Tuesday, May 21, 2013

 Shanklin town on the Isle of Wight, Yannis tells us in his welcome session on Friday night, has more sunshine than anywhere else in the UK. Shanklin clearly knows its holiday-destination USP, eschewing trivia like cappuccino and wifi to plump all its assets into long sun-gilded sandy strands topped by esplanades. The entire resort evokes one of those beach summer holidays of childhood you remember, or misremember, or maybe read about in a book published soon after the war... deck-chairs and beach games, icecream cornets and sandwiches, and sea that laps discretely against the shore as if loath to make a fuss. This entirely peaceful setting would be perfect for a Miss Marple murder mystery in fact, and I wonder if ITV has commissioned one as I'm walking the coast path to Sandown, which takes an hour including breaks to write, without seeing a single ipod or cellphone.
I haven't travelled here for the time-trekking however:  I'm at The Grange leading a Find Your Voice course that doesn’t give any of us much chance to slip into a slow-energy vibe as I've packed as many exercises as possible into the time available. Ten terrific writers all responded with great good humour and impressive skill, bonding as a group so well that by Saturday night we were all partying together like old friends. A great weekend and I hope to hear much more from these varied creative writing voices in future.

My litmus-paper exercise (I offer this freely to any writing group ~ I stole it from Mark Haddon) is a slimline description of location in perverse & inappropriate styles: this group without exception rose to the challenge brilliantly. I wish mine was as good (thanks Bryony for blogging yours) ~ I took the notion of a recipe:
Take one seaside postcard printed early 1970s (full colour). 
Enlarge to life-size. 
Animate promenaders, dogs, children ~ slowly. 
 Add sound of waves ~ low volume. 
Garnish with golden gorse and enjoy.

An inspirational weekend but a grim train journey home: hours of delay from a fatality on the line.  Sympathy for the driver  calmed the boistrous drunks in my carriage but they got off and were supplemented by equally drunk and less empathetic football supporters... I'm just glad Southampton drew (with Stoke, if you were wondering.)

Back home and Nathan Filer is launching his first novel The Shock of the New in Bath.  Media enthusiasm is high but Nathan seems stunned so many have turned up in Toppings to hear his reading and buy "one of 2013's most anticipated books, following an 11-publisher bidding war, a compelling study of grief, madness and loss."  Despite this dark theme summary there are flashes of Nathanesque wit in the story and in the lively Q&A ~ along with fascinating insights into his writing process, one of which is to read every word out loud to check the rhythm and beat... Trust a poet!

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