Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Under-quoted Vladimir and Pictures of Puddings

After missing November's sessions, I was pleased to be reunited with Rob, Linda and Izzie on 9th December for a pre-Christmas SVA meeting.  Sadly, Chris and Annie couldn't make it due to work and illness respectively.  As a result, Linda ventriloquised Chris's submission - the second half of Chapter 13 of Karl Marx and Careful Driving.  We were short on news, though Rob told us his book (and e-book) No Mean Affair had sold well at, of all places, the Labour Party Christmas Fair. His latest novel Out of Such Darkness is 'in press' in readiness for a national launch (London on 27th February) and a local launch (Bewdley on 13th March). (Contact Rob via his website for details.) Linda is approaching agents with her book while Izzie's blog has featured on Post40bloggers.

So, to Chris's submission-in-absentia ...  The consensus was:
·         we liked the personal observations which humanise the philosophical ideas
·         we liked the unassuming sense of humour
·         the 'gear changes' between the inner and outer points of view are very smooth
·         it will work as a travel book as well as a philosophy book. 
There wasn't much in the way of suggestions for improvements other than perhaps there were some missed opportunities for dialogue, particularly with the character of Vladimir. 

'Mind if I photograph your pudding, Madam?'
A week later, we convened at a local Italian restaurant for a jovial (though somehow not particularly festive) Yuletide/end-of-year celebration.  Chris was in attendance and Annie too, although the latter seemed still slightly delirious after her illness, resulting in the threshold for hilarity being seriously compromised.  As Izzie doesn't like having her picture taken, I suggested taking a photo of her pudding ... which was, it appeared, the funniest thing I have said all year. 
Let's hope we all continue to have as much fun in 2015. 

Forthcoming meetings:
13 January:  Linda submitting, meeting at Rob's
27 January:  Tony submitting, meeting at Annie's

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Petrified Fountain

The Day I Meet Mr Nicholson

We found ourselves at Annie's once again, after a quick change of venue, to hear Rob read the fourth chapter of The Petrified Fountain. The Day I Meet Mr Nicholson builds on the intrigue in the first three chapters and increases our sense of unease around the character of Mr Cross, the story's protagonist. The meeting between Cross and Nicholson, a private detective hired to investigate Cross's true parentage, has echoes of Raymond Chandler, the mastermind of that great detective Sam Spade. We all felt that Rob had created a wonderfully creepy character in a very show and not tell way. Cross's obsessive behaviour is demonstrated beautifully when the detective enters his office and places his bowler hat on Cross's desk: 'The symmetry between the unblemished blotting pad in front of me, the Trimphone in reach of my left hand and the set of company-crested coasters to my right is broken. The dome of his hat squats as if it's hiding something.'

We all agreed that the pace was a little bit slow but excellent for a first draft. I look forward to hearing more of this story.



We were a very small group because Tony, Izzie and Chris were unable to attend.
Annie has recently attended the SCBWI Conference where she made some good contacts  and received positive feedback regarding her rhyming story books for children. She also gained some useful tips from an established children's writer after winning two critiques of her manuscripts.
Rob recovered manfully from a dose of the flu to give a presentation to the Mistley Book Lovers Dining Club where he sold copies of 'No Mean Affair'.
Linda has (since the meeting) received news from the agent who had shown some interest in her novel 'A Head Full of Budgerigars' that 7 months later she was no longer interested.


December 9th at Rob's - Chris to submit
December 16th at Pomodoros
January 13th at Tony's - Linda to submit

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Best-laid Plans...

The latest meeting of the Severn Valley Authors was held at Annie's on the 28th October. We were treated to Battenberg cake, wine and not one, but two of Annie's original stories for children - The Bed-Head and The Flea's Sneeze.

Latest news

As Tony's unable to attend November's meetings due to work commitments and Izzie has a birthday bash to attend on the 11th, the original plans for November and December's meeting(s) have changed. 11th November's meeting is now being held at Rob's with Rob to submit and, on the 25th we're over at Izzie's with Izzie to submit. Special note for Annie... please remember to turn up as Tony will be away!

