Books in my Handbag Blog Detective Indie Author Investigates #FridayReads #Editing #Publishing The Crime and Coffee Festival

Detective Indie Author Investigates

The Crime and Coffee Festival beckoned me to Cardiff Library to solve the mystery of writing and publishing. The workshop: Cut, Slash and Perfect promised to reveal more about the writing and traditional publishing journey.  As I passed the crime scene tape surrounding the bookshelves, I did wonder if any authors had been lost during the cutting, slashing and perfecting process. I went undercover to find out more about traditional publishing. Would I need an agent, and would I need a sharper pair of scissors?

The panel discussion with: Thorne Moore, Caroline Oakely and Judith Barrow. Has Judith spotted Jessie?

Authors, Judith Barrow and Thorne Moore, chatted with the editor, Caroline Oakley, of Honno Pressabout publishing. The entertaining chat provided food for thought for all authors who wish to publish their work.  As I listened, I captured some of the main points and discovered what makes editors cut and authors cry. The panel put me at ease, and I was able to remove my disguise as an indie author.

Introducing Caroline Oakley who is the editor at Honno Press

Caroline has worked in general trade publishing for over thirty years and has edited a number of award winning and bestselling authors. Caroline works for, Honno Press, an independent Welsh Women’s publisher in Wales.

Clues from the Editor

Caroline gave a balanced overview of publishing

Big publishers only work through agents.

A good editor is key to success for all authors

Agents often have useful contacts within the publishing world and deal with the contracts.  Care must be taken when selecting an agent because, as in all businesses, there are inefficient, self –styled experts, with little experience, out there. Google and search for those authors who write in your genre to find out the names of the agents who deal with your kind of book before submitting. You can approach independent and smaller publishers with or without an agent. Find out what this kind of publisher wants before approaching them.  Research their website; look at the work of the signed authors.  Take your time to select the appropriate one for your genre; consider how much advance that publisher pays, the amount of royalties for sold books you will get, your rights (such as audio and foreign rights for your work) and the terms and conditions of your contract. You must read the small print!

Don’t get disheartened with rejection letters sent to publishers.  Hope your manuscript reaches the publisher at the right time (by this I mean that it’s not a miserable Monday morning for them, or they’ve not had a quarrel with a partner or their family – or they’ve not had a week of wading through a pile of “not very good” manuscripts before they get to yours)– it is subjective.

Indie publishing has its challenges, but it gives you more control and you get all the profit.  The Indie author deals with every element of the process; from the writing to choosing the cover, the blurb formatting, publication and marketing. Traditionally published authors also are expected to promote and market. Indie publishing is time- consuming but as I said before, they do have complete control over their work.

The venue – Cardiff Library

Whichever publishing route you choose, you must get yourself an editor! Although time-consuming (and sometimes devastating!) you must go through the cut, slash perfect process.  A good editor will identify gaps, things that possibly don’t work in your writing, mistakes such as change of dates of characters’ birthdays or colour of eyes in different parts of the book, errors in time scale etc.. But will not tell you what to do, only point out those mistakes and suggest changes to make your work stronger.

It is advisable that every author, whether self-published or traditionally published, has a website, blog and social media accounts.

Introducing Judith Barrow:

Judith Barrow has published four books with Honno Press.  She writes historical family saga fiction. She has also self-published books and a collection of short stories of the minor characters in her trilogy.

What did Judith say about her publishing journey?

Judith Barrow and Thorne Moore are published by Honno Press

I love working with Honno Press.  The staff are friendly and accessible. As a writer you learn what you can and cannot get away with.  I have built up trust with the editor who I know has had a long and professional career in all genres. And, although  Honno Pressalso organises the front cover for the books, they have allowed me input to the final decision .

Working with Honno Press provides me with quality, professional editing.  I cry every time, I get the editor’s comments, but I know, in my heart, it makes the work better.  An editor will read your book line by line and give an overview. A good editor will ask the right questions but will not give you the answers. When you edit your work, you must keep your own voice.

