Click here to visit the Litfest website and listen to the Flash Mob stories – including Mollie’s ‘Talent Show,’ or you can download the entire anthology for Kindle or iBook.
Archive for August, 2011
Together, Steve Lewis and Shaun Blezard are Deep Clutter, an experimental and improvisational duo combining vocals and electronics. Some months ago I was contacted by Steve who asked if he could use extracts from my story ‘Thinking in Slices’ (Published in Flax 001) for an E.P.. I know Shaun and Steve’s work and couldn’t wait to hear how they used the words with their soundscapes.
It’s a strange and exciting experience to hear your words reinterpreted. The sample track below, ‘I Slice Tomatoes,’ is taken from the open lines of the story. A woman, recently bereaved, fixes herself supper and is visited by the ghost of her lover. In the story, it is the ghost who can’t move on, who can only communicate with the woman on the same footing as when he was alive.
It’s a story of deep frustration, loneliness and resentment, although it is cloaked in the mundane action of slicing tomatoes for supper. Deep Clutter’s interpretation cuts through all the veils and gets to the sharp-edged heart of things. The repetition suggests the futility of trying to move on, the heaviness of expectation. The vocals move from plaintive whimpers, to ghostly, unsettling wails. Clear ambivalence – who speaks – the ghost or the woman?
I Slice Tomatoes is taken from the Deep Clutter 6 track album Slices. Listen here.
Available on handbuilt CDr (£3+ free digital version) and digital download (£2+) from CM store at bandcamp and soon all expensive sites like iTunes. Support independent producers and buy from Shaun’s bandcamp!
Music by Steve Lewis – Vocals/FX & Shaun Blezard – Electronics
Words by Mollie Baxter
Released by: Clutter Music
Release/catalogue number: CM007
Release date: Jul 30, 2011
I’m a bit of a sucker for board games. My friends will tell you that whenever we meet up, there’s a certain point in the evening when my eyes start shifting to the games on the shelves. It’s a fine art. I can judge to within a 7 minute window when people are likely to agree to Blockbusters.
Years ago I bought the Blockbusters game from a charity shop not realising it was the Junior version. (Imagine my disappointment when I realised my error, with questions like ‘What ‘F’ does a tadpole become?” Even a seven minute window wasn’t going to help me this time.
However, the game has redeemed itself by providing the source material for what can be either a fun warm-up exercise, a means to start class discussion into theme, to explore the elements of story arcs or as an exercise in brevity. How? Well, each card has twelve one-word answers. Here is an example:
Feedback about the format of this new spoken word night describes it as ‘a winner’ and ‘a stroke of genius!’
I kicked off the evening with a little bit of information about what the event seeks to do and why. There are several excellent spoken word nights in the local area, so there was no point reinventing the wheel. As a prose writer myself, I am aware that the performance opportunities for prose writers can be limited. By it’s very nature, the musicality and brevity of poetry makes for more accessible listening, so the question was how to create a format where prose would be equally as engaging.
The obvious transition point is flash fiction – ultra short stories whose length requires a similar focus and punch to a poem. We had two brilliant performances: Katherine Jane Learmonth performed Angela Martin’s flash with passion and presence; Sarah Schofield read her own work including ‘Wine’ which can be read in Issue 1 of Back&Beyond.
But I also really wanted to give longer fiction a chance, and so took what felt like a gamble in some ways – a complete 3000 word short story. However, Brindley Hallam Dennis’s ‘The Sweetest Sound’ was a highly crafted work with richly crafted characters and evocative setting and dry Highland humour and as such had the power to draw in the audience and keep them there for the duration. Of course, even good writing can fall flat if not read well, but we were treated to Steve Longstaffe’s performance, capturing the brewing tension and calculating deliberations within the protagonist seeking to rid his island of the piper.
The third element of the night was yet another gamble: The Story Forum. I cannot thank the three respondants enough, first of all for being willing to take a punt on my crazy scheme, but also because of their fantastic responses. I asked them to prepare a five minute response to the question, ‘Is present tense over-used in modern fiction?’ Eliza Mood ‘s response weaved from fiction to critique in relation to her own experience and other published writers. Layers of narrative that showed how the past can be present and the present can be past. (Having had a sneak preview of her second novel ‘The Moth Quartet’ I know this is something she has explored greatly in her work.)
Hendryk Korzeniowski came out of self-described writing ‘retirement’ with a bang with his dialogue between Philip Pullman and Doctor Who, which had people laughing and exhilerated by the rush of ideas.
Finally Simon Baker ruined everyone’s feelings about marzipan for the rest of their lives. There aren’t many people who would dare to read a Choose Your Own Adventure book at a literary evening, but as a way to coax support for the present tense it was a masterstroke – when the final vote was put to the audience, they decided that the present tense was not over-used in modern fiction. Gauging the audience’s contributions I would say this was a call for tolerance, rather than a call for more present tense… necessarily!
Thanks to the all who came to our first evening – details of the next dates coming soon…
But finally, special thanks must go to Norman Hadley for filming the performers and posting the clips (courtesy of Lancashire Writing Hub) so speedily despite being at the wrong end of a really busy week, and to Rob for lugging furniture, taking photographs and for allowing his hat to be used to collect audience responses to the Penny Forum.