Time to Read Blog

It Takes Guts: A Story Of Love, Hope And A Missing Bowel By Evelyne Brink

Posted Monday 14 January 2019 by Writing Squad in Writing Squad Reviews

It takes guts: a story of love, hope and a missing bowel by Evelyne Brink"I have a condition that would be best characterised as intestinal failure. Leaving hospital, after six months as an inpatient and no longer able to eat or drink, I was desperate to find someone whom I could relate to regarding my condition. That is when I stumbled upon this book.

The author’s child, Tuffel, was born without a small bowel – meaning that he has to be fed into his veins through a picc line (which is like a long term cannula like you would get in hospital to have a drip through).

Having never met him or his mother, I gained a strong affinity with his story and trials, a connection so strong I couldn’t quite believe I only knew this family through these pages.

Hannah HodgsonEvelyne reminds me of my own mum, who amidst the chaos going on in our lives had the same strength and positivity shining through as had been described in the chapters of this book.

I come from a very traditional and stoical background, and so at first it was difficult for me to write about my experiences – but this book was my first step towards granting myself the permission to write about this subject and allowed me to recognise that you can write about the good as well as the bad.

This mother and baby helped to make me feel comfortable in my newly diagnosed skin.

I come back to It Takes Guts often, reminding me that love and humour are still important, even in the darkest of situations."

About Hannah

Dear Body Hannah HodgsonHannah Hodgson’s poetry pamphlet, ‘Dear Body’ is published by Wayleave Press at the beginning of 2018. and has been described as “a moving and salutary poetry collection, the poems precise and controlled, expressive without excess or sentimentality.” and “written with an expressive cathartic tone, a unique and wit-ridden perspective and a resilient refusal to be overcome.”

Hannah has also been published by Acumen, Poetry Salzburg, Under the Radar magazine and has won many young poets network competitions, with a range of my poems available on The Poetry Society website.

As well as visiting school to talk about alternative life routes to university, especially for those experiencing health issues, Hannah has run poetry workshops for The Reading Agency and has been blogger in residence for he Kendal Poetry Festival and The Words by the Water.

Through her YouTube blog she acts as a patient advocate, hoping to give a window in to what life is like as a young woman whose life has been drastically changed, but not defined, by disability and Illness.

Link to YouTube blog: https://www.youtube.com/c/HannahHodgson

Link to site: https://hannahwritesablog.co.uk

"I met some amazing people": Artist Laurence Payot on working with libraries

Posted Wednesday 19 December 2018 by Laurence Payot in Opinion

Artist Laurence Payot talks about her relationship to libraries when it comes to creating public events and performances ...

Can you tell us a bit about your work?

I am a cross-disciplinary artist, I use sculpture, spoken words, and new technologies, always with the aim to connect people and increase a sense of belonging.

Laurence Payot girlHow did you first come to work with libraries?

In 2012, I was working with Bedford Creative Arts in Dunstable to create and embed a new tradition celebrating the local wind. So we got in touch with Dunstable Library and I joined existing groups to start meeting local people. We then organised drop-in sessions to design costumes, create a giant kite, collect wishes for the wind, and we also created a large temporary display in the foyer to let people know how to take part.

Laurence Payot writing circlesLast December, I worked closely with Formby Library when commissioned to create a new work for The National Trust and Sefton Libraries. We were celebrating 50 years of The National Trust looking after Formby Point, so it felt relevant to explore ideas of personal experiences of the site through memories, both real and imagined, past and future. We created an installation in the library for visitors to contribute with their stories, and punctuated that with a series of drop-in poetry workshops. We also wanted to invite people to become part of a final performance at our final celebratory event on the Winter Solstice, and we found them all through local groups who meet in the library, such as the home schooling group and the reading group. Thanks to the library support, the event was oversubscribed with over 350 people coming together at dusk, listening to personal stories and chanting together.

How do you gain from delivering these activities within a library setting?

Laurence Payot chap reading circleIt can be hard to engage with people in a public space, but in a library, people are more relaxed, they take the time to pause and reflect. I met some amazing people who became key participants in my projects through informal chat, or by unexpectedly engaging with passers-by during workshops.

"It can be hard to engage with people in a public space, but in a library, people are more relaxed, they take the time to pause and reflect"

The library staff are also a precious source of knowledge. They know the community and are able to point to the right people or guide you to the right local groups (“Mrs so and so wrote a book of poems and memories 50 years ago... I’ll ask Mr so and so if he still has a copy…”). Library staff members also often have individual skills that might directly feed into the project.

