Saturday, 14 February 2015

Picture books and straitjackets

We met at Izzie's house
Izzie, Annie, Rob and I.
No Chris, because of work;
no Linda, because of illness.
(Get well soon, Linda.)

A small, writerly exchange of news:
Izzie's blog is 42 in the lifestyle blog charts;
Rob has launched his crowd-funding scheme;
Annie's organising a poetry recital competition;
Tony's just surviving.

The red velvet cake and white wine for some and then the
business of the evening:  the reading and critique of Annie's
submission to the group.  And the tension felt between the
need to have a narrative versus the pure
fun with words, and Rob doubting whether he was
qualified to judge poetry and yet finding the rhythm of the words
inconsistent. When it works well, he said, it really
works and Izzie liked the sweet imagery of the characters having their
bath with suds and foam but worried about two stories being
told at the same time and Tony wondered if the rhyming couplets were a
straitjacket and whether Annie might be better off
translating the whole thing into free
verse so she wouldn't have to worry about the
rhythm or the meter or where the
stress fell or how many syllables there were but could
concentrate on either moving the story forward or just
revelling in the sheer joy of the nonsense of it all.

Plan for future meetings (subject to change)

Tuesday 24 February
Izzie submitting
Tony hosting

Tuesday 10 March
Rob submitting and hosting

Tuesday 24 March
Linda or Chris submitting
Annie hosting

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Has Anyone seen Linda?

Has anyone seen Linda? Did we even know what week it was? Had the four members that turned up for the meeting got it wrong? We blame Linda’s absence on Tony and decide that in future, SVA members are to be monitored on performance, attendance and quality of cake. Luckily Annie was able to confirm that Linda had not succumbed to any misfortune and had only forgotten the date.

Back to business…

Annie continues to work on her children’s short stories; we hope to read a revamped version at the next meeting. Meanwhile Izzie is just back from a short break in Pembrokeshire, where she’s been reviewing a popular holiday destination. Rob has tickets available for his book launch on 13th March at St George’s Hall and at time of writing this post, his books should have arrived – exciting news indeed. Tony continues to astound fellow members of the group, with a dissertation on the go as well as full-time work - it’s incredible that he finds the time to sleep, let alone write anything and enter short story competitions.

Tony submitted a short story, ‘One of the Few,’ for the group to critique. While we were bemused by McKenzie’s acceptance of the time traveller and thought that the horrors of war could be added to, general consensus was - a deceptively simple story creating great intrigue throughout. The title was especially clever as it linked to Churchill’s famous wartime speech from 1940 and this created a sense of relief for the main character. After suggested revisions and praise for the story, Tony went on to explain that this was written for children and a previous short story using the same characters had been published in Aquila Magazine.

And so, after an interesting meeting we arranged to meet at Izzie’s on 10th February, with Annie to submit. Please can everyone remind Linda.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The scent of cliché?

The life of a literary hopeful is beset with disappointments and as we exchanged updates on our progress towards recognition of our efforts in some format it would be easy to discourage each other. Okay so: Tony didn't win any of the competitions that he entered; Izzie's radio interview didn't materialise; Annie's brilliant childrens story idea has hit a setback, Rob's latest novel is stalled and Linda has been flooded with 'proper' work which has prevented her submitting her novel, but the camaraderie of being a member of this group means that we avoid this pitfall. We encourage each other, look for the positives and we press on in pursuit of elusive goals. It's what we do.
Linda submitted a story, Peter's Funeral, for critique and, as is usual with her writing there was much to admire, much to praise. We all agreed to being confused about the exact relationship between the narrator and the person in the coffin. We recognised that Linda didn't want to spoon-feed the reader but thought that clearer signposting was necessary. Rob's assertion that 'lilies heavy with the scent of loss' also had the scent of cliché was roundly condemned (see what I did there?) by the others. As far as other suggestions for improvement were concerned a competitive element entered the missing-hyphen (see what I did there too?) spotting and it was Tony who picked out a tautologous adverb, which is usually Rob's job.
The final discussion about the difficulty of writing allusive prose without it turning into elusive prose was difficult to grasp (!) so we arranged the next meeting: 27th January, at Annie's with Tony submitting - we're hoping for something in Anglish.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Under-quoted Vladimir and Pictures of Puddings

