In early 2016, I attended a book launch with my wife Pat. After the formal launch the author joined friends to play some tunes on the small stage at the front of the hall – all part of the evening’s entertainment; an enjoyable part.
At the time I was ‘sitting on’ an album’s worth of songs – though I wasn’t sure what to do with them. In truth I was in a slightly negative mood: ‘nobody buys CDs these days’, ‘indie labels can’t make money’, ‘vinyl only sells for nostalgia acts’; my head was full of it. Put out another solo album? Maybe not.
So – I was listening to the band, thinking about the book launch, thinking about my own music, thinking about Pat’s writing – and thinking what – if anything – to do with my songs?
My brain was scratching around for a project; something less self-centred than another solo album. It would be good if it involved collaboration – with Pat for sure – maybe with a group of other writers?
By the time we were leaving the book launch I’d had an idea. I ran it past Pat as we left the building. Within a few hours – or maybe it was a few days – it grew – and became Ten Writers Telling Lies.
The idea was a simple one. I would write ten songs with ten writers, and the writers would then write ten stories or poems, inspired by those songs. The finished product would be the combination of the poems, the stories and the music (and related artwork).
I left it to Pat to identify the writers. As a graduate of the MLitt in Creative Writing at Glasgow University and a regular attendee at their Centre for Open Studies creative writing classes, Pat knows a lot of great writers. On top of that she’s a publisher and enthusiastic promoter of creative writing on her own website – Pat’s Guide to Glasgow West End.
Although it was essentially a simple idea, at its heart is a real ‘lie’, not just the standard lie that every artist buys into when they ‘make something up’; that lie we are all willing to forgive.
Calling it Ten Writers Telling Lies was/is not just a knowing nod to the creative process. The writers became involved – only after agreeing to lie about a particular aspect of the project-and they had to promise to do that even when asked directly about it. In fact I went beyond that and made them sign a document committing them to lie.
The writers participating in Ten Writers Telling Lies are: Calum Maclean, James Carson, Stephen Watt, Stephanie Brown, James Connarty, Pauline Lynch, Gillian Mayes, Mick Norton, Samina Chaudry and of course Pat Byrne. Not a dud among them; all fabulously talented, accomplished writers.
By December 2016 all the stories and poems had been written, all the songs had been recorded and we had introduced the project to the public at three ‘taster’ events as part of the Glasgow West End Festival. To our surprise, the ‘gigs’ all sold out and feedback was overwhelming. People who didn’t normally go to spoken word events came along because of the music and people who didn’t normally go to gigs came along because of the spoken word. Both camps found something new – an art-form they discovered they enjoyed.
I was keen to ensure our book had a distinctive look – one that reflected the mysterious aspect of the project. I asked all the writers to take a selfie that made them look like they were hiding something: some crime they had committed, some dark thought, some secret that they didn’t want the world to know about. I got Glasgow artist and tattooist Pam McDonald to take those selfies and create illustrations. Pam’s artwork gives the book a distinctive style. I think you will agree the illustrations Pam has created are stunning – sumptuous.
I’m not a writer, I’m not a commercial publisher and I haven’t done any research into what constitutes the target market for this book. All I can say is, if you appreciate exceptional writing and brilliant music – buy it. It’s great. Buy one for your friend as well. Then they will know you have really good taste. ☺
We love it. We loved creating it for you.
Your contact details will only be used to send you information related to Tell Writers Telling Lies. It will not be shared wit anyone else.