I am slightly in limbo now, until March 8th, when we have our first meeting in London. So I am catching up on other things.
First on the list has been reading a final novel draft for a friend prior to it going to her agent. I finished that yesterday, finally – having enjoyed it SO much. It was hard to drag myself out of it to write the occasional note in the margin - “slows up a little here” or “I would have liked this information earlier…” A privilege indeed, and a great responsibility. I can’t wait to talk about it when it is on the chocks- It is a really marvellous tour de force, N – and lots of good luck, which you will not need!
Next I had a chance to read those great websites and blogs that people had kept telling me about and which I was saving up.
I was delighted to visit the website of poet Aonghas MacNeacail (which is probably Angus MacNichol to the non Gaelic among us). It is a wonderful place to spend a while – there are recordings of his work to enjoy in both English and Gaelic -
And I was delighted to see that he is doing his bit for Haiti – rather like the 100 writers who gave their work for the anthology (more on that this week) look at this, taken from said website:!
Poets for Haiti
Aonghas will be among '20 of the foremost poets in the land' performing to raise funds for Haiti, along with Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and three other laureates, Gillian Clarke (Wales), Liz Lochhead (Glasgow) and Ron Butlin (Edinburgh), as well as Don Paterson (shortly to receive the Queen's Medal for Poetry), Sean O'Brien (winner of both Forward and TS Eliot Prizes), and such distinguished Scots as Alasdair Gray, Douglas Dunn, Jackie Kay and Kathleen Jamie, among others. The venue is Edinburgh's Queen's Hall, on the 28th February at 6.00 pm, and it should be quite a session!
It is his wife, BAFTA award winning actor/writer/director Gerda Stevenson who I must thank for this link… I gather she gave him the website for Christmas! Her own website is HERE . Do visit – I’m actively looking out for her name now – here are just two of the dramatisations she has done:
2009 – dramatisation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s novel Sunset Song,BBC Radio 4’s Classic Serial, Spring 2009.
2007 - dramatisation of Sir Walter Scott’s epic novel The Heart of Midlothian, BBC Radio 4’s Classic Serial, Autumn 2007. Nominated for the 2008 SONY AWARDS.
And last, but by no means least. The Sussex House Party on Friday night was stunningly good. Having been at the head of the table last time I went, now I was a mere mortal, as we guests sat round the feet of Virgina Woolf’s great-niece, the author Virginia Nicholson.
Here she is, pictured at Charleston farmhouse, home of the Bloomsbury set, and now home to the Charleston Festival and The Small Wonder Festival....
We chatted over huge glasses of prosecco first, and drifted to the table (black marble this time, very swish!) to enjoy a started of home cured ham and parmesan roulades on fresh leaves while we all introduced ourselves. Among the guests was an ex-headmaster who is writing a novel, a lawyer who is a screen writer, and the supplier of the starter who, quite apart from running a farm, is also working on her debut book – eagerly awaited by the agent who commissioned it. And of course, the host, Gilly Smith. Really interesting people, and the conversation sparkled. Virginia Nicholson was a generous and fascinating writer to share the meal with. She told us about the in-depth research she does for all her books. About her childhood and how she came to writing thanks to helping her late father, Quentin Bell, write a book about Charleston farmhouse. She is currently researching and writing her fourth book, about the lives of women in the 1940s - the generation of women who produced the children who would be the Sixties and transform things yet again. And it sounds really fascinating if incredibly hard work. (I’m not a researcher, and can’t imagine doing that in such depth each time I wrote something!)
Among her existing books is 'Among The Bohermians', and it sounds really fascinating. I came home and ordered it, to perch on the ever-growing pile for when I've finished the novel. Her website desribes it thus:
a rich and detailed exploration of the way of life of those men and women in the first half of the twentieth century – the majority of them artists, poets, writers and composers - who were brave enough to jettison Victorian conformity. Rebels and free spirits, these were the pioneers of a domestic revolution. Escaping the confines of the society into which they had been born, they carried idealism and creativity into every aspect of daily life. Deaf to disapproval, they got drunk and into debt, took drugs, experimented with homosexuality and open marriages, and brought up their children out of wedlock. In the spirit of liberty, they sacrificed comfortable homes and took to the road in gypsy caravans or moved into spartan garrets in Chelsea. Yet their choice of a free life led all too often to poverty, hunger, addiction and even death.
Among the large cast of flamboyant characters depicted in Virginia Nicholson’s book are such giants of the artistic scene as Augustus John, Jacob Epstein and Eric Gill, alongside their literary counterparts Dylan Thomas, Robert Graves and Arthur Ransome. Lesser-known (but no less colourful) characters include Kathleen Hale, Iris Tree, Philip O'Connor, Nina Hamnett and Ruthven Todd.
And I have a whole WEEK to fill with other things before the novel opens again--- it seems such a long time!