Thursday, 12 March 2015

LIT FIEND INTERVIEW [#6]

 

This month's interview is with Nottingham based lit fiend Jim Gibson. Jim is one half of the team behind UK literary zine HAND JOB (the second best UK lit zine on the market - behind my own, of course). Jim is also a writer himself and has contributed poetry and prose to PAPER AND INK's second issue as well as our up coming sixth issue which is due out later this year. So, without further ado, let's get started...

For anyone that has not come across Hand Job zine before how would you describe it?

Hand Job is a sporadically published A5 zine that aims to showcase the alluring underbelly of British society through poetry, short stories and artwork. It is a one man one woman show in terms of production, but the focus is on getting the work within the attention it deserves as we truly believe the content is of the highest class. Through the zine we have met a community of people with these same values from all over the UK and we hope to be a unifier and place for all of these people to be part of this together. We cannot let this literature, that is all too often snubbed by publishers, be left to rot. It needs to be read and we’re here to show people why!

What inspired you to start it?

We decided to produce the zine due to disillusionment with the mainstream literary publications; we feel that their pieces tend to be hollow and seem to stand at a distance from their subjects rather than being an honest part of them. To be honest with you, I didn’t really know that zines were a thing before we started to make Hand Job. I was just talking with Sophie about how shit all the literary magazines tend to be and suggested we make our own, it was Sophie who then showed me this sort of zine world.

You and Sophie Pitchford run the zine together, do you each have designated jobs or do you both do a bit of everything?

Yeah, we definitely have set jobs, we have very different talents. Sophie puts the whole thing together, doing all of the nitty-gritty. I could never do the stuff that she does. She’s currently finishing her last year of her Graphic Art course at Leeds and she’s amazing at what she does. She’s got a range of other stuff that she’s published, each unique and brilliant. I tend to stick with the writing side; I pick all of the content and write the bits inbetween. Basically any unaccredited writing is me and any unaccredited artwork is Sophie, she’s the real grafter.

Your on to your seventh issue now, do you have a personal favourite issue or a particular favourite piece of writing that you've published so far?

Well I guess it’s the same with most people as each time we’ve made a new issue it’s instantly my favourite, so in that case it’s issue 7.

As far as a favourite piece goes there are a few that always stick out in my head. My favourite would have to be Raif Mansell’s True Love Steals Something in issue 2, it is a stand out piece to me. It’s shocking, but not just for the sake of it, it’s a very indulgent read. I think that it’d have to be my favourite yet.

What can we expect from issue #7?

The writing is of the same stupidly good quality as always with a very funny piece by Joseph Ridgwell and an alarmingly good story by newcomer James Kelly. I don’t want to give too much away on this front though.

The main thing to note is the change in the layout; only the back page is cut and paste. We have gone for a completely new look, but, like the best bands, you have to change things up to keep people interested, and yourself to a certain extent. We wouldn’t have done this if we weren’t confident though and Sophie really has pulled out the stops on this one. She worked non-stop on it and I think she scrapped the whole thing and started again at least three times, it looks unreal!

As a writer yourself does doing the zine help or hinder your own writing?

The thing is that it’s all hobbies, writing and making the zine. I don’t see myself as a writer or a zinester but a person who writes stuff and makes zines (I am aware I run the risk of sounding like a twat here). But, my point is that, by keeping them as separate hobbies they don’t really clash at all. If I’ve got something I need to write then I’ll put the zine to one side or visa versa. I suppose I could be writing more with the time I spend on the zine but then I also know I have somewhere to put my writing if I want to, so it works both ways.

So, no plans to write a novel then?

I'd love to write a novel! I got half way through one last year before I decided it was shit but I think I'll get cracking again this year, it's just time that's the problem at the minute! It'll probably end up being lots of interlinking short stories so that it feels more achievable. There're a few ideas there already I just need to get to work.

Outside of the zine, what are your interests?

I have the usual interests you’d expect, music, reading, films but I also like to keep myself busy doing different things. I’ve always been a skateboarder, we didn’t know it when we were younger but it was sort of our punk, our counter-culture movement, waxing ledges, climbing fences, graffiti-ing our logos, smoking weed and getting pissed. It was all a beautiful rebellion and I wish everyday that I could go back to it. It’s not quite the same now with all of these big skateparks popping up all over the place and I don’t have the time for it like I used to but when I do get the chance on a nice day I never turn it down. I keep myself occupied with various other things as well, woodcarving at Newstead Village Woodcarving Club, going to see Forest on the occasion. Loadsa shit really. 

What was the last book you read that totally blew you away?

