Thursday, 15 September 2016

If you are seeking stories of my late friend and former colleague Kyril Bonfiglioli, novelist, wit, raconteur and knife-thrower, you need to look a lot further back. Only the first nine posts of this blog are concerned wholly or in part with his exploits (posts from 31st March to 23rd July 2013) plus a "Mentioned in Despatches" on 9th January 2014

If I have any followers, other than drop-in thrill-seekers whose random googling may have trawled up the word "concupiscence" from my May 3rd 2013 entry (don't rush to look it up; it's not that exciting), I apologise for the extended hibernation of this blog. From now on, I will get back to blogging once a week.

This is a special one. Well, it's special to me.

 I Was a Vestival Virgin

It was the best of times; it was my first time. It was the Festival of Writing at York, squeezed between an early September break in Dumfries and a late September holiday in Spain.
     The good people at Writers' Workshop had gathered some three hundred writers, give or take a pseudonym. Many were published, most were aspirant, all eager to mingle, laugh with and learn from other writers. There was also a healthy sprinkling of publishers, agents, editors, and “book doctors” as well as an indispensable army of willing helpers to guide and encourage us. The mix was heady. The chat was non-stop.
     We went from discussion to workshop, from pitching to self-pub (not a free bar, sorry). We took the hundred word challenge, plotted, re-wrote and climaxed, learned the secret of stealth sentences and stuck post-it notes all over the furniture.
     Then came the “one-to-one” sessions with book doctors, editors and agents, approached nervously by some, welcomed by others. Contrary to old writers' tales about editors, they do not all subscribe to the mantra of Sir Lancelot Spratt – 'Cut it out, man. Cut it out!'. They were willing to guide and encourage us, suggest new approaches and, yes, cut where necessary.
     At the workshops, though the presenters might be speaking to forty or fifty people, I found many direct connections to my own work-in-progress. 'Yes, I see now, that's what I was doing when I brought in the woman who distracted my hero from his quest.' and then, 'I'll have to change that bit – or possibly move it to later in the story'.  I was scribbling reminders to myself as fast as I could and trying to listen to the next piece of good advice.
     Now it's bragging time.
     At my one-to-one with an agent whom I shall not name, in case he later changes his mind, he had nice things to say about my novel, ' Minder meets Lovejoy '; 'I like Gregor – touch of the Flashman about him'; 'Dennis Price in “Kind Hearts and Coronets”, acid turns of phrase, well-written, understated'; 'the wit is a bit out of time but refreshingly not modish'; and beside a short passage in the first chapter: 'Ha, ha! Brilliant!'
     He did sound a note of caution. 'It won't be easy to place.'
     This agent represents such literary lights as James Follett (not Ken) with 20 novels, translated into 11 languages and radio and TV plays including the cult series “Blake's 7”; RD Wingfield, author of the “Frost” novels and TV series; George Markstein, creator of “The Prisoner”; oh, and Aberdeen's own Stuart McBride.
     Before you tell me Markstein and Wingfield are dead, he was their agent while they lived and continues to represent their estate.
     I cannot say I have an agent but I can say I have an agent interested. He wants to see the manuscript as soon as it's finished.
     Now it's bum-on-chair and nose-to-keyboard time.

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