‘conversation’s greatest hits’ and other tips.

by

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Writing Workshop with Amy Bloom 

Sunday 2nd March

English people are terrible at sitting in a semi-circle and sharing.  This, I think, is what Amy Bloom will have taken away from her session on Sunday.  When she arrived, in jeans, immediately likeable and slightly late, she found her audience as tense as she was relaxed, as earnest as she was breezy.  I’m talking crossed legs.  Crossed arms. Handbags on laps.   Her face said “this is going to be a long session”.  I wanted to reply “it’s nothing personal – we like you, we’ll warm up”.
 
Except we didn’t warm up.  Why?  Because it was 11am on a Sunday morning.  And frankly, it’s a big ask to get 40 Jews in a room at that hour – sans bagels and coffee – and expect them to be in the mood to talk.  Happily, Amy Bloom is every bit as eloquent, funny and gigantically intelligent as her fiction would lead you to hope.  So we didn’t have to talk – we just listened as she discussed characterisation, plot, beginnings and why dialogue “is not conversation, it’s conversation’s greatest hits”.
 
Most people in the room had read Bloom’s latest novel
Away and when we finally progressed beyond “I can’t see the board” and “can you speak up”, most questions related in some way to how that masterpiece was realised. For me, Bloom’s early work – two collections of short stories and her first novel Love Invents Us – is what had got me up that early on a Sunday morning. Come to Me – her first book of short stories – occupies a special shelf in my psyche dedicated to the handful of works that made me want to become a writer.  So, being in the esteemed presence of the author, did I allow my 18 year old self to leap out of her seat and make such a declaration? Of course not.  Instead, I took notes.  Quietly.  And raised my hand right at the end, when there was no more time for questions.  Without making eye-contact.  A magnificent display of the national character in action there.
 
It was a weird day. We were weird.  And yet – Amy took it all in her stride and was rather dazzling.  Even at 11am. Even without coffee.  And you know what?  I actually think she liked us.

Nicole Taylor writes drama for television

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