All writers know that it’s really pleasing to get positive feedback on their work. I’m rather honoured that writing school Retreat West have chosen the opening of my work-in-progress novel ‘Names of Rivers’ for a prize, in one of their recent competitions.
A little bit about Retreat West, taken from their website.
“Retreat West was founded by novelist and short story writer, Amanda Saint, in 2012. So far some of the people that have worked with us include Man-Booker Prize shortlisted author, Alison Moore; multi-award-winning short story writer, Vanessa Gebbie; Polari Prize winning-novelist and founder of the London Short Story Festival, Paul McVeigh; and the head of the Faber Academy’s fiction programme, novelist and poet, Richard Skinner.”
Here is the link to the ‘page turner’ competition and the winning entrants’ pieces, including my piece.
Marauder Literary Journal
One of my short stories, ‘Licks’ was featured in the journal this week.
Theresa Le Flem is June’s guest author
Theresa is a novelist, artist and poet living in the West Midlands. Her novels are set in the recent historical past and often have the sea or the English countryside of Cornwall as their backdrop. Her published titles include The Sea Inside his Head, The Forgiving Sand, The Gypsy’s Son and Meet Me at Low Tide, which is a collection of poems and drawings.
Theresa is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. She is also a founding member of a writing group in Rugby called Café Writers.
It would be entirely possible to pen a whole essay about the featured poem, Of Irish Peatlands, it being so multi-layered. However, I will just say a few words about my response to it.
In the first instance, Of Irish Peatlands brings to mind Seamus Heaney’s literary geography, in particular that of his poem Bogland. Both poems share a great sense of place, preservation and antiquity in their evocation of landscapes that go way back to a pagan past.
The use of food metaphor in Of Irish Peatlands is strikingly Heanian in nature and gives wonderful atmosphere. ‘These sticky black molasses hills’ is suggestive of an old, dark, countryside oil painting, where one can almost see the gloss. This great painterly method of expression gives the poem its strong visual immediacy. ‘…then wine, my friend, is blood’ hints at a violent history, but also of strong territorial identity and kinship.
The key theme, I think, is difficulty in communication, which is reinforced by the link between language and landscape. ‘In this undercover your sisters and brothers’ evokes a whole host of buried, troubled voices, whilst ‘…the faintest spark from steel-tipped boots’ hints that old tensions could be reignited at any time. That same phrase is also suggestive of archetypes; a sense of traditional, working people, further reinforced by the simile ‘stories as thick as trees’, which is strongly suggestive of oral, folk culture. History, the poem suggests, is ingrained in the mindscape as well as the landscape.
Read Of Irish Peatlands
Neil Anderson is May’s guest author
Neil was born in the town of Rushden, Northamptonshire. He was educated at Harrold School in North Bedfordshire and, for a further three years, at Northampton School of Art, where he studied graphic design. He has worked as an artist and writer for a newspaper. He now lives in Yorkshire.
Neil grew up during the post-war years near one of the many British and American Air Force bases in the Midlands region. The experience, he says, made it impossible to avoid the countless stories of heroism, bravery and sadness. The impact of the war on the countryside, the shattering of the rural world that never quite recovered, and the impact it had on the lives of ordinary people, are the subjects of Neil’s first published novel, The Mushroom Man.
The author HE Bates was also a Rushden man, of course, and a writer most celebrated for his regional and countryside writing. It is fitting, then, that there is more than a hint of Batesian influence in Neil’s writing. The wartime and the countryside are themes I have already mentioned, but pre-1950s rail travel is an important touch point too, just as it was in HE Bates’ work. Also, like Bates, the driving force of Neil’s writing is dynamic observation and the celebration of imagery. Seemingly straightforward sentences evoke the visual through his great use of simile and colour.
The Signalman’s Daughter is Neil’s first short story. It is a regional piece of fiction in the realist descriptive style. It carries within it many ghosts of England’s past. There is also a trace of a ghost in the form of a young woman – or is it a trick of the light?