On 9th December Tony will be hosting, with Chris or Linda to submit. The 16th December is the only date that remains unchanged and members of the SVA will be out and about somewhere in Bewdley (venue to be confirmed) for their annual Christmas bash.

Rob announced a date for our diaries - March 13th 2015 as the official Bewdley launch date for Out of Such Darkness. This will be held at St George's Hall and it's rumoured that Rob has also offered to cater. 

Izzie continues to blog and has recently become a member of Post 40 Bloggers.

Linda is currently reading Chris's manuscript and taking baby steps towards submitting her own book.

Annie is planning a follow-up to Polly Poodle's Pamperina and is attending a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators where she will be doing a presentation on animation.

The Bed-Head

Linda wondered what the mischievous 'Bed-Head' character might look like and loved this highly original idea. Rob liked the concept of a creature visiting during the night and messing up hair while you sleep and as he's been reading a lot of children's stories recently, he announced that he'd happily share this tale with his granddaughter. Tony thought the idea was an amusing one and pictured the 'Bed-Head' as an imp-like character. He also thought that it contained some great couplets that worked well. Izzie hadn't read anything of a similar nature and thought the idea very amusing indeed.

The Flea's Sneeze

Linda thought the idea that two boys were going on an adventure and discovering lots of unusual things was a great concept. Rob liked the structure and loved that the disagreeable George got his comeuppance at the end. Tony liked the relationship between the two boys and thought that sarcasm might be the way to go to make George a more likeable character. He also suggested a great alternative ending. Izzie loved the idea of an outdoor adventure for the two boys, but much preferred Tony's ending. 

Until next time...

Friday, 24 October 2014

Marked with Melancholy and Pre Christmas Despondency

(Written by Annie but, due to technical difficulties, posted by Rob.)

We met at Izzy's on 14th October 2014. Chris was still missing and is still missed!!

The group was able to report the following news: 

Rob is giving a talk at Mistley Book Lovers' Dining Event on Thursday 6th November. This is for the launch of his book 'Out of Such Darkness.'

Linda told us that Chris had enjoyed a dramatisation of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ on Radio 4. Only 18 days left to listen so hurry and click on the link below. 

Izzy has bought the domain name for her blog and has written a blog post about the benefits of getting up early. Send me the link when you are finished Iz, anything to get me up in the morning. She has another idea for a blog post following a discussion with a friend about what would happen if men were left to organise Christmas. I think this started the Pre-Christmas despondency conversation. 

Annie is going to the Society for Children's Book Writers' and Illustrators' Conference in Winchester at the start of November. She has also had her first rejection email.

Tony has received a rejection from the London magazine for his story but is continuing with his novel and his dissertation on Well Being and Mental Health Nursing. 

Our piece for the evening was Chapter 4 from Tony's novel. The chapter was entitled 'Marked with Melancholy,' having a chapter title already meant it was a winner for Linda. Everyone was in agreement that the chapter had intrigue and was gripping. 

All of the readers thought Tony had evoked student life well and we were transported back to a time of Pot Noodles and un-emptied ashtrays. There was some disagreement about whether the cliché 'a necessary evil' should be used to describe Renaissance poetry, Rob was keen it replaced by something fresher. 

The group felt the theatrics of Dr Garrison had been well drawn and Izzy identified with the confusion of not knowing when a lecturer is inviting a student to speak or merely asking rhetorical questions. There were several occasions when reference to Edith, the chapter's protagonist, could be removed as we already knew we were following her.

Rob felt that pacing was an issue and felt that the piece could move more quickly. The little nuggets of plot that would unfold later needed to be provided less often and Tony has to trust his reader more. 

The group also asked Tony to focus on his plot. The characters speak a different language called 'Anglish' but everything else is seemingly the same. There was much grinning from Tony so maybe he has something up his sleeve or maybe he’s busy planning Christmas.

The next meeting is on 31st October is at my house. Then somehow we got very organised and this happened.

11th November: Izzy to submit at Tony’s house.

25th November: Rob to submit at Izzy’s house.

9th December: Linda or Chris to submit at Rob’s house.

