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Archive for September, 2011

Not so much the pram in the hall…

September 21, 2011 2 comments

…more the boy on the sofa. Since last Wednesday my son has been unwell.  First it was spectacular vomiting, then when that cleared up, a hacking cough developed.  He’s managed one day at school (at his own insistence) since then.  So, I have had an extra person in the house during the day, one that is not making too much trouble – in between coughs he’s actually quite chirpy –  but one who is still undeniably there.  Hence I have found it almost impossible to get any writing work done.  I’ve managed a few bits of writerly admin and a couple of paragraphs of something which took me by surprise, but apart from that, zilch.

I’m sure the lack of sleep – three nights now of up and down propping his head back up on his pillows when he starts coughing in the night – isn’t helping, but I’m equally sure it’s more than that.  Just having someone else there, even when they’re not demanding anything much of me other than the odd snack or a chat now and then, seems to put me off kilter.  The funny thing is, although I’m finding it difficult to write, it seems remarkably easy to read the paper or do the crossword.  Does that require a different part of my brain?  A different kind of concentration?  Or am I just procrastinating?

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Heart in my mouth time

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve just sent off a story to a national competition, after putting it off for weeks.  That got my wondering exactly what my problem is with entering competitions or submitting work.  I actually submit very little of what I write.  What is it that’s stopping me? I think it’s largely fear – fear of putting my work under scrutiny (which is really the same as putting myself under scrutiny!), fear of rejection, fear that people might be sniggering at me behind their hands, fear that they might be thinking “How dare she!  Who does she think she is!”

How ridiculous it seems when I put it down in words.  After all, what do I really have to lose?  Largely I’m submitting work to people who don’t know me, people I am unlikely ever to meet.  Why should I care if they sneer?  The most I have to lose is the time spent getting a piece ready for submission and the cost of the postage – and the competition I’ve just entered allowed email submissions, so I haven’t even lost the price of a stamp!

Every year I tell myself I should submit more, and every year I find lots of excuses not to.  Maybe this will be the year I finally pull my writerly socks up.  I’ve got three submissions out at the moment – now, what else have I got that’s ready to go out in search of a home?

Imagination overload!

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m not long back from a morning spent with the P4 and P5 classes at Corstorphine Primary.  We had a high old time delving into our imaginations and coming up with all sorts of things. The children were all enthusiastic and were brim-ful of amazing ideas.  I wonder who would notice if I sneaked some of them into one of my next books? 

I even road-tested some of a work in progress.  It’s called Operation Anti-Slime and involves some unlikely superheroes pitted against the evil Slimemaster and his slug army.  It went down a storm and lots of children asked me where they can buy it.  I’d better get my writing skates on and finish it then – so far I’m only at chapter 7.

When I do a school event, the children get the chance to make a wish, just like the children do in The Wishcatchers and I offer a prize for the best one.  The hardest part of any school event is then deciding who gets the prize.  It’s incredibly heartening to read what the children put in their wishes – they are so funny, profound, thoughtful and imaginative.  I’ve been so touched by some of the wishes, while others have made me laugh out loud.  I had to choose one winner in each class, but really there could have been many more. 

Thank you Corstorphine Primary for such a lovely morning, for all your ideas and questions and, of course, your wishes!

One week on and still musing…

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

A week since the Book Festival finished and I’m still mulling over the experience.  Here, in a random order, are some of the things that I learnt or was surprised by this year:

  • the amazing way that AS Byatt trusts in her sub-conscious.  During the interview there were several instances where she said she didn’t immediately have an answer, and she’d need to think about it.  But she didn’t stop to think.  She kept on with the conversation, cogently and intelligently, dropping pearls of wisdom at regular intervals.  You would never have guessed that she was at the same time ruminating until she would interrupt the flow to give the answer she’d been searching for.  All this was done without losing the thread what she was saying.  I kept thinking, I wish I could do that.
  • that Kelly Link, the short story writer and publisher, prefers to read novels in the order: beginning, end, middle, much to the horror of her novelist friends.  However, she was shocked beyond measure to discover that people dipped in and out of short story collections, reading them out of order.  She found this horrifying because so much thought goes into getting the stories in the right order.  So the moral of the story seems to be, never trust your pesky readers!
  • how many of the writers I listened to emphasised, again and again, the importance of story.  I found this incredibly heartening, because I had been feeling there had been a move away from narrative in literary fiction, almost as if it is something cheap and worthless, to be ashamed of.  I listened to lots of different writers, poets, short story writers, children’s writers, novelists and writers of different nationalities and native languages.  The one thing that kept cropping up again and again was the story.  Does this mean narrative is now back in literary fashion?

And finally, I asked myself, what is the point of a book festival anyway?  While a part of me completely concurs with the view that a book should speak for itself, I think listening to the writer can add a new dimension.  Personally, I relished the opportunity to listen to intelligent conversation and indulge in a heady diet of ideas in the company of people who don’t automatically link “literary” with “pretentious”.  I enjoyed the peek into writers’ minds, methods and preoccupations.  I was made to think of things in a different way – surely the bedrock of the writer’s job-description. 

And it wasn’t all deep and philosophical, many events were also highly entertaining too – AL Kennedy and AS Byatt with their different brands of dry wit; Liz Kessler, who could potentially avail herself of a second career as a stand-up comic judging by the way she sparked off the audience – to mention but a few.

But now it’s time for me to stop wallowing in intellectual mud and get on with the business of writing…