Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been invited to meetings with people in different parts of the literary scene.
The first of these was a pal from the Scottish Book Trust. He and his colleagues are trying to set up a professional spoken word organisation in Scotland that’s similar to Apples & Snakes in England.
As my own events have been passion projects rather than for profit, I was limited in how much I could contribute directly. However, I was able to point him towards others in and around Dundee who more readily fitted the bill.
In the other meeting, I was part of a group of performers and producers. The plan is to hold a Fringe-style programme of events in Dundee in September, and I liked the organiser’s attitude, particularly towards audience safety.
Before this opportunity came up, I’d already been devising a stage show for people accustomed to live performance. I didn’t expect to have just a month and a half to put it together, however, so the next few weeks are going to be intense.
In 2016, I graduated with an MLitt Writing Practice and Study degree from the University of Dundee. At the time, I was in the mindset that I wanted to write in as many different styles and formats as possible.
This wasn’t a problem until it was time to pull together all my work into what the syllabus described as a ‘unified dissertation’. In other words, the whole document had to flow, but my pieces were too dissimilar to achieve this easily. With the help of two tutors, we eventually solved the problem, but I still didn’t like having to adopt one role or to be pushed into one pigeonhole.
I only began to change my stance earlier this year when a friend posted a video of a TED talk about sugar addiction, which inspired me to start writing a spoken-word show about the struggles I’ve had with my weight. And for the first time, I felt as though I’d found a niche that I enjoyed occupying, and that I had plenty of material to fill.
That said, I’ve lost a lot of weight since starting to write that show. This is an achievement, but I feel as though it’s defeating the point of the narrative.
On Saturday, I went to my first Edinburgh Fringe shows of the season, all of which reinforced my dedication to sticking with my niche for as long as it takes.
The first two were by people I know, and could only have been written by them. John McCann has a deep understanding of politics in Northern Ireland and has penned a monologue called DUPed, all about the Democratic Unionist Party. Meanwhile, Amy Gilbrook in Nutshells touches upon her experience of not fitting in. And while I don’t know Alan Bissett personally, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else emulating Moira Bell in The Moira Monologues or More Moira Monologues.
These shows are playing on selected dates throughout August.
Despite my promise to stay in a niche for the foreseeable future, I realised this week that some of my favourite novels have one thing in common. I’m attracted to those one-off stories where a sequel is unlikely because the story is so self-contained, such as A Clockwork Orange or The Bell Jar.