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

Friday, 14 March 2014

Anglish, Cat Stevens and Pound Coins

Work commitments have meant that of late I have been a part-time member of the SVA. However...I took Tuesday 11 March off work in order to do a presentation  to a retirement home about the 16,500-mile bicycle ride. The only slot offered by the agency for Wednesday was a 02.00 start so I decided to decline and spend the day writing instead of driving. Less lucrative, but writing and selling books is what fulfils, even if it doesn't pay. And the SVA just happened to be meeting at Annie's flat on Tuesday evening so for the first time since Christmas I was able to attend.

Not all that much, it seemed, had changed. As always it is a struggle to find sufficient time to write. Rob is spending most of his time running the new cinema in St George's Hall instead of continuing work on his latest novel The Petrified Fountain. Although Linda has given up her part-time job at the play barn, credit-union business is taking up more and more of her time and energy and she hasn't found time to submit her latest short story to The Best of British magazine. Annie, whose job as a teacher is keeping her busy, has decided that she will have to do a massive re-write of her children's poem - 199 out of the 200 words need changing. Izzie and Tony had more positive news to report. Izzie's Blog has been nominated for three categories in the MAD Blog Awards and she has been approached by Mummy Hotspot to write 2 features per month. Tony has written another introduction to a Malcolm Saville reprint and an article is to be published in Mental Health Nursing.

Tony read Chapter Two of his novel, set in Angland, a United Kingdom that had never been invaded by the Normans. The principle characters are students. We agreed that the chapter was an excellent evocation of student life - certainly as I remember it in the late seventies / early eighties when Tony was also at university: joss sticks, shelves constructed using planks supported by bricks, cans of beans with rice to eat. We felt that the attention to detail - in particular in the description of the task of replacing a guitar string - slowed the pace of the narrative somewhat. A problem that struck me was the mention of pound coins and Cat Stevens - would either have existed if the Normans had never invaded?    

Posted by Chris on Friday 14 March 2014.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Come Back Chris - We Miss You

The latest meeting of the Severn Valley Authors was held at Izzie's. This came as a surprise to most of the fellow members, but as Chris needed to sleep before starting work in the early hours of the following morning, we were only too happy to oblige. Linda kindly supplied the cake - chocolate for the record, and very scrummy. We eagerly await Chris's return to the group when work commitments permit.

Every member of the group is continuing to work on their various projects as and when time allows, although most of us are finding that life is sometimes getting in the way of our passion for writing. However, we still have news...
  • Rob plans to enter The Bridport Prize
  • Tony is writing an introduction for the latest Malcolm Saville book
  • Annie has been encouraged by us all to submit Auntie Faye
  • Linda is awaiting feedback after submitting A Head Full Of Budgerigars to a literary agency
  • Izzie continues to submit features to various online publications
Linda submitted a short story titled - 'Dearest Arthur.' This was set during the Second World War and written as a series of letters and observations. The story was well received by everyone and we were astounded that it was so beautifully put together after being written within a very short time-frame. Linda was encouraged by Tony to submit it to Best of British magazine.

The next meeting will be held at Annie's (I think, why didn't I write this down at the time?) on 11th March, Tony to submit.