Tag Archives: Literary festival

Storytelling time

Phil: We came, we saw, we read out a few pages of our book.

Last week, at Storytelling Corner, team NolanParker got up on stage and did their best to bring a tiny selection of Kate vs the Dirtboffins alive for the audience.

We’d picked the very first scene Candice wrote when we were still back at the quango. I’d suggested that we read mine too, but this was vetoed as being too dull. As it was, we were on stage talking about pole dancing and the joys of a busy bar full of rugby players when you are wearing a slip of a dress…

Before the event, and during the interval, we were chatting to some of the audience who seemed very interested in how we manage to write as a duo. It seems that this really fascinated people. We’ve explained that neither of us would have completed a book without the other, and even if we had, the result would be very different. I couldn’t put the correct fashion references in for a start!

Candice was full of cold, but we both enjoyed ourselves a lot. Maybe the sugar rush from the excellent cakes eaten before things kicked off helped, but I think it’s that we love appearing before an audience. I really envy authors who find themselves regularly invited to festivals where they get to talk about writing and stories.

For our part, we’d like to do that but also help people to get into writing. As we both said several times, we really enjoy the process, so why shouldn’t everyone share the pleasure?

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Spreading the word

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Candice: A few years ago Phil and I had the chance to speak at Stratford Literary Festival.  To be honest I can’t believe it was 2016!  Since then a lot of discussion has been had about marketing the book and getting the word out there, but let’s be honest we’ve not been that great at it.   It’s one of our biggest downfalls, we just enjoy the writing too much.  I have a plan for that – but that’s for another blog post.

But, we have found a new group to talk too.  Phil had spotted a newish cafe in Leamington Spa, The Temperance. and we’ve had a few successful meets there, as well as Phil attending an event a few weeks ago we has sent us off on another route.

So this Thursday we are off to talk Book to a group of fellow enthusiasts at a Storytelling event.  We have done this one other time before, down in London, and got a good response.  One of the things about Phil and I is that we write like we talk, so the quips in the book are also the way we present, which has been independently verified as funny!

However, I’m more off the cuff and Phil is more formal, so I’m sat in front of a script that Phil has written.  I have to say I hate scripts, I feel obliged to be word perfect which makes me more nervous than actually just riffing it.  I think we’ve had powerpoint slides and cue cards before.  So between the two of us this afternoon we are going to plan a talk that is funny and gets across why you should read the book, but set up in a way that we are both comfortable with.  Looking at previous posts that might be harder than you think!

So, if you fancy a night out and meeting Phil and I then we will be in The Temperance on the 21st February from 8pm. It’s free so come and enjoy some reading and good wine.

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Can grammar be glamourous?

Phil: Grammar. It’s dull, boring and essential.

Worse, it’s endlessly argued over by very dull and boring people who really need to get out more and take up and exciting hobby, like bus spotting.

You find them haunting on-line discussions, pouncing on minor infractions in someones posting, promptly dragging themselves up to their full height to denounce the criminal. Never mind the subject under discussion, they have nothing to add to this, no, all they want to do is show their superiority handling a preposition.

Sadly, grammar does matter when you are writing, which is why I pitched up to see David Crystal : Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar a couple of weeks ago.

David is described as ” the most famous name in English linguistics” although I’m not sure how much competition there is for that particular accolade. What I do know is he is marvelously entertaining.

Basically, grammar is all about ensuring your audience can understand you. And English is an evolving language. Things change over time and some of the rules laid down many years ago were arbitrary.

A good case is the Oxford comma.

Were I to be described by Cambridge University Press, I would be tall, dark and handsome.

Oxford University Press would say, tall, dark, and handsome.

See the extra comma before the and? Should it be there or not? I’m in the Cambridge camp here having been taught that you don’t comma before an and in a list. It’s the sort of thing that keeps grammar Nazis entertained for hours.

And what about starting a sentence with a proposition (e.g And)?

This rule dates back to the 19th Century when teachers decided children were doing it too often – so banned them from doing it at all. Sorry, who voted them in for the job? Perhaps they should be asked if it’s wrong, does that mean children should be exposed to Shakespeare, who writes, “And then it started like a guilty thing.in Hamlet. Yes Hamlet, that dreary play where everyone ends up dead. Basically, if starting sentences with And is A. Bad. Thing. Then the Bard can come off the syllabus.

For a potentially dull topic, this was a fun hour.  The Q&A at the end was especially entertaining as David punctured the balloons of some questioners who obviously had specific grammar crimes that really bothered them. A quick explanation of how each came about soon explained why this stuff isn’t life and death.