I do not send my very first draft to an editor and probably have about ten revisions.  I ask my friend, who is an author, to give me an honest opinion on anything I have doubts about.  I am also a member of a writing group and we email sections of our books for discussion.  But do, avoid too much input from too many sources into your work as it can confuse you – have a small trusted network of writers.  Believe in yourself! The cut, slash and perfect stages involves a first general edit, as many more detailed edits then necessary to get the writing to its best, a line by line edit to weed out any noticeable mistakes and then a proof read by the publisher’s proof reader. Finally, it comes back to me for a last read to make sure all is correct. I do like this final stage; it does make me feel as though I have control over the end product to some degree.

Introducing Thorne Moore

Thorne had published three books with Honno Fiction and writes domestic noir and psychological fiction.  Thorne has self-published and works with two publishers.

What did Thorne say about publishing?

She has self-published short stories in order to market a published book.  The different publishers are relevant to the books promoted. Regardless of how the books are published, the author must have a good editor.

A writer needs an editor to stand on the mountain and look down on your work.  During the writing process the author becomes too absorbed to be objective.  Through the feedback from the editor, you learn to write.  The editor will locate your common mistakes then you will avoid these in subsequent drafts.

You do need a small critical group of friends who will give you constructive criticism.

Don’t worry about the reviews. Jane Austin has plenty of one star and two star reviews on Amazon.

Don’t give up!  I was rejected by Honno at first. In an interview with Thorne, she told me about the trials and tribulations of her publishing journey. This story of Thorne’s publishing journey will be published very soon.

A good editor is key to success for all authors: traditionally published and self-published need a good editor.  A good editor will identify gaps in your work and ask the right questions.  My editor forced me to ask lots of questions about my book and rework sections.  I learnt a great deal about my writing through this process. As a self-published author I have involved a professional editor, beta readers and other authors.  One must be careful of making new mistakes in a new edit – it is expensive to pay for all the various stages of the edit.  I understand the security of working with an independent publisher who provides an editor. The indie author has greater control of the book but must complete all stages of the process including the book cover and the marketing. In the end, all clues pointed towards the importance of a professional editor during the publishing process.  No matter how many times the author sharpens the scissors to cut, they still need an editor and dosh to pay for quality.   Clearly, this wasn’t an open and shut case and more investigation needed to be completed.

Clue of the Day

Narbeth Book Fair – see Judith, Thorne and Jessie!

Caroline suggested the market for the unreliable narrator in all genres will change. Like fashion in clothes, fashion in books also changes.  No one knows what will be the next ‘in thing’ for novels.

Judith Barrow, Caroline Oakley, Thorne Moore will all be at the Narberth Book Festival on 22nd September.

You can book individual session with Caroline Oakley of Honno Press for £35.  For more information visit the Narberth Book Fair website. Children’s writers can book sessions with Firefly Press.

 

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Yorkshire Lasses in Wales: When Jessie Met Judith Barrow

Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, near Oldham, and on the wrong side of the Pennines but still in Yorkshire

Judith waited for me in a department store while I waited for her in Cardiff Library.  Would the meeting take place? Neither of us had thought to share our phone numbers prior to the meeting.  

Judith emerged from the lift, in Cardiff Library, wearing a silk purple top that was co-ordinated with her fabulous lilac hair.  I warmed to her instantly! Her beaming smile lit up her face and I knew she’d make me laugh.  She travelled from Pembrokeshire to take part in a panel on agents, traditional and Indie publishing and agents at the Crime Cymru event, and her huge canvas bag bulged with goodies for the day ahead.  I was lucky to grab some time with her.

We almost didn’t meet at Cardiff Library

Judith: At last, I thought you’d got lost in your handbag. I waited in the department store and realised I had no contact details. After I finished my mint tea, I asked three strange women if they were Jessie.  They thought I was mad.

Judith’s Yorkshire accent and mischievous blue eyes instantly made me giggle. Great to meet someone who spoke the same lingo.

Jessie:  I’m so sorry but I thought you’ be able to read my mind. Couldn’t you hear me calling you in my dulcet tones across the streets of Cardiff?  Don’t ask me why I didn’t send you my mobile number and confirm the meeting.  I also approached a couple of potential Judiths but the real Judith is much better. So pleased, I found a representative of Honno Press and she had your number.

We laughed and grabbed some coffee from a coffee station in Cardiff Library.  The staff set up a couple of chairs for us to conduct the chat.  Having spilt the coffee all over my hand, we settled down to chat about Judith. 

Jessie:  Judith, tell me what a Yorkshire lass is doing in Pembrokeshire.

