For the second meeting of June we met at Chris and Linda's. Chris, however, was nowhere to be seen and Linda explained that he was off gallivanting in Germany. Also conspicuous by her absence, was Annie who has temporarily succumbed to the delights of patchworking and has not yet worked out a way of being in two places at once and combining her patchwork group with her writing group. All part, I suppose, of life's rich tapestry.
We followed Linda's suggestion of doing our ‘news round-up’ first, before hearing and critiquing the extract in question, on the very sensible premise that it is hard to read aloud whilst drinking tea and eating lemon drizzle cake. My own news was that my submission to the FutureDaze anthology of young adult science-fiction had been unsuccessful; BBC Radio had also at last made a decision to reject my short story The Idea of Marmalade and, despite not having won their 100 word story competition, Reader's Digest had said they would love to publish The Storks of Valladolid on their website. Rob told us of his success in the Winchester Writers’ Festival competition. The Sting Inside was highly commended in their ‘opening of a novel’ section while Rob's story The Reflected Woman came joint third in the short story category. Clive had also had some success with yet another recipe accepted for publication in Take a Break magazine. They used to say real men don't eat quiche but I'm sure Clive’s Quiche with a Kick will turn out to be the exception that proves the rule. Linda has been completely absorbed in the task of producing 12,000 words of her novel every month to meet the unrelenting requirements of her author’s mentoring scheme. Despite this tough schedule, Linda'smentor has told her thatshe thought her writing had ‘improved in leaps and bounds '.
All of Linda's hard work was in evidence when she read her chapter describing the experience of seeing the sights of America with some very difficult relationships in tow. You could certainly feel the heavy-heartedness of the narrator and her desperate attempts at levity which make for an entertaining read but one where the reader is fully engaged emotionally with the plight of the characters. Interestingly, Linda was apologetic about it being so ‘downbeat’ but, like me, Clive found it full of mordant humour while Rob described it as exceptionally well-observed, with a pervading sense of ennui and yet bursting with humour. We all agreed that calling a central character Mathaios was probably asking for trouble as, each time the reader saw it on the page, (s)he would wonder how the name should be pronounced and this ran the risk of seriously interrupting the flow. Rob mentioned the value of having some more relaxed passages in the novel and Linda agreed that it was important to pace the narrative and have little ‘pools’ for reflection. Her mentor had also stressed the importance of ‘framing’, by which she means that every scene and every chapter must be rounded and have goal/conflict/resolution and beginning/middle/end. For now we had achieved the meeting’s goal, without excessive conflict and had brought things to a resolution, from a beginning of refreshments and news, through a workshop bit in the middle, to a convivial end -- until the next meeting of the Severn Valley Authors.