16th December: Christmas Meal

13th January is out first meeting of the New Year

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Silk Bedding and Outdoor Kitchens

After what seemed like quite a lengthy summer recess, the Severn Valley Authors reconvened at Izzie's house to catch up on news and hear a reading by Linda.  It was good to see a complete set of SVA-ers looking, if not refreshed and rejuvenated, at least eager to talk writing. 

Rob reported that Bewdley Book Week 2014 had been a success and his thoughts were now turning back to his novel.  Out of Such Darkness is scheduled for publication in February 2015.  He had also managed to squeeze in a talk to the Halesowen U3A group over the summer. 

Not a Welsh mistranslation
Annie had joined The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and , as a result, had met a couple of agents and had some interest in her works for children. For the uninitiated, SCBWI  is not a Welsh mistranslation of Scooby Doo but is, it seems a  'professional organisation dedicated to serving the people who write, illustrate, or share a vital interest in children's literature.' Annie plans to attend to the SCBWI conference in November.

Reviewing silk bedding, SVA-style 
Izzie has been busy with her blog which seems, for some reason, more popular in the US than in the UK.  What's the old saying about a prophet never being recognised in their own land? When she's not busy blogging, Izzie has been doing product reviews on silk bedding.  I'm not sure if that means she lies upon silk bedding while writing her reviews or whether she is simply writing on the subject of silk bedding but, either way, it sounds pretty luxurious for a Severn Valley Author. 

Chris is still working on his book Karl Marx and Careful Driving at weekends. It was lovely to see him after a long absence from meeting due to work commitments. As for me, I'm starting work on a dissertation, still flinging out a few short stories and articles and persevering with my novel. 

Linda's submission this week was a piece of short fiction called The Trouble with Pins.  Izzie and Annie both admired the fabulous descriptive writing -

...We stood around her easel to watch the magic seep across the spongy white board ...

- and how small details like the yellow headscarf defined the  era so vividly.
Rob also found the writing 'quite exceptional'  and liked the image of an 'outdoor kitchen'  (... a kitchen in every respect except for the starry sky above us and the old range that blew out smoke in gusts ...) But Rob disliked the authorial intrusions (although Linda told us later she was deliberately experimenting with this technique). 
Chris noted the narrator's voice sounds like that of an excited child, with the repetition of  'and':
...and night and day the gulls wheeled above us and the sweet seaweed smell was all around us and the loose-limbed freedom of the dunes and scrub we played in was the small world we inhabited...

For me, this lyrical prose style reminded me of Dylan Thomas's eulogy to childhood Fern Hill, while there were echoes of Under Milk Wood in
... The sound of breaking waves filled our bedroom ears and was the rhythm of our sleep...
but the setting of Linda's story was not South Wales but that other strange coastline around Rye and Winchelsea which I have also written about here and there. (See:

Chris summarised Linda's piece well: 'a description of an idyllic, unconventional childhood with a sense of encroaching sadness...'  Like me, Chris felt it had the feel of a chapter of a longer work of fiction rather than a self-contained short story.  While Izzie liked the ending, Annie also sensed that it was 'not quite complete'.  Although Linda pulled a face at the suggestion, several of us thought this might be the starting point for a novel with engaging characters and a very atmospheric setting. 

The next meeting will be at Rob's on October 14th, when I'm supposed to be submitting for scrutiny another chapter of my novel.  As Scooby Doo might say, 'Yikes!' Better get writing!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Five Nights in Paris

It is generally a good idea to write about an event while it is still fresh in the mind. The last meeting of Severn Valley Authors in July (2014!) is now somewhat of a blur. My life for the last six months has been completely overtaken by the setting up of the Community Bank of Wyre Forest - there has been little time to sleep, eat or even sadly to write. As I have to present something to our next meeting I need to shake a leg.

Apologies to Izzie for not reporting on your splendid blogs sooner. Izzie's blogs are well written and enjoyable and 'Five Nights in Paris' also has excellent photographs of both the Lyric Hotel and the delicious hotel food. Like her I think I could also have 'fallen in love with the ballerina voile panels'. I have never visited a themed hotel but loved the idea of each bedroom being themed around classical music and dance. I think I need to pay a visit if only to see the 'pink ballet-shoe ribbon carpet leading to the rooms'. We all agreed that this fabulous holiday deserved a more exciting title - and I was curious to know what her husband thought about it all - or was he too busy watching La Lapin Cretins and doing his morning Sexercises along with the (desirable) breakfast TV presenter!

