October is the busiest month

We managed to sellotape Sandy “Busy Bee” Chadwin to his laptop for 10 minutes so he could write this blog…

For reasons that escape me, but are partly do with the time of year, I have a fair bit to do this autumn. Three gigs, to be precise, with two of them on the same day but it should be fun.

SandyFirst out of the hatch is They Walk That Should Not Walk, a talk that Elaine Cusack and I will be giving at the Northumberland Park Community Room (it’s attached to the café, or so I’m told) at 1:00pm this coming Thursday the 12th  of October. It’s part of the ‘Age Takes Centre Stage’ shenanigans that the council have put together for this month and it’s free though I think you need to register. Fuller details are here. If you’ve not been to the park (it’s between the golf course in North Shields and the Tynemouth Lodge pub) it’s a charming little place complete with its own pet cemetery and remains of a mediaeval hospital. And there’s a café. The talk (or chat more likely) will look at the history and fascination of the ghost story and if you’re coming, bring along memories of your favourite whether it’s one from Charles Dickens, EF Benson, Mrs Gaskell, or one of the James boys – Henry and MR. Should be fun, albeit in a somewhat macabre way.

Following that, I will have a brief pause before heading off to the Exchange in North Shields where, along with the Cracketts (a husband and wife folk duo) I’ll be presenting Tales from the Dead House at 7:30. This is an evening of spooky and macabre stories (from me) and songs (courtesy of the Cracketts) and is ticketed at £3.00, available on the door. Storytelling is a thing I do, unless politely but firmly stopped, and fits nicely with folk music and as the nights creep into the day, it’s the time to sit and listen, if only to escape the darkness outside. In the US they have the tradition of the campfire tale, a creepy and often gory story told while sitting round the fire while camping. Many of the urban myths we are so fond of probably started off as such tales – you know the kind of thing I mean. The Vanishing Hitchhiker (driver gives lift to girl only she disappears while still in the car and on subsequent investigation he discovers that she was run down and died on that very spot); Hairy Hands (woman gives lift to old lady but notices that she has suspiciously hairy hands and so when the old lady gets out at a garage to visit the toilet, the driver drives off and when she looks inside the bag left by the old lady, she finds it full of bloodied knives and a police investigation finds the clothes of an elderly woman in the toilet at the garage) and there are many others. I was actually told the hairy hands one by a friend back in the late ‘70s with the addition that the old lady was in fact the Yorkshire Ripper, who was still at large.

 MRJames1900Then, a full week later, I shall be giving a talk on the aforementioned MR James at the Old George in Newcastle at 7:30pm on the 19th. That has the bargain price of a mere £2.50. Buy your ticket in advance here. MR James is, I will be arguing, one of the best, if not the actual best, ghost story writer in English. He used to write them to tell to his Cambridge fellow dons on Christmas Eve and they are a potent mix of donnish humour and subtle horror. I did my dissertation on him back in the mid- ‘80s when you weren’t meant to take things like ghost stories as serious literature. My supervisor spent the first week or so constantly thinking I was writing about Henry James (no mean slouch at the ghost story himself as anyone who’s read ‘The Turn of the Screw’ will attest) and the external examiner mourned that I had wasted my time on such a petty subject. But now, Newcastle University does a module on them as part of its Eng. Lit degree or certainly did so a few years back, and you cannot buy a critical study of James or ghost stories in general for less than £30 odd. Hmm, perhaps I should dig out that dissertation…

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Pure Fiction on Thursday!

Pure Fiction logoPure Fiction is The Next Page’s regular literary event, dedicated to writers of fiction and their work.

We held two Pure Fiction events in Whitley Bay last year featuring writers Kitty Fitzgerald, Carol Clewlow, L.A. Craig plus The Next Page’s Jennifer C. Wilson and Sandy Chadwin,

Our third Pure Fiction event takes place this Thursday 11th May  in Newcastle’s oldest pub, The Old George Inn, just off the Bigg Market. The evening features Rod Glenn and Victoria Watson.

Rod is the author of best-selling Sinema series, the first of which introduces us to the film-obsessed serial killer, Han Whitman. Victoria is a writer, copy-editor and Creative Writing tutor. She has won awards for both her fiction and non-fiction.Rod Glenn

Victoria-WatsonDoors open 6.45pm and event kicks off at 7pm.  Sandy Chadwin will kick off the evening with one of his Tall Tales and the event is hosted by his Next Page colleague, Elaine Cusack.

old georgeTickets cost £3 and we advise booking in advance from Ticketsource.

