Friday, 30 March 2012

Ali Shaw on writing groups and fairy tales

So, last night was the Abingdon Writers' event with the very lovely Ali Shaw (and his even lovelier wife, Iona). 

I must admit, I was a little worried it would be a bit of a flop, mostly because I've never organised an author event before and, as well as not having one friggin' clue what I was supposed to be doing, I've had rather a lot going on recently. In the end though, we had a pretty good turn out (thanks mostly to Mostly Books and their publicity drive) and I think it went pretty well. 

Ali was a very laid back, interesting speaker and we were treated to an impromptu mini-lecture on fairy tales and folklore which, with the recent Hollywood trend for fairy tales, felt very current and en vogue. In fact, Ali said he drew inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen for 'The Girl With Glass Feet' and traditional, mostly long-forgotten folklore for 'The Man Who Rained'.  Which, I must say, does show in his writing which is full of lyrical prose, beautifully imagined description and melancholy, damaged characters with more than a little fairy tale magic sprinkled throughout. 

Ali read some of his latest book - a segment which I think showcases his style and imagination perfectly. As I said on my guest blog over at Mostly Books, if you smile at the thought of sunbeams turning into canaries (and, really, you'd have to have a black heart not to), then Ali's books are for you!

We also managed to lure some audience members into hopefully signing up to join Abingdon Writers helped greatly by Ali extolling the virtues of belonging to a writing group. For me, it's the support and encouragement (and once arm twisting but I deserved that...) that is so incredibly helpful. Writing is, as everyone knows, a very solitary thing to do, so being able to talk to fellow writers going  through the same angst about a plot line or a character who just won't behave is really important for your sanity.  Plus, as Sally Poyton (an Abingdon Writer) pointed out - being part of a writers group isn't just for you, it's for your family and friends too. 

No longer will they have to fight the urge to tell you that they just can't care any more about whether your MC is being too whingey here or too bossy there. They won't have to smother the desire to tell you that they definitely do not want to hear the 88th re-write of your first chapter. And they won't have to pretend they've just gone through a tunnel on the motorway when you call them to harass them about finishing your 115,000 word manuscript and giving you some feedback (honest but only about the good bits please). No, you can delight your new writing buddies with all that stuff now. Hurrah for writing groups! 

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