…and so concludes another year, arguably my best to date. When I first sat down to consider my year I struggled to piece anything together, to draw memories out from my temple with the tip of my Phoenix feather cored Holly wand and place them into the Pensieve. I struggled to recall exactly what had happened this year. Once I started joining the dots however I realised this year has been rather fantastic.
I wrote. I stood. I flew. I gigged. I joined. I rode. I fought. I bled. I ate. I drank. I puked. I smoked. I ran. I walked. I crawled. I competed. I attended. I submitted. I blogged.
Here is my review of 2013:
I started the year with a rather ambitious set of resolutions. I refuse to suffer the poison of fools who do not subscribe to the ‘new year, new you’ philosophy. Whilst I agree that if you really wanted to do something you would have done it already, the first step is a good mental attitude and if you can’t even bring that together then you’re not going to manage to achieve anything.
My resolutions for 2013 were:
Finish first draft of Hold On
Finish first draft of Six
Raise £1,000 for The Prince’s Trust
Get fit before October
Record an EP
Enjoy my life
I’ve tried my hardest to get published. It is a lot trickier than I possibly gave credit. To date I have submitted the first three chapters along with cover letters, synopses and bios of three different novels; Situation 1, Visions Of Violet and The Stamp Collective. I’ve had small victories in the form of submissions taking months to be returned rather than days, and even received a hand-written note from an agency head which I took away as a complete win. I’m still waiting on a number back for The Stamp Collective which I only sent off in early December.
Those attempts aside I did manage to self-publish a book of short stories; Where Did All The Money Go? Doing this offered up opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. People were very fucking cool about it, very supportive and I need to once again thank the people who read it along the way (Stacy, Kate, Ben, Adam, Sam, Emily) and I am still indebted to Adam Gardner for his cover design. He’s become my artist of choice this year and it doesn’t matter if I still owe him a bottle of Metropolis and the biggest box of Tick Tock I can find he will continue to get first refusal on everything I do.
I have a first draft of Hold On although the title has completely changed. It became one of the two books I wrote during NaNoWriMo, but there will be more on that later.
Getting a first draft of Six together in the form of which I intended has not happened. This year Ben and I who are ‘Six’ in human form took on an entirely separate beast altogether and I’m so proud of it and I’m excited to see where we go in 2014.
I keep receiving emails from JustGiving to advise me my page is about to close. The final amount raised for The Prince’s Trust for my Sahara Trek was £1,115.00. I owe so many people a thank you for that. It is an incredible amount of money and I love everyone who sponsored me this year.
How subjective is the idea of getting fit. I managed it to an extent. I continued to run. I started going out for hikes in practice before the Sahara trek. I was in a better shape than a year ago so that’s a win again.
I’ve managed to save myself from a tailspin of wasting money through a number of ways and have managed to put some money away for my future.
In February I recorded the Birthday EP, an acoustic seven track acoustic set of recordings I did at The Broom Cupboard in Rayleigh. It was an amazing experience and one I am hoping to replicate soon in some way, shape or form.
Once I got to a year of blogging I did start to blog less. I blogged every day for a year. It was excessive. I wrote just for the sake of it. I still write something every day but I try to limit my blog to the things that really matter, to make it an event when I update the world on what I’m doing rather than just spilling my daily beans. It was an excellent way of opening up my mind in regard to the way I write and considering my work. I’ve recommended starting a blog to so many people this year and I’ve noticed a couple starting to pop up which I am very proud of and enjoy reading.
Again, how do you measure an enjoyment of life. There have been a number of occasions when I have looked around myself or considered where I have managed to get myself to and thanked myself or whatever external forces were responsible for getting me there. I was stood in Studio 2 at Abbey Road studio. I was stood on a sand dune in the Sahara desert watching a sunrise. I was onstage performing. I visited the Van Gogh museum with the girl I love. I saw The Rolling Stones perform on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. I love my life. It affords me the most incredible memories.
I’m in the process of writing another set of resolutions to drag me through 2014. They’ll be just as out there as the ones I set this year. I’m proud of the things I have done, the opportunities I have been afforded, the people I’ve been able to do all of those things with. I’m a very privileged and fortunate young man.
January also signifies the anniversary. In 2013 the two year anniversary of the relationship I thank myself for being a half of every day. It’s hard to think of a time when we weren’t together and I reality check my happiness all of the time. She gets me. I dig her. We went to see Matilda up in the West End and had lunch in Jamie Oliver’s Italian. It was a lovely day out and one I still catch myself thing about.
