Monday, 29 October 2012

Cleckheaton Writers Group meeting

Productive meeting tonight.  Sadly two members could not make it, but we got lots done nevertheless.  We started with P's beginning of her new story, a supernatural mystery which we all found very interesting in its premise.  Her use of first person perspective hooks you in quickly and we all urged her to keep writing it, maybe even to have it as her story for the NaNoWriMo challenge next month.

Then our new member L shared with us the prologue to her novel which was very immediate and evocative in first person.  We all really felt like we were in the head of a teenager and back in time with her excellent description and intriguing hints at things to come.  Look forward to reading more.

D then read her reworked first chapter of TSC.  She has painstakingly changed her first draft from third person to first person perspective with brilliant results.  We were all very interested in how she has changed the story when it comes to the other characters that are no longer able to be relayed as easily now the story comes only from her main character, Evie's, perspective.

There was just enough time for me to quickly read out my dialogue writing challenge which you can read below:

Lecturer:        Sit down Bonnie, may I call you Bonnie or do you prefer-
Bonnie:          No, Bonnie’s fine.

Lecturer:        May I ask, is there anything wrong?
Bonnie:          No.

Lecturer:        It’s just I haven’t seen you at lectures for a while.
Bonnie:          Oh.

Lecturer:        Are you still struggling with the course?
Bonnie:          Not really. 

Lecturer:        When you say ‘not really’ what do you mean?  I know you were finding the subject rather unsettling, but you seemed to have really got it that last time.  But then, you stopped coming.
Bonnie:          Yes.

Lecturer:        I understand from your other tutors that there does not appear to be a problem with their classes, just mine.  Can I ask why?
Bonnie:          It’s hard to explain.

Lecturer:        Do you no longer wish to be a criminal psychologist?
Bonnie:          That’s not quite it. 

Lecturer:        Bonnie, the first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.  Do you know what you want?
Bonnie:          I do.

Lecturer:        And that is?
Bonnie:          To stop seeing them.

Lecturer:        The pictures?  I know that seeing these images of crime scenes can be distressing, but if this is the area of work that you wish to enter-
Bonnie:          Not the pictures, them, I want to stop seeing them.

Lecturer:        I don’t quite understand.
Bonnie:          I didn’t expect you to.

Lecturer:        Does this mean you want to quit the course?
Bonnie:          No, I just want it to stop.

Lecturer:        Want what to stop?  Bonnie?  Bonnie come back, we need to talk about this.
Lecturer:        Such a shame, she was showing such promise.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Argo film review

My husband and I went to see this film tonight using our Showcase Insider cards.  Argo is a film based on the true story of the Iran hostage crisis in 1980, when six fugitive American democratic personnel need to be extracted during the revolution.

Ben Affleck (who also directs and co-produces with George Clooney) stars as CIA exfiltration agent Tony Mendez, who devises a plan to get the six out of the house of the Canadian ambassador (where they have been hiding since escaping from the embassy when it was taken) by concocting a fake film that is to be shot in Iran.  Helped by Hollywood players John Chambers (John Goodman) and Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), they set up the backdrop of a film scout trip to Iran for their sci-fi movie Argo.  Fake Canadian passports are produced for the six, played with great expertise by Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall, Scoot Mcnairy, Christopher Denham and Kerry Bishe, who have to learn their new identites as film crew scouts in two days.

The film is very convincing and you find yourself holding your breath and rooting for the six right until the end.  I especially like that the film has been given a truthful slant, rather than trying to over-dramatise what is already a wonderful human interest story.  It is a very tense drama with touches of humour provided by the 'Hollywood' element and I would highly recommend you see it.

Tagline: 'The movie was fake.  The mission was real.'                               8.5/10

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Competition entries

I was very saddened to learn that Strange Chemistry/Open Door were not taking my submission forward to the next stage for their YA fantasy novel competition.  Rejection is never easy, but worse when it comes at lunchtime on a Saturday.  But, never one to rest on my laurels, I entered another three competitions (two yesterday and one today but with two poems).  I thought I would post the details of the competitions on here in case anyone else wishes to give them a go:

1)  DEADLINE 29 OCTOBER 2012 The Mail on Sunday Novel competition.  The opening 50-150 words of a novel (which has to introduce the word 'train').  The prize is £400 in book tokens and an Arvon Writing Course place.  There are five runners-up prizes of between £150-300.  Send your typed entry with name, address, telephone numbers and email address all on the same page to: The Mail on Sunday Novel Competition, 84 Drayton Gardens, London, SW10 9SB.  Results announced next Summer.

2)  DEADLINE 31 OCTOBER 2012 The Belper New Play competition.  Plays of 5-30 min length featuring no more than four characters.  Type 12pt script and classify genre then send to: The Belper Short Play Festival, 31A Field Lane, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 1DD.  Winner notified by 31 January 2013.

3)  DEADLINE 2 NOVEMBER 2012 Original Writing UK Competition.  'Time capsule - a message to future self' contact for entry form and rules, then send up to two poems by 5pm on the 2nd.  Winners announced by 19th November.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Peter Robinson event

Peter Robinson

Tuesday 13 November, 7.30pm

Rastrick Library


Best selling crime writer, creator of  Inspector Banks , introduces his latest novel, Watching the Dark.

Tickets £5 (£3 concs)

available from Rastrick Library

phone 01484 714858

I met Peter in York at a Crime Writing event on the 6th of June and I would highly recommend getting a ticket for this event.  Maybe see you there........

Monday, 22 October 2012

Local Library Events

Just been sent the following information about author events at local libraries:

Friday 26th October: An Evening with Peter Benson. Honley Library at 7.30pm “Nine novels in 34 Minutes”

Peter Benson is a multi award winning author, screenwriter and poet. He will give a short talk about his 9 novels and then discuss the creative process and writing.

Tickets £2 from Honley Library tel 01484 222340, from any Kirklees Box Office 01484 223200 or on line at

Tuesday 30th October: Haunted Huddersfield.  Meet local author Kai Roberts at Huddersfield Library, from 7-8.30pm, for an illustrated talk.
"Haunted Huddersfield presents a survey of ghostly lore in the region  from traditional headless spectres to modern poltergeist manifestations. Whilst we live in a supposedly rational, secular age such tales stubbornly persist in the public psyche and, whatever their truth, much can be learnt about how we relate to our environment by studying them. And as the old saying goes, you don't have to believe in ghosts to be afraid of them..."