I actually finished probably the oddest and one of the most brilliant books I have ever read recently. It’s Julian Cope’s One Three One: A Time-Shifting Gnostic Hooligan Road Novel. There was such a freedom with the language used throughout it, it was like he really didn’t care about how it should be written, but that’s probably the reason that it took on such an organic flow and had such a strong narrative voice. He goes between his path in Sardinia, back to Italia 90 where the tragic events took place and then for some reason he keeps going through these monolithic doorways to 10,000 BC or something. It really was crazy and even though I knew that it was bound to be mainly fiction throughout, I did have to keep checking if stuff really happened because he’s so convincing. I think it got a lot of bad reviews because people didn’t really get it but I think you’ve just gotta ride this novel, let it take you and just not question where he’s going or why he’s going there.

If you could pick any writer, dead or alive, to be in Hand Job, who would it be? 

This is a hard one. I think I’d have to say, after a long period of contemplation, William Blake. One of the poets that got me into literature as whole and who’s work has never felt dated even though he talks of chimney sweeps and the like. He was a pure anarchist who hated all institutions, the church, the school, the government, as they were all symbols of oppression. People dismissed him as mad and he wasn’t ever really respected in his time yet he, like we are doing, self-published his works but on beautifully engraved plates that must have taken forever instead of cheating with computers. A real visionary who has inspired many people since.

What's your favourite movie?

You don’t ask easy questions. If I had to pick it’d probably be a toss up between Duane Hopkins’ Better Things or Harmony Korine’s Gummo. Both films are similar yet completely different at the same time. They both have these kind of fragmented narratives that represent real life with the characters not really linking together and their being no set storyline as such, so don’t hold out for a satisfying ending, yet they’re both shot in a unique way that gives the stories their mystical and poetic feel. They are realism but they’re also much more than that. Better things is set in the Cotswolds and revolves around heroin addicts, old people and a girl who’s afraid to go out (as well as others) and I guess it’s just their respective problems, loneliness, love and isolation from what is shown as everyday life by conventional standards that ties it all together. A beautiful film that I’d recommend getting on DVD as it comes with two shorts that totally blew me away! Gummo on the other hand is a more redneck film that shocks you with its images from the start.

I do like a range of films though, from The Holy Mountain to Kingpin, the only thing that I don’t really get is all of that Hollywood shit. It just seems to be the same clich├ęd stories regurgitated in a different setting. It’s boring. There are some films like O’Horten, Stroszek and Bombon el Perro that are fantastic in their simplicity. Each has really endearing main characters that make you feel so much, in a really honest way. I suppose the last thing to mention though is how big and influence Shane Medows is, anything by this fantastic director is good for me.

What's your drink of choice?

I’m a man of simple pleasures; larger most of the time with a bitter every now and then. I’ve never really got the real ale shit or cocktails. I’ll have a spirit and mixer when I wanna calm down my pissing!

If you could get drunk with any three famous people, dead or alive, who would you pick?

First off, Lemmy from Motorhead. The coolest motherfucker to walk the earth, I just fear that I’d get pissed and he’d laugh at me. Antwuan Dixion (the pro skateboarder) looks like a mint bloke to get drunk and high with. He’s a fucking nut job but that’s where all the fun is! Then last, after a heavy session with those two I’d probably like to just chill with Vic or Bob and have a laugh. Sorry about the lack of writers…


Hand Job, Paper and Ink and PUSH all started up around the same time in 2013, and now there are more and more lit zines popping up all over the place, what's going on? Is it just a coincidence or something more?

Me and Sophie were trying to work out when we started up and we thought it was 2012! Turns out your right and we’ve already got a mistake in issue 7, haha. More to the point, I’m not really sure. I think a lot of people just have the same feelings about the state of the publishing industry and through their own efforts find likeminded people. You know, this is how the best things always unfold though. The best bands do something new, get dismissed for a few years and then people realise, ‘shit, this stuffs pretty sick.’ There’s already quite a community built and I have a feeling it’s only going to get bigger, better and stronger. It just seems so much more accessible, both the writing and how people can just email us and we’ll get back to them as a human being. We’re not focusing on money, face and respectability, we’re here because we love it and that’s why we’ve got time for people. That’s what’s unique I think. I’ll help anyone out the best I can, I know you will Martin and plenty of other people I’ve met through doing this are the same.

What does the future hold for Hand Job Zine?

Well… we have got plans for a book but they’ve been put back for a little while and the concept of it is constantly changing so I don’t want to say too much. Also, I really want to do a night of poetry readings and music, the only thing that stops me is that I’m really busy all of the time so it’s hard, but it will happen! Hopefully in the summer time!

Apart from that we’re gonna crack on with the zine and take each day as it comes…

Thanks for answering these questions Jim!

