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e17 storywalk

November 3, 2013 6 comments

As part of the Words Over Waltham Forest literary festival currently being held, there was an E17 Storywalk event yesterday.

Over two hours an audience visited six venues in Walthamstow and at each they heard a short story created especially to feature the place where they were standing, read out by the story’s author.  the walk was free, but voluntary donations of a suggested £5 were collected for Lloyd Park Children’s Centre.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the authors unfortunately dropped out, and I was aksed whether I’d be interested in taking their place. Rather nervously, I agreed – my reasons at the time purely being to help the group out (of which I only knew one) rather than for myself.

The venue that I was given was Lot One Ten – a curious little antique shop less than five minutes walk from my flat.  Due to current personal time constraints, I literally had about three to four hours to write my story, which I did last Saturday.  So, that was the main obstacle out of the way.

However, the thought of reading my own work out to a group of strangers absolutely terrified me. I tried it out on my lovely mate – but I know he would have said it was good even if he thought it was crap!  I didn’t get a wink of sleep the night before, and woke up a bit sniffly, which didn’t help at all.

It also didn’t help that the others reading their stories out were all ‘writers’ – unlike me!

Filled with trepidation, I wandered down to the library where the walk was due to start.

Image

Reading my story, with the other writers, my venue and the poster

The authors and venues were:

Each group had about 20 in the audience – and it was especially cosy on my one – but we fit everyone in.

The other five stories were fantastic, and I think we all relaxed after the morning group as the readings felt even stronger the second time round.

Poor Ken gave himself the short straw as his was the only outdoors venue. The first time round we were ambushed by a drunk piss-drenched Polish guy who demanded a tenner off the group to make him leave us alone. Luckily he was convinced to leave us alone without getting a tenner!  I’d like to think that it enhanced the colourful atmosphere of Ken’s story.  The scond time round it started raining pretty heavily and the wind really picked up – literally JUST for the time that Ken was reading.

All other readings were pretty uneventful in comparison!

I hope that anyone who did come enjoyed it – unexpectedly, once I’d resigned myself to the fact that I was actally there and just had to get on with it, I really, really enjoyed myself. And I met a great bunch of people, which helps! I’d totally be up for something like that again.

Paekakariki Press are printing a booklet featuring all six stories in the next 2-3 weeks, which some of our audience have already ordered. I’m very excited about this as I see it as my first instance of being ‘published’.

I must say, although he originally got me into this, I couldnt have done it without Simon’s help. He waded in and helped edit my brain-dump first draft and was brilliant at it!

So, despite my fears, it was a brilliant experience – what next?!!?

smut – alan bennett

May 13, 2012 3 comments

Smut

This was a selection for our E17 Book Club. We had got onto the subject of Alan Bennett, and many of us hadn’t read andy of his books, and I don’t think anyone at all had read this, which came out last year.
Now, I had to miss out on the meeting where we reviewed this book, so I am unsure of what everyone else made of it…perhaps I will ask someone for a summary some time.
This book is made up of two short stories – ‘Two Unseemly Stories’ as it is sub-titled. Which sounds fun and illicit!
“The Greening of Mrs Donaldson” is the first offering and is about widowed Mrs Donaldson, who is exploring life after the recent death of her husband.  We meet her as she has taken up a new role, acting out various patients and their pathological conditions (or their companions) for groups of medical students at the local hospital.  She also decides to take on a young couple as lodgers – not realising quite how horizon-expanding this will actually prove to be.
“The Shielding of Mrs Forbes” comes next, and tells of an intricate web of lies surrounding Mrs Forbes and her husband. Slowly picking apart their marriage, lives and the lives of their family and the people around them.
I have to admit, until I just looked the books up, I had completely forgotten what the second story was about.  It seemed very humdrum – just another tale of a boring suburban marriage, and what the people in it would do to make life seem worth living.
The first story was something a little different though – I really enjoyed reading about Mrs Donaldson.  I loved the idea that she was so great at playing patients with different conditions, and could imagine her reading up on the diseases the night before, so that she could drip-feed symptoms until the students successfully diagnosed her (or accidentally killed her off by misdiagnosis!).  In fact, I have to admit, I found this side of the story so much more interesting than the ‘sexy’ smut part of it.
The stories were entertaining enough but I didn’t feel that they were particularly memorable, and I didn’t feel that I was being told them by a great storyteller.  They both felt slightly rushed (especially the second) and missing some character development and depth of emotion.  Mrs Donaldson was just about the only person who felt in any way real, and yet I still didn’t feel that endeared to her.
Perhaps Bennett is just better at plays / screen writing?  On the back of this, I wouldn’t want to read another of his books.

taking the stairs – john stiles

December 23, 2011 1 comment

Taking the stairs

I have been incredibly slack updating my book reviews recently – but intend to rememdy that!

