Tag Archives: stories

Novel news and book club visit!

I’ve had a really good summer of reading this year and with one thing and another (read: life) blog-writing decided to take a break in the latter half! However, Autumn is starting to show her face and I for one am looking forward to the new season of fresh, cooling days, darker evenings and furtive scribblings before a crackling fire.

Novel number three updatebible-2989427_1920

Writing-wise, I’ve been busy typing up the first draft of my manuscript for novel number three (in dribs and drabs) but I actually hope to have that completed sometime later today. Then, the fun can really begin, with rewrites, new writing and editing, editing, editing… I do a light edit as I type it up, but really, the typing mostly helps with refreshing my mind about what the story looks like currently as a whole and where the gaps are. I’ve got loads of ideas for extra material that I want to add in and ways in which I can flesh out some of the characters, and this time around, I’ve left myself breathing space to do that, as the manuscript is shorter than it usually is at this stage in terms of word count. So, I’ve got a healthy amount of words to play around with and can add in new chapters and scenes without it becoming a massive tome!dfw-cs-group-nologo

With this being my third middle-grade novel I find that my writing style has definitely evolved since writing Magical Masquerade way back in early 2011. With MM I wrote a sprawling first draft which totalled around 140,000-ish words (yes, really) and which required a heck of a lot of cutting down before the proper editing even began. With Phantom Phantasia, the sequel, I wrote it a lot more swiftly and the initial draft came in much shorter than MM’s first draft simply because I had a clearer idea of where the story was going and I knew better how to approach writing a novel, having already spent years creating the first one…

As a result, PP took less time to write and although the final book ended up being a bit shorter than MM, this was just because I was wrapping up a story and it was as long as it needed to be. This third book will likely be longer than PP – maybe around the final length of MM or somewhere in-between the two. I won’t know until it’s finished but again, it’ll be as long as the story needs to be. (Note: Longer doesn’t mean less concise editing; regardless of length, editing should always be tight for every piece of writing you do).

Anyway, book three is blossoming slowly. I really like the idea of it still, which is always good, as once you immerse yourself in a story for months and more, there’s always the risk of getting tired of it! I’m not giving myself such stringent deadlines with this one, but you’ve gotta have some end goal in sight, otherwise things can just drag on indefinitely. And I do like a deadline. So, once I’ve typed the rest up today it’ll be straight into writing my extra scenes and fleshing it out a bit more, then typing those up and integrating them into the novel.

As this is currently a standalone novel and not part of an existing series my current plan is to submit it to agents when I’m finally satisfied with it. All being well, that will happen next Spring, but we’ll see how it goes. One step at a time.Causeway shop

In the meantime, I recently delivered a few more boxes of Magical Masquerade and Phantom Phantasia to the Visitors’ Centre at the Giant’s Causeway, so it’s great that those books are still hopping off the shelves there and getting read by readers around the world. If you can’t get to the North Coast, however, you can always find them at Amazon/The Book Depository etc. as both e-books and paperbacks. 🙂

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

We had a mixed bag of reviews from the GC Book Clubbers over the summer, with our July and August reads – Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell, which scored 8/10 and Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, which scored a more middling 5/10 (I gave it an eight myself!!). I enjoyed them both in different ways and found both books delivered fascinating insights into their characters. O’Farrell is one of my favourite authors and I think she excels at writing wonderfully rounded characters. This wasn’t my favourite book of hers (I’ve now read them all!) but I still really enjoyed it.

Levy’s book had a rather shocking ending which I for one didn’t see coming (in terms of who it concerned) and I liked how she achieved that shock without giving anything away in the lead-up to it. I thought she created tension well throughout the book, threading it through with dark humour and, for me, who enjoys delving into people’s minds, I enjoyed seeing things from the different characters’ POVs. They were all pretty unlikeable but getting into their minds gave you some understanding as to why they acted as they did.

September book club author visit!

