At the start of the summer I was invited to meet with a local reading group to gather narrative elements for a commissioned short story – organised by Roz Goddard and the West Midlands Readers Network. The group members were lively in their opinions about what made a good short story and I came away with a long list of ‘do nots’ – particularly, do not write about miserable middle-aged men! The no-no list also included: no young women narrators, no child narrators and no sci-fi (among other things).
The narrative prompts were interesting and included an interesting timeframe, a tunnel, a sausage dog, a rubber ring and a goddle house (you can find a definition in David Crystal’s “Disappearing Dictionary” but it’s basically a house that has fallen to abject ruin).
When I took all these things away it felt as if I was in a drawn out version of Whose Line is it Anyway? I didn’t manage to get all the elements into the story but I very much enjoyed the process and the final story is called Devourer of All Things and will appear in the Seven Minute Stories anthology in December.
I’d like to thank the Leamington Reading Group for being so welcoming. They meet regularly in The Fox and Vivian pub at the top of town and I had great fun meeting them and a nail-biting, but ultimately rewarding time reading their story to them.
I will be joining the other commissioned writers, Rob Jefferson-Brown, Dragan Todorovic, Justina Hart and Ruth Gilligan, and Roz, at the Library of Birmingham for a special event where we will read extracts from our stories and discuss the process of writing them. You can come too if you like. Book here for the event and a copy of the anthology.
My dear friend and long time writing buddy, Anthony Ferner, launched his debut novel, Winegarden, on Sunday. I was lucky enough to be one of the early readers and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is small and perfectly formed.
Winegarden recounts episodes in the life of Jacob Winegarden, an agnostic Jewish professor of theoretical physics whose speciality is ‘thought experimentation’. A burly, vague, distracted man, a fan of popular films such as Toy Story and Fantastic Voyage, Jacob is still forlornly infatuated with his enigmatic wife, Miriam . . . Moving backwards and forwards in time and touching on different parts of Winegarden’s life and thoughts, the stories are designed to fit together as a novella. Together they tell a larger personal story of grief and survival, the ambivalence and persistence of love, and the meaning of being Jewish. (via Holland Park Press).
If you like cats (particularly Schrödinger’s), theoretical physics and impeccable writing – buy this book.
The writing is consistently strong and widely varied, reflecting the experiences and styles of an extensive network from all walks and stations of life. A watery theme links several, as though the sea were indeed both metaphorically as well as physically inching inland . . . Simone Weil said that it is not so much what every moment of a human life contains as the way in which each of its moments is connected. This book offers an insight into how Midland writers, in this instance over thirty years, create and develop a sense of solidarity within both an area and a discipline.
I’ve been attending the Tindal Street Fiction Group for several years and this October, 2013, sees the launch of the group’s 30-year celebration anthology, The Sea in Birmingham. My story – Mr Spider – is one of twenty-two stories from established authors and emerging writers who are all past or present members of TSFG. The collection has been edited by Julia Bell and Gaynor Arnold and you can find information about the other contributors (including Amanda Smyth, Gaynor Arnold, Alan Beard and Mick Scully) on the TSFG website and pre-order a copy of the anthology from Amazon.
This workshop led by award winning author, Mez Packer, is aimed at giving participants a clear understanding of the technical and creative aspects of writing contemporary fiction. Along with exercises to get you going (drawing on experience, memory and place) the workshop will focus on plot, character and voice as well as other elements that drive a narrative forward and keep the reader wanting more. Using examples we won’t forget prose-style and dialogue either. Finally, there will be opportunities for sharing work and receiving feedback on the day.
Tickets: £22.50 There are only 15 places available for this workshop. Please book in advance.
It was very nice to receive a Facebook notification the other day to inform me that The Game is Altered has been shortlisted for an award. It’s not the Orange Prize (I will never be that rare thing – an Orange shortlisted author – now that Orange has withdrawn its sponsorship from the prize);).
No, I have been shortlisted for the Pineapple Prize. I’d never heard of it either but I am suitably delighted. It’s an interesting list too.
I’m running a FREE writing workshop at Coventry Book Festival on June 16th at 11am. The workshop, ‘Finding Your Voice’, is two hours long and is being held in Coventry Central Library. Bring pens, paper and an open mind. For ages 16 and above. Use the link to book your place: http://literallycoventry.eventbrite.co.uk/
I’ll also be taking part in a panel discussion with other local authors on June 14th at Sidney Stringer Academy Theatre. You can book for this on the same link.