Hand Job issue #7 is OUT NOW. Keep up to date with all Hand Job comings and goings, calls for submissions and extra content on their blog.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

HOW NOT TO TAKE A COMPLIMENT

I have never been very good at taking compliments. I never know how you're supposed to react when somebody says something nice about you. I guess you just smile and say thank you, or even return the compliment? It just always feel so awkward and fake. I think the root of the problem comes from not actually believing whatever nice thing is being said. A combination of low self-esteem and not trusting anyone, I suppose. Although I don't have low self-esteem, not really. It's just... I know how to deal with insults. That's easy. Fight fire with fire. But when somebody offers me genuine praise I get all sweaty and uncomfortable and I just want to hide. JUST TELL ME I'M A FUCKING DICK ALREADY! 

I think the trust thing is a big part of the problem. I find it hard to believe that people say or do nice things without wanting something in return. Whenever my boss says something nice to me I'm thinking "Okay, whose shift do you want me to cover?". Whenever somebody says something nice about my zine, part of me is thinking "You're just saying this so that I publish your work in the next issue". Even when my own girlfriend says something nice to me/about me a little part of me is thinking "You just want me to make you a cup of tea". How fucked up is that?!?

I recently sent the latest issue of my literary zine off to be reviewed by a website called Sabotage Reviews and whilst I had hoped they would enjoy it and perhaps say some nice things about it, I was completely overwhelmed by the review. One line in particular stood out from the rest and I had to read it several times for it to sink in:
"it becomes clearer with each issue that there is a keen critical mind at work in the editorial process"
A keen critical mind? Me? Really? Suddenly I went from making a zine for fun, picking and choosing from the submission I like and rejecting the ones I don't to having a "keen critical mind". I am currently putting the next issue together. The submission deadline closed today so I am in the midst of reading through the plethora of subs that I received and because of that one line I now feel all this pressure on me. Pressure to be this keen critical mind. Pressure to make issue #5 even better than #4. Pressure flex my "selection muscles" as the reviewer put it. PRESSUREPRESSUREPRESSURE.

Maybe I am just thinking about this too much. Maybe the pressure is a good thing and maybe I'll fucking smash it out of the park and issue #5 will be awesome and none of this will matter. Maybe that guy who reviewed it is just hoping that if he submits in the future (he's a poet, too) that I will be more inclined to accept his offerings. Maybe I just need to learn how to take a compliment and stop being a fucking dick about the whole thing. Maybe.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

THE WORLD FORGETTING, BY THE WORLD FORGOT

My girlfriend and I do not celebrate Valentine's Day. I say that like we've been together forever. This will be our second. Tonight we are going to get take away and watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I don't know of a more perfect way to spend an evening.


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

I READ ZINES [#7]


With Regard To Nostalgia

This is the second literary zine from editor and contributor John Morrison. Nine short stories from nine different writers all on the theme of nostalgia. The pieces are all varied in style and content, my favourites were a piece by John himself about finding an old unreturned rental video and the memories and feelings that are attached to it. I also loved Tom Dobson's piece 'Her Smile'. PAPER AND INK #4 contributors Alice Ash and Terence Corless also feature.

Necromonicon #31

Another terrific issue of honest, unpretentious horror movie reviews. It seems that zine author Neil and I have very similar taste in horror movies so I always get a lot of good recommendations out of this zine. I find it funny though that one of my favourite (professional) film critics Mark Kermode, who loves horror, has the polar opposite taste to Neil. The Babadook was one of Kermode's favourite films of last year (Neil hated it) and Possession (1981) is one of Kermode's all time favourites (Neil really really hated it). Putting those two in a room together would yield interesting debates, I'm sure (or possibly a fist fight).

Milk and Honey #1

Curator of this zine, Celia Wickham, describes it as "a creative project and platform that supports and encourages art making and creativity amongst young women.". This inaugural issue is comprised of photography, poetry, short stories, musings and interviews from a collection of young, talented female creatives. My favourite was a powerful piece called '10 reflections' by Sophie Slater. One of the things I have noticed about running a lit zine is that roughly 75% of all submissions are from men, so if projects like this help to inspire women to pursue their creative urges then that can only be a good thing.  

Wonderlust Literary Zine #1

Another lit zine. Oh, I do love a lit zine! I don't know if this one is intentionally all female or if editor (and PAPER AND INK #3 & #4 contributor) Sonya Cheney just encountered the opposite problem that I have and only received subs from women, I don't know. Frankly it is neither here nor there because this zine is fantastic. A really entertaining, enjoyable read. My favourite pieces were the poems by Jessie Lynn McMains, especially the poem 'Bar Fights About Poetry'. I am definitely going to be seeking out more of her work. It was also nice to see more poems from PAPER AND INK #2 contributor Temple Murray.