Sponsor our Reading Runners

Sam Shipman,Get Into Reading project worker and marathon runner, writes to tell you about how TRO’s getting fit and how we need your help to raise £1500 for ‘Our Read’.

TRO's 2009 5k Team

The Reader Organisation are once again heading out in force to run 5 whole kilometres to raise money for ‘Our Read’ – a huge project we’re launching next year to replace what was ‘Liverpool Reads’, giving away thousands of free books across the country. The photo above was last year’s team… this year’s team is even bigger and better: fifteen of our staff have plucked up the courage to run in public along the streets of Liverpool.

We have been training hard in many different ways, weekly runs around Sefton Park wearing an assortment of amusing attire – mainly Patrick’s headband (picture to follow) and Emma Hayward’s snazzy (in her words) running trousers with a go faster stripe down them – six kilometre power walks during strong winds in West Kirby, badminton, cycling, tennis and much, much more. We really have become an active organisation, please help us to reach our fundraising target of £500, and if you can be there on the day to cheer us on we would really appreciate it!

To sponsor our Reading Runners, in support of ‘Our Read’, please click here.

Updates on the team’s fitness regime to follow…

Recommended Reads: Cat Chaser by Elmore Leonard

Steven Powell, who has his own blog about Crime and Detective fiction called The Venetian Vase, has sent us a reading recommendation.

At the age of 84 and with over forty novels to his name, Elmore Leonard is one of the most popular crime fiction writers alive today. His characters are typically quirky, edgy people operating on the fringes of society and trying to make a fast buck in some doomed get- rich- quick scheme. His writing style is deceptively simple: Leonard begins with an idea of a character or a situation and starts writing without any formal outline or conception of the ending. As a reader you begin to see the narrative emerge, and the characters from seemingly unrelated worlds begin to connect and you understand, to an extent, how it must have come together for Leonard in the process of writing. Leonard’s style is one of the best reading experiences for examining how a writer thinks. This approach can be hit and miss, sometimes the books can meander indefinitely and have a rushed tagged- on ending, as with say Freaky Deaky (1988). But when it works, it’s dynamite! Cat Chaser (1982) is Leonard at his best. It has all the hallmarks of a classic Leonard tale— sex, violence, quirky characters  and several unexpected plot twists.

With Cat Chaser Leonard shifts the setting from his fiction’s first home of Detroit and introduces us to George Moran, an ex-US marine turned Miami hotel owner whose struggling business caters mostly to lovers looking for a quick afternoon tryst. Moran makes a return trip to the Dominican Republic where he served as part of Operation Power Pack in 65. Moran is looking for Luci Palma, a revolutionary who shot and wounded him during the hostilities, but instead he meets his one- time lover Mary, wife of Andres De Boya, the former head of the Dominican Secret Police, who is now an exile in Miami.  Moran plans to whisk Mary away from her millionaire, torture-expert husband but only if he can escape the hustle of a Dominican conman who claims Moran shot him during the war, a workshy alcoholic private eye, and a cold blooded professional killer all with their eyes on De Boya’s millions.

It may seem improbable, but Leonard is able to bring these disparate plot elements together perfectly. The novel gives a great sketch of its tropical settings. The characters are compellingly bizarre. The jokes are funny and the last half of the novel is written at a breakneck pace. As Leonard says in his influential Ten Rules of Writing, ‘Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.’ Not a word seems wasted in this rollicking yarn. This is not something every crime writer could claim today. Leonard’s successors in the field, authors such as James Sallis and James Ellroy may have been more experimental with the crime fiction genre, but none have written books as compulsively entertaining as Cat Chaser, although some readers may find the denouement to contain one twist too many.

Well Read in The Independent

Get Into Reading was the focus of a feature piece called ‘Well Read’ in Saturday’s Independent magazine.

All the way through [the group], McDonnell unobtrusively finds reference points [in Old Man Minick] applicable to everyone in the room. Some lively conversations ensue, from trivial matters, like whether or not people prefer the bedroom window open or closed, to more weighty issues, like the difficulty of sharing a roof, in adulthood, with an aged parent. A couple of times, McDonnell sums up the story so far for a woman who seems to be having trouble following it, and yet from this same woman there later comes a flash of psychological insight. “Is this Mr Minick looking for his wife in his daughter-in-law,” she says, astutely. At other times there is much laughter. “He sounds like a bit of all right,” says a woman called Elsie of old man Minick, who to his daughter-in-law’s consternation spends hours in the bathroom. “I like ’em nice and clean.”

