Showing posts from April, 2017

Fictional fiction: N M Browne

We writers do like to bang on about writing don’t we? How many of the heroes of novels are in fact novel writers? From Death in Venice to London Fields we insert our own occupation into the mix for a little post modern intrigue. We even like our fictional detectives to be writers from Jessica Fletcher and Castle to the poet Adam Dalgliesh, created by PD James.     It is very tempting to follow that over used dictum to ‘ write what we know,’ and write all about us.  Thus far I’ve avoided that trap only because  my fictional characters have to be as  unlike me as possible  in order to fulfil their role as adventure hero or heroine.  The urge to write about a woman just like myself is strong though I am still fighting it, which makes me an unlikely convert to a script about a script writer.  Of course I  used to love those Hollywood films like ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ about making a film, but the recent 'La La Land'which seemed to focus on the undiluted narcissism needed to ful

Medieval manuscripts, Christianity, Fake News and Puppies, by Enid Richemont

Our wonderful British Library has been justifiably blogging about its fantastic collection of medieval manuscripts, and posting some of the images on Facebook. I've never seen them in so much close-up detail before, and they really are amazing - the details so exquisitely drawn by monks with no access to either great lighting, apart from what the sun or candles provided, or, of course, reading glasses. A Polish artist, whose name I can no longer find, has made an animation of one of them, and if you think about it, these manuscript illuminations are like very early comics, and perfect for animation. The British Library's blog is at, very simply, "Medieval Manuscripts Blog", but the other site that's hugely interesting is at: It's an odd url, but go there and you will be richly rewarded. The animation I mentioned is of a Medieval nature story about the life of hedgehogs. It was believed that hedgehogs raided vineyards for grapes,

Retiring from Writing Would Mean Retiring From Life - Andrew Crofts

People around me seem to mention the word “retirement” a lot, asking one another when they are thinking of taking the plunge. I’m keeping a low profile because I am not sure that, as a lifelong freelance writer, I completely grasp the concept. Retire from what exactly? If I wake up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea for a book, am I going to turn over and go back to sleep rather than follow the train of thought to wherever it might lead me? If someone emails me from some distant and mysterious land, inviting me to travel to them to hear their story with a view to ghosting for them, am I going to decline because now I am “retired”? There are aspects of writing which become increasingly tedious with age – typing mainly - but then sitting on a ride-on lawnmower can become tedious after an hour or two, as can sitting in a coffee shop with a newspaper or staring out to sea from a tropical island paradise. None of these things do I particularly want

Out of the Mouths of Actors: Dipika Mukherjee Discovers the Magic of Audible Books

On March 28, 2017, Audbible release Ode to Broken Things as an audiobook, but before that, they sent me a link to an excerpt on SoundCloud . Ode to Broken Things is my debut novel. Like a jealous Mum, I wanted the book to stride into this new audio world with intelligent self-conviction but I definitely did not want it adopted by a mentor so fabulous that it would forget its roots and my vision. So the first time I listened to Ode To Broken Things— if it can be called “listening” –   was in the shower, with the sound partially drowned by cascading waters. Okay. So I am a writer who NEVER reads her books once they are published. When I am called upon at literary or talks to read excerpts, I discover cringe-worthy writing hiding in the recesses of my beloved passages. I am glad that excellent editors comb through my writing, because when I am done with edits, all I do is binge-watch Hallmark movies and Bollywood escapism for weeks, completely disengaging my brain until I a

Technological Eavesdropping by Susan Price

Spoken into a mobile phone by a young woman pushing a baby in a pushchair. No idea what the 'it' was that he wouldn't let her have. Or where she got this strange idea that 'he' could stop her from having it, whatever it was. But she let everyone within earshot know about it as she passed. There's the start of a story here.      I love technology. It's technology that allows me to bring you this blog and it's technology that now allows me to overhear the snippets of other people's private lives on a regular basis.      I offer them here as a public service to writers who're looking for something to, perhaps, kick-start a story. I overheard this in a pub. No surprises there. The speaker stood nearby, trying to hide his phone in his jacket and mutter into it, but growing louder and more impassioned as he went on. I may not have all of the conversation word for word but I have the gist - and he really did say, 'You Jezebel.

