I had been invited to attend the evening with established author Stephen May at Red Lion Books in Colchester, and this in itself was very exciting. I’ve read at many events, which has really built my confidence, but to be one of the authors on the poster, to answer questions on my work, was a great big fat first.
I met Anthony Roberts and Stephen for the first time just before the evening began, and the bookshop soon filled up. I was pleased I’d read and loved Stephen’s book Stronger than Skin beforehand – I had loads of questions for him about structure and theme, about writing a work of length. My brain wasn’t quite prepared to answer questions myself, so I really had to think on my feet when it came to that moment.
Anthony and Stephen are good friends – they met in the Arts Centre graveyard (I’m sure many of us have similar tales…) and Anthony introduced him with some funny anecdotes. So I was pleased to introduce myself… but I hadn’t prepared for that either! I went straight into reading the stories.
I started with ‘I like your necklace’ which begins: ‘In Willie Gees Kate bought a bra.’ This had to be my first story for a Colchester event. Willie Gees (Williams and Griffin) is the local department store that’s recently become Fenwicks. The story is about Kate, her thoughts/experience when a shop assistant compliments her about her jewellery, and about every other compliment that we receive when buying anything these days.
The second story I read was ‘Milanese Feast’. Another very short story, which I’ve had good feedback about when reading aloud before. I think you learn from the stories you read which work for an audience and which don’t. I feel that some of my shorter stories are the best for reading – self-contained and complete.
We were asked several questions about our work – developing character, writing local places, our writing schedules. This was where I had to think quickly. But I really enjoyed having a conversation about the writing with Stephen, and was able to pick out similarities in our work – the idea of having a theme before a story emerges was one that I liked.
And at the end I was actually an author signing books… Everyone that bought one had something interesting to say – their thoughts on the stories or their own writing practices. I met up with some of my local writer friends who have been published or are soon to go through this process themselves.
I am learning from this experience – to prepare an introduction, to practise answering all those questions I’ve read being asked. Maybe you should too!!!
Thanks to Jo Coldwell for organising this event and Jonathan King for the pics.