Friday, 8 November 2013

A Reading, a Visit to the Queen's Front Yard and the Inevitable Pair of Boots

Those who know me well know that I pack a good suitcase. I've been doing it for a number of years now. Even with house-moves I excel, though after nearly twenty of them that's a talent I don't wish to exercise any time soon thanks.

So late last week I packed two-and-half outfits, two pairs of shoes (one high, one low), the book I couldn't bear to leave behind, a stash of face cream samples; I adorned myself in my beloved Ethiopian silver and took off.

This time it was just me and my work. No auditions for the soprano. No great social happenings. No shopping moments. Not even very much food on the menu except for a Lebanese meal and an attempted Yummy Mummy morning tea. I took the cheap bus from London to Plymouth, where I'd been asked to read from my story 'Montgomery Akuofo, Father of Twins' at this year's launch of the review Short Fiction, at an event within the Plymouth Book Festival. ('Montgomery' is in Pelt and Other Stories.) The issue is full of touching artwork and well-crafted stories. It's an absolute thrill to see one's work in such a beautiful production.

As you see here I spent a sunny morning wasting time along the seafront, before a quick run-through with colleague Rachel Fenton in her hotel room.

Of course I have no photos of the way I was clutching my book that evening, not looking up (AT ALL) at the university lecture theatre above. Or showing the way I tried to plant my feet a little apart to lessen my chances of toppling over - a real risk given my thumping heart and new slick boots. Or how I steamrollered over the rude words ('cock', 'bush' - twice!) so as not to laugh or meltdown.

I had a good half-pint beforehand. This is strongly recommended.

One of the best things was of course meeting writer Rachel Fenton, especially over from New Zealand, with whom I had a drowned-rat experience in the driving Plymouth rain the night before. Rachel won this year's Short Fiction Short Story Prize and read a section of her wonderful story - and I'll interview her later on the Pelt blog and grab an excerpt. Other wonderful aspects were the cocktail afterwards at the university and a lovely dinner where I was able to speak more with Chief Editor Anthony Caleshu, and Assistant Editor Tom Vowler, both of whom are top writers with good tips.

After the endless journey back to London my bum was so paralysed I walked halfway across town with my gypsy bag rather than sit down again. The Queen was in, perhaps.

So this author has come back to the ranch buzzing. In fact, after even further writerly talks in London she woke up sleepless and frazzled last night and had a terrific idea for a bit in a story she is revising. So what did she do? She picked up her phone and half-blindly typed it out. There. This is what writers do, isn't it? The 2.43am brainwave?

I read my brainwave this morning after the alarm. What garbage. Even worse than before. Cancelled.

The one thing I did grasp from each writer I spoke to, is that there is a greater shared passion for words, a yearning to read the works of others and to get our own work right, to produce the very best from the bowels and bones of us.

And we are all so fragile and disbelieving and moneyless. The lot of us.

12 comments:

  1. Plymouth in November is no picnic! I hope you enjoyed the atmosphere of a half-cut naval town where the streets were once awash with seamen,pirates & pilgrims! I was wondering myself how you'd get through 'Montgomery...' with that word rising like a demon before you! Well done for not laughing; no man with a cock can stand-up to womens' mocking laughter! Your 2.43 brainwave? I've had those night-time visitations from the muse too...difficult to resist the feeling that it might be the best idea you've ever had...& it turns into a damp patch! Apologies for the innuendi! Happy Landings!

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  2. Yes I am so glad I didn't laugh. I pretended I was playing Haydn for my maestro. He wouldn't suffer laughter!

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  3. You could have at least shown a pic of your lovely boots :) !
    Sounds like a good trip - well done!

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    1. I almost did. But it just felt too silly. Am I a boot-lover who writes or a writer who loves boots??
      Yeah it was a fantastic trip!

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  4. I'm thrilled you didn't topple over during your reading --- and while I'd like to say I don't believe you were one bit nervous, I know from which you speak .... spacing those feet apart just-so and trying not to fall of my (I mean, your) new slick-bottomed shoes. ;-)

    Still. I bet you did great. I'm coming to learn that the best things about readings, especially when reading with other writers, is the sense of belonging, of banding together, of being with your people to share all those words we write, along, and often at 2:43 in the morning. Out of the dark, into the light ...

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    1. The half pint helped smooth the nerves. And yes the best thing is the shared enthusiasm with other writers, which makes you want to bolt home and get to work.
      I loved the Joyce Carol Oates story on your blog!

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  5. Sounds like your practice with travelling is paying off. It is so much easier for me to travel with less rather than more but that has taken lots of practice. Public speaking, that also takes practice. Some people would rather die. It is like anything, practice helps. Great story. Lyn

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    1. Glad you enjoyed, Lyn. Yes practise makes perfect. Especially with public speaking. I hope to be doing a lot more as I think I like it!

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  6. So fragile and disbelieving and moneyless... Yes, that about sums it up.

    Beautiful post, Cat. (Note to self: wear flats. You are not a big girl yet.)

    XO
    Averil

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    1. I thought you were going to wear something silvery?! You can do it Averil, I'm sure. Just practise saying those bad words! That's the hardest part.. Xxx

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  7. I haven't done a public reading of my work since I was a senior in high school. Yikes--the nerves it must entail! Good for you!!

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