I really enjoyed reading at Manchester Central Library on Wednesday (pics here). Of course I had my usual panic beforehand: would enough people turn up to make it worth the time and trouble of Libby Tempest, our lovely library host? As usual she had done masses of publicity (thank you, Libby!) and of course the library had designed one of their super posters - a copy of which I got to take home with me afterwards - but you know, you always worry: are you going to be the turn that doesn't attract the punters in spite of it all? And there was a very sticky moment when, at five to six, with only five minutes to go, there were still only a handful of people there and a call came through from my fellow reader Robert Graham to say he was stuck in traffic three miles off and probably not going to make it in time. Yet somehow he managed to be in the room at five past, by which time it had miraculously filled! And thank goodness, he had the box of red wine he had promised to bring, a great relief to the two guys who had found my choice of white pretty dire (for which I do apologize!). (See, you can't just sit at a desk, you have to be an events organizer and know about ruddy wine!).
Anyway, the reading seemed to go really well. I had promised to read something I hadn't read before as well as an extract from Too Many Magpies, as I knew some people were coming who had been to previous readings. A quick scan of the audience made me plump for 'Holding Hands', a story from Balancing I've never read in Manchester before, about the power balance between two sisters growing up and then at the point when their father dies. There was a great audience, with lots of interesting questions, and playwright Debbie Freeman commented that the work that Robert and I read out seemed pretty personal. She added quickly that she wasn't saying that it was autobiographical, or asking it if was, but went on to ask how we deal with making real-life experience objective enough for fiction (a subject I address of course in my contribution to Salt's guide to the art of the short story Short Circuit), and quite a good short discussion followed about the concept of autobiographical fiction.
Well, I'm not saying anything about that particular story - my usual policy - but I will say this: when I got home I had a very strange frisson when I realized something that, preoccupied with the reading, I had forgotten: that that evening was the very anniversary of the evening my father died...
Causes Elizabeth Baines Supports