Sunday, 1 September 2013

CHOICES, CHOICES by Penny Dolan - with additional information from Philip Caveney.

So, the first of September arrives. A time of positive planning for the months ahead but, oh, so many hard decisions!  Should one opt for last minute places at the autumn conferences, like the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) at York? 

Or keep a writerly nose strictly fixed on the screen and WIP - and just finish the damn story thing? 

After all, the Frankfurt Book Fair is looming and editors may be on the lookout, assuming you also fixed that matter of becoming an overnight celebrity. 

  Or should one rush for tickets to October’s book events, like the 40th Ilkley Literature Festival and more? 

If so, will you be hoping for deep literary understanding and inspiration? Or will you be watching for ways to improve one’s own possibly jaded performances? Such ice in the author’s heart! 

Or should one hold back on committing to October events in case the few schools still able and willing to fund author visits decide to contact you? Should you choose to eat or pay your bills, perhaps?

Then there’s that long-neglected website, needing the botox of attention. Or perhaps it is the moment to re-activate the half-forgotten blog? The one you began in the hope of rousing the nation – nay, the world! - into buying your books? Choices, choices, choices!

September is a month for wistfulness too. How swiftly the summer days - having arrived – seem to be over.

And with that, yet another chance for visiting the Edinburgh Festival in all its many forms. 

Was I, as Facebook suggested, the only person not attending?

 So there's a quick extra item today . Here, for those of you whose summer was mostly at a desk, not on some remote Scottish island or idling near Padstow - are one of our newest blogger’s responses to the Edinburgh Fringe 2013.

Philip Caveney on the Highs and Lows of the Fringe.

This was my third visit in a row to The Fringe and it’s always one of the year’s highlights. In 2011, I was there in my capacity as a writer, but this year, I went along as a punter along with my partner, Susan and my daughter, Grace. Thanks to the kindness of my friends, Sally and Gus, we were able to stay in a rather swish apartment on the Quarter Mile, a stone’s throw from some of the hottest events of the festival. If you’ve never visited the Festival, you really must make the effort to go. There’s a real buzz there, and those of you who enjoy celeb-spotting will have a field day. On this trip alone, we saw (and in some cases spoke to) Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, Rebecca Hall (actually staying in our apartment complex!) Nina Conte, Sandi Toksvig, Simon Amstell, Mark Little, Sean Hughes… and many more.

Our first visit this year was to see Stewart Lee at the Assembly Rooms, George Street, with his new show, Carpet Remnant World. We all love Lee’s work and we’d failed to get tickets for him the year before, so this was a must-see. (We were quite surprised to meet him actually handing out fliers as we went in!) I’m happy to report that he was as cerebral, analytical and vitriolic as ever, so we awarded him 5 stars.

(And no, this photo isn't Stewart Lee with Philip Caveney! One's a Plague Doctor. Ed.)

Next up was the National Theatre of Scotland’s musical, An Appointment With The Wicker Man (again at The Assembly, George Street). We’re all fans of the original film and though knowledge of it isn’t essential, it certainly helps! The show was, quite simply, hilarious, full of sly in-jokes and totally inappropriate dance routines. Another 5 star show!

As a Ray Bradbury fan of long standing, I was intrigued to pick up a flier for The Lonely One (Underbelly, Cowgate) an adaptation of a chapter from his novel Dandelion Wine. The company did a lovely job of interpreting the tale through spoken word and shadows and light, managing to perfectly capture the spirit of 1920’s Americana. On the downside, the cheek-by-jowl venue meant that we could hear another actor bellowing his lines in the adjoining theatre through some of The Lonely One’s quieter sections. 4 stars, nevertheless.

Another performer at the Assembly Rooms was Scottish poet Liz Lochead, who also turned out to be an engaging and charming performer. 4 stars.

As Heaton Moor residents, we had to see Punk Rock, by local author Simon Stephens at Space 1, and I’m glad we did, because this hard-hitting play set in a Stockport school was brilliantly performed by the young cast and fully deserved a wider audience. 4 stars.

The following morning saw us enjoying Shakespeare For Breakfast at Venue C34. Well, that’s to say, we enjoyed the Shakespeare, a lively reinterpretation of Romeo & Juliet incorporating a host of contemporary references. The breakfast was rather  underwhelming, comprising as it did, one solitary stale, cold croissant (the coffee machine was on the blink) 4 stars, though I did consider deduction one star for the croissant!

Of course, the run of 4 and 5 star shows couldn’t last, but Amy Lamé’s, Unhappy Birthday was so awful, it barely warranted a single star. Lured along by the fact that the show was about Morrissey (or more accurately his absence from Amy’s birthday party) we had high hopes that were soon flattened . . .

It wouldn’t be the Edinburgh fringe without Richard Herring (we’ve seen his show on our previous two visits) so off we went to the Udderbelly, Bristo Square to see his latest effort, Talking C**k. (Their asterisks, not mine!) While it might not have reached the heights of Christ On A Bike, it was nonetheless funny and thought-provoking and I was amazed to spot Richard in the local Starbucks, only a couple of hours before the show. I hammered on the window and bellowed my praise in his general direction, which was probably quite disconcerting for him. 4 stars.
What a busy few days! Thank you for this account and critique, Philip.

 Hmmm. Clearly, I will need the next eleven months to build up my personal stamina if I have any hopes of seeing all there will be to be seen at Edinburgh 2014. Especially the Children's Book Festival!

Oh. Bother. Isn't that another thing I need to make choices about? It never gets easier, does it?

So, do you have any Autumn author goals or promises? 

A Boy Called M.O.U.S.E. Bloomsbury.


Susan Price said...

Finish the book, Penny! - Finish the book.

Pippa Goodhart said...

Yes, yes, yes, finish that wonderful book, Penny!

Linda Strachan said...

Yes, definitely finish the book, Penny!!

Joan Lennon said...

Facebook lies. Now go write the book. (I am talking to myself here, you realise, but it's wisdom nevertheless!)

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Yes to all of the above. I too was one of those glued to a desk and who didn't go to Edinburgh. But Cinderella got to ride in a gold coach and married the prince in the end. So there's hope for us!

Penny Dolan said...

Think there may be a very clear message coming through here!

Sue Purkiss said...

Absolutely with the others about finishing the book. On the other hand, I always feel a bit guilty about not going to the Bath Children's Festival much, in September; trouble is it's quite close to me about an hour away - but not close enough to nip in for the odd session. Still - will go and look at the programme!