Our little baby looks all grown-up.

Thanks to Jonathan, a Shaggy Blog Stories contributor and an actual real life bookshop person, The Book can now be bought over the counter, in an actual, real life bookshop. Lookee here! Clicky the piccy to make it biggy!

Update: Here’s a very special Product Endorsement.

And speaking of actual, real life books: I shall be speaking at an actual, real life book festival at the end of June. (No prizes for guessing the subject matter.) More details as and when, but here’s what happened at last year’s festival.

“He is oh, oh, ohhhhhh….”

Towards the end of yesterday’s Official Office Night Out, my esteemed colleague and newly acquired desk-neighbour JP (page 54) told me his full job title: the frightfully butch-sounding Information Security Compliance Officer.

I so want to be his Deputy. Just for the kicky little acronym.

You’ll have that going round your head for the rest of the day, you know.
Well, I don’t see why I should suffer alone.

Media requests.

Now, I’ve been round the block a few times. I’ve been blogging since you lot were in nappies, after all. So I’ve put myself about a bit over the years. Bit of radio here; bit of print media there; maybe an occasional speaking engagement. Whenever I’ve said yes, it’s always been fun. A nice little stroke for the ego; a healthy and manageable dollop of Face The Fear And Do It Anyway; and a Useful Learning Experience into the bargain. All of which makes up for the fact that there’s almost never any Actual Money in it.

This year, for whatever reason, people seem to be contacting me more and more with what might loosely be termed Media Requests. It’s hardly a deluge, but it has become a faint but steady trickle. As a result, my default reaction has changed from “How deeply thrilling to be asked!”, to “Why should I even consider doing this, and what might possibly go wrong?”

I’ve had another such request today, buried in an obscure comment box. Here it is, with name and contact details omitted.

Hi Mike

I’m a writer for Woman’s Own and we are looking for a female British blogger, in her 30’s or 40’s who has had relative success from her blog. Ideally, we’re looking for someone who has landed a book deal. But if she had an entry in your book Shaggy Blog Stories, that may be enough. Might be a good plug for your book…?

[name and contact details supplied]

I’ve Googled the nice lady in question, and she would appear to be a regularly published journalist, who has written for The Times, The London Paper, The Sun, The News Of The World, and… oh, look, classy or what!

Perhaps this usefully illustrates why it’s best to adopt a wary approach to such offers. But hey, it’s not my place to tell you what to do, or to stand in the way of Making Dreams Come True. So if you do fit the bill, and if you’re still into the idea, then the nice lady’s e-mail address hasn’t changed.

Don’t all rush at once.

See also: Non-workingmonkey: Day 258: I Am Offered Another Fifteen Minutes.
See also: Boob Pencil: This Telly Thing.


Following an extended weekend of punishing physical exertion, I seem to be struck down by a severe case of Can’t Be Arsed-itis. Therefore, I shall be blogging in fragments.

K was working from home for most of yesterday, which afforded me a brief glimpse into the maelstrom of his professional life.

Firstly: his phone goes off ALL THE TIME. It’s a minor miracle if he even makes it as far as the loo. More often than not, he’ll be halfway up the stairs before being twanged back into the room, as if attached to an invisible elastic leash.

Secondly: he habitually ends phone conversations with his colleagues in the style of a husky Southern Belle. (“Baa-ah!“) Given that he’s not a particularly camp man, I find myself somewhat startled by this periodic transformation into Jerry Hall. Where did it come from? Are they all doing it too?

Mulching. Such a nice, cosy, middle-class, Friday-night-on-BBC2, Monty-Don-in-The-Observer kind of word. When actually, it’s muck spreading. And I f**king hate it. I was not put on this earth to fling filth at Spring Growth. All the Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners Hand Scrub in the world ain’t gonna fix these grime-encrusted pinkies.

Since stumbling across it in Bob‘s Shaggy Dog Stories piece, I have developed a growing obsession with the word “kicky“. Particularly when used in conjunction with the word “outfit”.

Thus, while pruning the roses yesterday morning, and in place of the usual random selections from my well-stocked mental jukebox, the phrase “kicky little outfit” kept running through my head, like some sort of nelly mantra. I became really quite tormented. As if the pruning wasn’t bad enough.

(I was tackling my old nemesis: the sprawling, vicious rambler on the wattle hurdles, which doesn’t yield without a struggle. You could hear the Yaroohs and the Yowch You Little F**kers all the way up the lane.)

Following the debacle of the collapsed ceiling, the cottage has been equipped with an array of great big f**k-off de-humidifiers, which have to be left running for at least eight hours a day. My dears, the hum is simply deafening. I tried to cover it with the forthcoming Maria McKee album (sent to me by her PR people in advance of a “phoner”, as we professionals call it), but K’s yelps of objection effectively drowned out all of them. She’s a bit histrionic for his tastes.

(Good album, though. I’m quite pleasantly surprised.)

And then the dishwasher sprang a leak. All through the cupboard under the Belfast sink, and out over the York Stone floor. A couple of minutes later, and the hand-woven “Boujad” carpet that we brought back from Marrakech would have been a total write-off. As it is, a soggy-bottomed box of Ariel has left ink stains on the elm worktop. Sanding is our only option.

(Note the transparently insincere use of the word “our”. I can hear K’s snorts from here.)

To think we once graced the cover of Period Living! How that photo-shoot comes back to mock us! Oh, the hubris!

