Monday, 27 October 2014

Genre Spoof Competition - The Winners!

We are chuffed to bits to announce the winner and runners-up of our genre spoof competition! Congratulations to everyone! All to be published in the Bookmuse Readers’ Journal, on sale in November. Read our first prize-winning spoof below to whet your appetite...

WINNER (£30 Amazon Voucher)

The Artemis Descent by Cul Quest (Paul Long)


Bats in the Belfry by Madeleine McDonald

Bounty Hunter by Debb Bouch  

Creepy Killers Can’t Climb Stairs by Susan Rocks  

Dripsnot Goes in Search of a Wife! by Moya Rooke  

I. S.P.Y. by Colin Willison  

The Iron Maiden by Jo Furniss  

Lord of the Wings by Judith Field  

Quite a Few Hues of Green by Candida Verity (Pauline Brown)  

The Case of the Facebook Identity by Gargi Mehra  

The Lourdes of the Reeds by Roger Pattison  

The Pot Thickens by Susan Howe  

The Rummy Business of Incest and Infidelity by Maureen Bowden  

Whatever Next? by Edward Binge

All runners up will receive a printed copy of the Bookmuse Readers' Journal.

The Artemis Descent by Cul Quest (Paul Long)

Lecturer in Ancient Vegetables, Saxon Rout, addressed the assembled throng.

“And that is why the turnip is responsible for the Colossus of Rhodes,” he said, finishing his lecture, and the crowd erupted into a mass of ecstatic applause, several patrons fainting at the immensity of his revelations.

Art allowed himself a wry smile. His field – vegetable based antique divination – was a small one, but he was the expert in his discipline. Just then his red phone rang.

“Come to the British Museum at once,” implored the strange voice on the other end. “It is of earth-shattering portent!”


Saxon stared down at the dead body of the old man on the floor as Reginald Crawl hovered worriedly by his side.

“When we found him he was holding nothing but this,” said Reginald, showing Saxon a dirt covered spoon.

Suddenly police sirens pealed.

“They must not discover you with the body!” panicked Reginald. “Come with me! ”


From the back of the van Saxon turned the dirty spoon over in his hands as he contemplated it. From the markings on the crechante – or tip of the handle – he could tell it was of ancient stock, possibly pre-Sumerian but more probably from ancient Greece, around the time of the Cretan architect Chersiphron. However, a small indentation, possibly carrot shaped, spoke of a history more applicable to the time of Christ, as everything seemed to be these days.

Saxon was just contemplating the possibility that the smudge marks on the faffan – or tip of the spoon – may have been caused by some act of arson, possibly on one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, when the van juddered to a halt.

The door opened to reveal Reginald with a Luger in one hand and a spade in the other.

“I’m afraid I’ve uncharacteristically changed my mind,” he weasled. “The reputation of the British Museum is more important than your life, which is why I have driven you to Turkey where I shall kill you and dispose of your body.” Reginald coughed, dropping the spade onto the threshold of the door. “Any last words?”

“May I adjust my tie?” asked Saxon, and then suddenly dropped the spoon which clattered onto the metal surface of the van floor.

Reginald gasped and leapt for the spoon, allowing Saxon enough time to pick up the spade and artfully thump him over the back of the head, knocking him out cold.

Saxon was now stuck in Turkey, with no idea what to do next, and then noticed something which would not be revealed until the next chapter.


A secret map, squirrelled away in the pocket of Reginald Crawl, revealed a cryptic statement. “For whom the Temple holds dear, let Lydia lead the way.” As far as Saxon knew there was only one historical artefact in Turkey known as ‘Lydia’, and that was the ancient kingdom of Lydia where it’s population once spoke the Anatolian language of Lydian, and where the first satrap – or governor – was Tabulus, who was appointed by Cyrus the Great.

Saxon closed down Wikipedia and set off on his destination.


Saxon made his way through the Byzantine ruins, searching for a clue. Although his field was mainly vegetable based he had some precursive knowledge of other ancient artefacts, and it was this knowledge which allowed him to catch sight of the etching in the side of the ruins. It was the shape of a man with long hair who bore a striking similarity to Robert Powell. One hand pointed off to the left, and Saxon turned his head to judge what the outstretched finger was pointing at.

Of course, Saxon erupted internally. It all fell into place.


The ancient Temple of Artemis – one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Once a large palace filled with life and laughter, and now a ruined wasteland of pillars and stone.

As Saxon walked through the rubble he pondered what stories the ancient stone could tell him. Stories of love, hate, intrigue and other things.

