Saturday, 20 February 2010


I love this stuff, sometimes! First,
a monthly spoken word event now held in the wonderful ambiance of an upstairs room at The Wheatsheaf, Rathbone Place, London – where apparently, my hero Dylan Thomas used to drink.

TOTD is run by a couple of writing friends from the old Fiction Workhouse days. The room is great – private bar, stained glass in the bay window, not too big, not too small. This event was a platform to publicise 100 Stories for Haiti, of which you will hear much more over the next few weeks as the guru Greg McQueen will be dropping in soon. So many of the readers were contributors to this brilliant anthology – Martin Reed, Jac Catanneo, Katy Darby (of Liars League fame). Jac also read a contribution for Joel Willans who lives in Helsinki – and Martin read Greg’s own contribution – about the morning he was moved to DO something to help. I read my contribution, Naming Finbar, and a second piece called Creative Writhing (no that’s not a typo) which took Martin by surprise, as it required him to stand in as an adolescent snake. I sold a couple of books after announcing I'd give a fiver from each sale to the Haiti appeal.

Do submit to TOTD. It’s a great event, and if you are picked you are invited to read your work. Submission details HERE

Then I caught the train through all sorts of odd places to get to Hatfield – eg, Potter’s Bar. I love that name. Who were the original Potters at the Bar? Did they get very drunk? Did they just potter? I ended up at a hotel shaped like a plane, on a roundabout in Hatfield – fell into bed and slept like a complete tree. (‘Log’ is too insignificant!).

Today, I was at GET WRITING 2010 - see HERE
organised by Verulam Writers’ Circle, held at the stunning de Havilland Campus of the University of Hertford. I was giving a workshop lasting one hour – in which I was to cover flash fiction, flash writing and writing prize winning short stories - It was quite a packed workshop! It seemed to go down well – and I was delighted to see so many blokes in the room – that is unusual, and rather nice. Great to meet up again with Jon Pinnock who blogs HERE and who is writing a hilarious series called Mrs Darcy and the Aliens – a sort of Jane Austen spoofette. Jon is part of the Verulam Writers. He’d also acted as postman, receiving boxes of books for me from Salt – (seriously, thanks very much, Jon).

I slipped into the back of the main lecture theatre to hear a talk by two publishing professionals. Very interesting to hear. Very necessary. And very hard to listen to. Phrases like ‘Brand Marketing’, and ‘cutting our lists,’ and ‘many writers will only be published in digital form in the future’ and ‘today’s writers MUST be prepared to sell their books themselves’. But it was realistic – and as I say, necessary to hear.

Book sales and signing went briskly during lunch. Both Short Circuit and Glass Bubble sold rather well!
And then after lunch, there was the announcement of the winners of the inaugural short story competition, and a talk from the final judge, Adele Geras. She spoke hilariously about surviving 90 titles. NINETY!! She did explain that some were children’s picture books with about a page of text… But in among the hilarity there were some real gold nuggets of pragmatism – sensible advice for writers on how to survive, mentally and physically. And she remembered to plug Nicola Morgan’s blog, Help! I Need a Publisher - as well, handing out cards.
I was so pleased – Adele was one of the first people who read Glass Bubble and gave me a ‘review comment’. I was so thrilled. And I made sure I went up afterwards and said thanks properly. Lovely lovely to meet her - poor woman, she had to put up with a hug.
And the poet on the train. Actually, there are three! I travelled last night with two, one of whom has been published on Ink Sweat and Tears. They attended Tales of the Decon, and were helping me not to get lost, which I do rather well. And our nattering was overheard by a young guy who also writes poetry, and was on his way to a poetry/guitar gig in a caravan near … guess where… Potter’s Bar! So good company all round.


jonathan pinnock said...

Lovely to see you again, Vanessa. Thoroughly enjoyed your workshop - as did my all my VWC mates. And many thanks for the mention of Mrs Darcy - if any of your readers are interested, here's some YouTuberance for your further viewing pleasure. (sorry, couldn't resist the opportunity for a free plug)

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Thanks Jon - much enjoyed by me too, although trying to stuff a whole day workshop into an hour was a challenge!
And I LOVE the Youtuberance. It is hilarious, Ive been cackling like a mad thing here. So not only will I not delete, I will put it on the blog, in a couple of days. The French is a scream. The subtitles dont do it justice. What was it Wickham was called?!!!

Oscar Windsor-Smith said...

It was great to meet you at last, Vanessa, having read your excellent short story collection, Words in a Glass Bubble. I am of course one of the 'VWC mates' Jonathan Pinnock refers to in his comment, above, and I agree with him that your workshop was most enjoyable. You pitched it exactly right for me. Your 'stripping down the story like a vehicle' idea was precisely what I needed to address weaknesses in my own writing, and to enhance my critical view of the writing of others. Thanks a million.