On arriving at The Cottage Beautiful on Friday evening, I was fully expecting to find one hundred envelopes waiting for me on the doormat, containing one hundred signed sticky labels from the one hundred contributors to Shaggy Dog Stories. Frankly, it would have been a comfort during this trying time, and the prospect of spending an agreeable evening attaching each sticker to its relevant entry filled me with warm anticipation.

Do you want to know how many envelopes had actually arrived? Can you even hazard a guess?


This is where I am forced to wag a school-marmish finger at the Internet. Success doesn’t come without responsibilities, you know. I’ll bet that the two hundred unfortunate souls who didn’t make the book would have had their stickers in the post straight away. So think on.

As for the sixty-three of you who “haven’t quite got around to it yet”, I have a good mind to stick you all under a “hilarious” Gunge Tank, in front of a video montage of weeping children, set to a soundtrack of something “poignant” by Keane. That’ll learn you.

And finally, a Troubled Diva Product Placement, totally gratis and uncalled for, because – like Joanna Lumley in the old soap adverts – I simply believe in the product. Indeed, you’ll find me quite passionate about it.


Free samples would be nice, though. Contact details are at the top of the page, on the right hand side. Or would rival chocolatiers care to try and convince me otherwise? My loyalties are easily bought.

Shaggy Blog Stories: a photo pool, and a suggested MEEM.

Until now, I’ve never been particularly grabbed by the whole Flickr phenomenon. But there’s a first time for everything, and I do find myself very much grabbed by this splendid “pool” of book-related photos. Do please feel free to add your own.

(taken by Timbo)

Might I also be so bold as to suggest a Shaggy Blog MEEM, as inspired by this fellow? If you own a copy of The Book, and if you have enjoyed reading it, then I think it would be rather lovely, and in the true spirit of our Community, to link to three people whose contributions you have particularly enjoyed. Especially if they are people who are outside your circle of regular reads. Credit where credit’s due! Spread the love!

God, I’m such an Internet hippy.

Shaggy Blog Stories: the first sightings.


Left to right: MissMish (page 152), Mike (page 11) and JP (page 54) discuss their favourite passages, at this afternoon’s impromptu signing session.

The first copies of Shaggy Blog Stories arrived through people’s letter boxes this morning. These lucky “early adopters” have received Version One of the text, which does contain a few super-rare (one hopes) typos. So if the last line of Page 198 contains the word “unsavourary”, you’re quids in.

You will also need to make one very important correction, as one of the pieces doesn’t make proper sense without it. Pencils out! Now, turn to Page 158, and cast your eyes to the bottom of the page – but please, WITHOUT taking a sneaky advance peek at the rest of the piece. You’ll only spoil it for yourselves.

Where the text says “Three hundred and (*)”, you need to add an R, thusly:

“Three hundred Rand (*)”

That was our one truly awful howler. The rest, I can live with.

Update: MORE TYPO NEWS: It looks EVERYONE has got the “rare” early version, which I corrected within the first 24 hours. Hooray! We’ll ALL be quids in!

PHOTO NEWS: Want to know what the book looks like? Dave Walker of The Cartoon Blog has the first photo of the beast in captivity.

MORE PHOTO NEWS: Here’s what two copies look like.

Update: STILL MORE EXCITING BREAKING PHOTO NEWS: Here’s what SIX copies look like.

While I was in the middle of editing this post, a DHL parcel arrived in our office’s reception area, bearing my colleague JP‘s copies. I have now cast mine eyes upon the finished article, and I can see that it looks Good. Really, really Good. Praise be!

SALES NEWS: We’ve just hit 400 sales, and we’re also straight in at Number Three on Lulu.com’s own best seller charts; just behind e-Start Your Web Store with Zen Cart, and just ahead of Unleashing Capitalism: Why Prosperity Stops at the West Virginia Border and How to Fix It.


Shaggy Blog Stories: first copies to be delivered on Thursday?

I’ve heard that quite a few of you have had your order statuses upgraded from “FULFILLING” to “SHIPPED” over the course of today, which would imply that the first few copies of the book may be arriving through your letter boxes tomorrow.

This makes me madly impatient, as my own orders are still stuck at “FULFILLING”; a state of affairs which is, of course, anything but.

If you receive a copy of the book on Thursday, could you drop me a comment (“Woo! First!”) and let me know? I might then ask you a few questions about typos, as it will be interesting to see which revision has been picked up. (We’re already onto Version 6.)

I deleted yesterday’s rather lengthy post, by the way. I don’t know about you, but I thought it carried just the merest whiff of paranoid, ill-tempered, stress-induced, slightly hysterical over-defensiveness, which could, just possibly, be interpreted as “over-reacting”. Thanks to all who responded, for helping to restore a proper sense of perspective. I now intend to Rise Above Such Things, with all the lofty graciousness that befits a man in my perceived position.

Shaggy Blog Stories raises over £1200 in the first 40 hours.

Yesterday, I said that for each copy of Shaggy Blog Stories sold, £3.63 would be donated to Comic Relief.

I was wrong.

As my share of the profits from the sales will initially be paid into my bank account, Comic Relief will receive it from me as a “personal donation”. This means that they can claim an additional 28% of the money directly from the government as Gift Aid.

So in actual fact, Comic Relief will receive £4.442 for every copy sold, i.e. 49.6% of the cover price. That, my friends, is a remarkably high royalty rate.