Suitable for 11yr+  Tickets £2 from any Kirklees Box Office 01484 223200 or on line at

Thursday 8th November:  Andy McNab.  Huddersfield Town Hall at 7.30pm.  Meet  Andy McNab, DCM, MM: ex SAS,  author, TV personality, military advisor and trainer.
RED NOTICE: McNab at his devastatingly authentic, pulse pounding best.  Russian terrorists take 400 hostages on the Eurostar to Paris. Hidden within the train is Andy McNab's explosive new creation, Sergeant Tom Buckingham  RED NOTICE:  His latest novel.  You have been warned…          No photography permitted

Tickets £2  from any Kirklees Box Office 01484 223200, 01924 324501,  or on line at

Saturday 17th November: Write a Ghost Story Workshop at Oakwell Hall, Birstall.  1-4.30pm  Atmospheric  creative writing workshop for adults  with author and playwright Michael Yates.  Be inspired by the surroundings of Oakwell Hall with it’s resident ghost- William Batt.  Be guided in the art of ghost story writing by award winning author  Michael Yates.  Have lunch whilst you listen to a ghostly story.  

Tickets at £8.50 including light lunch and entry into hall (£6 excluding lunch) from Oakwell Hall 01924 326240 or any Kirklees Box Office 01924 324501 or on line at 
 Access by stairs only

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Rock of Ages film review

Took my friend L to see Rock of Ages this week and we were very surprised by it.  I had forgotten that it was an actual musical (I had thought it was just a film with added rock music), but once we got into it, we quite enjoyed it. 

Rock of Ages stars Julianne Hough (Footloose) as Sherrie Cristian, a small town girl who moves to hollywood to realise her dreams of becoming a singer.  She meets Drew Boley (Diego Boneta - 90210) who gets her a job in the famous Bourbon Club owned by Dennis Dupree (William Baldwin).  The Bourbon Club is due to have Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) play his final gig before going solo.

I really enjoyed the fantastic versions of some of my favourite rock tunes and was surprised by the performances of three of the actors.  I was intrigued by Tom Cruise's singing (he sounds a bit on the feminine side when he sings, but no more so than Axl Rose) and I was really shocked that I enjoyed Russell Brands' Lonny, even though I normally dislike him.  His character arc was one of the funniest parts of the movie, second only to Catherine Zeta-Jones' excellent performance as frigid politicians wife Patricia Whitmore, who is spearheading a campaign to rid the town of the Bourbon Club.  She has a worrying obsession with Stacee Jaxx which plays out predictably.

I think the best way to sum this film up is 'so bad, it's good' and it was just what L and I needed to take our minds out of real life.  This film may still prove to be a surprise cult hit in later life.

Tagline: 'Nothin' but a good time'                    6/10

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

CWG meeting 15 October 2012

The Cleckheaton Writers Group met last night and we welcomed our newest member L.  We started by introducing ourselves and explaining the work we had completed and were currently working on. 

We then fed back to the group the useful information gleaned from the writers events that some of the members had attended.  Those events were the Sci-fi and Superheroes author event, the Fiona Shaw Creative Writing Workshop and Fiona Shaw/Sue McMahon author talk, the Stephen May Creative Writing Workshop and the Stephen May/Monique Roffey author talk and the Calderdale Writers Roadshow Fiction and Non-Fiction Day (three different workshops were attended on the day).  We then decided to set a writers challenge using the Alison Taft exercise of taking a quote and burying it in dialogue.  The quote we have been given is:

'The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.'

This challenge will be completed by the members for the next scheduled Writers Group on Monday 29 October.

Then N shared his excellent short story 'Visiting Time' which we all enjoyed.  His use of humour in a challenging subject matter was inspired and I can see why he was disappointed to not have had recognition when he entered it into the Calderdale Short Story Competition.  I don't think it is ever easy to write a story with Alzheimers at its core, but N's evocative piece was both touching and real (I do hope he shares it on his blog soon).

We agreed that N, P, D and I would send L an example of our work for her to read at her leisure, so that she can get an idea of our writing styles and L agreed she would share some of hers once it was past the planning stage.

I am looking forward to reading all the completed exercises and meeting another new member at the next CWG.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Word of Mouth Writers' Roadshow

I attended the Fiction and Non-Fiction Day as part of the Calderdale Readers' and Writers' Festival yesterday in Hebden Bridge.  The event started with James Nash (who was Chair for the day) introducing Michael Stewart and his talk entitled 'Five things I hate about writing.'  Michael's biography on the University of Huddersfield website reads:

'Michael Stewart is a multi-award winning writer, born and brought up in Salford, who moved to Yorkshire in 1995 and is now based in Bradford. He has written several full length stage plays, one of which, Karry Owky, was joint winner of the King’s Cross Award for New Writing, as well as securing work in radio and television.

He was the winner of the BBC Alfred Bradley Award in 2003 and his plays have been performed in Bradford, Leeds, Manchester, London, and extensively throughout the country. His BBC Radio 4 play Excluded was shortlisted for the Imison Award 2008. His latest BBC Radio 4 play Castaway was broadcast in February 2010.

He was writer in residence at Theatre in the Mill in Bradford, and is now senior lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield, where he is the director of the Huddersfield Literature Festival and the editor of Grist Books. He is also the founding member of Dark and Dirty – an arts initiative funded by the Arts Council, set up to explore the hinterland of narrative art.
His fiction has been published widely in anthologies and magazines, including Route, Leaf Books, Brand Magazine and Aesthetica. His debut novel, King Crow, was published in January 2011 by Bluemoose Books.'

The five things he hated about writing were:


He runs Creative Writing Workshops as well as writing himself and believes you can learn to be a better writer but thinks that retreats can be an unrealistic quad nostum.  For example, J. K. Rowling wrote in cafe's (most famously Nicholsons) and Anne Frank wrote walled up in an attic, so writing comes from a deep seated need, not your surroundings.


By this, he means the distractions to writing and the trend of the pseudo writer.  He showed examples on the Writers Gifts website of t-shirts, mugs and pens that announce you are a writer.


These are the ones that are written by other authors.  Michael gave the example of Katie Price when she was interviewd by Chris Moyles about her book - Chris said that he had really enjoyed the incident of her falling off her bike when she was a little girl and she replied that she had not read up to that part yet because she was only on chapter three!  He also feels that these are read by people who don't read anything else.


Michael summed this up with a quote from Stewart Lee when asked if he had read the latest Harry Potter, he replied that he hadn't but that he had read the visionary poet William Blake's full works.


He started by saying that Geoff Dyer in the Guardian believed that this was a nebulous concept and that the literary establishment does not exist.  To his backdrop of a projection of Julian Barnes, Martin Amis and Sebastian Faulks pics (with the alternative title 'NB anyone more successful than me) he gave the example of Mr Barnes' acceptance speech for the Man Booker Prize where Julian thanked the judges for having the wisdom to give him the prize as he felt he had been overlooked before.  Michael also wondered at the strange coincidence that Mr Amis always seems to have something controversial to say when he has a book coming out.

