Monday, 25 January 2016

Dining on WORDS - from virtual to paperback

Emma arrived late, as usual, at our weekly writers’ lunch in The Blue Rooms cafe, Byram Arcade in Huddersfield. On this occasion, none of us were interested in the Perrinesque reason for her lateness because Emma was carrying the proof copy of Dining on WORDS. Our pre-lunch chatter ceased as the physical evidence of our co-labours was passed around the table to nods of approval and checks that our names were really on the back cover.

The collection was created from pieces which first appeared on this blog. The lunches, initially a way for several ex and current creative writing students from Kirklees College to stay in touch, developed into a writing group where we support and encourage each other’s works-in-progress. Over time, we could see each other’s writing develop in range and confidence. We had publication successes to share, from articles to competitions and books, fiction and non-fiction. The blog encouraged us to keep writing – and to keep lunching – because our only firm rule is that in order to post on the blog, you have to come to a lunch.

Of course, there is more to writing than just putting words on a page in roughly the right order. As a group, we developed the associated polishing and publishing skills which go with writing itself. So when one of us suggested we could produce an anthology of the Writers’ Lunch pieces in book form, it wasn’t a ridiculous idea. Between us, we had an understanding of publishing in different formats, the process of editing, copy-editing, preparing the lay-out, and commissioning a cover. We even know something about the difficult business of selling a book, building outwards from The Blue Rooms and our individual networks.

The process, from idea to publication, took five months. During that time, our lunches became business-like on occasion. There were decisions to be made and all eight authors were involved in the theme (the book is arranged like the courses of a meal) choice of pieces, title, typeface, and cover design. Three of the main courses were even written collaboratively. The hardest part? Choosing a title and the other stuff that goes on a cover. I am pleased to report we are all still friends.

Emma has co-ordinated our efforts, starting with a project plan which we actually stuck to. The book is published by Hilltop Communications, which may one day develop into Emma’s own indie publishing company, using Createspace and Amazon to produce and print the book on demand. We have each contributed £50, the largest expenditure being for a professionally executed cover and marketing materials. We aim to recoup our investment through sales. A brief spell in the Amazon top 100 chart for fiction anthologies gave us hope of that, but more importantly, the book is another step in our development as writers. 

To buy a copy of the book via Amazon just click on the cover picture, or visit the Blue Rooms café. The Yorkshire Writers’ Lunch is open to new members and guest visitors. Aspiring or published writers are welcome to join us for lunch. See the ‘Contact’ page for details.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Gilou (Part one) by Dave Rigby

It took him the best part of three days to reach London, sleeping out under the stars, the dog on guard.
It was the first time he’d ever set foot in the capital. His friend Jonas had told him about the inn by the river, cheap but clean, wholesome food and wholesome ale, which was more than could be said for many a hostelry.
There was a glimpse of the Thames from the attic bedroom window and he caught sight of a boat moving slowly upstream. Lying on the bed with only his boots removed, Ork re-read the letter, whilst Digger slept on the threadbare rug.
The script was neat, the letters well-formed. There was the occasional word that Ork had difficulty with, but after a moment’s reflection he recalled the meaning. The pamphlet was in the pocket of his jacket.

The staircase was steep and twisting, unlit, without a handrail. He felt his way to the bottom, before taking his seat in the dimly-lit snug. A tankard of porter was placed on his table, alongside a platter of bread, cheese and pickles. He was famished, his first proper meal for three days.
The candle guttered, as two men entered the snug, the first tall and thin with a shock of red hair and the second smaller, wiry, dark-haired.
    “Mr Ork?” the taller man asked.
    “Just Ork” was the reply. “And you are Gilou?”
    “No, my friend here is Gilou. He speaks no English. I have been travelling with him since he arrived from Holland, his guide you could say. My name is Tawse, Henry Tawse.”
Ork spoke to the Frenchman in his own language, asking him about his journey from Paris. Gilou told him he’d only just managed to escape the authorities and his route had taken him by way of Lille, Antwerp and Rotterdam and thence by boat to the Thames. He asked Ork where he had learnt his French.
    “From my mother. She was French and we always spoke the language at home. When I was young, it was better than my English. Some people tell me that is still the case.” Ork smiled and Gilou chuckled.

More drinks and more food arrived. Ork closed the inner door, saying one could never be sure who might be listening, who might be spying for the Government. He pulled the pamphlet from his pocket, smoothed it out on the table, then read it aloud to Gilou, translating as he went.
    “This is excellent,” Gilou said. “You seem to have an instinctive understanding of where I and many of my compatriots stand. We supported the revolution, but then things changed when the zealots and the madmen took over. Now Paris is a foul place to be amidst the Great Terror. But if we can help you here….” He took a long drink from his tankard. “Your ale is excellent, better than ours, but you cheese is strange.” That chuckle again. The man’s face was drawn, a scar crossed his left cheek and the dull vestige of bruising still coloured his forehead.
When he heard the knock on the door, Ork swiftly plucked the pamphlet from the table, slipping it into his jacket pocket, before the door opened to reveal a uniformed man, with small piggy eyes.
    “We have reports of French being spoken here. We cannot be too careful. We know how quickly the revolutionary contagion can spread. What have you to say?” The question was addressed to Ork, but it was Tawse who answered.
    “This man here is a French émigré” he said, pointing to Gilou. “He has managed to escape from revolutionary France, to the safety of Albion. But he speaks no English and my friend here, who is a teacher of the French language, is acting as interpreter.” He spoke with confident authority. The uniformed man hesitated, muttered something under his breath, turned and left the room.
    “We can be sure he will be back” Ork said quietly. “I suggest we conclude our contentious business as quickly as possible."

