Pure Talent next week

What does  “Dystopian novel” mean? We’ve taken the phrase as our theme for this Thursday’s Pure Fiction event at The Old George in Newcastle. Fancy joining us to listen to Sue Miller and Emma Whitehall reading from and discussing their work?

Pure Fiction celebrates writers of fiction and their work. Previous events have featured Jennifer C Wilson, Kitty Fitzgerald, Sandy Chadwin, Carol Clewlow, L.A. Craig, Rod Glenn and Victoria Watson. On Thursday 16th November it’ll be the turn of writers Sue Miller and Emma Whitehall. Host Elaine Cusack will let them run with the Dystopian novel theme and we’ll have the chance to ask questions and chat with them afterwards. Elaine’s colleague, Sandy Chadwin will kick off the evening with a Tall Tale.

Doors open 6.45pm and the evening starts at 7pm. Tickets cost £3 and can be bought in  advance or on the door. Here’s more information on Thursday’s authors…

emmapicEmma Whitehall is a writer, reviewer and spoken word performer based  in the North East of England. Emma specialises in supernatural fiction, and has been published in the United Kingdom, America, Mexico and Ireland. Her Flash Fiction has been longlisted for the Bath Novella in Flash Award, and shortlisted for the Fish Flash Fiction Award.

For more years than she wants to remember, Sue Miller  worked with families and communities locally and nationally as a psychologist, teacher and manager. Those experiences have given her knowledge and insight into the stories we all become: ordinary people often made extraordinary by what life throws at us. Sue’s debut novel 20/20 Vision They Didn’t See it Coming was published earlier this year and on Thursday she’ll  read from her current work in progress, a prequel to 20/20 Vision.

Sue Miller




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.

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.


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 the author

The Next Page is run by Jennifer C Wilson and Elaine Cusack but there is a third member of the crew, Sandy Chadwin. Sandy has performed at both of our Pure Fiction events in Whitley Bay Library this year and will be appearing at more of our events in 2017.  Over to Sandy....

milady-jan-2015-copyOne of the more pleasant discoveries that may be found when you’re diagnosed with cancer is the good nature of the vast majority of people. Oh, one or two may delight in telling you how awful the radio and chemotherapy is going to be, but most try and find a plus side to the whole business including, for me, the suggestion that it would give me the chance to get some writing done.

Well, I can’t say that it did for me. The curious activities of the televisions in the ward where I stayed for my biopsy gave inspiration for a short story (or anecdote as some have firmly, and publicly, argued) and this little piece here and that’s about it, so far. There may yet be a poem but no promises I’m afraid.

The problem is that when you have cancer, you don’t always feel 100%. You also find the even tenor of your ways disrupted at regular appointments in a 60s villain-like basement room where a sinister machines hums and whirs at you and leaves you in a state of mild irradiation. This is not conducive to the creation of deathless prose or fine prosody. Neither is chemotherapy, though I may yet get something out of the range of feelings I had when it appeared that my hand was going to, well, pop. A long story.

The same thing (ie that at least you’ll be able to get some writing done) is also trotted out as a reason for wishing to go to prison for a short period. Well it may have worked for Thomas Mallory, Marco Polo, John Bunyan and Joe Orton in roughly that order, but I can’t see it working for me. You see, I’ve been to prison – oh not as a felon, but in my short and lively legal career – and it is not conducive to fine thinking anymore than a cancer ward is. It’s a tad fraught in there. Sorry.

bw-sandySo, thanks for the kind thoughts and highly appreciated they were, but in future, I think I’d prefer a nice writers’ retreat in the country. One near a pub. Now that would be inspiring.

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


Pure Fiction meets… Carol Clewlow

In three weeks’ time, the second Pure Fiction will take place in Whitley Bay Library (visit the Facebook event here). To whet your appetite, I caught up with one of our readers, the lovely Carol Clewlow.


Throughout your varied career, which piece of work / element of your career are you most proud of?

I’m not. And I know this sounds like a curmudgeonly answer but I’m not proud of any of them. I just see the flaws which frankly seem major and grow with time.

Are there any of your early novels / other works which you would like to revisit, or to be able to ‘rewrite’ now? Is there anything you would do differently?

Loads I would do differently ( see above). Characters/situations where I was just getting my rocks off at the time ( we do a lot of this as novelists and sometimes it works out really well. See D.H Lawrence Sons and Lovers).   But I don’t want to slag the books off too much. Because some people have liked them. And some people have liked them a lot.  And for that I am grateful beyond belief.

Can you tell me about your writing residency at the medical school, how it came about, and how it led to Operating Theatre?

This is something I remain eternally grateful for. The placement was advertised and I just felt it had my name on it. I am rubbish at interviews so for this actually went for training ( never done it before or since) but I got the job.  Newcastle University Medical School already had a good history in the humanities, i.e. running courses for interested medical students in fiction, poetry etc., the idea being that many students have had to give up English studies early on to concentrate on science subjects, a pity since a good  novel/play can teach them plenty about human beings. My job was to run workshops on these courses plus creative writing sessions for anyone interested. Julia Darling who many will remember was working at the University itself and was very interested in things medical. She and I were approached by a wonderful far-seeing GP who was also a lecturer, and who was a theatre-goer, and felt drama could be a useful tool in teaching medical students. And Operating Theatre was born. That was in 2001 and 15 years later we perform 4 plays  a year for Newcastle medical students, as well as drama on a variety of subjects to do with health and social care at conferences and events throughout the country.

Did seeing “A woman’s guide to adultery” made into a mini-series alter the way you saw future characters, or wrote your future works?

Frankly, now it can be told, it wasn’t a good adaptation.   There were good moments, thanks to the actors, but the script was pretty dire. It also managed to entirely turn on its head anything that was being said in the novel. I didn’t complain at the time, being starry-eyed about the whole thing, not to mention the cheque.

Where do you find your inspiration? Has it changed at all during your career?

I love the writer who asked where he got his ideas said Harrods. I think I’m more of a Co-op girl. Inspiration has changed dramatically I think. The first books were written in wonderful rushes of This Must Be Said, This Book Must Be Written. It’s not like that now. Now I sit waiting and hoping. For the last two years I’ve had an idea kicking around refusing to come properly to fruition. I think it has now. I touch wood as I say this, knowing the Gods are listening and dying to thwart me.

What else are you involved in at the moment that you’d like to share with us?

See above.. But keep it under your hat. Like I say, The Gods Are Listening.

Can you give us a sneak preview of what you’ll be reading at Pure Fiction?

I’d love to… but I never make up my mind until the last moment.


Finally, the history-nerd cannot help coming out – if you could sit and chat with any historical character, who would it be, and what would you take the chance to discuss?

That’s tricky.  Be a toss up wouldn’t it: Shakespeare or Jesus? Probably have to be Jesus in the end. I’d say, Ok.. really need to know. Was it a clever scam? I mean did you actually survive the crucifixion… get spirited away? I mean that has to be worth knowing..ie if medicine was available then which  actually could have healed him? Also, I’d want to tell him, you’ll never guess what’s happened since.   What they’ve done with your ideas. I mean do the words Westminster Abbey or The Vatican have any significance for you at all?  And Shakespeare..? You and Anne Hathaway? Went back to Stratford in the end didn’t you? What was that about? And that whole second best bed thing.

Thanks for joining me, Carol – looking forward to Pure Fiction! For those who want to find out more, tickets are available now…