Bewdley Book Week


Rob has been busy helping to organise Bewdley Book Week which starts on September 8th for seven days. There will be lots of exciting events including a talk by Kidderminster sleuth Gavin Jones about his thriller 'Three Bullets', in which Patrick Rhodes, a Kidderminster-based detective, investigates a brutal attack on a young girl in the town's railway station. We are proud to say that Gavin will soon be joining us a member of Severn Valley Authors and I hope that some of us can make it on Wednesday 10th at 2.30 in St George's Hall to add our support. There are many more great events during Book Week - I am particularly looking forward to the Poetry Slam in Jubilee Gardens on Tuesday evening at 8pm. Know any good limericks? 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Our people do writing stuff while Germany stuff Brazil

Our Izzie writes a blog. You'll find it here. More and more people are visiting it. So much so that it's rated one of the top 4000 in the UK. When you think about how many hundreds of thousands (millions?) of blogs there are competing for attention this is quite some feat. Well done, Izzie.
Our Chris writes books and drives trucks. More of the latter later but for now this reporter is envious to record that Chris sold 24 copies of Why Don't You Fly? at a recent U3A talk. He's a brilliant speaker and it's a great book so why should we be surprised?
Our Annie writes books for children. They're wacky and wonderful tales told in her inimitable way. Annie enjoys being part of a specialist childrens writers group and the members there (as well as here) are encouraging her to build her portfolio and find a specialist agent.
Our Tony writes short stories (and has embarked on a novel that has been reported on elsewhere in this blog). He's been busy submitting to competitions - most recently two for the BBC. He also blogs about writing and music and his latest post Shedloads of Memories is a great read.
Our Linda and our Rob both write novels. Linda is waiting for her interested agent to get back to her about A Headful of Budgerigars and Rob is editing his Out of Such Darkness in line with his publisher's suggestions. The publisher has already gone public here.
Keep going, Chris.
Victory is in sight.
Now more about our truck driver Chris. Regular readers will know that he's writing Karl Marx and Careful Driving and in his absence Linda read the latest extract. The group was unanimous that this is a feast of perceptive philosophical argument while at the same time being a unique insight into the life of a truck driver in Eastern Europe.  In among the overwhelmingly positive comments about Chris's writing and the understanding about thinking and trucks that his book imparts there were concerted pleas for more anecdotes about life in the cab and more dialogue when he writes about his encounters. There was all round approbation for Chris's skill in making difficult philosophical concepts accessible - exciting even. But we did want to know more about Chris's companion in the cab Vladimir. He may have been incommunicative - relying heavily on a Berlitz book to make conversation in English - but we still wanted to know about his doings while Chris  mused on the thoughts of Marx, Plato and Pirsig.
As the 9.30pm deadline that Rob had imposed approached (he wanted to be home in time for the second half of the Germany v Brazil World Cup match) the group decided that we'll take a holiday in August. Our last meeting before the break is 22 July when Jayne is submitting. We're meeting at Tony's.
The first meeting after August falls during Bewdley Book Week on September 9th and Rob is hoping that we'll support it by going along to the poetry slam. Surely one of us can win the Limerick competition?

(PS By the time Rob got home Germany had scored 5 of their 7 goals and the game was effectively over.)  

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Random Musings of a Writing Group

The latest meeting of the SVA was held at Rob's house. Sadly, recent recruit to the group, Gavin was
unable to make the meeting due to last minute family commitments.

We were flummoxed by the apparent lack of writing-based news and for the purpose of making the blog more interesting for our readers, we chatted about the following:

Annie was astounded by the power of the tea cosy and wasn't wearing any socks as she felt this wasn't the way to behave in public. For the record, Annie always wears socks and if she's happy, so are we.
Rob mentioned that Luis Suarez had bitten someone and there was much discussion that a sane person would probably punch people instead.
Izzie had to ask, "Is Luis Suarez a footballer?" Sorry Rob.
Linda had recently met a friend from her writing course who had no news either.
Tony has joined LinkedIn and had quite a few people connect. For the record, Sue (aka Melody) had made flapjacks and Tony's socks were full of holes.

