Tag Archives: Extract

A flavour of ‘Acts of mild rebellion’

Roy reading '52 weeks of rejection'
Roy reading ’52 weeks of rejection’
Barry reading extracts from the City Project
Barry reading extracts from the City Project

ME4 Writers presented new writing on the theme of ‘Acts of mild rebellion’ on 5 March. Here is a flavour of the event.

We had readings from Roy Smith ‘52 weeks of rejection’, a collection of publisher’s rejection letters. ‘…it was decided that rather than waste untold amounts of money and effort collecting rejection letters from publishers, potential employers, funders and other patrons that I should skip to the chase and write them myself. ‘

Barry Fentiman read extracts from the ‘Encyclopaedia Citaecephale’  or ‘The City Project’: a collection of musings on the nature of city-ness written collectively by the writers.

Sam Hall gave a ‘lecture’ on the trend of tattoos. We were treated to a preview of Maggie Drury’s new play ‘The eyes have it’, about the English abroad with guest readers Natalie and Vanessa. Clive Radford’s poem ‘A little light rebellion’ was also read by Vanessa. Guest readers Sarah Jenkin and Philip Kane read 3 of their own poems in an impromtu open mic session.
We also had a quiz on the theme of rebellion with some books as prizes, and the usual mini-cupcakes as baked by Coco. £19 was raised for Comic Relief from the raffle. Thanks to Simply Italian for the venue.
We also made a little film of the evening and you can see Roy, Sam and Barry reading extracts on Youtube.
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SampleSunday 3

An extract from a play about a group of friends in the ten years leading up to the Millennium.

1) Blood and Tears
1989. One year before the accident: 3.26AM.

A bedroom in a house-share. Goth posters on the wall; a single bed. The sound of fairground music, almost too quiet to hear, introduces BEATIE.

Beatie: early 20s. Odd Scottish/Cockney accent. Long dreadlocks. Piercings. Many tattoos. Fleecy jogging pants, black lycra sleeveless top. Cross-legged on the bed, nursing a blanket. A small rotating table-top lamp, projecting a swirl of stars and planets on the wall.

*Beatie and Edie are not aware of each other to start with, but become more attuned to each other as the scene moves on.

BEATIE: (gulps from water, sprawls on bed.) I’m soooo thirsty. You drink like a fish… I drink like a fish whenever. Scottish… 😉 Funny expression. I wonder what the etymology of it is. Etymology is a go-ood word. It’s one of Kieran’s favourite words, he’s always using it. Kayla says it’s because he wants to impress me. Saucy, Kayla thinks, she doesn’t know the half of it. Serious. Urghh. Wants to settle down. Do the whole commitment thing. Shit, I’ll never make the same mistake my Ma did, finished at 17, kiddies hanging off her, whiles her good for nothin’ hubby was shaggin’ groupies behind her back…

Beatie… short for Beatrice. A tattoo artist. Can’t sleep… Coming down…
(Makes a noise like a firework. Swirling stars increase in strength.)

(Fast) These are my drugs pyjamas. Kayla says it’s very important to have lovely fluffy things to touch when you are coming down. She’s my pal, doing teacher training. Kids, screaming little rug-rats, don’t know how she’ll stand it… 😛

…Watchin’ the cars going by out the window, the lights had this crazystreaky effect, like when you take a photo and the exposure’s too slow, and something’s moving. Yeah? It was like that. My brother Douggie got me into photography. A mate…

(Slower) …Tomsk, cool name, after a Womble… Tomsk, yeah? She’s a nurse, she’s started going out with a real artist, a painter. Her ‘legendary man’. I’d love to have a crystal ball, I’d love to see if I got me my legendary man… I only fall for arseholes… runs in the family. Tomsk’s bloke has designed her a tat and I’m going to do it next weekend. I’ve got these cool black plastic gloves that don’t show up any of the blood or the ink. Makes the customer feel a bit less nervous… 😉

I haven’t told my Ma I’ve dropped out yet… I can’t tell her that sort of thing, we’re not that sort of family.

