Love’s Portrait – Teaser

Love's Portrait - Anna Larner 2018

Context of extract:

Museum Curator Molly Goode (central character) has just attended a museum funding meeting with her boss Evelyn Fox and the Chairman of the Trustees Mark Drew. Her suggestions that the museum should focus on more diversity and community based projects are rebuffed in favour of securing the ongoing patronage of the Wright family, headed by Georgina Wright (central character).

Molly returns to her desk defeated and dispirited.

 

Molly returned to her office, dropped her notes back into the bin where they belonged, and slumped onto Fran’s desk with a heavy sigh.

“You’re sitting on my sandwich.” Fran pushed at Molly’s hip encouraging her to stand.

“I’ve sat on your lunch? Oh my God, could this day get any worse?” Molly held Fran’s baguette, squishy in her hands. It was now less buoyant baguette and more flatbread and pretty much summed up her morning.

Fran stood with a groan. “Want anything from the cafe?”

Molly looked down, crestfallen, and shook her head.

“I take it the meeting wasn’t exactly a great success.” Fran placed a motherly hand on Molly’s shoulder.

She couldn’t bring herself to mention the annex let alone that she had prompted the idea of a dedicated exhibition in the first place. “Honestly it was chilling to hear them. Everything’s about money or status to them. I thought museums were for and about the people.”

“You’re sounding more like a social historian every day,” Fran said, with an approving nod. “Although isn’t the art world, your world, all about that-status?”

“Not for me.”

“Good for you.” Fran placed her hands on her hips. “I think we need cake.”

“Have lunch in the square with me?”

“Sorry no can do, I’ve a shopping list longer than David Attenborough’s career. But I’ll see you later. So what will it be-Victoria Sponge or better still eclairs?”

Molly mustered a smile. “How about both?”

“Good choice.” Fran turned back at the door. “Do you remember what I said to you when you first started at the museum that you will always feel disheartened if your approach is to work against them?”

Molly nodded.

“The trick, if there is a trick,” Fran frowned slightly. “Is somehow to find a way to achieve what you believe is right but that still delivers for the powers to be.”

“So is this how you handle Evelyn?”

“On my good days, yes. On my bad days lots of rude words shouted at the top of my lungs in the privacy of the ladies loo.”

Molly giggled. “Right. Noted.”

The instant Fran closed the door Molly was engulfed by images of the Chairman with his expression of vacuous power on his face, his mane-like hair swept back, his tie tight against his collar moving with his throat as he spoke. He was confident in a bullish way that suggested at his heart he was insecure. His insecurity made him dangerous, and if she was not mistaken, that was likely the source of his power and influence-not his knowledge, not his experience, but the fragility of his ego, charming when stroked, ferociously defensive when challenged.

Evelyn seemed to be a master at managing him, stroking to calm and cajole. She appealed to his competitive nature by presenting the museum as a place of excellence. A leading institution indeed. She was the consummate manager of people.

Molly closed her eyes at the image of Evelyn with her pen raised to silence her. Her temper rose. She needed to find a place to shout rude words.

Leaving the frustrations of her meeting behind, she headed to her sanctuary, a small public garden next to the museum. Aptly named Museum Square, the simply designed square patch of civic ground was bordered on two sides by parked cars. A collection of benches placed around the inside edge of the square separated the grass from wide borders. A diagonal path, broken up by tree roots, stretched across splitting half way along to encircle a large horse chestnut tree. This tree marked the seasons, signalling the changing patterns of the year. In winter, bare and stark against white skies, the tree seemed to shrink, huddled with those brave or crazy enough to stop awhile and sit. In spring tentative buds relaxed in the welcome return of the first rays of sunshine. In summer students rested against its weathered waist reading their books in the cool shade of branches laden with the soft flutter of green leaves. And in autumn the debris of crushed conkers bashed free from its branches litter the ground evidence of battles won and lost and of time passing as the empty husks curl and brown.

She cherished those moments spent sitting on her favourite bench eating her sandwiches with her lunchbox at her side and with the sprawling horse chestnut her faithful companion.

Basking in the calm stillness of the beautiful September day, she took off her shoes and let the grasses brush against the soles of her feet. Tipping her head she lifted her chin to the cloudless sky. The air was changing from the dry sandy notes of summer to the sweet musk of autumn. The leaves above her were fading and their greens had softened to mossy shades from vibrant lime. Even the midday light beaming through the canopy seemed weaker now, less luminous, its strongest rays falling on another person sitting on another bench, in another square, in another land.

 

*Now available to pre-order at the Bold Strokes Books webstore*

 


© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

 

 

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Bold Strokes Books Festival – 5th/6th May 2018

As always I’m really looking forward to attending the annual Bold Strokes Books festival.

This year thirty three authors from around the world will be descending on Waterstones, Nottingham on the 5th/6th of May to celebrate all that is great in LGBTQ fiction.

