By Rebekah Latin-Rawstrone
Every term the City Writes event brings a sense of excitement at the prospect of listening to fantastic writers and alumni both new and established. This term was no different and remarkably, this Spring City Writes marked six years of the event. What a celebration of that landmark this event was, really showcasing the excellent writing coming out of the short courses here at City.
We began with City Writes veteran and fantasy writer, Adam Zunker. An alumnus of An Approach to Creative Writing and Writers’ Workshop, Adam read an extract from his novel-in-progress, The Perfectation, (loosely) based on the experiences of his Viennese grandmother as a refugee. He is pitching it as ‘Amadeus, but with alchemists’ and we were lucky enough to hear a moment of drama as one woman and her daughter, long in hiding, were captured but not by those they were expecting. The audience was left on tenterhooks wondering quite what this moment would bring for the characters. Bring on the rest of the book!
Next we took a completely different turn. Though staying with fiction inspired by real life, Angel Witney, alumna of Novel Writing and Longer Works, took us into the waiting room as her character played ‘a never-ending game of tag with the present moment’, time bending out of proportion and distorting her sense of wellbeing. Her extract ‘The Waiting Room’ was an excruciating but eloquent account of how our minds can alter reality, whetting our appetites for more of this work-in-progress.
Grayson Anderson, Novel Studio graduate, author and poet (and another City Writes alumnus!), read for us next, taking us into the passionate and dangerous world of the extra-marital affair. Fast-paced and filled with deftly observed detail and dialogue, Grayson brought the initial fall out of an affair’s discovery to brilliant and gritty light. We can’t wait to find out more about ‘Wayne’s Night Out’, another extract from a longer piece the audience couldn’t wait to read.
Moving from one kind of love to another, we journeyed down nostalgia lane with Narrative Non-Fiction alumnus, Bruce O’Brien, next. Bruce’s story ‘The Eels of Wrath’ mixed memory, narrative and poetry to moving effect, giving us an account of an old couple who used to live in the East End of London. There were some definite signs of eyes being wiped in the Zoom windows of our audience. We hope to hear more of these stories soon.
From fiction to elegant non-fiction, we slipped into a different kind of elegy with Philipp Sandmann, another Narrative Non-Fiction alumnus, who read his article, ‘Germans No Longer Score Penalties and That’s a Problem Or: Why the Only Thing We’ve Got Left is Bloody Great bBread…’. There were so many comments in the chat through this piece, mostly worrying that Germany couldn’t really have similar problems to our own! Philipp joined us from Berlin and is busy working on a book for a UK audience about the modern German soul and the myth of German efficiency. Judging by the City Writes reception, he has a very ready audience waiting to read it.
Aaron Payne, a Writer’s Workshop alumnus, read for us next. Aaron gave us an extract from his novel-in-progress, Our Man in the Clouds, in which a disgruntled meteorologist tries, but fails, to stay out of the global tussle for climate control. His extract took us to a remembered journey to Provence in 2015 when the narrator and his colleague, Siobhan, visited Professor Merryweather to discuss the possibility of setting up a climate school. More about the sexual encounter between Tony and Siobhan than the disastrous visit with the Merryweathers, the extract had us hooked. Another novel to look out for.
After these fantastic competition winners, we had the joy of listening to Hannah Begbie read from the opening of her second, prize-winning novel, Blurred Lines (HarperCollins, 2020), which tackles the film industry’s darker truths and the difficulties of speaking out in a pre MeToo era. We followed Becky as she attempted to impress her boss with a gift of some expensive wine before a trip to Cannes. Once at his house, having always been encouraged just to come on in through the open door, she witnessed something she wished she hadn’t. Thankfully, this time, audience members could go right out and buy the novel to find out what happened next. You can do the same here!
Alumna of the Novel Studio, Hannah was very generous in her answers to questions and particularly eloquent on the importance of writing from the heart. She shared writing tips, emphasised the importance of maintaining your writing allies, and gave a sneaky insight into her next novel.
You can hear the whole City Writes event and listen to the full Q&A with Hannah Begbie, by watching the video of the event HERE.
Don’t forget to look out for details of next term’s City Writes event and competition. Our guest writer next term will be the wonderful, Emma Grae whose debut novel, Be Guid tae yer Mammy (Unbound, 2021), won the Scots Book of the Year 2022.