Judith:  We went on holiday to Pembrokeshire, loved it and never returned to Saddleworth.  We bought a half-built house and renovated it.

Jessie:  Do you miss Yorkshire?

Judith Barrow – Secrets

Judith:  Pembrokeshire was a great place for our kids to grow up.  I miss Yorkshire stone, craggy landscape and the meandering moors. I love our house, in Pembrokeshire, but I always expected I’d live in a stone cottage in my old age.  As you can hear, even after forty years in Wales my accent hasn’t changed – I’m still a Yorkshire lass.  People say they can hear my voice in their heads when they read my books.  Lucky them!

Jessie:  Obviously, people love your voice as you have written eight books.  How did the writing start?

Judith:  Well, I hope they do. As for the writing, I’d written since I was a child but never done anything much about it. Then I went to night school with my daughter. I finished A Level English and went on to gain a degree through the Open University. Whilst studying for the degree, I had breast cancer, and this made me see life differently.  I decided to follow my dream to become a writer.  Initially, I had an agent but she wanted me to write as an author of Mills and Boon so I parted company with her.

A place that inspired the setting of Judith’s novels

Jessie: That’s ridiculous; your books are not of that genre.  The books are historical fiction with engaging stories of the Howarth family. The books have complex plots and characters.

Judith:  I write people driven, gritty dramas and wasn’t prepared to adapt my writing.  Eventually, I got a contract with Honno Press – an independent publisher in Wales- and found their approach personal and supportive.  My first book ‘Pattern of Shadows’

Jessie:  What’s Pattern of Shadows about?

Judith:  It’s the story of a nursing sister, Mary Howarth, and her family, during World War Two and is set around a POW camp located in a disused cotton mill in a Lancashire town.  When I was a child my mother was a winder in a cotton mill and I would go there to wait for her to finish work; I remember the smell of the grease and cotton, the sound of the loud machinery and the colours of the threads and bales of material.  Pattern of Shadows was meant to be a standalone book, but the characters wanted me to carry on with their lives. Eventually, it developed into a family saga trilogy. My recent book, the prequel, is A Hundred Tiny Threads. The two main characters, Winifred and Bill, are the parents of the protagonist in the trilogy, Mary Howarth. They wanted me to explain their, how they had become what they are in the trilogy. I was happy to; I think, as we get older, we are made by our life experiences.

Hundred Tiny Threads. The two main characters, Winifred and Bill, are the parents of the protagonist in the trilogy, Mary Howarth

Jessie:  I’m reading One Hundred Tiny Threads. I’m about a third of the way through.  It’s a great read.  The opening is engrossing with Winifred waking up to another day in the shop. The characters are so real, and I love getting inside their heads.  I’m shouting at them all the time. The way you thread the characters’ attitudes towards women is brilliant.  I’m fascinated by the Suffragettes in Leeds.  For some reason, I always imagined the movement to be concentrated in London.

Judith:  Researching the Suffragettes opened up my eyes.  I wanted to tell their story through the voices of the characters and show how women, in the society at that time, were ready for the change. Stories draw people into to the political background of the era, and life was certainly a challenge then.  People say my books are dark.  Have you got to the gory bits?

Jessie:  Well, there has been a murder.

Judith:  No, I’m thinking of scene after that – you wait.  Bill’s a bastard but it’s his background.  I don’t know why Winifred married him.

Jessie:  Oh no, what was Winifred thinking of?  I’m furious with her, as I haven’t read the terrible news yet.  I’m intrigued as to why she didn’t marry the love of her life and scared for her.

Judith: oh ‘eck, hope I haven’t I haven’t spoiled it for you, Jessie.  But, you must understand Bill had a terrible life as a child with his father.  And then he was a soldier in the horrendous First World Wars. He was also one of the Black and Tans when he returned from the Front. He’s a bastard but didn’t have it easy.  As I said, our lives shape us.

Jessie:  I agree and people interest me too.

Judith:  Yes, well your novel, You Can’t Go It Alone, is also character driven and could become a family saga.  I can see it now.  I want to know more about Luke and Rosa and their parents.

Jessie:  I plan to do that, and you have inspired me to complete historical research.  I would have to look carefully into the eras the generations were born into.   Thanks for your advice.

