Saturday, 1 July 2017

A lovely launch - and thoughts on reading your writing aloud!

Last night, I attended the launch of the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize 2017 Anthology.

I was longlisted for the prize along with nineteen other stories, all twenty of which were subsequently published by Dahlia Publishing. It was the first time the prize had been offered; Farhana, who runs Dahlia Publishing, had hoped to get around thirty stories submitted. In the end, there were one hundred and two!

It was interesting to find out that half of the entries came from within Leicestershire, half from outside, and there was also a fifty-fifty split between male and female authors. According to the judges - writers Rebecca Burns, Divya Ghelani, Nina Stibbe, Grace Haddon and bookseller Debbie James - the standard was very high, meaning that there were some interesting discussions over which stories should make the longlist, then the shortlist, and then the final four...

At the launch, there were readings from nine of the authors; I was one of them. I have to admit, I love reading my work out loud. Perhaps it stems back to my am dram days and being on stage, but maybe it's because I can project my story the way I imagined it, bring it to life rather than leaving it flat on the page.

It was very interesting to hear the other authors read, too. For example, Karl had never read his work in public before; he did a really good job! I did feel for him, remembering how I felt the first time I read at the Ivy House when Stories for Home was launched...

Having read the anthology at the proofreading stage - I always like to do that, to see what company my story's keeping! And to get an idea of what the judges were looking for - I knew which stories had jumped out at me on the page. (Yes, I do have some favourites in this collection!) I also knew which ones hadn't connected with me to quite the same degree, but remember, reading is subjective; we all have different preferences. What struck me at the readings is that some of the stories I had enjoyed on the page didn't lend themselves quite so well to being listened to - and vice versa.

It set me wondering whether, as authors, we write for readers - which of course seems obvious! - or if some of us do write so our work can be listened to when read aloud?

Of course, reading your work aloud helps you to spot glaring mistakes and a lot of authors do that as part of their editing process, but I'm not sure they're thinking 'one day, I might have to read this aloud and I ought to drop in a speech tag here' or 'can I get my tongue round that tricky bit of word play?'

I think that, personally, I am aware of how my work sounds when being read, because with children you often have to share stories verbally until they can cope with reading for themselves. You also have to do the silly voices or the shouty bits, slow down to build the tension or speed up as the action starts... Perhaps, subconsciously, I also put that to use in stories written for adults? And maybe, thinking about how the story sounds to a listener might actually affect the way I write?

Hmmm. All food for thought.

Having said all that, of course it was still a real privilege to hear the excerpts read aloud at the launch, because each of the authors breathed a new dimension into their particular story, bringing it to life. Some of them turned into real performances! Huge kudos to:

C.G. Menon                                       Aunty (Winner)
Siobhan Logan                                   Switching Off the Metronome (2nd)
Debz Hobbs-Wyatt                            We Went There (3rd)
Lynne E Blackwood                          Five (Commended)
Karl Quigley                                      The Man Who Wasn't
Asha Krishna                                     An Evening Out
BevHaddon                                        Death and Biscuits
Matthew Rhodes                                A Peculiar Circle

And kudos, too, to all the finalists who were present at the launch but decided not to read - this time! Your stories are every bit as wonderful, and I look forward to reading them all again, savouring every single word.

A Literary Launch...

Here's to next year, another prize, another great collection of short stories?

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