At 16:00 on Saturday, 40 hours after the book was launched, 266 copies had been sold, raising £1181.57 in total. Considering that my initial estimate was around £500, it’s a stunning achievement.

And of course, it’s far from over yet. So I’m going to start keeping a sporadically updated running total at the top of the blog. Keep checking for updates.

Some very early editions of the book may contain a couple of rather glaring typos, since corrected. If you are lucky enough to receive one, then cherish it. They’ll be worth a mint one day. You know, like stamps.

It has been suggested that a single signed copy of the book should be auctioned off for eBay. Now, obviously, posting a book between 100 different addresses would be a logistical nightmare, and would take months to accomplish.

So what I suggest is this. All 100 contributors (101 including our cover artist) are invited to sign their names on a sticky label, and to mail it to me at a postal address which will be supplied by e-mail. I shall then place each sticker inside the book, as close to the relevant entry as available blank space will allow.

We may not get the full 101. But I reckon we’ll come pretty close.

After the rigours of the week, I knew that I was going to come crashing down to earth with a bump. I just didn’t realise that half the morning room ceiling in the cottage was going to come down with me. As we discovered when we got there last night, in high spirits, and ready to celebrate the book launch with champagne and fish & chips:



Something had sprung a leak in the upstairs bathroom, and the water had been accumulating in the gap between the floorboards and the plaster ceiling, before bursting through some time during the week.

Well, that seagrass flooring was on its way out anyway. At least we can replace it on the insurance.

However, one thing that can’t be replaced is the beautiful Antonia Salmon ceramic which was bought for our civil partnership, using the money that K’s sister had set aside for a present before she died, shortly after the ceremony. K had chosen the ceramic himself, and regarded it as our memorial to her.

Various friends in the village spent nearly two hours last night fixing the leak, salvaging our possessions, and clearing away the rubble. Meanwhile, other friends looked after K, who was too distraught to remain inside the house. The evening finished with a dozen of us getting merry round D & T’s kitchen table (chicken pie and home made chocolate cake also provided), thus allowing us to forget about the wreckage for a brief while.

Once again, we were reminded what an amazing village this is, and how lucky we are to live here. If we’d had the same problem in Nottingham (we live in The Park, which is a kind of posh person’s ghetto), our neighbours would probably have invoiced us for their time.

K and I rolled back at midnight, shut the door to the morning room, opened the bottle of vintage champagne which had been earmarked to toast the launch of the book, and got steadily plastered in front of an Old Grey Whistle Test highlights DVD, stumbling to bed at 3am.

After all the work that has been taking place in the Nottingham house over the past couple of months – new kitchen, and now a new garden – the cottage has been our sanctuary. No longer. (K, in a major Drama Queen moment: “Both our properties are in turmoil!” It’s OK; we know what we’re like better than anyone. And yes, we’ve both read My Tornado Hell, thank you.)

I shall take this as an opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in suffering with some of the very people that Comic Relief is trying to help – several of whom don’t even have morning rooms.

Oh, did I not mention that we’re having a new garden (PDMG II) installed in Nottingham? The work started on Monday, the first task being to rip out all the thick concrete from the sizeable yard area that’s being converted. Great week to write a book, eh? During most of Wednesday afternoon and for much of Thursday, as I worked my way through the submissions, the typesetting and the proofing, a loud pneumatic drill was being operated just beneath the study window. Although to be honest, I was so focussed on the task in hand that I barely noticed.

Oh, and we’ve been Instapunditted. Hello America! Buy our book!

Shaggy Blog Stories: a collection of amusing tales from the UK blogosphere.


Well, we did it. With mere minutes to spare, and with no time to format a contents page… but we did it. In seven days flat, from start to finish.

This afternoon, I received some fantastic news. The book’s publishers, Lulu.com, have very kindly offered to donate their share of the profits to Comic Relief. Lulu, I kiss you.

To order your copy, all you have to do is click on the following VERY IMPORTANT URL:


This will take you directly to Lulu’s ordering page for the book.

The cover price is £8.96, of which £3.63 £4.64 will go to Comic Relief once external manufacturing costs have been deducted.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: our list of esteemed contributors. We decided to settle on exactly one hundred of you… and, in strict order of appearance, these are they.

