I’ve never really seen myself as a performer... but last week I threw chocolate buttons, wine and glitter in my face at the Bristol Festival of Literature Flash Slam.
The thought of doing any kind of improv class scares the crap out of me. I hated drama classes at school, though of course I preferred them to the pure evil that was PE classes. For someone who so desperately wished I could be somebody else when I was growing up, I was too scared to pretend. I hated anything which meant being loud, or in fact having to speak at all. I never thought I would ever want to speak in front of an audience.
I first read a story aloud at Let Me Tell You a Story, Jack. It’s a friendly mixture of an open mic/comedy/storytelling night and the audience is warm and friendly. I read my story Poked by an Alien which had come 3rd place in the Henshaw Press writing competition so I had reasonable faith that the story wasn’t shit. I’d practiced it over and over so I was as confident as I could be, yet still not confident at all. I didn’t want to read it but I knew I had to, after all, how could I ever be a famous author if I can’t even read my work aloud in public? Plus all the rest of my writing group had started reading at storytelling nights and I couldn’t be left behind. So I read the story, managed not to fuck it up, and got a prestigious Let Me Tell You a Story, Jack medal. Then the adrenaline kicked in and I got very drunk. Hurrah.
Shortly after that, my writing group - Stokes Croft Writers - set up our own storytelling night called Talking Tales. Reading at that and other storytelling nights more regularly meant it became marginally less terrifying, but still scary. I’ve always tried to force myself into doing things if they scare me. It’s confidence building. Though in all honesty, reading/performing is a rollercoaster and I’m still not sure how much I really enjoy it. I’m super anxious beforehand. A minute before I get on stage I feel like I’m about to piss and/or crap myself. When I’m on stage I try not to think that it’s really me there or else I might just freeze under the strain of knowing all of those eyes are on me. After is the good part, the relief that it’s over. Sometimes people come and compliment me which I try to take graciously but I’m still not great at that. Then comes my worry. Was it actually good? Did people actually laugh, or was that laughing in fact at me? It’s hard to continually have faith in your own creativity, especially if, like me, you’ve struggled with low confidence and self-esteem all your life.
I stepped it up to Show and Tell, which is less storytelling more comedy and a bigger audience (Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol). At least there you can put something up on a screen so they don’t all stare at you. I recommend a badly drawn picture of a penis with 3 pieces of jizz, it’s a good distraction.
Last week at the Flash Slam, I read my most performance-based story yet. It’s called Proper Chill (you can read it HERE – it’s very short) and it involves a list of all the stuff I – meaning the protagonist - want to do. It is of course fiction and not at all based on anything I’ve done or would want to do. Not at all. Ahem. So I threw chocolate over myself (such a waste of chocolate, I’m sorry), downed half a bottle of Chardonnay and threw glitter over my head, which took two days to wash out. It was a lot of fun, but I was terrified beforehand. There was the extra pressure of not letting my writing group down as we’d won the Flash Slam the previous year and we were not going to let one of those other pesky writing groups win. No way.
I didn’t intend to swear so much in the story, but I told myself to really go for it and I think the extra ‘fucks’ just automatically slipped in. Angie Belcher, who did a wonderful job of hosting the evening, called me ‘the Liam Gallagher of flash’ which I can only presume is because I’m so rock n roll… either that or I’m a massive northern knobhead. Hmmmm.
But we won! Our team was called Cillit Bang Slam and was made up of myself and the wonderful Christie Cluett, Mark Rutterford and Chris Fielden. In the final round, we all had to write a story together in just ten minutes. I don’t have a copy to share with you as I’ve no doubt Christie has probably burnt or eaten it out of either secrecy or shame, I’m not sure which. I can tell you that it involved the line ‘Ere, put this smelly coat on. Where we’re going it’s gonna get wet.’ Pure genius.
So this is the bit where I conclude this post and say what lessons I’ve learnt or something like that. I guess it’s that I like performing occasionally if it involves wine and glitter. I think I’ll save the chocolate for eating only next time. Maybe one day I’ll make it up to Jarvis Cocker status instead of Liam Gallagher. Either way, I think I’ll always be nervous as hell but I’ll do it anyway.
Check out the Bristol Festival of Literature events – there’s over a week of stuff going on and many of them are free!
