Glenn Fosbraey

At the last Tuesday night meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society, Glenn Fosbraey, the Head of Department for English, Creative Writing and American Studies at the University of Winchester spoke to us about the importance of lyrics. Glenn’s talk proved popular, and, as we’ve had Glenn to talk to use before, I am sure he will come to talk to us again.

“Lyrics enhance our emotional connection to a piece of music.” Glenn Fosbraey, Head of Department for English, Creative Writing and American Studies at the University of Winchester, told the gathered members and guests of the Hampshire Writers’ Society this Tuesday night.

An instrumental can instigate an emotional experience; Lyrics bring on more complex emotions: humour, irony. Glenn played us Paul McCartney’s Yesterday, which everyone knows was composed by McCartney during a dream. However, the song’s working lyrics were about scrambled eggs with bacon.

No real emotions are raised – “Unless you have a thing about eggs.” says Glenn. Lyrics, particularly at the time, seemed largely to be only for commercial use, the band connecting with the girl on the front row and songs were written to a “faceless you.” Neither were the Beatles in the business of producing instrumentals – Yesterday needed some proper lyrics.

Lyricist, Tim Rice described the song’s biggest success as its relatability. Yet, when you segregate, Yesterday’s lyrics, you find what Glenn calls the “shiver factor.”

“Why she had to go…” McCartney’s mother died suddenly when he was just thirteeen.

And then:

“I said something wrong…” at being given the news of her death, McCartney had blurted, “What will we do without her money?” He had said the “wrong thing” – a thirteen-year old’s way of dealing with grief.

Whether you agree with the way Yesterday was written or, indeed, who it was written for, you cannot deny that when you think of it this way, it gives you a “shiver.” Thus, lyrics also instigate a physical response from the listener. A connection which is impossible without words.

You can find out more about Glenn here.

Report by L Nightingale.

This is Glenn’s Song – and this is why he loves it.

Our special guest at the next meeting of the Hampshire Writer’s Society will be Head of Department for English, Creative Writing and American Studies at the University of Winchester, Glenn Fosbraey. You may remember that Glenn spoke to us back in 2016 when he waxed lyrical about his latest addition to the University – the degree on Popular Music. A month or so later, Glenn very kindly sent us his top five favourite song lyrics, explaining, in his very poetical way, why he liked and valued them so much. Still a huge fan of The Smiths, this is his favourite song of all and he tells us why.

‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ – The Smiths

It was on a gloomy winter’s afternoon at the age of fifteen, teenage angst and unrequited love in full-force, that I had my best Smiths experience. I had been infatuated with the band for a month or so by this point, started via a random purchase of Greatest Hits album Best 1 from the bargain bin at Woolworths, and I was ready to graduate to their masterpiece The Queen Is Dead. As I start the long walk back from HMV in town, I read the lyrics from the CD brochure and savour the anticipation of those words being set to music; hearing those first sounds coming out of the speakers; feeling the irresistible mixture of nerves and excitement as I get ever-closer to my house and CD player. At home, I close the bedroom door behind me and turn the lights off, cutting myself off from the bustle of family and TV downstairs, creating perfect Smiths-listening conditions. About half an hour in, I arrive at the penultimate track. ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’. I fall in love. The mixture of the everyday (‘driving in your car…’) with the philosophical (‘…a heavenly way to die’); the way Morrissey is able, in a couple of lines, to demonstrate the shyness, frustration, and confusion many teens encounter when faced with the objects of their desire (‘…and then a strange fear gripped me and I just couldn’t ask’); the mixture of the ugly (‘and if a ten tonne truck kills the both of us…’) and the beautiful (‘…to die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine’); it’s the slight pauses before the choruses kick in; the swirl of the strings in the choruses themselves; it’s Morrissey not quite being able to reach the highest note but not re-recording it, making the listener feel at one with him, as if it could be them in that vocal booth instead of him, missing perfection but making it somehow more perfect because of this; it’s the repetition of the title again and again in the outro. Love and loss, hope and despair, alienation and belonging, all crammed into four life-changing and life-affirming minutes. There is, indeed, a Light That Never Goes Out, and for me, it will always be this song, in that moment, on that CD player.

Round Up

Report by Lisa Nightingale

1BookFair2016Fourteen book sellers lined the Annual Members’ Book Fair finishing off the Hampshire Writers’ Society’s fifth successful season. Keep an eye on this blog for their details.

It’s been an inspirational year! Talks came from High Fantasy Author James Barclay, Crime Writer M J Arlidge, Kate Walker on her Twelve-point Guide to Romance and Children’s Author Steve Voake. In between these we fitted in a short story masterclass with Della Galton. Screenwriter Robin Mukherjee will be returning as an adjudicator in September’s free competition.

Kate Mosse shared her writing secrets in May and in June Clare Morrall joined Chris Cleave who came over all weird! EveryoneBraveisForgiven

Our competitions this year have been judged by among others; Author Allie Spencer and Adrienne Dines, Emma Scattergood, Senior Lecturer in School of Journalism, English and Communication at University of Bournemouth and Winchester University’s Creative Writing Degree Programme Leader Glenn Fosbraey.

