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Literally. I’m doing a lot for the brilliant Canterbury Festival this year, and the first of my ‘engagements’ is tomorrow night at Waterstones, St Margaret’s Street, Canterbury. The idea is this: you know the Man Booker Prize, yes? The shortlist announced two weeks ago, yes? Well, six writers from the area are ‘championing’ one book each from this list, then we are bringing our thoughts to three meetings for local reading groups. That’s two books per meeting, if you’re struggling with the maths… (Other writers include Andrew McGuinness,Tim Binding, Nina Bell, and Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski.

Anyway, I’m holding out for The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry — which I’ve read and very much enjoyed. The voices will stay with me, and the complicated central character Roseanne Clear/McNulty… She too will stay with me, and her oddly beautiful life in the midst of real darkness… Anyway, that’s mine. 

The other writer with me tomorrow is Danny Rhodes. He’s championing The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, and like a good girl I’m reading that too, in order to have a conversation. Since that’s what the get-together is about: discussion. A completely different book, with perhaps unreliable narrators in common — and perhaps too, this underlying deep violence and darkness. Through very dark comedy in the case of the The White Tiger.

Reading groups have been invited separately, but if you’ve read either of the books and want to join the discussion, do stop in. Admission is free but booking is advised; it’ll last about an hour, from 7.30 pm.


The cool thing behind this two week extravaganza of reading is that on 14 October — that’s right, the night the winner of the Booker is actually announced — we will have our own Booker night, a final word about each and a counting of the online vote for Canterbury and environs. A little party. Fabulous idea, and so much fun. 

(Another cool thing is that I did a digital television slot about this series of events. When it comes online week after next, I’ll link it through!) 


In my heat of the moment rampage last post, I clean forgot to mention important stuff about Thursday:

1) M had a violin exam that morning. Who knows how it went! We were all a bit perplexed when she came back downstairs saying that the examiner had asked her to play D minor to the 5th. Apparently she paused, then said that she didn’t think she knew that one, she knew E minor to the 5th. Whereupon the examiner shuffled papers and asked her to play what she knew. Good for M for speaking up. But we wonder if he thought she was doing a different grade….Oh well. She played like a trooper anyway.

write here

2) Also spent last Thursday arranging WORD ON THE STREET, a Canterbury City Council and Kent Libraries event connected to the Laureateship. In celebration of the National Year of Reading, and the launch of the 2008 Write Here programme, we are holding open mic (and open air!) readings and performances on the steps of the library (the Beaney!) on the High Street Saturday 29 March, 10-4. There are three reading slots, 10 am, 12 pm, and 1 pm, and so far — hey — a great and varied line-up, FREE OF CHARGE.
10 am: yours truly, Alis Hawkins — and three super students

12 pm: Stewart Ross, Poet-of-the-Year Vicky Wilson, Lyn White — and two super students

1 pm: six members of Save As, a thriving local writing group…(hey guys, where are you on the web?!)

AND — Danny Rhodes says he’ll be lurking. Perhaps in true performance manner, he will have a little baton of work in his back pocket. Pick a slot Danny!

Word on the Street is the first of several ‘well-public’ things the Council and the Laureate (er, me) have arranged in the hopes of encouraging literary activities, and especially of consolidating what already exists in the region. And I have to say that putting this together has been nothing but pleasure: the response has been so positive, so willing. I’m particularly grateful to Alis Hawkins and Stewart Ross — I’ve never met Alis and only spoken to her once online, and she just said ‘yeah, alright’ — and Stewart Ross — known him for years, lives up the road, a busy man…he just said ‘sure’ as well. Ian Hocking too was all up for it…but is on his way back from a far-flung place. Thanks anyway Ian! And with a 20% student take up — hey, it’s pretty good!
It’s beginning to feel like there may actually be a writing community hereabouts…

Also on the day: drama and word games by Whippersnapper Theatre Company; Great Beach reads survey; details of a Call for Work (I love this: come one, come all!) for an eventual anthology; and notification of the website — currently holding…but I’m informed its life is imminent.


Phew. And just in case that isn’t enough Thursday for you, Word on the Street (arf arf) is that I’m supposed to be on BBC Radio Kent this afternoon at 2.30. Talking about it all. I think.

word on the street


From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning


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Who am I?

A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.