Alpha Season X: Alphaday 2

Hi Alphas,

Welcome to Alphaday 2, Season X.

Every new season has its limbering up period and our muscles gradually get into full swing by the time we reach Alphaday 3. We’ve made a good start and today’s treats include the following:

  • This bulletin from me
  • The Log from Margie
  • The collated entries for Challenge 1 from Olaf
  • The brief for Challenge 2 from Sue
  • A contribution to our Showcasing series of work by members; organised and sent out by Clare.

Next Alphaday will include the votes and comments for the first challenge as well, and that’ll be the full routine up and running.

At this point in the proceedings I usually like to comment on whatever points have been raised by members in the interval since the last Alphaday. Fun bits, serious bits, a smile or a groan. But I can find nothing except shy little silences all round. Most un-Alpha-ish, methinks. Maybe – and here I’m thinking probabilistically – maybe the reason is that there’s nothing to comment on yet, as nothing has happened… until now. It takes time to get into the swing of it, but today’s assortment of treats should make you all keen to join in.

We’ve started our showcasing venture, which will be a regular Alpha event from now on. We’ve made sporadic use of showcasing over the years, but Season X is when it becomes part of our routine together with the challenges and the Log. Clare is pleased with the response so far, but she’s hoping to collect all your contributions (or a description of your intended ditto) at the earliest opportunity so that she can plan a varied programme to be offered at regular intervals. It’s started in grand style with the opening of Rosemary’s latest novel. We’re proud of that. The rest of us may not have novel extracts to offer, but we all have a story, a poem, an article, an opinion piece or a book review that we could share with the group. We also know how important feedback is, so you may want to contribute a piece of writing that you particularly want reactions to. And I’m sure we’d like to comment whenever we can about the work of our fellow Alphas. So, please get something out of your dusty files and polish it up to be showcased. You all have to contribute at least one piece of writing, and we’re looking forward to the regular flow of Alpha writing to while away the three weeks between Alphadays.

Our web site is undergoing a major overhaul. Sally is re-designing it with the help of Rosemary (they’re the Alpha web experts) and very soon it’ll reappear with WordPress, which I expect you’re all familiar with. It’s already there, but the content needs to be transferred and sorted out. We’ll let you know when things happen.

Research is my undoing. I spend far more time researching than can be justified by the deadlines I miss as a result. I’ve just discovered that the era of the typewriter was actually very brief. It was invented in some weird form around 1860, but the one we (most of us!) knew had its main career between 1920 and 1980. Then word processors took over. Personally I used my electric typewriter right up until the end of the millennium (I had a portable Brother before that).

Novels written between 1920 and 1980 were notoriously short; some are now classed as novellas. Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad, Muriel Spark… there are too many of them to enumerate. Before then you could pop a handwritten MS in the post and get lucky. And some of these were massive… from Fielding and Richardson to Dickens. Apart from, say, James Joyce’s Ulysses, the 1,000 page (give or take) novel didn’t return until the computer age made word processing easier. Edward Rutherfurd was recently interviewed in Writing Magazine and he started his epic output in 1987 with Sarum (my town!).

But short fiction is making a come-back in the shape of flash and micro fiction; novellas are also becoming more popular. That’s good news for us and our favourite 300-word format. The typewriter era is intriguing, though. Why were the novels so short… and so brilliant?