Friday, 31 December 2010
Ranald it was who taught me that writer's block is the alias for a bad idea; that writers would rather be thought lazy or prevaricating than lacking in ideas. It was a theory, a great one. Ranald was a man of theories, of boundless energy and enthusiasm; an hour in his company left your head spinning in all sorts of exciting directions, often concurrently. He had a genius for inspiring those around him, for making life feel like a big adventure with endless questions to be asked and discussions to be had. He's perhaps best known for his TV writing, for The Professionals and The Sweeney, but he also worked in Hollywood, writing the last cowboy movie never filmed and a horror film directed by William Castle, who produced Rosemary's Baby.
I knew Ranald because he was a child internee of the Japanese, one of the children imprisoned for nearly four years at Batu Lintang camp in Borneo. My mother was a year older than Ranald, the pair of them five and six respectively when the camp was liberated by the Australians on 9th September 1945. Ranald was remembered by Nurse Hilda Bates in her diary of the prison camp. There's a decent dedication page on Wikipedia, and links to various obituaries, but nothing that quite captures the spirit of the man.
In Ranald, I lost someone with whom I felt a unique connection, a champion for my efforts as a writer, a role-model and an amazing man. Someone so full of passion and humour and optimism. Someone who gave so much and had so much still to give. His last words to his best friend: "There's still so much to discuss..." He knew how to live. How to really live. What I wouldn't give for an ounce of that joy he felt, and shared. Of everyone, he deserved to live a long life, because he'd have kept on giving - spreading joy and showing the rest of us how to tackle the messy business of living.
To watch a 90 second film about the devastating effect MND has on lives, click here. Please note it is certificate 15. You can learn more about MND here.
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Thursday, 16 December 2010
2. Pitch the book to the right agent in the prescribed manner. (Or not. Don't let submission guidelines get in your way; this book can't be pinned down in a paragraph)
3. Practice patience. (Chase after two weeks. That's plenty of time for the book's brilliance to have penetrated)
4. Submit a full ms on request in the prescribed manner. (Convince yourself this is it: your genius is about to be universally acknowledged and rewarded)
5. Accept the rejection with good grace, putting it to one side if necessary until you are in the right frame of mind to read it as the valuable information you need to get better at what you do. (Curse and pity the poor fools who didn't have the wit to recognise genius when they read it; do not entertain the idea that they know more than you do about books and publishing)
6. Start a new book, keeping close at hand the rejection letter that contained vital information about what you needed to do to get further this time. (Start a new book ignoring that ridiculous rejection, which you've torn up in any case)
7. Pitch and submit as earlier. (Give it another shot, possibly mentioning the idiots that turned down your previous work of genius)
8. Accept the rejection with good grace, learning from it all that you can. (Wonder what is wrong with a world that can reject you twice. Storm. Rant. Flounce. Better: do it on your blog, naming and shaming those who thwarted you. Alternatively, curl up in a ball and never come out)
9. Repeat steps six to eight, as required. (Give up. Tell yourself it's because you're too good to get published)
On Tuesday, I was lucky enough to be signed by Gregory & Company, a fantastic agency that specialises in crime and thrillers. I had previously submitted three other novels, all of which were read in full by Jane Gregory's team, all of which were rejected with two pages of feedback that helped me to see why they weren't books that could be published easily, or even at all. My fourth attempt needs work, of course it does. But thanks to a brilliant team at the agency, and an editor who knows exactly how to lead a writer through what's needed, I feel enthused rather than daunted. In fact, I'm dying to get stuck into the changes.
'You've been trying us for some time,' Jane said when we met.
'I'm famed for my stamina,' I confessed.
Not to mention bloody-mindedness, but also as it turns out, the ability to listen to what I'm told and to know that a good writer can always - ALWAYS - be a better writer. This was driven home to me when I read Jane's interview for Mslexia, where she talks about what it takes to be signed by her and to make it as a writer.
Keep the faith, take advice from the experts, never give up.
Friday, 10 December 2010
Several of the themes in my current novel are things I've moved on from recently. I won't say 'lost', since they've become part of me, but I've only recently acquired the distance - emotionally - to be able to put them down on paper. As Mo says of her recent writing, it's liberating, but it's more than just that.