Back to business:

Rob read Chapter 3 from The Petrified Fountain. This was well received by the group and the general consensus was that the chapter was understated, intriguing, atmospheric of the time and had great dialogue. Most of the group felt however, that the chapter was fairly uneventful compared to the previous two. 

Rob described it as a linking chapter and said this was entirely intentional.

The next meeting will be held at Annie's on 8th July. Chris is going to submit and also hopes to attend.

And finally: Happy Birthday Annie. We hope you have a fabulous day.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Walking Backwards to Izzie's

Gel's not rationed ... thank goodness!
This week's meeting got off to a strange start. Parked in my regular spot to pick up Annie (to take us to Izzie's) I spotted Linda walking in the wrong direction. Against all advice not to talk to strange men loitering at kerbsides, Linda acknowledged me and wondered what I was doing there. When I explained I was taking Annie to Izzie's, Linda realised her mistake. it would have been reasonable for Linda to cadge a lift with me and Annie but, by some quirk of fate, there were no back seats in my car. I had removed them in order to take large sections of my shed to the tip (see my latest blog post.) So Linda began to walk back in the direction she had come from as Annie arrived, understandably bemused by it all. After swiftly conveying Annie up the hill to Izzie's, I did a loop-the-loop around Bewdley and went back to pick up Linda. Finally, we were all assembled at Izzie's (all except for Chris and Rob who couldn't make it this week.)

We didn't have much news to share, although Linda's story 'Telling the Bees' has now appeared in 'The Loom' magazine and Linda said it was very tastefully illustrated and well-designed. Izzie has started a new feature on her blog in whch she interviews fellow bloggers, and Annie has purchased something called a 'rhythm dictionary' to help her with her three rhyming picture book projects.

Annie then read us 'Polly Poodle's Pamperina' - a 316 word divertissement with some moments of real panache. Izzie thought it would be appealing to girls and their mums and admired the originality of combining dogs with beauticians. She also thought it an enjoyable way of introducing children to the different breeds of dogs. Linda liked the fun aspect of the piece but noted it contained some very hard words ('palatial', 'chihuahua') so perhaps it would be more suitable for slightly older children. But who could resist couplets like: "Madam Dachshund, too old-fashioned?/Try it spiky. Gel's not rationed!"

Our next meeting will be at Rob's on 24th June. If we start walking in the wrong direction now, we should all end up in the wrong place in good time.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Nothing but a Phantom

On the 27th of May the Severn Valley Authors met at Tony's house to be entertained by the third chapter of his new novel Nothing but a Phantom. The novel is set in the late 1970s - early 1980s Angland, where an Anglo-Saxon king still rules over a country we would now know as England if history had taken a different course.

I was excited by this latest chapter Strawberry Crushed Ice. It conveyed the unease of an altered reality with a light but chilling touch; the familiarity of the period making it seem all the more surreal. Are the Intelligencers back? Can the government really lull the populace into a state of indifference with the specially engineered chill-out music from Relaxed Radio? What if? Will Dr Who make an appearance?

Ingram mysteriously falls through the window of his room onto the street below where through the gathering crowd, Tilman sees 'a mass that looks like a person, and lots of red and broken glass everywhere, larger fragments but also smaller pieces, and the redness glistening in the smaller fragments reminds him of crushed ice, strawberry crushed ice.' What a clever image.

Rob commented that this chapter showed a 'pacey continuation', cleverly beginning and ending with a window. Izzie said that she could really get into the story, feeling the progression and continuity. Annie suggested weaving in a history time-line to add authenticity, for example the idea that the Battle of Hastings never happened in !066, changing the course of history.

Tony commented that he was really enjoying writing the story and the journey to 'wherever'. He said that he was really going for the weird effect of this displaced reality. It certainly worked for me.