In other news, I’ll be going to Thailand for three months as of Mid-January 2018! I’m planning on writing a separate blog post along the lines of ‘shit Mel did in Thailand 9 years ago that she won’t be doing this time now she’s supposedly all grown up and what-not’. I hope you like smug beach pictures because my social media is going to FULL of them.
Thanks for reading!
Saturday 18th Feb saw the first of Talking Tales of 2017, this time with a bad erotica theme!
Talking Tales is a storytelling night run by Stokes Croft Writers, held bi-monthly at Leftbank in Bristol. Normally we don’t have a theme but somehow I managed to talk the group into letting me take over with ‘bad erotica’ as a sort of anti-Valentine’s special.
So what is bad erotica? I was open to anything (wahey), from just a little sauciness and innuendo, to fan fiction, to badly written attempts at filth. I run a bad erotica podcast called Fully Activated. It's about as sexy as a lardy sizzling sausage, so not sexy at all basically. I like to think of it as satirical erotica with a feminist twist.
We kicked off Talking Tales with a story of mine called Colin Grinder Groaned, an ‘erotic’ (ie not erotic) novella which will feature on the next series of Fully Activated. I read the first chapter, which was called ‘The Cleaner’. Colin Grinder always makes sure his staff and customers are happy (very, very happy) and this includes the wonderful Regina Hymen, who is particularly good at polishing knobs... door knobs (wahey, again)
I attempted to wear some very silly shoes which I joked I’d keep on for 5 minutes, but then did actually take them off after about 4 minutes. I have no idea why anyone would choose to wear such ridiculous things on their feet. Fuck long legs, I want to stay short and be comfortable.
Then we had a break to go for some much needed weeing/wanking/drinking. Ellen and I scared off a group of rowdy stag do golfers by staring at them until they downed their drinks.
Thomas David Parker acted as unofficial door security in the second half, stopping noisy groups from coming in, all whilst wearing a t-shirt full of multi-coloured dicks, which I made myself (I am available for commissions!)
In-between the stories I read some mini delights I’d found whilst trawling the internet for erotica generators (my favourite form of procrastination). My personal favourite featured me, Christie, and her lifelong love Phillip Schofield. More at the bottom of this page.
We heard some great finish the lines, we drank wine, giggled a lot, we gave out badges… and then I’m sure everyone in the audience probably went home for a very big wank.
Stay tuned to SCW on Twitter for more info on future events, but if you’re hungry for more saucy silliness then please check out my podcast Fully Activated. Or not, don’t check it out if you don’t want to. I don’t care. Don’t check out the Fully Activated Podcast, on iTunes, Soundcloud, YouTube, acast, and all those places they have podcast. See if I care if you don’t… whatever.
Until next time, stay sexy!
If you’ve read some of my previous blog posts, first of all – thank you. You are one of my favourite people in the world. Secondly, you might know that I’ve lost myself into a world of dark, gross, unsexy erotica. It all started with a podcast called My Dad Wrote a Porno – you can read how it all happened here. Since then I've been having fun writing lots of my own silly erotica stories, which seem to have just gotten worse as time goes on. I’ve paid homage to Ghostbusters, Rocky Horror and Jurassic Park so far, and then there’s the ‘celebrities’. Nobody is safe.
I sometimes perform at a comedy open mic night in Bristol called Show and Tell, which is run by Sophie Bishop who used to be a member of my writing group (Stokes Croft Writers). It’s always great fun, and the audience are really nice and friendly so it feels like a safe environment, not filled with try-hard comedians or laddish blokes who think they're funny. There’s usually a theme, and the last one was ‘birthdays/Sophie Bishop’, which Sophie then backtracked on, saying ‘just birthdays’ but by that point it was too late. I had already planned what I was going to do.
I asked Sophie for her top 5 celebrities she would most like to sleep with, which she offered up with no issue at all (this is why I still maintain that she totally let herself in for it). I then wrote 3 of them into an erotic story (I used 3 because 5 was too many in one short story!):
Jesse Eisenberg (from The Social Network)
Gael Garcia Brunel (from The Motorcycle Diaries)
Gareth from Los Campesinos! (indie pop band)
But here’s the exciting part! My friend and fellow performer, Ellen Waddell, used to be in Los Campesinos!, so we started making sneaky plans, hoping that somehow we could include Gareth in some way…
So on the night we made sure I performed before Ellen (we told Sophie it was for absolutely no reason whatsoever) and I read my story called ‘A very sexy story for Sophie’s birthday which is very sexy.’
