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.
Tags: Angela Martin, Back&Beyond, Brindley Hallam Dennis, Choose Your Own Adventure, Eliza Mood, Hendryk Korzeniowski, Katherine Jane Learmonth, Norman Hadley, Sarah Schofield, Simon Baker, Steve Longstaffe, The Novel Cafe, The Story Forum