Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Something in the Water?

This blog should be about our last meeting on 25th April but it's more important to report that, sadly, SVA has lost another member. Izzie is unable to commit to attend meetings for a while and has decided to leave . We shall miss her insightful critiques, her advice regarding blogging and the mysteries of the Interweb and, most of all, her lively presence at our meetings. So now we are four.

It was three of the four – Annie, Linda and Rob – who, at the last meeting, heard Tony's news that he has had a proposal for a book on mental health accepted and that the publisher will issue it in hardback and e-book formats. Brilliant, Tony, well done.

Tony read a short story called My Manager's a Psychopath that was greeted warmly. Annie has noticed that many of Tony's short stories have links with water – canals and rivers – and wondered if there is any significance in this. She suggested that this could be the theme for an anthology. She complimented Tony on his work and offered an alternative ending for him to consider.

Linda recognised that Tony's esoteric style means that he breaks some of the 'rules' of creative writing but generally she approved of his choices where they broke the conventions. Her summary was that, "it's a cracking story that needs tightening up a bit."

Rob echoed Linda's comments about Tony's style that always reminds him (Rob) of Garrison Keillor's 'voice' in Lake Wobegone Days. He praised its "charming cadence and rhythm". Luckily – and surprisingly for our group – nobody suggested that this was tautologous. 

The question of the evening was whether the sentence: "I wonder where they go." should have ended with a question mark. Here is the answer according to GrammarBook.com in Rule 3a pertaining to question marks:

Rule 3a. Avoid the common trap of using question marks with indirect questions, which are statements that contain questions. Use a period after an indirect question.
Incorrect: I wonder if he would go with me?
I wonder if he would go with me.
I wonder: Would he go with me?
So it appears that the answer is no. 

Friday, 15 April 2016

Beauty in the detail of insignificant things

by Tony Gillam

Everyone seemed a bit battle-weary from their day-to-day lives when we met at Annie's on Monday 11th April.  It wasn't the writing that was getting us all down - it was everything else ... and the lack of time left to immerse ourselves in the creative process.  Still, there were some scraps of literary news.  Rob's scheme to give away 30 (slightly defective) copies of Out of Such Darkness via Good Reads had resulted in 857 people coming forward, proving that, if you're willing to write for nothing, there is no shortage of readers out there happy not to pay for a good book!  Rob had also met for coffee with Chris - who, intriguingly, had come to a radical decision about Karl Marx and Careful Driving.  But, reader, you will have to buy that book when it becomes available to find out more.  Annie had found some time for a little editing and polishing of her works for children. Tony has a few things 'in press', as they say, which he is hoping to see in print before too long.  And Linda's computer keyboard had decided to exchange letters for symbols, which might be a useful shortcut to writing symbolist poetry, but is less helpful when you're working on a novel.

We critiqued an extract from a chapter by Linda.  Annie enjoyed the 'gossipyness' of the story.  The intrigue of what's-Lorna-doing-next.  We all admired the sentence: "Phoebe in her scruffy coat and scraped shoes seemed somehow beautiful in the detail of insignificant things."

Rob struggled to keep track of the cast of characters.  For him, the brevity of the scenes made it seem hurried and disjointed but he liked the phrase "eyes the colour of aniseed balls". I also found it a little hard to follow but loved the Dylan Thomas-esque language ("The girls ducked into the warmth of Divito's coffee shop, welcomed by the whirr of the coffee machines and the smell of bacon.") Linda has a knack for stimulating all the senses with tumbling phrases which are naturally rhythmic and alliterative. 

And after that, in our rather chaotic way, we contrived to plan the next few meetings, as follows:
·         Next meeting:  Monday 25th April at Tony's (with Tony submitting)
·         No meeting on Monday 9th May, due to low numbers
·         Monday 23rd May at Jayne's (with Chris to submit) and
·         Monday 13th June at Rob's (with Annie to submit.)

Monday, 11 April 2016

Wretched Snivelling

Some things happened during the course of the meeting but the only really important thing was that Rob had a cold…
We met at Rob’s house on 14th March.
Before the critique we discussed our news:
I have now finished two picture book manuscripts as a result of attending an on-line story-writing course.
Tony has had a book proposal rejected but has been asked to write the introduction to a Malcolm Saville book.
Rob took delivery of a set of his second novel ‘Out of Such Darkness’ and found a blank page had been included within the text. This technical error meant he had to order a new set. What to do with the imperfect copies though? Ever the ideas man, Rob set up an on-line competition where people could ask to receive a book for free. Rob is also editing his latest novel, ‘The Petrified Fountain.’
It was a chapter from this novel that we critiqued.
The chapter sees Cross still in Portugal with his cousin Luis. The pair listened to traditional Portuguese ‘Fado’ singers at a local restaurant. This chapter was slower-paced than previous ones but there was much to admire. Jane enjoyed the description of Cross’ visit to a bookshop. I felt that Cross’ character was being well-drawn; he appears to take every opportunity to compare himself with others and in this chapter it is height comparisons.
Tony and Linda had concerns over Cross as the narrator and found his voice quite intrusive. Rob explained that he wished to continue with it in the first person and he felt that this best served the plot.
There were some excellent descriptions of the ‘Fado’ singers who it seemed stopped at nothing to perform, including being hooked up to an oxygen mask. We questioned the likelihood of this but Rob assured us that this section was written from his research trip to Portugal.  I loved Cross’ summing up of the musical experience: a fantastic oxymoron. ‘It’s very emotional …powerful… and I understood every word even though I didn’t, if you see what I mean.’
We also enjoyed Luis’ use of a noun as a verb with ‘Let’s have a sherry to nightcap.’
Our next meeting is on Monday 11th April at my house. Linda is submitting. 

(Written by Annie posted by Snivelling Rob.)

Friday, 22 January 2016

The Trouble With Biscuits...

The first SVA meeting for 2016 was held at Tony's on 11th January. Tony read chapter 7 from Nothing But A Phantom following a long stint in the kitchen finding alternative refreshments when several troublesome guests admitted that they weren't partial to white chocolate biscuits. Ever the gracious host, he had rustled up an alternative in no time.

In news... 
Rob was away for the first meeting as he's on holiday in South Africa. Annie has started her course with an editor. This is going well and she is optimistic that by the end of week six, one or two books will be ready to submit. Linda has been working on her second book and is finding it easier to write than her previous one. Izzie is working on a couple of commissioned posts about sleep and also has a new job. Tony has had a couple of features published in Acksherley magazine, sent a couple of submissions to Popshot, entered a Writers' and Artists' book competition and also received an acknowledgement for his book proposal on mental health.

Izzie liked the clever use of the chapter and book titles within the text of chapter 7. She also enjoyed the description of Aiden, the drama lecturer and was relieved that Tilman had been rescued. Linda enjoyed the natural, laid-back style of the chapter and felt that Aiden's character really stood out. She also loved the parallels between The Tempest and Tilman being tossed around on the sea. Annie thought that the chapter was a good read, but highlighted that quaint and polystyrene didn't go together at all well. She also liked Aiden's catchphrase, 'Kinda,' and the use of French when Tilman was rescued.

Tony appreciated the comments and varied interpretations. He admitted that the story was unfurling accidentally as it isn't plotted. The use of The Tempest was accidental but appears to work well within the chapter.

We look forward to reading chapter 8.

Next meeting...
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday 25th January at Rob's house, with Annie to submit.