I also continued my excellent working relationship with the film website Screen Geek. Under the guidance of their editor I was sent to a number of specialist press screenings for the widest and best selection of films.
For me the second month of the year is purely for my birthday. The whole month orbits around it, specifically because it falls smack bang in the middle. I was treated like a little prince, and got a wide selection of books, films and experiences. Kate and I went on the Harry Potter Studio Tour where I spent a ridiculous amount of money in the gift shop and we relived our teen dreams of being students of Hogwarts.
On my birthday I went into the studio and recorded seven songs acoustically. I had been listening to a lot of Dylan and it seemed the best way to go about things. I love those songs in the way I love every song I have written, and every story I have written. They become my children, and my family is always growing. I would love to do the same thing again this year. I’ll have to see what happens though.
Another highlight was attending the London Comedy Film Festival. It taught me the joy of saying “Yeah, I’m Paul Schiernecker, I’m on the guest list”. What an incredible sentence to be able to utter. I took my sweet Jocasta with me to see Wizard’s Way and Klovn, which were both incredible. I saw a special screening of Wreck It Ralph with Mex which included a Q&A with Sarah Silverman and the director. I also saw Graham Chapman’s A Liar’s Autobiography which was introduced by Terry Gilliam. I breathed the air of an actual Python.
I also headed to Brighton for a weekend with Kate and her Les Mis loving pals to spend a little time pretending I was a student again. I miss that part of my life but I’m glad to see the back of it.
It was also the month I bought out my own domain. It means that I can Google myself to my heart’s content and always be in the top spot. It’s provided a good platform for my work as well as connecting me to a past I thought was long gone.
I was offered one of the most exciting articles I have ever been a party to, the chance to visit Abbey Road studios for a talk on recording techniques, focusing primarily on the studio’s most famous recordings, those of The Beatles. It takes a lot to amaze me. Being in that room did just that. I was unable to get any additional places so went it alone. I didn’t speak to anyone for a couple of hours and then had the most amazing conversation with the security guard as I was on my way out.
He confessed to me that when he’s doing his rounds of the building, on patrol as it were, he sticks his head in the door and belts out a note just to be able to say he has sung in the same room that the Beatles did.
It was also the month when the second of my two godsons was born. Little Conor. He’s such a well-behaved and aware kid. Reminds me of how I was when I was little. No trouble. I’m so lucky to have those little guys to kick about with and thankful that their parents were able to forgive my hedonistic past to allow me the honour of being their Overlord.
I also got to visit the Royal Albert Hall to see Russell Brand and Noel Fielding aka The Goth Detectives in their Teenage Cancer Trust gig along with Tony Law and Shaun Walsh. I haven’t had much chance to hang out with my friend James this year but that was one of those nights when I really understood what it was we had spotted in one another those few years ago in a lift in Southend that brought about our friendship.
I was contacted by an old university friend who told me a friend of hers had recently self-published a book and she knew I had intentions on doing the same. This is how I met Joe Gardner. Since then we have met a couple of times but for the most part our correspondence has been via Facebook comments and messages. It’s nice to meet someone who is on the same trajectory. I’m surrounded by beautiful, bright, artistic people but Joe is one of a few who seems to really put himself out there in order to eventually hit that goal. It was very coincidental that we were even made aware of each other. I read his excellent first book; The Life And Loves Of Jet Tea and wrote a review on my blog. When I self-published in May he returned the favour. As much as people like to joke about what the life of a modern day writer might be like there is a real camaraderie in finding someone who is living it at the same time as you.
During April I received the proof copy of my book, and excitedly revealed it in a YouTube video. Holding that book filled me with a kind of pride that I can’t begin to explain. It makes all of the hours sat editing, and all of the rejection and the shitty comments from people who are supposed to be friends worth it. To hold something so tangible in my hands blew my mind. It was incredible.
It was also the month when I gave up two-thirds of my wardrobe having found the brilliant Project 333 blog promoted by The Minimalists. The project involves reducing your wardrobe down to just thirty-three items for three months. People thought I was crazy. James even called me to show me around his ridiculously opulent wardrobe and the additional wardrobe he stores in his sister’s room via FaceTime. No man needs that many scarves. He think he’s Keith Richards. Taking part in Project 333 taught me the value of the things I wear. It taught me about my habits. Since then I haven’t really returned. Every other month I find myself throwing things out and not replacing them. I’ve never been one for brands but I now find that I am developing a PS costume, which I prefer to wear variations of on a daily basis. I recommend it completely.
