The writer is a lonely hunter

gailaldwin

Writers in the Alley, open mic

There is a friendly and talented group of writers who meet in Dorchester on the first Wednesday of each month. They are known as Writers in the Alley due to the venue, a room sometimes used for playing skittles at Goldie’s Bar, 36 High East Street. Regular meetings are held at 7pm for a 7:30 start. Members support each other by showing a positive interest in the writing shared. On Wednesday 5 April, the group is hosting a second open mic session, so if you’re in Dorchester this is well worth attending. Go along to hear some wonderful poetry and prose presented in a variety of forms or bring your own writing to read or perform. I attended an open mic held in the autumn and it was great to find a receptive audience for my poetry. You can find Writers in the Alley on Facebook or contact the organiser on suzie.suze1@gmail.com.

PosterA5-april

I’m really disappointed  I won’t be able to attend this open mic as I’m away from home at the beginning of April. Luckily Writers in the Alley are planning to make the open mic session a regular event so I hope to be there next time.

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The Beacon, Issue 1

s245645246236175034_p1_i1_w320 This time last year I was regularly travelling to Bournemouth to attend CPD training in workshop facilitation offered by Lit Up! Writing. (You can find a post about the programme here.) The latest Lit Up! initiative sees the publication of poetry and prose by  writers living in Dorset and beyond. The Beacon, Issue 1 is an ingenious anthology compiled to reflect the theme of performance. Act 1 includes work by fellow Wimborne Writing Group members Mary Bevan and Richard Green. My flash fiction ‘Graft’ appears at the end of Act 2, while Kim West (who also attended the Lit Up CPD training) has a poem in Act 3. Biographies for the writers appear under ‘curtain call’. It’s a pleasure to have my work included in such an innovative anthology. Well done to Ben Johnson for putting it together. Copies of the anthology can be purchased here.

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Launch of The Swan-Daughter in Bicester

61247Last week, Dave and I travelled to Oxfordshire for the launch of Carol McGrath‘s novel The Swan-Daughter.  This is the second book in the Daughters of Hastings trilogy and it’s great to be back in the company of an accomplished story-teller. Carol’s style of writing is charming, allowing readers to enter the life of Gunnhild, the daughter of King Harold and Edith Swanneck. Based on research, the novel provides a lasting impression of the lives and struggles during the early Norman period. Essentially it’s a love story, starting with Gunnhild’s escape the nunnery at Wilton Abbey and her elopement with Count Alan of Richmond. 

The book launch was held at Cole’s Books in the delightful market town of Bicester. We stayed overnight in the Pentewan B&B  a lovely place tucked away from the main thoroughfare – we even had a dip in the hot tub in the garden!

St Catherine's College

St Catherine’s College

The following day, we stopped in Oxford and Dave and I wandered through the grounds of his old college then spent the afternoon in the Ashmolean Museum. It was great! Now that I have membership at the Bodleian Library, I look forward to returning, research for my studies makes a good excuse.

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Another story published by CafeLit

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I was delighted to have a story included in ‘The Best of CafeLit 2012’.  The Shallows is a short story based on the experience of losing my son on a beach in France when he was three-years-old. Although the story ends well the ‘what if’ became the starting point for work on my novel Trying to be Brave. I’m so very pleased The Shallows found a safe home in an excellent print anthology. It is available for purchase from Amazon, click here for details.

 

While I’ve been hard at work on my novel, I haven’t made any submissions for publication so it was a total surprise when I found I had a piece of flash fiction included in the latest CafeLit publication. (A submission during 2013 was accepted, this time a piece of short fiction about a plumber and a baby.)

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You can find purchase details for The Best of CafeLit 3 here.

 

 

 

Happy reading!

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Open Day at the British Library

With other postgraduate students, I spent a splendid day at the British Library, getting acquainted with the amazing resources that are available. I hadn’t been aware of the digital collections that are held and to handle some of the manuscripts was wonderful. While I was there I was issued with a reader’s pass (make sure you take the necessary ID when applying –  proof of address and proof of signature is necessary). I also made a reader room request so that I could have access to a play script of What Maisie Knew which I hope to use in my MPhil research.

Some of the resources presented at the workshop include: Read the rest of this entry »

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Mere Literary Festival

The small town of Mere, positioned at the western edge of Salisbury Plain, hosts a literary festival each year. It is organised by volunteers and includes a range of events for adults and children, those living nearby and visitors. The highlights for the seventeenth Mere Literary Festival include:

PAUL KERENSA – So a Comedian walks into a Church

The popular comedian discusses his recently published diary revealing the true and hilarious ‘Confessions of a Kneel-Down Stand-Up’.

Monday 14 October Grove Building 7.30pm. £5 in advance £6 on the door.

TARQUIN OLIVIER – So Who’s Your Mother?

What’s it like growing up the son of a great actor? More off-stage stories from his published memoir by the son of Laurence Olivier.

Tuesday 15 October Grove Building 7.30pm. £5 in advance £6 on the door.

CHRIS McCULLY – Poetry Masterclass

A must for all with poetry in their hearts as acclaimed poet, Chris McCully, analyses poems submitted by local writers

Wednesday 16 October, Grove Building 2.30pm. Retiring donations.

AN EVENING WITH DAMIEN LEWIS

One of Britain’s ‘20 Favourite Authors’, Damien Lewis has topped best-seller lists worldwide and has 29 books listed on ‘Good Reads’. He discusses his work including his latest book, ‘Zero Six Bravo’.

