The thing that makes writing different from archaeology (setting aside, for now, the 72 other differences) is that archaeology at its most active is essentially destructive. Every effort is made not to excavate, because you can’t dig the same thing up twice. However equipped you are – with expertise, kit, people, time – you are still destroying the historical record. In digging you see how things really lay, but you can only see that once. Then it’s gone. Do you hold off in the hope that in twenty years’ time there will be new technology that will limit the amount of damage done? Or do you dive in, in the faith that what you are able to do with what you unearth will justify its unearthing? Continue reading
Guys, I have to tell you (because surely this is what blogs are for, and I really need to start using mine properly) I’m doing another reading at The Birdcage tonight. Just a little open mic, but I’m looking forward to taking a revised version of Mrs Molloy out in public. It’s with the fabulous @UEA140story, so if you like stories this is for you.
Yesterday John Banville dropped by for a Q&A with us, which as ever I enjoyed very much. He was very still and pensive, talking in a low and steady voice with his eyes on the ground, gesticulations only just energetic enough to swirl red wine up the sides of his glass. But very sparky in his thoughts about the ‘splendid struggle’ of writing, over which he seems to have exerted his own kind of calm control: he has notebooks specially made for him, and likes nice fountain pens (‘Japanese. Exquisite.’), but concedes that ‘in the end it’s just you and the page’. He doesn’t move on from a sentence until it’s exactly right, and rarely writes more than a paragraph a day. Nevertheless, he does not redraft. Continue reading
Just a heads-up that I’m going to be taking part in the MA reading tomorrow at The Workshop, Earlham Road, Norwich. I believe I’m the only prose student on the bill: everybody else is representing the life-writing/poetry strands.
I don’t think I’ve performed in public since my reign of terror/triumph at the Skipton Festival during the mid-90s, when I turned my hand to bible reading, Shakespeare monologues (Gertrude, at age ten. Really.), and indeed the star role in a musical production of The Pobble Who Had No Toes. I have to read my own work tomorrow, so I won’t give my public what it really wants re Lear or Psalm 23, but rest assured the delivery will be the same: a reedy monotone, eyes fixed on the far horizon, earnestly sticking to the rehearsed dramatic gestures/breathing patterns.
Do come, if you can. It’ll be fun. Starts at 6.30.
I felt trepidatious about our first workshopping session with Prof Margaret Atwood yesterday, as her session with the other group had taken the wind out of their sails a bit. Perhaps she was in a bad mood that time, or perhaps they were taken aback by her quite direct questions about their pieces. I do suspect that we are all quite complacent nowadays. The terror that accompanied the beginning of this course has more or less evaporated as we’ve got to know one another and hit our creative stride. Perhaps we are all too much of a gang, too comfortable, and this is why being questioned so bluntly by an outsider might feel jarring. I think it is probably good to experience this doubt and terror about one’s work every once in a while. Better than stagnating. But this is all very well for me to say, I haven’t been workshopped by her yet. Continue reading
At this years literary festival, it’s been arranged that the speakers will do a private Q&A with us MA students, and this week was the turn of Susan Hill It was extremely refreshing.
I made notes ages ago about Alistair Campbell’s Q&A* which was an utterly different beast: learnt absolutely nothing about writing fiction, but got a stand-out character study. His arrival at our Top-Secret Location (changed one hour before the event) was preceded by his security team, checking us off against a list of approved names and making sure we knew to keep our questions strictly about his literary endeavours. He was dressed as Alistair Campbell (navy single-breasted suit, red tie), and was almost vibrating with enthusiasm about his craft. Continue reading