1. An Unreliable Witness
2. Emma Kennedy
3. Oh, quelle surprise, Princess Pushy has gone and stuck herself at the front…
4. little.red.boat
5. Sarsparilla
6. Petite Anglaise
7. Sally Morten
8. Richard Herring
9. Edvard Moonke
10. The Overnight Editor
11. Scaryduck
12. Chase me, ladies, I’m in the cavalry
13. Tim Worstall
14. Sashinka
15. Diamond Geezer
16. The Bedside Crow
17. Smaller Than Life
18. The Web of Evil
19. Drifting in and out of consciousness
20. Kitchentable
21. Jamie4U – yeah Gay Pride and all that shit!
22. bob’s yer uncle
23. Pandemian
24. Argy Bargey
25. A Free Man In Preston
26. This Is This
27. JonnyB’s Private Secret Diary
28. (Contains Mild Peril)
29. Real E Fun
30. Tokyo Girl Down Under
31. Hydragenic
32. [from fuck-up to] fab!*
33. Tired Dad
34. Crinklybee
35. The H factor
36. Confessions of a Psychotherapist
37. Betty’s Utility Room
38. NHS Blog Doctor
39. Naked Blog
40. Mommy Has a Headache
41. Random Burblings
42. Momentary lapses of insanity…
43. DanFlynn’sblog
44. Acerbia
45. This Is The Goo I’ve Got
46. Rise
47. Quinquireme
48. Kaliyuga Kronicles
49. Grantham New Town
50. Tippler Does Brussels
51. NewsElephant
52. Doctor Oddverse’s Different Dictionary
53. Non-workingmonkey
54. Andrew Collins: Where Did It All Go Right?
55. Blogadoon
56. Deacon Barry
57. Chicken Yoghurt
58. The Fishwhacker Swindle?
59. The World of Yaxlich
60. My Blog Ate My Homework
61. Moobs
62. Living for Disco
63. Everything Is Electric
64. Fuddland
65. Blaugustine
66. I am livid
67. Office Space
68. Boob Pencil
69. Diary of a Goldfish
70. My Boyfriend Is A Twat
71. Chocs Away, Old Girl!
72. What I Wrote
73. DramaQueen, Fag-Hag, JAP
74. Blue Cat
75. Reluctant Nomad
76. The Cartoon Blog
77. Swish Cottage (closed)
78. David Belbin
79. The Singing Librarian Talks (or Writes…)
80. Invading Holland
81. Ganching
82. John Soanes
83. 1000 Shades of Grey
84. What’s New, Pussycat?
85. Tranniefesto: A Crossdressing Adventure
86. Struggling Author
87. Other Men’s Flowers
88. The Big Side Order
89. Neil Writes the Blog
90. Beyond The White Cliffs
91. Girl with a One-track Mind
92. Just A Blog
93. An Observant and Desperately Ironic Teenage Perspective
94. meish dot org
95. Tales from the Canalside
96. Speaking as a Parent
97. Keir Royale
98. A Sideways Look At Womanhood
99. Mitzi (URL withheld)
100. The Albert Tatlock Persuasion

Before we go any further, I have a few people to thank.

Lest you think otherwise, this has been far from a one-man show. I have enjoyed the services of a crack editorial team, who have spent many hours helping me select the 100 entries, and generally pitching in with advice, support and encouragement: Anna, Jack, Peter and Petite. Scaryduck has given much helpful advice, and is responsible for the domain name. Anna (again) and Deborah have helped with the proofreading. Peter (again) wrote the blurb for the back cover. Dymbel and Siobhan, professionals both, have advised me with the layout. My darling K has been the very soul of patience, and has been on hand with glasses of red wine at strategic moments. And can I just thank Anna a third time? She has been in on the idea right from the very start, within minutes of the thought popping into my head on Wednesday afternoon. Without Anna, I doubt that this project would have happened.

VERY SPECIAL THANKS to the hugely talented Lucy Pepper, for the stunning cover art.

And last but not least, a big THANK YOU to the literally HUNDREDS of you who have submitted entries, and pimped the project on your own sites.

For my part, this has been the most mammoth undertaking of my entire life. Seriously. Since Sunday afternoon, I have literally done nothing else but work, eat, sleep, go to the loo, and put the hours in on this project, until 2am every night. (OK, I took half an hour off for lunch on Monday. But it felt weird, and wrong.) I have read over 300 submissions. I have received and processed well in excess of 1500 e-mails. I have learnt a vast amount in a very short space of time. It has been stressful, but also hugely, HUGELY enjoyable. Even tonight, I was beavering away right up until the deadline; believe it or not, the book only “went to press” with 45 minutes to spare.

I tell you what, as well. Make no mistake: this is one absolute BELTER of a book: a showcase of British Blogging at its finest. Most of the entries, and indeed many of the submissions which didn’t make it to press, have made me laugh out loud. Sometimes, I have been in stitches. Yes, that might have been simple hysteria. But never has hysteria felt so sweet.

A word on the editing process. In certain cases, I have had no option but to tinker with your words; sometimes to make a piece fit neatly on the page, without awkward overspills, and sometimes just to make your words look better in print. Grammar, punctuation, stylistic tickles, that sort of thing. But rest assured that I haven’t done anything which would compromise your own individual voices. If you’re anything like me, who is still fairly new to the freelancing game, you won’t even notice what I’ve done. Blog posts are often immediate, chatty, full of asides, bashed out in snatched moments during the day. The demands of the printed page are subtly different. It goes with the territory, darlings. (Ooh, hark at her, Miss High And Mighty Editor all of a sudden, who does she think she is… )

And now to the next stage of the project.

PLEASE, PLEASE, pimp this baby HARD. We need the sales. Lots and lots of them. Link to the book from your blogs. Copy and re-use the cover art (450 pixels at the top of the post, and a sidebar-friendly 200 at the bottom), or grab it off Flickr. Get your friends, family and colleagues to buy it. Digg, Redddit, del.icio.us, all that guff: USE THEM. Badger your local media: come on, it’s a story. Work every contact and connection you have. This book needs to be the biggest story in blogland. Christ, I’m turning into Bob Geldof.

Here, have a press release. Scaryduck wrote this. Use it.

Bloggers publish book for Comic Relief.

100 bloggers have published a book to raise funds of the BBC’s Comic Relief appeal on Friday 16th March.

‘Shaggy Blog Stories’ features hilarious contributions from Richard Herring of ‘Fist of Fun’ fame, BBC 6Music presenter Andrew Collins, comedian Emma Kennedy, and James Henry, scriptwriter from Channel Four’s ‘The Green Wing’.

