There are definite signs of spring. Flowers bloom, birds sing, rain falls… and I’m writing.


One of my new short stories is among the dozen selected to appear in an anthology to be published by the Belper Arts Festival Society. It’s possible (just) that another of my freshly-minted tales will also meet a measure of success within the next two months. The novel has relapsed into a research phase – I’m reading up on eighteenth century jokes and other amusements, most of them fairly cruel and many of them downright disgusting, but of course I need them for authenticity of setting – though during the past ten days I’ve written two more sections of the manuscript, with which I’m quite pleased. All in all, I’m starting to feel like a writer again. As soon as I’ve unburdened myself of the more time-consuming of my editing responsibilities, which is due to happen this summer, I believe I’ll become more productive.


But the real thought-provokers this month have been the storytelling workshops. I’ve attended two of these, hoping to improve my performance skills, and they’ve been excellent (and personally encouraging… after Sophie’s workshop on the 27th of April I was invited to do a spot with a distinguished professional storytelling group in Derby on May 8th). The thoughts provoked by these occasions concern the complex relationship between written and spoken language, and especially between written and spoken stories. The differences between the written and the oral are obvious, the similarities less so; but the similarities are more exciting. My storytelling tutors equipped me (or tried to equip me) with techniques for engaging the audience at the outset, for evoking setting, for generating sympathy with characters, for deploying images in effective ways, for controlling pace, etc. – all of which skills are transferable, with obvious adaptations, to writing. Once I’d spotted that, it took no more than a few seconds to realize that the transfer could be two-way, so I started to deploy some of my short-story-writing techniques in recounting a folktale. I’m assured the attempt was effective, though as in this as in all spheres of human endeavour, practice makes less imperfect.


I’m writing this notebook entry on the afternoon of Friday May 3rd. As soon as I’ve e-mailed it to Dana for uploading to the site, I shall leap into my car (at least, I’ll do the nearest thing to leaping a chap my age can do) and drive to Matlock for this evening’s Storytelling Café. Two of the regulars there are using my little collection of Peak District Folktales, and one of them, who edits a magazine for storytellers, is going to review the book… Onwards and upwards!

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