Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Future

There's no doubt about it. I have the hugest crush in the world on Neil Gaiman. I asked his 8 ball if there was hope and it replied 'Wrote 600 words', which either means we're a writing match made in heaven or I have to stop surfing and get back to writing my novel. Hmmmm... I feel the crush abating already as I forecast years ahead of me screeching 'Will you not just say what you mean?'. If you do one thing today, I urge you to ask Neil's 8 ball something. It's so sweet. Or, of course, you could write 600 words....

And my writing prompt for today is: Lucky numbers

Monday, February 26, 2007

Photographic prompts

I'm going to take my writing prompt for today from these photographs at the Busy Life website. (The link comes from the swissmiss design blog - another one well worth checking out.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Fairy tale prompt

Everything posted on the Ullabenulla blog is beautiful and inspiring, but I'm going to pick these fairy tale papercuts as my writing prompt for today.
I'm one of those who resisted Kirsty Young as the Desert Island Discs presenter, but this morning's programme with Grayson Perry was one of the best I've heard. Sadly, it's not availabe as 'listen again' because of rights issues, apparently, but you can see his choices here. What I liked best was the way he allowed the imaginative world he created in childhood a place in his real world, not least in the decisions he made. It made me go straight to the internet to see where I can see his work.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Cynic-free Lent

As one of the few non-Catholic in a Convent School, Ash Wednesday was always a miserable time for me. The good Catholic children used to be taken out to get their Ash marks on their forehead while I was left to sit alone in the classroom contemplating my sins for what seemed like hours. And then the other kids, those special ashy ones, would walk around in this annoyingly saintly fashion for the rest of the day feeling sorry for me, but not as much as I did for myself.. but LOOK, I'm in danger of getting cynical here, and that's exactly what I'm trying to give up this Lent. Actually, it's true. I'm horrified at how easily my nastly little mind nips to an all-too-easy bitchy aside. For instance, the women queuing up for the Tunbridge Wells Cath Kidson sale yesterday... No, no, no. As the nuns would say, it isn't funny, Sarah, and it certainly isn't kind. So this is officially the Lent I'm going to leave my non-cynical side behind - at least for the next forty days - and try to be kind. I've just joined The Karma Army (www.join-me.co.uk), started by the comedian Danny Wallace, and which is currently fund-raising to build a school in Kenya through the charity, International Care and Relief. How fabulous would that be? Plus, although I might draw the line at hugging strangers and also because, partly for reasons above, I'm not a Church goer, I've signed up to find out more about the Live Life Love Lent campaign, which is going to give me fifty good things to do this Lent.

And one of the things I'm going to do every day is to write down two things that make me feel happy in a well-meaning, non-cynical, good spirited way:

a. Since watching Dog Borstal, I've learnt that I can shout 'hip,hip' at my dog when she's walking and she starts to bounce. Literally. Her tail goes up and she sort of jumps on all four legs. Obviously I have to be careful where I do this because she's a very small and unnoticeable dog and people passing just see this mad woman telling them to gee up, and then laughing loudly.

b. The Park Keeper in my local park is just like Percy the Park keeper, even to the extent that he collects pieces of wood to build homes for wild animals, and is currently passionately observing an albino badger locally. Not only that, my teenage daughter will still let me read my very battered copy of this book to her in times of stress (both mine and hers!).

And my writing prompt for today is: A random act of kindness

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Poker Face

I know, I know, any excuse to post THAT photo, but even so, there was an interesting article in yesterday's Times by Frieda Hughes on the relevance today of W H Auden's poem, Casino. This comment is particularly chilling:
“Lucky/ Were the few” — there must always be a winner somewhere, so that all the others can be persuaded to continue and lose — “and it is possible that none were loved” because there is little chance for the habitual gambler to form a relationship with anyone other than the interchangeable men and women who deal the cards or spin the wheel.
Having finally learnt the rules of poker, but still having to have it explained to me that being left with 70 pence at the end of the evening meant that I'd actually lost £4.30 of my £5 stake and not won, as I stupidly been crowing about, I'm going to take the warning that gamblers are dead to both the romantic and creative life to heart, and get out while I can - besides there are only so many teenagers I can persuade to play with me. I suppose I could take up bingo but then those really really bad Sharon Osbourne Bingo ads have put me off for life, and anyway, writing seems to me to be enough dangerous excitement for one woman. Putting out anything that means so much to you and having to actually court the critics publicly is surely the biggest gamble of all. Pass me a Martini someone.

And my writing prompt today is: The biggest gamble you can imagine

Monday, February 19, 2007

What if...

... you could ride your bike sideways?

Guilty Reading?

A recent blog entry by Squeetus drew my attention to an article in the Guardian about books we feel guilty reading. How sad that we're ashamed to be caught with a Stephen King or Harry Potter under our arm, so I'm joining Squeetus's campaign here, flinging off my shackles and admitting I read for pleasure. Let's just enjoy how different we all are in what we want to read and celebrate that. Phew, I'm feeling quite blood-thirsty here for some reason - could it be the number of people who have come up to me over the last few years and said that Something Beginning With wasn't the normal sort of book they'd choose, and they were surprised that it wasn't actually so bad. (And I'm supposed to take that as a compliment!) I might just have to storm up to my local bookshop and buy the latest Jilly Cooper, and this time not lie that it's for research. OK, OK, I will admit I've done that in the past, and I do love her so I shouldn't. Thanks Squeetus.

(Interesting though how the Guardian highlights how many books we hoard to read later - I always remember someone telling me that when you buy a book, you're also partly buying the thought of the time to read it).


