Sunday, June 24, 2007

Keen followers of this column, and anyone who's ever met me, will know I'm a devout follower of Ra the sun god - one of the reasons I'm not at Glastonbury (image nicked from Radio1 site) - so for me this week has been a Midsummer Night's bad dream. Plan to celebrate the solstice camping on Fyfield Down washed out; the elemental lure of primitive stones palls in soggy sandals drenched & lost, and I got as prickly as the rampant thistles on this near-inaccessible, near-unknown piece of heritage. It's only a few miles from Avebury, always thronged with solstice visitors, but here we saw only five other people all day. Check out Fyfield sarsen stones on the web and there's just 331 references; for Avebury stones there's 490,000. And yet this isolate boulder-ridden heath is as amazing and impressive in its own way - 25,000 stones of all sizes, scumbled with lichen, hunkered down in the long grass at the bottom of the valley since the ice age. Some were dragged from here to make the Avebury stone circle, hauled by man-power, probably at this time of year when thousands would have converged in this area to worship. Now the area is as hostile to spiritual feeling as you can imagine; it's race-horse country, barbed wire and minimal signing to keep intruders out. We were glad to get away.
Indoor events more successful: enjoyable informal meeting of Frome Creative Network at Christies on Wednesday, get-together with Hazel to plan our next Live & Lippy performance set, and The Painted Veil at our local cinema - a movie every writer should see for its wonderfully succinct narrative edit points, showing how much more effective inference is than explanation: a "lovely, slow-burning, grown-up love story, set in a landscape so beautiful that it makes you want to weep" - that's nicked too, and so is the picture.
and my anthology has finally reached proof stage - I love the cover Robert Palmer has created for this patchwork collection of stories and poems:
'Are we nearly there yet?' will have a launch party after Frome festival - watch this space.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Festivals, festivals...
Glastonbury is nearly with us and the southwest feels aswirl with festival fever. I'm back from an exhilarating day with the Leam writers who - as Michael Spurgeon, who choreographed my visit, pointed out - between them produced over 50 characters and stories, and with time for lunch in Jill's lovely garden too. Pat, Caroline, and Margaret are the prime movers of next weekend's Writers' Festival in Stratford on Avon.
Here we're hotting up for the Frome Festival and Mike Witt is spending every spare moment, and many unspare ones too, recording Frome writers for Frome FM radio which is running a series of programmes on the writers of the town. As well as my usual mic-fright I managed to bounce it on the floor this evening during my session. Mike quietly remade all the connections and reset all the levels with his usual impeccable good manners and charm. He might have murmured a few unrecorded words after I left, though.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Meetings, meetings....
Frome Festival is less than a month away now so our final committee meeting, in Rosie Jackson's garden, is more or less dotting Is and crossing Ts for all of us - except for Mike, who's recording short stories and interviews for Frome FM. Mike's blog tracks the progress.
...on Tuesday a meeting with Paula at the Merlin Theatre, to plan Spoken Words events for autumn, and then a meeting of the Fromesbury Writers Circle.
Founder member Debby Holt, consistently best-selling, never misses a meeting and is tirelessly & delightfully encouraging. Unlike some authors who avoid the competition, she tells us: "Every time I read a book I write down what I think of it, and what I've learned from it."
Wednesday is the meeting of the Frome Creative Network to hand over to new steering committee. It's an exciting time, Martin Bax tells us all, and the network is very exciting. It is, but the writers of Frome already have an elegant sufficiency of meetings, what with the festival committee, the Library group, and our monthly Writers' Circle, so hopefully it will work for the literary element to be a wheel within the wheel, unreinvented.
And now I'm off to Leamington, where the Leam writers are meeting for a Creative Writing workshop.

With no connection other than that this is the season for orchid hunting, here's a rare bee orchid Peter and I saw on Cley Hill last week, and a heath spotted orchid from my walk on the headlands of Howth above Dublin Bay with my friend Jenny last weekend.