This was a very funny and provocative start to the day.  Michael said that he is against self-publishing (SP) and thought that Stephen May summed it up well when he said that if the Beatles had done that, they would have sold fifty to their mates and then ended up working in Morrisons.  He believes that if you are good enough, you will find a publisher and that if you go down the SP route, you have to be an expert at editing and have a distribution network.  Michael thinks that the 3-4 book deal for a new writer does not exist any more and that the sales and marketing directors are the most important people now.  He himself has a small publisher and his book is being looked at for translation into Russian and for the screen.  When it comes to Amazon, he thinks there are only 3 genres - vampire, erotica and romance and no-one looks on it for new writers or browses.

Talking the Walk workshop

I chose this workshop in the morning with Alison Taft as it dealt with dialogue.  She started by acknowledging the attendee who had tweeted her prior to the event and said that 'twitter is the water cooler of writers''  Alison outlined the place of dialogue in the novel, radio play, screenplay and it's context and technicalities.

First we had to talk to a neighbour and then introduce them to the group and then we started to learn the complexities of dialogue.  In a radio play, dialogue is all you have got, so you use it more than in a novel and for the screen, it carries more power.  In film, the attention is to visuals (80% to 20% dialogue) and the screenplay marries this.  The best way to write a screenplay is to build without dialogue and then sprinkle it in after.  In novels, dialogue is used more freely and it is used to advance the plot and dialogue must be edited if it is not moving the story along.  It has to be elevated on the page, rather than how it would sound in real life e.g. 'To write well, express yourself like common people, but think like a wise man. Or, think as wise men do, but speak as the common people do' Aristotle.

Using the opening to the film 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' we could see how dialogue plays an important part.  The first five minutes of the film has only 62 words, yet we are introduced to three different couples and we learn a lot about them from this.  The dialogue is missing all the little bits of social interaction (e.g. hello, how are you?) that you expect to hear, but you know that they are all friends.  The dialogue is only used when it develops plot and character, or occasionally as a humour device e.g. 'But it only goes 40 mph' before cranking the mini up to scream down the motorway.  The interactions and what they are not saying to each other make the audience work to work things out for themselves and so they feel like they are one step ahead almost.  Speeches should be limited to 10/15 seconds of dialogue as more is taken in visually at this time.  Viewers take clues to dialogue from visual, so keep your speeches short.

We then had to write the opening of the film as a radio play.  We could use sound (i.e. car engine, alarm clock) and we could concentrate on one couple only if we wished.  A couple of writers fed back their work and then Alison explained that for radio or screen, constraints such as production costs have to be taken into consideration.  Tom Stoppards 'Albert's Bridge' is thought to be the archetypal radio play.  Dialogue must develop plot and character and subtext.  We then had to write the same opening but as a short story.

Alison then asked the group to get into twos and threes to look at subtext, when what they are saying is not really what they mean.  We chose the Tom and Fiona characters (the posh brother and sister who seem to be ignoring each other) and we wrote the scene as a stage play with pure dialogue.  This was an extremely hard task that taught us a lot about dialogue.

The golden rules - the suspense sentence, don't let the useless information float to the end.  Dialogue should be at the beginning or end, never in the middle and the important information goes in as dialogue.  So one drip feeds dialogue, description, then hit us with it in the next dialogue.  It should be short, punchy and interrupted.  Make it oblique not direct and don't ask and answer a question.  Use three sentences max and ensure characters speak in their own voice, but be very careful about writing phonetic accents.  Don't underestimate your reader, don't try too hard and give a couple of clues only.  Read it out loud and if you catch yourself, take it out!  Different dialogue rythms for different characters.  No 'he said', 'she said' or wimpering etc. as the words need to work, not how they are saying it.  Try to give each character a verbal tic of their own to ground them.

Alison finished with handing out a quote each and asking us to try to bury this in dialogue and then send it to her as homework either by email or twitter, to get some hint of a character i.e. the quote is the essence of them and build character around it.

The Road to publication: Agents, editors, book deals and how to get one

After lunch I attended the above workshop by Sarah Savitt, editor at Faber.  Although Faber does not accept unsolicited manuscripts, this was to be a crash course on how to get published in two parts - one: how you can best describe your own work to others (agents, publishers etc), genre, title and two: Routes to markets, approaching agents and exercises.  Sarah stressed that the most important thing was to write a good book.

The first exercise was to imagine that your book has just been published and to write a one sentence review quote for that book.  We all came up with some big-headed ideals, mine being 'The next big thing in YA fantasy, Thorde takes the Quest to a new level' Philip Pullman and Sarah said it proved we all had what it took to be writers.

We discussed genres as it is important to get the title and genre right.  All agents want the next big thing that they didn't realise they wanted until they had it, but creativity and originality are the main things.  You have to pick a category and go with it, but really research that market/genre and read it to see what the expectations are.

Sarah's list of genres included Literary Fiction (Orange, Booker etc.), Commercial Fiction (Jodi Picoult, David Nicholls), Chick Lit (though WHSmith have taken this down and lad lit seems to have disappeared), Crime/Thriller, Historical, Romance, Action/Adventure, Horror, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Inspirational and Erotica.  She felt that the boundaries are pretty flexible, but you have to be clear about what you are and if you want to be published, it's most important to get an agent as most large companies don't accept unsolicited manuscripts (USM).  Harper/Voyager just finished accepting USM and 'Authonomy' on-line means that the top ten are read by a publisher, but this is rare.

These are the questions of story (to see which genre your story fits into best):

Are most books in this genre stand alone or a series?
Age/gender/social positions of the central character?
Where/when is it set? (contemporary is most popular)
Timespan it covers? (historical, sweeping)
How important is the plot? (twists, begin and end in a specific way)
Is the style realistic/speculative/funny?
What's the language like?

It needs to tick all the boxes for that genre.

We then dealt with titles.  We each had to tell the person next to us the title of the book we were working on at the moment and they had to guess from the title what the book would be about.  I was very pleased because my partner got all the main ingredients of my story just from the title so I now know it is perfect for the genre ('Thorde: The keeper of the trysk' being the title of my YA fantasy with castles, dragons and magic).  My partners short story title was Stag Night which we agreed was not specific enough for the complex story that she has written.

Sarah gave the example of a title 'Y' which is the story of a debut novel due out in January about a baby dumped on the doorstep of the local YMCA.  Titles have to be evocative and interesting.  They should pull in your attention in some way.  Also, in the last five years many books have had titles that involve the words 'wife' or 'tiger' and she wonders if it is not just because they are such potent words, but that the average fiction buyer is a 40 something woman.  Another example is 'The girl with the dragon tattoo' which was published in many countries, including Sweden, under the original title 'Men who hate women.'  The title is considered to be part of the text of your work, so won't be changed unless it is totally unsuitable, but covers are seen as more of an area where publishers have control. 

