Wet Zebrants gathered at a beautiful venue in Burton to participate in an evening of book readings and general literary chatter, fuelled by wine and mince pies.
After a short introduction and welcome from editor Martin Baker, the book slam began. The first reading came from Tony Judge, the humble but brilliant author of Sirocco Express. He read a moving extract from his book, and set the bar very high indeed. He was assisted in his performance by his obliging editor/mic stand.
Risaria Langley was up next, reading from her How Does It Get Better Than This? A master storyteller, she entertained with tales of hitchhiking and her mission to find the 'ideal driver', as well as trying to embody the 'ideal hitchhiker'.
Risaria inspires with her confidence and positivity, encouraging us to always press into environments that bring joy and deep appreciation, and steer clear of negative situations that bring fear and a sense of lack. She repeats her mantra for calm and contentment: 'Follow your bliss'.
Robert Cole followed with an experimental poetry show. He invited us into his man shed, alongside unused tools, broken lawnmower and musty garden smell, for an intimate reading of his work.
Robert grounded his original material in the canonical works that have inspired and influenced him as a writer, reading from Eliot's The Wasteland. His approach brought the audience into his creative process and prepared us for the poetry to come. He performed a selection of poems from his London Poems collection, which will be published by WZ very soon, having reached the 1000-vote mark last month. Absolutely stunning.
Jim Ring read from his alternative historical thriller, Queen's Ransom, giving a lively performance and impressively making the most of the whole performance space.
The audience was carried away to another reality as Jim expertly conjured a world in which the Nazis won the war. His novel is currently in the editing room, and will be ready for you to enjoy soon. It's a cracking read, and we can't wait to share Jim's brilliant talent with you.
To finish off the first half of the programme, Martin Baker amused his audience with an extract from The Widow Hunter. He shed some light on Hollywood and the world of scriptwriting, sharing his experiences with literary flair and his characteristic dry sense of humour.
After a break to top up on drinks and gobble some mince pies, we reconvened for a discussion about the publishing and creative process led by Martin Baker, Tony Judge and Jim Ring, who all brought their experience in the industry to the table.
They took questions and revealed their struggles and triumphs, but the Q&A quickly turned into a general informal discussion involving the whole group. We exchanged stories and encouraged each other in the work that we are doing, which flowed neatly into Gary Farmer speaking about his writing process.
Gary spoke about how his intention was not to show off about his travelling adventures, but to inspire others to live and accomplish their dreams despite obstacles.
Obstacles are inevitable, but in the end you need to do what you want to do and not let anything get in your way. Whether that is not letting a physical impairment stop you from daring to live life to the fullest, or taking your first steps towards writing a book, Gary offers himself as an example of how it can be done, if you commit to it.
The inspiring tone continued as Andy Isaac shared stories with us. He preaches confidence in oneself and living with irreverence, without being held back by restriction or limitations on your experience.
Andy maintains that everything is subjective and thus subject to change: 'The truth is whatever you see through your own eyes.'
The lovely Deborah Hadfield won the spotlight next to give a starkly honest performance of extracts from her first novel Crossroad Angels. Deborah's control of dialogue is exceptional, likely thanks to her vast experience in the scriptwriting world, and she read with an engaging warmth and vulnerability that made for a memorable, intimate performance.
She confessed, giggling, that this was brand new material which she would probably edit as she was reading it to us, having written it that very day and changed it 5 minutes before the book slam began.
There is a real sense of the WZ writers growing and sharing together, and producing their work in an unashamedly raw, organic manner. This lends a refreshing, unrehearsed (in a good way), genuine quality to the evening, and there is a common feeling of being part of something very special.
The atmosphere in the room is one of mutual appreciation and encouragement as Robert Cole is invited to round off the book slam with a few poems. The final instalment is appropriately named 'Going to Bed', and closed the occasion on a note of optimism and thanksgiving for the journey that we are travelling together.
Thank you to the writers who are the heart and soul of Wet Zebra, and to those who came to share in the celebration of their talent.
We look forward to the next book slam which will take place on the 9th December at The Adelphi in Preston, following our much-anticipated Media Day at UCLan.
If you like the sound of all this, come along, and join the family!