(Beatie freezes. Lights dim in the bedroom.)

Lights up on a kitchen. Pine, warm.
1989: 5.59AM
Slight bird song.

EDIE: late 30s, vivacious, Scottish. She is wearing a baggy man’s jumper over a silk nightdress, her hands are floury.

EDIE: It’s so quiet. Now they’re both gone. No slamming doors or squabbling…

Making Ted some fresh bread, nothing better than waking up to fresh bread. It’s an effort but it’s worth it. My Auntie Rose used to bake, she would always say the magic ingredient is to make it with love. When you have kneaded the dough and let it rise twice, it feels soft and cool and has swollen up like a pregnant belly, and you kiss it…

After Beatie left I couldn’t stop crying for a week. My baby, my first-born – gone away. Douglas has moved out too, but he still makes his presence felt, whenever he wants his washing done…

Left me behind… My baby, my babies, are leaving…have left me. I’m alone. Ted not-withstanding. It’s all changing. The world’s changing, challenging, there’s something in the air, some sort of tension, some buzz. It’s like it was at the end of the ‘60s. There was this buzz then. It’s the same now. The Wall coming tumbling down. A sea change. A new Millennium on the way. Nothing to stop it. But some days I feel like… Time passes just like that and then you’re left with nothing if you’re not careful.

(Stops kneading, brushes hair behind ear. Freezes. Kitchen light down. Bedroom light up. Beatie unfreezes and sits back down.)

BEATIE: …There’s not that much blood, not from most people. As long as people are relaxed, it doesn’t hurt… much. Bonfire night. Bit of a mad day. You know, boozin’, smokin’, a little tab for laters, more boozin’, snoggin’, a cab home. The usual London weekend… I lo—ove London. Acid’s fuckin’ brilliant, innit? Drink like a fish, next
morning, no overhang. /We…

EDIE: /I turned on the radio…

(Edie interrupts. Beatie looks annoyed but allows Edie to speak, looks impatient.)

EDIE: …I turned on the radio this morning and they were still on about that terrible Alaskan oil spill. It will take years to clean it up properly they were saying. Seals bloated, downy bodies covered in oil… I saw seals when I was on my honeymoon… the first one, the kids’ father… we went to the Western Isles, I was expecting Beatie. Beautiful soppy things, big brown eyes like dogs, streamlined dogs, swimming in the sea next to our boat. Big brown eyes that looked like they were… crying… I was sick after the seals. I said it was the seasick, but I think even then, even then, so few days into it, I knew it was a huge mistake…

(Starts kneading again. In Beatie’s bedroom, colours begin to explode as Beatie remembers the fireworks display.)

BEATIE: …Went up to see the bonfireworks. Colours brighter; a layer of water between my eyes and the world. You need to be outside when you’re tripping. They were the brightest bonfireworks I’ve ever seen in my life.
Ever. Ever. Ever… Multi-colours burned. Like a dream… Tomsk and Davy, lips locked, that fat friend of somebody, me, Kayla and Jess, a couple of Kay’s dodgy connections and Kier. All pretty off our heads …

EDIE: …I worry about her, them, but her more so than him. You do with girls don’t you? When she came back that evening with her first tattoo, I nearly had kittens. Him, I would have expected it of, but not her. It looked so ugly. She had made her beautiful, soft skin ugly. She was only 15, she had lied to the man in the tattoo parlour… Little minx. Who’d have ever thought that beautiful little child with the blonde kiss curls would turn into the tattooed… tattooing lady? I’m thinking of getting her to do one on me. Maybe her name in a heart. Just (exaggerates French) ‘tres petite’, on my arm on the top. Nanna would be spinning in her grave.

(Knocks back bread, divides it into two bread tins. Covers them with a tea-towel.)

(Beat) I asked her not to call me Mum when we are out. People think she is my younger sister. Someone still as
young as me with a teenager in tow…

(c) Sam Hall, 2011, An extract from ‘Wet Dreams’, a play.

