Last September I went to my first Festival of Writing, held at York and organised by the Writers’ Workshop. It seemed as if half the publishing and writing world was there for two and a half days of workshops, lectures, drinking, meeting people and generally nattering about books. We got to show bits of our work to agents and book doctors, and our new friends handed us a glass of wine later to recover from what they said.
There was inspired talk at the time of Debi Alper putting together a ‘Book of the Festival’. She asked for delegates to submit thoughts, impressions and reactions to her – then it all went a bit quiet. After months of Debi’s hard labour it has been published, and I’m enormously proud to say that my silly riff on Shakespeare’s Richard III opening is in there too (it was far too tempting to leave undone). Alongside that are pieces from others which are far more reasoned and intelligible.
If you want a flick through a sample of the book you can see it here.
My poem is below, though I’m sorry it won’t make a lot of sense if you weren’t there. Also apologies to Shakespeare, who said things much better here.
Now is the writer …
Now is the writer with their discontent
made glorious scribbler by the fun of York;
and all procrastinations, clichés, tics
lie buried by our new selves: cheese and chalk.
Now are our brows more furrowed with new thoughts;
our bruised arms carry undeciphered notes;
our love of alcohol helped merry meetings;
we stared at name-badged breasts with awkward jokes.
For me it started with the demigod.
The Alper: helper, smoker, laughing loud,
who carries gangster chic like no-one else
and cannot fade away into a crowd.
Then Harry-on-the-Brink bestrode the stage:
an elongated stick insect on speed,
with eyes and hair jump-starting from his head,
who cuts off boring questions as they plead.
Our Saturday unfolded, coffee first
(used caffeine mainlines littering the floor).
Then workshop, smile, shake hands, nod, curtsey, smile,
more coffee, workshop, smile and out the door.
We crossed the Bridge of Doom for one-to-ones,
averting eyes from bodies in the lake
of those whose dreams of agents came to nought,
a shredded MS floating in their wake.
That room – speed dating hell – was filled with fear.
I thought a cheery song might calm our nerves
and tried to nick the mike from Her In Charge.
My karaoke failed: her wrath incurred.
All was forgot when Gala Night approached.
We sucked our tummies in and joined the toasts
to wit, to wine, to friends we’d made that day,
to balancing on heels and rude blog posts.
Plots we had laid discussed: which style, what pace,
our psychic distance, sliding POVs.
With free indirect style we laughed and talked
of conflict fueling instabilities.
But drunken prophecies, libels and dreams
would set some hyped-up Nomads and the rest
in deadly hate the one against the other.
Oh how they laughed. Our night was not the best.
Survivors’ Sunday dawned: we learned yet more.
The weekend culminated with a plan.
We shouted as a born-again convert,
un-Britishly, “I do! I do! I can!”