Last Thursday, I had a wonderful evening launching Women in Shorts out into the world. Yes, it had already been on Amazon for a few weeks, but this was the official launch with friends and prosecco and enough cake for a battleship full of hungry sailors, let alone a land-locked village hall with forty or so ladies (and four gentlemen).
Despite it being, perhaps, the coldest evening so far this year, there was a great turn-out – possibly due as much to the reputation of my husband and daughter’s baking as to the prospect of hearing a story from me. The village hall was rather chilly, but, fortunately, one of the ladies present is on the committee and knows how to get the heating going. This, along with the lively conversation, soon warmed us all up.
I put a lot of thought into selecting which story to read and mulling over readers’ reactions to my first book, The Woman Who Never Did. What struck me was how different people not only like (and dislike) different stories, each reader interprets a story in their own unique way – sometimes finding a meaning that even the author didn’t realise was there!
Once upon a time, my neighbour, Sylvie, painted a picture inspired by a rhyme I had written about a scarecrow who was dreaming of the harvest ball so that she could ditch her rags for one night. My scarecrow was thinking of a big, sparkly Cinderella ball-gown from the Ladybird book I had as a child. Sylvie Jolie, my elegant French neighbour, had different ideas. In her wonderful, colourful painting, the scarecrow lets down her long dark hair and slinks off to the ball in a saucy, figure-hugging, little scarlet number.
At first, I was unsettled by the idea that a reader might not see the story in the same way that I do. Then I thought about the books we discuss at our village book group; we’re always disagreeing and pointing out different aspects to one another – that’s part of the fun. And so, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea that different readers may interpret my stories in different ways. Of course, I want them to get the essence, the plot, the main theme – otherwise I might just as well type up a list of my favourite words and leave it at that. But I think it’s wonderful that the story continues to grow and develop once it’s printed and leaves my hands.
In the end, I didn’t choose a story to read. I said a few words about how the book came to be (covered in an earlier post, so I won’t repeat myself here) and I read a rhyme called ‘The Day We Got to Choose’ (read it here), which is about the joy of doing things on your own terms. Then I handed over to my friend, Philippa Mitchell, and she read a story from the collection that she had chosen and rehearsed herself – without input or direction from me. Her reading was beautiful, full of interpretation and feeling, and it was like hearing my own words with fresh meaning.
Now I feel Women in Shorts has truly been launched out into the world!
P.S. There were lots of good photos from the event, below is one of my favourites. It looks like a real soap opera moment. Your suggestions please … what has Sue just told Terri?