Now the word count was reaching its maximum potential Saxon suddenly noticed an etching of an ancient Brussel sprout in the base of one of the pillars, with an arrow pointing upwards. Above him, around the top of the pillar, unfurled a story, one which held some earth shattering secrets for mankind, and one which, luckily, no one else had noticed yet, lacking the ancient vegetable based knowledge Saxon had.


Saxon burst into the underground inner chamber in the British Museum to find Reginald Crawl, the chief of police, both the front bench and the shadow front bench, and several members of the royal family all sharing a cup of tea.

“Your secret is no longer safe!” Saxon cried. “The man who built the Temple of Artemis was also the artisan who created the first cup of tea Jesus ever drank! And furthermore, it was a divine Brussel Sprout which led the Magi to his crib! Soon the world shall know!”

Reginald collapsed to his knees, weeping. “Do not approach the media with this news of earth shattering importance. If the world knew the truth society as we know it would crumble at the seams, for some unspecified reason. For I am the descendant of the Brewer of Jesus’ Tea, and the fame would kill me, again for some unspecified reason.”

“Why did you kill the man with the spoon?” investigated Saxon.

“He died of natural causes, taking the secret of how many sugars Jesus had with the tea,” expositioned Reginald. “We thought you could find out the truth! I only pretended to try to kill you in Turkey so you wouldn’t connect me with the amount of sugars required!”

“And that secret will stay with me.”

“Tell us!” shrieked Reginald as Saxon turned his back on them and left the building, a wry smile on his face. After all, he knew the secret. The answer was no sugars.


The Bookmuse Readers' Journal

You know the sort. He’s always got his nose in a book. She forgets the time because of a story. Their shelves are creaking but they can’t walk past a bookshop. Natural habitat? The library. Paperback, ebook, cereal packet, doesn’t matter – if it’s got words, they will read.

You know who I’m talking about.

For a reader, there is no greater gift than a book.

We present The Bookmuse Readers’ Journal, a precious little tome specially designed for booklovers. It’s got everything: quotes on reading, note pages for your to-be-read pile, entertaining genre spoofs, a framework for reviewing, Bookmuse reviews and recommendations, snippets of author interviews and all things bookish.

Give it to the reader in your life.

On sale now, just in time for You Know What.

Friday, 3 October 2014

My Name Is...

by Catriona Troth

Sudha Bhuchar - photo by Robert Day
My Name Is... is a play by Sudha Bhuchar, currently on a short tour with the Tamasha Theatre Group.
It is based on the true story of a twelve year old Scottish/Pakistani girl who disappeared from her home on the Isle of Lewis.

When the story first exploded onto the front pages of British tabloid newspapers in 2006, it seemed like a classic tug-of-love, clash-of-cultures story – a young girl ‘kidnapped’ by her father and taken to Pakistan to undergo a forced marriage with an older man.

The true story was far more nuanced, as Sudha Buchar’s script, drawn from many hours of interviews, reveals.

At the Platform Theatre at Central St Martins in London, a tiny stage encompasses two sitting rooms, one in Pakistan and one on the Isle of Lewis. At the back of the stage, half obscured by a gauze curtain, are the newspaper headlines that sought to force them into one or another stereotypical box. More newspaper cuttings litter the floor.

The picture that emerges is complex and layered. By allowing us to see each family member as a true individual, by allowing their stories to unfold over time, we see how the free and easy mixing of communities in the 1980s was slowly warped by events happening in the wider world. How a damaged young woman’s need to belong drove her to create a version of herself as a perfect Muslim wife until, in her own words ‘Suzy was gone, well and truly gone.’ This is a pressure cooker created, not by the clash of cultures, but by these families and these individuals.

Bhuchar has resisted the temptation to fictionalise the story (apart from altering the names) and instead stays with the authentic voices of the three family members - father, mother and daughter – as they tell their story from different sides of the world. And those voices have extraordinary directness.

But this is not strictly ‘verbatim’ writing either. Bhuchar has shaped the script, interweaving the stories and letting the voices cut across each other, so that we hear two versions of the parents’ first meeting, two versions of family’s hajj to Mecca. At times the actors cross the invisible divide to take part in a remembered scene or speak words attributed to them by one another. At times, too, they break through a kind of ‘third wall,’ to address, not the audience in the theatre, but the original audience of Bhuchar and her tape recorder.

Afterwards, playwright and actors took part in a New Writing Platform discussion with the audience, looking the process of creating My Name Is... and the challenges of verbatim theatre This was first in a new series of events presented by the MA Dramatic Writing course run by University of the Arts London, to explore, discuss and share new ideas.

