Imagine also being able to drop in on this author from time to time and see the progress being made; being able to observe the writer abandon some notions while embracing others, developing characters, crafting plot-lines. Well, you won’t need to imagine this. You’ll be able to witness it. How come?
Well, Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery will be welcoming Lisa Blower as its first Writer in Residence this spring. From March 14 until June 12, Lisa will be drawing inspiration from the Mary Webb Society’s exhibition, ‘Treasures: The Literature and Landscape of Mary Webb’s Shropshire,’ to create a contemporary reimagining of Mary Webb’s Gone To Earth. And Lisa will be writing live on The Gallery at the museum every Tuesday and Thursday, 10am-3pm, without the aid of a safety net!
“It’s a little terrifying,” Lisa confessed to me the other day over a mid-morning latte in a favourite coffee shop. “I’ve never done anything like this before. People will be able to come along and see something of the writing process as it happens. “This is a complete departure for me in every sense,” says Shrewsbury-based Lisa of the task ahead of her. “I’ve been knee-deep in working-class fiction for the best part of six years, so it will be a real challenge to reimagine a classic work and bring it up-to-date for a modern readership, let alone be writing in the spotlight. It’s funny. People always class me as a working class author and you read Gone To Earth and it really is about class.”
Lisa, who won the Guardian National Short Story Competition in 2009, was shortlisted for the BBC Short Story Award in 2013 and was Guest Curator for the 2015 Wenlock Poetry Festival. She will start her residency at Shrewsbury Museum with an empty desk and bare walls. Visitors will be able to observe the novel writing process from the beginning to the reveal of her first chapter on June 12.
Over 12 weeks, she will publicly share her research, methods and practice, as well as hosting a six-week novel writing course, launching the museum’s monthly book club, and be twice “In Conversation” with Mary Webb Society President and Mary Webb’s biographer, Dr Gladys Mary Coles, who will share her internationally-regarded expertise on Mary Webb and her novels.
Lisa told me: “The idea is that I tell Gladys Mary how I read Gone To Earth and how I interpreted it and Gladys Mary will tell me how she read it and interpreted it. I would imagine our views might be quite different. I see it as a feminist text.”
To find out more about Lisa’s six-week-long novel writing course (the cost is £79) – email Shrewsburycreativewriting@gmail.com
Meanwhile, Lisa is planning an entirely separate event on May 14 at The Wightman theatre – just off The Square and next door to Carluccio’s restaurant. “I will be giving a 20-minute reading and the brilliant performance poet Luke Wright will then present his work so it should be a really good night.”
From Shrewsbury Chronicle, February 10 2016