Those nitty-gritty details - Jo Carroll

I'm known as a travel writer. So writing a novel - and then having the temerity to publish it - has been a bit of a learning curve. As a travel writer I try to bring the tiniest details to life: the harrumph of a hippo or the strength of the tiniest dung beetle. Deafening tropical rain. Equally essential are personal reflections on daily challenges that may be so very different from those I find at home, such as night buses and street food. And then there are the minutiae that I don't write about, like the toilets. Which is the link (believe it or not) to my novel, The Planter's Daughter. Sara left Ireland during the famine, to live with an aunt in Liverpool. From there she headed for Australia, ending up in Hokitika - a gold town in New Zealand. These are the bones of the story - a bit like the bones of a travel book. But I needed to know more about the homes she lived in, the food she ate, how she kept clean. Okay, not much of that ended up in the novel, but it was st

On the Architecture of Gardens by Lev Butts

My mother wanted me to be an architect when I was kid because I liked drawing and had what she called an "eye for detail" since I had once included every board of our hardwood floor when I drew our living-room. I'm not sure why she decided on an architect for my profession instead of an artist, but I am assuming it was because architects make decent money and most artists do not. Much to her chagrin (I assume) I became a writer and a teacher (and thus doubly cursed to make less-than-decent money). While I'm not entirely sure when I decided to be a teacher (I always wanted to be a writer), I remember distinctly when I chose not to be an architect: As soon as I realized there was math involved and a whole shit-ton of work. Pictured: My mother's ideal son. Don't get me wrong: I have no problem at all working long and hard at something I care about. I just didn't care about designing buildings. I just wanted to draw stuff. I am reminded of my mothe

Name Game: short stories need good titles too.

Ali Bacon  writes and performs short stories Much ink is expended and tears shed over choosing the title of a novel – that perfect hook to grab you more customers – or any customers. But what about a short story? I used to think those weird and wordy titles appearing in the shortlists of writing competitions were a bit of an affectation. Do we need the title to be almost as long as the thing itself? However, having read submissions for a number of short story events and as co-judge of a local short story competition (yes, I am knee deep in short stories!) I am revising my opinion. A short story, by definition, has to pack a punch in a restricted number of words – in the case of flash fiction even fewer words. Not using the title to contribute to that punch seems like a wasted opportunity and although I haven’t ruled out any story because of its title (yet!) I’ve been disappointed by the number of short stories that fall short in this respect. Still available! But what

The Secret History of Genghis Khan - Katherine Roberts

I love secret histories - the sort of history that doesn't get taught in schools. About ten years ago, following a divorce and house move, I began writing a rather strange spiritual/historical novel based on a 13th-century Mongolian prose poem called  The Secret History of the Mongols . Subtitled 'The Origin of Chingis Khan', this is a fantastic account of the young Genghis Khan, his childhood sweetheart Borta, and his blood brother Jamukha. It ends when the great Khan, who throughout the story is known by his boyhood name of Temujin, takes the title 'Genghis' and becomes Khan of all "the people who live in felt tents" (in other words, yurts - or, to give them their proper Mongolian name, gers ). This makes it ideal YA material, since the characters are of the right age and most of Genghis Khan's bloodbaths and empire building are still in the future. A couple of YA publishers and agents looked at the result, suggested various changes to make it m

Desperation and Inspiration by Sandra Horn

It’s week 16 of the 52 poems challenge (write a poem a week for a year). ‘How’s it going?’I hear you cry. A bit mixed, if I’m honest. The idea is to spend AT LEAST an hour a week reading poetry (no hardship!) and at least an hour writing. I also had what I thought was the bright idea of keeping a week ahead to allow for unforeseen spanners in the works. I still think it is a good idea, except that it makes me panic if I can’t keep it up. Not so good. Each week, there is a theme, a writing prompt and some illustrative works – ie poems on the given theme by established poets – all to get the juices flowing. Sometimes the illustration poem is so good that it’s hard not to get discouraged from the start, but I’ve been trying to counter that by heading off in as different a direction as I can. So, for the ‘Weather’ poem (Ted Hughes ‘Wind, Anon ‘Westron Wynd’, John Donne ‘The Sunne Rising’) mine is a first person comment from a snowflake. I have no idea whether it’s good, bad or indi