Thursday, March 29, 2007


Last night I gave a talk to the Friends of the Chester Literature Festival. At the end of it they gave me these beautiful flowers.

They are so gorgeous I thought I would preserve them here so I can appreciate them for a little longer.

I was asked to talk about 'The Writer's Life' so I decided to plump for an autobiographical account of how aspects of my hapless relatives have tended to land in the middle of my fiction.

Flicking through my work yesterday for examples to illustrate my theme I realised how much they are in there, especially my younger brother Huw: the time he ran into a lake aged three, for instance, or the way the fingertips of his left hand always held the imprint of his violin strings. I suppose, in some way, he is preserved there too.

It is not him, of course, just a part of him. I suppose when anyone writes fiction there is a merging, a collision of experience, research and invention, which allows the writer to enhance an imagined event with a little detail which lends an air of authenticity. But for the large part I expect the writer has to rely mostly on the person he knows the best and the most intimately - himself. But this turns out to be not too confining; for instance with just a little exaggeration I found it worryingly easy to turn myself into someone else and imagine pulling the legs from flies, spearing slugs with sharpened sticks and even drowning an adversary with more strength than I have ever known, holding his head under the water until his limbs lay still.

Time, perhaps, for some more of those glorious flowers...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very civilized lot in Chester obviously. They have excellent taste in speakers and in flowers!

Thu Mar 29, 06:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely post (and flowers), Clare, full of your characteristic delicate observation.

I mentioned that we saw the film "Becoming Jane" last weekend, and that I wasn't sure what to make of it. One aspect was similar to what you describe: almost everyone in it was a "watered down" character or composite character from her novels. You could see how she would have exaggerated, say, the grand neighbour played by Maggie Smith into Lady Catherine de Burgh, her own parents into the Bennet parents, Cassandra into Fanny or Jane Bennet or Elinor Dashwood, etc. They did rather hammer the point home time and again, but it was a neat idea (I am sure not original!) and very much dovetails with your post.

Thu Mar 29, 07:50:00 pm  
Blogger Marly Youmans said...

How tricksy you've been on the last few posts... And these are lovely. I don't think we do so much with writers and flowers--you've mentioned flowers before.

I'm glad Huw is in there. It's consoling.

Fri Mar 30, 01:15:00 am  
Blogger Jan said...

It was a lovely evening, Clare. I really enjoyed it.
I like the picture of you and your grandmother sharing both bedroom and stories. I had an aunt who used to stay regularly with my family when I was a child; she used to sleep in a twin bed next to me, smoking and telling amazing stories... I have wondered since JUST how "creative" she made them!

Fri Mar 30, 10:14:00 am  
Blogger Kay Cooke said...

Aren't those flowers such a lovely smorgasbord of pinkness?
I'm sure Huw would be very proud of his sister.

Fri Mar 30, 02:42:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jan: Thank you - and thanks for coming. My grandmother's tales were very ordinary really - just the things that happened to her when a child - but each one fascinated me very much.

CB: Yes, so many pinks. I hadn't realised there could be so many.

Mon Apr 02, 08:26:00 am  

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