Posts

Showing posts from October, 2021

Drawing People Into Reading by Allison Symes

Image
Image Credit:  Mainly via Book Brush using Pixabay photos. One image from me. I remember years ago being at a Book Fair when someone walked past, looked at my table and said loudly to their friend, “I don’t like books”.  I so wanted to say “what are you doing here then” but judged it best not to! But it did throw up an attitude problem which worried me.  Why is it, in some circles, considered a good thing to boast about not reading? What are they hoping to achieve?    I know reading has never been “cool”. I was the typical girly swot at school. Always had my head in a book but I’ve never seen that as a problem. (I always associated myself with Velma from the cartoon series Scooby Doo rather than Daphne, and with Jo March from Little Women rather than, say, Meg March. I’ve always had a soft spot for the girls with glasses and the ones who love to write. Can’t imagine why that is - possibly the fact I am still a girl, albeit an older one now, with glasses who loves to write may have so

Cities, towns and villages, by Elizabeth Kay

Image
I may as well say it straight out: I hate cities. I hate the press of people, the lack of greenery, the rubbish, the exhaust fumes, the blank faces. But you can’t travel these days (or is it those days?) without encountering our huge conurbations. It’s reckoned that for millennia the average size of human communities was one hundred and fifty people. You knew everyone, and they knew you. Outsiders stood out immediately. But now? Cities can be absolutely enormous. Granted, there is some beautiful architecture, which wouldn’t be feasible for only a few hundred people, but there’s a lot of really awful stuff too. Shanghai China was a shock. We travelled by bullet train from Xi’an (population over 8 million) to Chengdu (population over 16 million), past various other enormous cities, their modern skyscrapers clustered together like children’s building bricks. All the new cities are built to the same plan, although they all look very different as the designs are imaginative and many-colou

I Can't Imagine! ~ Maressa Mortimer

Image
What do you think? What do you see? Last Saturday was a thrilling day for me. I was off to London, by myself, to meet lots of other Christian writers. It involved getting up at an unholy hour, after getting to bed late. I was trying to sort out hubby and kids for the following day, to make sure they’d all survive. So by six in the morning, I was safely installed on a comfortable coach, on my way to London. I was too restless to listen to an audiobook, listening to music instead. I kept dozing off, but when I woke up, the landscape was intriguing. I could see faint outlines of undulating hills, shrouded in mist. You could see the mist reaching out with long fingers, wrapping itself around a treetop that had been almost visible just before. I took several pictures, knowing it wouldn’t look like anything on my phone afterwards. There would be lorries, blurry cars and the hills would not stand out. I spotted some car headlights, tucked between two hills, no road in sight. Why? Who woul

Beware of Gifts Bearing Grease--by Reb MacRath

Image
You've gotta give it to the ancient Greeks. They pulled a sweetheart of a trick thousands of years ago, so sweet we still remember it. In fact, we have a phrase for it: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts . Gifts like a giant wooden horse given to a city...and rolled in with armed troops inside it. Troy fell because of that but the horse will live forever along with our awe of Greek cunning. What might happen, you might wonder, if the gift could be reversed--and a well-meant, beautifully wrapped gift arrived...and was received as bearing grease ? Grease in the sense that the gift is seen as smeared with ambition, deceit, and base pride. This actually happens too often. Because of the volume of spam and links meant to hack us not give us a thing, we've all grown jaded and suspicious. And few things set our teeth on edge like a slick trick from a half-witted writer. It could be someone you've just befriended on Facebook. Within minutes, you receive a gushing, greasy email: Dear Fr

Journey into the Unknown

Image
I’m a big fan of travel writing. There’s nothing I like better than to curl up with an intrepid individual as they scale icy mountains, trek across uncharted wastes and battle with hostile tribes. If you’ve never read him, I’d encourage you to look into the works of Eric Newby (personal favourites of mine being Love and War in the Apennines and A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush).   I myself am not a great traveller. I don’t like flying (lack of control, no leg room, hurtling through the air in a metal tube. Why would you?) and I prefer to get to know several places really well rather than going to lots of different destinations just once. I do love travelling on trains and last Saturday, I made the two-hour journey from rural East Suffolk to the throbbing depths of the capital for the 50 th Anniversary ACW Writers’ Day in Westminster. Dear readers, at no point did I whip out a set of crampons and scramble up an inhospitable slope. Nor did I have to don snowshoes and crunch my way over

A Walk in the Park by Misha Herwin

Image
  Yesterday I joined a writing walk in our local park. It’s something I’d never done before and had no idea of how it would work. So much, no doubt, would depend on the weather and in that we were lucky. The sun shone, the day was warm, almost too warm for the scarf, winter coat and Docs I was wearing. Wrapped up against the possibility of any change in temperature, I’ve been caught out too often by the changeable British climate, I set off a little later than I had hoped and got to the meeting place to find that no one was there. For a moment I was tempted to go back home, it’s only a five minute walk, and I could spend the rest of the day working in the garden or even doing some writing. A glimpse through the black iron gate showed the group already in session so in I went. Sue, the group leader, explained how the morning would work. For ten minutes we would walk around the park, on our own, or in groups, looking for and noting down, anything yellow. Then we would come back s

Russians | A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders | Karen Kao