Thursday, 2 December 2010
I thought it might be useful to mention (and link to) some blog posts and sound advice which I followed as I edited and prepared the ms for mailing. Firstly, this excellent post by Elizabeth Craig on Keeping it interesting, which helped me to focus on those moments when the story might be slacking off, helping me to keep it fresh and the reader engaged. Dmytry Karpov's blog post, Brevity is key, was a good reminder of one aspect in the editing process: getting rid of anything unnecessary. Finally, as I was about to send it off, I came across this insight by Rachelle Gardner, into what might be going through an agent's mind when she reads my ms.
Sunday, 21 November 2010
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Sunday, 14 November 2010
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Blackwell's, Park Street, Bristol
A Celebration of the Short Story
Wednesday, 24th November, 6pm– 8pm
A great short story can do something no other form can. It has been described as "an apocalypse in a very small cup", a complete world that you are immersed in for only the time it takes to drink a cup of tea or wait for a bus but one which may remain in your mind for far, far longer. It can make you laugh or cry, terrify and delight you, all in the space of a few pages - or even less!
Come and celebrate the short story with readings by local writers Tania Hershman, Sarah Hilary, Anna Britten, Louise Gethin, Pauline Masurel, Nicholas Rawlinson, Ursula Wills-Jones, Margot Taylor and Alan Toyne, and special guest, award-winning short story writer Vanessa Gebbie, whose second collection, Storm Warning, has just been published. And read your own stories in the open mic slot, 5 minutes maximum, just turn up and join in the party!
Saturday, 23 October 2010
Friday, 22 October 2010
Reading this collection, I wished I was Argentinian—not because the stories made me yearn for a country the author describes as “impulsive and erratic,” but because I so often sensed that so much had been lost in translation.
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
"Ranging across love, loss, hate, journeys and other oddities these finely written pieces constantly surprise, delight and challenge. With a powerful title piece from Bill Trüb this is an innovative anthology full of difference."
It will be published in November and is available for pre-order.
Monday, 11 October 2010
"... unfortunately Jack is a child, and unfortunately Jack narrates the novel, and unfortunately Jack is a pretty cute kid, which means that the book itself is never far from cuteness – more Adrian Mole than Ivan Denisovich – which may explain the endorsements of Room provided by sentimental popular novelists like Anita Shreve and Audrey Niffenegger. Where is Mark Haddon’s imprimatur? And of course, a novel narrated by a five-year-old kid stretches to breaking point the already uneasy tension in first-person narration between the supposed orality of the recitation and its actual writtenness."
I think Wood makes a very good point. Even if our primary interest in the story is its psychological impact on the hero, the narrative doesn't quite capture - convincingly, consistently - the extent of that impact. Because no 5 year old can be expected to articulate an experience of this kind, let alone in a manner that extracts the nuances and the socio-political subtext which would have made this a richer, more thought-provoking work. I absolutely understand Donoghue's attraction to the subject matter, as a writer, but I wonder if she took the easy route through, by avoiding anything approaching an adult commentary.
The narrator in The Lovely Bones is older, and manages to combine a childish wonder with an emerging adult instinct for danger and despair - we don't lose anything by seeing the story through her eyes. In any case, Sebold's novel is not (to my knowledge) based on a real-life crime. The prude in me (if that's what it is) wants to demand that fiction inspired by real-life crime takes its responsibilities very seriously, thinks about what is important in the narrative, what responses readers should feel, the questions we should ask about a world that contains this kind of crime. I don't believe this was ever going to be possible through the narrative POV of a 5 year old, and I wonder whether Donoghue believed it to be possible.
Ultimately, I think my disappointment with the novel is its light-weight treatment of what is a deeply disturbing and morally challenging subject matter. I'm not squeamish but even if I was, I wouldn't want my reaction to a story inspired by the crimes of Josef Fritzel to be "Aww, how sweet!"
Thursday, 7 October 2010
Beautifully described moments in the lives of complex characters, told without drama but with a close attention to the detail of what’s most remarkable in the human condition
I'm looking forward to reading Metrophilias by Brendan Connell, and The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis.
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Kellerman specialises in plot AND character, rather than one or the other. He plots and sub-plots like a crazy demon plotting machine, but it's his characters and descriptions of the murky corners of LA that make him so readable. Detail upon detail, all sewn together beautifully, nothing spared or wasted. I like his books from the late 80s and early 90s, especially. Some of the more recent ones had been pared down rather too much for my taste, with the banter between Milo and Alex reduced to shorthand. It makes sense, after all the groundworking in the early stories, but I missed the richness of the prose and dialogue. But Deception is a return to top form, complex and twisted and oh-so-dark.