After missing November's sessions, I was pleased to be reunited with Rob, Linda and Izzie on 9th December for a pre-Christmas SVA meeting.  Sadly, Chris and Annie couldn't make it due to work and illness respectively.  As a result, Linda ventriloquised Chris's submission - the second half of Chapter 13 of Karl Marx and Careful Driving.  We were short on news, though Rob told us his book (and e-book) No Mean Affair had sold well at, of all places, the Labour Party Christmas Fair. His latest novel Out of Such Darkness is 'in press' in readiness for a national launch (London on 27th February) and a local launch (Bewdley on 13th March). (Contact Rob via his website for details.) Linda is approaching agents with her book while Izzie's blog has featured on Post40bloggers.

So, to Chris's submission-in-absentia ...  The consensus was:
·         we liked the personal observations which humanise the philosophical ideas
·         we liked the unassuming sense of humour
·         the 'gear changes' between the inner and outer points of view are very smooth
·         it will work as a travel book as well as a philosophy book. 
There wasn't much in the way of suggestions for improvements other than perhaps there were some missed opportunities for dialogue, particularly with the character of Vladimir. 

'Mind if I photograph your pudding, Madam?'
A week later, we convened at a local Italian restaurant for a jovial (though somehow not particularly festive) Yuletide/end-of-year celebration.  Chris was in attendance and Annie too, although the latter seemed still slightly delirious after her illness, resulting in the threshold for hilarity being seriously compromised.  As Izzie doesn't like having her picture taken, I suggested taking a photo of her pudding ... which was, it appeared, the funniest thing I have said all year. 
Let's hope we all continue to have as much fun in 2015. 

Forthcoming meetings:
13 January:  Linda submitting, meeting at Rob's
27 January:  Tony submitting, meeting at Annie's

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Petrified Fountain

The Day I Meet Mr Nicholson

We found ourselves at Annie's once again, after a quick change of venue, to hear Rob read the fourth chapter of The Petrified Fountain. The Day I Meet Mr Nicholson builds on the intrigue in the first three chapters and increases our sense of unease around the character of Mr Cross, the story's protagonist. The meeting between Cross and Nicholson, a private detective hired to investigate Cross's true parentage, has echoes of Raymond Chandler, the mastermind of that great detective Sam Spade. We all felt that Rob had created a wonderfully creepy character in a very show and not tell way. Cross's obsessive behaviour is demonstrated beautifully when the detective enters his office and places his bowler hat on Cross's desk: 'The symmetry between the unblemished blotting pad in front of me, the Trimphone in reach of my left hand and the set of company-crested coasters to my right is broken. The dome of his hat squats as if it's hiding something.'

We all agreed that the pace was a little bit slow but excellent for a first draft. I look forward to hearing more of this story.



We were a very small group because Tony, Izzie and Chris were unable to attend.
Annie has recently attended the SCBWI Conference where she made some good contacts  and received positive feedback regarding her rhyming story books for children. She also gained some useful tips from an established children's writer after winning two critiques of her manuscripts.
Rob recovered manfully from a dose of the flu to give a presentation to the Mistley Book Lovers Dining Club where he sold copies of 'No Mean Affair'.
Linda has (since the meeting) received news from the agent who had shown some interest in her novel 'A Head Full of Budgerigars' that 7 months later she was no longer interested.


December 9th at Rob's - Chris to submit
December 16th at Pomodoros
January 13th at Tony's - Linda to submit

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Best-laid Plans...

The latest meeting of the Severn Valley Authors was held at Annie's on the 28th October. We were treated to Battenberg cake, wine and not one, but two of Annie's original stories for children - The Bed-Head and The Flea's Sneeze.

Latest news

As Tony's unable to attend November's meetings due to work commitments and Izzie has a birthday bash to attend on the 11th, the original plans for November and December's meeting(s) have changed. 11th November's meeting is now being held at Rob's with Rob to submit and, on the 25th we're over at Izzie's with Izzie to submit. Special note for Annie... please remember to turn up as Tony will be away!

