Showing posts from January, 2017

The Imitation Game - Guest Post by Jean Burnett

Writing a Jane Austen spin off...
If it is true that there are only seven basic plots in literature, it is inevitable that writers will retell stories, give variations on those stories, dress them in different clothes and, yes, ‘borrow’ characters from classic works. The Bible is a rich source for any writer who may be stuck for a plot, while the Greek myths are endlessly borrowed and rewritten.
I have been reading David Almond’s splendid YA novel A Song for Ella Grey, which is a modern re-telling of the Orpheus myth set in Northumberland. Orpheus is just as convincing in this setting as in his original Mediterranean home, but of course, Almond is a master story teller.
The Gods in Winter by Patricia Miles is another version of this myth which I greatly enjoyed when I first read it. Like all good children’s books, this one is can be appreciated by adults. As you will have gathered, this particular myth is a favourite of mine.
Certain novels have embedded themselves in the collective imagi…

Writing with Writers by Valerie Bird


The View from the Hills: N M Browne

I am sort of moving from Richmond to Cheltenham and so I have been exploring. Today my husband and I wandered from our rented flat in Pittville and walked up Pittville hill or it might have been Cleve Hill - we aren’t entirely sure. On our way we found a great pub, The Royal Oak, with amazing food and great beer. We got a little lost, got stuck in the mud, narrowly escaped the attentions of a vicious herd of bullocks and saw this amazing view of the whole of Cheltenham from the top. So, I hear you ask, why should we care? What has this to do with writing? Well, sometime last year, fellow author Fiona Dunbar was raising money for authors for refugees and I offered my critiquing services. I enjoy critiquing other people's work and as Creative Writing lecturer I do quite a lot of it. So, on Monday I read a very promising YA novel from the person who successfully bid for my critique.  Reading a novel for someone else is like standing at the top of Pittville (or maybe Cleve Hill) and see…

The Grey Grammarians and the Alien

Oh the Grey Grammarians! There's a little story circulating among my colleagues on Facebook, about a school visit by one of our children's authors. The class of ten year olds had been asked to write a story, and one child began a sentence with: "Lucy dashed towards..." "Now that's a good place to insert a fronted adverb," the teacher suggested, and changed the perfectly good sentence into: "Quickly, Lucy dashed towards..." The author took it out, explaining that 'dashed' clearly described quickness and speed, but afterwards she was conscience-stricken - after all, the class teacher was the authority, not her.

It seems that the Grey Grammarians have recently taken over the teaching of basic English, and have invented new definitions that defy comprehension by colleagues who are literary critics, lecturers and, yes, professional writers. Some of us have re-named the 'fronted adverbial' into 'full fronted adverb' (as in th…

Competing for Attention - Andrew Crofts

This month I read “The Attention Merchants” by Tim Wu, a thought-provoking study of how clever big business is at packaging and selling our time and attention to third parties, (i.e. advertisers). They are basically harvesting our time in the same way that they harvest our money.

The book starts with the advertising posters produced by the likes of Toulouse-Lautrec, (after a nod to the great religions of history), and continues through the evolution of newspapers, cinema, radio, television, the internet and smart-phones.
One element of the story is the rise and exploitation of “celebrity culture”, as part of the mechanism for capturing people’s attention, which reminded me that in 1990 I published a book brazenly titled “Hype! – The Essential Guide to Marketing Yourself”.
The astonishing thing is that less than thirty years ago I was still only “predicting” an explosion in self-marketing. The full blast of reality television and the Internet was still to come. (I also remember Libby …

Slogans as the Very Very Short Story: Dipika Mukherjee ruminates on writing lessons from the Women’s March, Chicago

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn." A familiar lesson in brevity; a gamut of emotions in a Six Word Story (although this quote is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, it was possibly written by someone who predates him). For those of us who write, or who teach writing -- or just read voraciously --we all know the power of the pithy phrase or that mot juste that takes our breath away like an unexpected punch to the gut.

The popularity of flash fiction -- twitterature, the Dribble, the Drabble, Micro Fiction, Six Word Story – is growing. Although this can be attributed to a felicity on tiny screens, the genre is old and features in many ancient cultures. SmokelongQuarterly informs us, “The term “smoke-long” comes from the Chinese, who noted that reading a piece of flash takes about the same length of time as smoking a cigarette.”

As anyone who has tried their hand at a Six Word Story knows, the shorter it is, the more challenging to write. What is implied is always more importa…