I was intrigued to be emailed about the viral marketing campaign around the book. Here's what the strategists had to say:
"The lead character in author Jonathan Kellerman’s series of crime novels, has been brought to life online with a call to fans to help ‘solve’ the murder at the heart of his latest book, DECEPTION... Delaware and Detective Milo Sturgis must enter the cutthroat world of private education to seek the killer of Elise Freeman, a teacher who may not be all she seems. Once again they must delve into the darkest recesses of the human compulsions and seek the truth against fierce opposition, even from within their own ranks.
"For the paperback launch of this murder mystery, published by Headline, the fictional psychologist has been brought to life on Twitter, Facebook and via his own website so that fans can get to know the man behind the Ph.D. To help solve his most complex case yet, Alex Delaware is turning to the public to help uncover a killer. Delaware will give fans access to information about his current case, including exclusive evidence from the crime scene.
"Campaign posters on the London Underground, based on a traditional ‘wanted’ poster, call for help from the public to assist in solving the murder by directing them to Dr Alex Delaware’s website, either online or via mobile. Once there, a criminal empathy test allows fans to find out which type of criminal they most identify with, to help Delaware understand the criminal mind and the types of crime people are most likely to commit. Participants then also feedback to Delaware on key pieces of evidence and their understanding of events, based on their criminal affiliations.
"This is the first time that fans will be able to interact directly with the book’s leading man and this campaign takes this interactivity to a whole new level: readers actually get to become part of the crime-solving team as Delaware searches for insights into the murderer (or murderers) he is chasing.
Commenting on the new campaign, Vicky Cowell, Marketing manager at Headline Publishing Group, said: “Bringing Alex Delaware to life online is a very bold step and one which we think fans will really get behind. The chance to interact with Delaware is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity... As fans know, Delaware doesn’t like to work in isolation and getting outside opinions on the crime will really help him to form his views and catch the killer.”
"Delaware will also interact with fans via his Facebook and Twitter pages and call for insight from them to help solve the case. To watch the film, view the evidence and interact with Delaware, visit: http://www.alexdelaware.co.uk/
I guess I really should join Twitter now, shouldn't I?
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE
Perhaps I'd better not join Twitter, since the "Criminal Tendency" test at Delaware's site says I'm a sociopath:
"People are an alien species. You’ve never understood them and find relating to them almost impossible. Social graces, morality and even common decency are all foreign currency to the sociopath. There is only one setting for you; ice cold."
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Monday, 20 September 2010
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Sunday, 8 August 2010
Monday, 2 August 2010
I'd rate Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs above just about any other in this regard, although it's interesting that what engaged most readers - and the author himself - was the human relationships at the heart of the story and not its serial killer with the dodgy personal habits. I'd also point out how much more I enjoyed Mo Hayder's recent novels to her earlier ones, where the shocks came thick and fast but the characters cried out for a deeper exploration - which, in the case of Jack Caffrey, she served up in the later books, in spades.
Yep, I had a similar reaction to Mo Hayder's Pig Island. But by the time she was writing Skin she'd put the shocks (and the laughs) in their place; Skin is a terrific read, exciting and haunting, funny and tragic. Balance is everything, and Hayder's got the measure of this now.
Natasha Cooper wrote a great piece around this topic, a couple of years ago, but her words have stood the test of time. Read her advice on the Dangers of Crime Writing here.
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
I’ll begin by saying how much I enjoyed You, which is a tough and touching story of family life in extremis, told through the eyes of a canny ten year old girl. Chock full of colourful characters, the story takes an unflinching and often funny look at adult dilemmas and tragedy, as seen by a wondering (and wonderful) child. It’s a terrific read, the sort you can manage in one sitting but which stays with you long after that. Go, read! I asked Nuala about the three aspects of the novel which intrigued me:
You is told through the eyes of your ten year old heroine. Was this a conscious decision you took at the outset, and how hard was it to stick to that voice exclusively? Were you tempted at any point to show us, for example, the mother's side of the story? What do you feel to be the advantages and disadvantages of telling a complex, adult story through the eyes of a child?
Water is very important to this story: the Channel that the children cross, and especially the river, which feels like a character in its own right, both benign and threatening. Do you live near water, and what is its significance to you as a writer?