Bhuchar began by explaining how she was drawn to the story by an article in the Guardian, the first that attempted to reach beyond stereotypes and accusations, and how she approached the family and asked to interview them. She flew to Pakistan and spent several days with father and daughter. The daughter then persuaded the mother to see her, and she spent several more days on Lewis with her. The result was 120 pages of interview transcripts which took eight years to shape into this play.

“The technique came in layers,” Bhuchar explained. “I’d never worked like this in my life! To begin with I thought that I would fictionalise the story, but nothing I wrote had the power of the original words. In the end the promise I made was that, however I shaped it, I must not make up any words”

Asked about her interview technique, Bhuchar spoke of not having her own agenda, about having empathy, about being interested in simply ‘overhearing.’ One of the ways she got the mother to open up was to go back to the very beginning of the story, to when the two of them met, when they had been happy together. “Usually people don’t ask me that,” she was told.

Of the three actors, only Kiran Sonia Sawar who plays ‘Gaby/Ghazala’ wanted to listen to the interview tapes to catch the nuances of the original voices. Umar Ahmed, who plays ‘Farhan’, grew up in Pollokshields and actually knew the father by sight. Karen Bartke who is from Glasgow but from a different background to ‘Suzy’, didn’t want her performance to descend into mere imitation and found it easier to connect with the emotion through the scripts – something she did with incredible power.

Early this year, the cast had the chance to perform the play with mother and daughter (now back living in Scotland) in the audience – something that was terrifying but also profoundly gratifying. Seeing their parents’ early lives together played out, in their own words, was particularly moving for the daughter. She told the actors afterwards that, as the youngest child, she had almost no memory of her parents being happy together.

At the end of the discussion, one of the audience members commented that he had been waiting all through it for the author to come down on one ‘side’ or another. Yet that never happens. By allowing each of the characters their own authentic voice, she manages to preserve a balance, so that your heart reaches out to each of them in turn.

You can read the Guardian article the first inspired Bhuchar to write the play here.

And you can read my interview with Sudha Bhuchar about her time as Artistic Director of Tamasha here.

Sudha Buchar: Making a Commotion with Tamasha

by Catriona Troth

Tamasha is a Hindi word meaning a commotion or creating a stir. And for the last 25 years, the Tamasha Theatre Group, founded by Sudha Buchar and Kristine Landon-Smith, has been creating a stir, first as a voice for the South Asia diaspora in Britain, and more recently as a voice for a whole range of rarely represented cultures.

Sudha Bhuchar - photo by Robert Workman
Now, a few months before she hands over the reins of the company to her successor, Bhuchar talks to Catriona Troth about Tamasha’s past, present and future.

“I began working with Jatinder Verma at Tara Arts. At that time it was just a community group, and I
wasn’t a professional actor. I was a chronically shy teenager and it would never have occurred to me to be an actor. But I became involved because I was hungry to engage like-minded people,” Bhuchar begins.

Her long-term partner at Tamasha, Kristine Landon-Smith, was already a professional actor when she joined Tara a few years later, playing a male part in Broken Thigh, a play based on a story from the Mahabarat. In the course of that tour, the two became close friends.

It was on one of her occasional trips home to see her family in India that Landon-Smith became involved in promenade performance of the modern Indian classic novel Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand. She brought a video of the production back to show Bhuchar, and the two realised there were no equivalent contemporary stories of the Asian diaspora on the British stage. It was to fill that gap that the two women set up the Tamasha Theatre Company in 1989.

“We had some seed funding from Tara and they hosted a reading of Untouchable. Then we got some Arts Council funding to do a tour and got into Riverside Studios. But we were incredibly naive. We didn’t realise that we had effectively underwritten the show. If the production had failed, we would have been £60k in debt. Fortunately it didn’t fail.”

Some of their casting challenges were extraordinary. “Untouchable was a cast of 10 or 11, mostly young boys, and we had this crazy idea to perform it one night in English and one night in Hindi. So we were looking for a cast of bilingual boys! But we have always searched for new talent – not necessarily on the radar, not necessarily from drama schools.

“Back then, there was a real hunger among Asian audiences. Phillip Headley at Stratford East wanted to engage with the audience on his doorstep, so he asked us what we could do. Our first couple of shows – like House of the Sun which was set in a block of flats in Bombay – were adaptations of novels. Back then, there was still subsidy available, so one show led to another.

“That went on for several years. We didn’t think about this ‘company’ per se – we just thought about the next show. Then in 1993, Oxfam approached us to do something connected with their work for their 50th Anniversary. Out of that came, Women of the Dust, a play inspired by Sunil Gupta’s photographs of the women labouring on construction sites in India.”

But it was the success of Ayub Khan Din’s celebrated play, East is East, which Tamasha first brought to the stage in 1996, that proved the real turning point.

