"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


A blog for readers and writers

A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Free to enter poetry competition

erbacce-press are a Liverpool poetry publishers striving to be a writers co-operative. That hasn't happened yet, so in the meantime two dedicated and technically savvy poets run the press by themselves and provide an impressive range of publishing services free or cost price to writers...all with the aim of getting the work out there where it belongs, in readers' hands.
Right now they are running a competition and the first prize is a publishing contract, including publication of the poets’ work (up to 160 pages). The winner will also receive ten free copies of the finished book, in addition to generous royalties. Closing Date 14th June 2010.
Check out the website for all the details (click on the title of this post).
After thought: erbracce is Italian for weeds

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Book Lovers

It's scary reading reviews. I never believe anyone who says that they don't care what's said about them. Make no mistake: this is personal. So, of course, I was delighted that the reviewer on the international Book Lovers' website liked A GOOD CONFESSION but it was especially gratifying that it was a self proclaimed HEA (happy ever after) addict who read it and enjoyed it so much it's forced her to re-think her preference.  
What about the ending?... It’s not what I wanted but it was the most logical one. I would have hated if thing had happened differently. There’s hope at the end, and that’s more than Cathleen would have had otherwise.... I’m left here rethinking my definition of a Happy Ever After. The more I think about it the more I like Cathleen’s choice in the last scene.
And that's not all she was thinking about.
Bridget Whelan did something impossible…she helped me understand priests. I never understood their motivations (I’m not a religious person) but by the end of the book I understood.
It sounds as though she fell in love too.
I loved reading about Cathleen and her girls and the scenes in Ireland looked ‘authentic’, I felt like I was there. The writing style is compelling and Bridget Whelan succeeded in making me crave for this sense of community, I was longing for Ireland.
Mind you, she obviously found the sex scenes a bit too tame.  To be honest I don't know if I would write anything explicit.  I'm not being prudish: I just don't think we have much of a vocabulary for good sex . There are times when less is more and too much detail can turn physical passion into something faintly ridiculous. The most sensuous novel I've read (and re-read) is Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. The writing is spare and the result intense.

Thank you Book Lovers for reading A GOOD CONFESSION. Thank you for liking it. 
(Click on the title of this post to read it in full.)

Monday, 26 April 2010

A story tellng midsummer all nighter

White Rabbit is hosting a summer special storytelling event called “Are You Sitting Comfortably?- Pajama Party” at The Basement in Kensington Street, Brighton on Saturday 19th June 2010, starting at 9pm
They are seeking stories of around 1000 words: the theme is midsummer. No payment, but you will get a complimentary ticket and there is free food to be had!  And you get to stay up.
As well as stories there will be short films and animation, games, competitions, and prizes. There will be a midnight feast and bubbly at breakfast for those tough enough to make it through the night but there is a strict dress code:  PJs / nightwear only (bring sleeping bags and bedrolls to snuggle down).
Chosen writers must be able to attend the evening, but White Rabbit have a team of actors who read the stories, so writers can just sit back and enjoy the party atmosphere.
More information about White Rabbit and Are You Sitting Comfortably? on their website (click the title of the post). 
DEADLINE  5th June by email to areyousittingcomfortably@thewhiterabbit.org.uk  put BRIGHTON in the subject box. Also mention if you are from the Brighton area as White Rabbit support local writers.

I'd love to be a writer

Click on the title to go to a laugh-out-loud video featured on the STRICTLY WRITING blog.  They are also organising a free international writing competition with a first prize of £300 for the winning story.
Each month for ten months they will showcase a story which will then be entered on the shortlist. The winner will be c be decided by a combination of 50% votes from the SW readership and 50% by the SW team. (Does that sound familar....?) Email your story to strictlywriting@btinternet.com but not as an attachment - instead paste the story into the body of the email.
The stories must be no longer than 2000 words, but can be on any subject.  

Check out the blog for full details - that's important. I haven't put all the information here and the first rule of any competition is don't break the rules.
The shortlisted stories will be showcased here on the last Friday of each month, starting on Friday 30 April 2010

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Playing with Words

Feeling very good about the four classes I have running at the moment: two in Brighton and two in London. It's great to meet up with regular students - some have been with me since I started teaching five years ago - and the buzz that comes from meeting and sharing work with new students/new writers gives me energy and reminds me why I don't want to do anything else but write...and teach writing
Here's an exercise I often use in the first week of term because it is so simple and can produce such amazing results. 

The task is to describe a room - either one you know well, perhaps the one you are sitting in right now, or a place straight from the imagination. BUT you have to do it in two different ways.
1)     In just one sentence using as many words as you can. See how many you can fit in while still making sense and obeying the usual rules of English. If you scroll down you can see my examples, but if you want inspiration go to Charles Dickens, go to Tom Woolf
2)     Same room and this time you are allowed to write as many sentences as you want but each one cannot be longer than SIX words.
Here are my examples

One long sentence
The gilt on the antique picture frames that decorated the walls of the guest bedroom were set on fire by the early morning light that shone through the stained glass window and brought the collection of oil paintings to new, vibrant life while transforming the swathes of muslin draping the four poster bed into an opal waterfall of translucent colour. 
 (60 words)

Short sentences

The light shines through the stained glass. The oil paintings come alive. Dawn sets the picture frames alight. Ancient gilt turns into gold. Muslin turns into water.
Try it.
The length of sentences can add texture to your writing, contributing to the atmosphere. They can also add speed. 
 Try this exercise again but this time describing an action - perhaps someone running away.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Why Irish Novelists live in the past...

