Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Our people do writing stuff while Germany stuff Brazil

Our Izzie writes a blog. You'll find it here. More and more people are visiting it. So much so that it's rated one of the top 4000 in the UK. When you think about how many hundreds of thousands (millions?) of blogs there are competing for attention this is quite some feat. Well done, Izzie.
Our Chris writes books and drives trucks. More of the latter later but for now this reporter is envious to record that Chris sold 24 copies of Why Don't You Fly? at a recent U3A talk. He's a brilliant speaker and it's a great book so why should we be surprised?
Our Annie writes books for children. They're wacky and wonderful tales told in her inimitable way. Annie enjoys being part of a specialist childrens writers group and the members there (as well as here) are encouraging her to build her portfolio and find a specialist agent.
Our Tony writes short stories (and has embarked on a novel that has been reported on elsewhere in this blog). He's been busy submitting to competitions - most recently two for the BBC. He also blogs about writing and music and his latest post Shedloads of Memories is a great read.
Our Linda and our Rob both write novels. Linda is waiting for her interested agent to get back to her about A Headful of Budgerigars and Rob is editing his Out of Such Darkness in line with his publisher's suggestions. The publisher has already gone public here.
Keep going, Chris.
Victory is in sight.
Now more about our truck driver Chris. Regular readers will know that he's writing Karl Marx and Careful Driving and in his absence Linda read the latest extract. The group was unanimous that this is a feast of perceptive philosophical argument while at the same time being a unique insight into the life of a truck driver in Eastern Europe.  In among the overwhelmingly positive comments about Chris's writing and the understanding about thinking and trucks that his book imparts there were concerted pleas for more anecdotes about life in the cab and more dialogue when he writes about his encounters. There was all round approbation for Chris's skill in making difficult philosophical concepts accessible - exciting even. But we did want to know more about Chris's companion in the cab Vladimir. He may have been incommunicative - relying heavily on a Berlitz book to make conversation in English - but we still wanted to know about his doings while Chris  mused on the thoughts of Marx, Plato and Pirsig.
As the 9.30pm deadline that Rob had imposed approached (he wanted to be home in time for the second half of the Germany v Brazil World Cup match) the group decided that we'll take a holiday in August. Our last meeting before the break is 22 July when Jayne is submitting. We're meeting at Tony's.
The first meeting after August falls during Bewdley Book Week on September 9th and Rob is hoping that we'll support it by going along to the poetry slam. Surely one of us can win the Limerick competition?

(PS By the time Rob got home Germany had scored 5 of their 7 goals and the game was effectively over.)  

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Random Musings of a Writing Group

The latest meeting of the SVA was held at Rob's house. Sadly, recent recruit to the group, Gavin was
unable to make the meeting due to last minute family commitments.

We were flummoxed by the apparent lack of writing-based news and for the purpose of making the blog more interesting for our readers, we chatted about the following:

Annie was astounded by the power of the tea cosy and wasn't wearing any socks as she felt this wasn't the way to behave in public. For the record, Annie always wears socks and if she's happy, so are we.
Rob mentioned that Luis Suarez had bitten someone and there was much discussion that a sane person would probably punch people instead.
Izzie had to ask, "Is Luis Suarez a footballer?" Sorry Rob.
Linda had recently met a friend from her writing course who had no news either.
Tony has joined LinkedIn and had quite a few people connect. For the record, Sue (aka Melody) had made flapjacks and Tony's socks were full of holes.

Back to business:

Rob read Chapter 3 from The Petrified Fountain. This was well received by the group and the general consensus was that the chapter was understated, intriguing, atmospheric of the time and had great dialogue. Most of the group felt however, that the chapter was fairly uneventful compared to the previous two. 

Rob described it as a linking chapter and said this was entirely intentional.

The next meeting will be held at Annie's on 8th July. Chris is going to submit and also hopes to attend.

And finally: Happy Birthday Annie. We hope you have a fabulous day.





Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Walking Backwards to Izzie's

Gel's not rationed ... thank goodness!
This week's meeting got off to a strange start. Parked in my regular spot to pick up Annie (to take us to Izzie's) I spotted Linda walking in the wrong direction. Against all advice not to talk to strange men loitering at kerbsides, Linda acknowledged me and wondered what I was doing there. When I explained I was taking Annie to Izzie's, Linda realised her mistake. it would have been reasonable for Linda to cadge a lift with me and Annie but, by some quirk of fate, there were no back seats in my car. I had removed them in order to take large sections of my shed to the tip (see my latest blog post.) So Linda began to walk back in the direction she had come from as Annie arrived, understandably bemused by it all. After swiftly conveying Annie up the hill to Izzie's, I did a loop-the-loop around Bewdley and went back to pick up Linda. Finally, we were all assembled at Izzie's (all except for Chris and Rob who couldn't make it this week.)