SVA News

Rob said that the highlight of his last week had been meeting Chris for a coffee and a chat. He was impressed by Chris's ability to stay chipper, confident and positive about Karl Marx and Careful Driving when he is currently under so much pressure.
Tony has been busy entering stories for the Bridport and Bristol short story competitions and submissions to the New Yorker and London magazines. Good luck!
Izzie is on the shortlist of BritMums blogging competition where we have every confidence she will do well, and she is upping her game by submitting to bigger magazines.
Annie is busy preparing her childrens' story Polly Poodle's Pamperina for agents and we hope she succeeds with that. We look forward to reading it at our next meeting at Jayne's house on the 10th of June. See you there!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Where's Izzie?

Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of an integral member of the SVA community. None of us remembers Izzie saying that she wouldn't attend our first May meeting but she didn't come. We all have fingers crossed that nothing untoward has happened to our in-house expert on writing for the Internet. Linda has been deputed to put up the missing-person posters.
With Chris missing - called away by the demands of trucking commerce - we were down to four as we shared good(!) news.
We learned that Annie's latest text for an illustrated children's book has elicited an enthusiastic response from her mentor who suggested that Annie now move on to submitting a portfolio of work in her 'distinctive voice' to a specialist agent. Annie is now assured that this is the field she's going to focus on and she's joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and an on-line critique group that specialises in the same area.
Linda's submission for A Headful of Budgerigars was met with approbation from a London-based literary agent who represents women's fiction. The agent wants to see the whole manuscript. Linda's short story Telling the Bees will appear in Loom magazine in June.
Finally in (good) news, a recently launched, independent imprint based in Essex is going to publish Rob's new novel Out of Such Darkness in the spring of 2015. He's currently rewriting in line with the publisher's comments.
Linda read her short story No Children in Changi which Tony described as 'complex, intriguing, unique and subtle'. The central character Dr Trip is a survivor of of WWII imprisonment in Singapore's Changi jail and at the time of the story is showing an inappropriate interest in a female child-patient. Despite the intimations that the doctor is a paedophile, Linda's dispassionate treatment allows the reader to make up her/his own mind as to whether he deserves condemnation.
There was some discussion about when the piece was set and we all agreed that Linda established the period setting expertly - implicitly rather than in-your-face - by clever use of: the characters names; the nature of the interplay between them; the descriptions of clothing; and the language used in the dialogue.
After bemoaning the lack of a UK market for short stories the group went on to finalise details of the next meetings:
  • May 27th - at Tony's. Tony to submit.
  • June 10th - at Izzie's (providing we can find her). Chris to submit
  • June 24th - at Rob's. Rob to submit.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

While the Cats Are Away, the Mice Will Play

The latest meeting took place at Izzie's house. Without the guiding presence of Chris (at work) and Rob (on holiday), we did our best to stick to the guidelines, but may have meandered ever so slightly during the course of the evening.

Linda's short story, Telling the Bees is to be published in a local magazine called The Loom. Fellow members of the SVA were all delighted that her work is getting into print.

Tony is submitting short stories to The New Yorker and The London Magazine and has also found the time to enter The Bristol Short Story Competition.

Izzie is still writing for American online magazine, Mommy Hotspot and reports that viewing figures for her blog are on the up.

Annie has joined The Society For Children's Bookwriters and Illustrators and continues to work on her children's book.

Annie submitted a re-worked version of Ellie and the Dino-taur.

Tony thought it was an amusing read and great for parents to read out-loud. Several modifications to the pace and rhyme of the verse were suggested. At the end of the meeting he also came up with a name change for the main character that the rest of the group adored.

Izzie thought the verse was lively, engaging and perfect for teaching children all about the names of dinosaurs.

Linda suggested that the main character should be a boy and loved the sense of adventure.

At the end of the meeting, we put our heads together and deduced that the next meeting should be at Annie's house on 13th May. We're pretty sure that it's Linda's turn to submit, but had absolutely no idea about who might be blogging.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

And then there were three...

(Submitted by Annie posted by Rob.)

Tony and I arrived at Rob’s to be greeted by the news that we were his only guests that evening. Chris was working, Linda had to prepare for a last minute breakfast meeting and Izzie had been taken ill. Rob quickly discussed the rules of engagement: he wanted us in and out quickly so he could watch the second half of the footie!