Judith:  No problem, I teach creative writing in Pembrokeshire, so I just can’t help myself (some would say it’s interfering!!).  Writing is like looking at the world through the eyes of a child and I love it. I watch folk walk past my window, at home.  It’s hilarious how people walk. I can’t stop people watching and passing it on through my books.  I never stop watching and am always so busy.

Narbeth book fair – a great book fair for readers and worth a visit

Jessie:  I notice you also organise Narberth Book Fair.

Judith:  Yes, I organise it with a friend, author, Thorne Moore.  It started in Tenby, but we had to move because we outgrew the venue with so many writers wanting to take part. I think it’s so important to attend these events; to get out there and meet the readers.

Jessie:  What advice would you give to fledgling writers?

Judith:  Get a professional editor and be prepared for a slog.  The first draft of the book is the best bit. I always cry when I get my editor’s comments.

Jessie: Tell me, what have you got in your handbag today?

Judith handed me a copy of Pattern of Shadows and a book entitled Secrets; an anthology of short stories of the minor characters in the trilogy. She proceeded to let me in on the secret life of her handbag.  She had some very colourful reading glasses, pens, more pens, bookmarks, a spare blouse, her mobile and an agenda. 

Judith:  As you can see I do love a bit of colour. I try to be organised and I absolutely love writing.  I want you to place these books in your handbag and let the Howarth family keep you company. You’ll love some of the family and dislike some of the other – but that’s life!

Judith is fabulous fun, and I had a blast meeting with her.  Meeting face to face is so much better than communicating on line.  I delighted in her humour, straight-talking and infectious sense of fun.  Judith is a natural storyteller, and this translates in her animated dialogue.  She told me she is ‘living each day’.  She thrives on her writing and engagement with authors.  Her generosity was evident in her willingness to share the benefit of her experience.

 I should add that I will be one of the authors at this year’s Narberth Fair: http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/narberthbookfair/

About Judith:

Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, near Oldham, and on the wrong side of the Pennines but still in Yorkshire, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for forty years.

She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen, a BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University and a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She has had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and has won several poetry competitions. She has completed three children’s books.

She is also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council.

Contact Judith at:
Email: Judithbarrow77@gmail.com
Twitter: @judithbarrow77 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3

Amazon link to her books:

Secrets
A Hundred Tiny Threads

Secrets

Winifred is a determined young woman eager for new experiences, for a life beyond the grocer’s shop counter ruled over by her domineering mother. When her friend Honora – an Irish girl, with the freedom to do as she pleases – drags Winifred along to a suffragette rally, she realises that there is more to life than the shop and her parents’ humdrum lives of work and grumbling. Bill Howarth’s troubled childhood echoes through his early adult life and the scars linger, affecting his work, his relationships and his health. The only light in his life comes from a chance meeting with Winifred, the daughter of a Lancashire grocer. The girl he determines to make his wife. Meeting Honora’s intelligent and silver-tongued medical student brother turns Winifred’s heart upside down and she finds herself suddenly pregnant. Bill Howarth reappears on the scene offering her a way out.

 

Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my website and blog at JessieCahalin.com.

Changing Relationships #MondayBlogs #families #relationships

olive

It’s twenty years today since my auntie left our home for the last time to go into care; eight years since she died. I wrote some of the following on each of those occasions. Now it seems almost unbelievable how much time has passed. I remember …

During our lives, Auntie Olive and I had three different relationships.

When I was a child I was told she was ‘someone very important in the civil service.’ She was a spinster in every way. I think I was as much a mystery to her as she was to me and we avoided each other as much as possible. But there was one occasion when we united in gleeful rebellion and it caused the only quarrel I can remember between her and my mother.

 For a long time, when I was a child, my mother insisted on my having ringlets. Every night my hair was twisted into rags and my scalp lifted from my skull. It was sheer torture. Auntie Olive hated those ringlets as much as I did and one day, when I was ten, she put a pudding basin on my head and cut round it. I was overjoyed and imagined that I looked like George out of the Famous Five books. My mother was less impressed. She didn’t speak to my auntie for a whole month.

