The writers' community that's taking Cornwall by storm
“Good words are good words regardless of their purpose,” says Clare Howdle, one of the founders of Telltales. Clare was brought up in Liskeard, but worked in London until 6 years ago. “I didn't plan to come back, but I met Helen Gilchrist, who was setting up Stranger magazine in Cornwall, and everything spurred me on to move back,” says Clare.
Telltales came about through Clare and her friend, Chelsey Flood. “We wanted a reading night which was an inclusive community to welcome everyone to share their writing.” Clare talks quickly, using her hands for emphasis. But Telltales wasn't to be an open mic night. “We wanted a wide variety of writing styles to be profiled alongside each other in a dynamic set which would keep audiences engaged and leave fellow writers inspired. We wanted Telltales to represent first timers and established authors who would all draw something valuable from reading their work out. Finally, it couldn’t be intimidating.”
Telltales started in Babahogs, a tiny cafe in Falmouth, but quickly outgrew that space and is now in its third venue, at the Rum Bar above Nancy's bar in the middle of Falmouth. “Jane Pugh often says it has a New York 1960s boho feel to it with all the candles on the table and I love that idea,” says Clare.
In terms of material to be read out, there are no rules. “It's about the quality of the words, not experience,” says Clare. “As long as it's an original piece of work by the writer, we take prose, poetry, novel extracts, travel journals – any writing that has a creative bent to it. ” Work can be submitted by the website – http://wordslikepictures.com/telltales But Clare aims to achieve a balance. “We get a lot of submissions so I try and make sure we get different people reading out every month – that way we give as many people an opportunity as possible.”
Now people have understood what Telltales is about, the quality and diversity of work has improved. “We wanted to provide the opportunity to aspire to something, which is why we put first timers alongside more experienced writers. So it's about the upwards curve which is where the idea for the Parabola Project came from.”
The Parabola Project is a collection of short stories by Telltale writers. “I've always had a passion for print and a sense of independent publishing,” says Clare, enthusiasm bubbling out of her. “It struck me that after 18 months we'd heard so many talented writers but sometimes, if they weren't practised performers, the audience needed to read it themselves so it was really about wanting to take that talent to the next level in print.” She leans forward, eyes sparkling. “For a lot of writers having something in print is really important and can make a big difference for someone wanting to launch their career or reach a new audience.”
Clare managed to find funding for this project and worked with Venn Creative to make a book that has style and substance. “You don't often see a marriage of imagery and design with words in creative writing, and that makes a big difference when it comes to people picking it up. I was so impressed with how it looks and reads.”
Telltales also featured at the Port Eliot festival in 2009, and Clare had bigger ideas for 2010. “I wanted to be on one of the main stages so in 2010 I pitched much earlier and they scheduled us in the Walled Garden. We were the first literary act and it went down really well and the writers were asked to perform again,” she beams. “It's great experience for the writers to perform in a different environment, and we hope we're doing it again this year.”
Clare's enthusiasm is infectious, and she has many other events planned for the future, including live events at the Poly in Falmouth. “I'd love to do it all day every day but because I do it in my free time I just don't have the hours in the day,” she says regretfully.
But she is delighted at how Telltales has taken off. “More and more people are coming along just to listen and have a good evening. Maybe people who haven't picked up a pen in years will think, 'maybe I could do a bit of writing'.” She finishes her coffee and looks up. “It's really gathering momentum and I want to keep that momentum going. I love to see someone growing into their own writing and sharing their work.”
Check website for future events and next meetings - http://wordslikepictures.com/telltales
Cornwall Today May 2011