was fortuitous, exciting, inspiring, bittersweet—all the things a voyage across the ocean ought to be. Here’s why:


1. Fortuitous: At the beginning of 2015, if you had asked me if I would be in Canada by spring, I would have answered, “Unlikely.” But that changed when a few disparate stars lined up. Notably, The Creature Department was nominated for the Silver Birch award, and then I found out my father, whom I don’t see much, would be in Toronto at precisely the same time. So…I hopped on a plane.


May 2015 Toronto 10

Some of the tents and a mere smattering of all the attendees of the Forest of Reading Fest!


2. Exciting: The Forest of Reading children’s book festival is always exciting! In my very unscientific study of the world’s literary festivals, this one ranks among the best, or at least the loudest. And now I can prove it.


This year, 8000 screaming fans of books for all ages packed into Harbourfront Centre to clamour for their favourite writers. As it was The Creature Department that brought me to the awards and since the titular creatures power their strange inventions with the “essences” of abstract concepts (this makes a lot more sense if you read the book), I thought I could use the audience to collect what I called, “The Essence of Reading.”


I asked everyone to think of their favourite book and scream for it “as loud as you love it.” Here’s what that sounds like:























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What other literary festival sounds like that? And yes, that’s me getting a bit overwhelmed at the end there. Finally, congrats to the Jonathan Auxier, whose wonderful book The Night Gardener won the award!


The trip was also exciting because a third star aligned with Canada’s first ever Authors for Indies Day on 2 May 2015. I had the pleasure of visiting two of my favourite children’s bookshops, Ella Minnow in the morning and Mabel’s Fables in the afternoon. Each gave me the opportunity to catch up with some old writerly friends, and make some new ones!


Robert Paul Weston May 2015 Toronto 05

At Ella Minnow, left to right: Yvette, who runs the shop; me; Caroline Fernandez; Mireille Messier; Dennis Lee; and Heather, who also runs the shop.


Robert Paul Weston May 2015 Toronto

At Mabel’s Fables: Signing books with old bud, Kevin Sylvester.


3. Inspiring: One of my favourite things is visiting schools to present my work and lead writing workshops. I did several in the Toronto area and a particular highlight was a presentation with the Upper Grand District School Board in Guelph, Ontario.


While I spoke in a library packed with students, the presentation was simultaneously beamed to nine other schools, who were then able to ask questions and get involved via text and video. Ah, technology!


Robert Paul Weston May 2015 Toronto 07

Demonstrating the special effect of talking to Gügor from The Creature Department—to 10 schools all at once!


4. Bittersweet: Having grown up in nearby Georgetown, it was lovely to see old friends and family—and then sad to say goodbye to them. Again. Until next time.


Bittersweet, indeed.


A billion thanks to the many, many people who made this trip exceptional: Penguin Canada, The Forest of Reading Festival, Mabel’s Fables, Ella Minnow, Authors for Indies, The Writers’ Union of Canada, The Authors Booking Service, Harbourfront Centre, and the great people at every schoolor library who hosted me so graciously. Thank you all!


Until next time, I’ll be dreaming of these…


May 2015 Toronto 02

Dough, nuts, Nutella. Enough said.

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Published on May 26, 2015 00:40 • 20 views
May 2015 Toronto 04

Perfect timing: Cherry blossoms at the University of Toronto.


Earlier this month, I took an incredible, whirlwind trip to Canada. It was fortuitous, exciting, inspiring, bittersweet—all the stuff a good trip ought to be. Here’s why:


1. Fortuitous: At the start of 2015, if you had asked me if I would be in Canada by spring, I would have said, “Unlikely.” Then a few disparate stars lined up and things changed. First, The Creature Department was nominated for the Silver Birch award, and then I found out my father, whom I don’t see much, would be in Toronto around the same time. So…I hopped on a plane.


May 2015 Toronto 10

Some of the tents and a mere smattering of all the attendees of the Forest of Reading Fest!


