Tuesday, 15 November 2016

You might have thought I was doing no writing at all

But I've been doing A LOT.
It's just that it's all on here...

All about the University of Southampton's Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention (NAMRIP)

and here

All about the University of Southampton's network of researchers working in the field of Autonomous Systems devising platforms to carry sensors and sensors to monitor and relay data, in  places too dangerous for humans like the deep ocean , space, earthquakes, glaciers or disaster zones

and here

All about the researchers at the University of Southampton who are concerned about the rising levels of anthropomorphic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and are trying to do something practical about it

and here
All about the research centred at the  hub where the crucial challenges posed by the highly interconnected interdependencies between water, energy and food security meet and overlap

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Square Peg Stories - an opportunity for writers with autism

Yes - a fantastic opportunity that has been created especially for people with autism spectrum condition who like writing. That might be you, or maybe someone you know, and whatever the case let's help to spread the word so that as many people hear about it as possible and take part.

The scheme is organised by Mainspring Arts which was founded in in 2015 by Katya Balen and Miranda Prag because they were frustrated by the lack of diversity in the arts; for example, non-disabled actors or writers frequently assume the roles or voices of people with disabilities. They think those people should be able to tell their own stories, and devised Mainspring Arts to help them do it.

Miranda of mainspring Arts, promoting the scheme
There are brilliant distinguished writers working with them on the project, among them poet, Joanne Limburg and prize-winning novelist, David Mitchell, author of, among other books, the Booker shortlisted Cloud Atlas. He says: I asked to be involved in the project because I believe in the importance of changing public attitudes to autism, and dispelling ignorance about autism. What better way to prove that people with autism experience emotions and possess imaginations than showcasing their writing?

They are on Twitter @mainspring_arts

and Facebook - Like their page!

But mainly - tell everyone you know of who might like to apply. You can tell this is a fantastic idea  because even if you began by wondering if it was really for you, one look at the Mainspring Arts dog and you would be convinced in a flash. (He appears on their Facebook page.)


Saturday, 24 October 2015

Southampton's spoken word Festival

Southampton is holding a writers and writing stuff festival - the  So: To Speak festival; from October 23 - November 1; and it looks amazing. Have a browse through the programme where  the mix of events is unique and imaginative and unexpected. Excellent writers like Philip Hoare and Ali Sparkes will be appearing (book tickets!!) I like the sound of the celebration of the Spitfire with performance poet Matt West and musical contribution from the Spitfire Sisters. And where else would you have the venue for that, but an aircraft museum with a Spitfire in it...
The Spitfire Sisters

Another first for Southampton which will be part of the action is a celebration of Persian poetry, film and music.

I shall definitely be going to hear acclaimed biographer Ray Monk's talk at October Books in Portswood High Street. It is at 7.00pm on Friday 30 October. Another not-to-be-missed author who is speaking at another Portswood High Street event (The Library this time) is Rebecca Smith. Rebecca's talk, which marks the centenary of Portswood Library, is called 'Writing Southampton' and is on Thursday 29 October at 7.00pm.

The Dancing Man Brewery at 1 Bugle Street (in the building formerly known as the Wool House), will host many of these events and Arts Organisation, Element Arts,  will be putting on  ‘Transported’, a collection of art installations and performances which will be inside a specially built village of shipping containers in Guildhall Square. Element Arts have collaborated  with Williams Shipping and the shipping container village will be there for people to explore for the whole week.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Talking about it - not doing it yet...

Writing that is. But at least I'm talking about it - with other writers. Things I have talked about doing are:

  1. Going on a writing course again. Arvon, I say, I'll check their catalogue of goodies. Then I don't.
  2. What about this one in Portugal, one of my writer friends suggests. It looks amazing , is rather expensive and I seize on that as an excuse not to look at it further. However I sense that I am just being an idiot and these are cold feet I am exhibiting, not valid reasons.
  3. Let's hire something cheap and cheerful on Air B&B and not too far away, says another writer friend, and we'll shut ourselves away from it all and just write for a couple of days. This one seems really do-able: not to long (has to fit in with the day job) not too costly (obvious reasons).
  4. I glance between the Portugal option (fabulous expert tutor, Jill Dawson and gorgeous location) and the Air B&B option (near and cheap and short but no tutor) and come up with a brainwave:
  5. Hey, I say to the writer friend - why don't we spend the AirB&B money on hiring ourselves a fabulous writing tutor to come and give us our own writing workshop in one of our front rooms? Oh dear. It seemed like a good idea as I said it.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Which is your favourite Asimov title?

The nice thing about this book is that it comes from the station. Our station is really sweet. It has its own bookcase and all us train users can borrow the books and then leave them on a train if we like...

Or we can bring them back again.

I thought no-one except me ever examined the shelves but last Friday when I was going to work I saw a girl kneeling on the floor and rummaging through their offerings.

