Monday, 30 July 2012

'books don't just go with you - they take you to places you've never been.'

Today was my first day off in a quite a long time, so M and I went for a walk across Highgate, over Hampstead Heath, and down to Belsize Park. It was lovely, but also tinged with sadness because we stopped by England's Lane Books to wave farewell. They are closing tomorrow. England's Lane is a beautiful bookshop, which was kind enough to host the Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops book launch back in April. Times are tough for bookshops all over, in fact times are tough for high street shops in general, and it isn't helped by rising parking charges, and charity shops popping up left, right and centre. Not to mention every time I hear this in my bookshop: 'No, not now; we'll buy it online when we get home,' a little part of me dies inside.

So. Along with the farewell, I bought a couple of Amelie Nothomb books. I love her, and I'd like to share that. I think the way she writes is just beautiful.  

'How appropriate that the one definition of the Japanese character for my name was "rain."... My rainy childhood thrived in Japan like a fish in water.
Tired of my unending passion for my element, Nishio-san would finally call to me, "Out of the lake! You'll dissolve!"
Too late. I had dissolved long before.'
 - The Character of Rain

I'm going to be giving away 'The Character of Rain' and 'Loving Sabotage' in this blog post. This is in the hope that the winners of the books will like what they read, and go out to a bookshop and buy more of her books, or any book for that matter!

This is for the love of books, and bookshops everywhere. Let's work hard to stop bookshops closing.

“What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul.” - Neil Gaiman. 

Everyone who replies to this post by 15th August will be put into the draw for the books, and two winners will be selected at random. I'll ship anywhere in the world.  

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

you tell me you own all the water in the world

Good afternoon, folks! Over the past couple of days I've been proofing the final manuscript for 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores.' It's rather exciting! Greg's done a couple of new illustrations for the American edition; it'll all go off to the printers very soon, and will be released by Overlook Press at the beginning of September.

Exciting things are happening at this end, too, but I can't tell you about them yet. Soon, my friends, soon!

It's all very busy here - I mean the city as well as what I've been up to, as the Olympics are practically upon us. I plan to stay out of the centre of London until it's all over. If you need me, I'll either be at the bookshop, writing in the garden, or at home, hiding behind a book [at the moment that book is Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen. I like it very much indeed].

I leave you with this. Farewell. x

'When We Found the Tide' by Jen Campbell from The Hungry Ghost Festival

Thursday, 19 July 2012

yesterday, I lived there

This is a little about me. I'm from a village in the north-east of England, near the sea. It's not far from Newcastle. It's near a haunted windmill that's lost its top. It's a place where we put raspberry sauce on our ice cream, but we don't call it raspberry sauce; we call it monkey blood. That's how we roll.

The Hungry Ghost Festival (my first poetry collection that came out this week) is about my experience of that place [I lived there until I was eighteen, and my family all still live there]. It's not about what actually happened when I was younger; it's often not even about real places. It's about misremembered and strange things. It's about girls praying to The Angel of the North. It's about the idea of a mermaid born in the river Tyne. It's about another girl who's bullied for being a 'real-life mermaid.' It's about Chinese lanterns, teenagers at the beach, and a family who run a sacred farm. It's about lots of things. It's rather scary that it's now out in the world and people are reading it, but so exciting at the same time. 

The first poem I remember falling in love with when I was younger was The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes.

THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door...
It still makes me smile now, and reminds me of a cold night, sitting under a blanket in bed, with the wind blowing outside. It was in a large compendium of other poems I had. I also remember laughing at Colin McNaughton poems, and Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes.

I wrote a lot when I was younger. I was the [un]cool kid who sat on the fire escape step at break time writing, instead of playing Red Rover. I was fascinated by words, and by writing. Not just what you could do with it, but the physical act of it. I spent quite a bit of time in hospital when I was younger. My fingers were fused together at birth, and a few are missing [EEC Syndrome]. Those that are left are misshapen. So, my wonderful surgeon Miss Reid spent a lot of time building by hands for me. So, I loved writing: a combination of being fascinated at holding a pen, and conjuring up worlds of crazy fairy tales like the ones I'd read. There's a poem in The Hungry Ghost Festival called Lobster Girl, which touches on this. 

