Wednesday, 29 April 2015

That which goes out the window

We met at Tony's to discuss the latest instalment of his work-in-progress, a novel provisionally titled Nothing but a Phantom, which he told us is a nod to a quote by Herman Hesse: "Was all that we called culture, spirit, soul, all that we called beautiful and sacred, nothing but a ghost long dead, which only a few fools like us took for true and living? Had it perhaps indeed never been true and living? Had all that we poor fools bothered our heads about never been anything but a phantom?" The more of the book that Tony reveals the more apt this quote appears to be. But more of this later.

In our updates: Rob mentioned that his two novels are now on sale in Phil Richard's new outlet Bewdley Emporium in Lax Lane; Linda gave news of Chris's talk during Bewdley Bike Week (details here); Annie is pleased with her Polly Poodle progress; and Tony was delighted to have received a royalty cheque for sales of a non-fiction book on mental health nursing that was published 15 years ago. Sadly, Izzie was unable to give her news because she was unable to come to the meeting. Get well soon, Izzie, from all of us.

We agreed that our next meeting on May 12th should not be a formal one since Annie and Linda are both away. The rest of us - including Chris, we hope - will get together for a chinwag over a drink somewhere.  Details to be sorted.

So to Tony's extract - Chapter 5 At the Guards Station. It's a testament to the quality of Tony's writing that there was hardly any comment about the technical side. Although Linda and Annie both thought that the pace could be improved we all agreed that Tony was building the tension well and that the totalitarian nature of the imagined kingdom of 'Angland' is becoming apparent in a controlled way.
The book's protagonist, Tilman Birchwood, is a 19 year-old university student and we all wondered whether he would be more aware of the true nature of the state and therefore less naive about his first visit to a Guards Station. We all praised the chapter's finale that introduced the concept of 'banishment'. What does this mean for Tilman? Read on!

Annie was troubled by the word 'defenestration'. (OED definition: verb [with object] rare Throw (someone) out of a window.) As she teased out why, she realised that in Angland - a parallel country to ours that retained its Anglo-Saxon nature - the Norman influence on our language wouldn't have happened and therefore French-rooted words (fenetre = window) wouldn't have happened. As Annie put it: "If 1066 and all that never happened Angland wouldn't have French words."

Whether this means that Tony is going to have to go through his final manuscript and root out all the words that have Norman roots only he can decide. If he does, his work would be worthy of inclusion in the Oulipo portfolio. It would be a nice irony if this French group were forced to admit a work on this basis.

The meeting closed with a customarily inconclusive discussion on when to use 'which' and 'that'. Next meeting informal on 12th May - venue tba. On 26th May we'll meet at Annie's and consider work by her.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Moonbeams and Madness

Rob was a little late to the meeting having been at a pilates class - we may have just chatted among ourselves about the frustrations of modern life and all its complexities in his absence.

In news, Linda shared details of a short story competition over at the Royal Academy and we were thrilled to learn that Chris has finally FINISHED his book. Tony's had a letter published in Songlines magazine and Rob is back after a recent trip to Lisbon researching his latest novel. He has also sold more copies of Out Of Such Darkness which is excellent news. Annie enjoyed her writing trip in Yorkshire and reported a busy, but productive week. And Izzie has been working on a couple of promotional posts.

Linda read a short story called, 'Winchelsea Beach.' This was filled with beautiful descriptions and created fabulous imagery of life by the sea. Izzie loved the story but was a little confused as to whether or not picnics would be enjoyed on a beach in November. She also loved the cure for madness during Victorian times, 'They would capture moonbeams in a jar, add some sugar of milk and a tiny drop of brandy and shake it all together.' Annie loved the overall feel, but admitted to being a little bewildered as to the ages of the children. She loved the description of Lorna in her dress and the use of, 'a glassy flat sea veneered with mist.' Rob was a little confused about the narrative throughout the story but loved the line, 'no amount of kisses would turn that toad into the man of her dreams.' Tony thought the story engaging and could imagine listening to it on the radio. It reminded him of The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden as it had an innocent, but turbulent feel to it. Everyone loved Linda's fabulous descriptions which created vivid images of disordered family life in an idyllic location. We all look forward to reading more.

The next meeting is to be held at Tony's on 28th April with Tony to submit.


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

SVA Hasn't a Clue

(Written by Linda and posted by Rob)

While Rob was scouring Worcestershire for the correct venue for last Tuesday’s meeting, the group, in the most writerly fashion, discussed Tony’s search for a plumber that really would get back to him, the merits (or not) of the 1968 hit Macarthur Park and our relief that Annie hadn’t left her delicious chocolate cake in the rain.
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again, oh noooooo
Rob arrived and regaled us with yet more plumbing talk. On the previous Sunday he had been discussing plumbers with Tony on the telephone whilst trying to concentrate on the rugby when the fire brigade arrived to put out a fire in his back garden. We couldn’t take much more excitement and returned to our ‘writing news’ update. Rob is going to Lisbon at Easter to gather research for his latest oeuvre The Petrified Fountain and Annie is off to Bronte Country for a writers’ week. And don’t forget to vote for Izzie in this year’s Brit Mums Brilliance in Blogging Awards!
Out of Such Darkness
Congratulations to Rob on the launch of Out of Such Darkness on March 13th. The event was very well attended and Rob sold so many books that he ran out – a sure sign of success. The whole event was really enjoyable. St Georges Hall is an excellent venue and the cabaret-style entertainment by The Trio Project (who include Rob’s daughter Charlotte) was fabulous.
Out of Such Darkness is published by Patrician Press.
Click here for more information about Rob and his work.
The Petrified Fountain
We all enjoyed the fifth chapter of Rob’s latest book. The characters of Cross and Nicholson (think Jack Nicholson in Chinatown) are strongly portrayed and there is a real sense of tension between them. Cross is a complex and sinister character and we all felt that there would be chilling events to come. Nicholson seems to enjoy capitalising on Cross’s insecurities and ‘drips’ the information on his research into Crosse’s family background ‘at his pace’.
Izzie pointed out discrepancies in place and time which we had all missed and Tony said that the dialogue seemed a bit stilted at times. Everyone agreed that Rob had done an excellent job in portraying Cross as a nasty dysfunctional character. Linda found it interesting that Cross did seem to have insight into his own weaknesses, in particular his obsession with tidiness:  ‘But I am distracted by my desk. The rectangle of clean blotter that Tracy has brought in is cluttering up one side… It always takes time to make sure it’s aligned symmetrically and I anticipate that she would regard me as a bit weird if she witnesses the whole performance.’
We are all looking forward to the next instalment.
Next Meeting
April 14th at Izzie’s house. Linda to read.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