 As I grew up my auntie took it upon herself to educate me in classical music but gave up the day she caught me gyrating to the Beatles. She then changed tactics and taught me ballroom dancing. We whirled up and down the hall of the tiny terraced house, where she lived and I can still do a mean waltz and quickstep, but only in straight lines; I never learned to turn corners. She showed me how to sew which came in very useful in the 60’s; it was surprising how many mini skirts a couple of yards of material could make. Most useful of all Auntie Olive taught me to drive and trusted my skills enough to lend me her car; which gave me a lot of kudos in our village (even if it was just a little blue Ford Popular). And, although we still didn’t understand each other’s ways, we were fond of one another.

So it seemed natural that, when my Nan died, Auntie Olive came  to live with us in Pembrokeshire.

By that time I was married with children and she was not just my aunt; she had become a dear friend. Even so, with little patience for trivial pleasantries and the possession of an acerbic tongue, she demanded respect wherever she was and I was sometimes a little wary of her. 

This made the adjustment to my next relationship with her very difficult.

                                                ***********

 Thirty years later Aunt Olive lives in the apartment, attached to our house. As she walks past my kitchen window she waves a peeled banana at me, which she intends to eat on the way to the shops. She does this every morning, perhaps to let me know she’s eating properly, perhaps as a joke. But, probably, she doesn’t even realise she’s doing it. All I know is that at one time my aunt would not have done something so ‘unseemly’ as to eat in the street.

  As she walks down the drive I realise she has no skirt on.

‘You can’t go out just in your knickers, you’ll stop the traffic’ I joke and we go back to the house. We laugh. She and I laugh a lot these days; it’s the only way to cope. We both know she is trying to keep some control over her life and, more often than not, fails. When she stubbornly insists on wearing her vest over her cardigan; when I find her washing her soiled pyjamas in an overflowing bath, wearing a woolly hat because she can’t find the shower cap she thinks she should wear; when, for the tenth time, the smoke alarm shrieks because she has burned the toast, again, and we both run to waft at it with a tea towel, we laugh. Who cares?

I do, it’s heart breaking.

 In our discussions on current affairs she pretends that she has read the newspaper, yet I know she can no longer read and after less than five minutes conversation I am repeating myself and she is the echo. She remembers her school days, her work in the War Office during the Second World War, a lover killed at Dunkirk. But she forgets that she has already had lunch and insists that I make her another; I feel chained to that damn cooker. Her nights and days are muddled and I am getting used to grilling bacon and frying eggs at three in the morning. It’s easier than trying to explain.

 Sometimes she calls me by my mother’s name as we sit in the garden, and wonders where her own mother is. I have learned to play the game.

  She loves the sun these days.

  ‘Warms my old bones.’ She says, wearing a floral sun hat, which she wouldn’t have been seen dead in ten years ago.   

 She has the same route around the village each day, paper shop, chemist, Post Office, Co-op. Not that she needs anything, I shop for her, but it’s her routine and at each place they are good enough to make sure she is heading back in the right direction.  Sometimes she walks down the road as far as the cross roads. I watch from an upstairs window. She has begun to wander. She’s very clever at slipping out of the house without me knowing she has gone. I drive around in the car looking for her or I get a telephone call from some kind soul who has ‘captured’ her and is supplying tea and biscuits. And safety.

She’s started to flash her knickers at the man who takes her to the day centre once a week.

                                                ************

 Now there is a third relationship I have with my aunt. I am a visitor. We no longer laugh at the silly things she does. I no longer help her to dress or eat. Someone else does all that now. They do it with love and care but it doesn’t stop the guilt i feel. Our conversations are a monologue. She sits and smiles at me. We hold hands. Sometimes she squeezes my fingers and when I look into her eyes I see the fear. I wrap my arms around her and whisper, ‘you’re safe, I’ve got you. It will be alright.’

 Against my shoulder I feel her shake her head.

© Judith Barrow 2018

The Grim Reaper by Judith Radbourne. #MondayBlogs

Some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be  rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) Every now and then I like to share some of their work. This week I asked the classes to write three different personas of The Grim Reaper. Here is a set of brilliant pieces on the subject written by Judith Radbourne

death-2865060__340

 

Images courtesy of Pixybay

The Grim Reaper

1-VACANCY- WANTED a Grim Reaper. Are you looking for a stable and reliable career option?

Previous experience not required. Immediate start available

Role summary; This is an extremely demanding role, with unpredictable hours. The successful candidate must be available at short notice and use their initiative when dealing with difficult situations. The ability to ‘think on their’ feet essential to successful outcomes. Effective decision making and timely interventions are key.