Me, I took away the knowledge that there are very few hard and fast rules. If the reader understands what you are saying, that’s all that matters. We’re writing a story, not a university text. Even if we were, would it be for Oxford or Cambridge? FIGHT!

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That was 2016 that was…

Phil: Today is the one post of the year when I can legitimately look backward. The news telly people have been doing it for a couple of weeks to save themselves the bother of going in to work so it’s fashionable.

Anyway, for team Nolanparker, 2016 has been a very important year. For a start, we published The Book in paperback:

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If you haven’t bought a copy, please do so from the links on the left of this page. It’s not just me who thinks this is a good idea, the reviews for the electronic version are really good. We’ve plenty of other people who have read it and say the same. Even my mum likes it although she doesn’t think much of Tracey…

With the book out, we’ve been on the road doing our thang in front of real audiences. First there was Stratford Literary festival:

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A “proper” festival appearance means we are “proper” writers. Even JK Rowling wouldn’t have enjoyed better cake in the festival green room. Perhaps her audience might have been bigger, but those who came, enjoyed us a lot.

After this, we gigged in London, where the Queen lives:

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Thanks to Steve and Kim for sorting this out for us. I think our brand of storytelling mixed with pantomime shouting at pictures of Michael Gove went down very well with the metropolitan audience. And Candice got to wear a shiny top and nice shoes.

Best of all though, we have readers. A few promotional events in the year mean we know over 100 people have a copy of the story in their hands or on their Kindles. Getting our words out there is what it is all about. And every time someone tells us they liked them, we are full of smiles.

So, what about 2017? I’ll talk about that next week.

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Thought for day with the Rev Richard Coles: Cake is good.

Phil: Is there anything more middle class than going to Stratford-upon-Avon literary festival’s autumn season, to see a nice vicar because he’s entertaining on Saturday morning Radio 4?

That’s me. I ought to buy my clothes from the Boden catalogue (whatever that is).

Rev Richard Coles is an interesting character. He first appeared on telly as part of 80s band, The Comunards.

After stepping off the waterskis of fame (his description) there were titanic amount of drugs followed by finding a life within the Catholic church, conversion to the Church of England. He is now a parish priest in the diasis of Peterborough as well as Radio 4 regular.

He arrived on stage with his interviewer and a cake an audience member had baked for him. Cutting a slice, he munched through it during the enjoyable hours chat.

Reading up a little before the evening, I discover that life in the Communards was not always each. Jimmy Somerville was a natural at being famous and far more charismatic than his bespecled bandmate. Fans would flock to him, sometimes not even waiting for a completed autograph from the keyboard player. When you are the sort of person who has always tried to “nudge your way into the spotlight”, even while looking like a vicar trying to emerge from a pop star, this has got to be hard.

Is this the future for team Nolan Parker? Will the audiences only have time for one of us? And will it be the glamorous one, or the speccy bloke with the charisma of a tea towel?

Well apparently the pay is good and I’m sure taking the cloth isn’t necessary. I’m sure I’ll manage.

At least when you go to a literary festival, people bring you cake, and as Rev Coles says, it is good!

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Showing off our book

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Phil: We came, we drank cocktails and we told our story in front of a crowd.

Yesterday evening at Books Showoff was great fun. In the bunker underneath Tottenham Court Road Waterstones, we were the last act on stage (we’ll be calling that the Headline Act as it makes us seem more important) and wowed the audience.

There was much booing and hissing at pictures of Michael Gove. We went off piste from the planned words to accompany the slides a bit, but it didn’t matter. Someone suddenly found she really owned the microphone when she got hold of it, something to do with the fancy shoes bought for the occasion I suspect.

Great fun. Sadly we had to run for the tube straight afterwards but if you saw us and enjoyed our stuff then please buy a copy of da book. Link on the left or drop me an e-mail and for £7.99, I’ll send you a signed copy.

Thanks to Steve X for putting this on. Keep an eye on the web page if you are within striking distance of London. A fiver well spent for a great fun evening.

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Books Show Off – 28th September

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Phil: Team NolanParker are on the road again. This time you can catch us at the Tottenham Court branch of Waterstones at the Book Show Off event.

We’ll be amusing everyone with tales of how we came to be great authors and then drinking cocktails. There will be book signings too.

Should be a good night. Get your tickets here.

The event is run by the Science Showoff team, who have a YouTube channel with both science and books.

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