The sun is shining! It hasn’t rained for four whole days! Even the bitter east wind has gone! Must be global warming. Now we’ve reached the fourth of June, the may-blossom is starting to appear. We might see a real spring before the summer is over.

I’m now the proud possessor of a little book of short stories published by the Belper Arts Festival. It comprises the judges’ twelve favourite stories from their recent competition (apparently there were more than sixty entries). One of the twelve is my frivolous tale “A Preference for Dogs”. This constitutes a very minor literary achievement, but it signifies something important to me: my return to writing is starting to prove successful. Duly encouraged, I’m continuing to research my novel with the eighteenth-century setting, and meanwhile I’m having fun writing a light-hearted (i.e. silly) novella with the working title “National Cake Day in Ruritania”. Seventeen thousand words into the text, the protagonist is – at last – on his way to the eponymous country and will arrive in good time for National Cake Day (which coincides with the summer solstice). To illustrate my enjoyment of this crazy piece of creativity, here’s a paragraph describing the protagonist’s musings on the possibly non-existent nation (which is noted for moving around, so she can never appear on a map) during his journey there:


“There was much to disbelieve about Ruritania, such as the country’s existence. Her unpredictable shifts of geography were high on the list: impertinent parodies of tectonism, as though the nation were a speedboat thumbing her nose at a fleet of galleons. Yet the learned of the eighteenth century were familiar with her habits: her mobility had inspired Jonathan Swift’s flying island, Laputa, and the passion for cakes among her inhabitants had informed Marie Antoinette’s solicitude for the bread-starved citizens of Paris. Negative evidence from atlases notwithstanding, it followed that Rory’s destination must in some sense be real.”


On the other front of my literary activities, I’ve contributed to three storytelling sessions since I posted my May notebook entry. The one for the Flying Donkeys in Derby on May 8th went very well, and several sales of my folktale book ensued. Then there were the less formal gatherings in Buxton on May 26th and in Glossop on May 31st. I’m now more than ever persuaded about the synergism between storytelling and story-writing, despite the obvious differences between the oral and the written. There will probably be another Buxton storytelling this month (June 23rd has been mooted, and I have a story lined up for that date) and I’ll also go to the Matlock Storytelling Café on the 7th, but I doubt if I’ll contribute there.


By the time I post my next notebook entry I hope to have heard about one of two more short story competitions – and to have made good headway with the silly novella. Watch this space!

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