“That play went mad and at that point we decided to accept that Tamasha was a company and not just a successions of projects.”

At this point, for the first time, they applied for fixed term funding from the Arts Council. Landon-Smith was becoming serious about the directing side of things, and also about teaching. So Tamasha began to develop a training side, which has now grown into Tamasha Developing Artists (TDA).

TDA, which was formally launched in 2004, is an artist-led professional development programme for emerging and established talent. It offers training courses, workshops, masterclasses, bursaries and ongoing professional support, and aims to ‘train and nurture the artistic individuality of the theatre voices of tomorrow, and to take positive action to encourage greater diversity in British theatre.’ It now represents fifty percent of Tamasha’s business.

Bhuchar has worked as actor, playwright and artistic director. Does her heart lay with one of those roles, or does she see them as interconnected?

“It has all come out of being young and Asian in this country. When we were growing up, we thought what we were experiencing, only we were going through it. Then my sister and I went to a Diwali function at Tara. They were doing sketches about the generation gap and questioning religion and our parents and racism.

“It was all those things that led you to hang out with people like yourself, which somehow led to acting. And then the writing came out of a lack of opportunities as an actor. And the need is still there.

“But I never woke up one day and thought ‘I’m going to be a pioneer.”

Does she think it would it be harder to start something like Tara now?

“It is harder, because the funding it not there. On the other hand, nowadays there are unpaid opportunities like development and scratch nights.

“In the 80s, if you went to the National Film Theatre to see a Satyajit Ray film, everyone you knew would be there. Now there is a lot more going, yet it is still on the margins. It is hard to see proper change, proper shaking up of the mainstream.

“For a while, there a wave both in theatre and in television. I was in an all-Asian programme on Central television that went out at seven thirty in the evening. Yes it was a niche programme with a niche audience. But now there is an assumption that we are all integrated. You have your Asian family on Eastenders and Emmerdale and sure, fine. But the community has grown enormously and the representation is abysmal. So people like me go, ‘Oh, my god, where is the tangible difference?’

“If Tamasha has branched out over the years, it is not because the need to represent South Asian voices has diminished. Rather, we have branched out because we recognised that need was shared by many other groups too. We used to have courses for British Asian writers only, and then we would have others knocking on our doors, saying ‘there is no other place for us – can we be British Asian for the day?’ So we started to ask ourselves why we were creating these barriers.

“Now, someone has said to us that being in a Tamasha rehearsal room is like being on the top of a London bus and actually there are no other places like that.”

Landon-Smith went back to Australia in 2013, and now Bhuchar herself is looking to move on too. So why now?

“We used to say Tamasha was Kristine and me and if we didn’t want to carry on, we would fold up and someone else could start something new. But with the growth of TDA, we realised Tamasha had grown beyond the two of us. And once you acknowledge something has outgrown you, then you start thinking how and when you will be succeeded.

“We had talked about 25 years being the right time to move on. Then she was headhunted for a wonderful job in Australia. [Landon Smith is now a lecturer in acting at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, in Sydney.] We were in the first year of a three year plan for Tamasha, and it made sense for me to stay on. It was very important for us to pass on the identity of the company, its legacy, its history, to someone who had time to be embedded. Finn Kennedy was appointed through a huge open process. And now he and I are coming towards the end of an eighteen month process of working together.”

So what does the future hold for Tamasha?

“Finn talks about ‘making work along cultural fault lines’ - whether that is race or class or religion. He has had ten years as writer-in-residence at Mulberry School for girls in Tower Hamlets. He has changed the culture of that school, from a time when girls were not allowed to be in a drama group, to taking an all Muslim cast in a play written by him to the Edinburgh Festival.

“Finn was also behind ‘In Battalions,’ a report into the effect of Arts Council cuts on theatres' capacity to develop new plays and playwrights. That came about in response to a conversation with Culture Minister, Ed Vaisey, in which he claimed the cuts were having ‘no effect.’ That has been like a call to arms.

“So he is someone very passionate. Quite political. And he is a writer. So maybe things will become a little more writer-focused.”

And what lies in the future for Sudha Bhuchar?

“That is hard to answer, because I don’t have a new job to go to.

“My job has been about nurturing other artists, about administration, about fundraising. I want to catch my breath, think about myself. I am not a teacher in the way that Kris and Finn are. I want to be creating work.

“Part of our work over the last three years has been under the umbrella of Small Lives, Global Ties. I guess I will always be interested in ordinary people leading extraordinary lives. So I will be exploring new collaborations to tell those stories.

