Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Does writing for live reading require special skill?

I think so. And the actual reading requires yet another skill set.

Regrettably, both are skills that I have yet to master. Successful performance writing – and successful performance – are, for me, figments of aspiration not badges of achievement.

Thanks, however, to the advice, critique and fine examples of writer friends from Verulam Writers' Circle – notably Julie Mayhew, Jonathan Pinnock and Dave Weaver, all of whom are successful in the field of prose performance – I am beginning to make a little headway.

Having heard great things about the occasional SPARKS photography and reading events in Brighton, last month I decided it was time to kick myself out of my cosseted literary isolation and do something really scary. So I went out for a walk (have you seen the way they drive in Hertfordshire?). I came back, muddied but unbowed. Then and there – without a moment's hesitation and with no safety net – I edited a story down from 1600 words to fewer than 1000, the SPARKS maximum. After reading it a time or two I hit  the dreaded 'send' key.


Panic set in, and then I thought: No worries, it'll never be accepted. Almost exactly an hour later I received from the organizer, Jo Mortimer, a lovely acceptance. My bluff she had called.

Double gulp!

That's why on 7th September you will find me as the trembling warm-up act on a SPARKS 10 bill of otherwise stellar proportions alongside such luminaries as Vanessa Gebbie (she who edited the excellent Short Circuit - my constant companion and guide through the dark maze that is short fiction), Jonathan  Pinnock (who had a story broadcast on Radio 4 only last week), Tom Vowler (novelist), Naomi Foyle (poet), Paul A Toth (much-published American novelist), Jac Cattaneo and Sam Mead.

Am I shaking in my shoes? You're too darn right I am.

So, wish me luck. Turn the light out when you go, and go particularly easy on the tea and biscuits this time, please. I have to save up for the train fare down to Brighton – a return ticket would be nice.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

"Which Battle of Britain?"

 ... said the shop girl to Ronald Tooke, World War Two RAF veteran. *

It makes me so sad to realise that an increasing number of young people are unaware that an unprecedented battle occurred in British skies – reaching its turning point seventy years ago this week – which, had it been lost by the young people of that time, would have rendered the possibility of our freedom – our very existence – today highly unlikely.

BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting an excellent daily series on the Battle of Britain, see links below.

This was my rather pathetic attempt to recreate the atmosphere of that time on EDF a year or two back. If you are kind enough to read it,  please take time to check out the Guinea Pig Club link.

If you have time to listen to the two BBC pieces – and I hope you do – at the end of Day 1 you'll hear the voice of James Nicholson VC, who was the inspiration for my – entirely fictional – story.

BBC: Battle of Britain - Day 1

BBC: Battle of Britain - Day 2 *

And, when you've done all that, perhaps you'd like to visit one of these links with your PayPal details or your credit card. Thank you.

RAF Wings Appeal

Help for Heroes

Monday, 16 August 2010

What is it with writers and cats?

I mean, why do otherwise intelligent cats keep pet writers?

Based on empirical evidence from writer friends, I conclude the lives of writers and cats are inseparable. Let's be clear, I'm not talking solely about female writers here. Ladies who write and cats seems like a logical connection. No, the cunning felines have invaded male lifestyles too. Not just your willowy softie male writers, either, I mean blokey blokes, big hairy bitter-swilling geezers. If they write, you can bet your ASDA tuna some mercenary moggie has latched onto them.

Writers, we've been got at. Believe me, there's a clear correlation between literary output and cat food sales.

So, where lies our fatal flaw that the felines exploit? One possibility is our subliminal need as writers to focus our procrastination. Cat equals mandala, as in: talking plot twists through with Felix is a whole lot easier than real writing. And then again, according to my sketchy understanding of Occam's razor principle we can shave the subject down to basics and arrive at the conclusion that cats have simply suckered us writers into accepting mews as muse.

Look, there's a whole lot more I could write on this subject – nine tales at least – but I've got four cats to feed… I mean stories to write.

The teapot's on the go as usual but it's no good looking for the biscuits behind the side bar anymore, that's reserved for the litter tray and tuna tins.

Turn the light's out and lock up when you leave, okay? And, whatever you do, don't obstruct the cat flap.