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.