Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

May it be a good - and peaceful - one for you all. And just in case you get bored tonight and can't think what to do with all your champagne corks, the Design Within Reach website is hosting its second 'design a champagne cork chair' competition. Your chair has to use the cork, foil, cage and label from no more than two (2) Champagne bottles (use of glass not permitted). Here's the photograph of last year's winner for inspiration:

And my writing prompt for today is: My favourite chair.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

OK, bearing in mind the success of 'which literary personality are you?' for readers of this blog, here's a chance to discover your REAL personality for 2007. Now I'm going to google 'Green Lantern' to find out just exactly who I am...

Your results:
You are Green Lantern

Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
The Flash
Iron Man
Hot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Thanks to a recommendation, I am in the process of discovering new/old writers through Persephone Books. Do go to the website - even the covers and endpapers bring great joy. I loved the short story, The Woman Novelist by Diana Gardner, but am restricting myself to just a bit more reading and choosing of new books for my wish list every time I visit the website to help eke out the pleasure. Have just reread the last sentence ... oh yes, I believe in living dangerously. Bring on 2007!!!!

And my writing prompt today is: The Woman (fill in profession of choice).

Friday, December 29, 2006

A quick writing prompt. Finish this letter:
Dear Father Christmas, Did you forget to bring the....

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I'm offline for the next few days. Happy holidays!!!!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Best Christmas game ever here, courtesy of another forum. Particularly for the sprouts fans amongst us.
And my writing prompt for today is: the best meal in the world would be... .

Thursday, December 21, 2006

To my shame, I can't remember the exact web-route that took me to finding the website of artists, Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger, but what a stunning find! Browsing through their archive has been like the best possible Christmas present - oh, but to see their work in the flesh and not just via the internet. The photograph above is of one of their commissions - Soul warmer at the Abbey Library of St.Gall, 2005. This is how the description starts:

For a long time, the library was able to capture the emotions of stunned visitors. Some emotions remained stuck to the grilles in front of the books, or trickled away down the gaps in the parquet flooring, where they groaned and wished the whole day long whenever visitors glided over them wearing their felt slippers. More oohs and aahs that emanated from the stream of visitors hid in the ornate lettering in old-fashioned script used for the first letter of every page. Soon after, though (that is to say, 200 years ago), such books were all taken up, and there was space for the virginal oohs and aahs only in the printed matter.

The work itself represents what happens when all these emotions work themselves free...

...and that has inspired my writing prompt for today which is to: write about an emotion that has got stuck physically in a building.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

More good new words here, including BLOG STREAKING: "Revealing secrets or personal information online which for everybody's sake would be best kept private." Say no more. No, really, say no more....
One of the best things about writing is the reading. Have I said that before? At the moment, I'm working on a collection of poems about a shopaholic mother (definitely not autobiographical ... well, apart from handbags and everybody knows they're essential). Anyway, moving swiftly on, some of the research I've been doing about the history of shopping is both frightening and funny. From THE URGE TO SPLURGE by Laura Byrne Paquet, I've already discovered the following two facts:
1) 10 percent of the nouns an average 18-month-old US child knows are brand names

2) one in every four UK babies speaks a brand name as their first word.
Actually, that's not funny at all, just frightening. Here's a shopping quote from Sex in the City that does make me laugh because it sums up the characters so well for me: (note, the website above even has its own shop - is there no end?!
Carrie: Honey, if it hurts so much, why are we going shopping?
Samantha: I have a broken toe, not a broken spirit.

And my writing prompt for today is ... the Christmas I didn't shop at all.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

And another resolution - may as well start early - is to get back to writing prompts. Here's one for today -
write a love letter or poem to your bed.
I'm actually quite a sorted person (so sue me, I'm a Virgo!) and luckily Christmas doesn't throw me into the panic it seems to be driving other people towards. Of course the downside of this is my lists. Hundreds and hundreds of lists. I've got lists on everything - the exact minutes I have to put turkey and other stuff in the oven, presents to give, presents to get (I wish), games, Christmas cards etc etc etc. You can imagine, therefore, how much joy New Year gives me. We keep an old diary - given to us in 2000 - in which we all now annually write our New Year Resolutions while chortling over how many from last year we haven't achieved. We (husband, me and kids) give one resolution for ourselves and one for each other, with the only stipulation that they have to be reasonably do-able. What's interesting is that it's the ones we make for ourselves that seem to be the hardest. What's going on there? Run a marathon, I 'gave' myself in 2003, hahahahahahaha! Anyway, mine this year is to follow the weekly tutorials to be given by one of my heroes, Nicholas Bate on his blog. Here's today's tutorial (or at least I think it's today - some of my first goals are a) to find out exactly which day he posts this tutorial and b) to find out exactly what the Premium Consultancy I'm going to be starting in w/c 15 January actually is. Might have to skip that one!)

What do you want for 2007? What would make it your best year yet?
Think about your career: write it down.
Think about your health: write it down.
Think about your finances: write it down.
Think about your realtionships: write it down.
Think about your fun: write it down.
Think about your contribution/give back: write it down.

Monday, December 18, 2006

"All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time." Ernest Hemingway

I get excited every new year waiting for that newspaper article about the new words that have made it into the dictionary - not least because it's a great opportunity to get annoyed. One of the new words I hate, hate, hate but use to my shame in teaching is 'workshop' as a verb, ie 'we'll be workshopping..', but here are some Vogue magazine have already picked out as vital for the way we live now:

Jonesing - wanting what she's got (would have thought this might be 'Ryaning')
Standard - very cool (eh, sorry but I don't get that one)
Chiclets - over-bleached teeth (aren't they the worst?)
Blooples - the outward manifestation of cellulite (moving swiftly on)
Scarecut - bad haircut (just growing out of one of those)
Boydourves - junk men eat when women aren't around (as opposed to?)
Squarbler - that which you bleach to render invisible,
and my personal favourite:
Smirting - flirting while smoking outside.

Any other suggestions?

(ps those are my thoughts in brackets - ie I've been bracketing)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Book Aid is one of the charities I really like supporting, and this year, one of their initiatives is the reverse book token where you buy a book token, and the charity sends specially selected books to where they're needed. They're not out of date text books either, like the ones we saw in Africa over the Summer. One letter on the website is from a boy called Fabrice in Rwanda praising the book he got: 'Great Football Stories'.

Friday, December 15, 2006

How about this for my new publicity photo? Is my hair OK? You can get five versions free - of you and your friends, not just of me, although I suppose you could... - by going to the Bless This Chick website. Christmas pressies sorted, eh?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Love stationery? Love films? Good game here....

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The more I look at other blogs, the more I realise that mine lacks an identity. I'm not particularly intelligent, or arty, or angsty, or even the ultimate fashionista I've been dreaming of becoming ever since my days at fashion college. I'm just .... bitty. So I was going to try to remedy that, and come over all writerly and focused, but then a friend sent me this: and I've been trying not to put it up for days, but I just can't resist. This is absolute bliss. So, Writer's News crossed with Heat crossed with Vogue - that's what you get here and I'm not going to be ashamed of it any more. This is MY writing journal after all, and you're all very welcome to browse!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Another story to be read. How lucky are we that the internet throws up such gems? Anyway, I've been struggling with dialogue recently - does it move the story forward? Is it pedestrian? Does it feel real, get the feel of the character, sends the reader to sleep.... So a joy to read this story, A New Gravestone for an Old Grave by David Bezmozgis, which does the job perfectly in my opinion. I'm going to have fun dissecting just how he's managed it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thankfully much longer than six words (see below), John McGahern's last story, Creatures of the Earth, can be found here. Am going to print it off and read it tonight - a treat for this nasty December night!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

So how short can a short story be? Over at Wired, they have six-word short stories from many different writers. The idea is apparently based on Hemingway's own six word story: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." which he called his best work. One of my favourites is Margaret Atwood's: 'Longed for him. Got him. Shit.' How many books waste so many words saying just that?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

With a currently dodgy internet connection, I'm not able to carry on normal life. Or my life as I normally lead it, which is half on the ground, and half via the computer. I can't rely on blogs, emails, websites to add that little frisson. Heavens, if this continues, I may have to speak to real people instead. But today I seem to be 'on', which is good news as I have been waiting to listen to the 'new voices' at the national poetry archive. Not surprised that Dylan Thomas is the most requested voice, but it's Siegfried Sassoon I want to hear.

