Banksy has recently created another graffiti; the press goes wild about a competent painting on an ugly blank wall. It is graffiti and not graffito, the singular form is not in use. Banksy’s graffiti is hailed as Art. Why? Why, in a country with at least ten universities giving degrees in art and design, with independent art schools and with flourishing art groups throughout the land; why is a single piece of graffiti something of an event? [Read more…] about Graffiti
Every photograph we take, every show we present, or every song and hymn that we sing, we bring inspiration, creativity and joy to the community. Our artists have taken risks. They have brought us wonder and beauty of nature.
It is always a great pleasure to welcome The Chameleon Theatre Group back to Chandler’s Ford Today. We are sorry their Spring Quartet production had to be cancelled and we hope it is not long before we see them again on the stage at Ritchie Hall. Janet and I very much look forward to our “CFT works outings” again in the future!
Meanwhile, for a fascinating look behind the scenes at sound, lighting, set design, and props, read on… and as ever many thanks to The Chameleons for the interviews and the photos. (Many thanks also to Janet Williams as there was a useful picture for this post in the CFT archives taken by her).
I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase “May you live in interesting times”. This has been linked to the Chinese but there is evidence to suggest it has nothing to do with them at all and it is in fact an English saying.
Hmm…so maybe it’s a case of good old Chinese whispers going on there I think. (Never a game I’ve liked. I’ve never got the point. Misinformation is misinformation and all that. It always struck me as a silly game.).
Whatever the origins of the phrase, it is a great example of irony in action. It sounds like a blessing but it is anything but. The speaker is really wishing you should live in troublesome times and I think it is safe to say we are doing exactly that right now.
The Chameleon Theatre Group have been posting a series of small interviews. They and I thought it a good idea to compile these in some articles for CFT. Hope you enjoy! These will hopefully be spread out over a few weeks between each one. Many thanks as ever to The Chameleons for the photos.
Oh and don’t forget that when you go to one of their excellent productions and take part in things like the raffle, proceeds go to a nominated charity. So have a great night out and support a good cause at the same time. Now that’s the kind of multitasking I’ve always got time for!
And now over to The Chameleons for Part 1 in what we hope will be an enjoyable series.
As I walked briskly in keeping with the exercise requirements of my diet regime, listening to the intoxicating and incessant drumming in Get Ready by Rare Earth, I had an epiphany: I could be dead in a few weeks because of the pandemic.
I didn’t panic, but looked up at the sky and everything appeared so very special – the stars, the golden pancake moon darting between clouds, and even the clouds themselves for their amorphous fluffiness. [Read more…] about How I Feel about the Pandemic
I’m pleased to share a news update from local author, Richard Hardie, and to introduce new Authors Reach author, Francesca Tyer.
Richard and Francesca have celebrated World Book Day in the best way imaginable – by talking about books and stories to school children. Encourage a love of reading in the young, hopefully that love will stay with them for life. (I know it did for me!) See both links for World Book Day to find out more. . See Richard’s report below.
At the back of a class of 5-year-olds, I watched a teacher telling a story. Thirty children sat silent and still with mouths agape and eyes fixed on the storyteller. The story, like most children’s stories, held a moral. It was Big Bell and Little Bell. Here was the power of storytelling.
Most of us can remember being told stories. I remember a story about a man pulling a sword from a rock. Grandfather told stories of engineering feats that went wrong. There was a railway engine whose boiler burst as it tried to climb Lickey Incline near Birmingham and how bank engines were provided afterwards to help the climb. [Read more…] about Tell Me a Story
Paula Readman and I have publishers in common. We’ve both been published by Bridge House Publishing and Cafelit. We’ve shared the great joy recently of both of us having two stories in The Best of Cafelit 8 and also a story each in Nativity, the most recent books published by Bridge House. Naturally we are both keen on the independent small presses!
Paula is going from strength to strength and is starting 2020 off in great style with a recently released novella and a short story collection to come later in the year but more on that in a moment.
I learned a long time ago if someone makes something look easy, that same someone will have worked very hard for years to get to that point. This is true for Paula and she’ll share more about this too.
The major joys of reading are:-
1. There is at least one form to suit everyone – short fiction, long, or anything in between, and non-fiction with its infinite variety of forms from the essay to the book.
2. There is at least one genre to suit everyone – fantasy, non-fiction (think of the wealth of topics in this alone!), historical, crime etc.
3. Reading is one of the forms of escapism I love most; the other is music. Even when reading non-fiction, you are escaping the cares of the world temporarily to find out what you need to know or to improve your knowledge of the topic you’re reading.
There are interviews and there are interviews. I don’t think anyone likes going for the job related ones, necessary though they are. I think they can be some of the most stressful situations most of us will face at at some point (or have done).
In my line interviews are wonderful. When I interview authors for CFT, I like to discover what inspires their writing and for guests to share tips. The writing community is a supportive one and we all learn from one another.
Interviews are also a a great opportunity to give “shout outs” to writers whose work we love. Every writer has to do their own publicity and marketing. As a certain supermarket would say, “every little helps”.
