Event founder and host Kellie Jackson welcomed award-winning novelist Tessa Hadley to explore the question of ‘Short or long? Form in fiction writing.’ Fellow writer and mentor Emma Darwin led the discussion.
There was a great mix of people in the friendly crowd. I took my tea and cake* and sat down. Claire Scobie, whose novel The Pagoda Tree was launched this summer, was at my table. She had been a guest speaker at a previous salon and was full of praise for their special sense of informality. ‘It’s like a free-flowing conversation between the writers and audience,’ she said.
Onstage, Tessa revealed that short stories were initially her preferred format because their scale felt less daunting than a novel. ‘Short stories come like gifts,’ she said. ‘They fall into your lap… But nothing is alive until you have written it!’ Tessa is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker and it was fascinating to hear how their editors meticulously sculpt every sentence to be syntactically perfect for their readership.
The Tea House Theatre is a magical little place situated on the site of the legendary Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which featured in William Thackaray’s Vanity Fair. It is a unique and cosy space with a real fire housed in a Victorian pub building dating back to 1886.
Its twinkling fairy lights and quaint exterior beckon you in from across the park. Inside, red velvet curtains open to reveal a tiny stage in the middle of the room.
A furry tail brushed past my leg at one point which turned out to belong to Gladstone, one of the resident cats. The regular chimes of the old grandfather clock added to the quirky atmosphere.
It was my first time at this monthly event but I know it won’t be my last. What an intimate and insightful evening!
*I must give a special mention to what was the most sumptuous red velvet cake I have ever eaten. The slice was so huge it couldn’t be devoured in one go and so was savoured throughout the talk (most unusual for me!) And the quality was more than equal to the quantity. Hats off to the baker, what a magnificent feast of a cake!