Thursday, 14 January 2010


Over the break I took some time off - the new draft is in, I'm playing around with ideas for the next book, but for the first time in ages I Read For Pleasure. Not MA course books ('World Postmodern Fiction', anyone?), not books to be reviewed, just what I felt like. In a roundabout way it reminded me about why I write. I want to give people the pleasure, the break from everyday life that these books gave me. I stormed through some old favourites from Anne Tyler and Michael Cunningham, plus new works by William Boyd, Sadie Jones, and a debut from Francesca Kay, (which inspired severe book envy, always a good sign :) I wallowed in a US publication 'A Cup of Comfort for Writers' that my sister had sent me, inscribed 'Never Give Up'.

So, everything else in life may be uncertain, but I arrived back at my desk raring to go. Then, there was a lovely surprise in the emails this weekend. Ages ago I wrote to Anne Tyler, my all-time literary hero, asking if she had any advice for writers like us juggling work and family life. Here it is:

"The only advice I can think of for writers with young children is, “Just hang on by your fingernails; this stage will not last forever.”" - Anne Tyler

I'm going to pin it over my desk, don't know about you?

TODAY'S PROMPT: The sidebar is gradually filling up with good news - some great new books being published by friends of this blog. Let's hope by the end of the year it will be a mile long. Luxuriating in reading for fun over the holiday got me thinking - we've talked about why we all write, but why do you read? Uncertain times like this have me reaching for old favourites in books and music, (good old Stevie Nicks in today's clip for example) - but also wanting new work, new tunes, new words. Today, instead of thinking about what you want to write why not have a think about what you want to read? Jot down the elements of your dream read - what do you want to curl up with on these snowy nights? How does this tally with what you're working on?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Ding Dong

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. ~Arthur Polotnik

Hello girls and boys, and hello 2010. A new decade. Forget happy new year - we have a new decade to celebrate stretching ahead of us like a ream of white paper waiting to be written on. What's going to be your story?

You can achieve a lot in ten years. If you can't imagine ahead that far, why not just think back ten and recall how far you have come? What were you doing ten years ago? My life was the pole opposite of today. I'd been working at the gallery on the Kings Rd, and on Millennium Eve the not-yet-a-pilot and I met friends at a lovely old Georgian house in Westminster - in the party there happened to be a fully kilted bagpiper (as you do, every party should have one). As we set off for the Thames at midnight clutching bottles from a bath tub full of ice and champagne, he began to play. The crowds parted like the sea before Moses and miraculously we got the best view in the place. At 4am, we walked home along the Embankment - the not-yet-a-pilot, bow tie hanging loose around his dinner jacket, the lights of the Albert Bridge glowing gold in the dawn. I think we speculated about where we would be in ten years time.

Fast forward. Frankly if you told me I would be in a freezing, snowed in cottage with two children, two hamsters, a cabin-fevery Afghan Hound and an absent pilot I would have laughed in your face. (Forget champagne in the bathtub, I was up at 3am with a sobbing toddler woken by the gritting lorries, and have spent the day snowballing, marking assignments and building a foosball table). Add to this the current 'favorites' on my computer: 'Life in Qatar?' 'Expat Korea?' and I would have been incredulous. As life is so utterly uncertain at the moment, I took a bit of time over the holiday to clear the decks, and see what I have achieved because it feels like so little. Sometimes it's good to know where you are when you have no idea where you are going. It's so easy to lose yourself in the day to day and only see what you haven't done - this is a good chance to see what you have accomplished - why not do the same?

Me? Ten years ago my resolutions were simple: book (finish the first novel), baby, travel. In the last ten years I've finished four novels, had two children, travelled round the world and lived overseas, (plus worked full time and run a company). Do I feel accomplished? Satisfied? Nope. More uncertain if anything, less sure of everything I thought I knew and trusted in. So now what? Perhaps it's that old adage be careful what you wish for. I should have been more specific: bestselling book, babies, travel ending in a contented life writing more bestsellers ... blah blah. It's the unfinished novels that bug you ... the aborted ones in the bottom drawer that still glimmer with unrealised beauty (there are of course also a couple of early, completed stinkers). There are twenty (count them, I did), fresh outlines I have ready in my 'to write' files if only there were time and help. So which to write next? Even reading through the notes has filled my mind with a cast of characters clamouring to tell their stories. The list of published articles, teaching credits, TV, radio etc is nothing compared to the novels and film scripts I want to write in the next decade.

There were so many choices for today's clip, ('I Will Survive', 'I'm Still Standing' ..?) but this is a new discovery - Sister Wynona Carr - she should have been huge, but her success never matched her talent in her lifetime. That sucks. Why does that happen with artists? I'm going to make a toast to you all - here's to success in our lifetime, success this year, and huge success this decade. When you look back in 2020 what are you going to be celebrating?

TODAY'S PROMPT: In terms of blogging, rather than playing around with the WKDN calendar this year, (gratuitous January quote and Johnny pic for all his fan club today), I've decided to take that time and build a sidebar link to all the big success stories among our blogging writer friends. To Cally, whose first novel was published last year by Orion, to Kathleen, whose novel is being published this year in the US and to Misssy and Emma, whose book is being published in Australia this year - and to all of you. Anyone and everyone who reads this blog who has good publishing news, let me know in the comments and include the link you'd like posted in the sidebar. It's going to be an ongoing shout-out to all the publishing success stories out there this year, and for the next ten. As for me, I'm just going to crack on with writing the best damn books I can. Here's to health, wealth, happiness and publishing success for us all - x
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