If you can handle the sexiness, here's a taste of it....
‘All this planet saving sure does make me horny,’ said sexy Gael Garcia Bernal. ‘Call in the slave.’
Jessie Eisenberg whistled and Gareth from Los Campesinos entered the room.
He looked at Jesse Eisenberg and sexy Gael Garcia Bernal and smiled. ‘Oh hi Jesse Eisenberg. Oh hi sexy Gael Garcia Bernal. What can I do for you today?’
‘Well, I’d very much like a blow job please,’ said sexy Gael Garcia Bernal.
‘Yes, blow jobs please,’ agreed Jesse Eisenberg. ‘But first, can you play a sexy tune your sexy glockenspiel to get us in the mood?’
‘Of course,’ said Gareth from Los Campesinos enthusiastically.
He played ‘Take on me’ by A-Ha, and they all did a little sexy dance, and it was all very sexy and very lovely. They were all starting to feel horny now and their willies were starting to twinge a little in excitement from all the sexy glockenspiel action.
There's me with my highly professional illustrations, which I spent hours doing myself.
Anyway, I’ll get on with the rest of my post quickly as I’m sure you’re probably eager to get off and relieve yourself after such sexy words. Ellen performed after me and surprised Sophie with a birthday video message from Gareth from Los Campesinos!, to which she seemed a mix of mortified and delighted (she did hug me after so I think it’s safe to say she doesn’t hate me...hopefully).
Apparently, some of the audience reactions to the erotica were mixed. Some thought it was hilarious (obviously just a small percentage of people get my sense of humour) but I should imagine many people were massively grossed out. That's okay. Nobody walked out and nobody vomited, so it's not that bad (but I’ll try harder next time!) To provoke a reaction with my writing is always great, even if that’s not in an obviously entertaining way. This was the first time I’d read my erotica to an audience so it was a good test. People seemed generally more shocked than I’d imagined, and that was one of the tame stories!
A friend of mine had a birthday shortly after so I decided I would carry on the birthday erotica thing. Anyone who knows me - yes, you will be getting birthday erotica from now on, sorry. In fact, even if you don’t know me, please feel free to get in touch if you want to commission a piece of birthday erotica (worth a try?)
Here’s an extract from a story I wrote for my friend's birthday. The story is called ‘The Rogers Get a Good Rogering’:
‘Oh no,’ said Roger Taylor from Queen, ‘I seem to have got caught with a flat, well how about that?’ He got out of the car and into the pouring rain. His hair was quickly soaking and dripped down his very sexy body, because for absolutely no reason at all he wasn’t wearing a shirt.
‘I know,’ he said to nobody, because he was alone, ‘I’ll go to that completely normal looking castle back down the road, which definitely wasn’t filled with singing, dancing transsexual aliens, who definitely won’t give me blowjobs.’
He arrived at the castle and was welcomed by two weird incestuous people wearing too much make-up, who then sang a song which had been way too over played at cheesy wedding discos.
All of a sudden, the music got slightly better, and Roger Daltrey from The Who (in the 70’s when he had curly hair and looked all hot) entered the room. He was wearing a black corset, stockings and suspenders and a tiny black thong which beautifully cupped his obviously very large penis and balls.
‘Oh hi Roger Daltrey from The Who,’ said Roger Taylor from Queen. ‘My car broke down, do you have a phone I might use?’
You may have picked up on some correlation between this and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but if so, that’s completely in your mind.
So, if you have a birthday coming up, be sure to give me a list of the celebrities you’d most like to sleep with or else I won’t be able to make your birthday complete with my bad erotica. You know you want to. There’s no crime in giving yourself over to pleasure.
So what’s next, you’re asking. Well, you’re probably not, but I’m going to tell you anyway. I’m writing lots of little erotic stories which I aim to record, using crap sound effects and funny voices, into some kind of amateurish podcast. If you’d be interested in getting involved then do let me know. If you are easily offended or get squeamish, or are not willing to get drunk and make sex noises, then you need not apply. Before you ask, no - payment will NOT be made in blow jobs, but when we’re all more famous than My Dad Wrote a Porno, then you’ll be thanking me.