One In, One Out!

(Written by Annie posted by Rob.)

We met at Rob’s house. Tony had sent his apologies but we were still five because Chris had been able to join us.
Izzy: has been working on a blog commission with More Than car insurance and what it is like to teach teenagers to drive. One teenager must be bad enough but to have to teach twins to drive must have been nightmarish. Well done Izzy on the blog and on the driving tests!
Annie: I talked to the group about my recent visit to Crufts and also on how I have decided to loosen the structure of my picture book.
Linda: is starting her second novel and although much is undecided Linda feels that she has decided upon a setting, Winchelsea Beach.
Chris: gave a talk to the U3A and proved to be very popular. He sold 19 books but then ran out of stock. Chris has also been invited to speak during Bewdley Bike Week and event being run by Bewdley Outdoors. It is scheduled during June at St George’s Hall. I for one am very much looking forward to it as I have never had the opportunity to see Chris speak about his journey to Beijing.
Chris’s Reading
Chris’s reading was an extract from’ Karl Marx and Careful Driving.’ Chris’s sharp prose sparkled as ever and all members of the group had found the piece enjoyable and entertaining. Izzy commented several times on Chris’s subtle use of humour.
The piece started with a reference to ‘the British wanting their garden sheds’ which we found amusing. Soon after, the piece contained 4 asterisks to blank out an expletive, there was much discussion as to whether some of the letters should have been left in as there were two possible choices as to the insult being used. Another area that caused amusement was Chris’s reference to shaving between pimples during adolescence.
I was concerned about the lack of a hyphen in nosedived but as you can see it doesn’t have one although Izzy had also felt it looked strange and had also had to check. Rob was excited to be introduced to a new word: Integument.  
A tortoise showing off its integument.
In biology, integument is the natural covering of an organism or an organ, such as its skin, husk, shell, or rind. It derives from integumentum, which means "a covering" in Latin. Wikepedia

I had to confess to Chris that I did not always read the footnotes as I found the Marxist theory quite heavy going but despite this I had managed to spot an errant number three which had found its way into one of them. My confessions didn’t stop there I also admitted that I found the chapter length long. This led to a discussion on chapter length and what is expected. Chris has structured his work around each chapter being a day in length and so each chapter lasts as long as is needed to cover the ground. The others felt happier to slip a bookmark in at whichever point they had reached rather than searching for a natural break.

It was fantastic to see Chris again and to hear news that he is still pushing forward with his non-fiction work ‘Karl Marx and Careful Driving.’ We look forward to the next instalment and only hope that he is there to read it to us.

Next meeting is 24 March at Annie’s house and Rob is reading.
Our 14 April 14 meeting is at Izzy’s house and Linda is reading.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Postcards from ... Kidder

Sadly Chris was unable to join us because of work commitments and we were feeling light in numbers come the appointed hour because Annie had texted in to say that she was running late. She had gone to Halfords to pick up a brake-light bulb and was entertaining two young men under her bonnet. When she arrived, all of a fluster, she was able to give us the news that the other members of her "proper writing group" had liked her plan for a new Polly Poodle story and all she has to do make it into a rhyming story.
By then we had already shared that Tony has entered another competition and is halfway through a mental health dissertation; Linda has submitted 'Budgerigars' to another agent; and Izzie is trying to ensure that her work for the Internet, other than her personal blog, is remunerated.
Rob shared details of his Pubslush crowdfunding campaign and the other members were excited to learn that not only will they soon have an opportunity to read his new novel Out of Such Darkness but, through becoming Darkness Angels, they have a chance of sharing in its success. They all rushed from the meeting and found their way to the website  where they learned all about it.
Izzie read from a blog review of her stay in an all-weather holiday destination called Bluestone which is close to Tenby in Pembrokeshire. We all responded with enthusiasm to the writing, the use of the postcard visuals and her enthusiastic descriptions of the activities they had enjoyed. We would have liked to have seen more descriptions of Izzie's personal experience of some aspects of the holiday. It became clear that the areas where we were looking for more detail were those she didn't enjoy so much and we discussed approaches to overcome this.
Being a seasoned and successful blogger, Annie is a master of the bullet-point summary and the list of hints and in this piece worked really well.

In summary:
·         Annie arrived late but seemed to have had good service at Halfords
·         The news highlight was Rob's crowdfundingcampaign 
·         We all admired Izzie's work and gave constructive feedback including Tony's idea that she should adopt "Postcards from …" as her travel writing brand
·         As always the meeting was a good mix of writerly chat and nonsensical fun

The next meeting is on Tuesday March 10th. It's at Rob's and Chris has already submitted.

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.