Last chance to book Myth and Music


WRITING WITH YOUR EARS: Myth and Music will be cancelled if there are not enough takers.  if you were thinking of coming please book asap!

Explore the enduring power of fairy tale as part of the Blackheath Community Opera experience, join local author (and opera chorus member) Cherry Potts for an opportunity to write your own fairy tale while listening to the music of Massenet’s Cendrillon (Cinderella) during an orchestra rehearsal. You don’t need to be involved in the opera in any other way to sign up for this workshop. Discover the power of music (particularly live music) to inspire plot, atmosphere and character development, explore the variations and patterns of a traditional tale and the influence of myth and legend, fairy/folk tales. Sunday 17th June 2.30-5.30 (This is a NEW date please take note, not 24th as originally advertised) Blackheath Halls 23 Lee Road London SE3 9RQ

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Tall Tales at the Tavern


Tall Tales at the Tavern

three women reading a book togetherJoin WOOA Brockley Writers’ Group for an evening of stories by local writers:

Bartle Sawbridge, Cherry Potts, Clare Sandling,

David Bausor, Joan Taylor Rowan, Rosalind Stopps

Read by Gill Stoker and Mike Burnside

Followed by a flash fiction open mic session for any other writers who want to join in, around 200 words: bring something along, or write in the interval.

Misty Moon Gallery, Ladywell Tavern, 80 Ladywell Road, SE13 7HS

Thursday 7th June 2012 7.00pm

No booking required, just turn up and grab a seat

Why Short Stories?


There’s been a lot of chat going on recently about short stories, including on the radio, this week’s Open Book had  Aminatta Forna giving a potted history of the short story from Poe, Chekhov and Saki to Helen Simpson, and even Ramblings (a walking programme … fascinating, listen!) had Claire Balding in company with short story writer Anna Maria Murphy. (nothing like being stuck at home recovering, for catching up with the radio in between sleeping.)

Having written two collections of short stories myself (and with enough material for 2 more!) and planning to publish (I hope) at least 6 anthologies over the next year or two, you’ll have gathered I’m quite keen!

I had an email yesterday in response to my posting about London Lies, in which the writer says

I was sure that it was near impossible to get short story collections published unless you are a well-known author

and asking how I managed it.

My very first short story was published in an anthology over 20 years ago. It was called Penelope Is No Longer Waiting, and I had sent it to Rosemary Manning, who was a friend, to cheer her up when she was unwell.  I got a phone call a couple of days later, saying

you could publish this

and then I saw a call for submissions from Onlywomen Press, and sent it off, and was accepted.  That easy.  I can still remember opening that letter, so thrilling.

I had two more stories in a further anthology at OWP, and then having got quite friendly with Lilian Mohin, the director at OWP, she was complaining about the quality of a lot of the submissions she received, and how she wished everyone wrote as well as me (or words to that effect).  My response was

plenty more where that came from

and I started drip-feeding her stories, one a month, under the heading of ‘entertaining Ms Mohin’, until she gave in and offered to publish a collection.  That was Mosaic of Air.

Mosaic didn’t sell very well, partly because I was in a wallflower phase and wouldn’t do any publicity, (I am so over that, as you may have noticed) and ended up with the remaining stock being pulped.  Not a happy moment!

Life rather caught up with me then and I wrote almost nothing for 11 years, then pulled myself together and published another collection, Tales Told Before Cockcrow. This did much better than Mosaic, and has almost sold out.

But what is it about the short story?

I’ll admit that some of my ‘short’ work is very long, almost novella length (now that’s really difficult to publish) but there’s something about a short story that’s like a jewel: carefully faceted and burnished to perfection, not a word wasted nor out of place.

Novels often have slow passages or subplots that don’t quite come off, but you are in it for the long haul so you put up with it, whereas you can’t afford to drift in a short story; and you can take risks and play games with language and structure, and the reader is prepared to come along because they know it’s not going to take you long to reach the punchline.

Since joining a writing group (WOOA) I’ve discovered that with a defined set of limitations I can write a fully formed story with a beginning middle and end in 20 minutes flat. Short Short stories… not quite flash fiction, because if it’s working, I write fast.

A really good short story settles into your mind with a sigh of satisfaction, like a good malt, or a perfectly toasted and buttered crumpet.

