Saturday, 31 October 2009

slithy toves

Rob points out that we should only break the rules when we have made a conscious and informed decision to do so. It could be said that some great writers have made breaking the rules their passion. James Joyce revolutionised the form and structure of the novel with Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake by pushing language to the extreme limits of communication. Lewis Carroll's books for children were also appealing to adults because of their inventive absurdity. The Jabberwocky commences 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves'. How did they get away with it?

It is not just the rules of language that we have to learn but also the uncertain sensitivity of our readers. Your best friend may very quickly become your ex-best friend after he has read your book. So do we compromise and please everybody or do we stick to our moral guns and tell it as it is? Did Lawrence ever imagine when he wrote Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1928 that it wouldn't be published in full in this country until 1960?

I know that some of my stories about life in France and America will offend some people, but I try to tell the events, places and people as I saw them. In some ways - which I hope is becoming apparent - I am singing a hymn to England and to Shropshire in particular; a place that truly stole my heart.


Friday, 23 October 2009

Useful Epigram

I think this comment, apparently attributed to Bernard Levin, reflects SVA thinking on grammar and punctuation:

You can break every grammatical and syntactical rule consciously when, and only when, you have rendered yourself incapable of breaking them unconsciously.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

A Head full of Budgerigars

I think the role of the SVA should be the publication of its members - whether a novel or a short story in a magazine. It is a little unnerving to submit one's work to the examination of others but it should always be borne in mind that any suggestion or criticism is made with the objective of improving the work under consideration. One member's success should be considered the success of the entire group, and hopefully we can one day become a community of published authors.

Frequently I wonder what publishers are looking for (don't we all?). The cynic tells me that getting one's name and picture splashed all over the News of the World is a far more effective way of getting into the best-sellers' lists than writing something wonderful. I have come to believe that any work submitted by an unknown author has to have something that marks it out as being 'special'. It has not only to be well written and entertaining but have that 'X factor' that distinguishes it not only from the tide of rival submissions but also from books already written by established authors. The task confronting us is therefore extremely difficult but real authors will always continue to write because of the delight to be had in the process of manufacturing sentences and of communicating experiences and ideas.

On Tuesday 20 October we welcomed a new member to SVA - Annie Tauk. She arrived with the formidable achievement of having won the first short-story competition she had entered. Linda read out her latest extract from 'A Head full of Budgerigars', a novel set in the UK, the USA and France. It must always be borne in mind that whereas Rob and myself have been working for a considerable time on our respective manuscripts, Linda is still composing her first draft. As such her work has less polish, but then she has had considerably less time to edit it. I find her descriptive writing exciting, original, full of richness and variety, and humour is always present. The extract painted a wonderfully vivid picture of rural French village life in the Dordogne and was full of the sounds and smells and people on market day. Tony remarked that Linda's affection for France shone through and Rob looked a little uncomfortable when the extract mentioned the 'shagging' of the local mutts. I think that the dialogue needs a little working on but as with any craft the more one practises, the better one gets. I think that an advantage of belonging to the SVA is that its members all have different strengths and weaknesses and we can learn from each other.

When we got home Rosie Canus vividly expressed her disappointment at having been deprived of the opportunity of taking the minutes of the meeting and inserting her tongue into Rob's ear.

'Next time, Rosie,' we promised.