And just to add to my miseries, here's an Internet Addiction test. At least there's a blog for us sufferers to log on to and talk about it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Oh my. Go here for this amazing photograph of an elephant foetus still in the womb. I can't stop clicking back to it, and am counting the days off until the tv series, Animals in the Womb comes to Channel 4. What I find fascinating is how these different animals are already developing the skills they will need in the outside world. The dolphin foetus learns to swim apparently 'in its own private swimming pool' in the mother's womb, and the ever-clever dog,
'is no less remarkable. In just 63 days, the dog foetus is armed with all the basic tools necessary to survive, including a highly acute sense of smell and the ability to detect sounds beyond the human range of hearing.'
I'm a bit worried about this, to be honest, and it's back to the usual bad mother question. When my second child was born, she must have already been subjected to hours and hours of watching that loveable dog, Spot, while, heavily pregnant, I slummed it with my first child on the sofa watching the videos. There's no doubt that, once she was born, she responded every time she heard the song. What I'm trying to work out now is what possible evolutionary use it will be for her. I knew I should have been listening to Shakespeare instead, but oh, I did (OK, still do) LOVE Spot.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Well, I'd hoped to be a novella at least in this 'Find Your Literary Personality' quiz, but apparently I need to mature a bit before I reach those heights...
You scored as A coloring book. Children love you--and so do many adults. They find you approachable, simple and friendly, all of which perfectly describe you. Instead of throwing big words around, you communicate in the international language of pictures. In order to be as open as possible, you present yourself simply, allowing those around you to customize you to their liking. Sometimes this results in you turning into a primitive masterpiece, and other times you resemble a schizophrenic's daydream. So long as the one talking to you understands you, you're happy. Zen and the art of crayon-sharpening.

A coloring book




A classic novel


A college textbook


The back of a froot loops box


A paperback romance novel


An electronics user's manual


Your Literary Personality
created with

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When my friend Anne told me about a scheme to knit scarves for the lions in Trafalgar Square, I thought she must be joking. But Stich and Bitch are doing exactly that. Groups from all round the world are busy knitting bits of the scarf (or possibly four so the lions don't squabble), and they'll be joined together to make a magnificent 43.5 foot scarf, which will be draped around the lion(s) in the New Year before being auctioned off for cancer research charities. One of the groups taking part is Men Who Knit. I don't know why their website salutation 'Good day to you manly knitters' should make me so uncynically happy, but it does. Almost as much as the news of how another London knitting group, the Cast Off Knitting Club were once asked to leave the Savoh Hotel after complaints of impropriety when they held an impromptu knitting circle there.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I was teaching a dayschool yesterday on using setting in writing, and we came to the conclusion it was impossible to be neutral about place. Interesting then to see this project about a very different map of London, organised through the Museum of London. Londoners - and presumably visitors - are being encouraged to write in with their memories of a particular road or place in London, and these are then mapped and categorised under different emotions - so you can take a virtual walk through a London seen through a focus of Beauty/Horror or Joy/Struggle to take two examples. One of my favourites is from the guy who remembers building a treehouse in Bolton Gardens with his school friend, from which they used to fire waterpistols at passers by. They thought they were safe because it was a private garden but one man they soaked apparently jumped over the fence to get them because he was so incensed. I love this - it makes me want to go to Bolton Gardens and write about those boys. I can just imagine the mixture of fear and excitement they must have felt when it happened...

Friday, November 17, 2006

“The most wasted of all days is that on which one has not laughed.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

(And thanks to Dovegreyreader for the link.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"An adult is one who has lost the grace, the freshness, the innocence of the child, who is no longer capable of feeling pure joy, who makes everything complicated, who spreads suffering everywhere, who is afraid of being happy, and who, because it is easier to bear, has gone back to sleep. The wise man is a happy child."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I know this isn't the comfy armchair I've been searching for, the one that just lets me put my legs up, sit cross-legged, whatever, while I read and write, but how beautiful is this, and other fruit-filled creations from Tom & Smith. Do look at the Bulbs chaise lounge if you visit their website.
I witnessed a wonderful 'senior moment' over a pub lunch with my father and mother-in-law recently. My father had asked my mother-in-law something about her childhood.
M-I-L: Do you know I can't remember.
F: Never mind, I can't remember what I asked in the first place.

And then they both carried on eating their lunch.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

For another poem about writing, here's Billy Collin's Tension, which has as its epigraph, the instruction:
“Never use the word suddenly just to create tension.” Writing Fiction

Monday, November 13, 2006

Phew! I have been saved from the need to buy the Goddess Guide for the time being by this very funny article in the Guardian by Lucy Mangan on a week living to the rules of modern etiquette books (which comes via the Book Bar). Or have I? Re-reading the article, I see no mention of living like a Goddess. And besides, The GG comes with a recommendation from India Knight who we all have a strange passion for in my family. I can't even say it's interestingly unreciprocated, because she has absolutely no idea we exist, whereas we try to read every word she's written. Is that stalking? Is there a guide to that?

At least, the cookery Goddess, Cream Puffs in Venice, has sussed out how to get the right advice - she asks herself what she should do in tricky situations. (And if that's what being a Goddess means, I'm definitely getting that guide). On her blog, CPinV writes:
"Is it wrong to eat an entire raised almond coffee cake all on your own?


Phew! I was worried there for a second.

Oh, but look... I've stolen her raised almond coffee cake to eat on this blog too; it's just that it looked too delicious for her not to share. Can you blame me?
Life Lines: Six Poets For Oxfam
Winter Poetry Reading 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 7.30 pm
Oxfam Books & Music
91 Marylebone High Street, W1

Ros Barber (new collection from Anvil due out 2007);

Katy Evans-Bush (widely-published poet featured in The Like Of It, Baring & Rogerson);

Ruth Fainlight (winner of the Hawthornden and Cholmondeley Awards; author of Moon Wheels, Bloodaxe, 2006);

Tobias Hill (novelist and poet, author of The Cryptographer and Nocturne In Chrome & Sunset Yellow);

Michael Rosen (broadcaster and lecturer; Selected Poems is forthcoming from Penguin, February 2007);

Eva Salzman (author of Double Crossing: New & Selected Poems, Bloodaxe).