The next section was agents and how to find a literary one.  Agents are useful for more than just publishing your book.  All the knowledge is held by them on payments, markets etc. and a writer should NEVER pay up front, as agents take a percentage of what you make for the book.  Agent/writer relationships are based on good relations and while they might suggest editing changes, they have to have good chemistry.  Sarah does not think that writers need to go through Literary Consultants to get an agent as it is quite a steep fee.  She suggests finding out who represents the writers you like and approaching them.  Check the website as well as the Writers and Artists yearbook and send a polite and professional, typo-free letter in the first instance.  Sarah handed out an example of a good covering letter and a 'Keeping Up With Publishing' handout.

In the letter you should write to a specific person (i.e. name the agent) and give the title and genre of your story as well as a bit of the story details (in the second paragraph) and why you have chosen them (a little bit of flattery does not go amiss).  Outline the characters a little and a bit of information about you that is relevant (e.g. you attended the Writers' Roadshow, things you've had published/produced) and what made you write this particular story.  The shorter the better, no more than half a page to a page.

The working with editors section established what editors are looking for:

1) Originality
2) Great Confident Voice
3) Have good story, hook, plot
4) Compelling, exciting      ) I've found someone I can work with
5) Author I can work with  ) and want to recommend

Things that can get in the way:

1) No-one else likes it, but the agent does
2) Agent knows no-one else will like it
3) Similar book out at the moment - too alike
4) Author unwilling to make changes they want
5) Wan't them to promote the book etc. and author unwilling to do so (e.g. childrens authors sometimes have to go into schools to promote the book)

When you get a book deal, some editor changes asked for are:

1) Broad brush strokes - change ending, first page, character
2) Opening to be made more arresting, faster paced
3) Deepening a character (e.g. if character has no friends, family, job, motivation)
4) Changing the ending (genre, less ambiguous, more fascinating)
5) Cutting description
6) Getting rid of subplots
7) Changing the title

Sarah explained that authors usually have to cut rather than expand and it is the editors job to flag up any question marks that come up as you are reading it.  You will spend at least 6 months with an editor and at least 2 drafts starting with big changes (e.g. why does a character do this? Put in pointers earlier or take it out) and then closer line edits.  She also said that if you decide to go the self-publishing route, be aware that you have to do all of it yourself as a publishing house is not just about the advance, but the investment in editing, blurbs, publicity, marketing, distribution etc.  If you know your market, great, but nothing in publishing is a get rich quick scheme.  Most great books get published in some way, as it is not often that they let them slip through the net.

Both workshops were very interesting and informative and I have learned much that I can take forward and put into my writing or use when I get to the stage when I feel ready to approach an agent/publisher.

The event finished with the Prizegiving for the Calderdale Short Story Competition which Sarah Savitt and Lousie Doughty announced as they were the judges.  There were four prizes and extracts were read from the winning stories.  Two of the winners had attended the Workshops so it was nice to have met them during the day.

Friday, 12 October 2012

'Every Dead Thing' book review

As you know from a previous post, I attended an author talk by the crime thriller author John Connolly recently and bought a signed copy of 'Every Dead Thing' the first book in his Charlie Parker series and what a joy it was. 

I know crime is not everybody's cup of tea, but my psychology and sociology background means that I really like to get my teeth into a nice murder (in books only, obviously).  'Every Dead Thing' did not let me down.  From the very beginning I was hooked on the central character, though the hideous murder of his family happening in the first chapter really pulled me in too. 

Charlie, or Bird as he is called by his friends, is a very complicated, flawed and engaging creation and I can see why John says that readers will read any story featuring a loved main character.  Charlie's personal history is intriguing, as is his choice of friends (ex-burglars, killers) and job.  He moves from law-abiding policeman to a PI on the very edge of falling into the dark side and this is what draws you in.  The plot is an intricate and shocking series of murders that connect back to the killer of his wife and daughter, taking in other seemingly unconnected deaths, a violent battle between two crime mobs and the investigation of a missing girl. 

As the cover says perfectly, 'The Travelling Man' is an artist of death, making human bodies his canvas and taking faces as his prize.  John is also an artist of death in his way, as his well-crafted prose and violent, gruesome imagery make for a chilling work of complexity that leaves his words and pictures with you long after you finish the book.

Fantastic - you will read the first and need to read the rest.                        10/10

For further information on John see
or on Twitter @jconnollybooks

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Creative Writing Workshop with Stephen May

This event was part of Morley Literature Festival and was held on Wednesday afternoon at Morley Library and it was an inspiring and useful workshop.

Stephen started off with an exercise where we'd to write a 50 word mini-autobiography that had to include one lie.  We read them out and the other members had to guess which part was the lie - most of us struggled to guess the lie.  Stephen used this exercise to demonstrate that there are plenty of stories out there, but yours is unique and only you can tell it your way.

He then related a tale about a guitar he used to own and asked us to pick an object and describe it in as much detail as possible, including another section telling the story behind it.  This was mine:

It is the first thing you spot in the cabinet, garish in its sea of normality.  Colours catch the light in a pastel embrace as the ample curves welcome you in their warm hug.  A tough lid to open which reveals quiet beauty within.  To the untrained eye it is old and ugly, cold and pitted with scars, but to me it is a memory that cannot be replaced. 

This describes a porcelain pot left to me by the Gradmother of my husband, who was a woman that I was told before I met her, that I would hate and she would hate me.  She was in fact a warm and generous woman who had so much love to give, if you only opened yourself up to receive it.

Stephen explained that this exercise was the opposite to what writers do on their own.  You are pushed to produce something, instead of writing as if you had all day to do it.

We then swapped a shoe with the person next to us and had to look at the shoe and describe it in detail, i.e. not just the colour, make etc. but who would buy it, wear it, what it says about the owner.

They are the colour of sand after the rain.  The frivolous girlie pattern spreads over the front, yet it has a sensible 'can't fall over too easily' heel.  A large buckle screams for attention and the material is moulded to the shape of her foot, even when she is not wearing it.  Size 38, but still manages to look delicate, a shoe that tries to stay creative in the constraints of its tame colour.  The pits of the pattern marked, no, stamped, across the front, declaring that it is not the same as all the rest.  Buckle holes strain wider, evidence of too many nights dancing with no thought to anything but the music.  The stain of the buckle brands the side in charcoal lines of dominance, reigning it back in, though the leather is soft to the touch around it.  At the front it is raised, spiky, begging you to notice that it has lived, that it is loved.  A thread hangs loose near the buckle, nestled next to the the elastic hanging towards the heel.  The buckle stands to attention, ready to be used once more.  Butter soft metal shaped by eager fingers, sings out its practicality.  Underneath, the pattern is not yet worn; this stamp of femininity in masculine colours.

