Category Archives: Writing

It’s all happening at Unchained Towers (yes it really is!)

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Emily Koch reading Scratching at the Grey

Any minute now we’ll be opening submissions for our next Story Sunday event whose theme is Midsummer Madness (submission details here) but here’s a quick run down on what we’ve been up to since the Love Hangover evening which as hangovers go was a whole lot of fun.

We had great stories and performances from all the writers who came from near and far. Sadly none of the rest of us remembered a camera, but thanks to guest writer Debbie Young you can see a few more snaps on our Facebook page.

And?

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Louise Gethin starred at Bristol Old Vic

Since then we’ve had quite a few adventures, starting in February when Louise Gethin performed Ship’s Diary – a short fictional piece inspired by a visit to the SS Great Britain and narrated from the Ship’s point of view – as part of the Bristol Old Vic Open Stage event. If you want to catch Louise again, she will be one of the poets and writers reading on the 9th June at Life, love and Mortality: A Literary Night. For further information: http://www.skylightrain.com/life-love-and-mortality-a-literary-night/

 

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Shirley in Teignmouth

Meanwhile Shirley Wright enjoyed a visit to the seaside when she took part in the Teignmouth Festival and came second in the Teignmouth poetry prize then ran a poetry workshop at  Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival which was hugely appreciated.

Jean Burnett and Ali Bacon also took part in the Hawkesbury festival  where Jean had the Georgians voted second in the ‘My era’s better than yours’  historical fiction panel. More pictures of the whole day are on Ali’s blog.

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Ali reads at Stroud

No prizes (so far)) for Ali whose short story Silver Harvest has been listed in more than one competition, but she did enjoy reading it at the Stroud Short Stories spring event on April 24th. Here’s a great review of the whole evening by Leah Grant of Good on Paper which really captures the atmosphere – and reveals some enticing news for Stroud Short Stories fans.

What’s next?

Our next ‘outing’ before or own Story Sunday will be at the Talking Tales evening in Bath on June 5th.  ‘More Banksy than Bonnets‘ is a chance for Bristol writers to go large in the sedate (?) city which is our neighbour, so thanks to Stokes Croft Writers for inviting local writing groups – and watch out Bath!

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Eleanor Matthews

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Heather Child

Perhaps best of all, we’ll be joined at upcoming events by new members who’ve recently joined our Writers Group. We’ve been enjoying their work immensely, so please take a look at  Heather‘s and Eleanor’s websites and join with us in giving the a warm welcome.

Like I said, it’s all happening 🙂

 

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Panning for gold. Gail Swann is resting (not rusting).

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Let the wild seeds of your imagination flourish where they will. (Photo by Evolybab)

Gail Swann writes:

Finding myself in a period of writerly pause, or to put it more succinctly, ‘stymied by having too many beginnings’, I have been filling my head with the work of others. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a run of cracking good reads (thanks to Nina Milton for book reviews at http://kitchentablewriters.blogspot.co.uk/p/the-kitchen-table-reading-club.html), I’ve watched a few outstanding films, too much absorbing trash TV, and dipped in and out of Facebook. Yes, a mixed blessing but it’s all art of one kind and another. Well perhaps not what your mate had for dinner, but that gorgeous photo captured on a morning walk (check out https://www.polaroidblipfoto.com), or the one out of a hundred (mostly irritating) poetic proclamations about life that just hits the mark when you’re feeling anxious or sad. I love it that we can share so easily, even if you have to pan for the gold sometimes.

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Larger than life at Comic-Con San Diego*

At the other end of the scale, my business is lucky enough to have the world’s foremost entertainment company as a client. Tasked with translating storylines into commercial graphics, we get to see some of what goes into the making of epic movies. Rising majestically from their comic strip origins, Super Heroes are trending right now https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WWzgGyAH6Y.

Those early twentieth century cartoonists in their shadowy world of pen, ink and midnight oil had no concept of the cultural phenomenon their work would become.

