Tales from the Hidden Grove

Tales from the Hidden Grove
"Amongst the finest short story writers in the UK right now" ~ Black Pear Press

Friday, 20 March 2015

Ladies, Gentlemen and a League of Liars


Last night, I had my first experience of Liars' League Leeds.  Until a few weeks ago, I had never even heard of it.  In fact, when I first read the call-out for stories, I thought it sounded like a Yorkshire Locke Lamora!

It turns out there are Liars' Leagues in Leeds, London and New York- at least.  The premise is simple.  Writers write.  Actors read.  Audience listens.  Everybody wins.  Every month or two, the Liars' League gives a call-out for stories on a particular theme.  Five or so are chosen.  They are then read out by actors on the night.  It's like being on the radio.  Only live.  

The theme for this particular night was "Ladies and Gentlemen".  The stories chosen were nicely varied, and covered a variety of settings and moods.  It was interesting how many of the other writers had taken the typical showman's announcement as a starting point.  (That approach to the theme hadn't even occurred to me).  There was the moving tale of a conjoined twin, performing with her sister on Coney Island.  A stand-up gig that turned out to be absolute hell.  Literally.  A ghost story told by a man seeking entry to a Victorian gentlemen's club.  And the account of a failed actress-turned-carer and her relationship with one of her clients.

My story was "Knights Round a Table," a comic tale about a woman who invites five of her crushes from the pages of literature to dinner.  I wrote this story quite some time ago, and always knew it deserved a home, but never found one until now.  It was read on the night by Rachel Watson, who has worked in theatre and storytelling.  I found the whole process of being involved a lot of fun.  The story was edited, as it might be for radio, and I think they managed to make it even funnier!  It was great, hearing my story being read by someone who wasn't me.  It meant I got to enjoy all the satisfaction of doing a reading with none of the work!  Being live, it also meant I could meet and shake hands with the actor who performed my story.

May I just add that the venue, The Crowd of Favours, was very pleasant and easy to find.  I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening (without the need to slay any dragons - that's a joke about my story!) and I would definitely like to do it all again.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Cards on the Table...


This week, when working on my current work-in-progress, I decided that my characters should be playing a game of cards.  I eventually decided on scopa, an Italian game with a long history.  I downloaded an app so I could learn how to play - and have some idea what I was writing about!  It is a fun game, which involves capturing cards with other cards of the same value.  You can score extra points by clearing the table and by possessing certain special cards.

What makes it especially fun for me is that it is played with a different set of cards from the one I am used to.  Before I started researching this week, I didn't know that different European countries have their own traditional packs of cards.  Traditional Italian cards are divided into cups, swords, coins and clubs (batons), the numbers go up to seven, and the three picture cards are all male.  Traditional German cards are divided into hearts, acorns, bells and leaves.  (I love that one!)

Readers of different backgrounds to me are probably now going: "How could you not know that?"  "I used to play scopa with my nonna" etc.  But I didn't know.  I was aware of Asian playing cards because I once went to see an exhibition of Ganjifa cards from the Indian sub-continent, which are round, and have their own symbols and pictures.  But I didn't know about variations on my own continent.  Seeing the cups, swords, cups and batons in the Italian cards, now explains to me their presence in the (tarot) cards of Marseilles, which were originally used for playing a game.

I've always enjoyed the symbolism of playing cards, and the storytelling possibilities within them, so discovering new (to me) suits of cards is fun.  For religious reasons, I steer clear of the fortune-telling aspect, but I love the variety of artwork that has gone into them over the centuries and the resemblance to heraldry.  The four suits (of whatever kind) have been taken at times to symbolise the four seasons, four elements, four compass points and four estates of man (clergy, nobility, merchants/artisans and peasants).  But the great thing about them is, they can mean whatever you want them to.  They could be a secret language.  They could come to life as real characters, like in Alice in Wonderland or Jostein Gaarder's The Solitaire Mystery.  They could be the start of a whole new story.

Or they could be something for my characters to play with in the story I'm already writing.