Image
  A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders Let me confess: I haven’t read many Russians. The big novels, yes, but few of the classic short stories. It feels like time to correct that omission with A Swim in a Pond in the Rain (In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading and Life) by George Saunders. The four 19th century Russians–Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Gogol–deliver on the promises Saunders makes in his subtitle. They teach us, by way of seven sample short stories, about omission, patterns and escalation. Or rather, Saunders does. I’ve never heard him speak, let alone attended one of his short story writing classes. But I like to think that reading A Swim in a Pond in the Rain comes a close second for writers and readers of Russians and everyone else. For readers For Saunders, writing begins with reading. The Russians were not the first authors he discovered. The Russians are the ones against whom he still measures his own wo

Our Fathers: Or, How One Thing Might Lead to Another by Julia Jones

Image
  The River Deben from Kyson Point by John Roberts I edit a small, local, bi-annual magazine for the River Deben Association in Suffolk. It’s the river’s parish magazine so (in the manner of parish mag editors) I take as much time and trouble as if it were Country Life or the National Geographic .  My son Bertie manages the layout and we publish articles about birds and boats, people and paintings, saltmarshes and seawalls. I realise now that I was destined for the Deben from the day that my father (to be) returned from his RNVR service in World War 2 declaring that he never wanted to go anywhere else. So he set up a yacht agency. Less than two years later, my mother (to be) found her way to the river wanting to buy a boat… Skip along a few more years and a larger boat was purchased as my brother and I were demanding more space. Enter Peter Duck. In 1960 a young artist named John Roberts arrived in Woodbridge on the River Deben, planning to buy a boat and sail away. He was dreaming

Dynamotion, or the Art of Creating Character by Neil McGowan

Image
A couple of weeks ago, I took a day off. The kids were at school, so it was just me and my wife. We popped into Edinburgh for the day and spent a fascinating couple of hours at the National Gallery exploring the Ray Harryhausen exhibition. We both grew up with these movies, so there was a distinct air of nostalgia as we wandered about. All the classic models were there - Pauline was especially delighted to see BoBo the owl (from Clash of the Titans) whereas I was more interested in the skeleton warriors from Jason and the Argonauts (I guess that shows where my interests lie…), but even more interesting was the back-story behind the movies. There was a whole series of sketches and drawings showing the development of the models, and you could trace the development of the idea from initial concept to finished creature, including all the problems encountered and how they were solved. I was most taken with the engineering drawings, showing how even the direction a bolt was fitted was

Absurdity again. Bill Kirton

It’s probably a form of cheating but I’m going to open this October blog with exactly the same formulation I used last month. However, I do have what I think is a good reason for it. The blog (not the reason) begins like this: ‘For this month’s blog I had thought of conveying my despair, anger and profound sadness at the appalling inhumanity, cynicism, failures, and uncaring responses of those in power to such devastating news on all fronts’. In September I meant it, but it was also an excuse for offering what I claimed would be a little ‘light relief’ from the prevailing mayhem. Since then, however, the 'despair, anger and sadness' have been further compounded at a much more intense level by the details of the ordeal undergone by Sarah Everard at the hands of a serving policeman. Not only that but since he abducted, raped and murdered her, 81 more women in the UK have been killed, probably by men, and new statistics reveal that only 2% of reported rapes in the UK end in a pros

Anyone For Serials? by Debbie Bennett

Image
Serialising appears to be all the rage at the moment. Popular in the 19th and early-mid 20th centuries, many of what we consider to be classics today were originally released in episodic format – you can read an interesting history with examples here . But the appeal of serials waned towards the end of last century, possibly due to it no longer being lucrative for the publishers. When you are relying only on physical books, there are unit print costs to think about, and publications with lower word counts do not cost significantly less to produce than their bigger counterparts – yet it’s difficult to charge the same price for less words. Fast-forward to the 21st century, the web and e-publishing, and everything changes. Now there is no print cost and design/editing can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. Producing a novel as a single entity is going to cost broadly the same as producing it in ten episodes. So why are serials suddenly so popular again?  I independently publis

Life Goes On by Cecilia Peartree

Image
  Over the last few weeks I've gradually got the feeling that we have come through the worst of the pandemic. This could well be an illusion, of course, and we certainly have other problems to deal with at the moment, to make up for the loss of the constant worry about catching a potentially fatal illness just by doing something that was previously normal such as boarding a bus. My first glimpse of normality was when my son and I travelled to Llandudno and back by train(s). Even this wasn't entire normal as we wore masks all the way, despite the failure of many other passengers to do the same, and there were seats cordoned off and a lack of refreshments even on the first-class part of the journey (Edinburgh to Manchester). There was more of a sense of adventure than usually accompanies travel within the UK, too.  This more than made up for the hassle of having to change trains three times on the way and three on the way back, and my son didn't grumble at all, not even when

Murder Most Casual - Umberto Tosi

Image
  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled." - Matthew 5:1:11 New King James. And blessed are those who await hell freezing over. I've personally known three people who were murdered. One was a writer, Susan Berman, another was my former sister-in-law, Lola Steele, another was a noted, much admired Los Angeles Times colleague, Ruben Salazar , murdered by police. Not one of their killers has been brought to justice. One of the murderers, however, has been convicted. That happened in Los Angeles just a week before this writing, but this came a full twenty years after the New York real estate scion, Robert Durst, shot his friend Susan to death at point blank range at her Los Angeles hillside home. The wealthy Durst has appealed his first-degree murder conviction, but getting off - as he apparently has for two other killings, seems unlikely this time. Knowing three murdered people perhaps would not be many if I were an emergency