Poetry's the one form of writing I've always done. I've hopped around from humour writing, to short stories, to serious novel-type ideas, but throughout all of those I've also always written poetry. My current favourite collections are Ted Hughes's Crow, Ryan Van Winkle's Tomorrow We Will Live Here, Michael Ondaatje's The Cinnamon Peeler, Berryman's Dream Songs, not forgetting Ashley Capps, Margaret Atwood, Tim Atkins... far too many to mention here.

Two people can read the same poem and take something completely different from it in a way that's not so extreme with prose. I love that. Poetry's the old school way of telling stories. Lines worm their way into your head and stay there. 

For me, in The Hungry Ghost Festival, poetry is tied up in place and folklore. It's about the riverside and rumours in the hills, and falling in love with someone you're not supposed to be found with. It's about the beach at night, and owls flying into windows. And it's also about whatever you want it to be about. 

So, for those who have purchased a copy, I hope you like it. It's a very strange feeling [so very different to my experience with 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops']. With this, I kind of feel like I'm sitting on your bookcase, waving hello. 

So, erm... hello. :) x

'... You pick my arms up and spread them out
so we are matching. Our woollen scarves
touch our noses - catch our breath
like cloth balloons.
We dig our feet into the soil
and stamp down into the very deep....'

[extract from Angel Metal, The Hungry Ghost Festival]

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Hungry Ghost Festival - publication day!

Look what arrived in the post today!

I have been dreaming about this day for a very, very long time. My first poetry collection is published today. It's called The Hungry Ghost Festival, and it's a pamphlet published by The Rialto.
On the 15th night of the seventh lunar month, the boundaries between the living and the dead break down, and the dead visit the earth looking for food and entertainment.Jen Campbell’s festival celebrates the presence of the past, in this case childhood and adolescence in the North East, as it floats through the present adult consciousness.
It's been getting some lovely reviews, which have made me very smiley indeed.
“Jen Campbell’s The Hungry Ghost Festival is a magical debut. Her charged poems of a northern childhood in South Shields and Cleadon Hills; of family, sex and other rites of passage are fresh and compelling – told with a canny eye for detail and a gorgeous turn of phrase. This is an arresting collection from a writer fully in command of an unusual and significant voice.” – Anna Woodford 
Here's me reading a poem from the collection, called Kitchen.

If you'd like a signed copy of 'The Hungry Ghost Festival', it's £5.50 plus postage and packaging. 

Choose Postage Option

[If you'd like to pay using a different method [cheque or bank transfer], buy more than one copy, or have a query then just drop me an email.]

Here's a blog post with a little about me, and what The Hungry Ghost Festival is about. 

Thanks so much for the support, lovely blog readers and Twitter followers. You've all been so lovely. I hope that those of you who buy the collection enjoy reading it. xx

[The Hungry Ghost Festival is also available over at The Rialto]


If you're reading this and you work for a poetry journal etc, and would like a review copy then please email The Rialto. If you'd like to chat about 'Hungry Ghosts...' with me on your blog, then just drop me a line

Bookshops: If you would like to order copies of this pamphlet, please email The Rialto. [It's also available via Central Books.]

Saturday, 7 July 2012

poems on postcards

As it's still raining [zut alors!], and to celebrate the release of my poetry collection, The Hungry Ghost Festival, which will be published on 16th July [hurray!], I am going to do another round of worldwide postcard sending. *prepares self*

So, if you'd like me to send you a poem on a postcard [anywhere in the world], simply email me with your address.

ETA: One day and 60 postcards to 12 different countries, so I'm going to close this now. Thanks, guys!