Archive for the ‘short stories’ Category

Q for stories. October 7th at Mylor Theatre, in Truro College, starting at 19:30. With an Arthur Quiller-Couch (Q) theme, recitations of original work and Q’s writing. To quote the HfC page on Q for Stories tickets and info (qv) :

Q

There are four good reasons to know about the ginger-haired, freckle-faced doctor’s son from Polperro, who had a taste for loud check waistcoats and jackets, and became known as ‘Q’. As Chairman of the Cornwall Education Committee (set up as a result of the 1902 Balfour Act) Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch was instrumental in the spread of state secondary education in Cornwall; something we take for granted today. He edited The Oxford Book of English Verse in 1923, and remains its best-known editor to this day. Q encouraged young writers including Daphne Du Maurier and was Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. Most importantly, he was himself a practising writer of verse, essays, short stories and novels, including the well known Troy Town.

20 writers who have come together for Q For Stories are all practising their art and to a greater or lesser extent involved in educating. They also share with Q a strong sense of place. Their combined credits include: Radio Four, Feature Film, The National Theatre, Hampton Court Palace, Kneehigh Theatre, Wildworks, just about every theatre and village hall in Cornwall, folk venues from here to Japan, and numerous publications (books and CDs). Seven of them will be recognisable from Scavel an Gow which toured stories through the length and breadth of Cornwall in the 90s. Six of them are Bards of the Cornish Gorsedh. Seven of them are musicians as well as storytellers. Five of them are writers from The Writing Squad Kernow, a county-wide programme for talented young writers.

They will be sharing not only their own work, but also the work of Charles Lee (believed by Q to be the greatest exponent of the Cornish dialect): Charles Causley; and Q himself. All of them are known widely in Cornwall … never before have they all shared the same stage at the same time!

They are: Anna Murphy, Amanda Harris, Mercedes Kemp, Simon Parker, Stephen Hall,  Paul Farmer; Dew Vardh (Bert Biscoe and Pol Hodge); Boiler House (a cappella group: Rick Williams, Grevis Williams, Stephen Hall, Dave May, and Luke Murray); Pete Berryman (guitarist); Pauline Sheppard; Simon Uren (actor); Will Coleman; and Writing Squad Kernow (5 students from Truro College).

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In January 2011, Abigail Wyatt set herself a challenge, attempting to keep writing 1 new short story a week, for the One Million Stories project during that year. Nine months later in September, this massively quixotic endeavour’s deadlines proved impractical to maintain in terms of quantity . . . but such was the quality of her weekly submissions that Simon Million of the project got in touch with Abigail and asked to publish a selection of them. The result is this volume.

Starting in ruled Britannia AD 61, the absorbing Old Soldiers, Old Bones‘ virtuoso quality continues: as if in proof that the past not only fades gradually but leaves tangible traces for us to trip over, about half of the 22 compactly written short stories dwell on history, or myth. All are riveting, many framed in crafty ways and with intriguing references to chase up.

From the quiet Greek tragedy of philosophy, at the command of a fellow seeker of truth, going up in atoms of smoke in The Laughing Philosopher’s Last Stand, through to the regressive medieval: Yesterday, Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a burst of the most surreal, fabulous and yet poignant fiction, which calls to mind the fate of Matthew Trewhella of Zennor – perhaps then, not the worst that could have befallen. In another tale of benighted incarceration, Al Claro de Luna recalls Abigail’s poems on a similar theme, for example Queen Juana Receives News of Summer Rain (which you can hear Abigail reading on Redruth Radio’s Do The Write Thing with Sue Farmer). The stream of time rolls ever on to the dying of light and ebbing of revolutionary tides in far Beijing (The Long March Home). After that, we have the long reach of Hollywood in The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance and then . . .

. . . if you enjoyed Dogma or, somewhat more poetically, Paradise Lost, and if the idea of angels going postal is still strangely appealing (it will not be so appealing after reading this, trust me), make sure you read Blue Monday. Less scary is the fable preceding, which channels Aphrodite and companion attempting to crash Will & Kate’s nuptials – perhaps a little less security would’ve been a good thing (we’ll see :-)). Poor Icarus I found a tricky tale to fathom: if you’re familiar with 20th century artists of landscape and war (such as Peter Lanyon of St Ives), and perhaps with one of Sartre’s more famous works, you’ll take away more from it than I did. I am nearly forgetting The Gecko’s Tale, which on its most obvious level alone makes an amusing and engaging study of industrial processes and relations – but I’m sure there’s more to it, which I failed to grasp.

Plain as daylight is Riding Goofy (in which no Disney® rights are infringed): the dialogue and outcome therein, between an embattled skateboarder at a Cornish secondary school and his conscientious teacher, outlines a thorny issue, which can be recognised as depressingly realistic and pressingly relevant. Staying in the present, and staying relevant, Audi Alteram Partem follows, where we hear another, chilling, side to the story of an eminent carer. As a short story collection, Old Soldiers, Old Bones &c. pays homage to the tradition of a cosy Christmas ghost story, before whipping back to the dystopian future with an X-Factor style mogul negotiating the return of trial-by-combat and gladius — for a fee, of course. The Voices of Sweet Reason in a retirement home send a shiver down the spine, for different reasons, but A Warm Day in May is a reminiscence of life for hard working Essex women in the middle of the last century. Thought provoking; as is The Worst Thing, in similar vein, of women’s life today, specifically as harmfully affected by their men. Lighter, but still with a message to ponder, For The Many Things I’ve Done is set in a guest house in Penzance – again a past projected into the present. Remember The Mess They Made and Three Ships are both set at the foot of a carn’s northern slopes – a scarred and still somewhat wild place where both the outcast and the unearthly sometimes make their home – the one is a tale of sadness and struggle, the other, in finale, a tale both mystic and apparently real, apotheosis-like, and affirming new hope.

Old Soldiers, Old Bones was published in 2012 by One Million Stories (OMSCWP).


Abigail Wyatt lives between Redruth and Camborne and close to the foot of Carne Brea. Formerly a teacher at Redruth School, she now writes poetry and short fiction which she is fortunate to have been able to place in a wide range of anthologies, journals and zines. Her latest collection of verse, ‘Moths and Nightjars‘, is currently available from Amazon for Kindle while ‘Old Soldiers, Old Bones and Other Stories‘, reviewed above, became available from One Million Stories on 22nd June, 2012. For more details, please visit www.millionstories.net.

Recently Abigail has appeared on Redruth Radio’s Do The Write Thing, broadcast on Friday afternoons.

Abigail will be reading, along with her fellow Red River Poets, at Penzance Litfest in late July.