Category Archives: Blog

Reading Another Angela

I admit I took on the editing of Elizabeth Ruth Obbard’s forthcoming book READING THE BOOK OF LIFE (New City Press) partly from curiosity because I share a name with the subject.

I was named after Angela Merici, a pioneer of the education of women but the subject of this biographical sketch and selection of documents is another Italian Angela, from Foligno, halfway between Assisi and Spoleto.

Her husband, sons and mother died within a short time, probably of the plague. Brutally shorn of these intimate ties she re-invented herself with determination and courage.

She could neither read nor write so it’s from dictated accounts that we gather what a striking trust she had in her own experience. She felt and perceived acutely. Her inner eye was sharp. We hear the voice of a woman from the thirteenth century, robust and passionate, constantly open to fresh perspectives.

I have a fondness for personal writings from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, particularly the letters of Jordan of Saxony which typify the immediacy of someone expressing the inner life in the context of the multifarious tasks and surprises of the daily round. Jordan writes of his visit to “the new university at Oxford” in 1230. He’d walked there across Europe.

So much that, to us, is ancient was, to people of these centuries, innovative and untried. They are far from us and yet, in many important ways, close, particularly when writing about their emotions. And they knew how to love – boldly. Philip Larkin was right about what survives of us.

Seeing Further: Short Stories ‘Collected’ via a Bursary

Back in June I had A Bursary and a Strategy for my ambitions to write a Short Story Collection with the help of a Literature Wales Writer’s Bursary.

In August I did an interim account: Highlights So Far

Today I’ve sent in my End of Bursary report.

How well has the plan worked? I’ve achieved my aim of producing a Short Story Collection set in Wales, Ireland and Italy. Thank you to everyone who helped me – and there are many.

A View Obscured

My bid for the Bursary outlined my desire to write about the legacy that violence, of any kind, leaves below the surface of our lives. Beneath the ostensible scars,  this hidden energy pushes choices in the present. Confronting it, or harnessing it, is a life’s work.

The final tally is 24 stories (about 49,000 words) chosen from my roster by literary editor, Gwen Lloyd Davies New Welsh Review. She has arranged them in a publication order.

This is the part of the overview Gwen offers of the Collection:

In these stories, many bearing witness to violence, injustice and cruelty, people face challenges to their vocation, their values, their sense of belonging, their art or their faith. These include a gay priest, an estranged husband, an actress adrift and a young woman catching the tail-end of a scene of heartless urban violence. Many of these characters, like Northern Ireland itself, have ‘A talent for endurance, a sardonic patience, and a reverence for suffering as an act of war.’

A View from my late Father’s childhood home in Belfast

I decided early that, rather than approaching publishers directly, I would find an agent because this collection is  a major step in a productive, and durable, writing career.

I’ve been researching agencies and individual agents to work out who might be a good fit for me and my work. I’ve got a little list!

I’m taking time to develop an approach to agents which I hope will provide all they need to assess what I’m offering now and in the future.

I’ll be spending most of September in Berlin on a writing project where I also intend to re-visit Ora, a café / cocktail bar where I had the best Gimlet ever in the dark days of January #writerslife!

The brilliant ORA bar in Oranienplatz, Berlin

I hope to spend much of November in Belfast researching for a novel (not so many cocktails). That leaves December for Beddau, Bala or Banwen!

I’ve had a very positive experience of the Literature Wales Writers’ Bursaries scheme and I’ve enjoyed my contact with the Northern Irish counterpart, Arts Council of Northern Ireland whose site hosts one of my Bursary blogs.

Writer’s Bursary: Highlights so far

I have a fortnight left of my Literature Wales Bursary.  I began it with a strategy. So how have I got on? I will be mentioning pleasure a lot.

Some highlights:
• Working with an editor
• Shaping  a Short Story Collection
• Being read
• Funding the work
• Moving to publication

‘I am nervous/excited but…’ Tag from a previous student, Ty Newydd

Working with an editor
It has been a pleasure to work with Gwen Lloyd Davies, editor of the New Welsh Review. She has looked at 30 stories and responded to them in three main ways:
• Calibre
• Proof-reading and formatting
• Shaping a Collection

I stuck to a timetable for revisions and we made good use of the postal service. I found that Gwen’s astute, brief remarks were enough to let me re-think and re-craft. I liked this business-like approach. I currently have 24 stories, about 50,000 words.

Shaping a Collection
Another pleasure has been standing back from my stories and seeing how they can be ordered with the reader’s pleasure in mind. So, themes and tone have been important and I have enjoyed seeing how Gwen took care over placing stories to offer variety in the reading experience and how some stories were now in, now out, depending on how improvements over various drafts moved stories up or down the quality ladder.

Words flowering: Ty Newydd

At the last minute, when Gwen had already formed a publishing order, I polished up a lot of material that I offered her (don’t know where I got the energy all of a sudden) and, as a result, some established stories were replaced by newer material. Maybe I’m getting into my creative swing!

That sense of a body of work forming, rather than a bag of disparate items, has been fun to experience. The interplay of Wales, Ireland and Italy among the stories has been intriguing to manage.

Gwen has helped me see what it is I have been doing in my writing, concretising what was, for me, instinctive. Her blurb for the collection ends :

With a virtuoso control of tone, in turns elegiac, comic, lyrical and philosophical, this collection explores conflicts between political allegiances; between autonomy and intimacy; emotional display and concealment; resistance versus acceptance. It examines power of all types, not least that which allows us, when necessary, to resist desire itself.