This summer some of my colleagues went over to Comic-Con in San Diego (strictly business of course!). The scale of this convention is bewildering, and goes to show how much we mere mortals love to escape into a parallel universe of storytelling and dress up, given half a chance! You might say ‘only in America’, but actually we do it here too http://www.mcmcomiccon.com/london.

So, what am I trying to say (did I mention that I was a ‘resting’ writer – perhaps rusting is more apt)? I think we must appreciate creativity in all its forms and tap into whatever sparks our imagination at the time. It might be a novel, a blipfoto or Facebook post, a cinematic battle to save the world, or a fairytale told to a child. The human appetite for sharing stories prevails. It comes in many forms and it takes all sorts.

*Comic-con photo https://www.facebook.com/comiccon

Nathan Filer and The Shock of the Fall

This week Ali Bacon reflects on what she heard (or hopes she heard) at an evening with Nathan Filer

Nathan Filer There’s nothing like a local hero to inspire us all to greater things, and since winning the Costa Prize with The Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer is the man whose hand we have all wanted to shake, and so I did just that (pushy or what!) on Monday at an event in Yate Library where Nathan was talking about his book. In fact I discovered his roots are as much in South Glos as Bristol/Bath and there was a great turn-out.

I should say that up to then I knew only the outline of Nathan’s story and had belatedly dashed to only page 21 *blush* of Shock but by the end of Nathan’s talk about the writing of the book I knew a lot more about the book and the man. But then that’s what you might expect since the author and his hero Matthew  had been close companions for a very long time. It was such a lively and inspiring evening I’ve decided to pass on the bits of Nathan’s writing story that stuck in my mind, but I didn’t take notes so I’m just hoping I haven’t imagined too much of it. They do say you hear what you want to hear!

 First novels are rarely first novels.

Nathan has been writing for a long time and has a career as a stand-up poet. No, this is not his first novel, just the first to be published.  Writers know that first novels rarely are just that, but sometimes it’s good to know that the truly great novel – and great writer – have started in the not so great place, and still achieved greatness after all.

 Novels take a long time to write and change along the way

 I think Nathan estimated Shock had 6 or 7 drafts. During that time it changed from a more sensational account – almost a thriller – to what it is now. In fact very many things changed – except the main character. He was the driving force and the insistent voice that wouldn’t go away. Getting Matthew’s story right was what mattered. And Matthew’s character changed only to the degree that the author may have changed along the way. An interesting admission, which brings us to

 Fiction and autobiography, i.e.  my book and my life

nathan filer eventNathan was entirely candid about how much of the novel springs from his own experience and how many of the characters were originally modeled on members of his own family. I thought this was refreshing. How often do writers insist their work is not autobiographical when actually our writing is bound to be shaped by our lives. But, as Nathan pointed out, we put these characters into new situations and suddenly they are new people, they are fictional characters. I’m hoping this will be read by all those people who say ‘Am I in your book?’ because the answer is probably ‘yes of course you are’ and at the same time ‘don’t be ridiculous!’ 

 Do creative writing courses work?

Ah, the chestnut question! But asked by a young writer in the audience who had no academic axe to grind and really did want to know.  Nathan was quick to say that the Bath Spa MA worked for him, but that he knew people who had failed to benefit or even been set back by it. I think his advice was to embark on this style of course only if you are sure of the story you want to tell.

 Road to publication

Shock of the Fall(Well I wanted to know!) After many ups and downs, Nathan finished his first draft on the MA at Bath Spa and submitted it to the Tibor Jones novel competition. Nathan has a healthy cynicism for writing competitions which I am beginning to share, but in this case although the book didn’t win, it was spotted by an agent.  There was another year of work before the final submission, but within a week it was out to publishers and they were all bidding for it. So the long gestation was over very quickly and The Shock of the Fall was soon out in the world. No lessons here except that hard work does pay off, and real quality will get attention even in this mad new world of what often feels like publishing mayhem.