This novel grew from a short story and I never start anything (stories, novels, poems) in what I would call a conscious way. I don’t take a decision – I just start to write, usually, because a first line pops into my head, and it has a voice that belongs to a character, and I just run with that. So this girls’ voice emerged very strongly, in the second person, and I was enjoying her voice so much I just kept writing and writing. I soon realised it was turning into a novel and I wanted to keep going.
It was always going to be the girl’s view of the world – not her mother’s – though it is the mother’s story, really. I liked the challenge presented by telling difficult things from a child’s point of view. That’s what I love about a long piece of work: all the questions and problems that get thrown up that you have to solve; I find that thrilling and mildly excruciating at the same time.
As for advantages, well, the reader has to guess at what is really going on because the child narrator can’t always see the truth in things, though my character is quite sharp.
Disadvantages? Erm, I can’t think of any. Telling from the POV of the child is a plot device like any other. It’s enormous fun. I used to go around thinking ‘Oh, yes, she’d look at x this way and y that way’ purely because she is ten years old. It maybe removes me – the adult writer – from the piece a bit more. And that’s good, I think.
I grew up beside the river Liffey in Dublin. The physical landscape of You is the landscape of my childhood. The house on the river, where the family in the novel lives, was my friend’s house. The river was hugely important in my childhood: we paddled, swam, fished, floated and boated on and in it; we were familiar with its wildlife: swans, herons, ducks, otters, kingfishers, fish. We were warned away from it because of drownings that had happened but we were drawn to it.What was the starting point of the story? Was there a key image or idea that it grew from, and how did you set about shaping that idea into the final story?
My first collection of short stories The Wind Across the Grass was full of water, specifically the river I grew up beside. When you live that close to a river it influences you: you see, hear and smell it every day. You talk about it with you neighbours: ‘The river’s high today’ or ‘The river’s low today’.
I think childhood is a huge influence on what we write anyway and the river was such a part of mine it couldn’t help but show up.
Thanks, Nuala. The exploration aspect certainly came across beautifully in You. I look forward to reading where the journey (and the joy) takes you next.
Well, the voice of this spiky, sensitive girl came to me and she had a troubled mother. I tend to write to tell stories to myself, so I’m not a fan of plotting and planning. I just start to write and see where it leads me. During that journey I think a lot and ask a lot of questions. What if this happened? Or, for example, what if so-and-so had this profession, how would that shape him as a character? I deliberately made the sinister character Kit a butcher, to give him a semi-violent edge.
Setting is also hugely important to me and it occurred to me early on that I could set this story in my home-place and so all the physical locations were to hand in my head, so to speak. And the river became, as you said Sarah, another character in the book.
It took a year to write the novel and I had no idea as I went along what was going to happen or how it would end. That exploration of the story for myself is a big part of the joy of writing for me.
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
To be clear: I had no idea this character would be The One. I did not write him/her to fit that mould, or not consciously. But now I come to look at him/her I find that all the facets are there, everything I need in terms of motive and opportunity. The smallest tweak and it falls into place. At least I hope so. I'd better get writing and find out.
Friday, 9 July 2010
Thursday, 8 July 2010
Every word written is a victory against death (Michel Butor)
All romances end in tragedy. One of the key people in a romance becomes a monster sooner or later (David Cronenberg)
There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia (Kurt Vonnegut)
A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people (Thomas Mann)
I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten - happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another (Brenda Ueland)
I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write (P. G. Wodehouse)
Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats (Howard Aiken)
Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamp-post what he thinks about dogs (Christopher Hampton)
It is advantageous to an author that his book should be attacked as well as praised. Fame is a shuttlecock. If it be struck at one end of the room, it will soon fall to the ground. To keep it up, it must be struck at both ends (Samuel Johnson)
Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of style (Jonathan Swift)
Over to you!
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
The Long-Distance Runner, I’m told, is an allegory for the menopause. So what, frankly? It’s a terrific story of a woman running away from her life and into other people’s. Paley ends the story like this: "A woman inside the steamy energy of middle age runs and runs. She finds the houses and streets where her childhood happened. She lives in them. She learns as though she was still a child what in the world is coming next."
