Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Didn't we have a luvverly time

Severn Valley Authors were in bumptious mood when they convened for the second meeting of November. There was much ribbing and ribaldry before we shared our respective news. Tony makes it into print this month having written the introduction to the republished version of Man With Three Fingers (A Lone Pine Adventure) by Malcolm Saville. Being a Shropshire lad, Tony feels a strong nostalgic attachment to the Lone Piners and we're all thrilled that his name is now irrevocably linked with Malcolm Saville's.
Back in the 21st Century, Izzie's e-book is now available – it's called The World According to Izzie and is a collection of her very popular blogs.
 Annie is researching her next children's book, Rob has clocked up another rejection and another talk and Chris has been chasing the dragon. (I may have misheard this one but in the week that Nigella Lawson has been outed - allegedly - as a cokehead of the top order anything is possible.) Linda has been playing house with a boa constrictor and in her work-time mucks out the meerkats and teases the tarantulas. You couldn't make this stuff up.
Which links in nicely to a story that Linda did make up. (Ba-dum-tsh!) It's called The Day We Went to Bangor and we loved it. It told the tale of a child in care who absconds from her home in the company of two likely lads who TWOC a car and drive to Bangor. And she has a luvverly time until the police come along and spoil it all.
Bangor - not a beach in sight
The beach at Llanfairfechanpenmaenmaur
Perhaps the most crucial constructive criticism came from Tony who knew, having been a student in Bangor, that the town does not boast the beach that Linda described in the story. Tony offered the name of a town near Bangor called Llanfairfechanpenmaenmaur that fitted her description but there just aren't enough vowels in a keyboard to make it worth the effort to get these things right. And let's face it, The Day We Went to Llanfairfechanpenmaenmaur doesn't have the same ring.
We all agreed that the strength of Linda's story lay in its attention to empathetic detail and its combination of fun and poignancy.
After a short discussion regarding the acceptable anomaly in the sentence, 'Arsenal is the best football team in London whereas Tottenham are crap' we agreed to meet at Izzie's on 10th December when Tony will submit something to read.
(See, Chris, whoever controls the record controls history.)

Saturday, 23 November 2013

A Séance with Mince Pies

It was more like a séance than the usual SVA meeting. This was because the writer whose work was being critiqued - Chris - was absent.  His submission -- a chapter from Karl Marx and Careful Driving -- was channelled by Linda, who gave the reading and heard the feedback on behalf of Chris (who duly arrived hotfoot from work as the last of the comments were aired.)

Tony -- still under the influence of Man Flu -- had no news and was perhaps more critical than usual because of his deadly viral infection. Linda had been busy reading Sebastian Faulks books in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday and had written a new short story, her first written entirely in the present tense. Rob is making good progress with his new novel and is guest speaker at a conference of Black Country Libraries in Partnership. Izzie has just e-published her e-book The World According to Izzie -- a collection of blog posts chronicling life with teenage daughters, as featured on BBC Radio 4’s Woman's Hour.

We sat beside a roaring fire eating the first mince pies of the season while Linda voiced Chris's chapter. We all enjoyed the comedy of the English truck driver’s attempts to learn Russian and the domestic arrangements of life in the cab juxtaposed with stream of consciousness philosophising. Rob and Izzie felt strongly that the work is now ready to submit for publication and there was some discussion about how far any author can go with trying to improve something before allowing publishers and agents to have sight of it.
Meanwhile, somewhere, Karl Marx and Aristotle are enjoying a quiet pint together...

                ‘Ari. me old mate,’ said Karl. ‘You’ll never guess what. I only got another bloody speeding ticket.’
                ‘Oh, Karl, ' said Aristotle, playing nonchalantly with a beer mat. ‘But surely speed limits fail adequately to reflect this material life.'
                ‘I know. But it's still a bit of a downer. '
                ‘Have you thought about appealing?’ asked Aristotle.
                ‘I suppose I could, ' said Karl.
                ‘I think you should. Question everything, that's what I say. '
                Karl took a small notebook from his pocket and jotted down: Question everything. ‘Maybe I will ' he said, carefully putting the notebook back in his jacket pocket and finishing his pint.
(c) 2013 Tony Gillam

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Petrified Fountain

On Tuesday 22nd October the Severn Valley Authors met at Tony's house to critique an extract from Rob's latest book, The Petrified Fountain. As usual, the opening chapter, Field of Dreams, proved to have Rob's usual flair for intrigue and style. The action  is set in The Fountain Film Centre, named after a quote by Jean Cocteau, 'A film is a petrified fountain of thought'. We were all rather impressed by that.
     Once again Rob is weaving his love for film, in this case, Chinatown, into the storyline of the novel, rather like Play it Again, Sam.Tony said that he liked the gentle lavatorial humour but was worried it might be a little too 'Carry On' ish. Annie liked the film in a book idea but was worried by the character Steve - she thought he seemed a bit 'dodgy'. She was also worried about Queen Victoria and the lavatory blocks (you had to be there) but Tony said it would be a great name for a band. Izzie liked the massive mahogany wardrobe that gave Mike nightmares but she was worried about Jake's nose (Chinatown). Chris too was worried about Jake's nose. I liked the humour, and the obsession with lavatories, but I guess I might be obsessed with 'janatorial products' if they had made me a fortune, 'The Vine welcomes careful pissers'. Impressed though we were with Rob's new project there was a general agreement that there was too much back story slowing the narrative down.