The next exercise was to use the voice of one of your parents before you were born and try to write a scene in third person from their point of view.  This was so that we can raise questions in our writing, but refuse to answer them.  Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch said 'Make them laugh, cry, wait.'

We then worked on a structure check-list to put in our writing, to help write a novel/story greater than its parts, the eight-point narrative arc:

1) STASIS - where you are at the beginning of something e.g. Once upon a time
2) TRIGGER - something happens that causes a
3) QUEST - your hero/ine has to do something
4) SURPRISE - something they were not expecting that forces a
5) CRITICAL CHOICE - difficult decision for the protagonist
6) CLIMAX - the consequences of the decision
7) REVERSAL - e.g. employed/unemployed, orphan/learns who parents are
8) RESOLUTION - the happily ever after (though it can be left open-ended)

Stephen recommended the book 'Write a novel and get it published' by Nigel Watts, the Arvon Foundation and the Regional Read scheme which is currently featuring his book 'Life! Death! Prizes!

The next task was to write a story that incorporated the 8 narrative points, a secret we had each been given and to include an old lady, a £10 note, a young boy, a railway station and who you would imagine the owner to be of a shoe to be (Stephen showed us a girls brown suede knee-length boot).  The secret I was given was 'I can speak 11 languages' and I wrote a piece about a man who had removed himself from society, so much so that he no longer spoke, let alone used his 11 languages, who has to face his demons in order to save the life of a young boy.

Stephen admitted that this was a machined way of doing things, but that this will give us the embryo of a story to work on with the eight parts, a foundation for us to build on.  The aim of the workshop was to get a skeletal structure for your story so that you have the arc to enable you to go away and flesh out those bones.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Fiona Shaw and Katharine McMahon author talk

As promised, here is the review of the above event that I attended as part of the Morley Literature Festival on Monday evening.

Both authors know each other through the Reader Organisation as both are course facilitators for round table groups (Katharine's is in Watford) where they read aloud and talk about a book there and then.  The Royal Literary Fund also supports a writing scheme which puts writers into Universities.  They admitted that this is not the most obvious way for writers to meet up.

Katharine McMahon has written eight novels and Fiona Shaw four, plus a memoir and both authors dip into the past in some way.  Katharine was drawn to a woman in medicine, the first doctors, for her book 'The Alchemist's Daughter' as she had a ladybird book about Florence Nightingale that got her into the story.  But she needed a hook to see where it took her off to, so she researched other women in medicine as they were more interesting to her and she knew she also wanted to write about a woman who disappears.

Fiona Shaw's new book 'A Stone's Throw' was triggered by two stories that were told to her years ago and this has never happened before or since.  An older lady, who was 19 in 1942, who she met 21+ years ago, told her about how she travelled to Africa as her husband was working in administration in Africa.  She travelled many miles to go to him, but the ship was torpedoed and she ended up in a lifeboat with no room to move and she was the only woman.  This threw all kinds of scenarios up, such as how are you going to pee?  They decided to pass a bucket around, but the lady decided that if she was not rescued she would rather throw herself over the side and drown, than pee into a bucket in front of all the men.  The other story involved two friends carrying a boat on slippery land and the consequences of this.  So she decided that two stories with no connection had to be at the centre of the novel.  She admitted that you can't write someone else's story, but once the tools are there, suddenly everything becomes relevant.

Katharine revealed that when her book 'The Rose of Sebastapol' was chosen as one of the Richard and Judy Book Club novels, this felt like her big break but she felt it was sheer luck.  She said the publishers know which ones are likely to be picked and lined up for it, but the authors are not told about it.  Katharine feels it changes everything - she struggled to get the book noticed, when that happens, it's all done for you.  Her new book 'Season of Light' is set in the french revolution and it was inspired by a Jane Austen biography which detailed about the husband of Jane's cousin, a french Marquis who went back to France during the revolution and was guillotined, though no mention of this, appears in any of Austen's work.  She started by reading everything she could about Paris at that time and the revolution and then narrowed it down to what really interest her.  The French Revolution slowed down the abolition of slavery in this country and priests were locked up in Paris and massacred as they thought they were Royalists.  They also killed prostitutes to prevent them from becoming insurrectionists.  Katharine felt she needed to keep the revolution alive in her book although her story happens in England, so to achieve this she had her heroine fall in love with a revolutionary.

Creatively, Fiona does not usually come up with the idea in a big splurge, but she loves the reading, although it can easily become a way of not starting to write.  She gets the core idea or storyline/theme to pursue, but she doesn't know what the ending is going to be.  She likens herself to a mole, in that she knows where to start, but not where to come up.  Some other novellists plot everything, others some of their scenes, but there are many different ways for different people and some scenes/novels never see the light of day.  'A Stone's Throw' is written in five parts and the theme is one family in three generations and that the first loss plays out throughout the novel.  She does not usually have the title for her novels, but she knew this one from the beginning.  She sees it as a stone that lands on water at five points, before finally sinking and the trauma of family plays out through the events, affecting the conclusion.

Each author then read a section of their novels.

Upon being asked whether she felt her style had changed, Fiona said that she has had lots of good reviews and most authors hope that they get better.  She feels she does not now feel the need to show that she knows her research.

Asked about mentors, Katharine said that every writer needs a mentor and she feels that hers is, as he is a critical friend.  He scrutines her novels and tells her opportunities that she has missed and where he is bored (e.g. 'you don't need to educate people about the french revolution'), but that an editor is more cursory.  Fiona has had lots of editors and you can get a lot of useful editing, e.g. if a character is not likeable, explain why she is so unlikeable.

Both authors still get the same thrill from their published books as it's finished.  Katharine likened it to being pregnant and producing an absolute monster!  Also, they agreed that publishers put whatever they want on the cover, Fiona admitting that the only cover she likes is her second book as the picture on the front is a picture from her research of a woman's profile looking for planes in binnoculars and it is one of the women the novel is based on.

They agreed that it is very tough to get a novel noticed once it is published and they feel the internet has not helped.  In a store, one can browse, but there is no browsing through Amazon and you have to rely on word of mouth, libraries and book clubs.  Each book gets short time promotion, then you have to do it yourself.

Katharine and Fiona are in ebook territory and Fiona's first three books are out of print so they are now ebooks only.  Anyone can publish onto Kindle, so it is an enormous market, but new books go out to Kindle as part of your contract now.  Authors get a percentage of book sales and paperback sales are less than hardback.  Quantity is the key, as writers do not get a payment for used copies, but you can get cheap research books.  Both authors would be delighted for one of their books to be nominated for World Book Night.