Writers need people!

James Tucker is our guest blogger today….

I once remarked to my then-girlfriend about how artistic people could be hard work sometimes.  ‘Yes, you certainly are!’ was her response.  I hadn’t really thought of myself in those terms but then I felt good about it.  I could now strike official Artistic Poses, and my various gripes (block, comparisons, criticisms, doubt, obsession, etc) would be justified because I was a Tormented Genius.

Sometimes, though, the “artist” business strikes me as odd because writing is almost inherently introverted.  You can do it in company but it boils down to you spending a lot of time with a piece of paper or keyboard and your attention focused on the work.  It’s the kind of art that someone shy and possibly without any previously detected artistic talent or temperament can aspire to.

But I’m not sure there is any such thing as a pure introvert.  Sooner or later, you will need to get some motivation or perspective from another person to keep going.  Not to mention that writing is also a craft, and has to be learnt.  One of my lecturers defined a writer as someone who would write even if they knew for a fact nobody else would ever see it, but that would be unpleasant and inefficient at the least.James again

So here’s a rub: unless you are that rare person who writes entirely for your own enjoyment, then at some point, somebody else is going to have to read it.  Or, you will have to read it to them.  It may feel like you are exposing something deeply personal; if you have spent a long time with your work, you may even be a little jealous of sharing it.  You will discover whether being heard is a want or a need, or both.

After which, some of the people exposed to your work may say something back.  If you are lucky, it may be something you can use to improve, and you take it as such.  If you are very lucky, you may be that even rarer person whose first work is an instant success.  But that happens less often than you think; To Kill a Mockingbird is often called a brilliant first novel when in fact it was Harper Lee’s first published novel, there was at least one before that didn’t make it.

Of course taking a compliment can be pretty tough, sometimes even less comfortable than criticism.  Yet you probably aspire to more of it.

(Just to prove a point… this blog post is better for exposure to the Next Page group (Jennifer C Wilson, Elaine Cusack, Sandy Chadwin) and the Elementary Writers group run by Victoria Watson, not to mention John Evans at the Phil.)

If you successfully tread the path to major author, you will be expected to do readings and signings with talks.  Best get some practice in early.  You don’t have to be Jackanory but competence and comfort will be necessary.

So… don’t let the road be too lonely.  Sometimes you may walk together in companionable silence, sometimes pause to share provisions and compare blisters, perhaps even take time to plan your route with someone.  Or just nod to a fellow traveller as you pass.  It’ll be worth it.

Pure Fear: a true story

L.A. Craig perfomed at our second Pure Fiction event in Whitley Bay library last November. Here are her reflections on that experience…

The email from Elaine said, ‘Invitation to Read your Work’. My reaction? No way, Jose, not on your nelly, never in a million years.

Why?

Lisa reading b&wBecause I’m not a speaking out loud kind of person, and anyway I can’t even speak that loud, but mostly– who would want to listen? Sure, I’d had snippets published here and there, but in theory, I’d never actually gone public before. Not in the flesh.

Elaine mentioned there would be questions.

What? Don’t think so. Good lord, I don’t even know what I’m about, never mind complete strangers wanting answers.

Sleep on it, I thought. Come up with a fail-safe reason to turn this down in the nicest possible way.

I’m not the most eloquent bod off paper. It’s one of the reasons I write. So, for me, being asked to perform, even in a room no bigger than a kitchen-diner (well, maybe a bit), was on a par with standing naked in the Albert Hall with everybody pointing. Feel the fear (you know the rest), my partner said, but I was having none of it. Mind firmly made up, I went to bed.

Next day, I emailed my response.

If I was billed as the newbie, baby, novice writer… so as not to get anyone’s hopes up, then…maybe I’d do it.

Where did that come from?

Well – down in the deepest darkest corner of my subconscious, I knew I had no choice. If I wanted to be a big grown-up writer, I’d have to kick Nervous Nelly to the kerb.

In the weeks beforehand I practised my bestest reading out loud.

“Louder!” said Elaine.

I practised reading slowly.

“Slower!” Elaine said.