Authors Abby Lee, David Belbin, Catherine Sanderson and The Guardian’s Anna Pickard have also contributed pieces to the book.

The vast majority of contributions, however, are the work of many of the lesser known and unfamiliar heroes of British blogging; going under pen names such as Diamond Geezer, Scaryduck, Pandemian and Unreliable Witness.

Also contributing to ‘Shaggy Blog Stories’, and hoping to raise funds for the Comic Relief Appeal is local writer INSERT YOUR NAME, LOCALITY AND BLOG DETAILS HERE.

The book is the idea of blogger Mike Atkinson who writes the ‘Troubled Diva’ weblog. ‘Shaggy Blog Stories’ features comic writing from not only the cream of British blogging, but also the best up-and-coming and undiscovered writers publishing their work on their own websites.

Giving himself a “ridiculously short” seven days from idea to finished product, Atkinson admitted that he was overwhelmed with the response, which gleaned over 300 submissions for publication.

With a pool of talented writers, and the latest publishing-on-demand technology, Shaggy Blog Stories bypasses the usual snail-paced publishing industry, and offers a mail order service to customers who will receive their finished copy within days of placing their order, and only a couple of weeks after the original idea.

“Blogging creates complex, worldwide networks of friendship and contacts on the internet”, says journalist Alistair Coleman, one of Shaggy Blog Stories’ contributors. “By creating a buzz about this book, we can reach out to hundreds, thousands of readers who’d be willing to part with a few quid for this very good cause. Mike’s got some excellent writers on board here whose work deserves a wider audience. Everybody wins.”

For details of how to order the book, visit http://www.shaggyblogstories.co.uk.

For the background story on the creation of Shaggy Blog Stories, take a look at http://www.troubled-diva.com.

After days of surfing on nervous energy, I suddenly feel very tired. Back to the office tomorrow. It’s been a blast, hasn’t it?

The VIRTUAL LAUNCH PARTY is now in full swing in the comments box. It’s an all-dayer, so don’t worry, we’re well stocked.


Shaggy Blog Stories: the deadline for submissions has been reached.

OK, time’s up. If you haven’t mailed me with your submission for The Book by now, then I’m afraid it’s too late.

I shall be spending the next two days catching up the with ever-growing “unread” pile, and slowly assembling the manuscript. The goal is to release the finished book for sale at midnight on Thursday night/Friday morning, i.e. at the start of Red Nose Day itself.

At that point – but not before – I’ll be posting a link, which will take you straight to the dedicated page on lulu.com where you can purchase the book for yourselves. You can then post the same link on your own sites; e-mail it to your nearest, dearest, and that awfully nice couple you met on holiday last year; and generally Spread The Word All Over The Land.

As part of the same announcment, I shall also be revealing the full list of contributors, in the order in which they appear in the book. This will be a list of blog names only; I won’t be listing the authors by name, and I won’t be listing the titles of the individual posts. You’ll have to buy the book to find all of that out.

This brings me to the most awkward and regrettable detail of the project.

If I had any longer than seven days to complete the work, then I would absolutely pay everyone the simple courtesy of letting them know, by advance e-mail, whether or not their contributions have been successful.

However, I simply cannot spare the time to send out over 300 e-mails, when I’m going to need every last minute to get the book ready. Think about it: 300 e-mails. How long is that going to take?

And it wouldn’t just be a matter of sending the e-mails out, either. Think how long it would take to deal with 300 excited/disappointed bloggers all replying at once, with woo-hoos or boo-hoos, and all manner of supplementary questions. No. Can’t be done.

So, and it pains me to do it this way, most of you will have to wait until midnight on Thursday to find out whether or not you’re in the book.

I know, I know. But at least you won’t have Kate “empathetic” Thornton waiting behind you with a camera crew, claws outsretched, as the boys in VT cue up something suitably ecstatic (“Let Me Entertain You”) or plaintive (“Fix You”). Such cruelty has no place in our gentle World of Blog.

For similar reasons, I shall not be posting a sample of “hilariously” crap submissions – NOT THAT THERE HAVE BEEN ANY CRAP SUBMISSIONS YOU ARE ALL TALENTED AND SPECIAL – for everyone to have a good snigger over:

There was this Englishman, this Irishm…
…no, wait, can I start agai…
…oh, PLEASE PLEASE Mike, can y…
…no I WON’T come FOOKIN quietly, I…

I shall now return to my duties for the rest of the evening. Please remember me in your prayers.

Shaggy Blog Stories on BBC Radio Five Live.

If you’d like to hear me talking about the Shaggy Blog Stories project on the wireless, then go to the Five Live Pods and Blogs page and click on the “Listen” link on the right hand side of the page.

Or you could just click here instead, I guess.

My spot begins at 00:53:13, and lasts for five and a half minutes. Apart from not knowing the difference between days and weeks, I think it went rather well. (K was secretly listening from outside the study, and commented that I had my “radio voice” on. Where does that come from?)

In the comments last night, Milady de Winter suggested the following:

“Right – those of us who DON’T get shortlisted should start a renegade charity book and see who raises more £££.”

It could be like Hear’say versus Liberty X all over again, couldn’t it?

Shaggy Blog Stories: a progress report.

A long time ago, whilst I was busily tying myself up in some other ridiculously over-ambitious collective blog-based stunt, someone (it might have been him) cheekily dubbed me “the fairy godmother of British blogging”.