Being Read
The presentation evening for my win at the Bridgend Writers’ Circle Short Story Competition in June introduced me a little more into the serious practice of engaging with writing because the members clearly had so much experience with a sustained practice of regular work.

The adjudicator, novelist Laura Foakes was kind enough to suggest that it can be helpful to have a critical reader for drafts and she offered to read something for me. She has been enormously generous in commenting on several stories and in giving me insights into the business of publication. We all need colleagues in a working life. I’ve been used to tv production which is very much a collaborative enterprise and writing can be more solitary so the support of fellow writers is precious.

The intriguingly named Capel Ruhamah ‘she who gained mercy’ Bridgend

My creative friends,  author Phil Cope and Poet/Solicitor, Julian Cason have been patient readers too.

Competitions, I now realise, also introduce one to readers so I have invested time in entering some.

Funding the Work
I want to write a novel and that will take research and travel. I have applied to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (open till 24th August) for a grant towards that. I also need to make a financial plan to pull in resources from my existing skills.

Moving to Publication
Literature Wales has a Mentoring Scheme for new and emerging writers (open till 16th August) to which I’ve applied because I am still learning the ropes in this field.

Entrance to National writing Centre, Ty Newydd

I did the Tŷ Newydd Writing A Novel course in June and that improved my confidence in the appeal and sales potential  of my work.

In my final two weeks I will begin the search for an agent. I wonder if that will be fun too.

 

1st Prize Bridgend Open Short Story Competition 2017

It is such an encouragement to win this competition. Adjudicator, Laura Foakes said of my story, Acting Abby:

This multi-layered story stayed with me long after each reading, which is always a sign of a job well done. The author conveyed her understanding of the vagaries of the human condition in a profound but unsentimental way. The wistful first-person narration drew me immediately into the story and the “voice” was strong.

I particularly liked the device of using a stage play as a metaphor for the judgements people/audiences make, and the eventual unfolding of the “choice” the narrator made. The author invites us to judge at our peril. This is a very accomplished and thought provoking piece of work.

The competition is run annually by the Bridgend Writers’ Circle  whose members meet monthly at Carnegie House in the town centre. I was struck by their dedication to the craft of writing and realise I have a lot to learn about the network of writers, writers’ groups and competitions in the UK.

The experience of reading my story aloud was valuable because I  experienced it in a new way. It’s something I’ll do more of, during the writing process,  to give myself some useful perspective on the work.

Linda Jones receives second prize: L/R Janine Enos, Competition Co-ordinator; Linda Jones; Laura Foakes, Adjudicator; Alex Marshall, Chairman

I couldn’t have been made more welcome and novelist Laura Foakes has kindly read a story currently in draft and offered me valuable comments.

And, as a bonus, I got to see Bridgend’s War Memorial (I gravitate towards those!). A strikingly sensual Britannia.

Bridgend’s Britannia War Memorial 1921

Artistry & Poetry on the Jamie Owen Show

I first worked in radio for the BBC in Wales in 1981. I’m still learning. On the 2nd July 2017 on the Jamie Owen Show I learned: always have your opening prepared, no matter how informal the programme.  The right blend of spontaneity and clarity flows more easily after that.

This show mixes recorded music, live performance, two guest commentators and two interviewees. The brief is weird and wonderful angles on the week’s news so, along with fellow commentator, comedian, Frank Honeybone, I enjoyed sharing some ‘couldn’t-make-it-up’ stories with listeners.

Sarah Brown

Continue reading Artistry & Poetry on the Jamie Owen Show

Media Students from Michigan State University in Cardiff

The Media Studies students of Michigan State University once again impressed me with their appetite for encountering the cultures of the British Isles. The university organises an impressive visit every summer for about 20 students on a variety of media-related degree courses. I’ve given them a class on documentary for the last 7 years with the kind collaboration of Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. Continue reading Media Students from Michigan State University in Cardiff

A Bursary and a Strategy

Angela Graham, a Welsh-speaking TV Producer from Northern Ireland, was awarded a Literature Wales Writers’ Bursary 2017 to complete a collection of short stories. She describes getting to grips with the business side of writing. This blog appeared first on the Literature Wales website http://www.literaturewales.org/lw-blog/bursary-strategy-angela-graham/

Even before I knew I’d been awarded a Literature Wales Bursary I’d decided I would commit to writing as soon as a major work project finished on the 29th April. When the Bursaries were announced on the 30th I’d already booked myself a fortnight of relative solitude in Strangford, Northern Ireland. The encouragement of the Bursary was a real boost for this period.

The ferry at Strangford

Continue reading A Bursary and a Strategy

South American Short Stories – Fiction Fiesta

Ignorance prevents me having an opinion on The Latin American Short Story  but after hearing Juan Villoro (Mexico) and Andrés Neuman (Argentina) speak on that topic on May 31st I am keen to start forming one by reading their work and that of other writers they mentioned. What engaging, perceptive and generous speakers they were. Continue reading South American Short Stories – Fiction Fiesta

Inclusivity in Film – Launchpad:Access

I really enjoyed Launchpad:Access held in Cardiff on 13th May. Organised by Ffilm Cymru Wales in partnership with Hijinx Theatre, CULT Cymru, Disability Arts, Diverse Cymru and Equity, it aimed to get more deaf and disabled people represented in, and working on, film, both on screen and behind the camera. Many of the principles and insights presented would apply across media. I attended in order to improve my understanding of the experience of deaf and disabled people working in film and how I might, as a writer and tv producer, respond more creatively to that. Continue reading Inclusivity in Film – Launchpad:Access