Monday, April 30, 2007

And one day after...

... the earthquake, it's hard to imagine anything so violent happened here in Kent. We took the day off to visit the garden at Great Dixter.

It was a perfect English Spring day, and a perfect English House:

There was colour in abundance

But, as always, it was potential that proved more interesting

Even the trees seemed to tell a story of ease and everything fitting together

And just when it couldn't get better, we came across the dog!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

So the earth moved

in Kent this morning. We felt a tremble at 8 am and turned on the news to see there'd been an earthquake. By 9.30am however, we were all shopping at the farmer's market as if nothing had happened. Somehow it seems quite surreal. The birds still haven't recovered though. They're spookily quiet right now.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Amazon recommends....

Several puzzled emails from friends this morning about the books I HAD actually written led me to this recommendation sent out by Amazon:

Greetings from,

As someone who has expressed interest in books by Sarah Salway, you might
like to know that "Long-term Ill-health, Poverty and Ethnicity: A
Mixed-methods Investigation into the Experiences of Living with Chronic
Health Conditions in the UK" will be released on 30 April 2007.

Long-term Ill-health, Poverty and Ethnicity: A Mixed-methods Investigation
into the Experiences of Living with Chronic Health Conditions in the UK
Sarah Salway

Price: £15.95
Release Date: 30 April 2007

I'd love to claim talent for this, but reading a book while hula-hooping is about the limit of my multi-talents and in fact, there is another Sarah Salway - we emailed each other for a while, purely with excitement about having the same name, and it was the strangest thing, seeing myself pop up in my own email box. As the book title above suggests, she researches into health methods, based at Sheffield University, but she did say she often gets students coming up to discuss poetry, which puzzled her until she found out about me. As far as I know, this is her first book but now I guess the confusion is going to live for a while.

And onto something completely different, and if I can just show off madly for a second, I'm so happy with this review from Scott Pack's blog today, particularly the quote:
"full of the meaningless minutiae of human existence which become so meaningful when Salway gets her hands on them."
I've never forgotten those photographs we used to have when we were kids - the ones that showed an ordinary household object from an extraordinary angle and you had to guess what it was. Trying to do something similar is at the heart of most of my writing, and it's lovely to have that picked up, so in celebration, my writing prompt for today is going to be ... cheese graters.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

How to talk to girls...

I loved Neil Gaimain's Hugo nominated story, How to Talk to Girls At Parties and am pleased to find it up on the web, along with some of the other nominees.

And my writing prompt is: Talking to boys

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chocolate and Squeaky chairs

So what gets your writerly juices flowing?

Shameless Showing Off

A spring in my step today after reading a lovely two page review of my short story collection, Leading the Dance, in the Irish literary magazine, The Stinging Fly. I particularly liked the comment, 'One of Salway's gifts is her control of the precise language used to tell these stories, while always maintaining a gleeful undercurrent of mania', and also, 'Salway is fearless in her choice of subjects: she is good on contemporary themes of love, betrayal and twenty-first century isolation, as well as sensuality and violence.' But best of all, 'This is energetic writing, ripe with menace and wit...' In face, I like the last one so much I'm considering a t-shirt with the words 'Ripe with menace' printed on it. Although I might also get ones with the slogans 'Salway is fearless' and 'a gleeful undercurrent of mania' printed on them too.

And then I think I'm going to wear all three when I visit my local branch of Waterstones which I've supported and where I've spent a fortune over the last few years but who have just refused me a reading because I'm 'not famous enough'...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shopping dictionary

New definitions courtesy of Daily Candy:

Achilles heel
n. Your weakness for pretending to fit into the last pair of size-six boots when you’re really an eight.

ample sale
n. A sale that consists of pieces in only ginormous or miniscule sizes.

n. The agony caused by having to strip in communal dressing rooms at sample sales.

n. A girl who has squeezed herself into a dress that is way too small for her.

dressing tomb
n. The physics-defying, one-square-foot room in which you’re expected to remove your pants.

n. The involuntary impulse to lie when the salesgirl asks what size you are.

n. Dreaded dressing room mirrors that show every last flaw on your body.

n. A disorder marked by making unnecessary online purchases in the wee hours due to insomnia.