Our September book choice is The Bones of It by NI author, Kelly Creighton, who is a very talented writer of short stories, novels and poetry. She is also a friend of mine and I read the book a few years ago when it was published, but regardless of that, I am a genuine fan of her work! I’m looking forward to reading this again as there’s been a nice gap since my first read and, what’s more, Kelly will be joining us at our next book club meeting, so everyone can quiz her on the book and her writing. 🙂 

The Bones of ItThe Bones of It is a psychological/crime thriller set in Northern Ireland which deals with the legacy of the Troubles in terms of how it has affected people’s mindsets and how they cope with living in its aftermath. It follows the story of a father and son and if you want to read the blurb in full and/or gift yourself a copy, you can do so here: https://amzn.to/2jYL9d8

If you wish to attend book club, it’s completely free, so just come along to the Causeway Hotel on the last Thursday of the month (in September that’ll be Thursday, 26th) and you’ll find us in the drawing room downstairs. As well as chatting with the group about that month’s read, the National Trust also provides free tea/coffee and sweet treats and of course, in September, you’ll have the added bonus of meeting the author. 🙂

Anyway, that’s all for now… I myself am looking forward to an event with Lemn Sissay next week in Belfast, having just read his memoir – My Name is Why. I met Lemn about six years ago when he was doing a poetry event in Derry (you can read my blog post on that here: https://clairesavagewriting.wordpress.com/tag/lemn-sissay/ ) so it’ll be great to hear from him again in what is sure to be a very interesting evening.

More as I have it. 🙂

Comments Off on Novel news and book club visit!

Filed under Musings on writing

Myth and Memory

Namita Gokhale, Jan Carson and Vayu Naidu in conversation with Paul McVeigh at JLF Belfast 2019 at the Lyric Theatre

Myth, memory and culture were the ingredients for a lively panel discussion between writers Namita Gokhale, Jan Carson and Vayu Naidu, facilitated by novelist and playwright, Paul McVeigh at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival in Belfast.Myth and Memory

One of the JLF founders and co-directors, Gokhale has written 19 books and has worked a lot “on myth and the constant reinterpretation of myth in current India.”

Naidu, also born and raised in India, has been “very influenced by myths and mythologies” and said they’d helped her to write about history in her fiction. However, for East Belfast author, Carson, her interest in mythology was more about “making up my own myths – contemporary myths.”

Indeed, growing up, Carson was surrounded by stories from the King James Bible rather than Celtic myths, which she said made her feel a bit more disconnected from traditional mythology than her fellow panellists. She added that her reworking of myths was subsequently coloured by this particular storytelling language from her childhood.

Asked by McVeigh why she created modern myths and what they allowed her to do, Carson said her magical realism style allowed her to address topical issues in a more indirect way.

Jan

Jan Carson

“For me, Northern Ireland is a prime candidate for that,” she said. “It amazes me that we don’t have more writers here working in that field.”

She added that in a society where people have “become numbed to the status quo,” surrealist writing was a way to “stop people in their tracks” and help them take stock of things.

During the discussion, Gokhale described how India was steeped in mythology and said there were two epic myths – the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇ – which were originally told in oral form before being written. She herself has retold the Mahābhārata in Mahābhārata, The Book of Shiva.

“It’s a very vital and living topic in India,” she said. “Myths dominate and control every aspect of life [there]… There are many different levels of gods and goddesses in India – and a lot of goddesses who are goddesses in their own right.”

Naidu, meanwhile, who performs epic literature as well as being a writer, said Indians tended to “think in a kind of poetry.” She added that, living as she does now in England, she carried Indian mythology with her as a way of viewing the world.

lyric ceiling“For me, the myths are a memory for how I understand the Western world,” she said. “I won’t give up that way of thinking.”

Each of the writers shared some of their work with the audience, with extracts read by Carson and Gokhale and a special oral storytelling performance from Naidu.

Reflecting on the differences between oral storytelling and writing, she said: “The oral tradition is action-driven. When you’re writing, you’re in isolation – it’s more immersive.”