Tickets are available now. £3 per day redeemable against any book purchase.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

BSBbookcovers

attending authors

*** Bold Strokes Books is a boutique imprint producing quality fiction that pushes the envelope to present immersive, unique, and unforgettable reading experiences. ***

2017 – What a year!!!

My debut year has been a blast, here are some of the highlights…

AfterEllen recommended Highland Fling on their Official Summer 2017 Reading List.

DIVA Magazine reviewed Highland Fling in their June Pride Issue.

 

“Take a day off, curl up and lose yourself in this lovely lesbian romance.” – Sita Balani

 


Bold Strokes Books authors rocking it at Gay’s The Word – what a magical evening that was. Thanks Uli and Robin for being such great hosts.


Author panel at Lfest 2017 – what a magical weekend. Thanks Cindy and the LFest Crew for putting on such a fantastic festival of arts, music and entertainment.

Click here to read my interview with Velvet Lounger from the Lesbian Reading Room.


Radio DIVA interview – Thanks Rosie Wilby and Heather Peace for being such great hosts.

Listen here to me chatting about my debut novel Highland Fling, my publisher Bold Strokes Books and my excitement about the upcoming DIVA Literary Festival. (from 42mins).

Radio DIVA Interview


Look out for my new lesbian romance Love’s Portrait to be released in 2019. In the meantime why not check out my short story Hooper Street which is available now on amazon.


© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Literary Crush – Carol Ann Duffy

carol-ann-duffyCarol Ann Duffy – the compassionate and authentic Poet Laureate.

As the UK’s first female Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy has re-imagined the role on her own terms. Gone is the notion of a patriarchal remote, aloof honour and in its place the Poet Laureate has become an open, engaged, and fearless defender of not only poetry but of social justice and equality.

Her impulse to address questions of justice and equality means that Duffy does not shy away from emotive subject matters such as climate change, the banking crisis, and more recently the Orlando nightclub massacre. It is these sorts of life-events that ignite her imagination and stir her to write.

Of her writing intention and process Duffy explains, “It all comes from the same place. There’ll be what you might call a moment of inspiration – a way of seeing or feeling or remembering, an instance or a person that’s made a large impression. Like the sand and the oyster, it’s a creative irritant. In each poem, I’m trying to reveal a truth, so it can’t have a fictional beginning.”1

I particularly admire Duffy’s compassionate search for the truth, her desire to remind us of the simple humanity of things. Her uncomplicated explanation of sexuality in Pink News, for example, was not just simply wonderful but important for people to hear “…it’s fantastic that I’m an openly gay writer, and anyone…who feels shy or uncomfortable about their sexuality should celebrate and be confident and be happy. It’s a lovely, ordinary, normal thing.”2

In my favourite poetry collection ‘Rapture’, Duffy invites the reader to experience the joy of new love, the ache of a lover’s absence and the heartbreak of love lost. The images of the natural world and of the changing seasons are frequently employed and personified to embody emotion, and to enlarge the landscape of the unfolding narratives. But also everyday objects, such as a mobile phone, are drawn into the drama and become the focus for action and feeling. In the poem ‘Text’ the obsessive beginnings of love is found in the words ‘I…look for your small xx feeling absurd.’3

Duffy’s poetry works so well because the reader can relate to it. It is authentic to our experience. She does not want poetry to be remote, either in subject matter or availability.

She is actively seeking out new poetry talent4 and wants poetry to be everywhere. As Jeanette Winterson observes, Duffy ‘has often spoken about poetry as an everyday event and not as a special occasion. She wants us to enjoy poetry, to have as much as we like, to be able to help ourselves to a good, fresh supply, to let poetry be as daily as talking – because poetry is talking.’5

The skill of ‘talking’, however, escaped me when I met Carol Ann Duffy.  I recall standing in the queue at the Warwick Words Festival in 2009, nervously waiting for her to sign my copy of ‘Rapture’. When I reached the front I told myself ‘say something memorable to her’. I managed to mumble shyly “Thank you for your poetry reading”. I remember she looked up at me, pen in hand, the edge of her hand pressing against the open title page “Thank you for coming” she replied, holding my blushing gaze, as she signed a kiss beneath her name and across my heart.

 

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/dec/04/poetry.features
  2. http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2009/05/01/carol-ann-duffy-sexuality-is-a-lovely-ordinary-normal-thing/
  3. page 2, ‘Text’, Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy, Picador, London, 2005 (paperback 2006)
  4. http://poetrysociety.org.uk/competitions/ted-hughes-award/ and https://web.archive.org/web/20121127102519/http://www.picador.com/Blogs/2011/9/Message-from-Carol-Ann-Duffy
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/17/jeanette-winterson-on-carol-ann-duffys-the-worlds-wife

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Poetry – On Reflection

anna-larner-poetry-reading-polari-shout-festival-birmingham-mac-19-11-2016
Poetry Reading at Polari, Shout Festival, mac Birmingham 2016

On Reflection

If we were to meet again, I would say

sorry today, for then, when mad with love,

deranged with passion, all reason astray,

I cried ‘I love you!’ Three words – not enough.