Uniform provided- Black cloak with hood must be kept clean and tidy. It is company policy that candidates provide their height to ensure length of cloak meets trip hazard standards. Under current Health and Safety regulations, Section 3, paragraph 2a subsection 6c, candidates must ensure that their scythe is appropriately covered when not in use to avoid accidental injury to self or others.

Terms and conditions; Zero hours contract, Unsocial hours guaranteed.

Travelling expenses negotiable depending on mode of transport.

Must be willing to master a varied range of skills to succeed in this role including horse riding and boatmanship.

Moving and handling, training will be provided.

Must be mindful of the religious and cultural perceptions of the diverse populations you are likely to meet.

Candidates must be flexible, adaptable and have no sense of humour whatsoever.

Able to deal with the unexpected (previous job holder still recovering from post -plague traumatic stress).

To be patient, be discreet.

Be able to work by yourself without supervision. Lone working rules apply. You may face increased or additional risk from:

  • Inadequate provision of rest, hygiene, and welfare facilities
  • Violent thoughts and verbal abuse from members of the public
  • Sudden illness/emergencies.
  • Effects of social isolation – friends will probably drift away.

If interested please submit your CV.

 

 death-2024663__340

 2- The Grim Reaper

 I have come to accept that most people dislike me, some fear me. Must have something to do with my rather foreboding presence. For to know me you must have death. I can show no mercy? I make no judgements, can’t love or hate, emotions unfamiliar to me. I merely assist those who find themselves ready to travel to another place. I wait like a silent yet faithful companion taking your hand when you are ready to hold mine.  My touch may be cold but I steer your path as you need. Neither fair nor unfair, unmoved by pleading and prayers, no heart that beats or tears that fall. Neither ghost nor god. Tasked with lighting the way of infinite paths, no-one gets lost. There is none blacker than death that does not mean that I am evil. Shielded by my hood and cloak, not to hide but to be the same for everyone, anonymous yet enduring.  If you are looking for me and see a familiar face, you may understand me, you can put aside your fears. It maybe that you can find a terrifying countenance when you look, yet I will wait patiently in the shadows — and come for each of you in the end. Hourglass in hand, waiting for the last grain of sand to fall. When it does, I will collect your soul with a well-practiced cut of my razor-sharp blade to sever the ties that bind, no longer needed, another space and time awaits.

 

tunnel-965720__340

 

3- The Grim Reaper

I relish the many images that illustrate me, The Grim Reaper, swinging my mighty scythe through a crowd of people, mowing down souls as if they were grain. The popular notion that I am the face of death mystifies, death leads and I follow, black-cloaked, scythe wielding. Sometimes we work together interacting with the living tempting them to the grave. When we dance the Danse macabre, dancing and cavorting with people from all walks of life possibilities abound. I am diligent yet I view mankind with an impassive simplicity. People talk, tell me of their regrets, their wishes, their memories. So, this is what I have become, I am your pain, your sorrow.

I know that the things you can’t see frighten you so much more than the things you can see, so I hide within the shadows of your fears playing off your misgivings of the unknown. To make sense of dying and your mortality, you humans have relied on giving death a form that suits you. You have turned the abstract invisible phenomena that is death into something real and tangible. You have made me Grim, instilling the never-ending fear of death and departure, so why should I behave in any other way? Just as you harvest your crops, so do I harvest souls for their journey into the afterlife.

©  Judith Radbourne 2018

 

 

More Than a Simple Two-Shot Americano #shortstory #coffeetime #coffeeconvos

As some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be  rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) Every now and then I like to share some of their work.

Here is a piece written by one of my students, Lei. He has an exceptional style of writing that is always individualistic, always has great depth.I hope you enjoy his work.

 

More than a simple two-shot americano

 How so.

 Cafe society, she says. Busy lunchtime. All tables surrounded. Custer’s last stand. Wagons, ho. People sitting angular wooden chairs. Hubub of humanity talking. So loud can hardly hear laconic Scotsman sits across from me. Something explanatory about photography and jazz. He deaf in one ear. Head twists to one side as I speak in response. Hears me but can’t.

 Cafe society, yes.