At the moment, sifting through the ever-growing stack of submissions for Shaggy Blog Stories, I feel more like the Simon Cowell of British blogging: “Congratulations, you’ve made it into the book” replacing “Congratulations, you are going to London”. Only I don’t have to hug anyone, or get glasses of water thrown in my face.

Occasionally, in my more delirious moments, I feel like the Anneka Rice of British blogging. At the Nottingham blogmeet on Saturday afternoon, I was tempted to run into the bar in a canary yellow jumpsuit, squawking “OK gang, we’ve got SEVEN DAYS to WRITE A BOOK!”

To say that I’ve had an “enthusiastic response” would be an understatement. I have received around 200 submissions over the last three days, and have read about 100 of them so far. 45 of that 100 have definitely made it into the book, taking the page count up to just over 100 and counting. An editorial team of four has been recruited, to assist with the decision-making process and to ensure that the whole kaboodle isn’t dominated by one individual’s personal taste.

Not surprisingly, some of the best known names in British blogging will be included in the book. However, we are judging on the merit of the submission rather than the reputation of the blogger, and the book will certainly not end up as a roll-call of the “in crowd”. One of the great joys of doing this is that, as with Post of the Week, I am constantly discovering brilliant material on blogs which I’ve never seen before. About once every 45 minutes during yesterday’s marathon 10-hour stint, I would find myself doubled up in hysterics, slapping my thighs, and shouting “YES! YES!”. This is what we call a Fringe Benefit.

I have also, reluctantly, had to face reality. If I leave the submission deadline as Wednesday at 6pm, then I will never be able to read everything that has been sent. Therefore, I’m bringing it forward by one day.


When making your submission, please bear in mind that the sheer weight of numbers means that, statistically speaking, the probability of making it into the book is less than 50%, and decreasing by the hour. So you do need to be comfortable with the idea of rejection. Having said that, please be assured that your piece WILL be given a full and fair reading.

(Here’s a tip, though. Try to imagine what your piece will look like on the printed page, to someone who has never read you before. Does it work out of context, as a stand-alone piece in its own right? Does it need editing, maybe to remove some of the more chatty asides to your regular readers?)

I’ve had a sneak preview of Lucy’s cover art. ‘Tis genius. You’ll love it. DAMN, this book is going to be GOOD.

And finally, a Media Alert: I’ll be talking about the project on BBC Radio Five Live‘s “Pods and Blogs” show, which goes out at the ungodly hour of 2am on Tuesday morning. It’s OK, there’s no need to wait up specially: I’ll link to the “Listen Again” archive link when it becomes available.

My thanks to everyone who has linked to the project thus far, and to everyone who has submitted material and/or offered help in other ways. I *heart* you all.

Shaggy Blog Stories: a collaborative blog-stunt for Comic Relief.

I have had a Big Idea!!!

Next Friday (March 16) is Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day day in the UK. What I’m proposing is to assemble and publish – in the space of just seven days – a paperback anthology of blog writing, that can be sold to raise funds for the charity.

The book will be called Shaggy Blog Stories: a collection of amusing tales from the UK blogosphere.

Here’s a short version of the Big Idea.

1. All UK bloggers are invited to select one post from their archives, suitable for inclusion in the book.

2. Because it’s Comic Relief, the watchword here is Funny. So I’m looking for posts with a pronounced comedic content.

3. Please e-mail your permalinks to me at mikejla@btinternet.com. Alternatively, you can mail me with a tickled-up version of the original text.

4. The absolute final deadline is 6pm UK time on Tuesday evening (March 13) – but please send your stuff to me as soon as you can, as I’ll be assembling the book on the fly.

5. The book will be published through www.lulu.com – a site which specialises in self-publishing, and which doesn’t require any upfront costs or pre-planning. Once they have the text, the book is more or less immediately ready to sell.

6. All money raised by sales – ie. minus the fees charged by the website – is donated to Comic Relief. I would expect to raise between 3 and 4 quid per book, as Lulu’s charges hover around 4 or 5 quid (depending on page count).

All with me so far? Good. Now, here’s how you can help.

1. By publicising the event on your own blog, and asking your readers to pitch in with contributions. Please link directly to this URL: https://troubled-diva.com/labels/rednoseday.html (Digg users can also do their Digg-stuff here.)

2. By contributing to the book itself.

3. By buying the book next Friday.

4. By pimping the book on your own blog, once it goes on sale.

If you’d like to contribute, then please follow these guidelines.

1. Brit bloggers only! You should be currently resident in the UK, or else an ex-pat Brit living abroad. (So, yes, foreign ex-pats in the UK are also welcome to join in.)

2. Please send me ONE POST ONLY. It’s your choice, not mine.

3. Posts should contain TEXT ONLY – we won’t be using pictures.

4. Posts should not include copyrighted material, e.g. song lyrics.

5. Short posts are preferable, i.e. under 1000 words. Absolute top whack maximum is 1500 words, if it’s a really really good one.

6. Although a couple of us will be proof-reading, it would greatly assist if you could check and re-edit your posts for grammar/spelling/punctuation before submitting them.

7. When e-mailing, please tell me the author name you’d like me to use. I know that many of you like to be anonymous on the web, and that’s fine – but as Google doesn’t index the printed page, this might be a suitable occasion to use your real name.

If you’re concerned about copyright: don’t be, as Lulu don’t retain any. The copyright rests with you. They don’t own your words.

If you’re concerned about not being “good enough”: don’t be. This is a quick-fire wheeze, not a major work of literature.

