Last Wednesday was Manuscript Meeting night at Nottingham Writers' Club. This is where people can read out a short piece and get feedback from the other members who have a wide variety of knowledge and experience. Two efforts stood out for me.
One fellow read out his entry which had come second in one of last year's club competitions - a short story suitable for radio. This was a tale about a gambler who starts out winning at the casino and has beautiful girls hanging on each arm but then ends up having to sell his furniture and lock himself in his flat to escape his creditors. The description of the atmosphere at the gaming house and the final tension when the debt collector is hammering on his door was excellent and I couldn't find much fault with his effort. The reason that I'm telling you this is that my own entry actually won this competition. I think my friend may have been a little unlucky and, on another day, the placings could quite easily have been reversed.
The other piece that excelled was read by a newcomer who has written a series of short stories all set in the same fictional seaside town. As I listened to him narrate one of these tales I could imagine this one also being being read out on the radio. It was a sinister story with bizarre characters and snappy dialogue. The whole room was blown away by this brilliant work of fiction but were surprised to learn that he has no intention of being published. All we could do was persuade, advise and beg him not to let it go unheard but he seemed unmoved and quite happy just to write for his own (and our) pleasure.
So how do I feel after listening to one story that I thought deserved a better fate than runner-up to my own and another from a chap that seemed so cavalier about his undoubted talent? Bemused. Humble. A bit insecure. Just goes to show what a funny old business this writing lark is.