reflection period
n. The time spent contemplating whether you’re being tricked by skinny mirrors and soft filter lighting.

n. A last-minute purchase that you wear out of the store.

n. A naggy salesperson who pulls the curtain back while you’re changing.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Smiles and Self-Help

Oh how I loved** finding out this morning that the author of the first Self-help guide was called Samuel Smiles, almost as much as the fact his research owed a debt to G. L. Craik's Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties. There was no easy ride with Smiles though, no mere listening on your ipod to someone else doing the hard work for you while you relax and emerge a a person of supreme confidence. I wonder how many books Samuel Smiles would sell these days if you picked this blurb up in the self-help section:
The object of the book briefly is, to re-inculcate these old-fashioned but wholesome lessons-which perhaps cannot be too often urged, that youth must work in order to enjoy,-that nothing creditable can be accomplished without application and diligence,-that the student must not be daunted by difficulties, but conquer them by patience and perseverance,-and that, above all, he must seek elevation of character, without which capacity is worthless and worldly success is naught. If the author has not succeeded in illustrating these lessons, he can only say that he has failed in his object.

I can see already that this is going to be one of those internet trails I enjoy so much. While googling Craik, I came on this article on the 'problems' of working class poetry in Victorian times. Apparently one of the solutions was that working class poets should:
Accept a more modest role as a means of developing class identity and solidarity – become a means of articulating commonly held values and beliefs in unambitious but memorable form. The poet thus becomes a slightly more articulate friend or neighbour.

So working class poets are allowed, so long as they are 'unambitious' (and, reading between the lines, male). I think this calls for more exploration, but in the meantime my writing prompt for today is... the unambitious poet.

**ps. I nearly wrote 'I heart' here but then I realised I wasn't talking to my teenage kids and it wouldn't annoy you nearly as much as it does them. It's one of the joys of teenage parenting no one tells you about - watching their body language as you get the names of bands wrong, be enthusiastic about things they like and so ruin them forever, hijack their slang etc etc etc. Come to think of it, it's making me re-evaluate my own teenage days and wonder if my own parents were really as naive as I gave them credit for. My own slamming door moment was when I nearly shared a flat with members of the Boomtown Rats and my mother went around saying 'Sarah's going to be sharing with some rodents apparently'. She did snigger then too, now I remember it without wanting to murder her. Ho hum.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Extreme nature

The ultimate guide to building your own tree house here, and Dan Ladd's site is well worth a look too. Look at these. Why am I looking these up? Oh, you have no idea of the piles of paper filing I'm staring at -there must be at least a forest in my office, and I'm ashamed. I need to get out and spend some time in nature.

And my writing prompt for today is ... paperless.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

English PEN presents:

Taking the Pith
Craig Brown, Sebastian Faulks and Sue Limb, chaired by John Walsh

Tuesday 17 April, 7pm

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but surely pastiche is just looking to get a cheap and easy laugh? Can parody get to the heart of things or is it just taking the pith? John Walsh, Assistant Editor of The Independent, will host a discussion of what may be the lowest form of wit with parodists Craig Brown, described by Stephen Fry as ‘the wittiest writer in Britain today’, Sebastian Faulks, whose new book Pistache is drawn from BBC Radio 4’s The Write Stuff, and Sue Limb, author of the Dulcie Domum column which ran for eleven glorious years in The Guardian.

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: On-line at or call 020 7713 0023

Summer days!

Here's something that has already made me smile this morning:

From the magnificent Manolo's Shoe Blog which always makes me smile.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Happy Easter!

I'm away for a week now, but happy chocolate eating to you all...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Never too late

So what's your excuse? Harry Bernstein's 96, and he's just written his first book, and is already nearly finished his second. Apparently:

Bernstein cranks out his pages on a typewriter in his bedroom, saying that the computer nearby is too complicated for anything more than checking his e-mail. And at his age, he allows himself a certain latitude in the writing process, meaning that instead of worrying about deadlines he just writes until he doesn't feel like writing anymore.

"I've been trained to finish something you start, don't leave anything undone," he says. "I just feel I'm not satisfied until I finish what I start. And I will not be satisfied until I start something new."

My writing prompt for today: The thing I've always wanted to do.