Going on to discuss memory, Carson, who also works with people who have dementia, said she’d learned that memory was something that wasn’t fixed. “As you grow and gain life experience, it changes your perspective of the past,” she said. “The memory [of things] begins to change.”

Collectively asked by McVeigh if holding onto memory too much could also prevent cultures from growing, Naidu said people could indeed get very fixed into the past. However, she added that, “collated memory can be a transformative thing.”

With Gokhale previously explaining how Hindu icon Radha is “the subject of every Bollywood film,” the event finished rather fittingly with an impromptu rendition of a Bollywood song from another festival participant.

Comments Off on Myth and Memory

Filed under Books, Musings on writing

Foremothers: Women and Freedom

Bee Rowlatt, Lucy Caldwell and Namita Gokhale in conversation with Vayu Naidu at JLF Belfast 2019

The second event I attended at the Jaipur Literature Festival in Belfast back in June as official festival blogger involved an all-female group discussion about strong women – those foremothers who had inspired the assembled writers and also, the importance of remembering women, who are all too easily erased from history.

Foremothers

Facilitated by Vayu Naidu, she posed this initial question: “Foremothers appear in the domestic and the political. But what is this thing called a ‘foremother’?”

Namita Gokhale, who hails from the Himalayan Mountains, said she had recently been handed a matriarchal family tree going back nine generations, which is unusual, as patriarchal family trees are more common. She said that this had given her a distinct feeling of where her inner strength as a woman came from. She added later in the discussion that she had always been part of a family of four living generations and that being part of that had also helped hone her identity as a strong woman.

“We’re told Indian women are shy,” she said. “We’re not… I’m very religious and I always identified with the bad-tempered Indian goddess.” She added that she liked the mantra, ‘fear nothing’.

For Northern Irish writer, Lucy Caldwell, highlighting foremothers, particularly in the writing world, is incredibly important. Having been involved with two all-Irish female author anthologies in recent years – The Long Gaze Back and The Glass Shore – she said that she considered those part of her history. She added that her mum had always taken her to the library as a child and was another influential woman in her life. Becoming a mother herself had further helped to shape her writing.

“The thing that changed my writing life was having children,” she said. “It gave me a new fearlessness. I didn’t care what anyone thought about my writing anymore.”

For Bee Rowlatt, Mary Wollstonecraft – described as ‘the first celebrity feminist’ – has been an incredibly influential foremother and she spoke passionately about her during the discussion. Discovering Wollstonecraft’s story as a literature student, Rowlatt subsequently travelled the world with her baby son, mirroring Wollstonecraft’s own voyage back in the day and writing about the experience in her travel book, In Search of Mary.

“Mary Wollstonecraft went on a voyage – a treasure hunt – with her 11-month-old baby,” she said. “She wrote a bestseller along the way. I decided I would try this too…

“Everywhere I look in history it’s the women’s voices, the women who are vectors of information. They know what’s going on and you ignore that at your peril.”

The event closed with a Q&A from the audience, which saw some further discussion on the importance of recording women in history.

Gokhale had earlier urged everyone to “reach out to the older people in your lives and record.” She added: “It’s the lack of records in women’s lives which makes it more important to research them.”

Comments Off on Foremothers: Women and Freedom

Filed under Books, Musings on writing

Patrick Gale and David Park

A few of my blogs from this year’s inaugural Jaipur Literature Festival in Belfast and Bellagy have now been published on the JLF website (see my previous blog post here for more details on this), but there’s a few from the Saturday which haven’t appeared, so I’ve decided to post them on my own blog in the meantime, starting with the first event I attended below. 🙂

Places Called Home

Patrick Gale and David Park in conversation with Elaine CanningDaviv Park1

Family is at the heart of the most recent novels by British writer, Patrick Gale (Take Nothing with You) and Belfast author, David Park (Travelling in a Strange Land). It was subsequently very much at the core of this event, facilitated by Elaine Canning at the Lyric Theatre.

