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.

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