 She retired now. Bad back, you see. Watch walking. Lifts one leg, knee at right angle. Places foot down. Other repeats action of first. Ambulates carefully. Arms not move, at sides all times. Resigned. To pain. From work. Voluntary redundancy or something. Says can’t take it any more. DWP. Targets. People just numbers now. National insurance. Emphasise throughput. Taylorism. Quantity. Quality no time for. People units of movement. Everybody nice about it, she said. My leaving, I mean. Sorrow felt for those behind, sinking in statistical swamp. Interviews in windowless rooms Inexpensive polypropylene carpets stinking of anxiety and discarded skin. Consultation with job coaches to be taped, she says. So getting out now, she says. Hates sound of self on tape anyway haha. (Who doesn’t?) As if that real reason. Yes. Memorex. Purposes of staff training, not surveillance. Right. Nothing to see here, please move along. Job not under threat. Just squeezing the stone, more blood out of. (Ajahn Chah asked his followers, See that rock over there? Yes, they say. Is it heavy? he asks. Yes, they say. Not if you don’t lift it, he says.)

 Business transient. Life transient. Contemporary. Foolish. Irishman pink shirt outside jeans complaining. Englishman greeted him shop next door. Irishman angry that Anglophile mocks accent. “Top o’ the mornin’ to yer!” Irishman jigs exaggeratedly as describes moment. Surprisingly agile on trainered feet. Heels flick sideways; arms bend at waist. Head nods. Own caricature how English parody inhabitants over Irish Sea. Says, ‘So told him, “Aw, jus’ feck off!”’. We laugh. Know won’t count next time Irishman needs pop next door when runs out milk again. What a thing for a coffee shop.

 Once, said, in Boston, US. Seated in coffee bar, Tom Waits playing. Thought to self how heaven playing Tom Waits in own coffee shop. Now has. Now living the dream. Yes.

 But I know drinks white wine and maudlin increases. Accompaniment of Tom Waits, drinking songs. ‘Hasn’t drunk for twenty years,’ says. Wasn’t talking about him, almost said. Referring you. Imagine white wine. Sweet. Sharp. How after several glasses cease tasting it. Smoothness of chilled glass. Hold between index finger and thumb. Pinky outstretched. After while stop caring how look. And his eyes glaze, like a dying bird. Sees inward to own soul. Sings along Tom Waits. Duet of sorts, done remotely. Not even on same continent. Stops. Goes quiet, not like him at all.

 Then. ‘Hasn’t drunk alkhol twenty years,’ slurs. ‘Here, have sm’wine’. Holds empty bottle up to me. Looks at carafe. ‘Shit!’, says. ‘Empty!’ Like only noticed now. ‘I’m going,’ I say. ‘’Where you going?’ Rhetorical, so don’t reply. Leave two others, drinking buddies. One young with dreadlocks, smoking spliff. Other older man, squat, white beard and trilby hat. Irishman gets up. ‘No smoking ‘n here!’ declares, no direction. Followed by, ‘Wait here! More wine maestro!’ and ‘Next door, Jeeves!’ As if carbon-guzzling motor chauffered outside waiting. ‘Nxzht dzhr!’ Vowels go missing, snatched by inebriated brain. ‘Nglshz bshztrd,” says. ‘Top o’ th’ mornin’, my arse!’

 Staggers to feet. Yanks open glass door in wooden frame which warps in season. Glass shivers in situ, surprised. ‘Bldy dzhr!’ exclaims. ‘Fxsh tht!’ Follow out of shop. Watch weave next door, pushing on wall with left hand for support. Opposite direction, I, homeward. As walk away hear shouting. ‘Nglszh bshztrd!’ Perhaps refused to serve. It’s an offence, Your Honour. 2003 Licensing Act. Fine up to £1000. Or licence lose. More than my job’s worth, don’t hear proprietor say.

 Don’t know. Don’t know. Not there.

 

 

 

 

 

AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED #thursdaythoughts @Pembrokeshire #humour

Some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be  rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) Every now and then I like to share some of their work. Here is a piece written by Trish Power (you may remember her as one of my students whose previous work, Enigma, I posted here

As you will see, this is the same exercise that inspired  Alex Abercrombie’s poem  here .

mansion-160425__340

 

AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED

We study the expansive hall, wood buffed to a mirrored finish reflecting the framed dignitaries set at precise intervals around the walls. At the start of the tour we had chatted and laughed in between our guide’s flawless documentary. But a hush has fallen over us now as we take in the enormity of the events leading to this point. Joleen assesses us. Practised as she is in her art, she is attuned to our mood and knows when to intervene.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, shall we move on?’