Asked if they ever visit a location that a book is set in, Katharine admitted that when she went to the Crimea it was at the end of October and like the English army before her, she knew little about the weather.  It is warm and then so cold you cannot stand up - the soldiers got frostbite because they left their coats behind.  She got a bargain deal on a Telegraph holiday that visited all the Crimean war sites.  Fiona revealed that she was going to set a book in Africa, but that publishers don't think people want to read books set in Africa, so was asked if her idea would work in another time and another place.

Katharine revealed that 'The Crimson Rooms' is her favourite of her novels because she feels it is the best mix of her storytelling and her knowledge.  She is currently writing the sequel which will be out next November.  Fiona always feels closest to which novel she's just finished, but she does have an affection for 'Tell it to the Bees' too.

Fiona and Katharine then read excerpts from their novels (Fiona from 'Tell it to the Bees' and Katharine from 'The Crimson Rooms').  Fiona explained that it was a harder novel as it concerns a love affair between two women (a GP and a factory worker) in the 1950s and some of it is told from the perspective of the 10-yr-old son of the factory worker.  Katharine explained that her story concerned a young woman's murder where the chief suspect is her husband, but Evelyn (the heroine) a lawyer who is bereaved because of the first World War, can bring a woman's perspective to the crime scene.

This was an excellent and informative evening and I am looking forward to attending more Morley Literature events this week.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Morley Literature Festival Creative Writing Workshop

I attended two excellent events as part of the Morley Literature Festival yesterday and thought I would review them for my followers.

First I attended the Creative Writing Workshop with Fiona Shaw at Morley Town Hall.  This workshop dealt with rites of passage (i.e. birth, death, marriage - a period or an event that makes a change in your life) and writing by indirection (using little things to bring the character to life).  We started with introducing ourselves and telling a story about our names as they carry significance, either to the person or the one who named them (e.g. if you were named after someone).  Then we had to get into pairs and think about an event that has happened to us or someone we know and tell the other person directly.  They then had to feed back succinctly to the group.  I chose when I realised that one of my lectures in University was giving me the insight I needed to get 'into my characters heads' and my 'pair' chose her driving test (or rather the history that led up to her taking it).

We then had to take this story and think about the things behind it - the drama that led up to this event, choose a moment or invent/imagine a scene and write about it in the third person.  This was to be done briefly, but we had to get into the mind of our character.

This was the piece I wrote that I will be editing heavily and using in one of my forthcoming novels:

She was sat in the lecture wondering why on earth she was here.  She knew that she'd chosen this subject, but only because she couldn't do Gothic Literature and Ms Shutoff insisted that it would help with opening up her dark side creatively.  She wondered what horrors they were going to look at this week and which hideous pictures she would have to see flashing before her constantly for who knew how long before she could block them from her mind.

'Great' she thought, as the images of little girls with bloodstains like roses blooming on their clothing came up on the overhead projector.  Another nutcase who wanted to shoot children and she knew that meant she wouldn't be sleeping for some time to come.

As she listened to the lecturer drone on and on about the crime and flicked picture after heartbreaking picture up for them to see, she wondered if she would ever get any of this right.  She didn't care why this psycho killed, she was just saddened that he had.

When the lecturer announced that he had shot himself after his shooting spree, something clicked in her head.  He hadn't shot them because they needed to die, he'd killed them because he did.  Suddenly she knew what he had been thinking, knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was right for once and that she would be able to raise her hand and tell them the answer and they wouldn't look at her in pity and amusement.  She would no longer be the safe mature student who thought that she had lived just because she was older than the rest of them.  This time, she'd got it right.

He had shot the girls because he wanted to kill himself, not just his body, but his whole self, his mind and in his mind he needed to kill that part of him that was defective before he moved on.    They were a temptation and if he removed the temptations, he could start again in his new life cleansed of this sickness that he could not close off in this.  They had to die in order for him to live.

With a tentative gesture, she raised her hand and laid it all out before them.  He saw them as evil.  Temptresses stopping him from being the person he wanted to be, the person he would be once they were gone.  His fresh start.

We then read out each of our pieces whilst discussing specific things we like or felt that had not worked.  I was advised to use more dialogue and others were advised to use less.

We were told about the Friends of Morley Literature Festival Short Story Competition that is free to enter up to three times before 31 July 2013 and the free on-line writing group where the top 10 read are perused by Random Publishing.

I will be reviewing the author talk by Fiona Shaw and Katharine McMahon at Morley Library yesterday evening on my blog tomorrow.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Local Writing Events

The Morley Literature Festival is now well underway (as you could see from my review yesterday of the excellent Sci-fi and Superheroes event) and there are quite a few writing events happening this month.  I found out yesterday that there is a Scriptwriting Masterclass being run by the BBC Writers Room which will be held in Bradford on Saturday 20 October, details below: 

The Morley Literature Festival writing events include:

Monday 8 October 
Reporting the Royals Literary Lunch with Tim Ewart
12 noon, The Village Hotel, Tingley £25

Creative Writing Workshop with Fiona Shaw*
2pm, Morley Library £5                                                  *I will be attending this event

Fiona Shaw & Katharine McMahon*
7pm, Morley Library £4

Wednesday 10 October
Creative Writing Workshop with Stephen May*
2pm, Morley Library £5

Monique Roffey & Stephen May
7pm, Morley Library £4

Author Jack Sheffield 'Educating Jack'
7.30pm, Tingley Methodist Church £4

Thursday 11 October
Author Chris Nickson and storyteller Simon Heywood
7.30pm, Churwell Community Centre £5

Class, Identity, Environment - Ross Raisin, M Y Alam, Wes Brown
7.45pm, Morley Library £4

Friday 12 October
Leah Fleming*
2pm, Morley Library free

Polly Toynbee
7.30pm, Morley Town Hall £8

Saturday 13 October
The Last Champions - Dave Simpson
1.3pm, Morley Town Hall £4

Afternoon Tea with Helen Rappaport
3pm, Morley Town Hall, £7

Simon Garfield
5pm, Morley Town Hall, £4

Stuart Maconie
7.30pm, Morley Town Hall, £8

For full details and to book

The Ilkley and Beverley Literature Festivals are also on, see for full details

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Science Fiction and Superheroes

Just got back from this event at Morley Town Hall as part of the Morley Literature Festival.

'When Superman landed on our planet in 1938 to single-handedly birth the superhero genre, he came from the science fiction tradition.  But how far has superhero fiction moved from its science fiction roots?  And how have superhero stories fed back into SF?'

Comics writer David Hine and science fiction authors Adam Christopher, Samit Basu and Justina Robson explored the point at which two genres meet.