Simon Trewin of WME
Simon Trewin of WME

Our mission is to encourage writers of any style or standard introducing them to Publishing World Professionals. We’ve had talks from Literary Agent Simon Trewin and Little Tiger Press Publisher Jude Evans.

Next season’s programme is all but finalized. Renowned Comics Writer Pat Mills, Historical Romance Writer Adele Parks, Cosy Crime Writer Simon Brett and Women’s Saga Writer Margaret Graham will be joining us. We’ll also talk poetry with Maura Dooley and Maggie Sawkins, short stories with Clare Hey and Radio Programmes with Whistledown’s David Prest.

 

Creative Writing Degree Programme Leader’s Top Five Lyrics

When Glenn Fosbraey joined the HWS as our special guest back in January this year, he spoke, as Programme Leader for the Creative Writing Degree at the University of Winchester of his passion for the recognition of the importance of song lyrics within the degree. He has very kindly sent us his top five ‘popular’ music song lyrics.

MorriseyNovember Spawned a Monster – Morrissey

 

I could quite easily have filled all five positions with Morrissey lyrics. The Marmite of music he may be, but none can deny that Morrissey pulls no punches in his lyrics and constantly addresses subjects that other lyricists shy away from. ‘November Spawned a Monster’ is no exception to this. Morrissey sings from the perspective of a young woman frustrated by people’s reactions to her physical disability: “save me from pity, sympathy and people discussing me”; and suggests how she is as much ‘a hostage to kindness’ as she is to ‘the wheels underneath her’. Morrissey also provides the viewpoint of those who wish for equal opportunities for the disabled: ‘oh one fine day LET IT BE SOON/ she won’t be rich or beautiful/ but she’ll be walking your streets in the clothes that she went out and chose for herself’, as well as those of the harmfully narrow-minded: ‘poor twisted child, so ugly, so ugly’. Insightful, impactful, and way ahead of its time, over 25 years after its release, ‘November Spawned a Monster’ remains one of the best commentaries on disability even committed to record.

S&GKathy’s Song – Simon and Garfunkel

A song about self-doubt and introspection, it includes one of my favourite ever lines:

‘And as I watch the drops of rain/ Weave their weary paths and die/ I know that I am like the rain/ There but for the grace of you go I.’

A love song that manages to reject any kind of cliché. Beautiful.

ThisIsHellThis is Hell – Elvis Costello

 

A lyricist that never relies on stock phrases and has an ability to create vivid mind pictures with his songs, Costello blends his talent with words with delightfully sprawling melodies, making him a songwriting force to be reckoned with. ‘This is Hell’ includes my favourite ever Bridge section, where the tone of the song shifts dramatically, almost out of nowhere, from playful to serious, and contains the magnificent line:

‘It’s not the torment of the flames that finally sees your flesh corrupted/ it’s the small humiliations that your memory piles up’.

One line buried in the middle of an album, this perfectly demonstrates Costello’s ability to make the listener engage with his words, and think about them long after the song has finished.

PulpPulp – Common People

 

A masterclass on socio-political commentary wrapped up within the narrative of a story, set to an infectiously catchy melody, ‘Common People’ tells the story of a wealthy female student who wishes to be like other students and live the proper student lifestyle, even if that means living in relative poverty. The narrator doesn’t buy into it, however, and points out that however much she may pretend she’s just like the ‘common people’ our protagonist will ‘never understand/ How it feels to live your life/ With no meaning or control/ And with nowhere left to go’, and that even if she does share the lifestyle, if she ‘called (her) dad he could stop it all’.

The Britpop period spawned many throwaway songs, but this certainly isn’t one of them.

PinkFloydPink Floyd – Brain Damage

I’ve chosen this one not because of its story, or ‘meaning’, but for the sheer aesthetics of the lyrics. The final song on Dark Side of the Moon, Roger Waters really goes to town with his wordplay and imagery with lines such as:

‘Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs’, and ‘The paper holds their folded faces to the floor’.

A stunning end to a stunning album.

Competition Result, January 2016

Competition January 2016

Write the opening 300 words of a short story based on a song

Our adjudicator for January was Glenn Fosbraey. Glenn joined Winchester University in 2009 where he is instrumental in supporting and expanding his students’ creative skills. He is Programme Leader for both BA (hons) courses Creative Writing and Creative and Professional Writing. Glenn hopes to add a new degree, Popular Music, to the creative writing department next year. The courses in his department have regularly been voted with 100% satisfaction in student surveys.

There were 22 entries this month. Glenn gave a special mention to:

Wendy Fitzgerald, Added character depth, and narrative that went way beyond the song itself; even more of an achievement considering it was only 300 words long.’

And Lou Merlin, A brave, challenging textual intervention on The Kinks’ Lola which made the reader consider gender, society, and acceptance.’

Congratulations to January’s three winners, listed below with Glenn’s comments:

1st place: Claire Fuller

‘The kind of story that keeps a reader thinking about it long after it ends, and one with a multitude of possible meanings and interpretations. A real thought-provoker with the perfect balance between intrigue and information.’

Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night

I hear the sound in the room above mine – the attic: like someone shaking out damp linen or rattling at the wooden shutters. I leave my bed and go upstairs. The blackbird is already dead but still warm in the cup of my hands. In the morning I bury it in the garden between the roots of the mulberry tree. I take a piece of board up to the attic and nail it over the broken window. I’m pleased with my practicality; that I’ve managed to do it without asking Peter.

I eat lunch, carry my spade out to the kitchen garden, forget about the bird.

Later, in the night, I wake to the sound in the room above mine. Like someone shaking out damp linen or rattling at the wooden shutters, or the beating of a bird’s wings. I don’t go up.

The next afternoon when I’m passing the orangery I see the shape of a man silhouetted outside one of the tall glass doors that overlook the ruined parterre – all the box hedges run wild and thistles growing where once there was lavender. He is standing like Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man: legs splayed and arms raised and the image makes me cry out in alarm, but it is only Peter. He opens the door and steps inside. He has a tape-measure in one hand and his clipboard in the other; his pencil stub is tucked behind his ear. He makes no comment about my noise and I think perhaps he didn’t hear it through the glass.

‘Frances,’ he says, as a greeting.

‘There are birds in the attic,’ I say. ‘Perhaps you could take a look?’

‘Of course. Did you hear the blackbird in the middle of the night?’ he says. ‘It was singing in the mulberry tree.’

 

2nd place: Andrea Parr:

‘A story with wonderful description that wholeheartedly immerses the reader in the place and time. Questions are posed but not answered, and we hang on to every word, almost compelling us to re-read and see if there is anything we might have missed.’

Walking in Memphis

So far, nothing about the trip had gone to plan. From the plane, the mighty Mississippi had been a strand of blue cotton winding up from the sea. It hadn’t glinted once in the dull afternoon light.

She’d expected old world charm; besuited gentleman with welcoming southern drawls; the gentle waft of Blues in the background. What she got was blue neon and a floor so polished, it was painful to look at. There was no music at all, not even that piped stuff James always hated. It was like airports the world over and, sitting flat and insignificant amongst endless white columns, she watched fat raindrops burst against the window. The whole time, James was in her head, his face rigid with scorn. Pressing her fingers to her aching eyes, she wondered why she’d come.

“Nice shoes.”

A man she hadn’t heard approach was sitting next to her, his face half lost to a pair of magnificent sideburns, his eyes fixed firmly on the three inch heels she’d begun to regret wearing. In the bright airport light, the suede exactly matched the blue of his gaze. As she gawped back up, he smiled, his teeth very white in his tanned face, and winked.

“You oughta see the park.”

Less than an hour later, she was leaning against the smooth trunk of a spreading tree, staring upwards, wondering how he’d known. Above her, the dapper figure of WC Handy gazed benignly into middle distance, trumpet clutched in both hands and, for the first time since she’d arrived, James’ voice in her head fell silent. Raindrops pattered through the leaves and ran like tears down her upturned face. In the silence, she felt like singing. Her heels clicked loudly as she turned.

Time to see what Memphis had to offer.

 

3rd place: Linda Welch.

‘The lyrics are expertly threaded into the narrative, and a story that is enormous in its subtext is presented here only in its gloriously bare bones, forcing the reader to chase its shadows back to the song in search for clues.’

Salvation

I may be reckless, but I’m not stupid. Internet protocol dictates that the first time you meet someone, you make it somewhere public.

So I had chosen a bar in town, busy, but not too crowded, and positioned myself in a far corner so that I could watch for him to arrive. I didn’t have long to wait. As soon as the door opened, I knew it was him. I felt the same rush I had when he’d opened a private chat window with me for the first time: it was as if all the air had been sucked out of my lungs and replaced with pure amyl nitrite. I felt a stupid grin crease my face, I couldn’t help it.

He hadn’t seen me, he probably thought I wasn’t there yet. He was earlier than we’d agreed, maybe he’d wanted to do what I was doing: watch, assess, evaluate before committing. The first step towards salvation can be a daunting one. All conversation seemed to dim around him as he made his way to the bar and heads turned, both male and female. He was a good-looking man, and the cut of his suit, the subtle gold signet ring and his commanding presence marked him out as someone of wealth and taste. As he glanced around the room, I saw weariness and pain in his eyes, reflecting what he had told me in the private chat window. He had seen so much suffering and sorrow, violence and desolation, and I was the only one who could take that burden from him. I walked over to him and held out my hand to shake his.

‘Pleased to meet you,’ he said. ‘I hope you’ve guessed my name?’

‘Luc,’ I nodded. ‘And you can call me J.C.’

 

DON’T FORGET: The adjudicator for February is Jude Evans from Little Tiger Press and the competition asks for:

A picture book text, fiction or non-fiction, in prose or rhyme aimed at children 2-7 years. 750 words max.

Send no illustration samples.

Adjudicator: Jude Evans from Little Tiger Press

Deadline noon 1st February 2016