Hosted by Todd Swift, Oxfam Poet in Residence

Admission free, suggested donation £6
Please contact Martin Penny to reserve seats
Telephone: 020 7487 3570; email:
I can't stop thinking about one of the strangest stories in the papers over the weekend. A couple, Lynda and Ian Gammons, went through a kidney transplant together (Lynda donating one of her kidneys to Ian) and now apparently he is turning into her - sharing her love of shopping, cooking and - hurrah - dogs. All things he says he 'despised' before. Although she tries to explain the shared hobbies by saying they're just spending more time together, and presumably he's pretty grateful to her for the gift of a kidney, they do admit that they even think the same thing at exactly the same time, something they put down to the memories held in cells. I love this quote from him:
"Strangely, my old tastes and interests haven't changed — now I just have extra dimensions. So I listen to Black Sabbath while I bake the scones and I still love bird-watching and rugby."
The first signs that something was changing apparently happened in the supermarket when he turned to her and said he was enjoying it, and did they need more eggs? I would have loved to have seen the look on her face. I know I'm generalising hugely here but have you noticed how many husbands just cling to the trolley for grim life in case they'll be asked for an opinion on washing powder, while their wives dart in and out of the aisles filling it up - a bit like a dog on a walk who covers twice the distance. Anyway, the possibilities with this story for character development in writing are endless. There's something particularly moving too about how, when they first met in school, he fancied her straight away because she carried a briefcase while the rest of the girls had satchels. It's all in the details, and surely only a matter of time before they make the movie.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I've said before on this blog how much I love the free weekly cartoon sent to my inbox from Harold's Planet. There's something about the stupidity of Harold's face that makes me laugh, so I was pleased to get notice of their Christmas Show, SMIILING-IS-FREE, to be held at the Dray Walk Gallery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL, from Friday 15th December to SaturdY 23rd December. They promise original artwork from £5 to £500, and not just my man, Harold.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Memories for Life Colloquium: The Future of our Pasts

British Library
12th December, 2006

The Memories for Life Network announces a colloquium, to be held at the British Library Conference Centre (Euston Road, London) on 12 Dec 06

The colloquium, sponsored by the EPSRC funded M4L network and the British Library, will consist of a series of panel discussions, intended for a general audience, a poster session, and keynotes.

Memories for Life (M4L) is a project that brings together a diverse range of scientists, academics and experts to study and understand how memory works and to develop the technologies needed to enhance it. In today's technology-rich society human memory is supplemented by increasing amounts of personal digital information; emails, photographs, Internet telephone calls, even GPS locations and television viewing logs. The challenges that lie ahead include the development of prosthetic memories, the storing and retrieval of a lifetime's worth of digital memories and the issues of trust and privacy. This is a problem of international scope, and beyond what can be achieved by a single research team or research grant, and offers the possibility of revolutionary advance. As such, Memories for Life has been recognised as a Grand Challenge for computing, by the United Kingdom Computing
Research Committee.

The Future of our Pasts, on the 12th December at the British Library, will bring together representatives from all the fields involved in the M4L project including psychologists, neuroscientists, sociologists, librarians and information professionals, and computer scientists in one of the most wide-ranging gatherings of memory and information experts in recent years.

For detailed information on the Colloquium, see the website above.

To register and confirm your booking for the colloquium please email your name, organisation, contact details, and any special dietary requirements (eg vegetarian) asap and not later than 30th November 2006 to

Attendance is free, but the audience is strictly limited to 200 places. Lunch will be provided.
A friend's just sent me these photos in an email called: 'Why dogs hate Halloween'. My favourite has to be the hot dogs, although the spider's mighty cute too...

There's an interesting interview on NPR with William Zinsser, author of the classic guide On Writing Well, about the challenges of writing personal history. One of the quotes from his essay, How To Write A Memoir, feels particularly useful:
"My final reducing advice can be summed up in two words: think small. Don't rummage around in your past -- or your family's past -- to find episodes that you think are "important" enough to be worthy of including in your memoir. Look for small self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you still remember them it's because they contain a universal truth that your readers will recognize from their own life."

But it's what he has to say about readers that really makes me think:
"Who is this elusive creature the reader? He is a person with an attention span of about twenty seconds. He is assailed on every side by forces competing for his time: by newspapers and magazines, by television and radio, by his stereo and videocassettes, by his wife and children and pets, by his house and his yard and all the gadgets that he has bought to keep them spruce, and by that most potent of competitors, sleep. The man snoozing in his chair with an unfinished magazine open on his lap is a man who was being given too much unnecessary trouble by the writer.

It won't do to say that the snoozing reader is too dumb or too lazy to keep pace with the train of thought. My sympathies are with him. If the reader is lost, it is generally because the writer has not been careful enough to keep him on the path."

Barthes said writers had to 'cruise' the reader; I guess it would be a pretty poor seduction if the seductee went off to make a cup of tea, or even fell asleep during the fireworks.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Welcome Laurie Stolarz's new book, Bleed - which is visiting my blog today as part of its Girlfriends Cyber Circuit tour.


Ten teens, one unforgettable day

Over the course of a single day, the lives of ten teenagers will intersect in powerful and unexpected ways.

Among them are Nicole, whose decision to betray her best friend will shock everyone, most of all herself; Kelly, who meets the convicted felon she’s been writing to for years; and Maria, whose definition of a true friend is someone who will cut her. Derik discovers his usual good looks and charm won’t help him get the girl he really wants, while Joy, a fifteen year old waitress, hoping for true intimacy, narrowly escapes a very dark fate.

Seamlessly woven together, this collection of interconnected short stories paints an authentic portrait of today’s teen experience that is at once funny, moving, and often very haunting.

What the Critics are Saying:

“Stolarz expertly weaves a combination of stories the reader will remember for a long while.” – Anne Keller, RandomReads

“The reader is swept along in this masterful plotting of characters as their lives intertwine in most unexpected ways. Laurie Faria Stolarz has captured perfectly the angst and folly of the teenage world.” –

“…a funny, yet poignant book of interconnecting short stories in which the lives of 10 teenagers are seamlessly woven together….The author demonstrates the ability to identify with today’s teen experience…” – School Library Journal

Hyperion Books, September 2006
Hardcover $15.95
ISBN 078683854X
Ages 14+

Also Available by Laurie Stolarz:

The Blue is for Nightmares Collection
Llewellyn Publications
Ages 12+

Nightmares. Dark Secrets. Premonitions of Death.

Welcome to Stacey’s World!

With over 250,000 books sold, the Blue is for Nightmares Collection is now available as a boxed set, including a copy of Stacey’s spell book, filled with some of Stacey’s favorite home remedies.

It begins with the dreams. White lilies, the death flower. Being chased through the woods, knowing she cannot outrun her pursuer forever. Visits from the spirit of a girl who was murdered. Threats and taunts from an unseen assailant.

But that’s only the start. When the dreams begin to spill over into Stacey’s waking life, that’s when the nightmare really begins.

About the Author:
Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston. She is currently working on Project 17, the companion novel to Bleed, also for young adults. To learn more about Laurie, please visit her website:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A public debate on political writing
...with Gautam Malkani, Dee Jarrett-Macauley and Nina Steiger

Is all writing a political act?

Whatever you write, whether it's fiction, poetry or plays, you've almost certainly dealt with political issues in your work. But how do writers approach political issues in their work? Do they have a responsibility to tackle these issues and to what end? What are the key components of political writing?

If you've ever wanted to tackle these issues then come to Politically Speaking. Through this public debate our panel of established authors will explore all these questions.

Followed by a question and answer session - come prepared to probe!

Chaired by Judith Vidal-Hall, the panel includes Gautam Malkani (author of Londonstani), Dee Jarrett-Macauley (Moses and Me), and Director of Soho Theatre’s writers’ centre, Nina Steiger.

DATE: Thursday 9 November, 7pm – 8.45pm
VENUE: Stephen Lawrence Lecture Theatre
Greenwich University, off King William Walk, London SE10 9HY

Nearest station: Greenwich (Tube) or Cutty Sark (DLR)

TICKETS: £5 / £2 concessions (inc. students)
in advance or on the door.