Am heavy with lack of sleep today, and I have to write a central tango scene for the new novel. Probably no co-incidence that I've made one of my characters yearn more for comfy pillows than hot footsteps, but perhaps he'd be better taking off to one of these exhibitions: the 4 vegetative sleep rooms in Rotterdam (see above by Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger), or the wonderful Sleepers, where Sophie Calle invited 24 friends and strangers to share her bed and tell her stories, or even Tracey Emin's iconic bed.

And my writing prompt for today is: An unsuitable bedtime story

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Funny dogs!

I'm missing my dog this weekend, so have made up for it by watching this. Not sure if it should really be called 'Funny Dogs', because 'Dogs hurting humans' seems a more apt title but whatever, it made me laugh a lot. It's the little one carrying a heavy weight in his mouth that gets me in particular.

The walk of hell....

Imagine walking over this floor tiled with bathroom scales:
It's part of the "Dangerous Beauty exhibition in the Chelsea Art Museum in New York, which challenges society's view of beauty. In the press notes there is the startling statement that, in the US, more money is spent on cosmetics than education, with more than two million cosmetic surgery procedures performed last year. Ho hum.
(nb the exhibit above is by Jacob Dahlgren, and is called Heaven is a Place on Earth)

And my writing prompt (yep, I'm back to these) is: A different sort of beauty

Monday, February 12, 2007



What action do women want on climate change?

A survey to find out women’s priorities for climate change action has been launched this week by Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (WI). The results will inform a women’s manifesto on climate change being drawn up by the two organisations, to be presented to politicians this Spring.

The survey is available online at www.wen.org.uk and www.womens-institute.org.uk and click on Have Your Say on Climate Change.
The survey is open to members and non-members of both organisations to complete.

Questions ask about women’s own responses to climate change and what they want politicians to do.

Sue Buckingham, Chair of WEN said: “We want to hear from as many women as possible, to tell the government what would be most effective in helping women become fully involved in reducing their own and the UK’s carbon footprint. Climate change affects us all but so far women haven’t been equally involved in the debate and decisions about how to respond.”

Climate change is widely recognised as the greatest environmental threat the world faces. Yet it affects women and men differently - more women die in climate induced disasters than men and women are more likely to suffer the long term consequences because of their different positions and roles in many societies around the world. Women are less likely to be in scientific or technical jobs involved in developing solutions, or in decision-making positions in company boardrooms or in politics.


Jean Leston at comms@wen.org.uk or 020 7481 9004.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I'm off to ...
... first thing tomorrow morning to watch the ...

We don't want no wooden spoon!

A good read

I've been addicted to the blog, Seen Reading for some time now. It's such a good idea - she spots someone reading a book on public transport, goes to a bookshop or library, copies out a paragraph from the book and then writes her own story about the mystery reader. Surely there's a book in this blog? I'd buy it - and then read it on public transport and wonder if she was watching me....

Thursday, February 08, 2007

John Donne Event

English PEN presents

John Donne’s Survival Guide, with John Stubbs, Ruth Padel and Harriet Walter

Tuesday 20 February, 7pm

In his acclaimed new biography, Donne: The Reformed Soul, John Stubbs paints a compelling portrait of an extraordinary man. John Donne did his utmost to stay on the right side of the authorities, even censoring his own work. But his writing tells a different story. His poetry lays down rules only to transgress them, doing battle with a succession of imagined ‘authorities’ who have a claim on his conscience or integrity. Poet and columnist Ruth Padel will be interviewing John Stubbs, and award-winning actress Harriet Walter will read from Donne’s poems.

Time: 7.00pm
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 www.englishpen.org/events/

Writing Choices

So, it's snowing again - here's the view from my bedroom window. The woods you can see in the background are the common and then at the very back and to the left, Winnie the Pooh's 100 acre wood, aka Ashdown Forest.

The news here is full of the snow, and the children are off school, as it seems are half the working population, or at least according to the radio. I've just listened to the third feature about the joys of working from home, whereas I fantasise so much about working in an office that I regularly look through the windows of office buildings around here. I live in fear of getting arrested as a stalker! It's all those office routines I think I'd enjoy - the coffee break, the chats about last nights TV, in-jokes... But that's not to say I don't have my own routines - or choices to make. First off - and Kath, are you listening? - it's slippers (as mentioned previously). Which pair of slippers I put on to work in will have a definite impact on how I feel - those brown ones, for instance, make me definitely rakish when I write...

Then it's which candle to light. I have to have a candle lit when I write, but I only let myself light one at a time. Different colours, different scents, different feels..

And lastly, which coaster to use for my ever-filled cup of tea? Some make me laugh, some make me feel nostalgic and others have been given to me so have a special significance...

Phew! And who said a home-worker's life was dull? And to think I've just answered a question about what special writing routines I have with a one-word answer: 'none'. What's strange is I hadn't thought about all this before. Any other 'homeworker' want to meet me by the virtual coffee machine and share their writing preparation?

Poetry Critiques

The critiques of Julia Copus's poetry workshop in the Guardian have been printed, and to me they seem like pretty ideal examples of how to read a poem, with a combination of a search for meaning and technical skills. I'm going to print this off and really study it - for when I get back to poetry that is. The third novel has now found 'its shape', and I know it's working because I can't leave it alone. It's become like my dirty secret, I keep sneaking away from important things, like watching Ugly Betty to spend some time with it.

Other news - the first prize in the Costa Book Awards has been given to a novelist - first time since Kate Atkinson apparently. I'd love to see the criteria for how you could judge one genre against another, not because I doubt it, but just out of interest.

And because it's been some time since I've posted a writing prompt (reason not because I'm not writing, but because I am (see above)), today I'm going to write about .... Writing prompt 20-2007: Living my life in the library (see also above, in the Costa winner link).

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Can a million penguins write a novel? Your chance to find out in what might possibly be the first tag masterpiece. I'm so definitely going to do this...