Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jewish Book Week Day One

I didn't sleep so well last night, and it wasn't because I was nervous about the reading today. It was more that I have so much to say about short stories, I was worried about not being able to say it all! The event was the launch of the Sea of Azov (see earlier post for details), the charity short story anthology. There were four of us reading, Karen Maitland, Michelene Wandor, Tamar Yellin and myself, with biographer Anne Sebba as the moderator.

This is me with Michelene beside me and Anne looking on.

Well, what I learned from my first experience on a panel is how fabulous it is to have a moderator who really knows how to moderate! I guess that is something I was nervous about because it was an unknown quantity: how would we read? How would the talking be organised? Well, I shouldn't have worried, because Anne was fantastic. She introduced us, we each read a taster section of our stories, we talked a little about the particular story, and Anne immediately jumped in to say something she had noticed about each of our stories.

Tamar talked about the importance of a writing space, which is central to her short story; Karen talked about ghosts and memory; Michelene talked about how some people perceive her writing as her expressing moral indignation. I talked about how this story was my experiment in "realism", how I had done it once to please my MA tutor, and how I would never do it again!

Anne then asked us various questions about dialogue, about the writing of stories. She asked me to repeat a comment I had made in the Green Room beforehand about how you'll often hear people say about a novel "Oh, you'll love it. The first 40 pages are a bit slow but get through those and it's great!", but with short stories you don't have 40 pages, you have perhaps one paragraph or a page to hook your reader. And how short stories rarely appear in isolation, they are always competing with other stories, something I am trying to stress to my short story workshop participants - you have to grab your reader and not let go!

Then we fielded a few questions from the very attentive audience, about whether short stories were a particularly Jewish thing, or a particularly female thing (we all thought no on both counts), and whether flash fiction was ideally suited to the 16-25 age group with their short attention spans (I disagreed with this one, thanks Alex!) then, in a flash, it was all over! Down to the Jewish Book Week Bookshop run by Foyles, a bit of signing and some more chats with my fellow writers about writing. I think we will all be keeping in touch, it was great to meet them all.

Thank you so much to Clare G, James, Nick, Jaq, Zeddy, Peter, Marilyn, Irving, Jo, Alex and Esti, Sue G and Elizabeth R-J, Pierre, Arnie and Jane, for coming, I really appreciated you being there, it really made it for me! It was amazing to me to remember how I came to JBW last year and listened, and then this year I am up there, on the stage... You just never know.

I will be blogging for Jewish Book Week about several science-related events, will post here too. More tomorrow.

PS I also did an interview for a Guardian podcast, more on Wednesday when it goes online.


Elizabeth said...

Wow - now that's a speedy write-up! A pleasure to be there, Tania - it was a really interesting discussion and great to see you! Enjoy the rest of the week...

Debi said...

So sorry to have missed it. Sounds brill!


It sounds great; would love to have been there. Nothing like a well moderated panel. Congrats, girl!