David Hine has been writing comics for several decades.  Previously he was an artist at Marvel and DC - Spiderman Noir, Batman.  He has recently self published his own comic 'The Bulletproof Coffin' with Image.

Samit Basu lives in Delhi and has written three fantasy novels, the first of which 'Turbulence' launches in the UK with Titan Books.

Adam Christopher is a novelist (Empire State, Seven Wonders) with his third book The Age Atomic due out in April 2013.  He will also be launching a comic in November.

Justina Robson has written nine novels since 1999 of sci-fi and fantasy (Quantum Gravity, Keeping It Real).  In Quantum Gravity her heroine gradually transforms into a superhero.

Each author gave a background in how they were hooked on comics.  David said that he only read
sci-fi and comic books, but in American comic sci-fi, superheroes was the dominant genre.  He was bothered about the vigilantism of it.  When he was asked to write for DC it was after a horror story he had written.  District X was for mutants who had rubbish powers, which he found much more interesting - mutants as outsiders rather than superheroes.  He no longer writes for Marvel, DC but his first independent book 'Storm Dogs' is real sci-fi and due out in November.

Superman started the superhero fiction genre, but books by others such as Warren Ellis had a lot of science in them and the greek and roman myths were soap operas with superheroes.

Samit considers himself a sci-fi writer, because sci-fi with superheroes gives him a sense of home.  He first discovered comics in England ten years ago when studying.  'Turbulence' is sci-fi superheroes with modern mythology.  He feels all sci-fi is a commentary on the world to reflect the social and political senses of that era.  It is more about who you are and what you do with your powers rather than how important the science is in the novel.

Justina feels a lot of pressure to be as accurate as possible to current science, to be creative without straying too far from it.  The aesthetic with sci-fi is to draw it back to reality whereas fantasy doesn't have to toe the line.  There is much debate about how seriously you should take your science in sci-fi on-line.

Adam is a Dr Who fan and his novels have a lot of sci-fi in them, but feels that sci-fi is not purely fiction about science.  To him, Star Wars is sci-fi, but others may argue it is fantasy.

David revealed that he is starting a space opera series in a couple of years, but it is not science as there is no manipulation of anti-gravity hard drives etc.  In the 1960s magazines like New Worlds began to redefine the whole genres as speculative fiction (SF), but David feels that all the most interesting fiction is the stuff that crosses the boundaries of genre.  He wrote Spawn for three years, but he sees that as a horror series.

Samit likes that it is amorphous and Justine believes that it allows more creative freedom if you don't have to stick to real science.  When asked if Twilight hurt the genre, she thought that it didn't, as there are some very exciting novels that have started in the paranormal romance genre.

David believes that 'The Bulletproof Coffin' is metafictional - where the superheroes enter the real world.  He admitted that some people were let down by it making sense, because he had tied it all up as some liked the madness of the ending normally.  He thinks it is impossible to make it into a film or a tv programme, which was a big mistake as his co-writer's ambitions are to have a hit movie or to draw Captain America!

When they were asked if they hoped to see their writing made into films, Samit admitted that he thinks it will happen at some time, but he has resigned himself to how different it will be from his book.  Justine also wants hers to be made into films and admitted that she was always a writer, but like the others, felt that she only admitted to people that she was, when someone had agreed to publish her work.  Samit said that after dropping out of business school in India to write novels, he only admitted it after two novels.  David said that even though he wrote sci-fi serials, he believed that in your head you are a writer, but you don't tell anyone until you are in print and get paid for it.  This is a big shift in your own psychology and it is wonderful once you feel that it is your vocation.  But he believes that a lot of great writers out there will never be published. 

David still draws because he writes in a visual medium, so does thumb nails for every page, but the artist doesn't get to see them because it would restrict their own vision.  It is not the same as writing a script.  For that there is dialogue and setting, but never what they are thinking or feeling.

Samit feels that writing your own comic is the best organic way of getting yourself to write more tightly - you only have so much time and space, so you have to eliminate anything superfluous and working to a monthly format is restrictive in that it forces you to be disciplined.

Adam felt that in a novel you have the room to explore feelings and thoughts.  Empire State was collaborative when he'd written the book as it was the first time a publisher had given permission for fan fiction.

It was felt that the edges of superhero fiction are blurring when films like Batman all tell his story in different ways and Heroes and Misfits stripped it down to people with strange powers in the real world.  Samit feels that action movies are all modern mythmaking.

The writers all would be happy if their stories were chosen for computer games.  David felt that The Darkness is a very successful game and that more people would be playing the game than reading the comic books now.  The dialogue is very good as it was written by Paul Jenkins who wrote The Darkness comic books for a while.  Shattered Dimensions, Spiderman Noir and Batman Imposter have been made into games, so David has experienced this before.  Justina said she thinks Quantum Gravity would be too much fun to be a game and revealed that the writer of Mass Effect 3 was fired because players were furious with the ending.  She feels that The Witcher was very good because it had 16/7 different endings, so it was more rewarding and akin to reading a comic book.  World of Warcraft and Star Wars have imaginative storytelling that makes you feel like what you do matters, but the game playing is not as good.  Samit feels it would be a most daunting experience as there are writers and designers.

When asked how difficult their roads were to publishing David said that getting a novel published is not a lot easier than comics.  Nowadays you can self-publish on the internet and get some feedback and you can turn out a slick magazine on your computer, but publishing the traditional way is always difficult.  Adam suggested that if you write a really good book and be really, really lucky, perseverance could see you through.

At the end of the event there was a book signing, but unfortunately as there was no provision for credit card payments, I could only purchase one book.  I chose Samit Basu's Turbulence, but I will be putting the others on my birthday/christmas list and I can't wait to read them.

For further information on these writers go to:





Friday, 5 October 2012

Weekend at Hexham

We went away last weekend to Slaley Forest with our friends S and R and their children S & O.  We went to Alnwick Castle on the Saturday and were very lucky with the weather.  It was a Harry Potter inspired day with wand making, meet the characters (Harry and Hagrid) and the usual broomstick training and tours.  On the Sunday we went for a lovely woodland walk in the wood next to our site and we were enjoying it so much, when we got back we realised we'd been walking for over two hours (and that was with some rain for a bit of it).  There were beautiful views, mushrooms that looked like they came straight from fairyland (except for the scary couple of deadly nightshade we found, but obviously didn't get anywhere near to) and the children absolutely loved it.  I would really recommend Hexham and the stunning countryside around it for a short break.  To give you an idea, I am posting some of my snaps below:

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Looper film review

Went with my husband to see Looper at the Odeon last night.  Had been really looking forward to it as it was advertised as this years Matrix and we were not disappointed.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Premium Rush, Inception) stars as Joe, a looper whose job it is to kill people sent back through time blindfolded and and tied up by the mob from 2072.  The mob is run by a man known as the Rainmaker, who decides to start calling in the loops, i.e. the younger selves having to kill their older selves.  Bruce Willis (Die Hard, The Sixth Sense) plays Old Joe who is sent back to 'close the loop' only for him to escape and cause the mob to call out hits on both of them. 