Find out more by visiting us at
I have become obsessed with Buffy. When she's on TV, even in the oldest repeats, my children know to call me and I will come running, no matter what I'm doing. When Buffy's on, I don't hide my eyes, or shout out 'No, do NOT go in there'. I don't need to. Buffy can do it. She's the girl. I'm with her every step of the way, willing out more and more ghouls to come and get us. Just let them try.

Although I keep begging her, my daughter refuses to watch it with me. She says I enjoy it too much. That I become blood-thirsty when Buffy's on. She's right.

After each episode, I feel exausted. I need to sit down.

'You've been sitting down,' my son points out.

'I want to sit in quiet,' I say. 'Turn this rubbish off.'

He does. No one crosses me for at least half an hour after my Buffy dose. They don't dare.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

WELCOME to Leading the Dance, my collection of short stories from Bluechrome which has the auspicious official publication day of November 5th. Nice to know that, each year, the anniversary of the book's publication will be remembered with such a blaze of glory (despite not being grown up enough to have an Amazon sales ranking just yet):

Friday, November 03, 2006

Work on the novel has been sloooow today, but I have not despaired. I have usefully filled in my hours working out my age on other planets. Who ever said the internet encouraged people to waste time obviously had no idea what they were talking about. Actually, I'm puzzled - why when I filled in my date of birth correctly, does it give my earth birthdate for 2007 as one day later? Am I missing something, or is this some dire warning for me?
So, when you go to exhibitions do you read the descriptions first, or do you look at the art? There are definitely two categories of visitors - well, actually there's a third - the ones who are glued into the earphones and have that superior look that tells you how you should have got the 'tour' too because they're finding out so much more than you, and because they have to press certain buttons at certain points they have to stand in front of certain pieces so you can't see them. Truth is, I'm a 'nervous' art appreciator, although I'm learning to just relax and enjoy.

Anyway, the David Smith exhibition at the Tate Modern has definitely been one of my highlights of the year, because I forgot to bother about what I 'should' be thinking and just started feeling. And, yes, I also read the descriptions and was pleased I had with certain pieces such as the Home of the Welder.
Home of the Welder was made shortly after the Second World War, and reflects Smith's personal circumstances. He had just been released from his wartime job as a welder, which he believed had restricted his creative work. Like a coded autobiography, various elements in this sculpture relate to his dreams and frustrations at the time. The millstone, for example, was identified by Smith as representing his job, while images of women and children may reflect tensions in his childless first marriage.
But most of all I loved the energy of it all. It was interesting watching people came out - we bounced, although those of us who were particularly skittish slid out thanks to Karsten Höller...
This is what David Smith said about his work:
I like outdoor sculpture, and the most practical thing for outdoor sculpture is stainless steel, and I make them and I polish them in such a way that on a dull day, they take on the dull blue, or the color of the sky in the late afternoon sun, the glow, golden like the rays, the colors of nature... They are colored by the sky and the surroundings.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Climate March, Saturday November 4th 2006

The 4th November is the Saturday before the UN Climate Talks (COP 12/ MOP 2) in Nairobi (6th-17th November). On this day there will be demonstrations and events, demanding urgent action on climate change all round the world ( see ). In Nairobi, itself, there will be a demonstration a week later on Saturday 11th November, midway through the Talks, whilst the delegates are actually present.

Only coordinated international action has a chance of averting the massive threat posed by the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate so these Talks are a critical opportunity for world leaders to act. Their failure to do so, so far - due especially to the spoiling tactics of the US under George Bush’s fossil-fuel industry dominated administration - is something that threatens the lives of billions and even the very existence of life on earth.


10.00 am Cycle protest assembles at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, South side (Holborn/Temple tube) For more information on the cycle ride click here.
11.30 am Cyclists arrive at US embassy : musical protest with "Seize the Day".
12 noon Rally at US Embassy, Grosvenor Square.
Speakers include George Monbiot, Colin Challen MP, Caroline Lucas MEP, Norman Baker MP, Zac Goldsmith.
1.00 pm March for Global Climate Justice from US embassy to Trafalgar Square
1.45 – 2.00 pm March joins “I-Count” Mass Gathering in Trafalgar Square
1.00 - 3.00 pm “I-Count” Mass Gathering in Trafalgar Square See further . First hour is 'warm-up' & 'arrivals' up to main event 2-3 pm.
A snippet in my daily newspaper today starts with the assertion that most pre-school children want to be a celebrity when they're older. Not for doing anything, you understand - or at least what that might be is not revealed - they just to be famous. But what's more shocking to me is that the article goes on to say that this is what the parents were saying their kids would choose as a career, not the kids themselves. Admittedly the survey was only for pre-schoolers, but even so. It just seems to suggest such a lack of ambition - although at least becoming an astronaut was the fourth choice. Joining the fire brigade was second, and most strangely of all, architect was number three. But then I started to wonder if it was because kids get their ideas from TV rather than the 'real world' - X-factor, Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder. Mind you, David Cameron seems to be on TV every time I turn it on these days, but strangely he wasn't mentioned.
I've been looking for poems about writing recently. Any suggestions welcome, but in the meantime, could I do better than this one?

The Circus Animals' Desertion
William Butler Yeats


I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last, being but a broken man,
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.


What can I but enumerate old themes,
First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;
But what cared I that set him on to ride,
I, starved for the bosom of his faery bride.

And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
'The Countess Cathleen' was the name I gave it;
She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away,
But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.
I thought my dear must her own soul destroy
So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
This dream itself had all my thought and love.

And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread
Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;
Heart-mysteries there, and yet when all is said
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
Players and painted stage took all my love,
And not those things that they were emblems of.


Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Via Patry's blog, there's some interesting thoughts on writer's envy here. (Is that triple-blogging I've just done there?)
The British Council's New Writing initiative have just issued their latest theme, Memory. Check out Abdulrazak Gurnah's short story, My Mother Lived on a Farm in Africa. It's a magical example of using the fluidity of time and memory in writing.
Nothing to do with writing (well, maybe my shopping collection of poems!), but some November sample sales...

What: Temperley London Sale
Why: Up to 80 per cent off past season’s stock.
When: 1-4 Nov. Wed., 2-7 p.m.; Thurs., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: 20th Century Theatre, 291 Westbourne Grove, W11 2QA (020 7229 7957).

What: Macmillan Christmas Market
Why: One hundred and fifty stalls selling organic produce, linen, handmade toys and knitwear, from £5.
When: 6 & 7 Nov. Mon., 6-9 p.m. (£20); Tues., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (£5). Ticket proceeds benefit Macmillan Cancer Support.
Where: Royal Horticultural Halls, Vincent Sq., SW1P 2PE (020 7795 0055).

What: Pringle of Scotland Sale
Why: Seriously discounted clothing and accessories, from £50.
When: 7-10 Nov., Tues., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wed., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Where: Pringle of Scotland, The Courtyard, 255a Pavilion Rd., SW1X 0BP (020 7259 1660).

What: Orla Kiely Sale
Why: Past season clothing and accessories at discounted prices.
When: 16-19 Nov. Thurs. & Fri., 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Studio Voltaire, 1a Nelson’s Row, SW4 7JR (020 7819 0159).

What: British Designers Sale
Why: Clothing for men and women, including Jenny Packham, Marithé + François Girbaud, Alexander McQueen, 120% Linen. All from £20.
When: 24 & 25 Nov. Fri., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Chelsea Old Town Hall, King’s Rd., SW3 5EE (020 7627 2777).

What: Browns Bridal Sample Sale
Why: Up to 60 per cent off wedding dresses by the likes of Monique Lhuillier, Reem Acra, Badgley Mischka and Roland Mouret.
When: 26 Nov. Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Browns Bride Shop, 59 Brook St., W1K 4HS (020 7514 0056).