#SampleSunday

We are going to start taking part in ‘Sample Sunday’.

This is a great new initiative mentioned on http://kindle-author.blogspot.com whereby you can share your work with other writers on Twitter. Here’s how to do it:

1. Every Sunday, post a writing sample on your blog or website. The writing sample can be from a novel-in-progress or it may be a sample from a book that is already published. Other forms of writing—short stories, poetry, nonfiction, plays—are also acceptable, but for maximum effect make sure you promote just one sample each week.

2. Tweet with a link to your sample post. For example, my first sample post this coming Sunday will be Chapter One from my mystery novel in progress, Cold Reading, and the tweet will be:
“Cold Reading,” by David Wisehart http://bit.ly/idTwNQ #SampleSunday — please RT

3. Search for other #SampleSunday tweets.

4. Read other people’s writing samples.

5. If you like a writing sample, please retweet it. If the sample is posted to a blog that allows comments, leave the writer a comment about the sample, saying what you liked about it, or giving constructive feedback. If you’d like to stay connected with the writer, then follow their blog, link to them, etc.

6. Check to see who has retweeted your #SampleSunday, and publicly thank them on twitter. You can also thank retweeters by following them on twitter.

Devil coat – part one of a short story by Sam Hall

Coat illustration by Victoria Wainwright
Devil coat by Victoria Wainwright: http://www.victoriawainwright.com

The coat had been hanging there in Bentley and Bentley’s window for over a week now. He couldn’t walk by without stopping and staring enviously at it.

It was made of a thick, warm Harris Tweed, the colour of rich amber, and if you pressed your nose against the window and looked up close you could see the colour was achieved by the mixing of a fine mosaic of orange, yellow and red threads, lovingly handmade on a loom by a weaver on the remote Scottish Isle. The lining was a shimmering two-tone silk, held up to the light it appeared red, but hanging in the window it was a more subtle bronze.

It looked so toasty warm. The fact that it was blowing a gale up Main Street only added to the coat’s allure. But it was still two weeks to pay-day.

Charles regarded himself as a very stylish man; he was obsessed by the styles of an earlier time. His home was furnished with original Deco pieces bought whenever he could afford them. He only ever wore classic suits, often fought over with students in Oxfam. He had only last week bought a dark green walking suit from the ‘20s with a waistcoat and a pair of breeches that he hadn’t quite dared to wear to his job in ‘the media’. Although ‘the media’ was very open-minded and gentlemen would quite often wear what ‘normals’ would consider outlandish; Charles was still not quite sure about the breeches, though he had some lovely brown knee-high walking socks knitted by his aunt, that would go so well with the suit. And maybe this coat over it for a roasty-warm experience…

By Wednesday of that week Charles had worked himself up into quite a frenzy over the coat. His best friend Louisa had met him for lunch on Tuesday in town and Charles had taken her to have a look at it, and she had declared it most swanky. (It was all very platonic with Louisa and Charles, though Charles didn’t want to put a line under that quite yet, as Louisa was in so many ways his ideal woman. Built with a ‘50s matinee idol form, curvaceous in all the right ways, Louisa also wore her bleached blonde hair like Jean Harlow, and favoured the wiggle skirt and twinset combination that seemed to be so ‘in’ right now. She was also a lovely person, and Charles sometimes dreamed of their retro-fashion power couple style being pictured in Vanity Fair.)   

At 4.35pm he was looking at the clock on his pc, knowing very well he would be able to get to Bentley and Bentley’s before they closed if he left on the dot of five. He had withdrawn the £300 and had it in the breast pocket of his rather subdued black suit – yes £300, normally he would blanch at the price, but considering he usually only spent £6 on a suit, he thought that it would all even out in the end, in fact, he would probably even be quids in, in cost-per-wear credit. 

The moment he slipped it on over his black suit he knew his decision to take sandwiches to work and eat soup at home for the rest of the month was the right one. He’d always considered himself a devilishly handsome young man, but the coat seemed to bring out his rather tall, dark and handsome colouring even more.  And it would co-ordinate beautifully with Louisa’s black imitation fur stole. He told the assistant he would wear it home.

