Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I hadn't intended to make a fuss of my new book, The Lost Art of Losing. It isn't my (long delayed) new novel, after all. But then publication date drew near and parental guilt overcame me. This may be a wee book with a wee price tag, but it's my wee book and if I don't clear a way for it in the big bad world, who will?

So to mark the publication of what Andrew Miller has called "witty, provocative, self-revelatory and touching to read. A companionable little volume that brings fresh life to a venerable form," I will be launching the book in Manchester, Edinburgh and London.


Blackwell University Bookshop, Oxford Road

Thursday 26 April 18:00


Central Edinburgh Meeting House, Victoria Terrace

Thursday 3 May 17:30

These events are free (though the London event, on May 28, is by invitation only). If you're in the area, do drop in.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reading in the Hope Valley

This May, I will be hosting a five-day retreat in the Peak District.

The retreat is for readers and/or writers interested in contemporary literary responses to the natural world in all its threatened wonder. Here's what it says on the website of the hosts, the Quaker Community in Bamford.

7-12 May. Ecological reading and writing

How does contemporary literature engage with the natural world - and our troubled place in it? A five-day retreat combining reading, nature walks and (for creative writers) writing classes; with Quaker novelist Gregory Norminton. £240

I'm thrilled to be hosting this retreat. I have taught two similar weeks for the Arvon Foundation at Moniack Mhor creative writing centre. The retreat will consist of group readings (texts to be confirmed shortly - though it won't be essential to have read any books before attending) and discussions, as well as classes and one-on-one tutorials for those who are interested in writing. There will also be nature walks in the community's woodland (created from scratch since 1988) and in the hills around Ladybower reservoir. Those who want to can join the community in worship, although this is entirely optional. The retreat does, however, offer a rare opportunity to experience and contribute to community living. Evenings will be for relaxation and entertainment.

The community can be reached by train (Bamford station is ten minutes away on foot) or by bus via Sheffield.

The price above includes board and lodging.

Emma and I have been involved with the Quaker Community ever since it began its reinvention in 2010. It's a wonderful project and we're keen to alert everyone who might find it and its goals sympathetic about the frequent opportunities to stay there, in beautiful countryside, and contribute to the development of the community.

If you would like to come on the retreat, please contact the community by email, or by calling 01433 650085. You can also leave a comment on this blog and I will respond to any questions as soon as possible.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Available soon!

Chesterton said that novels are written for the
sake of five or six words. Gregory Norminton
has dispensed with the dross and given us
nothing but the real thing: a whole library
of “five or six words” in their magnificent,
illuminating, witty and moving essence.
Alberto Manguel

You can preorder the book for less than £4 (incl. postage) at Book Depository

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TippingPoint Newcastle, 22-24 February

Since 2007 - it's taken that long! - I have been working alongside Mike Robinson, chairman of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, to commission and publish a collection of short stories in aid of Stop Climate Chaos. The goal has been to challenge UK authors to find new ways of writing about the climate crisis: something so overwhelming in its implications that, with a few exceptions, it has so far been the preserve of genre fiction.
After struggles too numerous to mention, we found an excellent publisher willing to produce the book and funding from an unlikely source to meet the costs of a briefing weekend in Perthshire. Nearly a year on, the typescript for Out of Chaos - stories for our shared planet, is sitting on the desk beside me, almost ready to submit to the proof reader. The book boasts twenty-one original stories by a fantastic selection of authors, including Joanne Harris, Liz Jensen, Alasdair Gray, A.L. Kennedy, Toby Litt, Janice Galloway, Adam Thorpe, David Constantine, Maris McCann and Tom Bullough.
I will, in the coming months, post frequently about the project. For now, folk in Tyne and Wear may be interested to know that I and two of the book's contributors will be talking about literature and climate change at TippingPoint Newcastle on Wednesday 22nd February. This is part of a conference organised by Peter Gingold at Tipping Point to bring together arts practitioners engaged in the communication of ecology and sustainability. The event in the evening is open to the general public. I will be hosting a discussion with Jay Griffiths, whose book Wild may be one of the great non-fiction works of the century so far, and the ingenious Lawrence Norfolk. Follow the hyperlinks for more information. I very much hope to see you there.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A year of magical reading

