The journey from my office in Kennington to Clapton takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. I could get to Brighton in that time, should I have reason to. I don’t. It’s windy and far too proud of itself. Whilst Clapton is beginning to resemble Brighton in many ways, it still has great venues like the Hackney United Services Club where we have put events on four or five times. That’s probably unfair on Brighton, which presumably has buildings rich with history, if not rich with the splatterings of seabirds.
On Thursday I had decided to work from home as I had an appointment with my doctor. The real boon to being home is that I live in Limehouse, and so getting to Clapton for our live show from there is pretty rapid, at least by comparison. I went by Overground, and the orange, spacious carriage afforded me a moment of a recherché calm. Tweeting playfully as I went, double-checking emails to ensure that everyone had been organised and bossed about sufficiently, I was feeling terribly pleased with myself for having affairs well and truly in order. Yes, if my doctor had given me a phone call right then and told me that, despite his earlier vote of confidence in my diet of leftovers and ale, I had actually rotted my gut through to the seams and could only expect to live for a few hours more, I’d feel pretty serene about it all, if not a little satisfied that I would be able to tell my partner (romantic; gave up any desire to be a cop after the novelisation of Police Academy: Mission To Moscow was dropped by HarperCollins) that I was right about bloody doctors all along.
I was at the the venue in Clapton at about 6:20, a bloated hour before doors opened, where I found my second-in-command Anna Harvey waiting for me in her car. She wore a look of concern but it troubled me not for I was in the mood to sort stuff out, no matter how in it had fallen. At that moment, the venue owner popped her head out of the front door and explained that due a last minute issue they wouldn’t be able to host Open Pen Live that night.
“What? Why?” The second monosyllabic query topping my list of priorities in terms of receiving an answer.
“The ceiling’s fallen in,” she replied, “we can’t have anyone here. The darts is off as well.”
Why do these things always happen to me, I thought, as the venue owner fought back tears. The sky had come down around me. I was doomed. This was a nightmare situation. I had a couple of writers coming down, a two-man Jazz ensemble, publishers on the guest-list, and everyone was going to think that I can’t do things properly, including the poor old writer who had her Mum coming over from Norwich especially. Writers are tender creations as it is. Asking them to stand up in front of people that love books and therefore love being critical (preferably with sagacious wit) is a big ask. Telling them with an hour before kick off that the show was off would truly puncture their fragile conviction.
“What are we going to do?” I demanded of my 2IC, desperate to address the increasing likelihood that my ego would be bruised.
Luckily, starkly, my Open Penner partner in crime (metaphorically – I had given up on crime for reasons outlined above) knew the area like a handy expression used to the point of nauseation. We bolted about the area that was once described as the most dangerous area in London and bounded over to coffee-house-cum-potteries and delicatessen-cum-creches until finally, lastly, the creperie-cum-gastrobar on the old Murder Mile accepted us with a warm embrace (potentially just a solemn, accepting nod, with the hint of goodwill – I wouldn’t know, I was in the car sulking) and said we could use the downstairs basement. The snag was that we could only have it till 9:30pm. This would cut into a lot of what we had planned that night, but beggars of live literary reading venues cannot be choosers of live literary reading venues. And as it went, the creperie’s basement, whilst on the cosy side, was beautifully lit, and its staff more than accommodating. Our readers were able read their stories, albeit in front of a crowd that we couldn’t possibly charge ticket admission for, given the mess around they’d been given. This basically meant that the evening that is meant to fill the belly of our budget, ended up leaving us down. Cry for us.
Economical matters aside, it might have been worse. It was pointed out to me that the ceiling of the original venue might have fallen in on me whilst I was on stage. The thought gave me a moment to take a step back from the supposed nightmare situation and really count myself lucky; tragedy had been averted. Just imagine if the plasterboard had fallen in and spoiled my peacoat. Sobering.
In short, much shorter than I’ve just rambled on for, apologies to everyone that made it along and was shifted about like cattle, or gave up on arrival of the new venue, lost, confused, potentially hurt. An apology and much gratitude also, of course, to everyone at the event that performed a story for us or tickled the ivories for Jazzing pleasure. We aim to make it up to you in the early Summer with an outdoor event (take that ceilings). We’ll have more tricks up our sleeve than ever before.
To Creperie du Monde, thank you sincerely for saving our bacon on the night. I hope to enjoy said bacon with dollops of maple syrup at your fine establishment real soon.
Note from the web editor: Finally, if any Brighton-based bookshops would like to stock us, please send requests to our editor at email@example.com
Open Pen Issue Eleven is out weekend of April 26th. Keep an eye on us for more details of its release.