The Irish novelist Julian Gough recently had a rant about fellow Irish writers...
If there is a movement in Ireland, it is backwards. Novel after novel set in the nineteen seventies, sixties, fifties. Reading award-winning Irish literary  fiction, you wouldn’t know television had been invented. Indeed, they seem apologetic about acknowledging electricity (or “the new Mechanikal Galvinism” as they like to call it.)
As it happens I do mention television in A Good Confession - once. I also mention galoshes (one of my all time favourite words), National Assistance, Adam Faith and sending turkeys through the post for your family far away in heathen England. All of which are appropriate period details for the end of the 1950s....and all of which suggests that I have fallen into the time warp trap that Gough is complaining about.
There's a lot of reasons why I set my story in the past. However, I acknowledge that my central characters would face exactly the same conflict if they fell in love today, but when I saw Father Jerry and Cathleen it was in the streets and fields of my childhood in London and Ireland. 
My defence is that the 1950s lasted longer in Ireland than anywhere else. When my parents returned in the early 80s they were, by and large, going back to the Ireland they had left 30 years earlier. They were there long enough to see the country leap into the 21st century but when a decade lasts so long it is perhap not surprising that it has such a lingering after taste...

After thought
According to wikipedia I can't be an Irish novelist because I was neither born in Ireland or live there
That must mean Gough isn't an Irish novelist either because he was born in London, raised in Tipparary, educated in Galway and now resides in Berlin.
I'm reminded of the Dublin born Duke of Wellington's comment when he was called an Irishman. 'Sir, if a gentleman was born in a stable that would not make him a horse.'
After after thought
Just looked it up and the Duke of Wellington didn't say that. It was the great Daniel O'Connell speaking about the Iron Duke on October 16th 1843 (it must be true if it has a date). "No, he is not an Irishman. He was born in Ireland; but being born in a stable does not make a man a horse."
My point exactly...

New Job Anyone?

Love the job advert from the Eden Project. If you're interested click on the title to this post. The closing date is April 30 2010 

The Eden Project in Cornwall is looking for two exceptional people to join the Pollination Team. We pollinate the minds and hearts of our visitors through a variety of arts and interpretation mediums. We also enhance the capacity of all staff to engage creatively with visitors and work on projects beyond the site.

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Book and the Rose

Sometimes Council's do things right and I like the way Brighton and Hove mark St George's Day and Shakespeare's anniversary with The Book and the Rose festival. It will take place in Jubilee Square next Sunday on April 25.  This is the second year of the festival which tries to capture the spirit of a similar annual event in Barcelona, where it is considered good luck to exchange a book and a rose on St George’s Day or La Diada de Sant Jordi. (But I think men are supposed to get the book and women the rose...we should do it the other way round)

Friday, 16 April 2010

Thoughts for the start of a new creative writing term

On studying creative writing
"It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way."
Ernest Hemingway
On against-the-clock class exercises
These artificial limits create a crisis, which rouses the brain’s resources; the compulsion towards haste overthrows the ordinary precautions, flings everything into top gear, and many things that are usually hidden find themselves rushed into the open. Barriers break down, prisoners come out of their cells.”  Ted Hughes
On what writers do
Fail. Fail again. Fail better.
Samuel Becket

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Author Blog awards

Thank you for voting my blog - you know who you are! I didn't make the short list of 28 but gather I was a contender for a while. Pretty good going as I am such an un-techy newcomer. Next year folks, next year!

Meanwhile here is the shortlist - you can win books if you vote for the winner.

Nikesh Shukla

Paulo Coelho

Gavin James Bower

Richard Jay Parker

Cleolinda Jones

Caroline Smailes

Chris Brogan

Barry Hutchison

Linda Jones

Michell Plested

Sam Starbuck

Lucy Coats

Suzanne Arruda

Tim Atkinson

Carleen Brice

Jenn Ashworth

Michael Faulkner

Christopher Fowler

Neil Gaiman

Lynn Flewelling

Fiona Robyn

Emily Benet

Alice Griffin

Nicola Morgan

Liz Fielding

Jackie Morris

Jane Alexander

Marcus Chown

Only Bernadette

Only Bernadette
could launch her third volume of poetry MIMING SILENCE hours after being discharged from hospital
Only Bernadette
can give a bravura performance and look as sleek as an otter in brown velvet while shaking off the effects of a night of sedation
Only Bernadette
wouldn't be phased by a brief, unexpected gap in the programme. Instead of waffling she treated her
audience to a tantalizing taste of her one woman show
Only Bernadette
can perform from memory instead of reading from the page, bringing a room to silence with the power of her words
Only Bernadette
would organise a raffle for the National Epilepsy Society with items from her home as prizes (tied up in plastic bags so you couldn't see what you might win).
Only Bernadette 
Go buy her book
Go to her one woman show Altered Images. It is on May 2nd and May 9th during Brighton Festival at the Iambic Arts Theatre. 
Go because there is only one Bernadette Cremin


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Sunday, 4 April 2010

How do you organise your collection?

By Colour?
I'm almost tempted. I spent many, many hours boxing up the living room books over the weekend as Sam the Painter is coming in while we are in Spain. When they go back on their newly painted shelves perhaps I will have a bash at a rainbow filing system. (Only that would mean Zola's Rome in blue would be separated from the red bound copy of Zola's Paris. Would they pine? ).
Elvis Costello ordered his record collection geographically - west coast to east coast - and my eldest says he has a similar system for his already extensive library.
Any other - non alphabetical - method for books, vinyl, CDs, DVDs....?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Coming up

First I do the washing, then the packing...including laptop (I need about twenty thousand more words by the end of April)...then I go to Seville...then I come home
AFTER THAT....I'm guesting at a fantastic BOOK LAUNCH on April 14 at the Iambic Arts Theatre in Brighton.
Bernadette Cremin's third volume of poetry Miming Silence is brave and bold. She writes lines that hit you between the eyes and that you will never ever forget.