Monday, 10 June 2013

Blog Subsumed -or is it novated?

I don't know what the name for it is,  but I've decided to continue this on my other blog, to which there's a link on the right hand side. So if you've come here by mistake you can go there and if not you can just trawl down here. You are very welcome to do either.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Dangerous Territory : Out-of-Town Author Events

I like to go to the final event of the Oxford Literary Festival each year - the one with the awards, that is, not the one with the pricey dinner.  This year, Hilary Mantel would be presented with a special prize on Sunday 24th March.  I'd heard her speak in London when Wolf Hall was on the Booker shortlist, but I was too slow and the event sold out before I checked my diary.  
Luckily, I could buy  tickets to see Val McDermid one of my favourite crime writers, on  Sunday 17th,  in the beautifully vaulted  Bodleian Divinity Halls.
She has a great sense of humour and a fine line in anecdotes. I laughed when she told how, as a nervous beginner to the crime writing scene, she consulted  Colin Dexter, author of the Oxford-based Inspector Morse novels. Although she wanted to include detectives, she didn't have a clue about police procedure. 'Just make it up,' he told her.
She talked of  her early days at St Hilda's, where she was  one of the youngest students to be admitted, and the first from a Scottish state school. She chose crime writing because she liked reading crime novels and thought they allowed for a wide social spectrum. I'd come to the same conclusion.  Maybe it was because I laughed so loudly at her jokes that she paused from signing her latest book to smile for my camera.
We lunched at the Royal Blenheim, a favourite pub down a side street near the Westgate Shopping Centre, then came straight back to London on the three o'clock bus.
There's usually time for a stroll round Oxford, calling in at bookshops and a museum, but that day we weren't even tempted. On the bus from London we'd watched the snow falling on Oxfordshire fields ; the city itself was deep in slush. We kept our heads down and concentrated on avoiding the  icy  puddles at the kerbsides.
I'd have better luck at St Alban's, I thought, where I'd reserved tickets for the following Thursday evening , to hear a trio of crime writers at the library. Roy was already laid low with a cold and I didn't feel marvellous, but St Alban's is even easier to get to - only an hour or so from Lewisham.


The weather was, if anything, even colder, and although it wasn't actually snowing, the wide St Alban's streets were draughty. I settled for reading about the town's illustrious past -it claims to be the oldest settlement in England -in the map/guidebook that I'd bought at the station. I'd had sandwiches on the train but when I ventured out at 5.30 pm to stroll along to the cathedral and hopefully find a restaurant open I was out of luck. The tea-rooms were closing and the formal dining places were all deserted. I settled for a toasted panini in the Costa Coffee house in the shopping mall, curiously misnamed 'The Maltings'. The library was on the second floor, next to a small theatre. 
It was a good library - warm and welcoming with a pleasantly hushed atmosphere and  attractive displays. The study tables even had those cosy wooden dividers called carrels.  There was a good turn-out for the talks by three quite different writers.
Howard Linsky said he hadn't read much at all during his upbringing in County Durham. His anti-hero detective,  David Blake, works in Newcastle. Howard  said he became a writer as a result of seeing a lot of bad films and thinking he could do better. By contrast, Peter Murphy  joined the law profession at a time of great changes in the system, especially  the expansion of legal aid.  Employed as a junior by an old school barrister who kept him busy, he had lots of  stories to draw on.
I knew Leigh Russell , because I've attended a couple of her excellent workshops. After a career in teaching she 'fell into' crime when an idea for a murder story came to her as she walked through a park. I  think of it as the South London Park where Antonioni's moody thriller   Blow Up was filmed, complete with sinister wind-stirred bushes. Leigh went home and completed a first draft in 6 weeks. She's written a whole series of successful crime novels since, during a period of great change in the publishing world. I bought one of the books, a present for Roy, before the talks began,  because I knew I'd have to sneak off to get the London train and be home by 10pm.
I can't entirely blame the out-of-town gallivanting for the cough that's kept me indoors for the past two days.  On Sunday I walked across Blackheath and down to Greenwich in the face of a biting wind. I'm reminded of Thomas Hardy's characters who sign their own  doom when they set foot  outside their usual habitat.  

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Two Nice Surprises

I've neglected this blog recently, but that’s set to change. It’s not so much that I’ll neglect my other blog –hopefully I’ll continue to review plays - but current projects will  take over.

 A busy week brought two surprises:  I learned I’m to teach a day course on Pride and Prejudice, and, for the very first time, one of my short stories appeared in a magazine.

The latter is the more tangible - I can turn to page 42 and see the story I wrote last June, called 'In at the Deep End' . Although not specifically written for the event, I 'performed' it at the opening of the new swimming pool in Forest Hill (to an audience of five). It's about a young man who rescues a swimmer in distress at on his first day as a pool employee.

It's hardly an overnight success. I've attended classes, read books about how to write short stories and written them, ever since I gave up full-time work in 2005. It's only in the past three years I've concentrated on women’s magazines. About a year ago I took out a subscription to The Weekly News.

Earlier, I was thrilled by a letter to say I’d been appointed as a part-time Lecturer in Film and Literature at Bromley Adult College. It sounds grander than it is; in fact, I'm to trial a one-off day course that I offered to several colleges. It’s to take place on May 28th: 'Jane Austen: From Page to Screen'. If successful, it could lead on to greater things. Maybe the whole six novels!

I got the idea from an article I read in the Saturday Guardian. Modern novelists commented on characters in Pride and Prejudice, to mark the 200th anniversary since publication.

 I emailed my 'pitch' to about five colleges and had interviews at two. Writing the 'blurb' was a lot less stressful than attending interviews.
‘We’re all Jane-ites now’:  Jane Austen from Text to Screen
Are you a ‘text-is-best’ purist or a fan of all things Austen?    ‘Pride and Prejudice’ celebrates its bi-centennial in 2013 and regularly tops the polls of most-read novels. The author’s wit and wisdom, her very human characters and stories, are even more widely known to TV and cinema audiences. We will consider the challenges and effects of adapting Jane Austen’s works for the screen.
I haven't heard back from City Lit but the interview got off to a bad start - they weren't even expecting me. It never really got any better. But now I'll offer the course to a few more places.

I'll have to  brush up on my presentation skills. Lewisham Library wanted to charge me £175 for a PowerPoint course. Fortunately, I found a book on the shelves.