Interviews can show readers what influences their favourite authors (and I love reading writer interviews on those grounds alone. Every writer is also a reader. We all have our favourite writers. Finding out what inspires them is always fascinating to me. I also end up expanding my To Be Read list!).
Many thanks to all who have interviewed me (and yes I am available for bookings but not for panto. I leave the latter to the wonderful people at The Chameleon Theatre Group!).
One thing most writers learn early on is we never stop learning and you never know when a particular tip is going to prove to be useful to you too. I’ve discovered new competitions and markets thanks to colleagues both directly and via interviews they’ve given.
Being On The Receiving End of an Interview
Sometimes I’m on the other end of the interview, which is always great fun (see links at the end of this post), and have been again this week. The crime writer, Wendy H Jones, who writes, amongst many other things, the DI Shona McKenzie series, has interviewed me about flash fiction for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. The show will go live next Wednesday, 12th February and I’ll share further details in a short Local Author News post sometime next week.
It was great fun to take part in this and many thanks to Wendy for inviting me on to her show.
My big worries for being interviewed by Wendy? I was recovering from a cold and was hoping my voice wouldn’t give out! Secondly, I’d given Lady her big Kong toy with treats to find in it in the hope it would keep her quiet for the duration of the interview which was done over the PC. Technology is a wonderful thing but it does nothing for woofing dogs!
I don’t know how many authors have to worry about keeping their border collie quiet during an interview but I am one of them! The great irony is Lady isn’t a big barker as such, she usually saves that for the postie etc, but I know how Murphy’s Law for Writers works and I wasn’t taking any chances here!
Was I successful? Yes, Lady was a very good girl BUT Murphy’s Law for Writers did kick in. Just as Wendy and I were getting on with the recording, I started coughing! Now I had thought to drink plenty before the interview so my throat didn’t dry out but lesson learned here: always have a glass of water to hand during the interview should you need it.
I was talking with Wendy, about my great love, flash fiction, and it was such a pleasure to do so. The secret when talking about something you love is to show why you are keen. It remains my belief that, regardless of what type of writing people do, flash fiction should come into it somewhere. Why? Because it teaches you so much about the craft of writing, especially editing and placement of words, but for more on that, do give the podcast a listen next week
When I Set the Questions
I’m looking forward to sharing more interviews with authors later in the year but for those, and ones I’ve already carried out, what I aim for is to ask a series of questions that will encourage my guest to talk and expand on the topic I’ve set them. What you don’t want are simple Yes/No answers.
So this is where the research into your guest comes in! Most authors have an Amazon Author Central page now (and I am going to be very cheeky and put mine in here).
So it is easy enough to check out an author’s back catalogue and get a feel for their writing from that. Naturally you are very welcome to browse mine!
The best research though, certainly the most fun part, is reading some of your guests’ books and stories. All writers know you need to read well to inspire your own imagination, it is literally feeding your mind, but where I had been falling short is in reading contemporary fiction. I don’t have that issue any more!
Indeed it is a great pleasure to have a shelf full of books at home written by friends and I look forward to expanding on that collection in due course! If said books are not on my physical book shelves, they are on my my electronic ones. No worries about overloading your shelving capacity on the Kindle!
The research itself will inevitably trigger ideas for further questions. What I try to achieve is make it feel as if a reader is eavesdropping on an interesting conversation between interviewer and interviewee. For writing ones, this is a great opportunity to share information and, sometimes sound warnings against dodgy competitions and the like. I am aware now of how much I would’ve liked to have known when I was starting out so it is a great pleasure to pass useful information like that on. I am a great believer in paying it forwards and backwards. I’ve had the benefit of this and know how useful it is.
I am always happy when I find out a new writer has been warned off vanity publishers, rip off competitions and the like. The trouble is when you are starting out you really don’t know what to look for, yet alone where. Writer interviews can be a great help there.
Also I know, as I’ve done this, enjoying an interesting writer interview makes it far more likely you’ll check their Facebook page out. A scroll down their posts may well also reveal useful hints and tips – I do on mine and loads of authors do this, but again when starting out you need a way in to finding what you need to know.
Further along the writing road, writer interviews give people ideas as to the sort of questions they might face one day, when they too have books out etc., and you can start preparing for that. It is never too early to do that kind of prep incidentally.
What I think makes for a good interview
A good interview is never about the interviewer. The interviewer’s job is to encourage their guest to open up and share interesting insights as to their work. A good guest will respond well to those questions and expand on them.
For example, if I’m asked to say how I discovered flash fiction writing, I can give a straight factual answer, but I would then lead on into saying why I love the form and what some of its advantages are.
Why is a brilliant question for an interviewer to ask. You can’t give a Yes/No answer to that one. There has to be some sort of explanation and that should trigger further questions and lo and behold you have a great conversation going.
When Interviews Go Wrong
Of course interviews can end up going horribly wrong. I suspect many of you will remember this one.
I strongly suspect neither Jeremy Paxman nor Michael Howard expected this would become a comedy moment in interviewing!
Having said that, this one was meant to be funny!
One of James Herriott’s wonderful books was It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet. There is a case to be made, I think, for having something called It Shouldn’t Happen to An Interviewer!