Friday 17 October, Grove Buildings 7.30pm. £5 in advance £6 on the door

CHILDREN’S EVENT with award-winning author GILLIAN CROSS

A free event at the library, tickets required

Saturday 18 October, 2.15pm

For the full programme, click here. Tickets available from Mere Library 01747 860546 or the Festival Organiser 01747 860475

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Back from Edinburgh

Having enjoyed the Edinburgh Fringe and International Book Festival last year, I booked again for a return visit in 2013. Had I known in advance what would be in store for me during the intervening period, I would have reserved a week under a sunshade. However, having galvanised a bit of energy, I made it to Charlotte Square most mornings for the 10 at 10 session which featured a short reading from a visiting author. One of the treats included the opening pages from the The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extense. This is a debut novel that is included in Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club. The story is told in the distinctive voice of seventeen year old Alex and revolves around an unusual friendship with Mr Peterson, an American, pot-smoking widower. You can read more about the book in a Guardian review here.

Further highlights included another debut novelist, Courtney Collins talking about her book The Burial, a story inspired by the life of Jessie Hickman a twentieth century Australian horse rustler.  I also got to touch base with Ronald Frame talking about his latest novel Havisham.

In terms of the Fringe, we caught a few comedy shows including Rachel Parrish whose singing/comedy act had me in stitches (the performer is tagged as the Glee-Club chick gone wrong).

When we returned to Dorset, the plants in the garden decided to put on a welcome home display

Begonia

Begonia

Dahlias

Dahlias

Yucca

Yucca

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A bit of luck

Just when I thought I had to return to the office for three more days of work after taking leave next week, I discovered that I’m actually owed some days. As a result, my last day of employment with the County Council will be Friday and I’m madly trying to get everything done ready for a holiday in Edinburgh starting on Saturday.  We’re flying from Southampton and taking hand luggage only, so decanting liquids has been the order of the day. Fortunately, the flat that we’re staying at in Stockbridge provides shampoo and shower gel, so it’s only face creams that I need to worry about.

I’ve packed a couple of paperbacks including The Coward’s Tale by Vanessa Gebbie and The Polish Boxer (which was recommended by Sarah Bower) and you can read a review here. I’ve downloaded two audiobooks to my ipod: Catch 22 and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. So when I’m not attending sessions at the Book Festival or the Fringe I’ll have plenty to keep my busy.

Have a good week.

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How many pens does a writer need?

No wonder my handbag was feeling a little heavier than usual. When I turfed out the contents I found the following lurking at the bottom:

Pens

Bearing in mind that I can only use one pen at a time, there surely is no need to lug around FIFTEEN! And what a motley assortment of biros! I may have to purchase a rather more distinguished writing implement once my redundancy pay comes through. Any suggestions for a posh brand?

In the meantime, I have a task to complete for 21 July when I will be returning to the Bridport Arts Centre for the second part of a two-day writing course delivered by Paul Dodgson. The first session included the following:

  • a warm up exercise: write about an incident that happened within the last year. Take turns to give your name and the first line of your writing. Does the writing contain a hook that makes others want to know more?
  • discussion about what a short story should include
  • writing task: tear a sheet of paper into four rectangles. Write a first name, a family name, an incident and a lie on each piece. Redistribute the papers and use your collection to create a character and the first part of a story.
  • This story forms the basis for a longer piece of writing that will provide material for the next workshop
  • Short stories shared included: A painful case, James Joyce (Dubliners); Birds of America, Lorrie Moore; The Turning, Tim Winton; Fat, Raymond Carver

I very much look forward to the next workshop and thank Paul for a wonderful day of literary stimulation, lots of laughter, fun and sharing.

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A week in the Mani

I was fortunate to spend a week at the beginning of June with Sarah Bower and  Carol McGrath at a house that Carol has taken for a year in the Mani area of Greece. Stoupa is a delightful village with a harbor and sandy beaches at the south of the Peloponnese, quite the best spot for a writing retreat owing to the literary connections. A little way along the coast at Kardamyli is the home of Patrick Leigh Fermor, which was bequeathed to the Benaki Museum following his death. Patrick was made an honorary citizen of the village  following his participation in the Cretan Resistance during World War 2. He wrote about the area in his book titled Mani, Travels in the Southern Peloponnese and he is regarded as one of Britain’s greatest travel writers.

Bruce Chatwin is the other notable writer with links to the Mani. He finished writing The Songlines while staying at the Hotel Kalamitsi in 1985. The book records his experiences of traveling in Australia and his ideas about the necessity of walking to human development. For my undergraduate dissertation I wrote about the works of Bruce Chatwin and I’ve always felt that he had a hand in securing me a first-class honours. So, when the opportunity came to visit the place where his ashes are buried, I was delighted.

Most references to where Chatwin’s ashes are buried refer to a tiny, Byzantine church in the mountains above Kardamyli. Some name Exochori as the nearest village and others refer to Chori. Without definite directions, we set off early in our search, visiting several villages situated in the Taygetos mountains that provide the backdrop to the glorious coastal area. The road took us into Chori where there was a white-washed church beside the road. From there we looked across to the golden stones of a church perched amongst olive trees. We found the path that took us alongside residential houses and out onto a grassy strip of land. The view from the church showed the wide expanse of aqua sea and the land spilling down from the mountains. An ideal final resting place for Bruce Chatwin, someone who loved broad horizons.

The church in Chori

The church in Chori

A picture of Bruce marks the spot where his ashes are buried

A picture of Bruce marks the spot where his ashes are buried

After the excitement of this discovery and the time spent absorbing the atmosphere and the wonderful views, we headed for Kardamyli. At a restaurant beside the beach we enjoyed a mezze of salads for lunch.

My companions at the restaurant

My companions at the restaurant

Cheers to Carol and Sarah for your great company and a big thank you to Carol for being such a brilliant host.

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