This description of a group in action is an extract from the article – you can read it in full here.

Many thanks to all the Get Into Reading group members and facilitators for your help in making this piece happen, and to Lynn Glyn for introducing me to Brian Viner who wrote it.

If you’ve read the piece and would like to find out more about the project, please email us: info@thereader.org.uk; or call 0151 794 2830.

Summer Reading

Stuck for inspiration on what to read over the summer? Let some of the staff of The Reader Organisation help you out by telling you what they’re currently reading:

  • Amanda Brown, Criminal Justice Project Manager: Consequences by Penelope Lively
  • Patricia Canning, Get Into Reading Project Worker: Short Stories by Doris Lessing
  • Katie Clark, Dementia and Elderly Care Manager: Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Victoria Clarke, Get Into Reading Project Worker: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • Casi Dylan, Training Manager: Just Kids by Patti Smith and Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  • Patrick Fisher, Get Into Reading Project Worker: Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney by Dennis O’Driscoll and The Mabinogion by Sioned Davies
  • Niall Gibney, Merseyside Community Theatre Project Worker: Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters.
  • Zoe Gilling, Business Manager: The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
  • Val Hannan, Project Manager, Get Into Reading Wigan: After Rain by William Trevor
  • Kim Haygarth, Get Into Reading Project Worker: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • Emma Hayward, Get Into Reading Project Worker: To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • Sean Hill, Finance: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig
  • Lee Keating, Office Adminstrator: Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton and Access 2007 for Dummies
  • Marianne Kelly, Get Into Reading Project Worker: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  • Penny Markell, Get Into Reading London Project Manager: Possession by AS Byatt
  • Eleanor McCann, Get Into Reading Project Worker: This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
  • Anna McCracken, Community Engagement Coordinator: The Sandcastle by Iris Murdoch
  • Kate McDonnell, Get Into Reading Manager, National Model Project: Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee
  • Emma McGordon, Merseyside Community Theatre Community Engagement: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Gods Gift to Women by Don Paterson
  • Alexis McNay, Get Into Reading Project Worker: Collected Stories by John Cheever
  • Beverley LaRoc, Get Into Reading Project Assistant: The Help by Kathryn Stocket
  • Rachel Salmon, Get Into Reading Project Worker: Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Eleanor Stanton, Get Into Reading Liverpool Project Manager: We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, The Famished Road by Ben Okri and The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson
  • Mark Till, Training Assistant: Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • Jen Tomkins, Communications Manager: If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi
  • Mary Weston, Mersey Care Reader-in-Residence Project Manager: Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter and Original Sin by PD James
  • Clare Williams, Get Into Reading Project Worker: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

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Please remember that you can buy these titles through our Amazon Bookshop, which means that Amazon donates a small percentage of the total price of your purchase to The Reader Organisation. Brilliant!

Positive Practice in Mental Health

Since 2007, The Reader Organisation has had a Reader-in-Residence scheme (based on the Get Into Reading model) at Mersey Care NHS Trust, and it continues to grow from strength to strength. In an article written for Positive Practice in Mental Health, Lindsey Dyer, Director for Service Users and Carers at the Trust, explains the success of the project and members of the senior management team are taking time out of their busy schedules to run a weekly read aloud reading group for service users:

Unlike the mainstream of specialist mental health services, Get Into Reading is not concerned with ameliorating or treating mental health conditions or in building peoples’ coping capacity. It has a very different starting point – the shared human experience.

What Get Into Reading does is create inclusive, safe places where people can come together as equals and, through great books, share creative and critical thinking about life itself in all its manifestations including experience of mental distress.

Read Lindsey’s article in full here.

If you’d like to know more about the Reader-in-Residence scheme, please contact Mary Weston: maryweston@thereader.org.uk/0151 794 2830.

Merseyside Community Theatre in the Spotlight (again!)

Sonja Sohn with MCT's Steve McGowan

Following on from Sonja Sohn’s visit to Croxteth Fire Station to meet our Merseyside Community Theatre team, Society Guardian (and, rather excitingly, currently on the front page of the Guardian’s website, for today at least) have published an article all about that sunny day back in June, where Sonja took to Juliet’s balcony…

It is a blisteringly hot midsummer evening and one of the lead actors from The Wire is standing atop a fire escape at Croxteth fire station in Liverpool, smoke swirling around her legs, reading from Romeo and Juliet.

Read the rest of the article here.

