A short blog by my standards. Everything is crazy. Me, the world, my cat. Dizzy crazy, implode-explode crazy. The roller coaster up-down and a bombardment of thoughts and wishes and actions.
Because? Coming to you now, my ebook Desires Reborn. This is a revision of ‘Desires’ which came out in hard copy as part of the Innovate award almost 10 years ago.
I was passionate about the stories not being lost in the turbulent sea of Paralympic furore. Not merely because they are mine, my work created through sweat and broken heart, with commitment and faith. But because I want us to be three-dimensional, to be real, full-bloodied.
Here is the blurb. These things have to be done, though often I struggle with PR.
"As the London Paralympic Games bring unprecedented focus on disabled people, Penny Pepper releases the ebook 'Desires Reborn' - The explicit loves and losses, desires and disappointments of a group of disparate disabled characters'.
Penny brings, us a collection of stories examining this subject in a serious, sensitive, political and often full bloodied way. As one reviewer, writer Rob Young declared: 'An intelligent examination of love and desire. And why have grey, when you can have scarlet with Penny Pepper's work?'
Available in all ebook formats including
These stories represent pieces of me, from my heart, my head, my blood, my guts. They are part of my activism, part of what I feel I must do, and love to do.
Maybe lovely Mat Fraser should have the last word. Here’s a review he did:
"Finally a piece of sexy clever erotic fiction from the disabled woman's perspective. Turning negative expectations into post orgasmic exclamations, this is a revolutionary book that will at once turn you on, change your thinking, make you laugh, cry, and most of all realise that this kind of fiction is so long overdue it’s almost criminal. Sex is now in everyone's domain, and Penny Pepper's book could be the catalyst to make that change into the norm. Buy it, read it, enjoy it. I did."
I did it. Amazed myself and survived to tell the tale, crammed with feverish stories and kaleidoscope memories. All roasted and shaken in the rich, brash, varied flavours of New York.
I say roasted with meaning because it was hot. Blistering and humid, and when up the Empire State Building, I could see the thick smog arc hanging over and into the city. One day hit 39c - I don't believe I have known it that hot before in my whole life. Thank the gods for air con. Yet nothing could ruin this incredible adventure.
I was there primarily for work to get a feel for the city, meet people, and to do a performance at the Bluestockings, a radical feminist bookstore, at an event called 'CripLit' which was brought together by the maganificent NY burlesque queen Jo Weldon who worked with several crip woman at DadaFest last year to create 'Criptease'. Indeed, the first piece to be read (by Jo) was the DAO blog by our very own Sophie Partridge, who detailed the DadaFest event with much verve and colour.
Native New Yorker, Christine Bruno, who has visited the UK and worked on the disability arts scene on several occasions, read extracts from her one-woman show 'Screw You, Jimmy Choo', reminding me of what a talented actor she is. Other New York crips did interesting and intriguing pieces; a visually impaired woman telling the amusing story of the frustrations of being a VI bride and the discrimination she faced, and another set where one woman read a beautiful poem while her colleague stripped and danced and posed.
Aussie artist Kath Duncan – another Dadafest Cripteaser – had her deliciously raw and rampant story read out with great panache by Christine, an exceptional reading especially as Christine had not seen it till that moment.
Then it was the Brits. Our own institution of crip glory Mr Mat Fraser read a fab and filthy story, set in New York, and then it was me. Little ole me making my debut in New York. My mum will be staggered! I did my rather rude ‘Dr-Patient Relations’ spoken word burlesque, developed a few years ago with London based burlesque legend Jo King, and finished off with a new piece call ‘Alphabet Sex’.
I glowed and grinned and basked in my moment. I sold books and Bluestocking took copies as stock. Everyone was lovely and complimentary. I most certainly will return.
I’m full to the brim with New York and the stories will spill out into something very soon.
But for now, slowly recovering from jet lag, I have to turn my thoughts, if not energy quite yet, to the Edinburgh Fringe. I am there from Aug 22-27, performing the show ‘Adventures in the Dark and Light’ – in Princes shopping mall (!?). Quick note: I have floor/sofa bed space in a semi-accessible apartment if anyone is interest – reasonable rates.
But reflecting on an intense and exciting week, in which I felt I made progress with my work, I have to end on a sombre note. The ConDem cuts are hitting. Social services peer into our lives to trim and snip… and slash. A top-notch PA made my New York trip possible in the sense of appropriate support. Yet as budgets are challenged and we are pushed to live in conditions worse than convicted criminals, what then of our work and our aspirations?