 

So I left flowers to wilt at your door,

composed mixed tapes, wrote odes, baked cakes, your name

on my lips, in my brain. ‘Be mine’ I implored,

as I failed exams, missed deadlines, endured pain.

 

I lost sleep, got sick, felt weak, refused to

see sense – still convinced that you could be mine.

And through it all, silent, wise and kind, you

knew the one answer for me would be time.

 

You were so gentle with your rejection.

Yes, I can see that now, on reflection.


We Want cover front

‘On Reflection’ has been published by Paradise Press as part of We want to tell you how… a wonderful anthology of poetry and prose celebrating women’s loves, lives and landmarks.

‘We want to tell you how … contains deeply heartfelt, pain-fully honest, and beautifully written pieces of writing. For those who have ever lived with hope or regret, you will find your own story amongst these pages.’ —Clare Summerskill

 

ISBN 978-1-904585-89-3

 

AB8B0E10-A38E-4B5F-9D90-5FCF6A04D4DF

 

‘On Reflection’ has also been published by Leicester University’s Centre for New Writing in a pamphlet and online.

ISBN 978-1-9997526-2-0

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Literary Crush – Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf 1 June 1939

Discovering the writing in the shadows of the writer.

I can’t remember when I first heard the name Virginia Woolf; I seem somehow to have always known of her. A tall slim-framed woman, with a long face and a slightly severe expression – set off by sad eyes, heavy lidded with the weight of her convictions.

As a member of the Bloomsbury Set2 of thinkers and artists Woolf was determined to challenge conventional thinking and intelligent enough to find the language to validate her life lived on its own terms.

And it was that life lived on its own terms that I first engaged with. I remember being enthralled by the scandal of her affairs with women, most notably Vita Sackville-West3, who inspired her famous gender-bending novel Orlando.

But here is the problem for me – I was so taken with her that I found I couldn’t see past the woman to find the writing. It was like her work was overshadowed by her infamy. I knew I needed a way into her writing but I just didn’t expect it to come in the form of an essay.

The essay On Being Ill4 was written by Woolf in January 1926 for The New Criterion5 and I was immediately intrigued by this quieter, less celebrated work.

Woolf, like so many creative individuals, infamously struggled to maintain her mental health. She endured terrible bouts of depression which ultimately led to her suicide in 1941, at the age of 59. My sense is that the price of seeking freedom from convention is not measured in sterling or dollars but in the degrees to which the human spirit can be tested and broken. There is nothing ‘free’ about free-thinking.

I wondered whether a hint of regret might emerge of the toll taken upon her by having lived a pioneering life. No, instead Woolf defiantly sets the ‘recumbent’ bed-ridden individual up against the ‘upright’ healthy as she explains that it is the ‘recumbent’, on their back ‘with their face to the sky’ who can see the world with a fresh perspective.

It is a perspective which scrutinises those ‘genial pretences’, such as sympathy:-

“We do not know our own souls, let alone the souls of others. Human beings do not go hand in hand the whole stretch of the way. There is a virgin forest in each; a snowfield where even the print of birds’ feet is unknown.”6

And there it was – shining, her writing, her beautiful prose, her imagination on the page.

Woolf goes on to explain that her imaginative powers became enhanced with illness.

“In health meaning has encroached upon sound. Our intelligence domineers over our senses. But in illness, with the police off duty, we creep beneath some obscure poem by Mallarme or Donne, some phrase in Latin or Greek, and the words give out their scent and distil their flavour, and then, if at last we grasp the meaning, it is all the richer for having come to us sensually first, by way of the palate and the nostrils, like some queer odour.”7

With every page I turned, Woolf the celebrity gave way to Woolf the writer. Not only in her lyricism, but as she explored the notion that ill health had given her a unique perspective on life, her way into new levels of creative experience. No famous novel could tell the reader this – no journey To The Lighthouse, no party with Mrs Dalloway, could afford such insight.

And as my snowfield glistens, Virginia Woolf is no longer in the way of Virginia Woolf.

 

Virginia Woolf (25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941)

  1. Photo: Gisèle Freund/IMEC/Fonds MCC, printed in the Telegraph 9 July 2014 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/10914210/The-last-photograph-of-Virginia-Woolf.html
  2. The Bloomsbury Set. http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/bloomsbury-group/introduction/profiles
  3. Vita Sackville-West. http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2016/03/09/a-thing-that-wants-virginia/
  4. ‘On Being Ill’, by Virginia Woolf. The Hogarth Press, 1930. Virginia Woolf The Complete Collection
  5. The New Criterion https://thenewcriterion1926.wordpress.com/
  6. ‘On Being Ill’, by Virginia Woolf. The Hogarth Press, 1930. Virginia Woolf The Complete Collection
  7. ‘On Being Ill’, by Virginia Woolf. The Hogarth Press, 1930. Virginia Woolf The Complete Collection

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.