I was asked to speak last week at Arlingtons Bar in Ipswich for a Young Adult Carers book group, run by the Suffolk Family Carers about my short story collection, My Brother Was a Kangaroo, which they had just read. They were an interesting and engaging bunch who clearly loved books. I was welcomed with some fabulous coffee and cake and we launched into conversation about short stories and favourite authors.
The building itself is beautiful. A Grade ll listed building with a fascinating past, it used to be a museum and later became a dance hall. During it’s first years, the museum had as it’s President Revd Professor John Stevens Henslow, who had been Charles Darwin’s mentor at Cambridge University. The British Association for the advancement of Science met at Ipswich and the building was admired by HRH Prince Albert, who became it’s official Patron.
The writer/researcher in me relishes these details!
We began with an ice breaker which had been organised by the staff who run the book group. The answers to their questions helped to steer the session. Most of them wanted to improve their own writing skills and to understand how a story is formed and written.
The young carers were intrigued by the different writing styles of authors: we discussed writing evolving versus meticulous planning. I am more if the former and I suggested that many crime writers fall into the latter category. They were interested to learn that Tolstoy plotted out each character in War and Peace in a chart.
This little side room was our setting for the evening. The walls were covered in old black and white photos of Paris, which we later used as inspiration for our own stories. I read them the opening story in the collection, Blood Red. I enjoy reading stories aloud and when I read my own to a group, I relive it each time. There is something magical about reading to an audience. The topic is quite gritty so I kept my eyes focused on the words rather than looking up. It was a fun evening and I think I learned a great deal from them about the power of words and the ability to escape into other worlds, especially when their own lives can be very challenging.