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.