I am delighted to announce that on August 28th 2016, I became the Creative Thinking World Champion at the 20th Mind Sports Olympiad.
Right now, I am a writer, editor, creative consultant, and performer. I am also the news editor for the Alliance of Independent Authors, running a column every Tuesday on the week’s self-publishing news.
I have an archive page. It’s like one of those olde worlde sweete shoppes full of all kinds of confection, and most definitely the place to go if you want to see examples of my work, read lists of my projects, and find links of commissions and collaborations. If, however, you are sitting there asking yourself, “So this guy’s a writer, I wonder if he ever thought about writing a memoir?” I guess this page is my way of saying, “No, because whilst I’m good at what I do when it comes to editing, even I couldn’t make any kind of coherent narrative out of this.”
I learned some stuff
I am one of those people who turned up in Oxford as a clueless undergraduate and never ended up leaving. Believe me, we are legion. Hang around Radcliffe Square after a particularly heavy storm and you’ll see us emerge, blinking and bemused, from the cracks in the dreaming spires. I followed a First in Theology and Philosophy with a Masters in Theology, and two decades later I found myself back (inasmuch as anyone can be “back” when they never really left), as Head of Administration and Finance at the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics.
I Wrote some stuff
In 2011, my psychological thriller The Company of Fellows was voted “Favourite Oxford Novel” by Blackwell’s readers, but my fiction tends towards the avant garde. In 2009 I wrote a novel interactively on Facebook after which Mashable listed me as one of the top writers on Twitter (I know), and 2013’s Evie and Guy was written wholly in numbers, which earned me a coveted slot in Private Eye’s Pseuds’ Corner.
I spent three very happy years as a columnist for writers’ magazine Words With Jam, have had the pleasure of writing for the mental health magazine One in Four, and contributing to the Guardian Books Blog. If the subject is self-publishing or avant-garde culture, there are very few corners of the internet where you won’t find my scribblings. You can find some of them in the archive. More recently, it’s been a pleasure to be involved in the work of the Alliance of Independent Authors, from being a panellist at their launch in 2012 to speaking at London Book Fair and co-authoring one of their campaign books, Opening Up to Indie Authors.
I spoke some stuff
Like many introverts, I am far happier standing on a stage in front of several hundred than I am prowling like a cornered animal at a small social gathering. As soon as I started writing seriously, I realized I loved performing just as much, and started organising gigs bringing together writers and musicians from across the UK and often further afield. The first event was held at Rough Trade in Brick Lane in early 2010, and that year I won the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match. I took up performance poetry in 2011, set up the touring troupe of troubadours The New Libertines, and taken them to the venues varying from Three Minute Theatre in Manchester’s legendary Afflecks Palace to literary festivals as disparate as Stoke Newington and Chipping Norton.
I did some puzzles
I’ve always loved puzzles, but it became serious one particularly miserable winter when I was looking for an excuse not to go outside during the lunch hour at school, and it so happened a school bridge club had just started up. A couple of years on, I was at university, staying up till it was light each morning practising, appearing in five Varsity matches and getting to travel to Europe as a member of the GB under-20 and then under-25 team. In 2000 I became World Intelligence Champion, and was the first person to be awarded grandmaster status for intelligence by the Mind Sports Olympiad. I have also been bronze medallist at the World Creative Thinking Championships (1997) and World Mindmapping Championships (2000).
My competitive puzzling isn’t always so cerebral – before I discovered slam poetry I satisfied my craving for a crowd by appearing on TV game shows from the sublime (winning Countdown, 15-1, The Weakest Link) to the ridiculous (One to Win and Brainteaser anyone?), but the highlight was appearing on Mastermind with the Hannibal Lecter novels as my specialist subject.
I was bad at games. Three decades later I was not so bad at games
I was terrible at games at school. But I have always loved the idea of pushing myself to the absolute extremes of possibility, and extreme sport stars feature high among my heroes. In my late 20s I discovered powerlifting. It had three ingredients that made it perfect: it wasn’t a team sport; when you told people you were a powerlifter they looked at you like you were a bit of a freak; and it had a real simplicity – the aim is to lift more, plain as that. It was exactly this simplicity that drew me to running ultramarathons fifteen years later. Go out of the door and run far. It doesn’t get simpler than that. And if people look at you like you’re weird when you say you’re a powerlifter, try the looks you get when you say you’ve just run 100 kilometres. Without stopping.