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Learning How To Read

So I did it!

Amidst the snowy-white dazzle of stage lights and the surprise of a microphone that I had to stand so close to that it was almost inside my mouth – I did it! And I wasn’t (quite) as frightened as I thought I would be. In fact, I left Nottingham’s Royal Centre feeling happy and relieved and very grateful.

In addition to the support of those close to me (thank you), and some excellent, practical and generous advice from the very talented Annie Clarkson on her Myspace blog, I was fortunately able to participate in a small reading workshop beforehand with director, Daniel Buckroyd. His enthusiasm and insights were helpful and inspiring and, aside from encouraging me to embody the personality of my narrator with more confidence, he asked the pertinent questions (far more eloquently and concisely than I am asking them here) –

Why is your character compelled to tell this story?

What is it about this story that your audience will connect with?

Simple but essential questions to ponder while writing, I think, as much as reading.

‘Word of Mouth’

My (previously blogged about) short story ‘The Insect Room’ is to be included in Nottingham Writers Studio’s ‘Word of Mouth’ reading event, to take place at the Len Maynard Suite at Nottingham’s Royal Centre, at 7.15pm on the 3rd December.

The other writers participating are Matt Hurst, Ian Charles Douglas, Roberta Dewa, Nigel Smith and David Sandhu.

If anybody’s interested in attending, tickets are priced at £4.00 (which includes a complimentary glass of wine or juice – what a bargain!) and are on sale now from the Royal Centre Box Office (telephone: 0115 989 5555).

I’ve been lucky to have had my work brought to life by actresses before at ‘Word of Mouth’ events, but this is the first time I’ll be reading there myself.
I’m very excited (and quite a big bit scared)

‘The Insect Room’

. . . Prompted by the ‘Bugs’ theme in the current issue of ‘Mslexia’, I’ve posted my own recent bug short story on to my website – http://www.megantaylor.info/

Here’s how it begins:

The Insect Room

I still dream of ‘The Insect Room’, of visiting the museum, with my father. It isn’t far away, despite the years. Sometimes it’s right there, waiting, when I close my eyes. A secret place, inside me.

Outside, it was always raining – at least, that’s how it seems when I look back. I remember a pewter rain-light at the window and a constant, muffled tapping. Wet footsteps squeaking on the parquet floor, and a damp smell drifting from the walls . . . Knowing that it was time, I’d slip my hand out of my father’s coat pocket. I would go wandering through ‘The Insect Room’ alone.

Please click here if you’d like to read on . . .

Mslexia Mention . . .

Hurray to writing magazine Mslexia for celebrating Flame Books in the ‘Independent Press’ feature of their current issue. Aside from releasing How We Were Lost, Flame also publish the very talented Shanta Everington and Anne Brooke, along with many other fabulous writers.

Here’s how Crista Ermiya from Mslexia described my debut novel:

How We Were Lost by Megan Taylor is written from the point of view of a teenage girl, 14-year-old Janie. This is a dark, compelling novel, with some superficial similarities to Jill Dawson’s Watch Me Disappear . . . The language is seductive and draws the reader into Janie’s complicated world, which features a pregnant older teenage sister, an absent mother and a neurotic aunt. As Janie’s life collides with the public drama being played out over the hunt for two missing girls, the reader is forced to reconsider the line between childhood and adulthood.’

I’m rather chuffed ( :

Ghost Stories

While my latest novel, ‘Before the Light’ sits to one side simmering, before I decide what still needs tightening or rewriting (yet again), or whether it might finally be done (if a book can ever really finally be done) I seem to have started something new.

This very newest novel will be a ghost story (the clue was in the title), or at least, a kind of ghost story. And I am loving it, especially since it has given me a wonderful excuse to revisit some favourites this summer – The Turn of the Screw, The Haunting of Hill House, Rebecca, The Woman in Black, Beloved . . .

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a thing for spooky stories, but not for just those in books. I loved all those fireside/sleepover tales too, the ones about hitchikers who vanish and people missing heads. One of my fondest kid-memories is of holing up in an airing cupboard with my sister and some friends and sharing stories. And how we all jumped out together screaming when the gory ending was revealed. Once more, I realise that I’m refusing to grow up, but if you have any recommendations or favourite tales I’d really like to hear them . . .

