Glasgow Writers: Frankie Gault
(I’ve signed up for another of Alan McMunigall’s Creative Writing Courses and looking forward to starting back next week on 14th January, 2014. I first heard about these courses from Brian Hamill, when I interviewed him for inclusion on my Glasgow Writers Project. Then I was further encouraged to go along by Gillian Mayes, my buddy on the MLitt Creative Writing Course at Glasgow Uni. Alan’s class attracts a mixture of newcomers and people who have been attending his classes for a number of years.
This will be my third course and I’m very much looking forward to starting back – the only criticism I have is that classes only last two hours. However, we usually go along to the pub afterwards and that’s also very enjoyable. Everyone pulls their weight at the classes and the advice and support provided by the other students is tremendous.
They are a talented bunch – recently a couple of them contributed to the Christmas Stories, Poems and Winter Tales on my site; and I particularly loved a children’s story The Story of Little Robin by Frankie Gault. Pat Byrne, January, 2014)
Frankie Gault, Glasgow Writer
Frankie Gault is one of my friends on the course. His was the first piece of work that I ever heard read out in the class – he is an accomplished writer and his grasp of writing in the vernacular is remarkable. His work is vivid and funny – he’s a dab hand at black humour and has created some dark characters with an outrageous sense of humour. Not least of all in his story The Ballad of Catastropeh Jane and Hawaiian Dave (from Tip Tap Flat, An Anthology of New Scottish Writing, 2012). His story The Angina appeared in ‘thi wurd’ – a new literary magazine dedicated to quality fiction – and Frankie’s story fits the bill. I was delighted when he agreed to contribute to my Christmas Stories and was absolutely thrilled, albeit, surprised when he sent me his beautiful children’s story. Despite his modesty Frankie clearly has more than one string to his bow.
He’s also has to be congratulated on gaining a Diploma in Higher Education (Creative Writing), September, 2013. . (The photograph shows Frankie, on the left, receiving his award from Matthew Lee, Director of the Centre for Open Studies, University of Glasgow)
Frankie Gault on the topic of writing and what it means to him:
Question 1. What does your writing mean to you?
An odd time nothing, and a lot of the time everything. Let’s start with nothing. First of all, writing is a hobby for me, nothing else. It’s nice to have created characters that people have spoken about, however I am not delusional enough to think that I can make a living out of writing. Not many do. After a reading night at Alan McMunnigall’s Tuesday night class, a friend asked what I thought the future held. I told him: The only certainty is that my alarm clock will go off at six o’clock tomorrow morning. And it did. Another time a well-meaning workmate asked me if I thought about giving up my job to try writing for a living. I said to him: Well, the first thing I would do would be to type my work onto rice paper because I would end up having to eat my stories.
I am, and will always be, a novice writer. I seem to be fairly well received so far and I am greatly encouraged by that. I will always listen to advice and strive to improve my work, because after all, it’s always about the work and not the writer. It’s probably fair to say that there is nothing new about me or what I write about, but it’s fun and I’ll keep going.
I haven’t worked hard enough on the characters from The Snowdroppers to say they are fully formed. Perhaps Hughie is but the rest are still finding their feet within the pages. In the future I want to be writing something when suddenly Fitzy or somebody swaggers onto the page unannounced, leaving me to shake my head and say: For fuck sake here’s Fitzy whit’s gonny happen noo. I want to follow them, see what they do. In that respect my writing means an awful lot to me, I want to see how they all get on. The core Snowdroppers characters are Hughie, Ped, Fitzy and Gal. Then there’s Jean, Rosie, Pojie, Benny and Sandra. Hughie’s parents Jackie and Linda have roles to play and lurking quietly in the background is the bold Belter. He’s the glue that keeps the scheme together in a changing world. I kinda feel responsible for them, especially as they are all flawed to varying degrees. One thing they’ll never do though is feel sorry for themselves, they’ll just get on with it.
Question 2. When did you start writing?
When I was ten I got a shocker of a critique from my teacher after a homework essay. It was never going to trouble the judges at the Pulitzer Prize, but it didn’t merit public humiliation either. I then gave up writing in order to pursue a career as a thug and alcoholic. I had found my vocation, however I over-achieved to such an extent that it would be thirty four years before I would try writing again. During those years I wrote hundreds of letters from behind bars, walls and fences. From age 17-29 I existed in a half-world somewhere between the giro and the jail. From Barlinnie in ’75 to Lowmoss in ’86 with stop offs along the way at Saughton, Glenochil, Polmont, Noranside, Leicester, Featherstone, Barlinnie again, and again. My jail passport was well stamped. My pal Ross has those letters, but they’re not for public consumption. They’re full of embarrassing teenage thug bravado bullshit anyway, horrible wee bastard that I was.
I had a stroke of luck in Barlinnie in 1984 when I joined the Higher English class and met Kay Blackstock. Although she would help change my life, her influence would only be felt 25 years later, sadly from beyond the grave. I wrote a couple of short stories for her that she quite liked and I eventually got an A when I sat my Higher English four months after leaving Barlinnie. That was probably my greatest achievement, not so much getting an A but actually turning up at the James Watt College in Greenock. Every Thursday night I would sit like a wee church mouse, out of my own world, with these wee Harry Potter specs on, say nothing then go back to Parkhill in Port Glasgow where I would cheerfully embrace alcohol and chaos. Sometimes I had to leave my folder on the pavement in order to either start or stop a fight.
I’ve still got my Barlinnie jotters, they mean a lot to me because of the time and effort Kay took with me. When I read her obituary in the Herald I felt humbled that a woman who had led such an amazing life gave me those precious two hours every Thursday afternoon in Barlinnie. An inspiration.
Question 3. What are your hopes and dreams regarding your writing?
I always hope to improve as both a reader and a writer. As far as dreams are concerned I guess all writers are dreamers to a certain extent. My day time job is a storeman for Scotland Gas Networks. Basically I drive the fork-lift and swear at people. I can do this with my eyes closed and often do. It lets me think about certain stories, where they need better editing, where the narrator is too close or too far from the action, anything that I think might improve the story.
Getting back to dreams, I guess I would love to see my work acted out in a stage or television play. I would also really like to try my hand at screen or playwriting and then I could attempt to adapt my own work. In fact, I wrote everything down in a nice long letter and sent it away to Santa. I was sure that he would sort it all out. Instead I got a reply from him saying: Frankie, I like this but there’s too much telling instead of showing and it could be doing with a good edit. Re-write it and send it again next year. Aye Santa very good.
Question 4. How have the classes helped you?
In a word, immensely. I will always regard Alan McMunnigall and Pamela Ross as my tutors, whether I’m in one of their classes or not. I pitched up at Glasgow Uni in September ’09 not knowing what to expect, nervous at the word University and so unsure of things that I sat on the seat nearest the door. They were really helpful though, always willing to give advice and support. I will never forget my time as a student of Alan and Pamela. I will always have the greatest of respect for them as people as well as tutors. I took other classes over the period I was there and Adam Behr, Robert Lynch and Helena Patterson were all very good tutors as well, again really helpful and supportive. Of course, I learned a lot from many of my fellow students too, and have made some lasting friendships. The whole experience for me has been life changing. Anybody contemplating a course at Glasgow Uni need only read this or contact me and I’ll tell them what I’ve just written here.
Frankie Gault, January, 2014.
– See more at: https://www.glasgowwestend.co.uk/category/centreforopenstudiesuniversityofglasgow/#sthash.FKnjL2DQ.dpuf
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