2012 looks set to be memorable for a host of reasons. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee (Gawd bless yer, ma'am), the London Olympics, important elections (Obama versus the flat earthers, Sarkozy versus the French, bumptious cock versus slippery newt) and a global picture of droughts, floods, economic misery and crap pop music.
There are, however, things to look forward to. I'm talking, of course, about books. Some of my favourite contemporary (or, alas, near-contemporary) authors have new titles coming out in 2012, and here follow my top tips. (I'm aware of the homosocial nature of this selection. It's not by design. I mean, I do read books by women.)

Jon McGregor, This Isn't The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You (Bloomsbury) One of our best young writers has sunk his teeth into global warming and its ghastly implications, in what looks set to be a pretty extraordinary first collection of short stories.
Geoff Dyer, Zona (Canongate) Dyer's publisher was expecting him to write a book about tennis. Instead he produced a scene-by-scene account of, and meditation on,  Andrei Tarkovsky's film, Stalker. It shouldn't work but having read it in a day I can assure you that it does. The book made me see the film again in my imagination and sent me back to the DVD with renewed fervour.
John Lanchester, Capital (Faber) Following on from Whoops!, his non-fiction expose on, and explanation of, our current financial woes, John Lanchester is publishing his first novel in a decade. Here he is talking about it:
Russell Hoban, Soonchild (Walker Books) The 'cult' author of Riddley Walker - for my money one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century - died in London in December. This, then, is likely to be his last book.

Tom Bullough, Konstantin (Penguin Books) My friend Tom's third novel is about Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, "the father of Russian rocketry", a nineteenth century theorist of space travel. John Banville likes it, which is recommendation enough. I really admired Tom's previous novel, The Claude Glass, and look forward to getting my hands on this new work. Plus, it's got a beautiful cover design.
Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways (Penguin Books) Macfarlane appears to have written the very book I have been meaning to write for years. I'm sure he's done it better than I could have.

Lawrence Norfolk, John Saturnall's Feast (Bloomsbury) It's been twelve years since Norfolk's last novel, In the Shape of a Boar. Looks like it will have been worth the wait.

Alan Garner, Boneland (Harper Collins) Perhaps the most exciting prospect of all! I was introduced to Garner only last year by my friend Dougald Hine, and he immediately leapt to the top of my reader's pantheon of British writers. Garner, that is. Dougald's got more writing to do yet. Boneland returns to Alderley Edge and the protagonists of his first and second novels. It's a return to his literary origins, as well as a return to the origins of human art and mythology.

You can watch the great man in a rare film interview here. After the witless commercial.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

2012 - forthcoming events and publications

A great deal has changed in my circumstances in the past year. In September I took up a post as Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. This meant leaving Edinburgh, where my wife and I have been so happy, but Manchester is a vibrant place and we're excited to be establishing a new life here.

The teaching post - my first permanent one at a university - is part-time, so I hope to continue working on my next novel, The Devil's Highway, as soon as I have found my feet in this(excellent) department.

Other writing and editing projects continue to take up my time. I recently completed a short story for Comma Press's forthcoming collection, Biopunk, and am working on another Comma commission for a second collection of original stories, provisionally titled Ten Years Asleep. I will post more about both books in the coming months. Comma Press is a truly brilliant small publishing house that focuses on the short story, and I'm delighted to be working with them.

In September this year, the boldly independent Oneworld will be publishing Out of Chaos - stories for our shared planet: a collection of specially commissioned short stories, written by major UK authors, responding to our ecological crisis. Royalties on the sale of the book will go to the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. I am editing this book, and will post about it and its creation at length. Suffice for now to say that, after five years' work on the project, I and Mike Robinson, CEO of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, are delighted to see publishing light at the end of the tunnel. The book's contributors include A.L. Kennedy, Toby Litt, Joanne Harris, Alasdair Gray, Liz Jensen, Janice Galloway, Adam Thorpe and Lawrence Norfolk.