What: Ann Louise Roswald/Lou Lou and Law Sale
Why: Up to 80 per cent off previous season fashion and accessories.
When: 27 & 28 Nov. Mon., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tues., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Where: 11-13 Corsham St., N1 6DP (020 7250 1583).

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

To work, to work on the new novel, but before I do, let me just remind myself of this all over again:
"Writing's not terrible, it's wonderful. I keep my own hours, do what I please. When I want to travel, I can. I'm doing what I most wanted to do all my life. I'm not into the agonies of creation." Raymond Carver
Desperate writer needs .... Ooops, I really didn't mean to come across quite so needy as in my last post - it was supposed to be a clever link to the article about personal ads, but thanks for the comments and emails anyway! And just in case you're looking for loving links - and one of the best things about blogging for me has been seeing who other people are reading/enjoying and following trails from there - let me direct you to the following beauties. This is an eclectic list, no rhyme or reason or anything, and I know already I'm leaving lots out, so more will follow ...

For fun and inspiration - try Swissmiss. The treadmill dance in particular has made my half hour several times already. Watch it...

For feeling like you've had one of those really good meaningful talks when you come away with at least a dozen book recommendations - there's Dove Grey Reader. (And thanks to her for two of my new finds - Rachel Unthank and Selvedge Magazine.

For some the best photo essays around - Clare Dudman is hard to beat. I bookmarked her recent seaside one immediately. Know I'll return to that for writing

Because her book is going to be fantastic and I want to say I was there at the beginning - Susannah.

For pure indulgence - Cream Puffs in Venice. I feel like I've been on holiday every time I click here.

Because I wish they were my friends - Muse to Muse. Oops am sounding needy again, but these women rock!

I've liked everything Myfanwy's recommended so far, and learnt about lots of good new writers.

I paused about putting in Secrets of a Sugar Mummy, because it does make me feel a bit 'had' - it's supposed to be a 'best-selling female novelist of a certain age' and the suspense must be working because I do keep running through possibilities in my mind. My number one choice is apparently wrong, but I'm not sure. I just really really don't want to be like this when I'm sixty. OK, I'll take the best-selling and certain age bits and even if the worst comes to the worst, the younger man, but not all that angst. I want to be content in my skin, and too busy writing, hiking and reading my Selvedge magazine to bother about what people think of me. Oy, young man, I'll shout, get yourself away and stop knocking at my door unless you're bringing something useful like chocolate, gin, the latest hardback Martin Amis and some good blog recommendations.

And others I'm reading, in no particular order, are - Feministing, Susan Hill, Ros Barber, P A Moed and Inner Minx and Me and My Big Mouth.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Lonely Needy Blog Seeks Readers.
Too busy writing to have a shower? I have just the thing for you. A site called Compactimpact is selling chewing gum that freshens your whole body. Now how healthy does that sound?
"Chewing gum just to freshen your breath is a thing of the past. Now with an innovative new gum from Japan, gum can freshen your whole body. Approximately an hour after chewing the gum, the special aroma component is emitted from your skin through the use of the new substances geraniol and linalool.

Available in three different flavors, Fuwarinka fresh citrus, Fuwarinka fruity rose, and Otokokaoru rose menthol for men, this unique gum will be available starting July 21st from"

And just in case, you don't quite get it right, the site is also selling these handy animal themed gauze masks. I like the pig, but you can choose from gorilla, jaguar, monkey or tiger too.

I wonder how Napoleon would have reacted if Josephine had chewed a few of these sticks before he came home.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

And don’t forget to book for

True or False? with Alexander Masters and Jon Ronson

Tuesday 21 November, 7:00pm

‘Reality literature’ is an increasingly big part of the literary scene. Alexander Masters won the Guardian First Book Award in 2005 for his real-life depiction of a young homeless man in Stuart: A Life Backwards. Jon Ronson, whose new book Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness is published in November, has been writing for years about real eccentrics, not least himself. Together they discuss the challenge of writing of writing about real people.

Time: 7.30pm

Tickets: £5.00 PEN Members; £7.00 non-members (includes a glass of wine after the talk)

Venue: The Guardian Newsroom, 60 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3GA

How to book: Call 020 7713 0023 or visit
Via several forums, and then Sally, comes this link to a video which explains my publicity photo, really!
"Writing's not terrible, it's wonderful. I keep my own hours, do what I please. When I want to travel, I can. I'm doing what I most wanted to do all my life. I'm not into the agonies of creation." Raymond Carver

Saturday, October 28, 2006

After the question asked in the last post - not mine, by the way, but from the organisers of the conference - I've come back from a full day teaching at Sussex desperate to write. Which definitively proves that creative writing courses might be good for the tutors at least. And I'm desperate to write because of what I've read today. Reading always makes me want to write. Read, read, read, if you want to write. Apart from student gems, and we had lots of those, there was Fernando Sorrentino and his story, There's a Man in the Habit of Hitting Me on the Head with an Umbrella (not distributed amongst the students yet). And I admit I'm shallow - god, I seem to do nothing else but admit that on this blog - but the last time I mentioned Fernando Sorrentino, he emailed me saying something like 'this small elephant says thank you' and I've developed a huge crush on him since. Other stories of his are up on the wonderful East of the Web site, and while you're there, check out Hilary Jenkins. One author we did look at today was John Fowles and in particular his use of particular point of view in The Collector. I was shocked at how many students hadn't read it. Can't bear to think of the brilliant John Fowles slowly disappearing from view...

And the disadvantage of teaching today is that I got back too late to go to the Bluechrome party, but I hope my forthcoming book of short stories, Leading the Dance was celebrated in style, albeit without me. I'm not fussed at all, no not at all...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Creative Writing Courses – are they any good?

writers inc.
the Arts Council funded writing organisation


Sunday 10 December
the Barbican Library in the City of London (1.30 to 5 pm)

Booking at the Barbican Box Office – 020 7628 2326

Attending a creative writing course? Know someone who is thinking of going on a creative writing course? Thinking of going on a writing course yourself?

Poet, Novelist and Arts Critic for The Independent SUE HUBBARD will introduce MARIO PETRUCCI, Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Oxford Brookes University, PHILIP GROSS, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Glamorgan and MAGGIE BUTT who runs the Media and Communications department of Middlesex University to discuss whether creative writing courses can create a realistic or a false expectation in terms of publication and careers in writing, whether such courses lead to original or to predictable styles of writing and whether a university can nurture and develop creativity or stultify it.
Luckily I've never pretended to be sophisticated so I can recommend Dorling Kindersley's Click Me Up game without any possible loss of face. There's no great skill involved, but bumping into those super nerds and having my books stolen has made me laugh out loud several times already. Now, back to work...
My writing prompt for today is - the people you meet in libraries.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Let me invite you to Bluechrome Live

Date: Saturday 28th October.
Venue:The United Reform Church
Buck Street. Camden NW1
(1 minute Camden Town Tube )

Doors 6:30 for 7:00pm
Entrance: £4 / £3 (conc.)

