Blowing my own trumpet. Just momentarily. (Sorry.)

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Being British, I’ve always struggled a bit with blowing my own trumpet. It’s not quite the done thing, is it, chaps? It’s not quite cricket.

But a group of us got together last week at Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road to read from our burgeoning novels, and (even if I say so myself) we did pretty bloody well. Every bone in my British body is screaming at me right now to temper that statement (rather well, okayish, marginally above average, slightly better than a smack in the face with a wet kipper) but, screw it, we acquitted ourselves with style and aplomb and it deserves saying. Here’s Laura Stimson saying it much better than me in her blog about the event (on behalf of Writers’ Centre Norwich).

For those who don’t already know, I’ve recently enjoyed a period of professional support from those lovely folk at WCN as part of their Escalator Literature programme 2012/13 (in conjunction with the UK Arts Council). They’ve produced a rather lovely booklet (which you can see in all its glory in the photograph above) containing quotes from myself and my nine fellow ‘Escalatees’ : Mary Nathan, Meghan Purvis, Megan Bradbury, Jonathan Curran, L. E. Yates, Kyra Karmiloff, Sue Healy, Ian Madden and Linda Spurr. There’s some extraordinary talent among them, so do check out their work at the WCN website. That’s me in the spotty dress, clenching my prosecco.

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And here’s me reading from my novel-in-progress Madder Hall, a psychological ghost story set in the 1970s and very nicely summed-up by my lovely mentor Michelle Spring as a ‘playful and menacing’ mix of the Gothic and the grotesque. (All credit for pics and video to the equally lovely Lucy White and Gordon Smith.) Having always loathed reading in public and, let’s be honest, majorly sucked at it too (see my last post), I found the experience about 67% less hair-raising than expected and feel only a modicum of dread at the thought of repeating it all at the Writers’ Centre’s Salon next month. N.B. The instrument I’m describing in this extract is the glass armonica, invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761, and here’s what it sounds like in the expert hands of Thomas Bloch.

Here endeth the trumpet blowing. Rest assured, normal self-deprecating service will be fully resumed in my next post.

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Channelling one’s inner thespian, darling.

Last night, in a warm and welcoming space at the top of Foyles book shop on Charing Cross Road, a group of us ‘Escalatees’ got together to read our work to an audience of family, friends, and industry professionals. (Pics to follow shortly.) This Showcase is an annual event that rounds off the Escalator Literature ‘year’ (more details here), and it’s fair to say that it’s loomed fairly large in all our minds for the past few months. To help with the collywobbles Writers’ Centre Norwich very kindly supplied us with a performance workshop a week earlier (taught by the super-talented Aoife Mannix) to equip us with the necessary skills. And for one writer at least (by which I mean me) it was a revelation.

As a kid I loved acting. I even trod the boards for two years in panto at Norwich Theatre Royal as one of the Central School ‘Babes’ (back in the day before ‘babes’ had acquired its saucier connotations), and I still remember the joy of the jingling brown envelopes on payday. (Yes, jingling. Not rustling. It wasn’t a hugely lucrative career.) But the part of myself, all pale and quivering, that sits hunched and bleeding at the keyboard (to paraphrase Hemingway) had always been Land’s End to the John o’Groats of that kid who loved acting. They’d never so much as set eyes on each other. So when Aoife suggested that we might perform our work, rather than read it – that we might, God forbid, use gestures – I had a bit of an epiphany. ‘I write to be read, not heard,’ I’d told my fellow Escalatee, Mary Nathan (you can read her fantastic work here), rather pompously, as she gave me a warm-up coaching session. And, yes, that’s still true (the page is what really matters to me), but as The Writer moves ever further from the Graham Greenish creature of fifty-odd years ago to the all-singing, all-dancing festival stars of the 21st century I suppose it can’t hurt to have your inner actor and your inner writer exchange a sweaty-palmed handshake at last.

Unless, of course, you happen to be a poet nominated for the Forward Prize. In which case, maybe don’t bother…