Showing posts from September, 2015

Where and when do you do your best writing? Guest Post by Fran Brady

I drift awake as fingers of light probe the curtains. Where am I? Not at home. Then a glow of delight starts somewhere in the region of my belly and creeps up my body. It washes my face in a grin. I remember where I am. I inch out of bed, reach for my dressing-gown and push my feet into the rubber sandals that will double as slippers and paddling shoes for the next fortnight. My husband is still fast asleep: I know by the click at the top of each breath. At the bottom of the stairs, my dog stirs in his basket and watches me. Time to get up? No, not yet: just the early shift. He drops his head on to his paws and is asleep again in seconds. The kitchen is filling with light. Curtains are never drawn here. Moonlight on the water demands an audience. As I wait for the kettle, I watch a corncrake strutting on the handkerchief of lawn. The rest of the garden must be left wild by law to ensure this bird’s habitat and now I reap the fruits of compliance. Later will come boatloa

On the Critical List: N M Browne

 I have spent most of my writing life burying my inner critic, entombing him in concrete, and consigning him to a deep and inaccessible grave.  Too much analysis, too much self consciousness can strangle a nascent idea and kill it dead.  I would never have written a word had I not managed to fool my critic into believing I was doing nothing very serious, just pIaying, lulling him into a false sense of security before sneaking up behind him and disabling him with a sharp hatchet blow to the skull. You will note that he is male. I try not to analyse that fact too closely. All this psychological aggression is primarily defensive: at  the beginning of the creative process there is nothing, just a murky kind of potential, then gradually, if you are lucky, you may get a glimmering of something, a glimpse through thick fog of a ghost of  a story seed. The last thing you should do is expose these half formed, germinating almost-nothings to the harshness of a critic’s cold gaze: especially

Silence, Picture books, Editing and Times Journalists

The colour spreads for my next little book with Franklin Watts arrived by post this morning. I usually get to see these online, so receiving them like this was unexpected, but pleasing, as I can scan them in to share them with friends. It's been an exquisitely beautiful Autumnal day here in London, so this added to my pleasure. The illustrator, Inna Chernyak, lives in the Ukraine, and we've already collaborated on a picture book: "Quicker than a Princess", published by TopThat Publishing. What are your optimum conditions for creative writing? I am, and have always been, a silence freak - I cannot imagine working against a background of music. It would be an active competition between the world inside my head and sound of the music, and I can't do both. Many, many years ago, when I was writing and publishing short stories for women's magazines, we had an elderly next door neighbour (we lived in rented accomodation back then). She was a thin, bitter-faced wom

Under Armed Guard in Lahore - Andrew Crofts

It was an unusual ghosting project because the main character was twelve years old and had recently been assassinated. The story could have been narrated by a second person, but he was in hiding somewhere in Europe and was not at all sure he wanted to raise his head above the parapet in this way. The project had been sparked into life by a producer who wanted to make a film about the life of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani boy who had allegedly been sold by his parents to a carpet factory owner at the age of four. Six years later, the story went, he succeeded in escaping the clutches of his tyrannical master. A young boy alone in the world, surviving off foraged scraps, he stumbled across a Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) rally. The organisation took him under its wing, and he began working to spread the word to other enslaved children that they too could be free. He participated in raids on illegal factories and addressed international conventions. He was awarded the R

Size Does Matter! by Ruby Barnes

Please tell me you all have the same problems as I do in this internet-based world that we live in. It's all driven by usernames, passwords, URLs, cookies and crumbs or something. An infinite number of web places with wondrous free things awaiting if you just register, sign up, log in, tune in and trip out. Maybe there's a log in with facebook option, or twitter or something? It all just seems to work. Until it doesn't. This person is saying terrible things about you ... A friend has tagged you in a photo ... I can't believe this is you in this video … got big boobs and a big butt and know how to use them ( that last one always has me wondering about alternative bb & bb usages) . You click the message and, hey presto, someone has hacked your twitter, your facebook and who knows what else. You might not even know you've been compromised, unless a kind friend who has received spam from your hijacked account decides to let you know. Do you use the same

The Runaway Chapatti by Susan Price

The Runaway Chapatti, by Susan Price, Illustrated by Adam Price Here it is at last! After much discussion, arguing, editing, proofing, arguing - well, this is a PriceClan production - alterations, rewriting, arguing - the chapati is on the run again. It's been out of print for a while, but the wonders of indie-publishing make it possible for me to bring it back. There has been a bit of delay in getting the book on sale. It's a collaboration between me and my brother Adam, the illustrator. For the sake of convenience, it was published from Adam's CreateSpace account - and that caused the problem. To their credit rather than otherwise, Amazon almost immediately 'suppressed' the book (their term) while they checked whether either or both of us had the necessary rights. We both emailed them, quoting our membership numbers and explaining - and although I've heard nothing from Amazon, I see that the book is again available. It's an early-reader boo

Trying to write differently.

