Wednesday, 22 February 2012

We are all philosophers now

Spot the philosopher
SVA member Chris has cycled the 16,500 miles from Bewdley, Worcestershire to Beijing. His next, equally daunting, challenge is to complete the Careful Driving Trilogy in which he charts the journeys, physical and mental, that a truck driver takes as he steers his juggernaut across Europe.

We have seen only glimpses of Chris's work-in-progress but it is enough for us to wonder at the audacity that compels him to undertake this gargantuan task. Given what he has achieved in the past we have no doubt he will bring the cargo home with aplomb.

In the extract under review, the truck driver crosses Germany while musing on how Plato's tri-partite class structure and his 'once upon a time' miracle have echoed down the centuries.  As usual, Chris's prose was virtually beyond reproach with only one 'fail' in Linda's obsessive bad-hyphen hunting and a mild rebuke from Tony regarding his 'tic' of inverting sentences so the reader embarks on them not knowing their destination.

The challenging nature of the philosophical content was a concern. Chris defended his position citing that the development of his arguments and their repetition will facilitate understanding. Nevertheless we all felt that he should not forget the limitations of his target readership – the great unwashed British public.  In Tony's words, the book must not fail the Costa coffee shop test. He suggested that Chris should beware of the 'authorial voice' and ensure the reader is always firmly either in the cab alongside the driver or in his head.

Annie and Linda observed that this will help drive (pun intended) the narrative along and ensure that the transitions from corporeal to mental journeying (a concern of Rob's) would not be 'sleeping policemen' in the reader's path.

In SVA news we learned that:
·         Tony is creating a new blog that will be a mental health discussion and ideas forum
·         Linda has submitted a further 10,000 words of her work-in-progress to her Gold Dust mentor
·         Annie is reading the 2011 Bridport Prize anthology
·         Rob has entered his second novel in the Dundee International Prize
·         Clive has unearthed a W Somerset Maugham book of essays that includes a treatise on the short story
·         Chris's recent speaking engagements in Kidderminster and Stroud were both sell-outs and resulted in the sale of 35 copies of Why Don't You Fly.

But the most telling moment of this meeting, in my opinion, came when one of our number dropped into the conversation, 'I was reading Cicero the other day'. It attracted not a flicker of scepticism or curiosity. This is the intellectual plateau SVA exists on following our immersion in Plato, Marx, and the World of Ideas.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The SVA Buzz

We had a very enjoyable SVA meeting at Annie's flat on the 7th February - in great part due to the excellent cake.

Rob read an extract from 'The Sting Inside'. He was interested to know how we felt about his new approach to  tackling the rather complicated back-story of how the English family came to be living in America. He did this very efficiently by incorporating an article about the family in the 'Burford Buzz' (a local social gossip magazine) written shortly after their arrival. I thought this worked very well. The article was light and amusing and it highlighted the American curiosity about the English.

Annie felt that Rob had introduced the story and characters in an original way that would grab the interest of readers. Clive commented that this type of magazine produced the sort of stuff that he hangs on a nail behind the toilet door. Chris felt that Rob had devised an ingenious way of setting the scene, but asked if this should be the introduction or a prologue. Tony commented that the solution to the long-winded back-story was 'inspirational' and more believable than the writing competition line. We mostly agreed that the change of name from Jon Vidler to Jay Shapiro was a good thing.

Annie has entered the Reader's Digest 100 words competition. Good luck, Annie!
Rob has applied to Room 204:
            'Room 204 is for emerging* writers living or working in the West Midlands who are looking for career development. It will support 15 -20 writers per year. We will offer each writer at least a year of support, including meetings and planning sessions in the first year, with follow up contact in subsequent years.'
I have looked at the website and it looks like a fantastic opportunity and it's free. Good luck, Rob. I hope they accept you.
Clive received a cheque for £25 for his Homity Pie recipe in 'Take A Break' and has had an article printed in 'Mensa' magazine. Splendid!
Chris gave a fabulous talk at the Rose Theatre in Kidderminster where tickets were sold out and he sold nineteen books. At Stroud's Cotswold Playhouse Theatre on 17th February he had an audience of sixty and sold sixteen books.

Last but not least, if our friends in Canada are following this blog, I would like to say to Lisa how much I enjoyed her father's story 'Fool's Paradise'. I promise to be more proactive about keeping in touch in the future!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Innominate Tale

We gathered at Clive’s house and read Clive’s short story. A tale without a title.

The story unfolded and told of Dennis Afrani, a middle aged business man, who had been posted to Belfast by his company to set up a new branch. Dennis’s character was carefully drawn as a philandering, dishonest egotist. Before long his opinions make him the butt of a practical joke. His reaction to the practical joke was extreme. The story also had a strong theme about the political situation in Northern Ireland.

The group enjoyed the story and found it amusing but also though-provoking. Particular phrases were singled out for special attention including: ‘all pink and powdered and silver-haired in his Rubinacci chalk strip three piece;’ ‘the strangulated vowels of Belfast’ and the question: ‘Are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?’

Another facet of the story that appealed to all was thinking about the fall-out that would follow Dennis’s over-reaction. Clive was also praised for his natural sounding dialogue. ‘Linda-the-hyphen-Bruce’ spotted several hyphen related incidents: over zealous use and omissions. Rob again performed open prose surgery; he suggested removing the ending to the piece to leave a much stronger finish.

As for the news this week, I had nothing to report. Rob has received several emails from Lisa Etherington-Runions from Cornwall and Area Writers’ Society (our twinned writing group in Canada). He is planning to send her his latest piece. Aside from that Rob has entered several competitions and has made structural changes to his work in progress called ‘The Sting Inside.’ Linda has delayed her most recent Gold-dust session. Chris talked about his upcoming talk at The Rose Theatre in Kidderminster. Tony has entered the clocks competition and is working on two linked articles. Clive has submitted a rant to ‘The Oldie’. Tony asked, ‘Do they accept unsolicited rants from unknown ranters?’ It would appear that they do not.