Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Power of the Spoken Word: Tweet Tales & the Launch of 'Books Are Loud'

What a difference a reading makes! Today I listened to Hugh Bonneville and Brenda Blethyn read out the tweet stories from the Society of Authors, and stories that had seemed to me like an unconnected series of lines (probably because I knew how they'd been generated) had new meaning. They are certainly worth listening to (and, of course, supporting the campaign to save the short story on radio 4 - all it needs is your electronic signature here).

This was something I was thinking about on Tuesday night when I went to an audiobook book launch in Manchester. Judy Franklin is an actress, and has narrated many audiobooks for audible. She is also an author, and I met her and her friends Helen Sea and Diana Bradley through Alison Leonard. All of them were studying, or had been studying, at Manchester Metropolitan University's Creative Writing School. The novels they had produced on this course were launched together on Tuesday night - with not a piece of paper in sight - but through the new audiobook publisher BooksAreLoud. It's an exciting venture. Through Audible, they will be available throughout the world.

Alison (who is the author of the excellent Tinker's Career) has written a book called Flesh and Bronze, is based on a young prostitute who modelled for Degas, and who comes face to face with her younger self when she sees a bronze of herself in a shop window. It sounds a poignant tale and you can read a little more about it, as well as watch a rather good video here. The launch coincides with the Degas exhibition now on at London's Royal Academy.

Capuccinos by Diana Bradley takes place in a coffee house and centres on six people who work or are frequent customers. Diana is billed as 'Manchester's own Jackie Collins', and judging by that extract this is entirely accurate. To quote the publicity: 'It's not just the coffee that's steaming!' You can see more about it here.

Helen Sea's work is aimed at young adults, but as is often the case with this sort of book, is expected to appeal to adults too. Helen, like Alison, produced a haunting film to give a taste of the book. It is based in Norway and tells the story of a quest in the old Norse tradition.

Julia Franklin's Turn Up For The Book is a light-hearted romantic comedy, and is set in a background of advertising, restaurants, book selling... and a little murder! That sounds a wonderfully potent mix, and judging from the excerpt we heard is a hugely entertaining read.

The final author in the launch is one of the lecturers in MMU and his book The Only Living Boy has already been published by Salt. It is a collection of short stories, and we heard a couple of them during the launch: Judy and Robert acting a scene that was so well written that it came vividly to life.

Judy, who has started Books Are Loud, with Alison, Helen, Diana and another author, Paula McDonald, says that she will be able to use her knowledge of fellow actors to make a good match between book and actor. And her colleague, Rick Woodhouse, says he is looking forward to giving authors a voice on the world stage. For a small fee they will make an podcast sample of a book and launch it on iTunes. It sounds like an excellent idea to me - and will no doubt be good publicity for a book. They are hoping to attract small publishers to the scheme.

The guest of honour was the poet laureate (and head of MMU's Creative Writing School), Carol Ann Duffy, who gave a short speech after the launch showing her support for this enterprising group of graduates.

There was then an opportunity to buy flashdrives of the audio and kindle versions of the books (and I am happy to report my first one has downloaded successfully on both Kindle and itunes so I am looking forward to a little multimedia reading when on holiday).


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