I loathe it with a guest is rude to their interviewer. Likewise, I loathe it when the interviewer is clearly trying to get their agenda across and doesn’t give their guest a chance to speak properly. (It is one reason why I avoid political interviews. The day I want my blood pressure to go up significantly will be the day I tune in…). As for guests, you should try to answer the interviewer’s question. It does say more about you if you don’t, as Mr H no doubt discovered.
Getting the balance right in an interview isn’t easy. I like interviews that open up a window into the world of the interviewee and I should enjoy what I see there. Ideally I’ll learn something interesting too. Is the day of the interview over given so much is done online these days? No. The style and format might change but that’s all.
Podcasting for example is becoming ever more popular. The mission to entertain and explain is a good one to follow, whether it is in print, using audio or video etc., and not one that should go out of fashion. Nobody can know all that there is to know and interviews are a great way of expanding your knowledge.
Where I’ve Been Interviewed
A big thank you to Jacci Gooding, Jennifer C Wilson, and Val Penny for their interviews of me. I share the links below.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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Image Credit: A big thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their excellent photos. The images of the programme cover and the cast (from the pantomime programme) were taken by Allison Symes.
What do Camille Saint-Saens, Eddie Cochran, Queen, Bob Marley, and Sir Elton John have in common?
Not an awful lot, you may be thinking, but they did all have their music included in Atlantis – The Panto, which was recently staged by the ever excellent Chameleon Theatre Group.
I’ll share a song list later but the answer to my question tells you the music for the show was an eclectic mix, as it should be. There should be something for everyone to enjoy in a panto musically as well as in the jokes and storyline.
Atlantis – The Panto was written by Paul Reakes. It ran at the Ritchie Hall from Friday 17th – Saturday 25th January 2020, and was directed by Sheila Hardiman.
Janet and I went on Thursday, 24th January and a great time was had by all, one of many signs of a wonderful panto. I’ll share a few more signs later.
Time away from usual routines is a necessity. Whether it is for holidays, taking time out to go for a really good walk with the dog, time to think, to take a metaphorical deep breath and refresh your batteries, is vital.
A new CD of choral music by Hugh Benham, director of music at St Boniface CofE Church, Hursley Road, has just been released by Convivium Records as disc CR050 – Hugh Benham: Sacred Choral Music.
Copies may be ordered from Hugh at H.Benham@Soton.ac.uk at £10 – delivery is usually possible within a day or two. CDs are also available (as are digital downloads) from the Convivium Records website. [Read more…] about Hugh Benham: Sacred Choral Music
Numbers in writing? What role do they play? In maths, obviously, but writing?
What possible role could they play in fiction, say? Surely there it is about the prose, how well the characters are created etc. Numbers turn up all over the place in writing.
Incidentally, the inspiration for the title comes from an old phrase hammered into me when I was learning division many moons ago at school. I had to look for numbers that “would go” into another number – e.g. 2 into 4 will go (twice!) and say 2 into 5 will go (twice but with 1 left over). Anyone else remember that style of teaching?
On to the use of numbers in fiction then…
I hope 2019, despite all the upheaval, has been reasonably good for you and 2020 may prove to be better still. My favourite gag I’ve heard so far on the theme of the New Year is:
Why are shortsighted people looking forward to next year?
Answer: Because they will finally have 2020 vision”.
Okay… that one’s never going to win any awards…
As ever the last year seems to have flown by and it’s time to take a look at how things went, writing wise, this year.
How do you decide something is a good story? Do you judge that by the genre or by the quality of the characters?
For me, the latter is by far the most important criterion. Really good characters stay with you long after you’ve finished reading or listening to the story.
This is the time of year when many traditions are upheld, of course, but I think the best involve getting together with friends to celebrate something you have in common.
For me, this winning combination works so well with the Bridge House Celebration Event held this year at St. John’s Church, Waterloo, in London on Saturday, 7th December 2019.
This year’s performance by the MDG Players is a pastiche of sci-fi storytelling that lampoons radio plays and the stories of Stephen King and John Wyndham. Presented as a radio play, Welcome to Our Village, Please Invade Carefully is filled with clever humour and wit that results in a very original, fun way to spend an evening.
The plot is simple – the village of Cresdon Green, Buckinghamshire, is a normal English town that has just happened to be slowly invaded by aliens. It starts with a dome being placed over the village and then Uljabaan, an alien trying desperately hard to impress his superiors, attempting to blend in with the villagers. Whilst some embrace the aliens, others, led by the rebellious Katrina Lyons, want to see the aliens gone. Hilarity ensues. [Read more…] about Review: Chandler’s Ford MDG Players: ‘Welcome to our village, please invade carefully’
My Oxford Compact dictionary defines progress as forward movement, advance, development, improvement and almost everyone seeks it in many areas of life. Despite the straightforward definition, it can be hard to define if you’ve achieved progress. Not everything can be measured… Even when it can be, progress can genuinely be slow. What matters overall is that there is some!
As for success, the dictionary defines it as accomplishment of aim, favourable outcome, attainment of wealth/fame etc.