As you read this, I'm sitting by a lake in Nepal. Water laps gently against stones on the shoreline. Boats chug across to a temple on a tiny island about three hundred metres away. Behind me, the Himalaya are reaching for the sky. But this is not, for me, a 'normal travel-writing trip'. (Though I'm not sure I know what that is.) Instead I have responded to invitations from friends who live here, who have survived the earthquake and are putting their lived back together again, and who have asked for help to boost their tourist industry. I understand the need. The Nepali are independent people and capable of rebuilding their homes and schools and hospitals and temples without the great and the good of the developed world telling them what to do. But they need money - and tourism, which was buried beneath the rubble for a while, is their most obvious, and immediate, source of income. And yet, it seems, many are staying away. I know it's monsoon season, and so num

Lev Butts' Comic Count Down Part I

Last month , I decided it was time I did another countdown, but this time I'm counting down the five best metafictional comics: those that deal either overtly or covertly with how stories work, that are to a greater or lesser degree "aware" of themselves as comics. I got the list right here, so let's begin. 5. Cerebus - Dave Sim (writing and art) and Gerhard (art) Cerebus is perhaps one of the biggest success stories in independent publishing. In December 1977, Canadian cartoonist Dave Sim, created what was supposed to be a satire of sword and sorcery comics. This 6,000 page saga tells the story of an aardvark named Cerebus "the Earth Pig Born" and barbarian-for-hire. He wants only to earn enough gold fighting in order to pay his bar tab until the day he meets Jaka, a dancer with whom Cerebus falls in love. He spends much of the rest of his days trying and failing to obtain her, and along the way, he becomes prime minister, pope, pariah, and pro

History, change, and renewal: a weekend in Scotland, with Ali Bacon

Angus - farming country in the lee of the hills When we do historical research it’s easy to think that we have to uncover some hidden world lying beneath the accretions of business, construction, technology and all the stuff that has happened between ‘now’ and ‘then’, stuff we often think of as progress. But of course things aren’t that simple, and I was reminded of this last weekend on a bit of an impromptu trip to Scotland to the small town in Angus which was home to many of my ancestors.  Brechin High Street I had been there only once before, in my childhood, and had hazy memories of family walks, paddling in a very cold river, and on rainy days (we had a few!) being allowed to spend my pocket money in Woolworths. (Retail therapy started young in my case!) Returning after 50 (or more) years, I found (no surprise) that even Woolworths has gone, leaving a random mixture of businesses: –an upmarket deli and an unreconstructed corner shop,  a local hardware supplie

The Future of Publishing - a report by Katherine Roberts

Earlier this month I attended the Society of Authors Children's Writers and Illustrators Group conference at Bath University. I have never been to this annual event, despite being a member of the Society since my first book Song Quest was published in 1999, so thought it about time I checked out the business side of things. Also, I was a student at Bath in the early 1980's and was curious to see how much the campus had changed. The answer is quite a lot, to the point of being unrecognisable when I got halfway up the drive. The original Parade had almost vanished behind sleek new buildings, and the campus now has wonderful sporting facilities as well as hi-tech student accommodation. I spent most of the first night playing with the coloured light display above the bed-shelf in my "Quad" pod, and a fair bit of time working out how to lock the door from the inside with my non-touch keycard (which, it turns out, you can't do unless you open the door first and tell

The road to Little Red Ella and the FGM by Sandra Horn

Warning: some of the ensuing post is absolutely grim, but please read it anyway. This picture has nothing much to do with the blog, except that it is a woman of noble bearing Long   years ago, as a callow undergraduate, I once debated cultural relativism with my late and much-lamented Prof. Marie Jahoda. I was for it, I said. ‘OK,’ she replied, ‘you are walking along and you hear screams. Some women are holding a young girl in the cold waters of a stream to dull the pain before they excise her clitoris with a sharp stone. It’s a cultural thing; a rite of passage, so of course you wouldn’t intervene.’   She had, as they say, got me there. I think I said something feeble, like I still upheld the principle while agreeing that the specifics were sometimes abominable and should be countered.   Fast forward 30 years or so and a medical student comes to see me to ask if I will supervise her special project. She’s a Somali; a lovely girl with her head covered modestly