Monday, October 22, 2012
Staying in and going out
I'm still pretty immersed in my current project, and here's what I'm also doing - against time, before workmen come to do another job - stripping wallpaper and paint: so two things are now keeping me away from my blogs. Today, though, my first reader (John) is looking at my latest draft, and there's a plumber downstairs taking out a radiator in that room, so for once I have time to come to the blog and mention a few events I've attended recently.
Most recent was a great reading yesterday afternoon by short-story writers Adam Marek and Guy Ware, a Comma Press/Manchester Lit Fest event at the Anthony Burgess Centre. Both Adam and Guy have new collections out from Comma, and each read a story from his new book. Although both writers have highly individual voices, they share a surreality married to political consciousness. The lively and quirky title story which Guy read from his collection, 'You Have 24 Hours to Love Us', was the story of the siege of a mountain egg farmer by a political regime, and successfully kept you guessing to the end about the real nature of the protagonist narrator. Adam's story, 'An Industrial Evolution', from the new collection The Stone Thrower, was first commissioned by Comma for Bio-Punk, an anthology of short stories about the potential ethical consequences of current biotechnology research, and imagined Ape Town, a place where orangutans have been rescued by genetic modification from the extinction with which they are in reality threatened, but have been put to an ethically questionable use. A thoughtful and thought-provoking story, beautifully imagined. Comma's Jim Hinks then chaired a very interesting Q & A (above), and afterwards we all repaired to the pub - along with my long-time friend and former co-editor of metropolitan magazine, Ailsa Cox, who'd come with her husband journalist Tim Power (and extremely quiet and gentle dog George!) - it was great to catch up, and made me think I really should get out more!
I haven't managed to attend many Lit Fest events this year, and two I did try for were sold out. I did get to the panel discussion 'Is the Editor Dead?' (also at the Anthony Burgess Centre) - an interesting evening which I'll write about on my Fictionbitch blog when (if!) I get time. [Edited in: I have now managed that: here's the link.]
The Didsbury Arts Festival took place the last weekend in September, and I went to two events, the first a Nightjar Press reading arranged by its publisher Nick Royle. Among the readers were Nick himself with a clever and moving story based around the names of bus routes/destinations, and Alison Moore, whose Booker shortlisted novel The Lighthouse was edited by Nick in one of his other roles as a Salt Publishing fiction editor. Alison read from The Lighthouse with its emotive atmosphere and evocative prose, as well as her new creepy Nightjar chapbook story. Gregory Norminton read a very clever story (for which he said he owed a debt to JG Ballard) written entirely as footnotes to a biography. The following night I went to another excellent reading by three more Comma short-story writers, Zoe Lambert, Jane Rogers and Michelle Green.
Oh, and before that, in mid-September, I did a reading of my own, for the Alderley Edge Oxfam Community Book Festival. I was billed for 11 o'clock on a Sunday morning, the first slot of the day, so didn't exactly expect an audience, but to my surprise and delight a not-bad-sized audience turned up in the plush blue newly-furbished committee room of the Festival Hall. I read my story 'The Way to Behave' from Balancing, and extracts from each of Too Many Magpies and The Birth Machine.
What else? Oh yes, on Friday I went to J B Shorts, an evening of 15-20 minute theatre plays by established TV writers, at the Joshua Brookes pub. Now several series in, J B Shorts is something of a phenomenon: they do a massive two-week run, yet most evenings are sold out. Tickets are only available on the door, so I went early, arriving half an hour beforehand, but there was already a queue circling right around the pub. By the time I got to the box office there was standing room only, and only four or so people after me got in, the rest being turned away. Apparently it had been like that the night before, the Thursday as well!