Welcome to Alphaday 3, Season XVI. Our season is now in full swing after the gentle lead-up while we set everything in motion. It’s now up to you to make the most of it and join in all things writerly from the actual writing and feedback, to sharing your experiences and your background reading. Hopefully this will motivate you to progress with your own writing or inspire you to try out something new. The company of like-minded writers – even in the virtual setting of Alpha – is a great incentive to write more and write better.
As usual the efficient Alpha team has been busy preparing our first full Alphaday agenda. As usual our agenda relies entirely on the input of every Alpha in the form of challenge entries, feedback and participation in our other activities. Thank you to all and sundry!
Alphaday 3, Season XVI agenda:
- This bulletin from me
- The results of the ‘dilemma’ challenge from Sarah
- The collated entries for the ‘anthem’ challenge from Ros
- A call for entries for the Open Page Ed.1 Season XVI from Christine
- A Writers’ Reads prompt from Morgen
- A call for Log news from Phil
Mouth-watering, isn’t it? That should keep you occupied for a while and make you grab your pen / stab your keyboard to join in.
As there’s no special Alpha news I’ll move straight on to the general news. I’ll steer clear of the ‘omnishambles’ (a recent addition to the Oxford Dictionary because of its frequent appearance in journalism – and very expressive, I think!) and concentrate on the exciting – ie. the literary – news about all the massive prizes that are being strewn like confetti on the most brilliant writers of our time: fame and fortune for doing that which we all love doing: writing.
There’s the Nobel Prize for literature, this time awarded for two years because somebody on the committee misbehaved and they missed the one last year. Looks like they’ve misbehaved again but this time to award fame and fortune to the tune of £750,000 to a writer who, as somebody put it, shows “shocking ethical blindness”. Apparently Peter Handke doesn’t have any regrets about his refusal to see anything wrong with the genocide of Serbian Muslims in the 1990s. He’s a brilliant writer, they say, and the prize is for his writing. Tricky one, that. The 2018 prize was given to a Polish writer called Olga Tokarczuk. I’d be happy to read a book of hers if I find one.
On a much smaller scale we have the BBC short story prize. It’s a national prize which means you have to be a UK resident. Fame and fortune – £15,000 – was awarded to Jo Lloyd for The Invisible, a story about an invented myth of an invisible family with a gorgeous privileged life that comes to fascinate a small rural, Welsh community.
All four shortlisted authors were women … that’s just by-the-by! I listened to the stories on Radio 4 podcasts and I loved every one of them. Apart from the one about a shape-shifting mother who was ordered to stick to being an ordinary woman, the stories were realistic on the surface, but with a mysterious element that carried the story on to a different level.
Finally there’s the Booker Prize which I’m addicted to following from longlist to final announcement. I haven’t read any of the books – yet – but I’ve read reviews and listened to Radio 4 Front Row interviews with the shortlisted authors. The first prize is worth £50,000 which may seem like peanuts compared to the Nobel Prize (and to some Euromillion jackpots that are won for zero merit!) but there’s also the fame that goes with it, and as this is now an international prize where the only criterion is that the novel must be written in English, the fame is world-wide.
I confess I didn’t want either of the two literary giants, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie, to win. I read several of their books about 30 years ago when they first won the Booker Prize. Atwood in particular has had more than enough publicity lately and her book, The Testaments, has already sold massively and the TV series of The Handmaid’s Tale has undoubtedly boosted the interest in this novel … as she herself acknowledged.
Would I have chosen Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl Woman Other? Perhaps. It’s concerned with world-wide problems – as are all the shortlisted novels. Minorities, oppression, inequality, totalitarianism, etc. That’s one thing that stands out. The other thing that I found curious and very interesting is that several of the shortlisted novels don’t use punctuation in the usual way. Evaristo’s novel is one of them. The other is Lucy Ellman’s Ducks Newburyport. It’s 1,020 pages long; is written as interior monologue in (more or less) one, long sentence.
Wow! I’m thinking: challenge brief. Somebody prepared to set it (for 300 words)?