© Cherry Potts 2012

What the Well-dressed Witch is Wearing


'Picasso' halloween lantern © Cherry Potts 2011

The latest news from the catwalks … um … doorsteps of South London, where the fashions of the night come to your door for a minimal payment of handfuls of jellied eyes, chocolate bites and the occasional satsuma is… dayglo is the new black.
Of course you can’t just assume that the show will come to your door, you need to show willing and advertise your openness to revellers with the traditional lantern. This year ours was a cat, and we got several compliments on its raffish charm, including that we had been channeling Picasso!

© Cherry Potts 2011

Back to our report: This Hallowe’en’s hairstyles are streaked candy pink or pumpkin orange. Make up is livid, but carefully applied for that just risen look, and for those tired of the nightly routine of makeup fit for the dead? A mask!

A wide range of styles available to suit every mood… one size fits all.  Hats are generally traditional in height though wide-ranging in shape and colour, with an interesting voodoo influence.

© Cherry Potts 2011

For the younger ghoul: pumpkin, spider, cat and skeleton outfits are de riguer, with phosphorous glow a key element in the design.
The night was not without casualties, small undead who had eaten too many gory treats were heard to whine and wail more authentically than their parents would wish, one particularly rabid group of zombies had to be threatened with the trick we had up our sleeve to ensure there would be enough bait (sorry, treats) for all the neighbourhood monsters, and our cat Elton got a lot of exercise running up stairs every time the door was banged upon.

At the point when the more stalwart Julian started flinching at the doorbell we extinguished our pumpkin and settled down for dinner and the remaining eyeballs...

marauading ghouls receiving their bait © Cherry Potts 2011

This did get me thinking about Horror as a genre.  I really don’t enjoy horror, I can’t abide zombies, torture or graphic violence, although I used to watch Buffy with great enjoyment.  I couldn’t even bear to read Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man because it had a zombie in it, the whole idea turns my stomach, and that’s the only Pratchett I’ve not read.

But I do like a good ghost story, if like is the word, appreciate might be closer to the mark. M.R. James springs to mind, and tends to stay there late at night, wiffling about in my subconscious, it’s all suggestion and oblique reference.

Witch and familiar © Cherry Potts 2011

I’ve  written a couple of ghost stories (All Hallows, Eye of the Beholder) and they are definitely not in the M. R. James mould; They aren’t meant to be frightening: I think of my ghosts as lives unfulfilled, trailing on after death, which is a bit frightening, actually.  So there’s a moral there, if  you don’t want to become a ghost, live life to the full!

There are plenty of witches in my writing, Sorcha and Ashe in The Dowry Blade, Hraefn in Sky Hunter, Wind lover, Adamanta in The Bone Box, Beth and her awful aunt Brenda in Blood will Tell, Cicely in All and More, and I don’t think any of them would subscribe to dayglo streaks in their hair!

© Cherry Potts 2011

BBC short story cuts


I’ll admit to an ambition shall I? I’d really like one of my short stories read on BBC Radio 4.
What’s more I’d like it read by Emma Thompson.

How likely is that?

Not very, perhaps, but the chances are decreasing since the Beeb decided to cut its output of readings.

Of course they do say that if you write down your intentions, and get really precise, they are more likely to happen, and that if you tell someone else, it improves your chances even more.

Ok!  So, ignoring completely the fact that the reading slots are usually 15 minutes long which means only something of around 2500 words is going to get a look in:

I would like

  • Emma Thompson to read my story Flight, (far too long, far too long!)
  • on a Sunday afternoon when people are actually listening
  • on radio 4
  • within the next 12 months.

Is that detailed enough?

No?!

In that case:

  • I want her to read it passionately and with conviction,
  • I want it to be chosen for Pick of the Week.
  • I want people to sit in their cars outside their homes unable to drag themselves away, even though they’ve been there 5 minutes already, because we haven’t finished yet.  (As A & I did when Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture was read on the radio)
  • I want an all time record for the number of listen again connections on-line
  • I want it to be showcased in the Radio Times
  • I want to be paid double the standard fee because the Beeb are so impressed

I want…

I want you to sign the PETITION!!! ….please!  Help a girl to dream…
Copyright Cherry Potts 2011