Alexander Gordon Smith

Archive for the Category Fish



If you’re wondering why it has all been a little quiet around here lately, it’s because I have been shipwrecked!! Not literally, of course, but I have been writer in residence for a couple of weeks in the fascinating Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth. They approached me a while back to ask if I’d be interested in teaching creative writing to school groups in the museum, and being a huge fan of all things maritime, I said yes.

The museum is an incredible place, and really worth visiting if you’re in the area. It’s also a little… smelly, as the building used to be a fish curing factory (as in, they were preserved, not as in they were sick and they came here to get better). Even though it hasn’t been used for years, it’s still a bit like getting whacked round the face by a wet herring when you walk in the door. But you soon get used to it, and there really is so much to see and do here.

It may look like Alexander Gordon Smith, but his name is Thaddeus Sampson Ulysses Meriwether, Esquire (and the sideburns are called Hercules and Charles)!

As for my role, the creative writing sessions were all about shipwrecks in the 19th Century, so I didn’t want to be Alexander Gordon Smith, the modern writer. Instead, I donned a top hat and some incredibly hairy mutton chop sideburns (called Hercules and Charles) and became Thaddeus Sampson Ulysses Meriwether, Esquire, the world famous newspaper reporter. Well, he likes to think he’s world famous, but in actual fact he’s slightly rubbish and desperate for the world to take him seriously. It was quite good fun pretending to be somebody else for a couple of weeks, and I’m a little sad to hand Thaddeus over to the freelancers who will be running my session from now on. I got quite attached to the bumbling Victorian gentleman!

And I’m not sure what happened to Hercules and Charles, they escaped before I could get them back in their cage…

The school groups were all brilliant, and did amazing work. The kids were aged from 6-9, so quite a bit younger than the ones I usually work with, but the ideas they came up with for their shipwreck stories were amazing! I think my favourite suggestion had to be the giant clumsy chicken monster wearing a bra, pants and a hat which accidentally sunk the ship while it was out for its morning swim. Genius!! Thanks to all the classes who took part in my session, you were fantastic. And a huge thanks too to John, Liam, Gary and everybody else at the museum for making Thaddeus feel so welcome! All in all, it was an amazing two weeks.

But I won’t miss that smell…

Oh, and I put together some resources for the sessions and I’ll post some of them up here soon in case any of you want to use them for your writing.

Until then, this is the remarkably renowned, incredibly talented, much loved, almost royal, beautifully coiffured and behatted, ever modest Victorian reporter Thaddeus Sampson Ulysses Meriwether, Esquire, saying farewell and good day!

A Break Between Edits…

I’ve just sent off the final proof edit for Furnace: Solitary, which feels great. It is a terrifying, spine-chilling, bowel-loosening feeling, though, sending a book off for the final time. I mean even in this final read-through I found some more typos. Frank, my uncle and a great proof-reader (and writer), found one where I’d written ‘nose’ instead of ‘noise’. How do these things slip through?! There are bound to be some typos in the finished book, but I guess that’s just life. And it happens to everyone. I recently read on the wonderful and mega-famous Darren Shan’s blog that his latest Demonata book had a whopping great big typo on the last page where the publisher had run some text on from the last line. Which is awful!

Anyway, Furnace 2 is now done and dusted, and it’s now straight on to the copy edit for Furnace 3. Copy edits are less stressful than proof edits, I find, as you know you’ll have a couple more chances to change anything further down the line. However, they are a lot more work because they often involve some big and complicated structural edits, and sometimes rewrites of entire sections of the book. But I’ve only got until Friday to get this back to Trevor, the fantastic copy-editor, so I’m hoping it won’t be too bad…

Before I crack on with that, though, here’s a quick rundown of the highlights from the last few days:

Thursday: Lynsey, Lucy and I went to Yarmouth for a quick visit to the Sea Life Centre, which was fab. There are loads of great fish and other sea creatures there, some of which you can touch. I even prodded a starfish, although was told afterwards that I’d actually poked it in the bum (which is right in the middle of its back). Nice! The highlight of the place was the octopus, which was only small but which was truly mesmerising to watch. They are so graceful, and so alien, and so beautiful. And they’re as clever as dogs, cleverer actually as they can unscrew jars if they want whatever’s inside, and I’ve never seen a dog unscrew a jar! After that we walked along the seafront playing on the arcades and eating fish and chips and doughnuts. Great fun! The only disappointment about the day was that Jamie didn’t want to come. He wanted to go into town with his friends and buy World of Warcraft. Oh where has my lovely little brother gone?!

I popped into town afterwards to meet up with some friends, Luke, John and Nathan. But by 10 we were all knackered, and Luke, bless him, had actually fallen asleep in the bar. It’s terrible getting old.

Friday: Lucy was at a sleepover so Lynsey and I went to see Let the Right One In, which is an amazing Swedish vampire film. I won’t say too much about it, other than that it is remarkably atmospheric, and terrifying. The two main actors, both children, are fantastic, and the film instantly catapulted its way into my top five vampire films of all time. Go see it! I’m going to buy the book as well, as apparently it’s also really, really good.

Saturday: My good friend Joel is getting married in a couple of weeks, and to celebrate his Stagness we decided to do something outdoorsy and adventurous. Luke booked fourteen of us at Go Ape, which is a massive assault course set 35 feet above the ground in Thetford Forest. I’ve been before, and remembered very little about it except for being covered in cold sweat and shaking like a leaf by the time I’d finished. It seemed a little better this time round, but it’s still bloody hard work. It’s all climbing rope ladders, crossing tiny bridges, swinging over the ground on Tarzan swings, struggling up rope nets and speeding down ziplines, which was all terrifying but great, great fun. By the time I’d finished I was definitely at least 3% more of a man than when I’d started. After that it was curry then beer, although I managed to get away with only having four pints and a cup of tea, and as a result lost the 3% gain in manliness that I had accrued earlier than day. Never mind.

Sunday: I was on the radio, see below!

Monday: Kung Fu again, and we’re all really getting into it now. We’ve finished learning the first form, and plenty more to boot. So much fun! And Jamie seemed much more himself today as well, rather than the sulky teenager we’ve got used to. It was fun watching Lucy and Jamie playing around crazily like they always used to!

So that’s about it for the last few days. I’d better get on with the edit now, wish me luck!