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Mine, mine, mine | Karen Kao

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For me, writing is a series of synapses: firing, sparking, veering off into places unknown. I connect a newspaper article with a podcast with drinks last night with an incident in the park this morning. Writing is both an act and a release. The deliberate use of my imagination in order to drive the train off the rails. So this is what happened in June 2017 when I read Kenan Malik's essay in the New York Times in defense of cultural appropriation.

A newspaper article First, the lawyer in me comes to the fore. Give me a definition of cultural appropriation and then we'll talk. Malik obliges by quoting Fordham University law professor Susan Scafidi. She defines cultural appropriation as:
taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else's culture without permission [including] the unauthorized use of another culture's dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. Takin…

From a Publishing House

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Perhaps this is a lockdown experience or perhaps it’s a reversion to earlier ways of living and working. We, like so many other families, find ourselves working from home, each in our separate spaces. Bertie’s in the attic, laying-out books with Indesign; Francis somewhere downstairs trying to find the right angle of physical endurance for solid hours of Private Eye deadlines and me … well, to be honest, I’m most characteristically surrounded by WW2 naval memoirs, copies of Lloyd’s Registers and overflowing scribbled papers … in bed. Together with my faithful laptop, miraculously fact-checking and emailing, tweeting and posting. Thus Golden Duck (UK) ltd keeps busy.
One of my favourite Margery Allingham novels Flowers for the Judge (1936) tells the story of Barnabas and company, publishers since 1810 at the Sign of the Golden Quiver. It’s a perfect setting for a classic murder mystery: an enclosed location, limited number of suspects, distinctive atmosphere, range of possible motives…

Are you wearing a mask this summer? - Katherine Roberts

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What is your personal mask policy this summer? The official advice keeps changing, and will probably have changed again by the time you read this, but at the moment masks seem to be compulsory on public transport in England, and also in some shops, cafes and bars should you choose to get a bit closer to people - although you can presumably take yours off to order drinks, devour a quick sandwich and catch up on gossip with the friends you haven't seen since March, or how will anyone ever do what they went to the cafe or pub or shop to do in the first place? And how will you survive a long train journey sitting next to a (masked) stranger? Forget snacks or drinks. Or actual conversation. In fact, why not spend the entire journey staring at covid statistics your phone?

I live in a seaside town and up to now haven't seen many masked people around - let's face it, a mask on the beach would leave you with a serious suntan line. But I have noticed a few older people wearing them…

Whither evolution? By Bill Kirton

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Apparently, we need to change our ideas about what constitutes refinement. I say this because of something I read in a recent (or maybe not) newspaper item. First, though, when I write the word ‘Neanderthal’ what springs to mind? My guess is that it’ll be creatures of indeterminate gender with no foreheads who sit in caves grunting and tearing raw meat from bones with their prognathous jaws. Perhaps now and then, one will stand, rise to his (this one’s a male) full height of 4 feet 10, club a neighbouring creature (this one will be a female) and drag her off to procreate. My apologies to any of you whose preferred vision is of noble savages sitting around a fire listening to their equivalent of Brahms.
Bizarrely, though, it seems that the Brahms faction’s version may be nearer the truth than that of the rest of us because some anthropologists have suggested that Neanderthals wore make-up. (For information about the absence of sources for my data and/or references, see previous blogs un…

No Royal Road - Debbie Bennett

I was looking for a suitable phrase to title this post and came acrossthis site. Number 48 wasn’t what I was actually looking for (I’m not even sure what was), but seems curiously apposite:there is no royal road to learning. No easy path for writers, no shortcut, no wide avenue paved with accolades and awards. Which isn’t strictly true 100% of the time I guess – there will always be somebody who appears to just get there by sheer good fortune. Being acelebrity (and I use the word loosely) can often guarantee a book deal and one can always hire a ghost-writer after all. Remember the fuss over a certain person who when asked what her book was about, allegedly said ‘I don’t know – I haven’t read it.’?
And sometimes, just sometimes, being in the right place at the right time with the right idea can be the key to breaking through into the big time. Although even then, many well-known writers will say it took them x number of years to be an overnight success.
For the rest of us, it’s a long h…

Learning from Lockdown (Cecilia Peartree)

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During the recent lockdown I’ve been reviewing my lifestyle and as a result I’ve taken one important decision but I’m still dithering over another one. First of all, I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to work from home – I just wish my employers had enabled us to do it years ago so that I could have used my brain more fruitfully, particularly in the area of strategy and anything else that required concentration. But what I’ve also realised is that although I like being at home all day, there are aspects of my work that are so mundane that there’s a distinct possibility that a trained monkey could carry them out. Although I wouldn’t ever wish to subject an innocent little monkey to such stultifying boredom.
Anyway, having come to the realisation that there may be better ways to spend my time, I’ve decided to retire from my day job at last. I can picture my line manager rolling her eyes and saying, ‘Thank goodness for that!’ although she would never be ill-mannered enough to say so ei…

Submittable This! - Umberto Tosi

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It is difficult not to write about the current American crises of racial injustice, corruption, pandemic, and economic decline presided over by our criminal president. I'll give it a try and rant about a publishing annoyance this go-around. 

Start with the updated adage that century's road to hell is paved with well-intended apps. There are no problems that our smartphones can't solve - except the big ones - no mistakes Grammarly can fix - except the worst ones.

Sometimes we need to get it wrong to find what's right. My first draft attempt at a story usually turns out to be pathetically wrong, but it can lay down a pathway to what works, if I persist, and am lucky.

This is why I've always loved Thelonious Monk, the prince of making "wrong" notes who threw rules and familiar chords into fireplaces like spent Russian champagne glasses, the king of confounding expectations as brilliantly as he set them up.

Sometimes progress only means solving problems th…