(Having said that: if I receive more material than I can squeeze into the book, then I’ll be enlisting the services of a small editorial team, to help me select the best posts for inclusion.)

And if you’re concerned about the workload I’m taking on: bless you, but don’t be. I’ve got clear evenings all through next week, and I’ll be taking Thursday off work to prepare the manuscript for publication.

My thanks to Lucy Pepper of Blogzira, who has kindly offered to design the cover – and also to Anna Pickard of little.red.boat, for her advice, encouragement and support.

So, people. We’ve got SEVEN DAYS to produce A BOOK! Are you up for it? Of course you are.

Hooray for collective collaboration! Book deals for all!

Now go forth and publicise.

Permalink: https://troubled-diva.com/labels/rednoseday.html

Links to this post: rARsh!, Tired Dad, Edvard Moonke, The skewed worldview of Lubin Odana, Blogzira, Mock Duck, the craic girl, Living for Disco, huskyteer, little.red.boat, I am livid, JonnyB’s Private Secret Diary, Tokyo Girl Down Under, Naked Blog, Everything Is Electric, Peach Arse, Becky’s T-Blog, David Belbin, pandemian, Merlot and Missives, Miss Tickle, Smaller Than Life, Reluctant Nomad, Cartside, Advancing the sum total of human knowledge and endeavour!, Rise, A sometimes blog, Mat Bowles, Darren’s Journal, The Sad Case Of Mr. X, My Boyfriend Is A Twat, Time For Tea And Cake, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Boob Pencil, Chicken Yoghurt, Tim Worstall (by proxy), This Is The Goo I’ve Got, Kitchentable, enduring ramblings, Nicole In London, you and me and the devil makes three, Random Reflections, An Unreliable Witness (which deserves to win some sort of prize), petite anglaise, blue cat, The Oracle, 1000 Shades of Grey, Struggling Author, Comfy Pants Production Co, meredic, DundeeMedStudent, Just A Blog, Stately Moans, [from fuck-up to] fab!*, Niles’s Blog, There’s life Jim, but not as we know it…, Grantham New Town, The Beauty Offensive, Rites of Passage in 60s/70s NE England, So Many People (you’re telling me), Wu Wei, Argy Bargey, Quinta das Abelhas, Better Oot Than In, Goodballoon’s paunch, Tampon Teabag, Music Man, The Cartoon Blog, eachman.com, Black-dove.org, Chocs Away, Old Girl!, problemchildbride.com, I’m A Seoul Man, Betty’s Utility Room, (Contains Mild Peril), Ignorminious’ Misty Mind, The Bargain Basement, Longstory, Incessant, pointless barking, journeying, Rullsenberg Rules, Savage Popcorn, papersurfer, The Girl with The Golden Mind, Blaugustine, For Which Relief Much Thanks, The Curmudgeon, rachel-catherine, The Windsor Castle Hot Air Balloon Festival, the further adventures of boz, Tomato And Basil Sandwiches (aren’t you just loving some of these blog names?), TGI Paul, Between The Pavement And The Stars, the (French) mountain dweller, Medication Time, itisi, A Simple Equation, what’s new, pussycat?, Clairwil, L’oeil de Mouche, Pickled Politics

…and probably many more – but I’m going to have to stop linking to them, in order to give my full attention to the submissions. Many, many thanks to all linkers.

NEW: Click here for progress updates. And please note the revised deadline, which is now Tuesday at 6pm.

Some popular myths about blogmeets dispelled.

1. They are full of super-confident high achievers, comparing the advances they got from their book deals.

(If you are fortunate enough to be admitted to one of their conversational bouquets, the customary salutation is “Congratulations on [insert recent major achievement]! Can I just say that I love your work?”)

2. They are full of earnest geeks, assessing the latest plug-in widgets and swapping CSS hacks.

(A suggested conversation-opener: “So, is anyone Twittering the SXSW keynotes?”)

3. If you turn up on your own without knowing anyone, no-one will talk to you. In fact, they’ll think you’re a bit weird.

(Meeting total strangers off the Internet? Who would do such a thing?)

4. If you meet a blogger whom you a) don’t read or b) have never heard of before, admitting as much will spell certain social death.

(The recommended face-saver at such moments is “Oh! I am aware of your work!”)

5. The prime purpose of a blogmeet is to network, network, network. If you come away without being added to half a dozen new blogrolls, and without the phone numbers of a couple of good agents stuffed in your pocket, the event will have been a failure.

All of which is by way of a reminder that there’s a Nottingham blogmeet this Saturday, from 14:00 until mid-evening, in the café/ bar of the Broadway cinema on Broad Street. (If you’re not local, here’s a map.) All are welcome.

Los Campesinos! – The Social, Nottingham, Thursday March 1.

An edited version of this review originally appeared in the Nottingham Evening Post.

loscamAlthough they have been playing for under a year, and are juggling their musical activities with full-time degree courses, Los Campesinos! have already built up the sort of grassroots buzz that other, more career-minded young bands would kill for. As yet uncorrupted by success, the Cardiff seven-piece radiates a shambling, unforced charm which is hugely endearing.

Their songs are complex, cleverly worked affairs, stuffed full to bursting with tricksy arrangements, unexpected changes and literate, articulate lyrics. Despite all this precociousness, the material remains accessible, catchy and melodic. Yes, it’s as indie as indie gets – but there’s none of the sullen dourness which so often mars the genre. John Peel would have adored them, without a doubt. As one song puts it, their aim is “to find the perfect match between pretentious and pop”. You have to love them for it.

