Thursday, 21 January 2010

Sampling Dates and Figs Upstairs at the Arches

Waiting for the Speed-Dating Bell to Ring - spot food-diary man
Writing for laughs must be one of the most difficult skills and it seems to be one writers possess or they don’t. Judging by the reaction of members to Annie’s piece, Dates and Figs, she has the comedy gene. Each critic in turn explained how their first reading of Annie’s venture into speed-dating had them laughing out loud. Her David-Attenborough-esque pen-pictures of the species of male to be found in this particular jungle were brief, telling and very funny.

Our very own Helen Fielding was urged to find the right magazine and submit the piece tout-suite. Make some money out of it, Annie!

Of course, it wouldn’t have been an SVA meeting without some constructive suggestions for improvement. Most of these revolved around punctuation (what else), including: how to avoid the seven-word, compound adjective; the comma splice; the role of semi-colons; and positioning of commas and other squiggles vis-à-vis speech marks.

Under the heading ‘general-discussion’ we roamed around: the literary merits of Mills & Boon and Dan Brown; the motivation of Jeffrey Archer; and the vocabulary in writing for children. Rob failed to get any interest in an analysis of the value in modern writing of the verb ‘get’. Get this, it got forgotten because everybody was getting bored and wanted to get home.

Charlotte will be reading at the next meeting on February 2, when we may also hear from Tony’s friend, Phil Richards about possible involvement in a book sale event. Tony will confirm the start time.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

'Paws for Thought' by Rose

I wood like to sayyy that I am a little disa um.. disa $%ppoint?ed that my ayms for 2010 wurnt discust. I wont to bee offishal maskott for yore groooooop and tayke minits from Robbs lapp. I also wont to hav Bosun the bulldog over for tee becoz he iz very yumyum. Iff yoo wont to contakt meeeee on the Interpet yooo can sendd mee a pee-mail on

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Deep and Crisp and Even

The Intrepid Six also known as the Severn Valley Authors ventured out to an almost deserted Bewdley. It had been snowing for most of the day so we were pleased to find ourselves in the snug little alcove in the Arches. The Arches is Bewdley’s newest bar and bistro.

Tony then read ‘The Softness of Heads’. His mellifluous voice was the perfect vehicle for this gentle piece of 1970’s nostalgia. There was much discussion about the main character. Some members of the group thinking that there was a ‘Strange Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ feel; while other group members did not make that connection at all. There was plenty of discussion about the use of apostrophes in trade-marks, split infinitives and whether mint creams needed a hyphen or not.

The dropping of letters in dialect also raised an interesting discussion point. Tony’s piece read as follows.
‘’id in the cupboard every time’.
At first there was the suggestion that the ‘i’ should be capitalised. It was then decided that the capital H was missing due to the character’s dialect and that the capitalisation did not need to be transferred to the ‘i’.

To finish the evening there was a short discussion about each member’s literary ambitions for 2010. The items were recorded and we will return to them quarterly to discuss progress. A brief synopsis is given below.

By the end of 2010 Chris wants to be ready to approach a publisher with the first part of Karl Marx and Careful Driving.

Rob hopes to have a publisher for the ‘Spaniard’s Wife’ and is also beginning to plan his next book – a three strand novel. The group was very interested and excited by Rob’s brief synopsis.
During 2010 Linda wants the first draft of ‘A Head full of Budgerigars’ completed. She also wishes to develop her business.

Tony would like to concentrate on polishing some short stories and marketing his book ‘A Passenger in Time’.

Attending university to study English and Drama was Charlotte’s burning ambition.

Annie would like to start a novel if only she could decide what to write about.

The venue worked well and it was agreed to use it again for the next meeting.

Monday, 4 January 2010

An unforeseen book-signing at The Woodcolliers Arms

Just before Christmas I visited Ludlow in Shropshire and called in at the Castle Bookshop, one of those wonderful independent bookshops which hopefully will continue to flourish despite the rise of Amazon and the fall of Borders. On my last visit, they had in stock five or six copies of my book A Passenger in Time and I naturally wanted to check that they were all still prominently displayed on the shelves. In fact, I could find no copies of my book so I cheekily asked the owner if he had sold out of my book.

“What's it called?” he asked.

A Passenger in Time.

“Oh, that's the one set on the Severn Valley Railway, isn't it? Yes. That sold quite well. Did you supply them yourself?”

“No. I think you got them from the wholesalers.”

He searched on his computer.

“Oh, that's right. I'll just order a few more copies then.”

Music to the ears of any self-published author.

Then, between Christmas and New Year, I was to be found in a local pub. The Woodcolliers Arms in Bewdley is not exactly my ‘local’, being over four miles from my house. However, since I drink there most weeks, I could be described as a regular. Roger, the landlord, had kindly agreed to display a copy of A Passenger in Time when it was first published several months ago. This unusual arrangement may have made The Woodcolliers perhaps the only pub where customers could buy a children's book with their pint of real ale. Week after week, I have sat nursing a pint of Ludlow Gold or Twisted Spire and noticed numerous people pick up my book and read it with interest, often discussing it with their drinking companion, before replacing it carefully on its display stand.

Last Thursday was different, though. I watched as a young lady went through the familiar routine of flicking through the pages and admiring the cover but was then amazed when she foraged in her purse for a handful of coins. I pretended not to pay much attention as she approached the bar and asked Anna, the landlady, if she could buy the book. Anna then discreetly passed the six pound coins to me, explaining that she could not put the money through the till. She asked if I had a penny change for the customer so I fumbled in my pocket and found a 10p piece which Anna then passed over to the customer. Next, I overheard her explaining that the author himself was here in the pub and, if she would like a personalised message written in her copy, Anna felt sure this could be arranged. The book buyer duly walked over to me and, with a mixture of embarrassment and delight, I wrote a few words on the title page for the kind lady.

These are strange days for the book trade with multinational bookshops going bust and pubs hosting impromptu book signings. There’s nothing for it, I’ve decided, but to take all of this as a good omen and hope that it's going to be an auspicious year for authors, publicans and independent booksellers in 2010.

Anthony Gillam