Strange Days, Stranger Times

In a world turned upside-down, how do you hang on to normality?

Simple answer–you can’t. Describing the situation as ‘the new normal’ doesn’t offer an accurate picture of this strange, quiet world in which we find ourselves. The most mundane or straightforward activities become mired in a whole fresh set of challenges. Going to the supermarket. Passing people in the street. Meeting friends.

For Reading Writers, the last few months have been–well, I can’t say business as usual, but we haven’t run down the shutters. Meetings have continued using various different platforms, from Skype (ugh) through Jitsi (frustrating) to Zoom (seems to do the job). From our manuscript nights to member-led sessions to the near iconic Not The Booker Prize night, we have managed to stay in touch and, to an extent, keep writing.

In fact some of us have done better than that. Kirsten Hesketh has released her first novel into the world! Another Us is a tale of lives turned around in the face of sudden change, and how you cope with the realisation you may not be the person you (and everyone else) thought you were. It’s warm, witty and occasionally heartbreaking. Snag your copy (ebook only right now, alas) here.

Kirsten reveals on Twitter she’s just finished the first draft of her second book. Girl’s a whirlwind, I tell ya.

Meanwhile, Julie Roberts had a piece in the Henley Standard around the celebrations for VE Day. It’s a lovely piece of found history, vibrant and sharply observed.–all-districts-/151714/wartime-memories.html

As for the rest of us–well, we carry on. We’re starting to think about how we work the events of the second half of the year, like our Writers and Novelist’s Day, into the ever-changing framework of our social contract. What do we do for the annual Summer drinks? How about the Book Night, hosted by this year’s Don Louth Award winner Rob Wickings? All is flux, all is change. We’ll figure something out. We always do.

Meanwhile, we have the awards ceremony for our Spring Competition next Wednesday. A black tie dress code apparently. I can see that only applying from the waist up. Thirteen Reading Writers entered, submitting pieces based on the theme ‘my life as…’ How many of these works will be influenced by the lockdown? That is something that can only be revealed on June 10th. Our judge, Alex Reeve, has a tricky task ahead–according to Competitions Secretary Ray Offiah it’s a very strong set of entries! News and results as we get them.

We hope you are all coping in the face of these strange days and stranger times. Stay strong and beautiful.