Kate and I went to the V&A Museum for the David Bowie Is… exhibit. I thought I was a fan before but being given such exclusive access to a man I have wanted to be since I was about three years old was something else entirely. He just doesn’t rest. He’s an inspiration.
After a night out with one of the characters featured within I sent out my book into the wild wide world. It was six in the morning. I was buzzing. I couldn’t sleep so I gave it one last read and then submitted for publishing. It was up and available on Amazon within the day. I sold 50 copies in the first month. People would order it and send me their confirmation email screens or selfies with the book itself. The Alex in Southend recommended it. People left five star reviews on Amazon and told others to buy it.
Through a special promotion code I was able to get the book listed as free to download on the Kindle for five days. In those five days it rose into the Top 20 for Free Kindle Books > Humour. Every time I mentioned it people were smiles and likes and support. It was so fantastically well received and it was such an amazing thing to be able to share with people.
May is also the month of birthdays for a lot of those around me. Both of my brothers, my old man and my girlfriend have birthdays within a fortnight of one another. It’s a wonderfully expensive time. We tried and failed to throw a surprise party for my youngest brother who turned 21. I drunk myself into a stupor and ended up vomiting for two hours.
For Kate’s birthday we returned to Rococo, one of our favourite restaurants in Leigh for dinner. I also revealed the fact we were heading to Amsterdam for a couple of days.
Kate and I flew out to Amsterdam. I read Joe Gardner’s collection of short stories, Oh Vienna! on the way.
We ate very well. We drunk a lot of beer. Kate got freaked out and couldn’t find the sink, hated the curtains and made me promise to smoke the rest of the weed to save her from herself. I am a good boyfriend.
We rode on canal boats, stood outside Anne Frank’s house, visited the Van Gogh museum, posed with a seven foot cock in a sex museum, got lost in the Vondelpark and really enjoyed some tropical juice and chocolate biscuits.
It was also the month for another bit of escapism as I headed to Worthy Farm with the alumni of SEEVIC college to drink warm cider, watch people gurn and try and run between stages to combat the many clashes that make up Glastonbury festival. I got to see The Rolling Stones, Rodriguez, Palma Violets, Villagers, Vampire Weekend, Haim, Swim Deep and many more. I drunk Zombies in Shangri La, I saw the sun rise while trying to make a fire against someone else’s tent. At no stage was I suffering the worst. It was good.
I got my second novel prepared for submission. Rather than the silly drunken adventures of my first novel Situation One (an elaborate piece that fed into WDATMG) Visions Of Violet is a love story. It’s the most commercially viable thing I’ve ever written, and that was by no means intentional. I just wanted to pen something as far from the debauchery and ‘laddish’ S1 as I could and found myself writing as a teenage girl in the nineties. It cost me nearly thirty pounds in stamps to be rejected by ten different agents.
I was asked to give my first public reading of part of my book as part of Old Trunk’s Tales & Ales event. It was fantastic as an experience and gave me the chance to get to know Sarah and Sadie better, who later in the year would push me into putting on a musical. I sold an additional five copies off the back of the event and it gave me the deluded sense I could stand up in front of a crowd and be funny.
With my trek across the Sahara just two months away I decided it was about time I invested in some training. I started heading out into Hockley Woods at weekends to hike for ten to twelve miles with a weighted backpack. I knew it wouldn’t compare to the desert but I had to start doing something.
I attended Joe’s book launch for Jet Tea. I got to meet the friends of his that had become characters and enjoyed a couple of pints before having to run back to Liverpool Street in order to make it home. It put a bee in my bonnet about hosting my own event.
Having decided that I was born to be an adventurer I signed up for yet another ridiculous trek before I had even discovered if I was capable of doing the first one. In October 2014 I will be heading to Peru to trek for three days up to Machu Picchu. I didn’t know anyone else who was going when I signed up.
I grew a pair and gave my first ever attempt at stand up comedy at The Alex. It was absolutely phenomenal. The feeling I had beforehand however was not. I always get nervous before I perform in any capacity but the friends who had come to support me said they had never seen me look so bad. Once I was up and safe in the knowledge I did know all of the words I had written it was fine, and when I finished the rush I got was like nothing else. I wanted to curl up in a ball and die, in a good way. Do you remember that bit in Trainspotting where they inject one of their girlfriend’s for the first time and she says “Aye, that’s better than any cock in the world”… that is how I felt coming offstage.
