The Real Madrid of literary quiz teams….

The cover of Lloyd Jones' Mr Pip - but would you know it without the name and title on the cover?
The cover of Lloyd Jones’ Mr Pip – but would you know it without the name and title on the cover?

Recognising 15 out of 20 book covers isn’t bad, is it? Well, no, it’s pathetic compared to the scores of the serious contenders at last night’s literary quiz in Solihull.

I was invited to go along to Solihull Library’s World Book Night event (April 23) and read my story Lye Noon to the audience as part of the proceedings.

The quiz was great fun and very testing, but to be fair it had to be to challenge the competitors. There were two picture rounds – photographs of authors and covers of books (obviously without name or title on them) – were handed out.

I was asked to join a team and opted for the Rankins – no prizes for guessing their favourite genre or writer!

On reflection I think we did pretty well to identify the covers of Mr Pip, The Night Watch, The Grapes of Wrath and The Welsh Girl among others. In fact, we scored 14 or 15 out of 20.

We tried, but we were definitely championship material, play-offs at best, up against the Real Madrids and Barcelonas of literary knowledge. They scored 18 and 19!

It was great fun and rightly well supported. So, thanks to Lynda Williams and her colleagues at Solihull Library for making me welcome and thanks to the audience for listening to and appreciating my short story.

Also, thanks again to Roz Goddard of West Midlands Readers’ Network for her involvement and support.

The Rankins, by the way, came in fifth, swimming in the shoal. There were flashes of brilliance and schoolboy errors, but ultimately we came up a little short, just as Inspector Rebus would’ve wanted it.

Seven Minute Stories – come along and hear them…

Writing West Midlands – Seven Minute Stories

Seven Minute Stories

Back in the spring I was commissioned to write a short story by West Midlands Readers’ Network. After months of writing, editing, eating bourbons, daydreaming and finally clearing our throats and reading to our groups Seven Minute Stories is almost here. I’m delighted to be taking part in this fabulous free literary event in Birmingham on Tuesday, 20th November at the Copthorne Hotel from 7.00pm-8.30pm.

Black Country western

In previous posts I’ve written about the brief I was given by Lye Down with a Good Book reading group, based in the Black Country.
I read my short story to Lye reading group in late September and I’m looking forward to reading a seven minute extract in Birmingham.
I’m very much looking forward to hearing stories commissioned by fellow writers Fiona Joseph, Helen Cross, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, Jeff Phelps, and Polly Wright.
Roz Goddard, from West Midlands Readers’ Network will be in conversation with us asking how the stories came to be written and the fascinating narrative ingredients we were given to work with by the reading groups we were paired with earlier this year.
Please come along and join in as it promises to be a great night. You will be able to pick up a free limited-edition anthology of the stories in full.
Booking is via Writing West Midlands here or on 0121 245 4455.

Black Country story: writing for Lye Down readers’ group

The West Midlands doesn’t just share a landscape with the Wild West

Lye Down with a Good Book

A few months back I visited Lye Down with a Good Book readers’ group in the Black Country (notes here).

The visit was organised by Roz Goddard of West Midlands Readers’ Network  and I was commissioned by WMRN and Lye Down to write a story by  September. I was made to feel very welcome by the group and offered tea and lovely cake. I went away eager to begin work on  a story set in the Black Country with a few pointers….


I was told it should be: Modern, full of suspense, perhaps dark, very much rooted in the Black Country, may involve a strange arrival or intruder….

There were many other pointers or ideas and it wasn’t long before I began work.

Last Wednesday (September 26) I returned to read my story to the group. I wrote about an outsider and I used the outline of a Western story set in the present day. The photo alongside is of Cannock Chase. You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a North American landscape. In my story the West Midlands and Wild West share more than a landscape!

I won’t say any more as the story will be published and I’ll be reading again at an event (see below) which follows in November.

I’m delighted to say the group enjoyed it. It was great to share my work with them. There was a great response and they seemed to really feel for the central character. There were a few laughs and smiles and a few lumps in throats.

So thanks again to Roz and Lye readers’ group for their terrific support.

The next step is to read an extract from the story in Birmingham on November 20 at an event I’m very much looking forward to called Seven Minute Stories. I’m in good company with fellow writers Fiona Joseph, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, Helen Cross, Jeff Phelps and Polly Wright who also went out to work with groups across the region.

My writers’ post is featured here on the WMRN website.