Font magnified to see-it-from-the-moon-size, tons of white space as a reminder to breathe – I placed my comfort blanket of words in a writery folder.

The actual day. Good God, people were turning up – mostly to hear Carol Clewlow, but the poor souls would be forced to listen to me first. Sorry folks. Let’s get this over with as quickly as possible (oh no you don’t, you’ll read slowly).

So, I read in my loudest, slowest voice. Yes, my kneecaps were anxious and all my saliva nipped off on a last-minute city break. At one point, there was even an out of body experience (this isn’t really you speaking, yes, it is, no it’s not), but…but…but – I got through it, and at the end, lovely audience members came up for a chat. I couldn’t believe they’d been listening. And some even had questions I could answer!

So, cheers Elaine, for the kick in the pants. And to any other writers out there in need of a swift boot up the backside (administered with patience and encouragement, of course) – Elaine Cusack’s your woman.

Pure Fiction logoL.A. Craig (Lisa, when she’s not being all writery) is a writer based in Whitley Bay.  She received a New Fiction Bursary from the Northern Writers’ Awards in 2014 for her children’s novel, Hosannas and Sleeping Bags, and her short story Flour Baby was broadcast on Radio 4 the following year.

Lisa is currently working on her second children’s novel and has recently been signed by Jane Willis at United Agents.

Meet L.A. Craig

With just over a week to go before the next Pure Fiction it’s time to meet L.A. Craig who will be reading alongside Carol Clewlow.

la-craig-1L.A. Craig (Lisa, when she’s not being all writery) is from Sandancer stock. After a detour via London, Milton Keynes and Oxford, she now lives in Whitley Bay. Lisa describes herself as a late starter. She completed a degree in her thirties and plodded through several too-dull-to-mention jobs for another ten years before giving herself permission to write. She has since been published in the National Flash Fiction Day anthologies Jawbreakers and Scrapand in the Words with Jam prize winners’ anthology An Earthless Melting Pot. She received a New Fiction Bursary from the Northern Writers’ Awards in 2014 for her children’s novel, Hosannas and Sleeping Bags, and her short story Flour Baby was selected for broadcast on Radio 4’s Opening Lines programme. Her work also appears online.

Since agreeing to perform at Pure Fiction Lisa’s had the following good news. Her children’s novel Hosannas and Sleeping Bags, has been longlisted for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition 2016. The judges include Anne Fine and the shortlist will be announced next month.

Lisa’s also heard that Flour Baby has recieved an Honourable Mention in US literary mag Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Competition

 Come and hear Lisa  and Carol Clewlow read from their work and answer questions at Pure Fiction on Saturday 12th November at Whitley Bay Library. Tickets cost £4 and are available from our Ticketsource page

 

Finding Your Words

When do you give yourself a chance to explore your writing potential?  Hardly ever? Never?

And what excuses do you use to talk yourself out of attending workshops or exploring creative writing mentoring? You tell yourself you haven’t got time or that you can’t afford such luxuries.

This coming Saturday afternoon you can discover, rediscover or recover your creativity with us…and it won’t cost a penny!

The Next Page is hosting a free to attend session in North Shields library. Come along and have a go at writing exercises with Jennifer C Wilson or sign up for mini-mentoring sessions with Elaine Cusack.

ticketsource

Our Finding Your Words session runs from 1.30pm to 4.30pm on Saturday 15th October in North Shields Library in Northumberland Square. It’s FREE…so you can’t make excuses!

Finding Your Words is part of North Tyneside’s Age Takes Centre Stage festival

Inspirational Saturday

Buzzzzzz! That’s the sound of my body and soul buzzing after yesterday’s Creative Writing Mentoring sessions at Whitley Bay Library.

I organised a day of one to one mentoring sessions and sliced the day into five hourly sessions. Four out of the five sessions were booked and resulted in a day of inspiration, surprises, insight, laughter and creative thinking.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to and talking with my visitors. I was struck by the wide range of writing styles, aims and expectations. We all came away with homework and plans of action.

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I’ll be running more of these sessions at Whitley Bay Library on the first Saturday of every month. Future dates are 1st October, 5th November and 3rd December. For more information and booking visit https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/thenextpage

Feel free to ask questions via this blog or The Next Page’s facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheNextPagePresents/

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