Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither

sara baumeI’ve just finished reading Sara Baume’s award-winning Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither. I thought it was a fantastic creation, a hugely impressive  piece considering that it breaks many of the rules of storytelling. Very little happens. There’s a scant amount of dialogue (if any?). The main character – the narrator – isn’t hugely likeable… And yet, it really works –  what a great achievement.

As it is such an unusual book I was prompted to read the reviews on Amazon (with my writer’s hat on) to see what others made of it.

Predictably, for over three-quarters of reviewers, it was a four or five star read. Many said that they thought it was one of the best things they’d ever read: “poignant and thought-provoking”, “quietly brilliant”, “unbelievably moving” – you get the drift.

Unsurprisingly, some didn’t rate it so highly – but it’s easy to see that it wouldn’t necessarily be everyone’s cup of char.

But one review really amused me, from one of those people who not only will tell you that they don’t like your work, but exactly where you, in your naive stupidity, have gone wrong: “…this book is flawed. It’s a shame that the reviews it has gathered (here and in national newspapers) have been so lacking in critical analysis. It’s not good for a young author to be left unaware of the ways in which her work could improve…” 

I wonder if this reviewer marks exam papers as her day job?


Thanks to Erewash Writers’ Group

My story Would Love to Meet was recently awarded third prize in the Erewash Writers’ Group Open Competition, judged by Simon Whaley. You can read it here.

One of the joys of entering competitions is reading the winning entries and this selection showcased a superb range of different styles and talents. Congratulations to all the other winners and many thanks to the organisers and judge.

What’s the point of storytelling?

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling and why it’s so important. Not just the big Why? question (as in why do it?) but more, what’s the worth of it, how does it fit into the scheme of things, where would we be without it?

One of the most powerful summaries of what I think is reflected in this comment from Joan Didion who said ““We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Certainly that sums up the whole point of it, going right back to the days before the printed word. As story-tellers, writers and listeners/readers, we need stories and their embodiment of shared experiences, possibilities and emotions in order for us to be able to make sense of the world outside ourselves. And to be able to deal with that world, on every level.

Another quotation that, as an introvert, really resonates with me is one from novelist John Green: “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”

How true. Take away writing and the voices of many would be silenced (though there are plenty of amazing extrovert writers, I’m sure!).