Romeo and Juliet is being performed Thursday 26th – Saturday 28th August, 7.30pm (plus a matinee on Saturday 28th at 2.30pm) at Croxteth Fire Station, Storrington Avenue, L11 9AP

Just turn up in time for the show, or contact Emma on emmamcgordon@thereader.org.uk or 07739420009 to ensure you get a space!


Latitude Reading Fiesta

By Eleanor McCann and Jon Davis, Get Into Reading project workers (and The Make-Shift TRO Festival Team)

It’s back down to earth after a fantastic trip to Suffolk for this year’s Latitude Festival. A tidy team of two, we travelled down to the site two weeks ago, armed with a box of short stories and poems and a truck-load of back issues.  Both of us book and music-lovers, we were up for the challenge of setting up ‘spontaneous’ reading groups amongst the stages and generally taking The Reader on down to the Sunrise Coast.

After careful positioning of The Reader banner (warning: do not use in winds exceeding 1mph!) on the first day, we set up base. We had come prepared with a blanket, some cushions and, the ultimate clincher, four packs of biscuits. We went on to run a total of ten reading groups over the course of the weekend and, with the ages of group members ranging from about sixteen to sixty, we were pleased to meet and read with all kinds of people – from librarians to students, photographers to paramedics.

We would recommend a couple of short stories from the weekend. Donald Barthelme’s ‘The Balloon’ was probably the most popular one. Somewhat surreal, the story led us on to talk about the impact of living in an urban environment on a person’s behaviour, the desire for meaning in the modern world and the ways in which people display distress.

‘The Wishing Box’, by Sylvia Plath, stirred up thoughts on whether there is a link between someone’s dreams and their imaginative capacity. It was fun to share some of our own weird and wonderful nocturnal experiences! We also considered the inward competitiveness of couples, discussing the intensity of being close to a creative person and how their energies have the potential to be destructive for relationships. With another group we tried Plath’s poem ‘Morning Song’. In this poem, is this mother proud of, and intrigued by, her newborn child or is she irritated by the weight of maternal responsibility? We spent a while thrashing this out and decided it is probably a bit of both.

Of the other poems we read, ‘Trust’ (Lawrence) and ‘Crossing the Bar’ (Tennyson) went down well. We decided to tackle an excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s ‘East Coker’ with two confident readers. Taking the last stanzas, we enjoyed attempting to crack the poem’s riddles, talking about the idea of a life as a unified cycle (‘In my end is my beginning’) and, as this seemed partly related to age and we were all young adults, we felt we were probably positioned quite close together on Eliot’s circle. The line, ‘Love is most nearly itself/ When here and now have ceased to matter’ stood out of a poem, which, together, we ‘most nearly’ came to grasp.

Running a reading group outdoors, and amidst the buzz and bustle of festival goers, presented a definite challenge. We found ourselves competing with the noise of comedians, bands and stereos but perseverance and our biggest declamatory reading voices saw us through!

Bumping into Blake Morrison in the camping area, we were glad to have made contact with our patron, who said he’d give The Reader Organisation a shout out at his gig in the literary tent on the Sunday afternoon.

Highlights work-wise:

  • The teenage boy who read the poem out loud. Twice.
  • The lady who said ‘It’s good because you read the poem the first time and you’re not really sure what’s going on but just spending a short time talking about it together opens it all up.’
  • The young man who, when asked what he would like to read, joked ‘T.S. Eliot’ and then ended up reading ‘East Coker’ with us.

And other-wise:

  • the XX, John Cooper Clarke (and his best haiku ever: ‘To convey one’s mood in seventeen syllables is very diffic’), the funny sketch show people, the song ‘Sometimes’ by James, Jonsi’s voice and the epic drumming which drowned it out, Soreen malt loaf – a festival god-send, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and the performers’ camp-site with (wait for it…) TOILET PAPER IN THE TOILETS!

So, the two of us felt as though the mission had been altogether worthwhile: the magazines attracted a lot of attention – they seemed to draw people towards us – and there seemed to be real interest in the work of the organisation as a whole. Overall, we came into direct contact with about a hundred people, plus the many more who would have seen the banner.

Hopefully our presence will have stirred up a bit more awareness of The Reader Organisation in the south and a bit of networking will have paved the way for more opportunities for us.  It was also great for us as individuals to get more experience of running groups and to do so in an untrodden environment. We were delighted to have the chance to try something new and to take advantage of the general festival vibe, one which encourages people to be inquisitive and open to new experiences.

Bring on the next reading fiesta!

Thanks to Jen, Leila, Clare and Lee for providing us with tickets, an atlas, leaflets and a sturdy gazebo in case of the rain which never came!