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.'
THIS EVENT IS NOW FULLY BOOKED!

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

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Silk Bedding and Outdoor Kitchens

After what seemed like quite a lengthy summer recess, the Severn Valley Authors reconvened at Izzie's house to catch up on news and hear a reading by Linda.  It was good to see a complete set of SVA-ers looking, if not refreshed and rejuvenated, at least eager to talk writing. 

Rob reported that Bewdley Book Week 2014 had been a success and his thoughts were now turning back to his novel.  Out of Such Darkness is scheduled for publication in February 2015.  He had also managed to squeeze in a talk to the Halesowen U3A group over the summer. 

Not a Welsh mistranslation
Annie had joined The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and , as a result, had met a couple of agents and had some interest in her works for children. For the uninitiated, SCBWI  is not a Welsh mistranslation of Scooby Doo but is, it seems a  'professional organisation dedicated to serving the people who write, illustrate, or share a vital interest in children's literature.' Annie plans to attend to the SCBWI conference in November.

Reviewing silk bedding, SVA-style 
Izzie has been busy with her blog which seems, for some reason, more popular in the US than in the UK.  What's the old saying about a prophet never being recognised in their own land? When she's not busy blogging, Izzie has been doing product reviews on silk bedding.  I'm not sure if that means she lies upon silk bedding while writing her reviews or whether she is simply writing on the subject of silk bedding but, either way, it sounds pretty luxurious for a Severn Valley Author. 


Chris is still working on his book Karl Marx and Careful Driving at weekends. It was lovely to see him after a long absence from meeting due to work commitments. As for me, I'm starting work on a dissertation, still flinging out a few short stories and articles and persevering with my novel. 

Linda's submission this week was a piece of short fiction called The Trouble with Pins.  Izzie and Annie both admired the fabulous descriptive writing -

...We stood around her easel to watch the magic seep across the spongy white board ...

- and how small details like the yellow headscarf defined the  era so vividly.
Rob also found the writing 'quite exceptional'  and liked the image of an 'outdoor kitchen'  (... a kitchen in every respect except for the starry sky above us and the old range that blew out smoke in gusts ...) But Rob disliked the authorial intrusions (although Linda told us later she was deliberately experimenting with this technique). 
Chris noted the narrator's voice sounds like that of an excited child, with the repetition of  'and':
...and night and day the gulls wheeled above us and the sweet seaweed smell was all around us and the loose-limbed freedom of the dunes and scrub we played in was the small world we inhabited...

For me, this lyrical prose style reminded me of Dylan Thomas's eulogy to childhood Fern Hill, while there were echoes of Under Milk Wood in
... The sound of breaking waves filled our bedroom ears and was the rhythm of our sleep...
but the setting of Linda's story was not South Wales but that other strange coastline around Rye and Winchelsea which I have also written about here and there. (See:  http://passengersintime.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/letter-from-our-windmill.html).

Chris summarised Linda's piece well: 'a description of an idyllic, unconventional childhood with a sense of encroaching sadness...'  Like me, Chris felt it had the feel of a chapter of a longer work of fiction rather than a self-contained short story.  While Izzie liked the ending, Annie also sensed that it was 'not quite complete'.  Although Linda pulled a face at the suggestion, several of us thought this might be the starting point for a novel with engaging characters and a very atmospheric setting. 

The next meeting will be at Rob's on October 14th, when I'm supposed to be submitting for scrutiny another chapter of my novel.  As Scooby Doo might say, 'Yikes!' Better get writing!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Five Nights in Paris

It is generally a good idea to write about an event while it is still fresh in the mind. The last meeting of Severn Valley Authors in July (2014!) is now somewhat of a blur. My life for the last six months has been completely overtaken by the setting up of the Community Bank of Wyre Forest - there has been little time to sleep, eat or even sadly to write. As I have to present something to our next meeting I need to shake a leg.

Apologies to Izzie for not reporting on your splendid blogs sooner. Izzie's blogs are well written and enjoyable and 'Five Nights in Paris' also has excellent photographs of both the Lyric Hotel and the delicious hotel food. Like her I think I could also have 'fallen in love with the ballerina voile panels'. I have never visited a themed hotel but loved the idea of each bedroom being themed around classical music and dance. I think I need to pay a visit if only to see the 'pink ballet-shoe ribbon carpet leading to the rooms'. We all agreed that this fabulous holiday deserved a more exciting title - and I was curious to know what her husband thought about it all - or was he too busy watching La Lapin Cretins and doing his morning Sexercises along with the (desirable) breakfast TV presenter!


Bewdley Book Week


                           



Rob has been busy helping to organise Bewdley Book Week which starts on September 8th for seven days. There will be lots of exciting events including a talk by Kidderminster sleuth Gavin Jones about his thriller 'Three Bullets', in which Patrick Rhodes, a Kidderminster-based detective, investigates a brutal attack on a young girl in the town's railway station. We are proud to say that Gavin will soon be joining us a member of Severn Valley Authors and I hope that some of us can make it on Wednesday 10th at 2.30 in St George's Hall to add our support. There are many more great events during Book Week - I am particularly looking forward to the Poetry Slam in Jubilee Gardens on Tuesday evening at 8pm. Know any good limericks? 

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!