If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I write predominantly for women. I have some wonderful men following my work (thank you for being here!), but overall, I feel that my message and life experiences can find more resonance with women readers.
But once in a while, there comes a man whose kindness, generosity and writing touches my heart so deeply that I can’t help but share him and his work with you.
Will you give a warm welcome to Jeff Phelps, please?
Jeff and I are part of the same writer development programme. He was there long before me, and he’s been publishing books before I even dared to dream of writing. I saw a wonderful image on his Facebook page the other day, and was delighted to learn that it’s a cover for his new poetry collection which will be released next month.
Although Jeff has been immensely supportive of my writing for the past two years, offering feedback on my synopsis, query letter, author bio – you name it, I hadn’t met him until ten days ago. He was visiting Birmingham for an afternoon, and needless to say I cancelled my appointments and went to meet him. We talked about family and writing, and I felt the same warmth that I’d experienced through reading his emails. Do you know that strange feeling when you feel like you’ve known a person for a long time despite sitting across the table from him for the first time?
Anyway, while chatting about writing, it pained me that someone obviously so talented does not get the recognition and support he deserves. I invited Jeff to tell us the story behind the painting that serves as his book cover. Here’s what he shared:
I fell in love with this painting when I saw it in an exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery in 2009. It glowed with rich golds and reds and black. It was painted by the Austrian-born artist, Marianne Stokes. It might be familiar as it was used on UK first-class Christmas stamps in 2005.
I was fascinated to learn that Marianne Stokes and her husband Adrian travelled widely around Europe in the early 1900s painting and sketching. Quite a risky venture in those days. Adrian preferred landscapes, Marianne painted local characters – headgear, costumes and lacework often in loving detail. They remain as valuable records of long-disappeared traditions. The ordinary faces stare back at us across at the decades.
The Madonna and Child, was given to the gallery in 1930 by Gerald Mander of paint fame and became known in some quarters at the Wolverhampton Madonna.
That title and the way an ordinary face had become a significant painting, made me think of how one might come across Madonnas anywhere – in the countryside or in the city, places where you least expect them. Notably, Marianne Stokes’s Madonna doesn’t look down at her child as most traditional ones do, but directly out at the viewer. She lifts a cloth to reveal her child’s face. The couple seem serene yet so vulnerable.
If you’d like to connect with Jeff directly, below are a couple of suggestions:
You can buy his books
Jeff Phelps’s poetry pamphlet, Wolverhampton Madonna is published (October 2016) by Offa’s Press. Available in book shops and from Offa’s Press at offaspress.co.uk/shop at £5.95 plus p+p.
CD River Passage, with original piano music by Dan Phelps also available from Offa’s Press.
His two novels, Painter Man and Box of Tricks are published by Tindal Street Press and available from Amazon as e-books. http//www.jeffphelps.co.uk
Or if you live locally, you can attend his forthcoming readings:
6th October at Shrewsbury Poetry, The Old Post Office. SY1 1SZ.
11th October at City Voices, Lych Gates Tavern, 44 Queen Square, Wolverhampton. WV1 1TX.
28th November at Verbatim, The Westwood Park Hotel, Welshpool. SY21 7EA. All start at 7.30pm.
Visit his author website:
P.S. Speaking of websites. My website is moving soon. The address will still be the same: http://gularavincent.com. However, if you’d like to hear from me, please make sure that you sign up to my mailing list here.