On 9th December Tony will be hosting, with Chris or Linda to submit. The 16th December is the only date that remains unchanged and members of the SVA will be out and about somewhere in Bewdley (venue to be confirmed) for their annual Christmas bash.

Rob announced a date for our diaries - March 13th 2015 as the official Bewdley launch date for Out of Such Darkness. This will be held at St George's Hall and it's rumoured that Rob has also offered to cater. 

Izzie continues to blog and has recently become a member of Post 40 Bloggers.

Linda is currently reading Chris's manuscript and taking baby steps towards submitting her own book.

Annie is planning a follow-up to Polly Poodle's Pamperina and is attending a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators where she will be doing a presentation on animation.

The Bed-Head

Linda wondered what the mischievous 'Bed-Head' character might look like and loved this highly original idea. Rob liked the concept of a creature visiting during the night and messing up hair while you sleep and as he's been reading a lot of children's stories recently, he announced that he'd happily share this tale with his granddaughter. Tony thought the idea was an amusing one and pictured the 'Bed-Head' as an imp-like character. He also thought that it contained some great couplets that worked well. Izzie hadn't read anything of a similar nature and thought the idea very amusing indeed.

The Flea's Sneeze

Linda thought the idea that two boys were going on an adventure and discovering lots of unusual things was a great concept. Rob liked the structure and loved that the disagreeable George got his comeuppance at the end. Tony liked the relationship between the two boys and thought that sarcasm might be the way to go to make George a more likeable character. He also suggested a great alternative ending. Izzie loved the idea of an outdoor adventure for the two boys, but much preferred Tony's ending. 

Until next time...

Friday, 24 October 2014

Marked with Melancholy and Pre Christmas Despondency

(Written by Annie but, due to technical difficulties, posted by Rob.)

We met at Izzy's on 14th October 2014. Chris was still missing and is still missed!!

The group was able to report the following news: 

Rob is giving a talk at Mistley Book Lovers' Dining Event on Thursday 6th November. This is for the launch of his book 'Out of Such Darkness.'

Linda told us that Chris had enjoyed a dramatisation of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ on Radio 4. Only 18 days left to listen so hurry and click on the link below. 

Izzy has bought the domain name for her blog and has written a blog post about the benefits of getting up early. Send me the link when you are finished Iz, anything to get me up in the morning. She has another idea for a blog post following a discussion with a friend about what would happen if men were left to organise Christmas. I think this started the Pre-Christmas despondency conversation. 

Annie is going to the Society for Children's Book Writers' and Illustrators' Conference in Winchester at the start of November. She has also had her first rejection email.

Tony has received a rejection from the London magazine for his story but is continuing with his novel and his dissertation on Well Being and Mental Health Nursing. 

Our piece for the evening was Chapter 4 from Tony's novel. The chapter was entitled 'Marked with Melancholy,' having a chapter title already meant it was a winner for Linda. Everyone was in agreement that the chapter had intrigue and was gripping. 

All of the readers thought Tony had evoked student life well and we were transported back to a time of Pot Noodles and un-emptied ashtrays. There was some disagreement about whether the cliché 'a necessary evil' should be used to describe Renaissance poetry, Rob was keen it replaced by something fresher. 

The group felt the theatrics of Dr Garrison had been well drawn and Izzy identified with the confusion of not knowing when a lecturer is inviting a student to speak or merely asking rhetorical questions. There were several occasions when reference to Edith, the chapter's protagonist, could be removed as we already knew we were following her.

Rob felt that pacing was an issue and felt that the piece could move more quickly. The little nuggets of plot that would unfold later needed to be provided less often and Tony has to trust his reader more. 

The group also asked Tony to focus on his plot. The characters speak a different language called 'Anglish' but everything else is seemingly the same. There was much grinning from Tony so maybe he has something up his sleeve or maybe he’s busy planning Christmas.

The next meeting is on 31st October is at my house. Then somehow we got very organised and this happened.

11th November: Izzy to submit at Tony’s house.

25th November: Rob to submit at Izzy’s house.

9th December: Linda or Chris to submit at Rob’s house.

16th December: Christmas Meal

13th January is out first meeting of the New Year