“I do have a couple of projects in mind. One is called Golden Hearts, which is about the fact that Asian men are particularly vulnerable to heart disease. That began as a Scratch Night and then I realised I needed to do something more with it. I am hoping to work with the British Heart Foundation on that.

“The other is an adaptation of White Mughals by William Dalrymple (the true story of a love affair between a British army officer and a Muslim woman in 18th Century India). I am trying to get that off the ground with a company called Dash Arts, who did a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in eight different Indian languages!

“But the whole thing is predicated on getting partners and getting money. So we will see. Maybe I will just decide to go and do yoga and recharge my batteries for a while!

“As one of the TDA artists told me, ‘Jump off a cliff and the universe will be there to catch you.’”

East is East is being revived in the West End this autumn. Read more here.

And you can read about the development of Sudha Bhuchar’s play My Name Is... here.

We hope to have an interview with Finn Kennedy, Tamasha’s incoming Artistic Director, in a future issue of Words with Jam.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A Shower of Golden Rules – or How to make social media work for you by Derek Duggan

There are a lot of pressures on writers these days. Not only do you have to write books and stuff but now, with the demands of an ever present public, you have to write about other things across several platforms.

This can seem a little daunting to the novice, but there are some simple rules and once you follow them you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank (and then, as a writer, crying all the way home again). First, and most conspicuously, you will have to make regular posts on social media sites. This can be a little bit tricky as you have to show people that you, as a writer, are better than everyone else while making yourself seem like a regular Joe Soap at the same time. It doesn’t matter which platform you choose, the rules are the same.

1. Wine/alcoholic beverages. You have to mention wine in at least every other post or people will think you’re not an alcoholic and therefore not a real writer. It doesn’t matter if you’re really a teetotaler, you still have to post things like – Hey, is it wine o’ clock yet? – or – It must be beer thirty – or – It must be time to down a bottle of whiskey and shit the bed by now! Nobody will buy your work if you don’t do this. In a recent study at the British University of Made up Studies it was found that the amount of times wine was mentioned on a writer’s time line was directly proportional to the amount of sales achieved. And that’s a fact. If you can’t think of any wine related thing to say why not simply post a link to some online article that says drinking lots of wine makes you really good at doing everything and makes you really healthy and people who live under bridges and shout at traffic are just doing it wrong. This will help you to connect with regular alcoholics and convince them to buy your stuff.

2. Work in progress. You have to mention this from time to time or people might forget that you’re not just someone who lives under a bridge and shouts at traffic. Don’t go into details – just say something about drafts and word counts and that should keep everyone happy. In this way you can connect with regular people by pretending that you do some work too and don’t actually spend the whole day farting about on the internet.

3. Stuff about dogs/cats. It’s a well-known fact that people who are interested in buying books are much more interested in photos of your dog than they are in your reviews. Think about it - How many times have you come across a novel that has all five star reviews on Amazon only to be put off buying the book when, on inspection of the author’s Facebook page, it turns out they haven’t posted twenty five pictures of their dog sitting on the couch in the last half an hour? I think you can see the logic in this. It will help to show that you have as little in your life as ordinary people and thus connect with them.

4. Wine. See number 1.

5. Links to grammar tests. You need to post one of these a month to show how good you are at doing English and to remind other people that they are shit at it. This will show people that you’re dead clever and that because you got ten out of ten on this online test your book is obviously a work of genius and is definitely worth reading. People don’t want to think that the book they’re reading is stupid as they feel it might reflect badly on them and people will think they’re a thicko. Dan Brown probably got ten out of ten on several online grammar tests. I rest my case.

6. Food stuff. In case all the animal pictures haven’t convinced the general readers out there that you are at least as boring as them there is always room for the occasional food post. Just stick up a photo of your dinner and watch your book sales soar. Everyone loves a good picture of someone else’s dinner. A recent study done by a University somewhere found that when normal people sit down with their families at night after being at work all day all they want to do is pick up their tablets and look at pictures of other people’s dinner. They can’t get enough of it. And the study found that when people see a picture of some potatoes and random meat and boiled-to-fuck vegetables on Facebook, the first thing they do is to go to Amazon and buy a book. It’s in a scientific study so it must be absolutely true.

7. Links to a good review you just got. There’s nothing that excites common people more than knowing that a writer they know has just received a five star review on Amazon or somewhere. Most ordinary folk can’t wait to read how LoveCats169 couldn’t put your book down and they’ll be delighted that she’s managed to spell most of the words correctly in her review. This shows how normal people, just like the other people you know on Facebook, would like your book if they read it.

8. Wine. See number 1.

And that’s it for social media. See? It’s nothing to be worried about.
Glad I could help.