With both writers brought up in very religious households, they agreed that this was something which had seeped into their work.

Park, whose upbringing was in the Baptist faith, said the first stories he ever heard were from the Bible. “The language of the Bible became cloaked around my brain,” he said.

Gale also had a “very religious upbringing.” Indeed, his father was the son and grandson of a priest and may have become one himself, said Gale, had he not married Patrick’s mother…

The event was interspersed with readings from both authors, including both their non-fiction and fiction.

David Park Me

With David Park

“When you write about yourself and your family, as Patrick has revealed, there are pain moments,” said Park. One of those ‘pain moments’ for Park was in writing about an instance at Primary School, when he told the class his father was a bread server, as he felt shame in saying ‘labourer’.

Both Park’s and Gale’s novels ultimately focus on the dynamics of family relationships and belonging. “What you’re doing is writing about interesting failures,” said Gale.

In Gale’s novel, his protagonist, Eustace, reflects on his youth while receiving treatment in hospital. His parents are going through a rocky patch and Eustace, who is dealing with the business of growing up and discovering who he is, subsequently finds solace in music. “It brings him into contact with people who become substitute family,” said Gale.

A cellist himself, Gale added that the discipline of learning to play music has helped him as a writer. Park agreed that music was a big part of his own life. “Music, for me, is a constant all day long,” he said. “It calms and motivates me.”

As Canning pointed out, place also plays a huge role in both Park and Gale’s novels and not just place, but enclosed spaces. Indeed, Park’s story plays out in a car while Gale’s sees Eustace reflecting in a confined room during his treatment.

“There’s no such thing as the perfect family,” said Park. “My book is from the father’s perspective and about how to be a father, which is a difficult thing to know. It’s about a journey from Belfast to Sunderland.”

P Gale me

With Patrick Gale

“Both books illustrate the way we carry our families in our heads,” added Gale.

The novels also explore the idea of self-love and self-protection, said Canning, who also touched upon the function of music in both narratives. The cello and classical music is integral to Eustace, said Gale, while for Park’s story, pop music takes precedence.

The event itself finished on a musical note, with Gale reading an extract about music from his novel, followed by an audience Q&A. During this, Gale was asked what book of his own he would recommend a young person to read with regards to understanding their sexuality, as he speaks a lot in schools and is often asked the same. He said Friendly Fire was what he would advise and added that it was loosely based on his own upbringing.

The final word of the day went to Park, who was asked if things had to happen in real life to be able to write about them, or of imagination was enough.Patrick Gale book

“Everything you need is in the world of the imagination,” he said. “It’s the richest gift humans have.”

Comments Off on Patrick Gale and David Park

Filed under Books, Musings on writing

Author visit…

So, this week’s blog post is coming to you a little later on a rather blustery Sunday evening as I’ve just finished going over the final copy-edited manuscript of Magical Masquerade! (I say final, but we’ll not speak too soon…)

Anyway, it feels good to have that done as it’s getting closer to the time when I discover the joys of formatting and get to send off for my proof copies!

img_2281

With Principal Anne Crossett and the P5-P7 pupils of Kilross Primary

 

In the meantime, book proof or no book proof, I’ve already enjoyed my very first school visit as an author and I do say enjoy, because I found it really fun. On Friday I visited Kilross Primary School just outside the village of Tobermore, where I spent the afternoon with pupils in the P5 – P7 classes. They had prepared lots of questions for me and also came up with a good few on-the-spot ones as well, which was great.

img_0954I explained about the writing process and even got to act as teacher for a while, using the whiteboard to explain basic story structure and character profiles.

The kids then had a go at creating their own character and the beginning of a story, and I gave out a couple of notebooks and pens to the top two. Hopefully it will inspire them to keep writing! My attempts at homemade bookmarks for Magical Masquerade also seemed to go down well and each pupil got one of those to take away. The blow-up cover I’d printed off for them to see also seemed to go down well… Oh, and I read a couple of extracts from MM as well.