The band’s sound is propelled by fluid, chiming guitar runs, and augmented with violin, glockenspiel and melodica. Their short, energetic set climaxed with the crowd favourite and future classic You! Me! Dancing!, and the equally anthemic Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks. These are still early days, but their potential is huge. Once those finals are out of the way, there’ll be no stopping them.

(Yup – as of yesterday, Los Campesinos! are my new favourite band. Download both sides of their new single for free from their official website, and download four more tracks from the BBC website.)

Update #1: Local blogger Lord Bargain was also there last night as well – good to meet you at last, Lord B – and his decidely more measured review can be found here.

Update #2: I have Ben at Silent Words Speak Loudest to thank for alerting me to the band in the first place – and here’s an excellent interview which he did with them last month, for the final issue of a free magazine called Vanity Project.

Inland Empire.

Yesterday, I attended a morning press screening of the forthcoming David Lynch movie, Inland Empire. An extravagant use of my precious annual leave entitlement, I grant you – but then I’m not often invited to these things, and it sounded like a fun little experience to tick off the list.

Although I make a point of never reading film reviews, in case they reveal more than I need to know, I was aware that Inland Empire is three hours long, complex, and plotless. I decided to take this as a challenge.

(Sitting on my own, in silence, for three uninterrupted hours, trying to concentrate on something impossibly complicated, without really having a clue as to what’s going on? Hmm, sounds familiar. Talk about taking a busman’s holiday.)

The film started with a few disconnected scenes, high on surrealism but low on tangible meaning. A needle on a scratchy record. A hooker and a john in a hotel room, their heads smudged out, speaking in an Eastern European tongue. A family of three, with rabbit heads, speaking in non-sequiturs, with an audience laughter track. That sort of thing.

This was all fine. The scenes were slow-moving, and I was primed for weirdness, and so I purposefully committed all the details to memory, for future reference. Weird bits at the beginning have a habit of making retrospective sense, don’t they?

And then, lo and behold, a story started developing. An odd story, to be sure – but rooted in narrative logic, and with properly drawn characters, and an absolute doddle to follow.

The story was about a successful movie actress (played by Laura Dern) being offered a lead role in a movie, and commencing rehearsals, and of an ambiguous relationship developing between her and her male co-lead. There was a supernatural mystery/suspense element, and some nice interplay between the outer story and the plot of the film-within-the-film. This being David Lynch, there was also a vague sense of looming peril. It was all rather enjoyable. Jeremy Irons was in it. Harry Dean Stanton played an amusing cameo role. William H. Macy made a fleeting appearance. There were even a couple of scenes where I was able to successfully predict what was about to happen.

At around the thirty or forty minute mark, I had a flash of insight, as the inevitable arc of the story suddenly became clear. This was followed by a stab of disappointment. Two and a half hours to go, and I basically knew what was going to happen, and why. How on earth were they going to fill the time?

Minutes later, the chaos kicked in, as Laura Dern’s character began to wander between different realities, with ever-decreasing connecting logic. Locations and time scales dissolved. Dern’s personal circumstances altered, as did her mannerisms, and indeed her whole character. Certain familiar faces re-appeared, in varying guises (but not Irons, or Stanton, or Macy, all of whom disappeared). The sense of looming peril ratcheted up a good few notches. All certainties vanished, to the extent that I found myself longing for the film to return to its original story. The longer that the chaos continued, the more my nostalgia for the opening thirty or forty minutes increased.

This bewildering entropy went on, and on, and on, for two and a half trippy, dream-like hours. My concentration lapsed, badly, to the extent where I kept chastising myself for my inability to keep a grasp of the details. If only I could have committed that scene to memory, then this scene might have made more sense.

However, for all the wheels within wheels and world within worlds, all the earlier dramatic tension was lost. Dern’s previously subtle, compelling performance was reduced to a clutch of stock expressions – in particular, an expression of uncomprehending, open-mouthed terror, which became progressively more irksome.

I stopped caring, and started yawning, fidgeting and clock-watching. Hours passed.

There was a fun little formation dancing scene, set to Little Eva’s “The Locomotion”.

Etta James’s “At Last” popped up on the soundtrack. It was nice to hear it again.

There was a suburban barbecue scene, slightly grainy and oversaturated, like an old home movie. Something happened at a circus. I forget what.

There were occasional pieces of relatively straightforward dialogue or monologue, which teased me into hoping that they might explain something or other. I would prick up my ears for a while, before slouching back into itchy exasperation, or glazed ennui. These sometimes took place in a grimy, low-rent office, with Dern explaining her plight to a man behind a desk, who never spoke.

Was there ever a resolution? Of sorts, yes. But only a partial one. I’m saying nothing else.

For about half an hour afterwards, as I ordered and consumed my late-lunchtime coffee and sandwich in the Atlas deli, I felt disorientated and spaced out. Everything had a slightly surreal sheen to it, as if I wasn’t quite physically present. I went shopping, caught a cab home, then mooched about on the computer for a bit.

My prediction: critical panning, commercial flop, cult longevity – especially with the sort of 19-year stoners who delight in spotting and swapping arbitrary and entirely accidental “clues”. (“But the number on the door was 47, man! Think about it!”)

No, I don’t recommend it. Glad to be of service.