A Girl, Frank Burnside and Haile Selassie (Review)

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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About two years ago, I wrote a very important story. I was crashing on the sofa of a family of friends and during my stay, a little cloud disappeared: He was a dog. He was part of their family and he was my friend. I decamped to the local pub for a couple of hours and I wrote something which I thought might help. It was the tale of a young girl and a talking dog, who imparted some wisdom for his human friends.

The story has touched the hearts of everyone who’s read it. My nine-year-old daughter was so taken by it that she offered to illustrate it. It won first prize in a national writing competition and it’s available as an ebook in my Kindle store.

It’s always nice to get feedback from readers and peers, especially from those in respected positions; And even more so when I’m compared to “…Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, the Brontes, Enid Blyton…many others…”.

I am a tart, a whore and a slag; and I will unashamedly share such feedback:

Hi Steve…

I don’t usually email people who’s stories I read, but I felt I had to write to say how much I enjoyed your winning story in Writing Magazine: “A Girl, Frank Burnside and Haile Selassie.”  

These days, so many winning stories in writing competitions are miserable reads — so many being about lingering death, Alzheimer’s Disease, child-abuse — either that or they’re written in such a way that they’ve no heart in them because the writer has tried too hard to display his/her cleverness to the judges. All of this is understandable, of course, when writing for competitions, but for me, they are very boring to read. Half the time I don’t even finish them — just skim to the end to see what the outcome of the tale is — if I’m curious enough that is. 

But your story was different. Yes it was a bit sad, but in a good way. It actually moved me to tears, which is difficult to do at my age (70 years old) and after having read what must be thousands of books in my time. There was a bubbly quality to it, as picked up by the judge, but there was also a readability to it, which is rare in short stories today, and it’s readability that is the sign of a good author. You made me remember all the dogs I’ve had in my life and how I loved them, and how… I know… they loved me, so I cried, but it wasn’t a sad cry, it was a sweet, happy memories cry and that hasn’t happened to me in years.

The best thing,  I thought, was the Voice. I don’t mean the voice of your character (Ellie), although that was brilliantly well done. No, I mean your Authorial Voice. Of all the books I’ve read over the years, whether they were classics or popular fiction, the stories that have stayed in my mind have all been written by authors who had a distinct, individual style …Jane Austen … Charles Dickens… Agatha Christie…the Brontes… Enid Blyton… many others…  and there was a heart in their writing  that captivated the reader. Well, I found that your story captivated me in much the same way as theirs. I think you have, at least the beginnings of, a great Voice and a very readable Style that is all your own and — and yes —  heart! 

So,well done and do  carry on with your writing.  And I wish you all the luck in the world. 

Amanda Carlisle, Writing Magazine (Warner Publishing)

I must admit, I was temporarily taken aback. As I’ve said before, writing is a lonely game and it will only make a living wage for a rare few, but I do it because I love it. Like most other writers, I’m used to submitting a manuscript and not even receiving an acknowledgement: That is standard. Better than nothing at all is a rejection slip: At least then you know that someone’s read your work and you might get some constructive criticism. To receive a comment like this, from a busy sub-editor is pretty amazing: Ask any writer.

Should any talent scouts be reading this, you might be aware of the person who sent me this praise, so feel free to check up. I also have the original email as proof.

(In memory of Jake, 2000 – 2015)

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