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TRCH The Da Vinci Code

In Ore of new talent

3 October 11 words: James Walker
FREE: Hear Creative Writing students from NTU read from their new anthology at Antenna on 5 October (7-9pm)
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Wednesday 5 October sees the launch of Ore, an anthology of new work by NTU students studying for an MA in Creative Writing. We’re always excited by such releases here at the Lion because you know there’s going to be at least one or two future authors hidden away, with early drafts of what we hope will become successful novels, plays, films or poems. Looking back through previous anthologies, there’s some real gems with early drafts of novels from Chris Killen (Canongate), Maria Allen (Tindal Street Press) and Nicola Monaghan (Vintage), to name but a few.

Sadly, there’s also some equally good work from writers who are yet to make their mark. Ashley Jackson is one such scribe who contributed to the Leap 08 Anthology. Samaritan’s, can I help? is a hilarious tale about a rather disingenuous young man who rings up the Samaritan’s and begins confessing his problems. But there’s nothing wrong with him other than writers’ block. The purpose of his call is to test out the feasibility of his latest work in the hope that he is able to bring a resolution to his story. It’s my favourite piece to date and although it peters out a little towards the end, it’s typical of the fantastic potential such anthologies hold. Ashley, if you’re out there, send it off to Radio Four. Don’t give up, ever. 
 
The course was previously run by David Belbin but is now under the careful stewardship of Sarah Jackson, who readers will remember from one of our previous Shindig! outings. It will be interesting to see if the switch from novelist to poet will have a different kind of impact on the work produced. The NTU students also face healthy competition now that Nottingham University are offering Creative Writing courses, all of which can only help to raise the bar somewhat and spoil us for choice.  
 
Compiling the MA anthology is always a little difficult, as in essence, it’s an opportunity for writers to showcase their work rather than produce something thematically coherent. But this doesn’t mean any less effort, as Zayneb Allak explains, ‘we spent a year drafting, editing and redrafting our work individually and collaboratively. Submissions were accepted in the spring term, and it was agreed that a sample of writing from each MA student would be included. That writing is diverse: in prose, poetry, song and script, it roams all over the world and calls your attention to a wide range of themes in many different voices.’
 
But that doesn’t mean that inclusion was a simple process, ‘each writer mined a core of creativity for these words and refined them, grafting hard to turn what was inchoate into something that a reader could respond to and enjoy.’ The anthology is a snapshot of just one stage in a long creative process that continues in the classroom and extends into self-formed writing groups and workshops that become invaluable tools in perfecting initial ideas. In this, writing is very similar to sculpture, and Ore has certainly gone some way to smoothing out the edges and developing some intriguing shapes that offer publishers something solid to work on. 
 
We hope that readers will join the students at Antenna on 5 October 2011, 7-9pm and support what we hope will be the first tentative steps in to something more far reaching. To give you a little taster of what to expect, here’s two pieces by Rachel Rees and Matthew Pegg. 
 
Stream Rachel Rees
 
Your mam sang, pegged out, made mush for hens
in Welsh. You grew to the beat of her spoons
on bowls in the low kitchen, already feeding five
and the hands and the one suckling. And still
she murmured to you: Tom bach, Tom bach, bach, bach, bach.
 
Four brothers and you, and the sister for the Indian,
tied to a willow, down by the stream. Headed west
already, panning for gold, and all in Welsh.
Mam’s voice in the dusk. Cakes on the range,
cold flags, sink in back. Built into the hill.
 
Four brothers and the sister, calling down the cows
all in Welsh, and you away to school each day.
Da at prizegiving, scrubbed carbolic pride.
Mam’s slick of lipstick. Cart and horse
nine miles back to the threshing while you
 
with your scholarship, caught the London train.
Shorn lawns in squares, tram stops, junctions
stole you from the farm: Euston’s streams all
buried, trees pollarded, borders railed
and you grown fit to practice.
 
But London’s clip and collar never held
the flows and thickets of your dreams.
They were always Welsh.
 
Small Sacrifices Matthew Pegg
 
Layla Kovak makes the best chicken sandwich in London. See her cut the bread so precisely, bread she makes herself. Layla is a surgeon of the sandwich. Two years ago she started as a lowly counter assistant at the Forest Deli, in a side street off Tottenham Court Road, hedged in by bookshops and stage doors. Back then the bread was a loaf from Tesco Metro.
 
Within a month Layla had scouted an artisan baker who did a good deal on fresh ciabatta,
bagels, wholemeal baps, sourdough, potato farls, sodabread, and pain rustique. Takings
went up by twenty percent in the next two months, which stopped her boss Judy moaning
about the expense. Six months later Layla prevailed upon Judy to install a bread oven in the small kitchen behind the shop. Now the deli sells Layla’s fresh bread as well as using it for sandwiches.
 
Today the loaf has a hint of caraway. Layla makes fresh mayonnaise each day. Lettuce
and tomatoes are sourced from smallholdings in Kent and selected for taste over uniformity or shelf life. Layla slices breast meat from a cold roast chicken then augments it with darker thigh for taste and texture. She adds a smear of mustard and thin strips of crispy skin, then crumbles some sage and onion stuffing on top. There is nothing pretentious about the finished sandwich she sends out to the customer. It is just very, very good, hence the ‘Best Chicken Sandwich in London’ accolade from Time Out.
 
Five months ago Layla used the small inheritance from her father to buy out Judy, who was heading off to run a guest house in Hove. The two women embraced and promised eternal friendship before Judy drove away, never to be seen again, leaving Layla queen of all she surveyed. In the next week she employed two shop assistants, Robin and Mina, and embarked on the road to gastronomic notoriety. Her single minded success in the world of
the deli is a surprise to Layla. In every other aspect of life she is beset by fears. She once
made a list of them in a notebook. The list filled four pages before she gave up the task,
having developed a fear of the list itself. When she moved to London and into a tiny flat near Alexandra Palace, the city terrified her. She had even feared her landlord, Colin, a skinny Irishman, whose gaze slithered over her cleavage and never reached her face. Eight years later she is afraid that Colin’s eyes never seem to wander anywhere other than her face. Layla has wrestled some fears into submission, but the sheer number has meant that others have had to be left alone.
 
Part of Layla’s list of fears:
 
Spiders, ants, wasps, mosquitoes.
Pandemics, eurhythmics, eugenics.
Anaesthesia, neurasthenia, necrosis, psychosis, cirrhosis.
AIDS, SARS.
Any other disease with an acronym.
 
Clowns.
Buttons.
Cane toads.
 
As far as Layla knew there were no cane toads in England, but having watched a
documentary about the Australian monstrosities she developed a fear of them just in case.
 
It is the end of the day. The last sandwich has been made and the last customer departs,
clutching Sicilian olive oil, pesto, a jar of Polish bigos and some blue cheese ripened on old saddles at a tiny farm in Dorset. Robin locks up the shop and starts to tidy the shelves. In the kitchen Layla cleans her work surface and sets the dishwasher humming. She pulls apart the chicken carcass, removing remaining meat, skin and gristle. These she chops neatly and divides among plastic bowls. Then she opens the back door and steps into the alley.
 
Now you didn’t think we were going to give you it all on a plate, did you? If you want to find out what happens when she steps out in to the alley or to hear other offerings from the anthology, get down to the launch at Antenna. Entrance is free which means there’s no excuse for not spending a bit of cash and picking up a copy while you’re there. It might even become a collector’s item one day. 
 

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