These reflections are hardly news, but sometimes hearing them from someone who has been through the mil and come out the other end reminds us of why things are as they are and what we have to do to overcome the odds.

Finally, with many of the audience asking about the setting and the mental health issues,  I learned a disturbing fact, namely that NHS cuts have been 20% greater in the mental health sector than the service over all. In a world that threatens our mental stability in so many ways, I find that shocking.

So to respond to the South Glos feedback form, yes, I met someone new, learned something new, and in my own little way yes,  I was inspired by the evening. I was certainly moved to buy the very pleasing paperback even though I have the Kindle edition! And if  Nathan should pass this way, he’ll be pleased to know I’m now zipping along on page 90 – and counting.

AliBweb
Ali’s novel A Kettle of Fish is available in Kindle and paperback editions.
Meet her at http://alibacon.com

Next to reveal her writing secrets: – Shirley Wright

 

Shirley WrightAfter her guest slot on BBC Radio Bristol last Saturday (two days left to catch up here),  Shirley is fast becoming a local celebrity, but she has found time to tell us some of her writing secrets in today’s post.

 

What are you working on now?

Poetry, almost exclusively. I’ve become fascinated with form, and I’m enjoying exploring its restrictions and its challenges. My current obsession is with the sonnet. I suspect that’s the most well known of all the poetic forms and probably the most used, both by modern and not so modern writers. Surely everyone had to learn one of Wordsworth’s or Shakespeare’s at school? And today’s kids have examples like the fabulous “Prayer” by Carol Ann Duffy.

How does your work differ from others in the same genre?

Well, there’s a limit to how different you can actually be when you’re writing in strict form! But what I like about today’s poets is the way they push the boundaries and bend the rules in an attempt to move things on. Like a modern take on an old classic – paying homage while at the same time acknowledging that things change (and have to, or else they’ll ossify and die). Some people are very resistant to this! I was at a poetry workshop recently where I read a few of my sonnets and explained what I was trying to do and why, and met with violent opposition: a sonnet is fourteen lines, with strict metre and rhyming patterns, and that’s that. No argument. Now, Don Paterson (Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, university lecturer, published poet and author of many tomes specifically about the sonnet, and therefore someone who probably knows his onions) reckons the only thing you can definitely say nowadays about a sonnet is that it usually has fourteen lines, but often doesn’t! When I quoted this at the said workshop, there were gasps of horror.

Why do you write what you do?

I write poetry because I love words. Frankly, I’m obsessed with them. Their meanings, sound, feel, taste, ambiguities, etymology, grammatical interplay … I’m one of those geeky people who can spend all day worrying about a semi-colon or choosing between two words that basically mean exactly the same thing! I like writing in form because, in a weird way, its restrictions are  somehow liberating. When you’re searching for a particular rhyme, it makes your imagination go to places you wouldn’t otherwise have considered. It makes you more inventive.

 What is your writing process?

 I try to write every day. But it’s different from the discipline of bashing out a thousand words of prose before lunch. I can’t be that regular or that methodical. Sometimes a poem starts to take shape while I’m shopping or ironing or cooking. I scribble odd words down, then carry on with what I’m doing and wait till a bit more comes along. Eventually the poem demands attention and then I go straight to the computer. I know lots of poets still swear by pencil and paper, but seeing lines clearly on the screen, and being able to move them about so easily, helps me envisage the future poem, even before it exists. My handwriting’s illegible, anyway. But there are also days when nothing new happens and I spend my time fiddling and editing and reworking old poems, often just playing with the odd word. Poets are inveterate fiddlers. We never know when to leave a poem alone and say “It’s finished”. Because it never is. If I’m really stuck, I read someone else’s poetry and this can help a lot.

lastgreenfieldThank you Shirley. You can view The Last Green Field and Shirley’s other publications on our bookshop page.

Meanwhile – as you can guess from this picture we’re in tea-party mode. Catch us if you can at one of our meetings tonight from 7 to 9 on Twitter @eteaparty

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