Monday, 21 June 2010
Thursday, 17 June 2010
"In some ways the E-puzzler works like a human doing a jigsaw, only much faster and without the benefit of a box-lid to show what the puzzle should look like. First, the fragments from each bag are smoothed out and fed into a large scanner: not just ordinary paper but carbon paper, photographs, microfilm, newsprint and folders. The unique characteristics of each piece — shape, colour, font, texture, handwriting, paper-type, edges and thickness — are stored digitally. Using an algorithm, the computer groups together similar fragments to reduce the “search space”, and then locates pieces that join up by matching the different characteristics. The task was made slightly easier by the fact that the Stasi rippers tended to bundle the scraps from sets of files into a single bag."
Link to the full article from The Times, 22 March 2010
Sunday, 13 June 2010
Saturday, 5 June 2010
The next day, when the sun was high, I went back to the lilac bushes. There was no sign except a patch of trampled grass. I pulled down a branch and buried my face in the cones of flowers. The smell of the lilacs went through me as if my blood was carrying it. Strong, sweet, languid, yet fresh as water.Delicious stories, each one different, several worthy of re-reading. Dunmore is a wizard at writing flavours, scents, food and nature; every page is spiced with sensory experience. There are stories to sink into, to drift away with. Warm stories, and cool ones, and some that are downright icy for when the summer gets too hot. Perfect!
Friday, 28 May 2010
Thursday, 20 May 2010
Monday, 17 May 2010
That's the short short story. The longer one is that I hit 60,000 words with the novel, today which feels like an important milestone. I still haven't re-read any of it and don't intend to until I've reached a first full draft, hopefully by the end of this month. It feels good to be a full-time writer again.
Back to the short stories, because I want to say how much I enjoyed Average Sunday Afternoon by Pat Jourdan, which includes a marvellous flash fiction piece called Miss Haversham Reconstructed. Wonderful, impish and so true.
Finally, the Asham Award is about open for business and this year there's a theme. Ghost, or Gothic. I have something to send to this - hurrah! The entry fee is £15 - boo. That makes it one of the most expensive contests to enter in the UK. Ouch.
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Friday, 23 April 2010
'There's no such thing as writer's block,' my friend said. 'There's just bad ideas.'
You know, I think he's onto something. If an idea fails to grip you as a writer, you will find it hard to write, just as you will if it's too slippery or evasive to pin down. We usually prefer to blame our own procasination or laziness rather than admit it's not a good idea. Sometimes we cannot see it's a bad idea until we've written it through, put it down in black and white. But if we're making lots of excuses along the way, to avoid the writing of it, the chances are it's just not a good enough idea. Bin it, and move on?
This has been my personal experience recently. I was struggling with an idea, telling myself I lacked the self-discipline or the time to work on it. Making excuses not to write. Then I had a better idea - one that feels a thousand times clearer and brighter - and I'm having no trouble at all. When I'm not actually writing it, I'm thinking about it, I'm researching and making notes but I'm not avoiding the task ahead of me (I know what avoidance feels like, so I can say this with certainty). And it has at its heart a genuinely good idea. A small nugget that means a huge amount. The idea is good enough for me to see just what was at fault with the previous idea, where its weakness lay.
I wasn't blocked; I was in need of a better idea. Thank goodness I found one.
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
Now the BBC has long been in the business of selling its dramas overseas, with mixed success. A few years ago, this policy became more aggressive; they got better at it, started making serious money from the sales of rights or - more usually - the formulas for shows like Life on Mars.
Serious money. So much of it that now the BBC appears to be deploying a scheduling formula which specifically accommodates the advert breaks preferred in countries like the USA, where TV dramas live or die by their ability to attract and retain advertising. Advert breaks aren't necessarily the enemy of TV shows, but ask any ITV producer who's seen his or her audience flip channels in an ad break and never return, and he/she will tell you - you'd better give your audience a damn good reason to return at the end of the ads, or to endure attempts to be sold Maltesers and car insurance while waiting to find out whodunnit or whowonit.
Which brings me to the editing in the current series of Ashes to Ashes. The odd stop-start, cliff-hanger-every-six-minutes style of the show, so different to the original Life on Mars. Why? Because they're selling the show to networks that have to give airtime to advertisers, that have to prove to advertisers that the show can sit comfortably as a showcase around the screentime the advertiser is purchasing?
This is not a rant. It's an observation. Watch any episode at random from the early series of Spooks, or Life on Mars. Then watch a recent episode. It's not, as I first thought, about the shifting age demographic and the notion of attention-deficit-programming. Or not only that. It's about breaking a show into chunks around which audiences can become the consumers needed to finance the networks who are broadcasting the shows.