Follow me on Twitter:
@RobertaRampant (for erotica only)
Like Bristol Show & Tell on Facebook!
UPDATE - I now have a 'sexy stuff' page - check it out here!
Just your average week, you know.
Monday was Talking Tales, our highly anticipated storytelling night set up by myself and my writing group - Stokes Croft Writers. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and hope everyone else did too! We seemed to have about 50 people, a turn out we were very pleased with for our first event. Roll on the next one!
We had readings from some amazingly talented writers including L.E. Turner, AA Abbott, Angela Brooks, Ellen Waddell, Mark Rutterford, Kevlin Henney and Pete Sutton. Thank you so much to all of them for coming along, performing and supporting the night. Christie was a wonderful compère, and she started off the evening with one of her own brilliant stories.
Chris Fielden and I read my story, Zombies on a Boat, which you can read in the 'To Hull and Back' Anthology. It went down an absolute storm and was such a joy to read. Thanks to everyone for making it so much fun!
The podcast will be coming soon!
The next Talking Tales will be on Monday 15th June 2015. Follow us on Twitter at @SCWriting and 'Like' our Talking Tales Facebook page!
Show and Tell
Next up was Show and Tell at Cafe Kino on Wednesday (15th April). My first attempt at something a little more like stand up, it's it's fair to say I was cacking myself a fair bit beforehand. But, I did it (with the help of a few wines!).
I managed to navigate a microphone, a laptop and my scrappy noted bullet points, and delivered my true story of my childhood pet...a psychotic, sexist, yet hugely entertaining, giant fish nicknamed 'Mr Blobby.'
But that's a story for another time...
Finally, a rather sleepy Mel managed to still make it along to Novel Nights on Thursday (16th April), for wonderful stories and experiences from Nikesh Shukla.
He sent a lamb chop into space. No really, he did...
I've bought a copy of his book, Meatspace, and am looking forward to reading it soon.
But first, I really do have to get some writing done and stop gallivanting...
Oh but the gallivanting is always so much fun!
Wednesday night was storytelling night at the Crofters Rights in Bristol - 'Let me tell you a story, Jack'.
I've only been able to go to this event a couple of times, just as a listener, but this time I took the plunge. I have never read anything out to an audience before, so of course I was absolutely terrified. I tried to play it down to myself though, just shrugging it off as no big deal and keeping myself busy at work all day to take my mind of it. My name was called and I managed to walk up to the microphone without falling over, then managed not to break the microphone stand, then managed not to waffle on and just read it. There were A LOT of eyes on me - must have been about 70 people I think.
I was unsure about taking part in storytelling to begin with as I wasn't sure I had the right sort of stage presence for it, if at all. I'm no actress so I'm rubbish at accents and putting on voices. So I'd chosen a story which didn't involve anything too taxing for Crofters Rights, and it was also one my less offensive reads!
So I started and just read and read. I didn't look up much, I wanted to but I was all too aware of all those eyes on me. I was also concerned with time as I didn't want to run on too long - we each had 5 minutes to stick to! But, a few people laughed at a few bits, then people clapped, and I don't think anyone booed, and I managed to get back to my seat safely without falling over or dying. I did it, and I could relax and enjoy the rest of the night and have a few wines. A few wines turned into rather a lot of wines in fact.
At the end of the night they gave out medals - one for a non-theme story and one for a themed story. Mine wasn't on their theme of Lies and Scandal, mine was about aliens (I guess maybe aliens are a bit scandalous though). Anyway, I WON! My first ever attempt at reading my story out to a crowd and I won a medal. Chuffed to blazers is an understatement.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole night. The organisers have done a wonderful job of making a well balanced night open to all creative people - stories, music, artists, everyone's welcome. I met so many other writers and really friendly, supportive people, and I felt welcomed into the storytelling 'scene'. It's a lovely, supportive community which I look forward to being a bigger part of.
Stokes Croft Writers are still on track for 'Talking Tales' - our own storytelling night - at Leftbank in Stokes Croft on 13th April, and I'm so excited! Be sure to Like our Facebook page for updates!