I was asked to read this book by the author who lives locally (Leytonstone) but is originally from Nova Scotia (not much of a culture difference there then!)

I have had very mixed feelings about the book, which may be what has prevented me from reviewing (and then my pedantic nature hasn’t allowed me to review books that I have read SINCE before I have reviewed this one!)

The book follows Jarod, a thirty-something aspiring writer living in Toronto.  He’s a bit of a loser, hasn’t managed to get anything published yet but is sure of his abilities (even if noone else is!).  He has a Spanish girlfriend who he is in constant danger of losing and is incapable of holding down a proper job, so seems to have many ‘temp’ jobs.

However, the book starts as a short story, which is meant to be the start of Jarod’s incomplete novel, although obviously you don’t know that at the time.  It’s about ‘Lana Banana’ (she of the cover image) and I really, really enjoyed it.

However, once that was ‘over’ and I was on to the main chunk of story, the Lana Banana annoyed me a little.  Jarod supposedly hadn’t completed the novel, but it really did feel like a fully complete short story – I couldn’t see where it could have gone from where it ended – so it didn’t feel believeable as Jarod’s novel.

There were other short stories that were included in the book – stories that Jarod had supposedly written – and I felt that perhaps the rather wishy-washy story of Jarod’s loser life was actually being used as a vehicle for some really quite strong short stories.

Perhaps Mr Stiles should write a book of short stories, as he is obviously VERY talented in this area!

anthropology – dan rhodes

July 5, 2011 3 comments

Anthropology

I don’t often take much notice of the recommendations that I get from Amazon, but the Dan Rhodes book covers are so intriguing, that when this was suggested to me (after buying Little Hands Clapping) I thought I’d take a look.  It sounded quirky and totally up my street (and £2.27 on Kindle).

This isn’t a story, and it’s barely a whole book really – it’s only 101 short stories of just 101 words long each.  It literally took me about 1-2 hours to read.  But they were a couple of wonderful, surreal hours.

Each of the stories (or almost story idea outlines) was about love, obsession or relationships of some form.  They all had one word titles and these were in alphabetical order.  I will share one (hopefully not contravening any copyright laws) which I absolutely loved and will give you a taster!

Pieces

They kidnapped my girlfriend and asked for an awful lot of money before they would even think of giving her back.  I was grateful for the peace and quiet, so I wasn’t in too much of a hurry to settle up.  After a while they started posting me little pieces of her, starting with an ear in a soap dish.  For some reason they aren’t lowering the ransom.  It doesn’t make sense.  They seem to think I’d pay as much for a girlfriend with no thumbs, ears, nose or nipples as I would for one with all her bits still there.

Some of the stories were out-loud snort funny, some were rather sad and some didn’t quite work – but even then, with 101 stories, you just know you’re going to come across one that you think “Brilliant!” in a matter of minutes!

If you get it, look out for Beauty, Binding & Lesbian as they were some of my memorable (off the top of my head) favourites.

pretty monsters – kelly link

November 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Pretty Monsters

I am not a lover of short stories.  It’s odd really as I love short films, but short stories just don’t do it for me.  however, a friend loaned me this book, so I thought i’d give it a bash.

To be honest, I probably shouldn’t have – I didn’t really enjoy it at all.

There were 10 stories, all written by the same author (this was a special edition with a new story in it – there are versions of the book with just 9 stories).

I am all for surreal, I really am – I positively thrive on surreal, but this was almost like being surreal just for the sake of it.  the majority of the stories made no sense, and by and large seemed to come to no natural conclusion.  There was only one story that I had guessed the ending to (The Wizards of Perfil), and that one was kind of OK.  There was one quite long story (Magic for Beginners) that annoyed the hell out of me, it was just TOO weird, and too unexplained.

The stories seemed to just stop, almost in the middle of something, or just when it seemed like it was going to get interesting.  Weird.  Just too weird.  I wouldn’t recommend, unless you are a big short story lover.

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