It's not a rant but I do think it's a shame. Good TV drama, like a good book, has its own pace, its own rhythm. It should build, in layers, over time. Not panic and pant its way to conclusions against the clock.
If anyone reading this has the inside story, please share?
Monday, 19 April 2010
"a Munro-patented confusion of conflicting emotions that draw their credibility and their power from exactly that confusion"
Sunday, 18 April 2010
I'm nominating the following for a Beautiful Blogger Award:
Gay Degani Words in Place
black white bliss
Wild Writing the Edge
Monday, 12 April 2010
It was in Solva, and on its neighbouring beaches (including the spectacular Druidston Haven which has a waterfall at one end), that I ruminated on the new novel, plotted a lot of it and began to feel it getting under my skin.
The chief sensation I have at the moment is of holding a fledging bird in the hollow of my hand. I must take great care not to crush it. I know roughly what I must do to see it thrive. I'm marvelling at its fragility (and mine), and its power (and mine).
Hurray for holidays! So, how the heck are all of you?
Thursday, 1 April 2010
Has anyone else ever experienced this sense of feeling threatened by what they're writing? Is it a danger sign? Should I step away, or hang around for what happens next?
Friday, 26 March 2010
Kristie Lagone, editor of Literary Fever, Brian Lister at Biscuit Publishing, Ra Page at Comma Press and Roland Goity at LITnIMAGE all sent warm words, too. Not to mention friends and family. (My mother's so proud and I'm not too old to appreciate the pleasure of having made her feel that way.)
Today, I'm restarting my full-time life as a writer. For six months I've worked hard elsewhere, but today it all begins again. Writing, full-time. It gives me courage and makes me glad, to know that so many people share in this adventure - and so generously. And now, as Pat Jourdan says, 'Back to the drawing-board with you for more.'
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Saturday, 20 March 2010
Without exception this was the most thrilling experience of my writing life to date. Miriam is a terrific actress and didn't so much read as perform my story, wonderfully. I had goosebumps as I listened. To hear her announce I was the winner was... just so special. When I thanked her for reading so wonderfully, she said, 'Thank you for writing it so wonderfully,' and my day was complete. Such an amazing award to win, a real honour. I feel blessed.
Sense's PR team are hard at work already, sending a press release to the local media in which they quote Miriam as saying, 'My work is about bringing to life the words on a page. These are powerful words that speak volumes about the very difficult challenges that deafblind people face every day. There’s a compelling quality that draws in the reader and gives voice to these challenges.'
The event was filmed and I've been promised an MP3 audio file of Miriam's reading, which I will post here in due course. For now, colour me very, very happy.
Saturday, 6 February 2010
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Friday, 22 January 2010
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Hilary was elder sister to my grandfather, Stan Hill, who died in Batu Lintang POW camp. After the war, Hilary emigrated to America, where she was headmistress of Nightingale Bamford School in New York. She married a New Yorker, Basil, Robillard, and they lived a rare old life from all accounts, in an apartment on East 92nd Street, members of the Cosmopolitan Club and a dashing pair about town until poor Hilary was diagnosed with cancer, from which she suffered for a long time before dying in her early fifties.
Here's to Great-Aunt Hilary, and to feasting.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
Over the past few weeks and months I've come closer than I've been in ten years to giving up 'this dream of writing'. Not that it has ever felt like a dream. Ref my earlier point about mess. Then I spent a few quiet hours with some great books (I'm reading more of Alice Munro, and discovering Raymond Carver), and in my own company, asking myself questions (gently, rather than the interrogative, reproachful angle I tend to take) and I reached a conclusion that's helping me find my focus again. I'd strayed too far from the heart of what I was trying to do. In a couple of specific cases I'd been trying to tell a story from entirely the wrong perspective, in the wrong way.
I knew these were good stories, but I was beginning to think I was not the person to be telling them. Well, over the last three days I've written a clean draft of one of these - a short story that's been part of my life for years, to which I feel a debt that was probably putting too much pressure on my instinct as an artist, skewing my approach to it. I've written a clean draft and I think it's good. Too soon to say that for sure, but what I can say is that it's the closest I've come so far to telling the heart of this story in the way it deserves to be told.
In addition to this I've got a little project going on which is just a tickle at this stage but a very exciting one. I feel like a writer again, and it feels good.