Teaming up with a library is a great way to generate participation and engage with a wider audience, through temporary displays, promotion and word of mouth.

How would you like to work with libraries in the future?

Laurence PayotI am always looking for new places and people to be inspired by. Usually, an idea for a project will start with a discussion, an initial site visit… it sparks a thought and then it grows from there, reshaping as it is developed in collaboration with the local community.

If I could work much more closely with libraries from the start, this would allow us to create events that become more grounded as new traditions. We could do that by creating permanent digital displays that could engage library users without the need for extra staff support throughout the year, or create physical displays of props or artworks created during specific events, which could transform each year...

Laurence payot big crowd in woods"If I could work much more closely with libraries from the start, this would allow us to create events that become more grounded as new traditions"

A key part of my projects is often the collection of personal stories, so I’d like to explore the idea of archiving, find new and innovative ways to archive the present, for the future…

No matter if the commission is directly linked with a library or not, I know that when I embark on a project somewhere unknown to me, I will always seek out the local library as a way of finding out about a place and its people.

Laurence Payot can be contacted via her website http://www.laurencepayot.com/contact/.

"The world is a strange and terrifying place": James Varney reviews "Dressing" by Michael DeForge

Posted Tuesday 4 December 2018 by Writing Squad in Writing Squad Reviews

"I first encountered Michael DeForge in issue #7 of his comic series, Lose, and it was revolting. Flesh may as well be jelly in his illustrations; bodies flow from one shape to another, and his longer stories feature grotesque and beautiful physical transformations, or slow but inevitable bodily degradation.

Dressing coverDressing is a short story collection. The stories are all comics but aside from including images and text they range in style and form wildly. More than once, I have handed the collection to someone and seen them amazed to know the whole thing is the work of a single person. Deforge will return to writing and illustration styles he has used before but has the ability to adapt his style for the story he is telling. This means we find abstract lines and colours accompanied by sentences of prose, in All of My Friends, Up High, in a Jumbo Jet, in the same collection as the simple, expressive figures and visual storytelling in the panel-comic Mars is my Last Hope.

The startling thing about Michael DeForge’s writing and creations is that in amongst stories of mermaid-based dot coms, flirting fish, leaping millions of miles in one bound, he retains the ability to recreate the tangible, skin-tearing awkwardness of human interactions. Someone’s face may melt away into a shapeless lump, but the tension in the story comes from their parents cutting off communication, their milk mysteriously curdling. Bodies are frequently an inconvenient detail of DeForge’s work – he deviates persistently from presenting naturalistic human characters. And the result is stories where changing emotional states are as important as morphing physical ones.

Christmas DressingIn Dressing, DeForge writes about anxiety, relationships, depression and alienation with the sense of a hand held out to you, which rather than taking your hand, strokes your elbow. The comics in Dressing end suddenly – you turn a page and there is a new story, the last panel you read becomes the final panel and suddenly is transformed. You’re forced to make sense of it. And that latent finality is something I see in the small mysteries of life, moments that are suddenly retroactively given significance: the last time you hung out with a partner before they dumped you, the morning you woke up before discovering someone had died.

My favourite by far is My Sister Dropped Dead From The Heat, a scrappy and brutal comic in eight panels, ‘Drawn on a flight between Oakland and Las Vegas 08/10/2014’. It feels like an idea thrown down with force and exemplifies what I love most about DeForge’s work. DeForge’s characters are abject. They are at the mercy of both their own unreliable flesh, and the cruel rules of social interaction. The world is a strange and terrifying place, and so is your own body."

About the reviewer

James VarneyJames Varney is a writer and theatre maker based in Manchester. He has written for Le Monde, The Real Story, Exeunt and The Stage. He is currently developing Prince Gorge, a long-form poem and gig in which Prince George of Cambridge grows up to become a Queer cult leader. He maintains a blog of cultural criticism at www.jamesvarney.uk and tweets @mrjvarney.

Event Boundary, a dramatic monologue written by James, was performed as part of My Uncle Who Works For Nintendo, a night of new writing inspired by playground rumours, urban myths and creepypastas at The Peer Hat in Manchester, Wed 25 October.

James is one of the featured writers in The Last Christmas, a collaboration between Writing Squad writers and Composers from the No Dice Collective, at the Anthony Burgess centre, Manchester on 7 December


"She’'d have been burned as a witch in those days": Sharon Bolton visits Ramsbottom Library

Posted Monday 3 December 2018 by Ian Anstice in Author blogs, Events, Opinion

Sharon Bolton at RamsbottomIt was great to see a big author like Sharon Bolton come to a library like Ramsbottom for several reasons.  For one, the library is not huge unlike many that would normally see Sharon. Another is that the library is absolutely gorgeous, in a picturesque Lancashire town very reminiscent of the area described in her book “The Craftsman”. And, finally, of course, this was the culmination of the Great North West Read, a regional promotion that was instrumental in having such an author in the region in the first place.