We didn't have much news to share, although Linda's story 'Telling the Bees' has now appeared in 'The Loom' magazine and Linda said it was very tastefully illustrated and well-designed. Izzie has started a new feature on her blog in whch she interviews fellow bloggers, and Annie has purchased something called a 'rhythm dictionary' to help her with her three rhyming picture book projects.

Annie then read us 'Polly Poodle's Pamperina' - a 316 word divertissement with some moments of real panache. Izzie thought it would be appealing to girls and their mums and admired the originality of combining dogs with beauticians. She also thought it an enjoyable way of introducing children to the different breeds of dogs. Linda liked the fun aspect of the piece but noted it contained some very hard words ('palatial', 'chihuahua') so perhaps it would be more suitable for slightly older children. But who could resist couplets like: "Madam Dachshund, too old-fashioned?/Try it spiky. Gel's not rationed!"

Our next meeting will be at Rob's on 24th June. If we start walking in the wrong direction now, we should all end up in the wrong place in good time.

Sunday, 8 June 2014


Nothing but a Phantom

On the 27th of May the Severn Valley Authors met at Tony's house to be entertained by the third chapter of his new novel Nothing but a Phantom. The novel is set in the late 1970s - early 1980s Angland, where an Anglo-Saxon king still rules over a country we would now know as England if history had taken a different course.

I was excited by this latest chapter Strawberry Crushed Ice. It conveyed the unease of an altered reality with a light but chilling touch; the familiarity of the period making it seem all the more surreal. Are the Intelligencers back? Can the government really lull the populace into a state of indifference with the specially engineered chill-out music from Relaxed Radio? What if? Will Dr Who make an appearance?

Ingram mysteriously falls through the window of his room onto the street below where through the gathering crowd, Tilman sees 'a mass that looks like a person, and lots of red and broken glass everywhere, larger fragments but also smaller pieces, and the redness glistening in the smaller fragments reminds him of crushed ice, strawberry crushed ice.' What a clever image.

Rob commented that this chapter showed a 'pacey continuation', cleverly beginning and ending with a window. Izzie said that she could really get into the story, feeling the progression and continuity. Annie suggested weaving in a history time-line to add authenticity, for example the idea that the Battle of Hastings never happened in !066, changing the course of history.

Tony commented that he was really enjoying writing the story and the journey to 'wherever'. He said that he was really going for the weird effect of this displaced reality. It certainly worked for me.

SVA News

Rob said that the highlight of his last week had been meeting Chris for a coffee and a chat. He was impressed by Chris's ability to stay chipper, confident and positive about Karl Marx and Careful Driving when he is currently under so much pressure.
Tony has been busy entering stories for the Bridport and Bristol short story competitions and submissions to the New Yorker and London magazines. Good luck!
Izzie is on the shortlist of BritMums blogging competition where we have every confidence she will do well, and she is upping her game by submitting to bigger magazines.
Annie is busy preparing her childrens' story Polly Poodle's Pamperina for agents and we hope she succeeds with that. We look forward to reading it at our next meeting at Jayne's house on the 10th of June. See you there!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Where's Izzie?

Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of an integral member of the SVA community. None of us remembers Izzie saying that she wouldn't attend our first May meeting but she didn't come. We all have fingers crossed that nothing untoward has happened to our in-house expert on writing for the Internet. Linda has been deputed to put up the missing-person posters.
With Chris missing - called away by the demands of trucking commerce - we were down to four as we shared good(!) news.
We learned that Annie's latest text for an illustrated children's book has elicited an enthusiastic response from her mentor who suggested that Annie now move on to submitting a portfolio of work in her 'distinctive voice' to a specialist agent. Annie is now assured that this is the field she's going to focus on and she's joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and an on-line critique group that specialises in the same area.
Linda's submission for A Headful of Budgerigars was met with approbation from a London-based literary agent who represents women's fiction. The agent wants to see the whole manuscript. Linda's short story Telling the Bees will appear in Loom magazine in June.
Finally in (good) news, a recently launched, independent imprint based in Essex is going to publish Rob's new novel Out of Such Darkness in the spring of 2015. He's currently rewriting in line with the publisher's comments.
Linda read her short story No Children in Changi which Tony described as 'complex, intriguing, unique and subtle'. The central character Dr Trip is a survivor of of WWII imprisonment in Singapore's Changi jail and at the time of the story is showing an inappropriate interest in a female child-patient. Despite the intimations that the doctor is a paedophile, Linda's dispassionate treatment allows the reader to make up her/his own mind as to whether he deserves condemnation.
There was some discussion about when the piece was set and we all agreed that Linda established the period setting expertly - implicitly rather than in-your-face - by clever use of: the characters names; the nature of the interplay between them; the descriptions of clothing; and the language used in the dialogue.
After bemoaning the lack of a UK market for short stories the group went on to finalise details of the next meetings:
  • May 27th - at Tony's. Tony to submit.
  • June 10th - at Izzie's (providing we can find her). Chris to submit
  • June 24th - at Rob's. Rob to submit.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

While the Cats Are Away, the Mice Will Play

The latest meeting took place at Izzie's house. Without the guiding presence of Chris (at work) and Rob (on holiday), we did our best to stick to the guidelines, but may have meandered ever so slightly during the course of the evening.

Linda's short story, Telling the Bees is to be published in a local magazine called The Loom. Fellow members of the SVA were all delighted that her work is getting into print.

Tony is submitting short stories to The New Yorker and The London Magazine and has also found the time to enter The Bristol Short Story Competition.

Izzie is still writing for American online magazine, Mommy Hotspot and reports that viewing figures for her blog are on the up.

Annie has joined The Society For Children's Bookwriters and Illustrators and continues to work on her children's book.

Annie submitted a re-worked version of Ellie and the Dino-taur.

Tony thought it was an amusing read and great for parents to read out-loud. Several modifications to the pace and rhyme of the verse were suggested. At the end of the meeting he also came up with a name change for the main character that the rest of the group adored.

Izzie thought the verse was lively, engaging and perfect for teaching children all about the names of dinosaurs.

Linda suggested that the main character should be a boy and loved the sense of adventure.

At the end of the meeting, we put our heads together and deduced that the next meeting should be at Annie's house on 13th May. We're pretty sure that it's Linda's turn to submit, but had absolutely no idea about who might be blogging.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

And then there were three...

(Submitted by Annie posted by Rob.)



Tony and I arrived at Rob’s to be greeted by the news that we were his only guests that evening. Chris was working, Linda had to prepare for a last minute breakfast meeting and Izzie had been taken ill. Rob quickly discussed the rules of engagement: he wanted us in and out quickly so he could watch the second half of the footie!

The news report was a bulletin rather than Newsnight. Tony has been working on his novel. He has also had his article: ‘Phenomenology (thank goodness this is a blog and not a pod-cast!) in Mental Health Research,’ published in Mental Health Nursing. Rob has submitted his second novel to an independent publisher and I had been heartened by some positive feedback about my latest children’s picture book.

Rob was reading and had submitted the second chapter from his novel, ‘The Petrified Fountain.’ He was a little over the word count: 2, 800 rather than 2, 000 words. ‘You don’t have to read all of it,’ his email had explained but neither Tony nor I had been able to resist Rob’s pacy chapter opening. Tony thought the piece well-crafted and extremely poignant. But Tony felt that the main character needed to nag his mother more before she gave in to the idea of the school trip. I’ll bet Tony, it’s not often that you ask for more nagging! A couple of hyphen problems and the mysterious case of the vanishing sister were also solved by Tony.

There was plenty in this piece that I identified with; it was a great read and Rob had built the tension up carefully. Rob had mentioned a pink, frilled light shade in his description which had made me think about the ones trimmed with brocade and adorned with tuffety tassles. Following this discussion Rob changed his description to include a coloured glass shade which he felt captured the period more vividly. Tony and I had both been in agreement that an outside courtyard was far too grand for a two-bedroomed terrace. I was very pleased to be able to pick Rob up on a couple of continuity issues. The protagonist had described himself as tidy then later replaced some items haphazardly. Although his school reports had described that he ‘could do better’ and ‘try harder’ he had managed to win the sixth-form essay prize. Trying harder and the desire to do better are at the centre of what the Severn Valley Authors are about.

Next meeting is at Izzie’s house on 22nd April and I am submitting. Looking forward to seeing you then.