As well as seeing Out of Chaos into the shops, I will be launching a book of my own. The Lost Art of Losing is a collection of aphorisms written in a fit of enthusiasm (for the form, and doubtless my own opinions) in 2010. Vagabond Voices, another brave independent publisher, plans to bring the book out in May. More anon; but to tide any blog visitors over, versions of what will appear in print can be sampled here.

On the public appearances front, I look forward very much to discussing literature and climate change at TippingPoint in Newcastle on 22 February. I will also be teaching a course on 'ecological writing' at the Peak Districts's Quaker Community in Bamford between 7th and the 12th May. If a combination of nature walks, close reading sessions and writing classes appeal to you, why not book a place and join us? You don't have to be a Quaker, though the chance to experience the community adds to the experience.

The above is a somewhat rushed summary of my professional hopes and projects for 2012. I hope the year proves a fruitful and peaceful one for all of us.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kikinda surprise

Oh dear. More than a year has passed since I last updated this blog. In that time I've had the immense good fortune of getting married, have written half of a novel (on which more later) and managed, with help, to get a major charity book project off the ground. However, for this first post of 2011, I want to write about a literary festival devoted to short fiction - a particular love of mine as writer and reader - which I will be attending at the end of the month.

My invitation to Kikinda Short 2011 came out of the blue, as far as I was concerned, from the pioneering Manchester-based publisher, Comma Press. Comma describes itself as a "not-for-profit publisher promoting new fiction and poetry, with an emphasis on the short story". Their authors include the award-winning Adam Marek and David Constantine - the latter perhaps one of the finest exponents of the short story in the UK, and a fine poet and translator in the bargain. So it was rather an honour to hear from Ra Page and Jim Hinks that they'd suggested me, alongside Bernard MacLaverty, to represent Scotland in the Kikinda line-up of writers. (The fact that, on the nationality front, I'm an Anglo-French hybrid and Bernard M is from Northern Ireland seems not to trouble anybody.) Being the sort of fellow who likes attention, I enthusiastically accepted the invitation.

Serbia may not, yet, be a mainstream tourist destination for west Europeans, but I have particular reasons for looking forward to the trip. My grandfather, Harold Norminton, taught at the British Council in Belgrade in the 1950s, where he became a friend of the poet, Miodrag Pavlovic. I heard many anecdotes, over the years, about those years under Tito, and my grandfather's volitional faux pas when it came to the ideological sensibilities of his hosts. Also my father, who was at boarding school in England at the time, spent his holidays in Yugoslavia and the country, as it was then, made a real impression on him. Finally, given Serbia's unhappy recent history, I'll be very interested to meet people who have experienced life under dictatorship and are now, as writers and artists, trying to reimagine a democratic and tolerant society.

The festival, for those of us invited from across Europe, will begin in Belgrade on 27th June, followed by a trip north to the border town of Kikinda, where we will be hosted for several days of readings and other events. It's always a pleasure to meet fellow writers (we're not all conceited gits) and I'll be intrigued to experience the Pannonian Plain, which has been compared by someone who knows it to the Russian steppe - a flat, agricultural land with sayings like, "If you want to see the next village, stand on a pumpkin". Also, as a bad birdwatcher, I'm hoping to glimpse the odd black stork or Syrian woodpecker.

I have to confess to knowing few of the writers with whom I will be sharing a platform. This isn't surprising, given the low status of short fiction and the virtual non-existence of literature in translation in the UK. Who knows: perhaps, language permitting, I may make some discoveries!

* Please note: the image is of Kikinda's coat of arms - a charming representation of a Turk's head impaled on a Serbian sword. This does not represent the blogger's attitudes towards the former rulers of the region, but it does remind him of an anecdote told him by his grandfather: that, in 1950s Yugoslavia, each nation spoke in whispers of its immediate eastern neighbour as 'Turks'. Thus, to Slovenes, the Croats were Turks; to Croats, the Serbs were Turks, etc. Perhaps, with the seemingly inexorable rise of Erdogan's Turkey, these sorts of emblems and slurs may have to be revisited, as trade always wins out on stereotypes - or at least sweeps them under the profit carpet.
Be part of the solution. Support WWF today