But what was she like?

Well, the intelligence shines off her for a start. This is someone who would be fascinating no matter what she was talking about and this talk, which she must have delivered several times at least before, was no exception.

It started off spooky. Her parents lived in a church. They had quiet neighbours, people joked. But it got the young Sharon thinking that the best place to bury someone you have murdered would be in a graveyard. After all, there’s so many there already, another one may not be noticed.

Sacrifice BoltonHer first book to sell was “Sacrifice” and she was thrilled to get it not just in bookshops in this country but also internationally. It’s a thriller with a slightly supernatural twist. But not too supernatural, for she is a Gothic writer and thing with those is that, however it may appear, there’s no magic involved. Sharon sees magic as, vaguely, like cheating. It’s just human wickedness. But that should be scary enough.

“From the very first page I want my readers to be scared. If they're reading in bed, I want them to want check underneath them." she days.  You don't need gratuitous violence or ghosts to scare people, just hints and a good story will do it.

She then goes through her other books. Her next one was “Blood Harvest” which was rewritten from her very first big story idea which she never did get published, just with all the supernatural stuff taken out. There was a short trailer about the book which did, indeed, look very spooky.

Sharon used to live near where the Jack the Ripper murders took place so, Sharon being Sharon, this got her thinking. So she wrote a book partly inspired by the grisly Victorian events and produced “Now You See Me”. She did a ton of research for the book, including finding out that the lore around Jack is largely made up by detectives who worked on the case wanting to sell books. But one thing is clear: Jack was either very clever or very lucky, because he killed people in busy areas where it would have been easy for someone to have spotted him.

Bolton Now You See MeThe book started a series featuring a young female police constable – also a feature of The Craftsman – called Lacy Flint, trying to hunt down a killer while keeping her own dark past a secret. . Sharon thinks it's one of her best and may bring her back.

The author was born in Lancashire and lived there for her first eighteen years, being raised amongst all the local traditions of ghosts and the Pendle Witches. But the latter were real people.  Twelve men and women were executed for "murder by witchcraft", Mainly women. Sharon, being rational, discounts the magic aspect but also the criminal bit, saying at the very worst they were low level confidence tricksters.

What makes society turn on weakest, she asks. “"We don't hang people for witchcraft any more but there are still witch hunts".

So she knew she wanted to write about the area but, damn it, Jeanette Winterson got there first and, what is more, her book “Daylight Gate” was excellent. Sharon even read an extract of it approvingly, where it says "The North is a dark place ... Lancashire is the wild part of the untamed.". She is constantly amused that Lancashire people don't feel indignant by that description, they feel proud.

"She’'d have been burned as a witch in those days, she says. And looking at that intelligence in her eyes, and from what I know of the intense sexism of the times, I’d say she’s probably right."

So now to Craftsman, where Florence is a senior police officer looking for closure over a murder decades before and wondering if she caught the right man. Foolishly, too, she has brought the son with her. "It's a book about me or a woman like me"

And then suddenly it was question time, which Sharon insisted on. She likes questions.

She says her characters are not always “nice”. They have dark sides and that Lacey evolves immensely over the series. Sharon is more interested in baddies

Why is Sharon no longer called SJ? Because men have got over not being comfortable reading women authors.  When she started, it was thought being female would put off men. Not any more. Especially as being there is social media, everyone knows she’s a woman anyway. Moreover, there are quite a few “SJ” authors so it was getting confusing. So ... Sharon.

Sharon Bolton witch huntWhy did she choose the Falklands as a setting for one of her books? She always thought islands are perfect for thrillers. But every Island in the UK has already been taken so she chose the Falklands, which are like the UK but decades ago. Also, she likes islands. And Pendle felt very island-like in the book.

Why has she not written about Salem? She’s interested but there’s more than enough material in England and Salem has been written about enough.  Also, the same thing happened there than in Pendle. Driven like in America often by mercenary reasons.

But I suspect that Sharon is not driven by mercenary reasons, although she notes that as a professional writer she does not have the luxury of simply not writing. I suspect she writes because she has to write. And they can’t be kept in but burst out of her. Like a demon. A very rational, scientifically explainable one.

A video of the visit can be seen here.

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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