They agreed arrangements for the meeting in a tavern in Southwark. Ork would ask a printer friend to produce copies of the pamphlet. Word would be spread only through trusted groups of the Corresponding Society.
With the dog to heel, the three of them walked along the riverside, breathing in the night air, the moonlight fleeting and the wind strong. They talked of Rameau and Vivaldi, of Rousseau and Voltaire and the pleasures of a good Bordeaux.

There was no warning. Ork was the first to be seized, Tawse the second. Gilou was suddenly nowhere to be seen. 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Writing Resolutions by Clair Wright

My New Year’s Resolution is to write more (again). This year I’m going to write more, and I’m going to submit more. I’m going to enter writing competitions, and submit my work to magazines and websites. Yes I am. 

So here I am sitting at my laptop, ready to go. I am surrounded by writing magazines to inspire and inform me.  They date back many months, and several are shamefully still in their postal polythene.  I leaf through their pages, which contain useful articles about how my social media profile can promote my novel, or the pros and cons of self-publishing. 

I need an article entitled “How to Sit Down and Write Some Words”. Now that would be useful.

I have a new “Writer’s Diary”, a Christmas gift which I requested especially, to help me to organise my writing. I flick through it. It is alarmingly blank (of course). I don’t have a plan.  I pluck up the courage to write my name and address on the front page, then close it again. 

My inner critic, never one to hold back, is particularly vociferous on the subject of submitting anything.  “You can’t do that!” she declares, as I consider the guidelines for a short story competition. “They aren’t looking for the stuff you write! They want something more highbrow / funny / serious / innovative / better! Best not bother.” 

I persevere, and find a competition which, maybe, I could enter. The deadline is in a couple of months, so I open my new diary to make a note.  The blank white pages stare back at me. I put down the biro and pick up a pencil. I note the details of the competition in very small, rather faint writing on the page for March. It’s a start, I suppose. 

Whichever way you look at it, submitting your writing is a scary thing. It’s like pushing little paper boats out onto the water. Except these little paper boats carry your thoughts, your time, your hopes – a little part of yourself.  What if they are rejected? What if they fail? And they probably will, almost certainly in fact. (My inner critic tells me she doubts they are sea-worthy). Scary indeed.

But wouldn’t it be sad if the paper boats just stayed on the beach forever? There would be no point in them being boats, if they never made it into the water. They probably won’t reach their destination, but isn’t it better to be wrecked in the attempt than never to launch at all?

So, I’m going to give it a go. I will try not to get disheartened by the inevitable rejection letters, and the “Sorry you’ve not been shortlisted” emails.  I’ll just keep pushing out those boats and hope my inner critic is wrong about some of them, at least.

A writing friend recently shared a post from Elizabeth Gilbert, about forgiving ourselves for all those broken New Year’s Resolutions. It contained this line: “…let us never let our failures, embarrassments, and shortcomings stop us from TRYING AGAIN”.  

I am going to shout those words at my inner critic next time she pipes up.  

Monday, 4 January 2016

The Competition. A story for children by Virginia Hainsworth

Leon is a very special boy.  Now, I know that everyone is special in their own way, but shall I tell you why Leon is so special?  Well, certain parts of his body can talk to each other.  Now that is special.

 One day, some parts of Leon had a competition to decide who was best.  His lungs were the ones who started it.

‘Do you know that if our surface area was stretched out, we would cover the size of a tennis court?’ they boasted. 

‘A tennis court?’ replied Leon’s blood vessels.  ‘That’s nothing.  In Leon’s body, we are 96,000 km long.  That’s a distance of more than twice around the world.’

 ‘Twice around the world?’  laughed the muscles.  ‘Leon cannot take a single step without 200 of us working together.  That’s a huge number, you know.’

 ‘200?  That’s not a huge number,’ scoffed Leon’s skin.  ‘6 million.  Now there’s a huge number.  I shed 6 million particles every hour.’

 At this point, the bacteria who live on Leon’s skin piped up.  ‘6 million is not really a big number, you know.  There are more than 32 million of us who live on his skin.  Most of us are harmless and some of us are even helpful to Leon.’

Then every cell in Leon’s body decided to join in. 

‘So, you think 32 million is an impressive number, do you?  Well, in Leon’s body, 300 million of us die every minute.  And he doesn’t even notice.  Yes, that’s right.  300 million.’

There was a short silence before one – just one –of Leon’s brain cells announced in a very tiny voice, ‘Well, all on my own, I can hold five times more information than the Encyclopaedia Britannica.’

And all the other body parts went very quiet at this point.  Not because they were amazed by the one brain cell, but because they didn’t know what the Encyclopaedia Britannica was!

Do you know?  And which of Leon’s parts do you think won the competition to be the best?