Showing posts from July, 2019

The Useful Art of Forgetfulness: N M Browne

Memory is a strange thing. I have a special gift for forgetting -   names mainly   - I long ago mastered the art of the no introduction introduction, but it seems I have achieved a similar level of advanced forgetfulness about my own writing. Long ago, when I was good at exams I trained myself to forget the paper once It was done, as a kind of protective mechanism so I didn’t worry about my mistakes. Useful though that may have been to my teenage self’s mental health, it set an unfortunate precedent and I forget whatever I’ve written pretty much as soon as I’ve done it. I don’t remember the names of characters and I literally lose the plot.   I find this irritating especially for those books which I researched. It’s like my mind is sand – washed clean at the end of every project.   I must have seemed an air head when I was young and now I give an excellent impression of a half demented old bat. There is an upside, however. I recently reread a couple of old books of mine


I don't usually read one book after another, because I'm a slow reader, and I usually prefer to digest and contemplate one book at a time. However, I am currently emerging from a mini Reading Binge. This has come about because, like a lot of people, I buy far more e-books than I can actually read at that moment, assuming they'd always be there in a period of book famine which rarely happens as I live in a house very amply stocked with real print books. However, I've been doing Early-to-Bed-with-a-Kindle stuff in the last few months of extended convalescence from ankle surgery, and Kindles are so much easier to manage physically, although irritating in other ways. And so it was that I discovered books I'd never read, among them one by friend and fellow author, Adele Geras. I'd first met Adele at a Scattered Authors conference aeons ago, and found her rather terrifyingly impressive, but in all the intervening years, I'd never read her work, until lo! there

Writers Amongst Dragons, Sharks, Tigers and Publishers - Andrew Crofts

Why does the fate of the applicants on Dragons’ Den , (or Shark Tank if you are in the US or The Tigers of Money if you are in Japan , where the show was first conceived) seem so familiar? Because that programme’s format is what every professional writer’s life is like from the day we complete our first manuscript and go looking for a publisher to the day we finally give up the struggle. Just like the Dragons’ Den hopefuls we start with our brilliant ideas, which always seem to us like the most original things ever. We believe they are guaranteed to be bestsellers because if we didn’t we would have trouble getting through the work needed to bring them to life. They are our babies and we pour months and years of toil into their creation. Then we realise that we need someone else to see the potential that we see, someone with money and, hopefully, expertise in the design, marketing and selling of books, someone who will take our precious ideas, package them be

Of Language and Love: An Indian Story

Bangla, in West Bengal In 2017, I relocated back to my home city, Kolkata (capital of the Indian state of West Bengal) after a decade of living and working in the Netherlands. B oth the city and I have changed irrevocably in the intervening time – hence, I find myself in something like a new relationship with an old lover! While I have taken most of what this new ‘relationship status’ entails in my stride, some aspects are difficult to accept. A reduced respect for diversity (both in the city and the state) is one of them. In a recent rally, our Chief Minister, the feisty Mamata Banerjee, declared that those who wish to live in Bengal will have to learn Bangla. It’s the most redundant statement I have heard in a long time: because migrants from other states of India (like migrants in any host culture) have always taken the trouble to learn Bangla (imperfect though it may be) – for survival, if not for anything else.                             Shekhar's paren

The View From The Back Door -- Susan Price.

This is the view from my kitchen door.           About three years ago, I was idly watching a tv programme which showed a view of a perfectly neat, ordered garden, divided by a straight path with neat, straight-edged beds of flowers neatly arranged on either side with perfect symmetry. The presenter asked, 'Doesn't everybody want a view like this from their back door?'           My answer, instantly, was NO!           I had been wondering what to do with my garden, which made me feel dull every time I looked out at it. I hadn't any ideas until the TV asked me that question. Instantly I knew, and strongly, that I did not want a neat garden. I did not want plants growing in neat straight lines. I did not want geometry or symmetry. Such gardens can look wonderful, that is certain, but it was not what I wanted to see when I drew the curtain back in the morning.          Knowing what I didn't want crystallised my thoughts. I knew, certainly, that wh

When writing is like pulling teeth - Jo Carroll

I've begun another novel. I love the idea (I'm not sharing that yet). I love the research - I've wallowed in books, taken myself off to tramp up hills and down a coal mine. My notebook overflows with lovely characters (and some not so lovely). So why is it so hard to write? I have distractions - we all have distractions. I prevaricate - thousands of us prevaricate but still get words down. I make myself sit at the computer almost every day. For the first time I've given myself word count targets. When I wrote  The Planter's Daughter  I had no need of word count targets. My head was full and the words flowed. The first draft was messy of course, but that was fine. I had something to work with. And that's what keeps me going now. I dare not reread, not yet - in case the extent of the inevitable messiness puts me off. But if I can only make myself frame this story into real words then I can settle to the months of drafting and redrafting that might make it i

Lev Butts Drops the Ball

So this last month has been really busy: My wife and I are house hunting, which is hard enough normally, but we're needing a house to fit very specific needs: Room to move in some elderly family without the tediousness of actually having to, you know, deal with them on the daily. Room for our son to have his own living space without feeling like he's still a kid living with his parents. Room for me to write and research. Room for my books. Room for my wife to work. A yard for the dog. The cat can take what he gets. All within a very specific geographic area, and under a certain price tag. It is like one of those really complicated grocery store logic puzzles. Also, it being the end of July, my end-of-summer-term grading is kicking in full swing. Meanwhile, I've been trying to finish the final volume of Guns  of the Waste Land while also working on a secret side project with another writer (Hopefully I can talk more on that and on the process of writer collabora

Blind tasting, sour grapes and a small celebration: Ali Bacon compares literary prizes to wine awards.

Natalie at Poulton Hill Vineyard Recently we were lucky enough to Poulton Hill, an English vineyard in the South Cotswolds.  This very small enterprise is testament to the 'upside' of climate change - English vineyards are flourishing and winning greater acclaim every year. Our guide Natalie, co-manager of the vineyard, gave us a hands-on account of the challenges, not to mention the physical labour, involved in planting, training and harvesting vines in this country. The tour was of course followed by a tasting of their award-winning wines, from bottles bearing medallions from a number of wine competitions. One of our fellow tour members asked if these were earned from 'blind' tasting which Natalie assured us they were, i.e. they were competing against much bigger and longer established producers but removal of labels establishes a level playing field. Poulton wines In writing it's also the norm for any major short story competition to be judged '

Are you a 5G guinea pig? - Katherine Roberts

Whether or not you are one of the people who can feel them, all living things rely on electrical signals at cellular level. It's how our nerves work, and particularly our brains. Electricity is also in the air all around us, in the form of EMFs (electric and magnetic fields) given off by our modern devices, and it's not too big a leap to see how one might affect the other. . Very soon, on top of all our existing EMF producing devices, we will have a new technology: 5G, which promises faster wi-fi connections than 4G and uses microwave frequencies similar to those used in weapons for crowd control . The problem is that digital wi-fi (2G and above) has only been around since the 1990s and so we can't really know the long term effects yet. Also, nobody has actually asked our permission to expose us to this stuff. Following pressure from the public, several places have recently postponed or halted the roll-out of 5G, includ