2. Exciting: The Forest of Reading children’s book festival is always exciting! In my very unscientific study of the world’s literary festivals, this one ranks among the best, and it is certainly the loudest. Now I can prove it.


This year, 8000 screaming fans of books for all ages packed into Harbourfront Centre to clamour for their favourite writers. As it was The Creature Department that brought me to the awards and since the titular creatures power their strange inventions with the “essences” of abstract concepts (this makes a lot more sense if you read the book), I thought I could use the audience to collect what I called, “The Essence of Reading.”


I asked everyone to think of their favourite book and scream for it “as loud as you love it.” Here’s what that sounds like:























Update Required
To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin.




 


What other literary festival sounds like that? And yes, that’s me getting a bit overwhelmed at the end there. Finally, congrats to the Jonathan Auxier, whose wonderful book The Night Gardener won the award!


The trip was also exciting because a third star aligned with Canada’s first ever Authors for Indies Day on 2 May 2015. I had the pleasure of visiting two of my favourite children’s bookshops, Ella Minnow in the morning and Mabel’s Fables in the afternoon. Each gave me the opportunity to catch up with some old writerly friends, and make some new ones!


Robert Paul Weston May 2015 Toronto 05

At Ella Minnow, left to right: Yvette, who runs the shop; me; Caroline Fernandez; Mireille Messier; Dennis Lee; and Heather, who also runs the shop.


Robert Paul Weston May 2015 Toronto

At Mabel’s Fables: Signing books with old bud, Kevin Sylvester.


3. Inspiring: One of my favourite things is visiting schools to present my work and lead writing workshops. I did several in the Toronto area and a particular highlight was a presentation with the Upper Grand District School Board in Guelph, Ontario.


While I spoke in a library packed with students, the presentation was simultaneously beamed to nine other schools, who were then able to ask questions and get involved via text and video. Ah, technology!


Robert Paul Weston May 2015 Toronto 07

Demonstrating the special effect of talking to Gügor from The Creature Department—to 10 schools all at once!


4. Bittersweet: Having grown up in nearby Georgetown, it was lovely to see old friends and family—and then sad to say goodbye to them. Again. Until next time.


Bittersweet, indeed.


A billion thanks to the many, many people who made this trip exceptional: Penguin Canada, The Forest of Reading Festival, Mabel’s Fables, Ella Minnow, Authors for Indies, The Writers’ Union of Canada, The Authors Booking Service, Harbourfront Centre, and the great people at every schoolor library who hosted me so graciously. Thank you all!


Until next time, I’ll be dreaming of these…


May 2015 Toronto 02

Dough, nuts, Nutella. Enough said.

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Published on May 26, 2015 00:40 • 28 views

April 21, 2015

Authors for IndiesSaturday, the 2nd of May is Canada’s first ever Authors for Indies Day, when authors will celebrate independent booksellers—by visiting them in person, giving readings, perhaps even hand-selling a book or two.


The concept is simple. Independent booksellers face many challenges. The trend of the embattled indie is ubiquitous, observed not only in Canada, but also in the UK and the US. It only stands to reason that authors lend their support. We not only rely on booksellers to sell our wares, but we also rely on them to foster and buttress a literate society.


As for me, I’m very fortunate because I’ll be in Toronto for the Forest of Reading Children’s Book Festival and Authors for Indies Day. You can find me at Mable’s Fables on the afternoon on Saturday, May 2. Here’s a schedule of the day. It’s a packed roster:


Authors for Indies at Mables


Please pop in and say hello—to me, or any of the over 500 authors getting involved across Canada—and of course, if your able to, please buy a book, and support the people who tirelessly support us.


Or, as David Nicholls put it recently, “To discover a book in a well-staffed, lovingly maintained shop, then to sneak off and buy it online, is really just a genteel form of shoplifting.”


Couldn’t agree more.

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Published on April 21, 2015 05:44 • 28 views