In other things, after receiving a few enquiries, I’ve been thinking about beginning another interactive blog story. Please let me know if you’d like to get involved ( :

And, finally! Huge congratulations to fabulous Caroline Smailes whose incredible new novel Black Boxes is about to take the world by storm!

Words and Pictures

Earlier this year, I responded to a request by MMU photography student Danielle Ridyard, who was looking for writers to take part in her degree project. Writers were asked to create a brief poem or prose piece inspired by her striking images of ‘found objects’ – things and fragments of things that she’d discovered around the apartment block where she lives. I was intrigued by the idea – even more so, when my image arrived and I had no idea what it might be. But very quickly, I saw that it could embody so many different ideas and images, and before I knew it, a (tiny) story had emerged.
Danielle’s degree show apparently went splendidly and last week, a beautifully presented booklet appeared through my letterbox; it was my little story, entitled ‘Tooth’. I feel very grateful to have played a part in Danielle’s project. She’s intending to sell work from her exhibition (including ‘Tooth’) at the Annual Artist Book Fair at Manchester Metropolitan University this November.

So I’ve been thinking about photographs.
When I wrote ‘How We Were Lost’, my pc was surrounded by old seaside holiday snaps. During ‘Before the Light’, I’ve referred to pictures we’ve taken when out walking in the Peak District. I’ve also pored over ‘Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour’ for its wonderfully atmospheric images.
However, none of these pictures are described directly in my stories – but (as with Danielle’s photo), they’ve often provided a starting point, from which ideas and feelings, and other images could grow.
For me, so much about writing seems to be about making and remaking vivid pictures.

In other picture-related news, the fabulous Nikki Pinder, responsible for ‘How We Were Lost’s stunning cover art, is taking part in a joint art exhibition at the Islington Arts Centre. The exhibition runs from August 8th to September 5th. Check it out, if you can . . .

Walking and Writing

If I get stuck with my writing, even briefly, or if I’m about to begin a new story, chapter or scene, I like to go for a walk. A thinking walk.

Most of the time when I’m walking, a story will seem to simply unfold. Something loosens between the footsteps and the daydreaming. I’ll hear voices or picture a scene where before I was only wondering. Often, these ideas will feel as if they’ve arrived from nowhere, or from out of the trees, or from the sky. Or even from the tarmac. It’s a bit like magic.

In Nottingham, one of my favourite places to walk is Wollaton Park, especially early in the morning when only the crows and the deer are about. When I’m back in London, it’s Greenwich Park (I really like parks) because my childhood is very powerfully there. Sometimes it feels as if my small, secret writing self is waiting for me, ready to help, in Greenwich Park’s rose garden, or by the ducks.

I know I’m not alone on this one. In her essay Walking into the Story the fabulous Helen Dunmore explores the subject far more eloquently than I ever could. While in The Faith of a Writer the amazingly prolific and generally amazing Joyce Carol Oates confesses that walking doesn’t work so well for her. She runs instead.

More about Stories

I’m still thinking about short stories, about how they’re often neglected and about how truly stunning they can be.

For me, Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’ is a perfect, enduring classic, while Clare Wigfall’s ‘The Loudest Sound and Nothing’ blew me away last year. Other collections I’ve loved include Salinger’s ‘For Esme – with Love and Squalor’, Nicholas Royle’s ‘Mortality’, Atwood’s ‘Bluebeard’s Egg’ and a huge amount of Ellen Gilchrist‘s fiction . . .

There are several short story champions around at the moment. Salt publishing have recently launched their dynamic Story Bank , which I’ll definitely be investigating, while I’m currently reading Laura Solomon’s dark and lively collection ‘Alternative Medicine’ (published by the ever-supportive and innovative Flame Books). For further excellent general short story information, visit http://www.theshortstory.org.uk/, where among other things, you can find Raymond Carver’s brilliant essay, ‘Principles of a Story’.

I would love to hear about the short stories you’ve enjoyed . . .

In other news –

I’m July’s ‘Guest Writer’ on John Holding’s great new Fictionfest website! If you visit the site you can read my (guess what?! another short story!) ‘On the Island’.

Plus! The book I nominated, ‘Monkey Beach’, Eden Robinson’s beautiful, layered debut novel has been included on Gary Smailes’ excellent ‘One Book’ site.