Friday, 2 August 2013

Return to Penzance or How to Write a Novel in a Chicken Shed

I returned. Another book, another festival. Some of you might remember a certain impoverished author doing a ten-hour bus trip from London to Cornwall with a purple hat and a stash of bookmarks. A certain author who didn't knock over the water jug or uncross her legs on the stage while she rattled on about her book. A certain author who ran into a fully embellished Johnny Depp/Keith Richards in the street and garbled, Are you a pirate?

It was glorious. Okay the bus trip was punishing but the weather - constant topic of conversation on this fair isle - was glorious. Oh yes, and the Penzance Literary Festival was even bigger and more stimulating than last year, with almost a hundred events spread over the windswept hilly town.

Though I missed the first two days (and the opening talk with sassy Damian Barr!) I did see Festival Patron Patrick Gale interview the somewhat haunting Sally Vickers and, like last year, heard the luminous Bookshop Band - this time from up in the stalls with a pint of Cornish Bitter. There were events for all: poetry readings, books inspired by local history, workshops for writers, sessions on crime, poetry, romance, publishing. I particularly enjoyed Kari Herbert's talk about her book 'Polar Wives', being quite an explorer-freak (reared on tales of the European explorers who ventured into harsh central Australia). Kari's tales of the wives-left-behind were fascinating and I could have stayed listening for hours.

I also loved the sub-tropical Morrab Gardens gracefully lain out in the middle of town. I wandered through these each day as I headed up to the Acorn Theatre. Picture an empty bandstand, brilliant sky and seagulls wheeling low, sun-dappled grass and luscious tropical bushes draped over paths.

On Sunday our event took place downstairs at the Acorn, where fellow Indigo Dreams author Alison Lock and I spoke about our new short story collections. We both put on our best dresses and lippy and found ourselves in front of a red velvet curtain and a small, warm crowd. Alison was at Penzance last year with her poetry collection 'A Slither of Air'. And we all know that I was interviewed by Sarah Duncan about 'The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy'... and ended up talking about whether a racy book reflects a racy life (well, does it?), and how-to-write-a-novel-in-a-chicken-shed.

Drinking writers!
This time Alison and I spoke about 'Changing Genre and Working with a Small Publisher'. Although my collection 'Pelt and Other Stories' is out this autumn, Alison's book 'Above the Parapet' came out in April. We had a great old time interviewing each other and attempting to sound serious. Alison read an excerpt of one of her prize-winning stories, and I stumbled through my title story 'Pelt', which I may paste below.

A wonderful few days of beer by the sea, literary thoughts and meetings, briny air and rather oversized seagulls. They don't eat writers, do they?

PELT
Rolfe triggers is. In the way that is the way of all men. In his case a type of athletic bragging ruined by the self-defeat he hangs his hat on. I feel a plock and, with his surprised, involuntary retreat my waters come splashing out, gay and heralding, whereby he bounds back to inspect the folds of his manhood.

The Bookmark!
My obroni baby will come this day. I roll onto my back and raise my knees in sweet excitement, the baby nestling back even though her head is plugged within my pelvis. Soon after Rolfe is agitating with a towel, peering cautiously at my dark opening. No action there, I laugh. He looks perplexed. Despite his thirty-nine years Rolfe is unfamiliar with the mulch of his own body. A fever sends him into studied ecstasy. The tumble worm in his butt, whose head and long wrinkled body I inch into the light, is repellent and edifying.

At the apex of his growth curve I suspect I must place myself. This is the man who continues to daub his hands on my sheeny back and breasts. He told me that in Ethiopia, his last posting, they call girls like me 'slaves' because of our broad noses and skin a shadow cannot cross.

This is Rolfe's first child. His wife Karina was barren. I have led Rolfe to believe that this is my first although I had two others before. They are at the village and I send them money. The midwife will no doubt perceive all of this.


12 comments:

  1. Looking very glam in that photo Cat!

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    1. It's a beautiful dress. I just had to wear it. Hoping to run into you next time !

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  2. Oh, Cat... The places you go...

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    1. Down the garden path. Along the promenade. I even saw 'Behind the Candelabra' with Matt Damon and Michael Douglas in Mayfair and loved it!

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  3. Ahhhh... the Penzance Literary Fesitival sounds sooooo good. And you look fantastically glam, woman! I like. A lot. Wish I'd been there to hear your talk.
    Let me know when Pelt is out. I absolutely want to read the stories. So much promise in that little extract, Cat.
    You've made coming home easier. Write more! Post more! I need the sustenance of your blog. Yx

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    1. Oh Yvonne! Pelt is out next month and this writer should be at home freaking out instead of sea swimming and drinking Corsican beer. I'd love to know what you think of the stories. I confess I'm so excited I can hardly sleep!

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  4. Next time I get to Italy, we'll skip Venice and spend a month hitting all of Europe. Better start readying our livers now...

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    1. Just say the word, Sherry. I think you could make a new project of this. 53 bars/pubs in Europe? 530 bars/pubs in Europe? I'll start taking notes.

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  5. You have an amazing and interesting life full of variety. I fantasize about your life when I read your posts

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    1. Oh but Lyn I also wash lots of dishes, taxi my kids (yell at them too), spend half my life in the supermarket, mop the floor and feed dogs and cats! Luckily, I'm really happy at home - but if if there's a book to be flogged I'm on the next cheap flight!

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