Friday 18th January 08 - Postcards to Aunty Mag Book Launch and Reading Event At Waterstones Hull By Michelle Dee
The opportunity to be in the presence of authors reading their own work is rare indeed.
Perhaps now and then on a reviews programme, radio or television, they may impart a few
paragraphs to give you a flavour of the whole, but rarely can you sit a few feet away as
When I heard from Richard Sutherland at Waterstones about the reading event being held at
the bookshop in Hull, I knew I wanted to go. Not only to experience this singular
occurrence, but to listen to and discover new writing and writers.
Postcards to Aunty Mag, a collection of short stories, is the follow up publication to
Liquorice Ice Cream and Other Desserts by Hird Publications in 2005.
Both books contain short stories by students young and older studying for a
University Foundation Award in Creative Writing at the University of Hull,
Centre for Lifelong Learning.
When the first book came out it proved so popular that it became clear a second
collection would be welcomed by many: Just reward and recognition for the students'
hard work and creative efforts. The stories contained within the book are individual
pieces that have been worked on by the students during the ten week creative writing
courses tutored by Nora Jones.
The students are streamed into three groups charmingly called, Once Upon A Time,
The Story Continues and Happily Ever After. The three courses follow on from each
other, but mainly provide a loose informal framework for a group of writers to
receive direction from the tutor, and more importantly, support from each other.
Speaking with Nora Jones (Editor) and Andrew Jackson (Co-Editor) I learn that the
initial course came into being in 1999 and was so successful that the two follow
up courses were devised and subsequently peopled.
Some students progress, right
through the three courses, particularly those students whose main concern is
achieving the Foundation Award, and are using that to further their careers.
Whereas many of the students, stay within the same course for a number of years.
These benefit from the support and friendships built up of writers from twenty to
eighty years old, from a variety of socio/economic backgrounds and cultures.
Upstairs in Waterstones Hull, a very mixed group gathered informally to celebrate
the release of Postcards to Aunty Mag, the title is that of one of the short
stories contained within, but fittingly suggests the idea of multiple pieces of
short prose. After a brief welcome and introductions from both Nora Jones and
Andrew Jackson the readings began.
The hum of coffee machines accompanied the voices of Robin Saltonstall as
he read the thought provoking, Who's Starving Now? This was followed by a
humorous and inventive piece by Maureen Ford, entitled Ahead of Things on
the subject of alcohol excess and the consequences for the body.
Other stories and excerpts were read out, including an intriguing one simply
called Red Hair by Felicity Redfern and another by Andrew Jackson called
Out of My Mind which began to explore issues surrounding faith and race.
But one piece in particular struck a very personal chord with me and the other listeners.
The story, How Dare They? written by Elizabeth Harrison, concerns the unwarranted and
unjustified attack made by Channel 4 on hers and our, much-loved city. Setting the
story in a Preston Road café, Elizabeth managed not only to convey the upset the report
caused, but the very real affront to and disregard for its residents' precious memories.
Regular readers of this site will know that such attacks on our city are usually
followed by a stream of submissions, seeking to defend the city and highlighting
its merits. The story underlined the importance of preserving and protecting our
rich heritage, of sharing those memories and stories of times past for generations to come.
After Elizabeth finished reading, there was appreciative and sustained applause,
which indicated a strong sense of shared feeling and solidarity in the room.
I was fortunate to be able to talk with Elizabeth Harrison afterwards and I asked
her how she felt about reading her work aloud. She explained to me that, as part of
the weekly classes, the students read their work to each other to gain feedback and
comment, so she was comparatively used to reading out loud. However, tonight was
different, because she was reading to an audience partially made up of strangers,
so having the support of family, friends and fellow students helped to ease any nerves.
Elizabeth Harrison has been a member of the Story Continues group for four years
and has always wanted to be a writer.
At first she had worries over the course
content, but admits after the first class she loved it. She says that it is all
down to the way that Nora makes the classes so much fun.
Her enthusiasm and passion is instilled within the students. "It's not like hard work,"
Elizabeth declares. The course has sewn the seeds of ambition and now she has been
published, she is looking to get more of her work in other collections and magazines.
Having had my own work published, in free magazines and on the net, I asked
her how it felt to have your words in a proper book. I saw the writer before
me glowing, as she said that it made her feel so proud, and that it was all a
bit surreal. Smiling, beaming myself, I could see the real sense of achievement
in her face. A sense of achievement that I am sure all the writers involved in
Postcards to Aunty Mag share.
The collection Postcards to Aunty Mag and previous title Liquorice Ice Cream and
other Just Desserts published by the independent Hird Publications are available
in Waterstones and are priced at £5.00.
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