Next time, they’ll get a copy of the book for their school library. 🙂img_0964

This week I’ve also been working on another promo element for the book, which I’ll be sharing with you soon, so that’s something else to look forward too…

Meanwhile, aside from working on my own book, I’ve also acquired a fair few new books for my TBR, thanks to getting some vouchers for birthday and discovering a great book-tuber called Piera Forde, whose recommended reads are now (mostly) piled up in my living room.

I’ve also ordered my very first FairyLoot YA fantasy-fiction-themed subscription box, which will arrive in March and will contain a new release HB book along with a lot of bookish goodies. It also happens to be their one-year anniversary box, so is going to be that little bit extra-special. Can’t wait for this to arrive!img_0925

Going back to MM, I’m really very happy about all the lovely comments I’ve had since last week, when I shared the cover for Magical Masquerade, so thank you everyone for that. Although the countdown to actually getting my hands on a physical book is now closer than ever, I still won’t actually believe it until I see it. On that, however, I’ll definitely keep you posted. 🙂

Comments Off on Author visit…

Filed under Self-publishing

Magical Masquerade

ink-316909_1280So … it’s the start of a new year and I’m happy to report that, aside from taking a few days off over Christmas to celebrate the season, I spent most of my time editing The Book. What’s more, my winter whittling shaved off a further 16,000 or so words from that, which I consider a definite result.

My book is aimed at what would be termed middle-grade readers, and is a fantasy story which, my research shows, provides more scope for length. Fantasy novels for any age just tend to be that bit longer, what with all the world-building and so on, so I think I’m on track, though there’s still time for more snipping before publication if needs be. My beta readers also said that when reading a fantasy book, they preferred something chunkier, which signified a story they could really get stuck into. So, we’ll see.

Introductions, please…. 

Before I go any further however, I thought I’d share something which probably should have been shared a little while ago now. Yes, that’s right – it’s maybe time now for a title??

In truth, my title has been in place more or less since I started hand-writing The Book quite a few years ago. It did undergo a complete revision at one stage, but I ended up reverting back to the original because I just felt it fitted what the story is all about and well, because I’m also an alliteration addict….

I’m still holding back on sharing the cover, as I need to get a further wee thing added onto that and would rather it was in its final form before I make it public (maybe I’m being precious about this but that’s just how I want to do it! Also, if any of you good people subsequently feel inclined to share it when I do put it’ out there’ [here’s hoping!], then at least the right version will be floating about the internet.)

Anyway, I hope I haven’t built this up too much, and if you’re an eagle-eyed sort of a person, then you’ll know the title already, as it’s also the title of this week’s blog post. Yep, you’ve guessed it. My book is called:

Magical Masquerade

I hope you like it.

If you don’t, then apologies, but that’s what it is. 🙂

fullsizerender-13

CreateSpace

Back to the business of book-making…. I’ve been re-reading my self-publishing manual over the holidays and New Year (which is Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard, for those of you who are interested), and it’s been great. Again. Although there’s A LOT of work to be done in formatting the e-book and POD (print on demand) paperback once the manuscript is good to go, knowing what the things are that need to be done is better than not knowing (or forgetting), which just makes the process seem scary and impossible all over again.

So, thank you again Catherine for (A) blogging about all this stuff in the first place and (B) self-publishing a pretty cool book about it.

One thing I did forget though, was that Self-Printed isn’t written in the order that you’ll necessarily be doing things (which Catherine does make clear at the start). So, there’s some stuff in the final section for example, which is all about selling SP books, which you need to be aware of early on, as you’ve got to get certain things in place re promo etc., rather than waiting until the book is live on Amazon. This is why I read the book last year, but I forget things, hence the re-reads…

That said, I think I’m pretty much on track with most of the prep work, though much still needs to be done. I’m someone who likes to have lists and lists and yet more lists when doing pretty much anything in life – it’s just ordering them into a chronology that will ensure everything happens in a timely fashion which sometimes complicates things!