The hypocrisy shouts as loud as we do – can we make them listen? We have to, for all our sakes – and not only to have the right to travel, but the right to exist.
The sun licks across my window and lures the blossom to bloom. At last! I’m bouncing off the walls, full of seesaw moods, happy-sad, melancholy-joyful, and dripping with creative sap. Mustn’t fall off the tightrope mind you. But isn’t it lovely to see some sunshine?
The last week or so has been a cram of activity. A new story ‘Nippy Days’, only written about 4 weeks ago, was selected to be read at ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ - a story telling event run by White Rabbit Theatre
The theme for stories was sex, and I hadn’t touched the subject for some years. How could I resist? The venue was Tonybee Studios, in the hip East End of London, very near to lively Brick Lane. The event offers free chip butties and ice-cream. Definitely a happy Jackanory time for grown ups.
I had a great posse of peeps to support me, including DAO blogger and all round superstar Sophie P. The venue was packed to overflowing and us wheelies edged in, causing happy chaos in the café. The actress who read my story did a great job and selected writers had the opportunity to send the stories to Ether Books, who publish to mobiles. I await their response with the usual mix of nerves and excitement.
A few days after this, I was performing at the cabaret event ‘Sunday Service’, at Carnivale, opposite Brick Lane (again!) This place has atmosphere, a hint of tatty grandeur and a suitable seedy edged cabaret charm. Access through the rear, passing by mysterious collections of grave stones, there was an accessible loo (rarity) but alas not to the stage.
With Jo Cox giving me her usual wonderful support on cello, staking a space on the floor, we opened each half of the sets and the audience seemed to lap it up. I will never forget the crowd urging me on to do the ‘Protest Song’, throwing in their own ad-libs and drumming on the tables. Maybe with a little help from our dear editor I can supply an audio file as I recorded most of the set?!
Pausing for a brief breath, next I’m preparing for my poetry and spoken word drop-in workshops for Shape. Technology did rather mess up my grand plans to play Youtube examples of different poets and styles, including Ian Dury doing ‘Bus Driver’s Prayer’, but I hope I made up for it by encouraging the group to experiment with personification, which is one of my favourite ways of stimulating the imagination for a poem.
In this case, giving inanimate objects human characteristics and taking that forward with a narrative or emotion. My prompt of ‘being’ President Roosevelt’s wheelchair resulted in some strong and interesting pieces from new and experience poets. I can’t wait for next week and hope more people will come along. (Roosevelt was a wheelchair user, a fact kept hidden from the public at the time). The workshops run every Tuesday 2-4pm until April 12th.
In between all this, I’ve finished a short film-poem, The Lover, a homage love letter to Leonard Cohen and almost finished an absurd little film about an item of disability ‘charity’ ephemera, which I connect.
My life is a crazy one on multiple levels. During all this wonderful activity I’ve also been a bit sickly, doing my pallid invalid impersonation, and been to court! Weird.
Never once, even when wobbling close to a dip-down or a fall, have I regretted a moment of being so immersed. I might be hyper but I’ll enjoy it if that’s OK.
Amid painful chaos and the world falling in I did a wonderful if tortuous thing. My thoughts still go through a cruel mangle and bits of me come out the other side in jagged fragments. A lot still hangs in a rather precarious balance – housing benefit issues, the benefit trap, lack of regular work, poor mental and physical health.
But then….? I don’t know whether it’s the meds – which were increased recently. I am less raw, but also less motivated and removed. I’m in the famous fog, slow in the anti-depressant dirge of non-emotion. At least the blunting of anxiety gives me a rest – you know, from simply feeling too much.
Maybe the task in hand needed that. My rational self had to push through, my humour had to kick me up the arse and say get this thing done girl!
The classic situation is that of having a novel I could not let go of. One therapist (a very nice one) suggested over some years I was frightened of success as much as failure. It was deep in me. What happens when you say ‘the novel is complete’ and you don’t have it there burning a weighty purpose into your being?
Well, the novel IS complete. It made it as a whole entity at 4am on Oct 10th 2010. Only a nine year journey of rewrites, of hiding in cupboards and on different PCs. ‘Fancy Nancy’ is ready to show her brazen face to the world whether it’s ready or not. I need an agent and a publisher – any ideas or pointers welcome! I will work on it, when motivation can be sustained.
Things felt different after this scary task. I’m hoping I can sustain it, because as the godly Leonard Cohen says in Anthem, ‘there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.’ This completion filled me with light, and I’d been missing that.Terribly.