All profits to Cold Weather Shelter
M.C. Ruth O'Callaghan

Books Being 'Celebrated'
1. DM Thomas "Not Saying Everything"
2. Alexis Lykiard "Judging By Disappearances"
3. Kevin Bailey "Prospero's Dreams"
4. Robin Bell "How To Tell Lies: G8 Handbook"
5. Erik Ryman "God's Game"
6. David Green "Music of Maninjau"
7. Sarah Salway "Leading The Dance"
8. Lynne Rees & Sarah Salway "Messages"
9. Gareth Calway "Exile In His Own Country"
10. David Ashbee "Loss Adjuster"
11. Sam Smith "The Secret Report of Friar Otto"
12. Patrick Osada " Rough Music"
13. Dee Rimbaud "The Book of Hopes & Dreams"
14. Ian Caws "The Canterbury Road"
15. Elizabeth Barrett "Walking on Tiptoe"
16. Fred Johnston "Neon Rose"
17. John McAllister "Line of Flight"
18. Poul Webb "Shades of Grey"
19. Sue Guiney "Dreams of May"
20. Roger Elkin "Fixing Things"
21. Guinevere Clark "Fresh Fruit & Screams"
22. Mike Hogan "American Voodoo"
23. James Kirkup "The Authentic Touch"
24. John Griffiths "Truckerson: The Myth The Legend"
25. Oz Hardwick "Carrying Fire"

Cynical Re-issues:
25. Joe Stein "Cold Fire, Calm Rage"
26. EC Hulme "Stroking The Air"
27. Aliya Whitely "Mean, Mode, Median"
28. Elizabeth O'Neill "Wooden Womb Man"

Friday, October 20, 2006

I will be away for a couple of days now, but I'm going to take as my writing prompt this quote from Clare Dudman's blog, which was extracted from an excellent report of a talk by George Mombiot. I'm just chilled by the realisation that we could be destroying our planet through love...
"The fact that we can change the atmosphere of out planet by our infinitesimal individual actions stretches our imaginations, but the planet could be destroyed by love - because many of the journeys we make are to visit people we love - and for each journey we make we produce carbon dioxide."

OK, I'm definitely old enough to know better but this dating quiz made me laugh. It's been set up to promote the launch of The Boy Book by E. lockhart, the latest touring author from the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit. Here's some information about the book..

The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them
is the sequel to The Boyfriend List, which is just out in paperback. The Boy Book is about Ruby, who in the first book plummeted from social butterfly to leper, rebuilding her life junior year of high school -- with the help of a guide to understanding the male sex that she wrote with her ex-friends.

The new, cheaper edition of the first Ruby Oliver book (The Boyfriend List) has a fun author Q&A at the back, plus provocative questions for your book club or reading group.

In The Boy Book, Rub confronts the secret about Noel,
mysterious notes from Jackson,
the interpretation of boy-speak,
the villainy of Cricket,
the horrors of the school retreat,
and the exploitation of hooters everywhere.

There are fruit roll-ups.

There is upper-regioning.
There are so many boys to choose from!
And there are penguins.

And there's an extract here. I loved the line, 'She's my ex-friend. Not my friend'. Summed up being that age all over again for me.

Here are some of the reviews:
"Lockhart achieves the perfect balance of self-deprecating humor and self-pity in Ruby, and thus imbues her with such realism she seems to fly off the page." -- VOYA

"Each chapter begins with an excerpt from 'The Boy Book' which is hilarious...The book not only covers topics teens obsess over, but it helps illustrate the connection Ruby had with her friends, especially Kim, and what a loss she has suffered. Ruby's overanalytical, fast-paced and authentic narration will win over new devotees, while her loyal fans will no doubt hope for more." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

"The story is both humorous and witty, and the language is realistically raw. Sections such as "The Care and Ownership of Boobs" are particularly funny." -- School Library Journal

"[Ruby's] character's strength stems from her earnest search for identity through introspection, sexual experimentation, therapy, and the formation and rehabbing of new and old friendships. Refreshingly honest." -- Kirkus

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thanks to bb at the Becoming Amethyst blog for this stunning photograph, which is my writing prompt for today:

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I was lucky enough to go to a private view of the Velazquez exhibition at the National Gallery in London this week. It was a night of inspiration, not least from this erotic painting of Mars. Apparently it depicts him just after he has had sex with Venus and he has just realised that while he can win any battle, love has undone him. So that's my prompt for today ... undone by love.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"It is perfectly okay to write garbage -- as long as you edit brilliantly. In other words, until you have something down on paper (even it it's terrible) there is nothing you can improve. The audience neither needs nor gets to see the less than brilliant first draft, so they won't know you weren't brilliant all along." --C.J. Cherryh

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Try this photograph for the best writing prompt I've found for a long while....

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

“Don't be humble. You're not that great.” Golda Meir
Result! I will never have to think twice now when people ask me what having a blog has done for me. I don't do this often - honest - but sometimes I do sift through the google searches that bring readers here. Some are straightforward (why are people googling ME? Spooky), others are just plain weird (but I do like how many Sexy Sarah searches there are), and there are many more gems than I expected. A couple of days ago, I had the best ever - making golf holes out of carpet. (And Google directed them to me? Why? It must have been more disappointing than for the Sexy Sarah searchers.)

Anyway, it's given me the best idea for a party. All the guests have to come with their own crazy golf homemade hole, and then we can make a course around the house. And here are easy instructions to get us started ( I'm so excited, I can hardly breathe. Please feel free to ask to be invited - but you do have to have your own sticky-backed plastic and green crepe paper for the palm trees.

And my writing prompt for today is going to be ... parties I enjoyed, and parties I didn't.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

“If I had had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.” Mark Twain
There's a great story here by Patricia Highsmith.

And my writing prompt is going to be to write a detective poem, not a thing you see a lot.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I can still remember an afternoon spent in tears after my mother gave me a copy of her Woman Magazine (she used to get Woman and WOman's Own every week) with a story about Peter Pan in it. Used to the Disney version, I read it greedily, until the end when Peter decides to come home to his mother, but when he gets there, he finds bars on the window and looking inside he sees his mother with a new little boy. She doesn't want Peter anymore. Oh hell, I'm crying again just thinking about this! A masterclass lesson in how to f*** a kid up, I didn't leave my mum's side for a year! Anyway, at last it's out ... the officially approved sequel, Peter Pan in Scarlet, and the Great Ormond Street Hospital are finally revealing the plot ...
Set in 1926, green summer has turned to scarlet autumn. The Great War has claimed a life (Michael), the children have grown up and have children of their own, and troublesome dreams are leaking out of Neverland. When the Darlings and the Lost Boys arrive back there, they find it quite changed. Someone is living in the underground den and hanks of mermaid hair litter the shore. Captain Hook’s ghostly pirate ship is adrift without Captain or crew. When the Wendy House tumbles out of the Nevertree there seems nothing to do but venture further afield and into the realms of Never-been-there-land. Awaiting them are pirates, a circus, animals, witches, fairies… and dangers that will test the resolve of even the greatest hero.
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Robert Frost

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Some time ago ... wake up in back, were you listening?! ... I posted a link to the most common nouns in the English language. So pleased to see then how the Snakeskin webzine have taken it several steps further, by publishing their Ten Nouns Special, poems which use the top ten nouns. Particular credit to Cheryl Snell for her poem, Special Effects.

So that's going to be my writing prompt for today, but I'm going to stick to prose - a paragraph with the top ten nouns which are
1 Time
2 Person
3 Year
4 Way
5 Day
6 Thing
7 Man
8 World
9 Life
10 Hand
“We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Anais Nin

Saturday, September 30, 2006

When my novel, Something Beginning With, first came out, I remember a friend telling me it had been on the longlist to be chosen as the book one UK village would all read that year. I thought she was having me on, but I've just discovered the website for the tiny village of Waverton (population 2,000), and am very chuffed to see my book there in the archives. What a fantastic idea though - to support first books by new authors through actually reading them. I'm really looking forward to seeing who they pick this year - the list alone looks varied enough to give no clue.
I'm behind with my writing prompts this week as life has popped in and shaken me up. Here are some I'm planning to use in bursts this weekend ...

a) Painted toenails always make me ...

b) Reading My Son (a la Catherine Smith)

c) Putting away my summer clothes

d) Be patient and ....

