A L Kennedy, What Becomes – Edinburgh City Reads

Due to what I can only hope is some kind of administrative error, I worked two days last week and now owe the company £24. This negative salary has only compounded an already worrying financial situation and I have resolved to work harder at writing and to try to make some money from it.

After a couple of productive hours in the library bashing away at an article and a few less productive hours back at the flat, I braved the sleet and went to see A L Kennedy at the third Edinburgh City Reads event.

Who knew A L Kennedy was a comedian? It’s no secret. She even takes her stand-up comedy show on tour. And yet I was completely unprepared for the hilarity of her reading of Story of My Life, one of the short stories in her new collection, What Becomes. It was proper, laugh-out-loud funny. At one point I had to press my face into my hands to stop my wine from shooting out of my mouth. (Oh yes, another great thing about Edinburgh City Reads: not only do you get to be in an audience with an author for free – similar events at the Edinburgh Book Festival would cost you £10 –  but you also get a free glass of wine. I always feel slightly naughty sitting amongst all the ancient books in the reference library with a drink in my hand and have to take sips when I think no one is looking.)

After the reading there were the usual audience questions. I’m about two thirds of the way through my shorthand course so I thought it would be good practice to take notes in Teeline. It turns out I still can’t write as fast in shorthand as I can in longhand so I didn’t manage to get everything down. Here’s a summary:

A L Kennedy is a fan of Shakespeare and would have loved to have met him. She thinks romance should be like it was in his day, when people wrote poems and letters to their sweethearts and love was this enormous thing akin to being hit over the back of the head with a frying pan

She enjoys doing readings and likes to present new stories to see if they work. “I’m an auditory person. I hear [the story] in my head when I write. [At readings] I’m hearing if the music is the correct music.” She doesn’t like travelling to readings so much because it takes time away from her writing. She writes in hotels and on trains to try to get some of this writing time back. The only short story she got in the New Yorker was written on a train.

She doesn’t plan her novels, although she spends about three years researching each book. “I’m researching as I go. I kind of start [writing] when it feels right and see how it goes. I get to a hundred pages and do a rewrite…but it tends not to be a catastrophic rewrite or an abandonment.”

She says that she does not “literally experience the emotions of the characters” she writes but she tries to “follow characters about” so that she can describe how they think and feel.

She always worries that her writing is rubbish. “I don’t like anything that I do that much. It’s always some kind of failure, otherwise I wouldn’t write the next thing. If I thought that I’d nailed it it would be disastrous.”

Despite the author’s own misgivings about her writing, I thought the story we’d heard from What Becomes was excellent and I was very tempted to buy a copy of the book on the spot. Then I remembered that I’m working this weekend so that’s potentially another twenty-four quid down the pan. Thank goodness we have libraries!


2 thoughts on “A L Kennedy, What Becomes – Edinburgh City Reads

  1. Pingback: Tesco Bank Summer Read 2010 « My Writing Life

  2. Pingback: Behind the Scenes of Let’s Get Lyrical | Helen Caldwell

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