One of my fellow students invited me to a book launch at Shrewsbury’s Dough and Oil pizzeria, and (truthfully) the exceptional pizza was not the only thing encouraging me to go. Dr Lisa Blower, the winner of the Guardian National Short Story Prize (2009), and author of ‘It’s Gone Dark over Bill’s Mother’s’ and ‘Sitting Ducks’, ran a talk at the University Centre Shrewsbury last year, where she discussed her work regarding a re-write of a Mary Webb piece.
Without this event, I wouldn’t have known about Lisa and her wonderful way of writing, and she probably would have a much quieter life without a flock of students picking her brains about her writing! Without this, I would never have been introduced to Lisa’s writing, and that would be a very sad thing indeed.
Her award-winning ‘Kitchen-sink’ realist stories immediately resonated with me. Growing up in Shrewsbury, I have very strong associations with various places; the Severn Pitches, where I was first allowed to venture out with my friends, with my pink Sony Ericsson Walkman on hand to call my mum when I arrived; the Quarry, where I had many happy childhood memories, but which I now largely associate with an incident I had with a rogue football; and the Gateway Centre, where at the age of five I cried because of one boy popping the balloons.
Lisa takes familiar places and presents them from her own associations, resulting in me looking at my town differently and thinking about how one place can hold so many memories for so many different people. However, it’s like some components have been plucked straight out of my childhood. I’m sure most people have the argument on their way to the coast, but Dinas Mayddwy holds a prominent place in the lives of many Salopians. Her short story, ‘Barmouth', includes an argument I am very familiar with from my childhood holidays to the coast - ‘the car can’t take it! I can’t take it!’
The evening included a reading of ‘Broken Crockery’ and ‘Pick up Your Socks’. There’s something special about a reading, when you hear the author tell their story how they want to tell it. She made the words on the page come alive, and whilst others traced the words with their fingers, I was engrossed by her way of reading and purely listened.
Her extremely humble and grateful personality made everyone in the room equals, and for the remainder of the night, Lisa made sure to personally thank everyone who came, signing their books and having a laugh with them. If you haven’t already, pick up one of Lisa’s books – you won’t regret it.