Reading and Writing for Pleasure: February | Douglas Burcham

Douglas continues his writing and reading for pleasure series with some thoughts for February on places related to writing progress and structure, 2016 reading and publishing.


January 2016 was an interesting month of travel to Ramsgate, Margate, Vermillion Sands and Berlin with writing and reading connections.

Most of our friends could not see why we were going to the seaside in the first week of January. Given the heavy rain when we arrived and while we were there, we did wonder as well. We stayed in the recently restored Augustus Welby Pugin St Edward’s Presbytery let by the Landmark Trust. Pugin’s house The Grange, also Landmark Trust, is adjacent with both under the shadow of his massive church building. If I am minded to begin writing another new story-book, there is plenty of setting material in Ramsgate.

There is an excellent “Loop” bus service connecting Ramsgate, Margate and Broadstairs. I had not returned to Margate for over 30 years. Efforts are being made to bring back the past by restoring Dreamland the pleasure ground and take action on the adjacent wavy grey concrete multi storey flats and derelict shopping area in the Arlington area. When it was first developed, it may have seemed a good idea, but with the passing of time now less so, although the sea views and “Turner’s light.” from up high on a fine day should be good and perhaps an inspiration to write a story about high-rise living.

We also visited the new Turner Gallery designed by David Chipperfield. We were disappointed not to see any Turner paintings. Even a small area of prints or copies of his paintings with his life details would have been better than nothing. Anyway, all this is leading up to a lasting memory a “modern artwork” in an exhibition on risk. An audio visual presentation about creating large outside sculptures by digging a pit, filling it up with concrete, and before the concrete sets, dropping used steel girders and pipes from a great height by crane into the concrete.

I wonder whether a book might be created in the same way by randomly dropping short stories as chapters into a book pit.

While in Ramsgate, I read a copy of The Crystal Palace by Patrick Beaver and have subsequently purchased a copy because I feel it has potential as a background subject. We also visited the Viagra less Sandwich and viewed one of Alec Clifton Taylor’s favourite houses – Edwin Lutyen’s Salutation … a house very different to Arlington House. Even with high-speed rail connections and new roads, the East Kent area appears to be struggling to reinvent itself for the future. Pilgrim’s Hospice Charity bookshop in the Old Bank Building in Margate near the sea front is excellent.

Turning to the future my next port of call was Vermillion Sands, which features in J G Ballard’s Complete Short Stories, a 1,200 page tome I am working my way through in random order. My writing in many ways falls between the reality of today and similar dystopian future places where Ballard’s stories are set. Stephen King’s message supporting this post is relevant and Ballard’s wonderful ideas have fired hopes of my writing not being so far fetched as I have thought. I will not be surprised if I find later in this book a story about East Kent in the future.

Now we travel to Berlin in 1946. My writing friend recommended I should read The Spring of Kasper Meier by Ben Fergusson. It was a winner of the Historical Writers’ Association 2015 Debut Crown Award. As a reader, I found the story well crafted, with many excellent long and short descriptive set pieces, which kept boiling all the way through as to Kasper’s eventual fate. Overall, a grim read about life in Berlin in 1946 as well as tackling difficult human relationships. I have yet to decide whether the subtle overall punch line is credible as semi-fiction. For a change in a book, the cover promotional text is spot on:

A gripping mystery set in a surreal and terrifying post-war Berlin where nothing is quite what it seems.

Again, Stephen King’s message supporting this post is relevant, and I have marked several passages setting a standard I would like to aspire to in my own writing.


Points of note this month

Two more people standing on the shore line watching as the tide continues to come in.

First – The Society of Authors have made a plea to publishers and Amazon for higher returns to authors for their hard work.

Second – Philip Pullman has made a protest.

Russell Blake’s recent posts (here and here) on structuring and selection of an editor are of interest.

Returning to the seaside where I started above, this book may be useful.

Good writing and reading to you in this month and in 2016.


DouglasDouglas Burcham started writing on 1 June 2010 and self-published under the Allrighters’ name a book of short stories ‘Ywnwab!’ in September 2013. A million words of draft writing reached completion in January 2014 split between 900,000 words of fiction and 100,000 words of non-fiction. The latter being about writing and memories of buildings, trains, boats and planes. Since then slow progress continues to be made in the conversion of the draft words into final books ready for possible publishing under the Allrighters’ name.

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