On the walk back down Main Street the sky suddenly became very overcast, glowering even. Charles unexpectedly developed the most raging thirst; a couple of martinis would be quite the thing. He wondered if Louisa was free. But then he remembered she had her Italian class tonight. He thought he might text her and see if she would be free later anyway. He looked up the street to see where he could pop in to shelter from the icy wind. Amongst the Weatherspoons, All bar ones and other chains, he noticed a little gate with a sign above that he couldn’t remember seeing before – not that he paid that much attention to the pubs in this part of town. Weatherspoons is not very meeja, darling. But it was the gate that attracted him anyway, it was wrought iron, a little rusty, a definitely Charles Rennie Macintosh feel to it. Above it a black sign with slightly glowing writing, red, was it? The sign said Shades Bar – but the ‘S’ was not lit as brightly in the glow. Maybe that was just his eyes, it was dusk and the light was fading. But the Macintosh connection was enough to sell him, so Charles opened the gate and went down the steps into Hades.

As soon as he stepped through the door he knew this was his kind of place. A warm glow from a massive open fireplace filled the room, there were round tables with spotless white cloths on them, red velvet curtains providing privacy for a series of booths set round the edges of the room. In one corner a jazz band wearing burgundy velvet suits with dickie bows and gloves played an unfamiliar New Orleans style composition. Louisa would love this, thought Charles, he’d have to text her as soon as he sat down.  

As Charles ordered a martini from the impeccably dressed bar-man, he had the opportunity to look around the room that reflected in a huge gilt mirror reaching the whole length of the bar. Beautiful women dressed in fine silks and furs, laughed and drank with handsome, besuited men. People here were so fashionable, this surely must be the latest celebrity watering hole, but why hadn’t he read about it on popbitch? Maybe this was a theme night, there was definitely something of the speakeasy in the air. Charles took a seat at the bar as he sipped his perfect martini. He got out his mobile to text Louisa but he had no signal.

‘Can I take your coat, sir?’ A glamorous black woman wearing a sailor-suit with cute puffy white shorts and a bow in her hair was standing beside him. ‘It gets awfully hot in here later,’ she smiled. Charles noticed that she had perfect white teeth, slightly pointed incisors, against her blood red lipstick.

‘Sure, thanks.’ He handed her his coat and she gave him a little ticket in exchange, disappearing off with his new coat.

She was right, it did get awfully hot, awfully quickly, or maybe it was the four martinis. He looked at his watch and saw it was later than he’d thought. Louisa would have finished her Italian class by now, he really ought to text her. He’d go outside and get reception. But first he’d get his coat, it was going to be chilly out there after the really quite stifling heat down here.

He looked for the coat-check girl but he couldn’t see her anywhere. He couldn’t see a cloakroom, come to think of it. He asked the bar-man.

‘No, we don’t have a cloakroom.’ Sure enough, people’s coats were hanging over the back of the chairs. In his martini-fuddled brain, Charles began to see what had happened; the girl must do this all the time, she had her routine all worked out. She had been round the room, looking for the most expensive coat she could find and when she saw his beautiful new coat, she recognised the hand-stitching and had stolen it. No doubt it would appear on ebay, or maybe she had already sold it on for a tenner in Weatherspoons. Charles hit his head in anger. What an idiot: £300 down the swannee.

He shivered as he stood outside by the gate. The sign definitely needed an electrician to have a look at it. The S was hardly visible at all.

Charles got his phone out of his inside jacket pocket but as he did so, he noticed the ticket the girl had given him. It was more like a business card than a coat-check ticket, come to think of it. It had an address on it. Now if Charles had been thinking straight, he might have taken that card to the nearest police station, but Charles was not thinking straight, all that was on his mind was getting the coat back. He called Louisa from the taxi as he was being driven to the address.

‘Charles, don’t be so silly, you could be sold into slavery… or worse.’