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Talent is such a small part of it. Willingness to work hard to learn the skills. (Including the nuts and bolts like spelling and grammar.) Patience to do the necessary revising and if necessary rewriting to get it right. Persistence in the face of rejection. Judgment in deciding what advice to listen to and whom not to trust. Humility to know when you're exerting suction. Knowledge, all sorts of knowledge, knowledge of what's been written, knowledge of the world and its peoples, knowledge of physical science, knowledge of at least one other language to give you perspective on your own. And most important of all: understanding of human beings and why they act the way they do and the way they interact with each other, which can take a lifetime to master but without it a writer is a failure. Maybe a clever failure, maybe sometimes an entertaining one, but a failure all the same."
William Sanders

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

For my second guest in the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit, I'm really pleased to
introduce Karin Gillespie's new book, not least because I think it looks wonderful. I went into a London bookshop at the weekend and asked for a funny book, which stumped everyone. They said they'd never been asked for one before and couldn't recommend any at first, not even mine! Let's have more funny books, I say. And here's news of Karin's...

“Each character is lovingly crafted in Gillespie's hilarious, heartwarming, and often irreverent look at senior living in small-town America.”— Starred Review Booklist

Dollar Daze

The Bottom Dollar Girls in Love

Karin Gillespie

If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?
Comment overheard under the hair dryer at the Dazzling Do’s

Karin Gillespie’s Bottom Dollar Girls are back with a sugar-spun vengeance in Dollar Daze: The Bottom Dollar Girls in Love (Simon & Schuster; August 2006; $19.95). Broaching the age-old question – Is it ever too late to find one’s heart’s desire? – the feisty ladies of Cayboo Creek are suddenly blindsided by schoolgirl flights of fancy when unexpected romance enters their lives.

Mavis Loomis, Birdie Purdy, and Gracie Tobias, widows in their mid-sixties are certain their dating days are over until they observe their friend eighty-something Attalee Gaines in tempestuous relationship with Dooley Prichard, a trifocal-wearing charmer. If it’s not too late for Attalee, how can it be too late for them?

Unfortunately the eligible men in Cayboo Creek are as picked over as a garage sale at noontime. Things look discouraging until an old high school heartthrob comes to town and Birdie and Mavis compete for his attentions. In the meantime socialite Gracie Tobias finds unlikely love in the arms of a rugged duct doctor. Can she overlook the vast differences in their backgrounds?

All of the books in series have been selected as featured alternatives for Doubleday and Literary Guild book clubs. Bet Your Bottom Dollar has been optioned for film by the actor James Woods. Gillespie ( is also co-author of The Sweet Potato Queen’s First Big-Ass Novel. (Simon and Schuster, January 2007) and has a story called TRASH TALK in This is Chick Lit ((

Praise for Dollar Daze
“A sweet and amusing tale of romance and lust for the older crowd”—Kirkus

“Gillespie writes with such conviction that readers are thrust right into Cayboo Creek and the lives of the Bottom Dollar Girls….charismatic and replete with poignancy, a story to pass on.”---Romantic Times, four and a half stars

“Laugh-out--loud”—Atlanta Magazine Critic’s Pick

“Fun factor remains high from first chapter to last… The Bottom Dollar Girls…. provide the simple pleasure of an ice-cold bottle of cola and a bag of salty peanuts and that’s just fine.”

David Marshall James, The Columbia State

“Bless her heart, she's done it again. Karin Gillespie's latest installment of the Bottom Dollar Girls series is a fun, breezy read. As tried and true as ham biscuits at a senior center potluck… the book reminds us of what's important just as often as it entertains.

Dawn Baumbartner Vaughan, Durham Herald-Sun
The deadline for the second National Short Story Prize is not too far away now - 31st October. The prize is the world's largest, with the first prizewinner gaining £15,000. Last year's winner was James Lasdun with his story, 'An Anxious Man'. In an interview at the time of the award, he gave the following advice to writers:
Read and study: the obvious. Live in as conscious a way as you can. Get used to turning your experience into language, keep a journal. Read your favourite writers analytically and consciously as well as for pleasure. Then write!

And my writing prompt for today is going to be ... anxiety (an easy one for me!)

Monday, September 25, 2006

See this, it's the face of Mars. Have you seen anything more strange? It makes me tingle. You can get daily pictures from space here.
Having spent the last hour reading over my just finished notebook before I put it away and get out a nice new one, I'm feeling nostalgic about the previous six months of writing. My prompt for today is going to come from one of a list of headlines from the Daily Mail I copied out and never did anything with - I've made the bad mistake of not dating it, but seems like an average Daily Mail day to me! I love the idea of taking some of these statements at face value and writing on...

How 200 people a day vanish into thin air.
Shadow of a supermodel
The end of authority.
A generation out of control.
Sordid secrets of the English lady.
Naturists on the path to victory.
How men take control in the 'zapper battle'.
We also do Posh.
Boss yourself around.
Night patrols will be able to gag noisy neighbours.
You CAN change the shape of your body - we're the living proof.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

“Handsome words don't butter cabbage.” German saying
And my writing prompt for today is going to be ... ugly words.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Inspired by this article in the Toronto Star, I'm going to write about my characters FORAGING today.
And I'm reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez at the moment, so here's a short story, Eyes of the Blue Dog

Friday, September 22, 2006

Whether you've got kids or not, this time of year, going back to school time, seems to bring up mixed emotions, and that's my writing prompt for today.

I was stimulated by this article on Jeanette Winterson's wonderful webpage. I like what she says about reading in particular:

If reading reclaims time, it re-aligns time too. Time for us is always slipping away – we talk about losing time, finding time, making time, and taking time. The well-being we feel when we don’t notice time, because we are happy or engrossed or in love, is the result of those rare moments when time inside us and time outside us are not in conflict. Reading is another way of allowing this to happen, and as it becomes a habit, like all habits it affects the rest of our behaviour too. No question, reading is good for you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Remember those games where you would have to make as many words as possible from one long one? Well, this version is particularly addictive. Eat your heart out Countdown!
And my writing prompt for the day is ... scrambled words for breakfast.

Monday, September 18, 2006

My writing prompt for today comes from Margaret Atwood's new book, Moral Disorder and is to write about the child of this woman:
She would turn into a woman others came to for advice. She would be called in emergencies. She would roll up her sleeves and dispense with sentimentality, and do whatever blood-soaked, bad-smelling thing had to be done. She would become adept with axes.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Something to read for the weekend? Try this story, Afterwords by Laurie Mazzaferro from Carve Magazine.

And my writing prompt for today is going to be: What I don't remember.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I missed the Edinburgh Book Festival this year, so am pleased to see that recordings of selected talks and readings are now up on the website, particularly Paul Muldoon's.

Friday, September 15, 2006

So the 'planet' that toppled Pluto from the starry ranks is going to be called Eris. There's something tasty about that name. As the press release says:
In mythology, Eris caused a quarrel among goddesses that sparked the Trojan War. In real life, Eris also caused strife, forcing scientists to produce a strict definition of the term planet - and that eventually led to Pluto losing the status it had held since its discovery in 1930.

According to the website, Skyscript, Pluto also has discord behind the meaning of its name:
In Greek mythology Pluto is Hades, god of the underworld, and the era of Pluto, including both Nazism and the use of nuclear bombs, certainly presents an unparalleled vision of hell. At its worst, Pluto symbolizes the abuse of power, hellish experiences, and the threat of death, either physically or to a sense of self. In mythology we learn that Hades donned the helmet of invisibility when leaving the underworld. Thus Pluto also speaks of that which is invisible or absent.