Final words to Beatrix Potter, as boisterously interpreted by Renée Zellweger - or rather by Richard Maltby Jr who as writer of 'Miss Potter' presumably penned the voiceover that bookended the movie: "There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story - you can never quite tell where they will take you..... Stories do not always end where the author intended. But there is joy wherever they take us."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The nattily titled Frome Library Self Help Writers Group met on Monday for a session on Surrealist writing techniques session led by Rosie Jackson who runs writing workshops too. From her I discovered a great-fun website which scrambles your words on the principles of Tristan Tzara into a Dada poem -"infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar."
Here's one of mine:
Looks sick, like diet like. I know. yes, would
about the you feels me olives? I like. I does the yes,
slow on I figs. drizzled but me look be a always of
What ask but don't You say that hold I a don't honey,
what forget bitter say sapphire rainbow. You warm
say, about like. I me, and bite make soft what briny wine.
You breeze. I remember. like? You of seas under
and love love talk then cerulean ask ask sky.
You love tastes can't calm say, what the pine-scented
what say, me say what love sweet forget storms?
Love You don't
That was one of my rare romantic poems & I'm slightly disturbed by the outcome in view of TT's confident assertion "The poem will be like you."

Bruton is the smallest town in England, Tim Bates tells me tonight as we wander round on a sumptuous evening before the inaugural Poetry Slam of the Bruton Festival of Arts. It's possibly the smallest slam in England too, but a great event, every poet showing and sharing personal passion and commitment to their craft. Tracy Wall of Glastonbury takes the gold, awarded her champagne prize by host Tim, himself a worthy bronze winner. Rose Flint's evocative and sensual readings give her the silver.
Let's-talk-about-me corner: writer Clare Dudman has blogged a great review of my novel - thanks Clare, and what generous & responsive comments you're collecting. All that renewed interest in Frozen Summer got me checking out used prices on amazon, which vary from usual 1p to an intriguing £48.48p.
Bet-you-didn't-know corner: last year's world-wide best-selling sensation "Short History of Tractors in the Ukrainian" was rejected 36 times. Asked in the Guardian if she ever 'doubted her dream' author Marina Lewycka replied: "I doubted it all the time but writing was a compulsion. Lots of very good writers never get published." Salutary thought. (Copies of Short History start at 39p but peak at £1.00 so I'm not sure what that means except tht amazon transcends normal marketing logic.) Marina says she likes to treat serious subjects in a comic way, she says, which reminded me of Shaw's maxim: Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Barely back in UK time and still absentmindedly yassooing and efharistoing, and I find myself at 'Greece is Still the Word', a Skyros writers' lab reunion-cum-promo do at the Candid Cafe, Angel, on the last night of May. Candidly, the cafe decor did need a couple of glasses of wine before it could be described as charmingly bohemian, but happily wine was plentiful and it was great to meet up with some previous participants, share a few poems, and meet more of the Skyros London team - thanks for the sleepover, Lucy & Kate!
I love London streets. I couldn't eat a whole one, mind you, as the joke goes, though actually I felt as if I had by the time I reached the river at Charing Cross next day. I'd walked from Upper Holloway, probably only about 5 miles but the taste of exhaust fumes was congealed in my mouth like old egg and my throat felt kippered. Tried meditating on the train home. Can't do that, I just start making lists. Tried concentrating on not smoking - much more successful as I never smoke anyway. Here's the lists:
THINGS I LIKE about London:
- plane trees, clean streets
- hustlers, bustlers, big red buses
- city breakfast (cappuccino and sudoku)
- black cabs, bright costumes
- redheads, dreadheads, shavenheads
- diversity, history, poetry
- ships towers domes theatres and temples
- Sweet Thames flowing softly

THINGS I don't like about London
- tang of fumes on my tongue
- tension on faces, like they're afraid
of what I hide in my overnight bag