In brief, Izzie is building her blogging empire and more impressively making money! Chris sold fifteen books at his last talk. Annie has received very positive feedback on Aunty Faye from the tutor of her writing for children class. Rob, who clearly moves in more elevated circles than the rest of us, was hob-nobbing with Roy Hattersley who was surprised by the revelations Rob had made in his book, No Mean Affair, about the adultery of John Wheatley. He commented (and I hope I have got this right) that JW would be the biggest hypocrite, even for the House of Commons if it were true. Tony didn't have time to fit in news now that he has joined the jet-set - Dublin one minute, Nova Scotia the next.

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 12th November at Chris and Linda's house. Chris will be submitting Shift 11, Karl Marx and Careful Driving.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Late Arrivals, Lemon Cheesecake and Monty Python?

Written by Annie posted by Rob
Jean-Yves Yffiniac
Linda was sorry to report that her novel had not been short-listed for the Marie Claire First Novel Competition. She is heading off to the Bloomsbury Writing Festival next week with a friend and will not doubt have plenty of advice for us on her return.
Rob has written the first 1,800 words of his new novel and had given a talk in Hagley to a group of 20.
Izzy had turned down a feature in a well-known daily paper in order to keep her daughters’ anonymities. Good progress is being made with her ebook.
Tony reported on the Sunday Times Short Story Award and the Commonwealth Story Award. He has plans to enter both.
I (Annie) am planning on going to a second writing group on a Saturday. This group has a children’s book focus and is held in Birmingham.  
Chris arrived late from work and so did not really relay his news or maybe I missed it as I fetched him a slice of lemon cheesecake.
We read Tony’s piece, ‘A Tribute to Jean-Yves Yffiniac’. It was the tale of a serious nonsense poet who was struggling to be taken seriously. The story took a very unusual form, in that it was a posthumous article about his work, written by his friend. The piece contained several pieces of poetry. Tony collapsed into fits of giggles while he was reading. And that gave many of us the clue that we had been looking for. While reading the piece through at home many of us had rushed to Google to check the authenticity of the poet.
I must admit that I was a Googler and also found the piece highly entertaining. Izzy found the story very believable. Rob was in awe and thought the piece was annoyingly clever and like me, he had Googled! ‘Authoritative and well-written,’ was how Linda described it. Chris felt it struck a chord with the struggling and unrecognised writer. It was a mixture of fun and tragedy but with a bleak ending.
Tony admitted to penning the poems many years ago and that is what I think caused the descent into giggles as we discussed desperately Googling an obscure French serious nonsense poet. Was Jean-Yves Yffiniac a misunderstood genius or an alcoholic without talent? Discuss.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

SVA on the BBC

Picture by Jo Thoenes

It's not often one of our members is on national radio so we celebrated Izzie Anderton's appearance on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour talking about parent blogging. Listen again here. Izzie's piece starts at 37 minutes.
In previous posts we haven't perhaps made as much as we should of Izzie's success as a blogger. She's built a national profile in The World According to Izzie  and is working on ways to develop spin-offs. She's also writing for an Internet gift company.
In other news: Annie is fully recovered and looking at picking up the thread in both her children's story and her collaborative project. Linda is submitting her finished novel. Rob has been distracted by his involvement with the Bewdley Book Week and Bewdley Cinema organising teams and Chris is trying to find time to work on his masterwork between working 15-hour work shifts. 
Rob read a short story The Reflected Woman. It was received positively with the usual suggestions for improving word choices and punctuation. Rob asked for advice about the points at which the reader realised that mirrors were important to the story's outcome and whether the final twist worked. He took on board the recommendations that the title should be changed because it reveals too much and that there were too many mirrors. A revised and improved story called The Other Woman will emerge.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Scone But Not Forgotten

The latest meeting was held at Izzie's on the 27th August.

Homemade M&S scones with clotted cream and jam were served.

Latest News

Chris is still working long hours, but had recently given a talk to a large audience at the U3A in Shifnal which led to the sale of 22 books!
Tony had nothing to report, but announced that his brother, Phil Gillam has recently published a book called, 'Shrewsbury Station Just After Six.' As fellow authors, we have decided to include the link here:
Linda reported that she had just started working for a credit union and had had an interesting day. She has also been busy at local craft fairs.
Izzie has been approached by a new company in London and asked to be a gift editor on their site. She is currently investigating and seriously considering their offer. She has also received a request from a company in the US requesting to sponsor a blog post.
Rob was absent as he's currently walking from Gloucester to Upton upon Severn in aid of St George's Community Hall. Not wishing to exclude him from the meeting, Tony sent a text requesting an update.
Annie was also absent.