The Asimov wasn't there the last time I looked at the titles. I was delighted to see it. I used to devour science fiction. The stories that stick in my mind most vividly are science fiction. I read one when I was about eighteen called The Ruum by Arthur Porges. I never ever forgot it. It's utterly perfect.

This has been my bedtime reading (and sometimes early morning tea in bed reading). But I am on the final story so very shortly it goes back to the station.

Monday, 4 May 2015

'Grave Misgivings & other stories' by Caroline Wood

These are robust, vivid stories crafted from startling ideas; in Growing Things buried animals are reborn as if they are plants. In Foothold, a woman has hands for feet. In Wings – the story is a well-written feast of gothic sumptuousness and in Shaggy Dog Story a son sends his mother telepathic pictures of what he wants.
There are memorable characters, like Ronnie, in The Cobbler who engage us and the skilful storytelling compels us to find out what happens to them – even though we also kind of know – because we are abetting a mischievous authorial voice that lurks out of sight providing us with sly jokes just as the hapless characters are reaching their dénouements – for example the doctor who finally comes to take Ronnie (the cobbler of the title) away is called Dr Last. ‘Be the Kipper you need to be – be the sort of Kipper you really are. Let your inner Kipper shine through…’ says the mentor to the unfortunate Norman (nicknamed Kipper), in Touchy Feely. Poor Norman:  ‘I enable them to own their feelings and then re-direct them towards me,' he says, 'That way, they don’t carry things back to the work place. It seems to be successful and I’ve had no trouble persuading them to focus their resentment on me.’

In Resident Power a woman accepts a house-sitting assignment in a village of perfect, pastel painted cottages, so that a frail old lady can have a holiday with her sister, a nun who is only allowed out into the world once a year. ‘I saw myself wandering down country lanes on sunny days, or cycling along riverbanks…’ the woman tells us, but somehow, once we've seen her bedroom; ‘…a room with a sloping ceiling, billowing white curtains and flowers from the garden on the dressing table…’ we just know that this isn't going to end well. The woman finds everyday reality: ‘… scraps of circling litter, a clattering, jingling milk-float that stopped as soon as it had started…’ coexisting with the surreal: a post office where a monstrous woman refuses to sell her anything; a petshop full of caged hedgehogs.
And, in Menu, the ghost of Sweeney Todd rises up as soon as the protagonist notices that there is a strange smell in the unfriendly pub she has to stay in.

Characters spring instantly to life, like Neville, the cat: ‘…with huge fluffy feet and
deliberate intentions. Had he been human, Neville would be the sort of person to stride up and shake hands very firmly. As it was, he threw his feline bulk at my calves and looked up at me with a cheerful face.’ The author is adept at scene setting: for example in Clean: ‘Then I saw the two paths and noticed curtains in the upstairs windows. That’s the only way you can tell, really. All the windows have mis-matched curtains upstairs and down. Sometimes there’s a real clash of tastes, with plain, neat nets on the lower floor, then frilly, flouncing ones above.’ Wood deftly achieves maximum information with minimum fuss while conveying something of the uneasy watchful caution of the protagonist. Or: ‘The neat little shed was opened for my inspection – a warm, dry
place holding trapped sunshine and stored apples.’ We are given precise, spatial and sensory information. Sharp eyed observation and succinct language is in evidence throughout the collection, not only to describe settings or characters (one memorable image evokes a shop assistant whose blue eyeshadow gave her the look of a 'chilled parrot') but also to make social comments; for example neighbours borrowing things from one another: ‘There was no particular kindness in this give and take arrangement, but rather the necessity of favours.’

Economy of language is a great thing in a writer and Caroline Wood's economy extends to titles too – like the excellent Foothold, a beguiling story which, like the other stories showcases the author’s impressive power of description e.g. this, about the inside of the body: ‘Strands as fine as hair weaving in between his pulsing, beating organs – visible like underwater rocks, dark vibrating shapes. And his bones – ivory segments of spine like a line of church candles, the ribs a sculptured cage.’ Or: this, of a dwelling, in The Cobbler: ‘Surrounded by rambling, tilted outbuildings and a shed made entirely of old doors, the house looked abandoned.’

This collection has affinities with Grimms fairy tales in the length and pace of each story and the short titles. It bears kinship to legend, magic and myth; such things keep shifting into view and disappearing – silkies, vampires, Alice in WonderlandStepford WivesMidwich cuckoosThe Prisoner, these are its cousins. It has grotesques like the Savage twins with their purple Punch profiles; it has hostile taxidermy and a Fellini-esque dwarf barber. Its protagonists often have a sense of unreality. Their dreams reflect their predicament or they are haunted by illusory memories that they can’t quite bring into focus. The stories are unsettling in the way that all the best spooky stories are. And, in my head at least, the ghost of Sweeney Todd rises up as soon as, in Menu, the protagonist notices that there is a strange smell in the unfriendly pub where she has to stay. 

This collection would make a good TV series - it reminds me of Tales of the Unexpected.
Download it as an ebook from Smashwords.