Saturday, 29 November 2008

The MNW Conclave

In one of my favourite books, The Book of Dreams by Jack Vance, the cornerstone of the plot is a picture of the guests at a banquet. Who are they, and what happened to them? You'll need to read the book to find out, but a poisoned delicacy known as charnay is on the menu...



I was put in mind of that iconic--to me, at least--image by this picture Len Tyler sent me. It's of the gathering of MNW writers and friends Len and his wife Ann hosted in London on Friday to mark David Isaak's visit to London. The parallels with the Vance book are inexact: charnay was not served, but I can never see a group photo like this without thinking of The Book of Dreams. The guests in Vance's picture are unidentified, so I will leave it to the reader to work out who is who here... As well as MNW writers we have an editor (THE editor, in fact), a bookseller and, all being well, a future Macmillan New Writer.

It was marvellous to meet so many of the other members of this blog. What was strangest was that it didn't feel like meeting new people at all. With those whose blogs I keep up with the most, like David, Matt and Aliya, it was like resuming a conversation broken off the same day.

One of the most impressive things about the group was the complete absence of ego. Anyone published by MNW has, by definition, achieved a level of success most aspiring writers can only dream of; but this is a group of people whose focus is on the craft of writing, not on the trappings of being published. And everyone genuinely seemed to enjoy the success of everyone else on the list--and indeed to have read each others' books. I suspect, though, that no-one has read quite as many as David Isaak, who has not only read every MNW title ever published but, it seems, every title ever published, full stop!

One of Len's guests last night was David Headley, the proprietor of the exceptional Goldsboro Books in London. David is a great supporter of MNW titles and it was good to see him again. If you want to buy any MNW book--or other signed first editions--why not get it from here rather than Amazon or your local High Street chain?

It was a great to meet so many people I had previously only known virtually, and it was a splendid evening. Thanks again to Len and and Ann for making it possible!

12 comments:

Len Tyler said...

Many thanks, Tim, for posting this and thanks to everyone who came - most from some distance. It was great to see you all.

No, we decided against serving charnay - but I'll check if Nigella has a recipe for it.

Aliya Whiteley said...

Yes, I had a really good time and enjoyed meeting new people whilst catching up with those I'd met before.

If only I hadn't missed my train on the way home and had to fork out a vast amount of money on a taxi (entirely due to my own stupidity of reading the timetable incorrectly) it would have been the perfect evening.

Ann Weisgarber said...

Thanks for posting the picture. I've been hovering around the blog this weekend waiting for word about the party. It sounds like a huge success, and how could it not be? It was a gathering of talented and gracious writers, our outstanding editor, and THE bookseller of London. Congratulations for making it happen.

But please, you've got to tell me. Who is the mystery person sitting beside David?

Eliza Graham said...

It was indeed a fantastic evening and I had to wrench myself away to catch my train.

Thank you so much to Len and Ann for hosting it.

(If you mean David of Goldsboro', Ann, it's me sitting next to him. I had cunningly arranged myself so that only my scarf and head were visible.)

Oh no! about your train, Aliya. I do things like that all the time.

Frances said...

Yes - it was a really wonderful evening, and many thanks to Len and Ann who were such generous hosts. Aliya - how sickening about your train. But at least you travelled home in style!

Tim Stretton said...

Aliya - ouch!

If only we hadn't detained you for so long talking about uses of rats' brains, all would have been well...

Len, charnay is perfectly safe if prepared meticulously. Nigella, with her propensity not to worry about quantities or cooking times, wouldn't be my choice of charnay chef. Much more important to toss your hair than read the recipe.

Matt Curran said...

Great post, Tim. Thanks for doing this. And lots of thanks to Len and Ann for letting us invade Islington. You were impeccable hosts!

Aliya, I feel partly responsible for you being late!! Dave and I were nattering to Len and Ann too long (sorry!).

Missed trains aside (and hangovers - not sure what Len was plying me with by the end of the evening, but it didn't mix well with wine and beer!) it was a great night and proof enough that we should do one of these things at least once a year if we can...

Brian McGilloway said...

It was a lovely night, Len. Many thanks to you and Ann for your hospitality. It was great to finally meet so many people I felt I already knew.

Ann Weisgarber said...

Thanks, Eliza. Mystery solved!

David Isaak said...

I seem to be arriving in the comment trail a little late, but I was a little late for the party, too. We writers are crafty about that sort of foreshadowing.

That was a marvelous get-together, though I didn't get to spend as much time talking to anyone as I would have liked (especially Eliza and Brian, who were wise enough to announce their departures before I could position myself between them and the door).

If any of you ever pass through California, come see us. (And if you happen to be passing through with children, allow me to point out that we're a mere 15 miles from Disneyland.)

On the other hand, don't expect us to organize a dinner with the skill of Len and Ann (thanks, guys). Our idea of organizing a dinner is to call for reservations, and sometimes can't even manage that properly.

Ellie said...

That's a very tempting invitation, David!

I was sorry not to have long to chat to you, either. Simply another reason to do it again, I think, though.

Eliza
(not Ellie)

Frances said...

This is not worthy of a post on its own, so I'm tagging it on to this one. I have just discovered (quite by chance) a book entitled "The 2007-2012 Outlook for the Propelling Pencil in India" (price £525.96) and thought it might be of interest...perhaps as a Christmas present for someone?