But they were pulling up to the doorway and Charles felt he had come too far to lose the coat now.

‘I’ll call you as soon as I get my coat.’

‘Charles…’

‘Yes?’

‘… Please be careful. I don’t know what I’d do if… Just be careful, ok?’

To be continued…

<(c) Sam Hall, 2010>

American Pie – an extract from a novel set in London in the 1990s

August 1993: The day the music died 

She was called Tomsk. She sometimes thought it rather stupid to be named after a Womble, but most of the time she liked the name immensely. People couldn’t confuse her with anybody else and that was the way she liked it. (Not that she looked the slightest bit like the macho Cribbins-voiced inhabitant of Wimbledon Common, although she had, until recently, been a regular at the gym.)

She lived in one bedroom in a down-at-heel house in Wood Green. She didn’t really like Wood Green, but it was cheap and better than the place she’d lived at just off the Holloway Road. Her room there had been pokey and noisy, if someone lit a fag in the hall you could smell it for days after. You couldn’t open the windows even in summer, because the smell and the noise from outside was just too intense. And he’d lived there. But she didn’t like remembering that.

Here, in Wood Green, every day was the same. Get up, make breakfast in the messy shared kitchen, then eat it back in her room as she got ready for work. Work that wasn’t much fun; she was a shop assistant in an independent bookshop. The hours were long, the job boring, the customers banal and her employer a sexist. But it paid the bills, just. She tended to switch off as soon as she got there and her mind would be somewhere else as she straightened books or filled customer orders. Then it was home, slip into leggings and a tassel top, eat something heated up from a can, watch telly, occasionally read, then go to bed.

(She never played the flute that sat, quietly tucked away in its case, on top of the wardrobe.)

Weekends passed similarly, without much intrigue. Tomsk didn’t have many friends. She was twenty-seven. Everyone she knew had moved away from town, or got married, or she had argued with them and they were too embarrassed now to make it up. (She had always liked to describe herself as strong-willed and even good friends were intimidated sometimes, especially now.)

Tomsk went out once in a while, there were still acquaintances and men she met and sometimes slept with, she was still (even with her long red dreads cropped off severely,) pretty in a pixie-like way. But no serious relationships yet, she wasn’t ready for that and wasn’t sure that she would ever be again. When she was younger she had been a bit of a hell-raiser, but now after a couple of pints, she felt tiddly and tired. Must be getting old, weary. Still, it made for a cheap night. Most of the time she just stayed in her room, reading or drawing little pictures. Usually though, she just sat by the window for hours on end, silently watching the cars go by. And she never listened to records anymore, even though she had a stack of LPs by the bed; music was just too all about him.

Sometimes she started thinking about when it wasn’t like this. A time when things had mattered and she’d gone on marches against student loans and the Poll Tax. Nothing seemed to matter now, not since that day on Holloway Road. Everyone treated her differently and she couldn’t stand them for it. Be as nice and comforting as you like, but how the hell can you understand? Nobody can. A new job, new haircut, new house and new people can’t change anything, or make it better.

She went downstairs to get a drink of coke and her gaze wandered around the back garden. It was horribly overgrown with dead weeds. She noticed the man next door still had his bonfire going. Tomsk had thought that this was a smoke-free zone, but that bonfire had been going for the past three days. They were burning something big which was taking a long time. Occasionally an old man would come out and poke at the fire and sometimes put his head near it and blow at the embers, and the fire would flare up again, refreshed. A younger man, probably his son, thought Tomsk, also came out and stood looking at the fire, (sadly, she thought,) from time to time.

