Posts

Plotting and Planning (Cecilia Peartree)

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I have written about planning here before, probably more than once. However it's a topic that isn't exactly dear to my heart, in fact in some ways it's the opposite. Oddly, there are some areas of my life where I enjoy the process of making plans just as much as the act of carrying them out. For instance, I love planning journeys, the more complicated the better. One of my best efforts was the plan for my trip from Edinburgh to Finland by train and ferry. The fact that in real life it fell apart halfway wasn't entirely my fault, although possibly I would have done better to use one of the routes suggested by the Man in Seat 61 instead of making one up myself. One of the minor irritations of the pandemic has been the fact that there's no point in planning long, complex journeys, because there is no prospect of being able to travel very far afield at present. As far as writing is concerned, although I don't make exhaustive plans for individual novels* I do have a

Letter from America - maybe! by Sarah Nicholson

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Due to all sorts of circumstances, I’ve not been on a plane for ten years, but finally this year I have a reason to fly. My nephew is getting married in the USA this month and I always thought very few things would stop me from being there. That was before Covid and travel restrictions, fit to fly tests and passenger locator forms. For most of this year I’ve been unsure if this trip would really happen. I’ve got used to planning with that niggling thought in the back of my brain that everything might just go pear-shaped. I hold everything loosely in my hand, waiting to see what direction the wind blows, if there’s a sudden gust I’ll shrug with a nonchalant “ c’est la vie!”.   They say travel broadens the mind and it only takes a few clicks online to come up with a plethora of articles on the subject. I recently read Maggie O’Farrell’s excellent memoir “I am, I am, I am”. I am in awe of her adventurous travels but don’t envy the near-death experiences which she has strung toget

Needles from the Gods - Umberto Tosi

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I'm halfway through one of the few novels I can unequivocally call beautiful - musical writing, unsparing and heart-rending at the level of Toni Morrison, A.S. Byatt, or Vikram Seth. It happens when lyric poetry is fashioned into narrative prose without losing lucidity. No surprise given that the author, Ocean Vuong ( Vương Quốc Vinh ), is a prize winning poet. From Penquin, 2019; this is his debut novel. The title conveys its poetry: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous . It's a Vietnamese American's paean to his war damaged, semi-literate immigrant mother, written as letter to her that she'll never read - a familiar therapeutic device raised to high art. It's easy to read and difficult to take in some of its graphically descriptive passages of war and reflections on war, racism and homophobia. I know writers who'd kill for a title like that. I think about Amadeus . I muse over his memoirist novel's seamless, rhythmic sentences with a mixture of admiration

Turning the Page by Peter Leyland

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        Turning the Page – "African Novels" *   It was by chance rather than design that my course on “African Novels” just happened to coincide with two momentous events in the world of African writing. The first was the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Abdulrazak Gurnah who was born in Zanzibar and who has written 10 novels dealing with displacement and dislocation; the second was the award of The Booker Prize to Damon Galgut for his novel, The Promise, set in South Africa. This book I bought when it was first published because I am a great fan of the writer; the books by Gurnah I will explore further when I have time.    And indeed there will be time, to paraphrase the poet, T.S.Eliot, as this will be my last course for the WEA. I know now as I write that at the end of “African Novels” I will not be doing any more teaching, that there will be no more lengthy drives to Ivinghoe where I am holding my final course, no more opening up the centre and setting out the

How to cure withdrawal symptoms from a shortage of Fine Press Book Fairs: go to Ludlow Race Course, says Griselda Heppel

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At the Ludlow Fine Press Book Fair, 6 - 7 November 2021 A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I did something we haven’t been able to do for nearly 4 years.  No, not paragliding. Or kitesurfing (as if). Or ringing doorbells and running away (run, at our age?) Something far more exciting.  We went to a Fine Press Book Fair.  There, I knew you’d be jealous.  Book lovers, letterpress printers, wood engravers, paper specialists, traditional binders and other craftsmen – all have been suffering withdrawal symptoms as a result of the sad but necessary cancellation of the biennial Oxford Fine Press Book Fair in March 2020. It will now be held on the weekend of 5 and 6 March 2022 – fingers crossed – but meanwhile lots of exhibitors were missing the chance to get together, and the clever people at Ludlow Book Binders came up with the idea of holding the first ever book fair at the Clive Pavilion, Ludlow Race Course, on 6 and 7 November 2021 . (Not a place you’d normally expect to find bookma

Authors Electric, 10 years and counting... Katherine Roberts, Susan Price, Debbie Bennett

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Amazingly, this year is Authors Electric’s 10th anniversary (the picture is a screenshot of our all-time page views). A huge thank you to everyone who has been with us over the years, past and current bloggers and our lovely readers - we would not exist without you! For our tenth anniversary post, we thought we’d get our three founding members together to bring you this glimpse of a distant past, when ebooks were a rude word as far as our publishers were concerned. Please welcome to the virtual stage Katherine Roberts, Susan Price and Debbie Bennett. *polite clapping and a couple of wolf whistles* KATHERINE: It all started in 2011 at a secret location in deepest Oxfordshire, where two prize-winning authors got chatting about their books going out of print and the general state of the publishing industry. SUE: I think both of us arrived early for the Scattered Authors’ conference at Charney Manor. So we sat in the sunny garden, with swifts screaming in squadrons from the chimney pots to

Dan Rhodes' Hilarious Rage Against Publishing by Andrew Crofts

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When writers get to the stage of writing fiction about the problems of writers, it is generally a sign that the time has come for them to get out more.   Dan Rhodes, however, is so monumentally pissed off with everything to do with publishing, and so good at writing comedy, that his new novel, “Sour Grapes”, published by Eye Books, is fantastic. Every gripe that writers vent to one another about publishers, publishing, literary festivals, money (or lack of it), and the pretentions or inadequacies of other writers, is given the full comic treatment.   Publishing’s greatest renaissance man, Scott Pack, acquired the book for Eye Books, claiming that it is his swan song as a publisher, partly because he is as tired of the whole game as Rhodes himself. What a book to go out on. Some of it is outright farce, like the very best of Wodehouse or Waugh, while beneath the surface the author’s boiling fury has been honed into ice picks of satire, the targets of which anyone who has laboured to