The news report was a bulletin rather than Newsnight. Tony has been working on his novel. He has also had his article: ‘Phenomenology (thank goodness this is a blog and not a pod-cast!) in Mental Health Research,’ published in Mental Health Nursing. Rob has submitted his second novel to an independent publisher and I had been heartened by some positive feedback about my latest children’s picture book.

Rob was reading and had submitted the second chapter from his novel, ‘The Petrified Fountain.’ He was a little over the word count: 2, 800 rather than 2, 000 words. ‘You don’t have to read all of it,’ his email had explained but neither Tony nor I had been able to resist Rob’s pacy chapter opening. Tony thought the piece well-crafted and extremely poignant. But Tony felt that the main character needed to nag his mother more before she gave in to the idea of the school trip. I’ll bet Tony, it’s not often that you ask for more nagging! A couple of hyphen problems and the mysterious case of the vanishing sister were also solved by Tony.

There was plenty in this piece that I identified with; it was a great read and Rob had built the tension up carefully. Rob had mentioned a pink, frilled light shade in his description which had made me think about the ones trimmed with brocade and adorned with tuffety tassles. Following this discussion Rob changed his description to include a coloured glass shade which he felt captured the period more vividly. Tony and I had both been in agreement that an outside courtyard was far too grand for a two-bedroomed terrace. I was very pleased to be able to pick Rob up on a couple of continuity issues. The protagonist had described himself as tidy then later replaced some items haphazardly. Although his school reports had described that he ‘could do better’ and ‘try harder’ he had managed to win the sixth-form essay prize. Trying harder and the desire to do better are at the centre of what the Severn Valley Authors are about.

Next meeting is at Izzie’s house on 22nd April and I am submitting. Looking forward to seeing you then.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Aviation, literary agents and flying the nest

In a week when missing Malaysian flight MH370 was very much in the news, Chris brought to the group a handsome, newly-published book called Beyond Flying: Rethinking Air Travel in a Globally Connected World. This new anthology of essays, edited by Chris Watson and published by Green Books,  is less about the risk of tragic and exceptional airplane incidents and more about the everyday danger of aviation pollution, with suggestions for more environmentally-friendly alternatives. 

While most of us would think twice before cycling from England to China, this is precisely what fellow Severn Valley Author Chris did and why he was invited to contribute a chapter to the book called The Human Engine: Bicycling to Beijing. As our Chris writes, 'the faster you travel, the less you see.' In this spirit the group discussed, in an unhurried way, their various bits of authorial news. (Sadly, Annie couldn't make it to this week’s meeting.) Izzie has had some success with features for online magazines and this has further boosted the popularity of her blog The World According to Izzie. Linda and Rob are both busy submitting their novels to literary agents and Rob mentioned the website Agent Hunter which could be very helpful in this process. 

We moved on to hear and critique Izzie’s submissions is to the group -- two short articles on the theme of what we miss about our teenage children once they leave home. Of course, lots of parents nowadays complain that more and more grown-up children remain in the family home well into adulthood. The 2001 French comedy Tanguy was about a 28-year-old still living with his mum and dad and the lengths his desperate parents go to trying to persuade him to leave home. But Izzie’s bittersweet features contained a mixture of exasperation at her daughters’ incompetence and nostalgia for the noise and chaos of a houseful of teenagers. 

Linda wondered how many 18-year-olds could reasonably be expected to use a kitchen timer appropriately and Chris, too, seemed to empathise more with the hapless but fun-loving teenagers than with their practical parents. Rob wondered whether it was ever really possible to experience 'extreme apathy' and, for my part, I would have preferred a quieter, more reflective ending to the pieces, what Rob called 'a softer landing ‘-- using a metaphor in keeping with the aeronautical theme of Beyond Flying.

The range of the Severn Valley Authors is impressive -- short stories, nonsense poetry for children's picture books, philosophical travelogues and quirky, creative non-fiction. But next time, (Tuesday 8 April) it will be back to Rob’s for some more fiction, as we discuss his latest novel-in-progress. 
Tony Gillam