This is a fantastic film both in plot and acting.  Whoever thought of the scene where the younger looper is used to bring the older looper back in is genius, terrible but genius.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is excellent and really captures Bruce Willis, though his make-up does add an other-worldly quality to the film that underlines the violence and fear that pervades throughout.  Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau, The Five-Year Engagement) plays the mother of the young 'rainmaker' Cyd (Pierce Gagnon - The Crazies, One Tree Hill) who Joe will have to protect from his older self.  I have to say, I have not seen a scarier child actor since Damien from Omen and I expect great things from this young man.  I knew there was something not right about the child and even though there had been nods to TK, I wasn't expecting what happens when the loopers finally catch up with him.

This is a film that will leave you guessing until the end and really makes you work to keep up with the fantastic plotting.  This is a fast-paced thriller that made me wonder why it is only rated as a 15.

TAGLINE: Hunted by your future.  Haunted by your past.  10/10

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Word of Mouth Festival author events

Just received this information from Anna Turner about the following writing events:

Saturday 13 October
2pm, Sowerby Bridge Library
Meet the Author – Rachel Connor
Rachel Connor writes fiction, non- fiction and radio drama.  Sisterwives is her debut novel of intimacy, desire and spiritual quest.  It focuses on two women living in an isolated religious community who share the same husband.  Rachel has lectured in literature and creative writing at the Universities of Glasgow and Salford, and now combines writing with working for the Arvon Foundation at Ted Hughes' former home, Lumb Bank.
Tickets £3 – 01422 831627

Monday 15 October
7pm Northowram Library
Meet the Authors - Nick Quantrill and Nick Triplow
The Humber Beat is an evening of crime fiction from two of the region’s most exciting new voices. From readings and discussions drawing on their own work, along with writing from the likes of Brit-noir pioneer, Ted Lewis; Humber crime authors Nick Quantrill and Nick Triplow (both published by Caffeine Nights) look at a region on the cusp of change and consider how it might reinvent itself in the future. Nick Quantrill lives and works in Hull. His Joe Geraghty novels are Broken Dreams and The Late Greats. Nick Triplow is the writer of the crime novel Frank's Wild Years set in South London and Humberside. Originally from London, Nick now lives in North Lincolnshire.
Tickets £3 – 01422 202997
Tuesday 16 October
7.30pm Central Library
M.Y Alam in Conversation
M Y Alam talks about his new novel Red Laal, a thriller that is in part a homage to his home city of Bradford. The story reintroduces Alam’s protagonist, Kilo, who is seduced back into a life of crime. Alam will be talking about the inspiration behinds his characters and the locations that play such an important part in his fiction. M Y Alam is the author of the novels Annie Potts is Dead and Kilo. He has published several short stories and is the editor of the books Made in Bradford and The Invisible Village. During the day, he is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Bradford.
Tickets £3 – 01422 392630

For further information contact:

Anna Turner
Reader Development Librarian
01422 392606

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man review

My friend B and I went to see this movie today and I thought it was better than the original ones with Tobey Maguire.  Now I have to admit that I really think that Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, Never Let Me Go) and Emma Stone (The Help, Zombieland) are excellent actors (better in my book, than Mr Maguire), but it was the film that really made it for me, not just the actors.  The villian is the brilliant Rhys Ifans (Anonymous, Notting Hill) as Dr Curt Connors, who is a multi-layered bad guy with the secret to the truth about Peter Parker's parents.  He used to work with Peter's father before he mysteriously disappeared and they were working on the same formulas.  All-round nice-guy Peter, blags his way into Oscorp where Dr Connors works, as does the love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), where he is bitten by a genetically-altered spider and here is where the film really comes into its own.  Concentrating on what super-powers could achieve for a good guy in the real world, much feel-good humour and heroic deeds follow which leads, as it probably would in this day and age, to him being branded a vigilante.  It does not help that Gwen's father, Captain Stacy (the inimitable Denis Leary) puts a warrant out for his arrest.  But it isn't long before the city needs him, as Dr Connors decides to use himself for his new formula's human testing with disastrous consequences.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Writing, Writing Events and CWG

Have been so busy writing, I have neglected the blog for a few days, sorry.  I have managed to write over six chapters in that time though and nearly 15,000 words, so I definitely feel that my time has not been wasted - let's just hope it's not too much deleting rather than editing when it comes to that stage.

I have just been sent the following information from Anna Turner about some writing events:

Saturday 13 October
11am, Central Library
Haiku for Wellbeing; A writing workshop led by Anne Maney
‘struck from the stones
of the wrecked city
a damsel fly’s blue fire’

A Haiku is a three-line poem that captures a moment of experience. Haiku are the essence of poetry: simple, arresting, can be funny, moving, stop us in our tracks, take us to a different place. The form began in Japan, with rules. Now Haiku are ours, and we can break the rules if we like. No experience is necessary, all are welcome. We will create a supportive shared space for making Haiku, for learning the rules and breaking them, for capturing moments in time.

Anne Maney is a poet and teacher of Creative Writing in mainstream and mental health. For some years she has been convenor of the Leeds/Bradford branch of Lapidus - the national network for writing and reading for health and wellbeing. She acquired her first grandchild this year, and last year gained an MA with Distinction in Creative Writing at Newcastle Univsersity. Now, screwing up courage –grandparenting permitting – she has started to perform her poems on the open mic circuit.  Tickets £6 (£4 concs) from Central Library, Halifax

 Saturday 20 – October
Todmorden Library, 10am – 12noon
Re-Creating the Past – writing historical novels

A workshop by award-winning novelist Melinda Hammond with tips on all aspects of writing the historical novel – scene-setting, characters, plot and what NOT to put into your book.

Pen and paper required (be prepared to do some work!) Since Melinda’s first book in 1983 she has had over 20 historical novels published. She won the Reviewers' Award in 2005 for Dance for a Diamond and her novel Gentlemen in Question was a Historical Novel Society Editors' Choice in 2006.  She is now concentrating on writing her romantic historical adventures for Harlequin Mills & Boon under the pen name of Sarah Mallory and won the 2012 Rona Rose Award from the Romantic Novelists Association for The Dangerous Lord Darrington.  Tickets £5 (£3.50 concs) from Todmorden Library

Also, tonight is the next meeting of the Cleckheaton Writers Group at 6-8pm in Cleckheaton Library and as I tweeted earlier, new members welcome.  Hope to see you there.