For example, while I’m going to wait until the finished book is uploaded to CreateSpace and I can order proof copies for myself and hopefully, some reviewers, if I want to get a quote for the cover, then an ARC (advanced reader copy) would be ideal. The book still needs to be in a near-final form to do this, however, so one has to think ahead for that. Have I got someone who’s actually agreed to do this…? Stay tuned my friends, and I’ll keep you updated. 🙂

The copy-edit

clockAs we speak, Magical Masquerade is back in the inbox of my editor, who will be working on the final copy-edit throughout January. After that I will take a couple of weeks to work through her feedback again and make the required changes. Then, once I’m happy the book is worthy of publication (!) I will format and upload the e-book and paperback interiors (and order my proof paperbacks), wait up to a week for these to be approved and then wait a further week or two for my proofs to arrive in the post.

After that, I’ll be happily spending a few more weeks poring over the paperback and once that’s finally cleared for publication, I’ll hopefully get, at last, to hit that ‘approve proof’ button on CreateSpace and release it into the world. (Though it’ll then still take a week or two to actually appear on the Amazon site).

This is the timeline, and I’m aiming for an April release of Magical Masquerade, BUT, I know plans are all very well, but things don’t often go to plan. The holidays are over and I’ve still got a copywriting business to run, while there’s bound to be some sort of hiccup when it comes to formatting the different book versions. (I just know there will be – I’m not a technical whizz!)

However, I do now actually have a CreateSpace account and have filled out my tax details and completed the required tax questionnaire for that. I’ve also got my trim size confirmed (i.e. the size of the paperback) and have downloaded my interior files template (which I’ll copy my manuscript text onto for formatting later), so it’s all getting more real by the second.

Oh – and I now have an ISBN, so it’s official. The Book is really real. 😉

What’s next?Q

Good question. A lot of stuff, but I’ll need to consult my ever-lengthening list and get back to you on that one. More details are definitely coming soon about my self-publishing journey though and … perhaps also a little snippet about the official launch? Well, maybe, maybe not. Suffice it to say, there will definitely be a launch, but details are under wraps for the moment, though discussions are ongoing, so I’ll share about that when I can!

In short story news, The Ghastling journal should be out this month, so I’ll post a pic of that when I have it. (I’ve got a story in it, in case you didn’t read my last post).

That’s all for now!

Comments Off on Magical Masquerade

Filed under Self-publishing, Uncategorized

Winter whittling….

A sculptor whittles away at a piece of stone, gradually shaping it into something that resembles a form we will recognise. So too does the storyteller shape words, working away at refining swathes of text to create something that’s sharper, clearer and more interesting than what they initially started out with.

Tree of booksAs the day job has slowed down a little over December and Christmas approaches, I’ve been squirreled away doing just this – shaping my story one last time to get it into a form that I’m happy to publish. At the point that I sent it to my editor, I wasn’t sure what else could be cut, as I’d worked on it so many times before.

However, since getting her feedback, I’ve already managed to chop a further 13,000 words from it – and we’re not just talking about cutting scenes solely for the sake of lowering the word count. I’ve actually been adding in words with the rewrites, while removing those scenes that I’ve realised now don’t really move the story along. I’ve reworked parts of the story and clarified some plot points and … it’s all coming together rather nicely I think (well, I hope!).

I’ve got just a few more chapters left to go through, before I print the book off once again for a hard copy read-through after Christmas. All will be finished tomorrow, so I can have a few days (or a week) away from it, before that happens. Then it will be sent back to Emma for the final copy-edit as I read up again on what to do next!

While she’s copy-editing, I’ll therefore be setting up my CreateSpace account, learning about formatting POD (print on demand) paperbacks, and ebooks, and doing all sorts of other preparatory work that needs to be done before the book is out.