She walks ahead towards the end of the hall, stopping at one of the wall panels. When everyone is assembled and she has our attention she reaches out an immaculately manicured finger and pushes on a piece of the gold scrolling.

There’s a collective intake of breath as that section of the wall swings silently inwards exposing a carpeted stairwell lit by bright, rectangular lights recessed into the edge of the ceiling.

‘Please hold on to the rail; the treads are quite steep.’

She takes a step back and ushers us ahead with a sweep of her arm.

We arrive at an area where the lighting is dimmer. Six doors lead off from a central square. There is a shuffling as we make way for Joleen to move through us to the middle door on the right. This is what we’ve been waiting for.

We enter in total silence.

In front of us is a large, rectangular table surrounded by leather chairs. In front of each chair is a file of what appears to be documents. Behind us is a huge, wall-mounted screen.

At the head of the table is a taller chair with a studded back and embellished on top with a golden eagle. There are four phones in different colours set in an arc around a rectangular metal box containing a keypad and a large, red button.

There are other things in the room but for now our focus is on that button. The red button.

‘As you all are aware, ladies and gentlemen, this is where the Secretary of Defense and a united cohort of military advisors attempted to dissuade him from his plan of action. They pointed out the likely consequences for the world but were silenced by his declaration that he was Commander-in-Chief and outranked them all. He wasn’t going to stand by and let someone say things like that about him, even if they were an ally.

‘The video cameras were checked to make sure that they were still running as he insisted on the codes being tapped into the keypad.

‘Again, he was urged not to carry on.

‘But, like a child determined on having his way, he gave a triumphant grin and stabbed a stubby finger down on that button.

‘There were sighs of resignation but the way forward was clear now. He had failed their test and proven himself to be a danger to the free world. The Secretary of Defense gave a nod and two men approached, one of them carrying something rolled-up under his arm. They slipped behind the still-smirking president, reached forwards and slipped his arms into the straightjacket.

‘And so, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the most powerful country in the world was taken into protective custody in order to safeguard our planet – and this is the room where it happened.’

 ©Trish Power 2018

Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

Donkey Boy and Other Stories by [Smith, Mary]

 

I reviewed the book as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review

 I gave Donkey Boy and Other Stories  4* out of 5*.

Book Description:

Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse

My Review:

I do like Mary Smith’s style of writing. Previously I have read and enjoyed No More Mulberries by this author; my review here: http://bit.ly/2CTEuZl

This is a fascinating collection of short stories, set in various places with a wealth of diverse characters, all wonderfully rounded. The author has a talent for setting the scene and giving a sense of place with few well-chosen words.

 I read each of these unusual stories slowly, taking in the way each situation unfolded, savouring the reactions of the characters to each problem they faced, enjoying the touches of humour, poignancy, empathising with the great sadness in some of the tales.

 Not sure I had an overall favourite, they are all easy to read, but these are the ones that stayed with me long after I’d read them:

The story in the title, Donkey Boy. The protagonist, Ali, should be in school but instead drives a donkey cart for his father. His resentment is palpable from the very start. The dilemma he faces exposes the way different cultures live;  not only their values and ethics but the differences in the child and adult in these societies.  This is well deserving as the title story.

Trouble with Socks. Set in a care home with the character George; patronised by one of the carers who really is in the wrong job.

Accidents Happen. Set in Pakistan; the story of a young girl with a step father she detests.

Asylum Seekers. One of the monologues (I did like this way of writing/reading a short story). Though ironic, this reveals unpleasant bigotry and prejudice,

There is a whole gamut of human emotions in Donkey Boy and Other Stories and I thoroughly recommend this collection by Mary Smith to any reader. Whatever your favourite genre you’ll be sure to find one that will linger with you long afterwards.

Links to buy: 

 Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2D9bxGk

Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2D9bxGk

About the author:

Mary Smith

 

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.
Mary loves interacting with her readers and her

Links to Mary:

Website  www.marysmith.co.uk.
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2wWIDci
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2ws6LAt