Come along to Open Pen’s live event tomorrow evening in Hackney, and if you’re a writer, enter out War Of The Words competition. All you need is a £5 ticket to the event, which you can buy on
the door as well as below, and a piece of your writing at no more than 150 words. If flash-fiction / microfiction is your thing, it’s definitely worth a gamble. You’ll read the piece out at the live event, but don’t worry, there’ll be a fair few writers with minimal experience of live reading, so there’s little excuse to miss out. Everyone that enters gets a free book, and the winner has their piece published on our Little Printer publication.
Issue Eleven will be in your favourite independent bookshop by mid-April. It’s a greyish curmudgeon thing to offset any positivity brought about by the burgeon of Spring. Our winning story is by one Jasmin Kirkbride. At just 23 years of age, Jasmin has managed to manifest a piece of work both touching, wise, and… well… grey.
The grown-ups argued amongst themselves for a few moments, before deciding the frog was in fact stuck in the pool and needed to be fished out. Anise watched his limbs folding this way and that on the taut net of the pool-skimmer. She climbed out to watch him hop away through the grass.
“There,” Uncle Joe declared, “He’ll find his way home now.”
“Pah!” Ottilie exclaimed with scathing, “I don’t know why you bother. The chlorine will burn him to pieces.”
Jasmin will be reading from her cover piece The Yellow Moth by a few other authors, who we’ve not told yet, so won’t announce it here. Keep an eye on our Twitter and this website for more on that.
N Quentin Woolf’s regular column looks at a fresh view of London and its east. Mr. Woolf has his debut novel out, by the way, on Serpent’s Tail. ‘The Death of a Poet’ was earmarked by GQ Magazine as likely to be one of the top ten books of the year, alongside new work from Haruki Murakami and Martin Amis.
Amnicolist editor Sean Preston provides the editorial on this occasion, ten issues on from his opening gambit in Issue One, whilst forward-thinking Soho bookshop The Society Club puts some wind in its sails with a focus feature from owner and literary agent Carrie Kania.
To find out where you can pick up a copy of Open Pen, check out our list of stockists.
Issue Eleven hits shops in April, there’ll be more news about that soon, and as per usual with each issue we press, we’re holding another live event in Hackney at the Hackney United Services Club. Tickets for the event are now on sale. As ever, tickets will be available on the door for anyone wishing to pay cash. By that token, the bar does not accept card, so please bring cash if you plan on whistle-wetting. We do.
Tickets are priced at £5. Doors open at 7pm. But you can grab a drink downstairs any time onward from 6:30pm.
‘WAR OF THE WORDS’
Writers wishing to get a bit of they fiction out there might want to take part in our War of the Words microfiction competition on the night. The competition requires aspiring writers to bring a piece of fiction they’ve written at no more than 150 words and read it out before our grateful audience. We’ve often got a few of our publishing friends in the audience, so not a bad way to get noticed. A winner will be picked on the evening, and that winner will find their work in an Open Pen book due out this year. If you wish to take part in this, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or just ask us more about it at the same address.
The usual mix of live readings from new and exciting authors, live Beat Jazz from Canuck enthusiast Piers Pereira and ivory-tinkling Mark Smith, literary comedy in the form of Filthy Fiction, and a microfiction tournament will be complimented by a one-scene play, making Open Pen Live a truly diverse literary event that you won’t want to miss out on (unless you’re tired on the night, miserable, or racist against Canucks).
The event takes place on Thursday, 10th April, and with modest ticket pricing, live performances, and generous breaks for purchasing cheap drinks, you’ll be bedevilled should you miss out.
The actual show kicks off at about 7:30, so try and get there in good time. Best route to the venue easily worked on on TFL’s Journey Planner. The venue can prove a tad tricky to find, or at least not walk past, so look out for the Open Pen signage we’ll scatter about Powerscroft Road.
As always, you can contact us at info at email@example.com should you have any questions.
Though it can often feel this way, and so it should as we grow as readers and indeed people, our favourite books, I think, are not the ones that we’re reading at the moment and love, but those that have shaped our reading and our lives. Here’s five books, in no particular order, that have stayed with me and shaped mine thus far:
Blood and Sand Vicente Blasco Ibáñez
Within a Budding Grove Marcel Proust
The Trial Franz Kafka
Death in the Afternoon Ernest Hemingway
Moominpappa at Sea Tove Jansson
* * *
Here’s some picks by other Open Penners:
Anna Harvey (Executive Editor) picks The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
James King (Online Editor) picks The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Celebrate World Book Day by getting down to your local bookshop and buying yourself a book that, might, in time, shape your life.
Thanks to every that made it out to Hackney to celebrate ten issues of Open Pen. Onward we go.
A few things to look out for: Issue Eleven is coming up, and whilst you can submit to Open Pen at any time, if you want your submission to make it into contention for Issue Eleven, out at the end of March, you’ll need to get your submission to us by the 28th of February.
You’ll also notice that we now run a weekly column on this very site, with articles penned by a variety of writers, aspiring and established. To discuss a potential article with us, contact our web editor James King at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take a look at some of the articles recently published to get an idea of our range in style.