I wonder where the old lady is, thought Tomsk suddenly. Hell’s bells, he’s done away with his wife and now he’s burning the body. Shit, what should I do? Take a picture? Phone the pigs? Oh shit, what if he sees me looking and comes for me too? She enjoyed the momentary sensation of goosebumps up and down her arms, then laughed. She came away from the kitchen window, took her drink off the crowded table top and went back to her room. Don’t be so ridiculous, she thought, sitting down in her armchair. But that smoke had been strangely meaty…

She wished it wasn’t Saturday. She had nothing to do and she didn’t feel like doing anything anyway. Maybe later on she’d go to the payphone and see if anybody was into going out, she doubted they would be though. She didn’t keep in touch with many of the people she’d met on her Open Access course; of those she did see, Anita was now firmly under Marco Polo’s thumb and never came out these days, and Pauly would be in bed with some guy she’d picked up last night. She’d leave it for today. She almost thought about putting one of the records onto her old hi-fi, but just looking at the cover on the top of the pile; it was New Order; was too much to bear. He loved New Order.

She watched the sky. The smoke from the wife-killer’s bonfire had crept up over the roof, to her side of the sky. It plumed upwards, making a mark like smudged pencil on blue Conqueror. A bird drifted past, carried on a thermal; a passenger jet carried people off from Heathrow to their holidays. Tomsk drifted off to sleep in the armchair with its gaudy patchwork cover.

As usual she dreamt of a time not so very long ago when she had been happy, when she had loved living in the city, when she had loved living. Before it had all become meaningless to her. She dreamt of a man too; a man who was always in her dreams and hardly ever out of her thoughts, no matter how hard she tried to make him be.

The dream always had the same ending. She was chasing him, a tall dark-haired, goateed man with eyes like the sky. She never caught him. She held out her hands to him, but he was always just out of reach. In the dream her heart beat faster and faster, she had to stop him. She nearly had him, she had the corner of his oil paint-stained army surplus t-shirt in her grasp. There was a pounding from somewhere that she could hear in her head, she couldn’t breathe, she was crying. The man turned round and smiled, then he broke out of her grasp, waved to her and then she woke up, as always. In floods of tears, as always.

She tried to light a cigarette, to calm herself down. She’d only started smoking a few months ago, because he did. Her hands shook as she held the lighter to her face. She couldn’t light it and swore. She tried again and again, but maybe the cigarette was wet, or maybe her hands were shaking just too much, because she couldn’t get the end to catch. She threw both the ciggie and the lighter against the wall in desperate frustration and started crying again. Her entire body was shaking now and she thought she might have to have a suck on her inhaler, her throat was tightening. She scrabbled for the cigarette and tried again to light it, without success.

‘Why did you have to leave me?’ she screamed. ‘Why?’ Sobbing and pulling the cigarette to pieces. ‘I have nobody,’ she mumbled.

His name was David. He had shared the house in Landseer Road. He was an artist, he was good, everybody said so, and his pictures covered the walls of her room. He was going places. That he had chosen to go with her surprised her then, and surprised her now.

They were so different and argued constantly; but the arguing was part of the fun, part of the package. He had lived his life and politics liberally, not wanting to step on anybody’s toes. Tomsk dragged him along to rallies and marches, but he was dragged willingly. He played the flute really well and taught Tomsk to play seven simple tunes. They shared the house just off the Holloway Road for a year and a half, even though it was damp and made her cough. She worked part-time, cash in hand, in a pub where her long dreadlocks and nose-ring didn’t matter, and when she wasn’t working he would draw her, laughing when she said she wasn’t well stacked enough to make much of a model.           

‘Stacked enough for me,’ he’d say grinning, as he grabbed her.

Everything in this room reminded her of David. It was a room that he’d never lived in, but was still his, filled with all his things. She looked around through the mist of tears and knew she’d have to get rid of his stuff if she was ever going to get over this. But she couldn’t; she couldn’t bear to finally say goodbye. His paintings, the t-shirt from Portugal that she slept in, the papier-mâché lampshade that he’d given her just after they met. It was hard but she knew it would all have to go.

Go like he had, that evening months ago now, when he stepped out to cross Holloway Road on his way to the all-night garage for a packet of fags. Turning to wave goodbye to her, not seeing or being seen by the obviously drunk driver and speeding car that sent him flying into the central reservation and out of her life.

c> Sam Hall, Aug 2009