I also spent a week in Devon with Kate, her brother Joe and his girlfriend Stacy. We had a brilliant time with no Wi-Fi and no phone signal, just reading and walking and eating. I only got slightly ill due to the lack of Twitter and it was good practice for the Sahara. I also watched the Bourne films for the first time and realised I had been missing out.
The entire month seemed to be occupied by just one thing, a big sandy thing that I had to walk across. I found myself unable to focus on anything. I had no idea what the experience would be like and so my mind was a complete void.
It was, as I said at the time, the single most incredible experience of my life, so far. I’ve already written about it comprehensively, both on my blog and as part of NaNoWriMo so I won’t repeat details but it was enlightening. I met some amazing people, it changed my perspective and it was beautiful.
I also managed to finish The Stamp Collective, a novel I converted over from a script I had been trying to work on for a number of years. In the space of two months I finished it, wanting it out of the way before I started in on NaNoWriMo.
With the Sahara out of the way I struggled to return to life. It wasn’t until I realised that Ben and I were supposed to be putting on a show that I pulled my head out of the sand and got on with things. Ben and I have been writing together for ten years but Unkie Joe was the first thing we were in a position to show people. It still had a beautiful unfinished quality to it.
We were amazed with the turn out and will take Six Presents in new directions in 2014.
While this was being sorted I was also attempting to write a book and grow a moustache. It turns out I am a lot better at writing books than I am at growing moustaches. By the end of the month I had written over a hundred thousand words, across two different books. I had grown about three hairs on my top lip.
I wrote Yallah! about my travels and Sue Key, a fantasy novel which I was calling ‘Hold On’ at the start of the year. It’s the first in a three-part idea I have had for the last five years and it was good to get it down on paper, even if it has completely changed in that time, and continued to do so as the month wore on.
It was during National Novel Writing Month and our meetings at The Alex in Southend that I met Hollie who invited me and a number of other local writers to begin contributing towards WUWO. I had been looking for something new to get my teeth into since the work for Screen Geek had fallen by the wayside and told her so. She called it the ‘law of attraction’ and I have since started spinning out as many articles as I can for their website and am formulating things for the first issue which is due in late February/early March. It’s a great project to be a part of, especially knowing that KC is onboard as well.
Kate and I went on a tour of St Paul’s. Considering our agnostic leanings it was interesting how enthralled we were, especially when we got up into the dome and could see London spread out before us.
I also attended a record number of gigs considering my hatred of people and crowds. In the space of a week I saw Arcade Fire, The Darkness and Peter Doherty.
It was also the month when my beautiful Jocasta Devillenerve quit her lousy job to join me in London for easier access to salt beef sandwiches.
Our guide from the Sahara, Saaid, arrived in London for a week’s holiday. We met up with him and went for drinks. It was so odd to see him outside of the desert setting I associated him with most.
Kate and I went to see Placebo in Brixton where we mutually fell in love with Brian Molko.
I submitted my third novel The Stamp Collective to agents, specifically aiming for a Young Adult market. To date I have only had one rejection back and am hopeful that the fruits of my labour will come to something incredible in the new year.
If it doesn’t happen then it doesn’t happen and I would be proud to market the book as my first novel as a self-published writer. I have absolute faith in it and like the idea of hosting a launch party in a pub.
I went to see Russell Brand perform at The Cliffs Pavilion. Regardless of press opinion I think the man is a great comedian, an incredible social commentator and quite possibly the new messiah so it was brilliant to see him in my home town when I had previously had to jog up to Camden or the Royal Albert Hall to see him. He was as brilliant, witty, manic and insightful as ever.
I was invited to read something as part of another Old Trunk event, this time it was Winter Tales & Ales. I wrote a poem called How Paul Schiernecker Ruined Christmas which was the final piece of the night. I love readings, especially when there are so many other great writers involved. I met some cool people who I look forward to hearing more from in the coming months.
…and that brings us onto Christmas and the last week. I was spoilt by Kate who is taking me to Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa next month. I also got a stack of films and books to work my way through. My brother bought a little synth/keyboard for me to annoy him with through our paper thin walls and Mum got us tickets to a Bowie tribute gig in February. I did very well.
In the confusing no man’s land between Christmas and New Year when everyone just wanders around trying to work out where the hell to put all of their stuff Kate and I have decided we are obsessed with the TV show Dexter. This is to see us through until New Year’s Day when the third series of Sherlock starts. It took all of six minutes of the first episode to convince us this was something special and we haven’t thought of much else since.
But here’s to 2014. It will be the year when I step it up yet again, when I bring the noise and when I live my dreams.