All, it seems, is not happy in the sky, but luckily they've both been officially categorised only as 'dwarf planets'. So that's all right then.
I think I'm safe from accusations of self-interest as even I can see that this blog is really more of a scrapbook in which I can keep ideas, quotes, websites that interest me rather than a potential bestseller, but I'm really interested in the concept behind the Friday Project. For any of us who blog, or spend any time on the internet, surely there's no argument that much of what we read online is just as good, if not better, in terms of humour/honesty/information than to be found in books. So this publishing company is the first I've seen which is focused on capturing the raw talent on the internet. OK, I will admit some self-interest here, because it was through a short story on East of the Web that I was discovered. About two weeks after it was first published on the site, I received emails from two agents and a publisher asking about my work. It was as unexpected as it was beautiful. I hate the thought that people will start writing blogs or putting work up on the internet just to get a publishing deal, but I do like the fact that some of the absolute passion for writing and communication I see every day might just be rewarded.

Another site that facilitates publication through the internet is The Front List, which invites writers to submit work for peer critiquing. Nothing new in that, maybe, and there is a charge for receiving critiques, but at least one senior editor has committed to reading the best manuscripts which can't be bad.

By the way, one of those involved in the Friday Project is Scott Pack, former buyer at Waterstones and so often called 'the most powerful man in publishing', it must be true. Mustn't it? Anyway I've been following his blog with interest for some time, partly to find out what's going on in my industry, but also because I've discovered some fantastic new books and authors through him - and what's not to love about that? Childish too, I know, but his recent comment: 'Available from all good booksellers, and some crap ones too' made me laugh so much - it's what everyone tags on to that line, surely, but doesn't normally say out loud. Let's say more things out loud - make the world a more contentious place.

And my writing prompt for today is going to be a personal one: dressing up as a superhero to persuade someone not to leave (... eh? probably not what you think!)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

For my first touring 'girlfriend', I'm very pleased to welcome Melanie Lynne Hauser to this blog. Melanie's book, Confessions of Supermom is one of a series she's writing, and has already been chosen as a Literary Guild November Selection. It's been described by no less than Publishers Weekly as:
"Like its title character, this debut novel has a secret's unexpectedly poignant and packs an emotional punch despite the cheery veneer... at the heart of this story is a narrative about a lonely, wronged woman who just wants to do right by her children and stand up to an uncontrollable world. Hauser slips in soliloquies on motherhood and womanhood that, though brief, are moving, showing us Birdie Lee's heart and in that, the wishes and dreams of super moms everywhere. "

Resisting the urge to find out more about Supermom's cleaning tips and what exactly the stubborn Stain of Unusual Origin was that her heroine found on her bathroom floor (the removal of which gave her superpowers), I asked Melanie instead a couple of writing-based questions to find out what makes her write, or not!

Do you have a favourite writing prompt, or exercise, to share?
I've never done any kind of writing exercises, actually. But a couple of tips that help me in my day-to-day writing: 1) Don't set daily word count goals; I never tell myself I have to write X amount of words every day. I just tell myself I have to write something every day. 2) Leave in the middle of something. I don't stop writing for the day at the end of a scene or chapter; I always make myself start the next section, even if it's just a couple of sentences, so when I start the next day I've already begun, which is always so daunting.

What's your best (or worst!) writing distraction?
The Internet, definitely! There's so much to see and do; while I'm grateful beyond words at the invention of the PC, because I would never have the fortitude to do this writing longhand, I curse the invention of the Internet. How's a poor writer supposed to get any work done???

So thanks to Melanie, aka Superwriter, (and also by the way, the invention of the internet and her blog for introducing me to her and her work) my writing prompt for today is going to be to start mid-sentence, and end mid-sentence...
Anyone in London on Monday 25th September is in for a treat with the New Voices evening of poetry reading at the Troubadour venue. A biaised plug here, as two of the readers - Ann and Carol - are in my fortnightly writing group, but I can vouch for their originality and talent.
"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."
Willa Cather

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Pulp takes the theme of war in its issue this month, and is well worth a look, particularly the story by Sarajevo author Nenad Velickovic, A Hypothalmus Knight.

Hah, The Wicker Man has nothing on my writing prompt for today, which is to write about these two splendid scarecrows from the weekend's allotment show. (Ps I do know that the last link has little to do with our show but I love it so much I had to include it. Worth listening to!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My writing prompt for today will be to finish a piece starting with: Clowns make me ...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me ....

... and lots of lovely presents, including the news that The Girlfriends Cyber Circuit has voted me into its membership, so I get to have some of my favourite US writers appearing as guests on this blog. Watch this space! Also a copy of Woman's World, which has to be one of the maddest books I've seen. Graham Rawle (creator also of the Lost Consonants Series from which the picture above comes) collected words and phrases from 1960's women's magazines, which he then cut and pasted to make the narrative. The most bizarre thing of all is that, from what I've managed to read so far, there really is a story there, and the slightly clipped and frenetic tone of the 1960's is still coming through. It doesn't read the same without the mixed typeface, but here's a random paragraph:
Mary prefers to be the one to answer the door to callers, but she must have stepped out into the back garden for a moment, so I decided to deal with it myself. With a graceful flourish, I opened the door to reveal a postman who stood on the threshold with a dominant nose on his face, and dare I say it, Postman's knock on his mind.
"Barmy but brilliant" is the blurb from Raymond Briggs and he's not wrong. Oh definitely a happy birthday for me!

And my writing prompt for today, because I'm starting these all over again, is:
My Tenth Birthday.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

There is nothing fiercer than a failed artist. The energy remains, but, having no outlet, it implodes in a great black fart of rage which smokes up all the inner windows of the soul. Horrible as successful artists often are, there is nothing crueler or more vain than a failed artist.

Erica Jong, Fear of Flying

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I had such a lovely gift this afternoon - one of those times when you laugh so much you feel weak and all cleared out. And the strangest thing of all was that it was my own humiliation that made me so merry! Close readers of the blog (aren't you all?) will remember my 'baby pumpkin' (thanks Clare); well, today was the day of the great Allotment show and I decided after a sleepless night (really) to put it in no matter what size the other beasts were. I actually felt quite confident by the time I went to pick it for the show; no need for dolls house equipment to make it seem big (thanks Kate). Well, if you have a look at the photograph above, you'll probably guess the big one isn't mine. No, mine is peeping out from behind it, that little yellow thing that looks like a grape. I don't think I need to spell it out that I didn't win, didn't actually come second, no, folks, I was a whole 30kg behind the second smallest pumpkin in the competition.... It was a fabulous show though, more later.

Friday, September 08, 2006

There's some really useful information for writers on the Mslexia magazine website. As well as the archive of interviews with authors including U A Fanthorpe, Helen Dunmore, A L Kennedy and Hilary Mantel, their Writers' Kit page includes information about finding an agent, sumitting, setting up a writers' group etc. WIth the writers interviews, do follow the links to the individual writing processes. The variety of ways in which people write always amazes (and reassures) me. What I like best though is the guide to E-language. Now I know where I've been going wrong in my online conversations \o/ - I'd just thought they were typos ;-).
E-language: Common abbreviations for use in the quickfire environment of a chatline. (Whether you think they’re witty or naff, at least you’ll know what they’re on about...)
:) happy
:( sad
:| angry
%-) happy-confused
8-0 shocked
;-) winking
:'-( crying
:-* kiss
X-( brain-dead
lol laughing out loud
:-P sticking out tongue
:8) pig
MC:8) male chauvinist pig
:-X my lips are sealed
\o/ Halleluiah
%-) celebrating
%-( hung-over
@}-`-- a rose…