Linda read a short story titled 'The Girl With Blue Eyes.'
Izzie thought it quite different to anything else she'd read previously by Linda. She loved that matter-of-fact style of writing and that the mum in the story cared deeply for her son.
Tony suggested that an alternative title might attract the reader's attention more and came up with 'The Dragon Keeper.' He loved the authoritative terminology on drugs. He thought the recurring theme of shells and hippy-like imagery at odds with the serious subject matter. He also found the line 'Who's looking after Pauly - you useless cretin.'very funny indeed.
Chis thought the story well-written, descriptive and loved the description of the stairs being 'thick and fluffy.'

In Linda's right to reply, she disclosed that she's currently working on a new book titled, 'A Dog Called Dave.' Her short story is a suggested idea to be included in the book and features a nice, normal woman who loves her child, has pretty things, but ends up making poor decisions with dire consequences. We all look forward to reading more of this in the future.

In the absence of leader Rob (and his magical SVA algorithm) fellow members of the SVA decided that the next meeting would be held at Rob's on 10th September, with Rob to submit and Rob to blog.
As luck would have it, Rob replied to the text from Tony just as the meeting was closing. He had arrived safely at Upton upon Severn and declared the SVA algorithm well and truly broken!


Monday, 2 September 2013

‘I’m Half Asleep but I Haven’t Lost my Umph!’

This is just one of the wonderful quotes that came out of the meeting at Tony’s house on 13th August 2013. I’m sorry but I can’t remember who said it!
Rob did not attend as he was away on holiday.
Tony has entered the Costa Short Story Competition with the story, ‘Weekend on Call’ which was a real favourite with the group. He also has a gig at the Little Pack Horse in Bewdley. His musical duo ‘Fracture Zone’ will be playing during Bewdley Festival week on the 10th October. 
Jayne is busy completing her mini-e-book which will be out in September. She then plans a move into fiction.
 I (Annie) was encouraged by the feedback from the last meeting and intend to continue with my current project.
Linda entered, ‘Telling the Bees’ into the Costa Short Story Competition. She is planning to enter her novel into both the Marie Claire Debut Novel Competition and the Myslexia Novel Competition. She is still working on her manuscript and making improvements.
Chris’s book ‘Why Don’t You Fly?’ will be out in China shortly. He is working insane hours and is spending all his spare time working on, ‘Karl Marx and Careful Driving’.
Chris read his extract from Karl Marx and Careful Driving entitled ‘Shift 8: Thursday 22nd July.’ Linda thought the piece beautifully written but controversial. The camaraderie between the truckers was clearly apparent and she enjoyed the spoken interaction between Chris and the guard. The nickname ‘Scooter-boots’ was mentioned by Linda as it was so amusing.
 For me (Annie) the piece still contained sections that were difficult to follow but many sections were very accessible and enjoyable. Scooter-boots’ choice of literature: ‘A Sven Hassel paperback recounting the gruesome exploits of a German penal battalion on the Eastern Front,’ gave a great insight into this character. I still felt there was more room for the personal details of life on the road. Scooter-boots bemoaned the fact that during his work schedule there had been: ‘Not a single Italy.’ I can imagine why Italy would be good to drive through in a truck compared to other parts of Europe but I would love to hear why from Chris.
Jayne loved the piece. She too was instantly drawn to Scooter-boots and wanted an explanation of how he got his nickname. The spelling of Vladimir’s pronunciation was highly entertaining; ‘Kreess’ rather than Chris. A particular favourite of Jayne’s was the reference to fairies at the bottom of the garden. 
Tony felt that there was great balance between humour and philosophy and that the writing gave real insight into life on the road. The characters often spoke in short-hand to one another and this attention to detail in Chris’s recording adds real authenticity. Tony’s favourite quote was ‘Fuck Socrates,’ he felt this was a microcosm of the book.
Chris was pleased with the feedback that he received. He asked the group for some assistance with a particular sentence construction: ‘Possessed of a level of intelligence as many times greater than ours is higher than the intelligence of a mouse , they are neither benevolent or malevolent.’ We mused on this and made some suggestions but I am sure once Chris has had some sleep he will incisively edit the sentence.
As a final point Chris had brought along a clipping from The i. It was an article by Neil Norman covering Mark Ravenhill’s speech at the Edinburgh Festival about whether austerity could be good for the arts.
The article can be found by following this link:
A full transcript of Mark Ravenhill’s speech can be found below:
Finally, Tony showed us a delightful book by Ben Irvine entitled ‘Einstein and the Art of Mindful Cycling.’
The next meeting is at Jayne’s house on 27th August. Linda will be reading and Rob will still be gallivanting. 

(Written by Annie; posted by Rob.)