In the meantime, my book cover is now signed off, but I’m going to wait until the New Year before I start sharing that… I don’t want to be too early in getting it out there and I imagine it would be lost amongst the flurry that is the festive season anyway. I’ve already got an invitation to do a reading at a local primary school, which is great, and I’ve got a few other bits of good news which I hope to share in the near future too…christmas-tree

Aside from all that, I’ll be looking forward to getting a copy of The Ghastling journal in January, as one of my short stories has been accepted for publication in this. What better way to start off the new year? Here’s hoping the rest of 2017 is similarly positive in bookish-related matters…

Anyway… Happy Christmas fellow writers, readers and bloggers. I hope you have a lovely holiday and we’ll pick up again in the New Year! 🙂

1 Comment

Filed under Self-publishing

The world is a story…

Today is World Storytelling Day – a day which celebrates the art of oral storytelling and which this year, focuses on the theme of water.photo 5

Stories saturate every part of our lives, whether we’re fully aware of it or not. We use them when we’re relaying accounts of our day; we find them in advertising and in the news. They come to us in thoughts, in oral form, in the written word and in pictures. Stories are powerful because they connect us with one another and they make things personal.

We ‘buy into’ commercial stories because they hook into our emotions – we buy the vision of the brand above what they’re actually selling. That’s the power of storytelling.

Books can leave us emotionally drained, exultant, bewildered and more, depending on what you’re reading. They can challenge our perceptions and open up new worlds and belief systems to us.boy-1262989_1280

Oral storytelling engages us in an ancient and still thriving way of sharing stories. The storyteller may use different voices for characters; they set the scene with the tone of their voice, through dramatic pauses and energetic or quiet speech. Telling stories aloud isn’t just for the kids!

Stories have been around for longer than we can remember and will always play a central role in our lives. On World Storytelling Day, why not have a think about what stories mean to you, or try to remember a story that’s really stayed with you over the years. It just might surprise you what comes to mind…

Comments Off on The world is a story…

Filed under Musings on writing

The power of storytelling…

“The first duty of a storyteller is to tell a story… That’s what I do, tell stories.”

This is a line from a superb play I saw at The Lyric Theatre in Belfast at the weekend called The Pillowman. Written by the critically acclaimed playwright, screenwriter and film director, Martin McDonagh, the play explores the power of words – of storytelling – through a mediocre writer who’s been hauled in for questioning by a policeman and a detective with a penchant for shooting writers. The story is set against the backdrop of a totalitarian dictatorship, where to be different or to speak your mind – to have a voice – is dangerous.

PILLOWMANOur writer – Katurian – admittedly isn’t one of ‘the greats’, and he claims only to want to tell stories, not to create symbolic art, but as the play progresses, we see just how loaded his words really are.

Without giving anything away to those who haven’t seen the play, Katurian is arrested because his stories – tales which mostly depict the gruesome deaths of little children – have seemingly started to happen for real. He doesn’t understand it, and we go on a journey with him as the story unravels and we discover the truth behind the grisly goings-on.

Essentially, The Pillowman explores the potency of stories – how they can inspire people to good; others to bad. They have a weight, a depth that can resonate long after they’ve been read, and they can be interpreted in many different ways.chalkboard-620316_1280

In my opinion, this is a great play that’s layered with myriad themes and overtures. There’s lots to think about – both in terms of the play itself, the stories created by the fictional writer in the play and also how our upbringing can affect us adults. And that’s before you even begin to peel away the 1984-type world the play is set in.

It brings to mind a book I love, and must re-read –  The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Bulgakov, who lived under the Stalin regime and indeed, initially enjoyed a level of approval from Stalin for his work, later saw his stories and plays banned, as critics condemned him and censorship won out. His fantastical tales, which critiqued Soviet society as he saw it and experienced it, lived on however, finally being published after his death.

Freedom of speech – of thought – is always at risk and should always be protected. The Pillowman, and stories like it, reminds us of this, and of the inherent power that the written word can have.

 

 

Comments Off on The power of storytelling…

Filed under Uncategorized