The artist's studio I worked in just off the Kings' Road was used by Peter Blake to shoot the cover of the Beatles' 'Sergeant Pepper' album. Over the years we'd get students and Beatles fans dropping in, hoping perhaps to miraculously touch the past. It was a great place to work - round the corner from Chelsea Town Hall with its confetti strewn steps and lovely old library. Do you use yours? The children love going each month and choosing a new bag of books (I convinced them early on it was a 'treat' ...) Gone are the days when I could spend all day doing research in the subterranean library of the Courtauld, or hanging out in Chelsea - you'd invariably spot a writer in there, someone like Anita Brookner or Laurie Lee. It was in the library I started writing 'All the Lovely Ruined Things', snatching half an hour at lunch. Later I started getting up an hour before work, or scribbling on the top deck of the number 22 lurching its way home down the Kings' Road. As we've said before, no matter how busy you are minutes add up - a novel can be built a page at a time.

What's on your to-read pile (not your Amazon wish list, but the books you have physically waiting in the wings)? You know by now I can never knowingly leave a bookstore empty handed, so in addition to seven library books on the Spanish Civil War I have biographies of Billie Holliday, Catherine Deneuve, Katharine Hepburn, novels by Philip Roth, Barbara Trapido, Kate Atkinson and Bella Freud waiting to be read ... I could go on. I once read an interview with an artist who when asked why he started painting said 'I like the smell of paint'. Why did you become a writer - do you, like me, love the tools of the trade? Ink, journals, libraries, bookshops? Until they invent an electronic reader that has the sensual quality of a beautifully printed book I can't ever see them disappearing. Dog eared, highlighted, creased of spine and annotated every book in the house has a tale to tell. Why do I write? Loving books has a lot to do with it.

TODAY'S PROMPT: Andrew Marshall wrote recently: 'we have to accept the things over which we have no control and concentrate on what we can influence: our own behaviour'. Good advice in the current climate. What one thing can you change about your behaviour today to help you with your writing? Are you a member of your local library? If not, why don't you join up today? Yes, you can search for texts online but there is nothing like browsing the stacks and finding something you didn't even know you were looking for. Ever heard of library angels who help you find just the book you need - think of Wings of Desire/City of Angels? Who knows what you might find today.


  1. A borrowed copy of 'Notes from an Exhibition' by Patrick Gale is waiting for me by my chair. My friend has already made it dog eared... and she dropped it in the bath...

  2. i laughed about convincing them it is a treat. we intentionally don't go too often so that they are desperate by the time we get to it.

    i wish i had time to browse the library. maybe i'll try today when i'll only have two kids with me...

  3. Scarlet - I LOVE Patrick Gale's books - and Notes reminded me of growing up (not so much the Quakers but the location ... All the best books end up in the bath or (beside) the loo)

    Emily - luckily in our local Petersfield library their 'for sale' shelf is on the ground (adult) floor. I can guarantee - oooh 50 seconds? to sprint round while they are checking out the kids books to take home! Who knew the ability to browse at speed was a prerequisite of parenthood :)

  4. I just went through my bedside books in anticipation of finally getting my library back from storage in Brooklyn. I discovered my Jane Austen collection, a book on Buddhism, all the books I've already read, including the compelling but childish (and I love YA novels) Twilight series and an alternate MUCH more grown up vampire executioner book by Laurell K. Hamilton.

    Why did I start writing? Because I ran out books to read while visiting my grandfather. No money and no library card, I thought, "I'll just write my own," and haven't looked back since.

    I am not willing yet to wake up a 6 am to write, although that may be where I am heading.

    Why did

  5. My local library is TINY, but having such a small collection has probably forced me to read books I wouldn't have otherwise touched. And although my husband has condemned the place as "rubbish" they do order in any book I ask for. I am personally making my way through a list of recommendations my blog readers gave me about a couple of months ago. My little library has ordered the lot for me, bless 'em.

    Let me pass one on to you, because it's particularly bookish, melodramatic and fabulous: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.

    Have I just made that book pile topple a bit? Sorry!

  6. Waited to reply until I could check the stack of books. Alas: I forgot that in preparation for the holidays, we disguised our living room and bedroom as those of a household of orderly illiterates, by moving the stack(s) to the ever more glutted "back room."

    Misssy mentioned The Thirteenth Tale; I know that's in there. Also Iodine, by Haven Kimmel. A Dean Koontz. A history of the world (probably just the Western bits), focused on left-handedness. And a lot of other things. (I'm currently reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods.)

    We've got a really bad habit of buying books rather than using the library, but I think that's going to change sooner rather than later. If that back room doesn't lose some weight fast, we're going to have to carve it away from the rest of the house and set it adrift.

  7. Rowena - if you can't find what you want, doing it yourself is a great idea in writing (or business for that matter).

    Misssy - 'bookish melodramatic and fabulous' could describe any one of the people commenting on WKDN :) I'll search Diane out (in fact there's now a little space on the pile - the kids were trampolining on our bed last night & broke the frame, so Katharine Hepburn is now propping up my side of the bed!)

    John - your back room sounds like my basement! I rather like the idea of a ship of books.

  8. BTW I've got an award for you over at my place.

  9. I adore books! I adore used book stores, libraries, new book stores and the book section of the Goodwill.

    It must be the lure of words........

  10. I would say I have spent probably half my life in libraries. Even as a very young kid I loved them and read everywhere, walking to school etc - it is really like a compulsive escapist obsession I have with books. Now I read three or four library books a week, have gone off fiction and right now I am reading a v well researched book about all the ways in which food was poisoned throughout the ages called Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee by Bee Wilson.

  11. I have a monstrous Complete Works of the Bronte's waiting for me...and somewhere in a stack of old text books is a pair of anthology of language texts from a University english class that i wouldn't mind having a go at again. Probably enjoy them more this second time around ;)

  12. there are 24 books next to my bed, waiting to be read. and i'm in the middle of six others. i have a problem. :)

  13. Kate, can I commandere (sp?) your comments box for a mo? I am doing research for a talk I'm giving at The Word Festival in Aberdeen about blogging. I would like to hear from writers who blog as well as all the hobby bloggers. I'm starting posing questions for bloggers to answer over at the Misssives over the next few weeks:


    All writerly bloggers most most welcome!

    There, you can have your box back now.x

  14. Pseudo - thank you again :)

    Vodka Mom - yes, the lure of words - always too hard to resist!

    Emma - love the sound of your book (Bee wilson - what a great name for a writer). Is this book research or practical advice?! (There is a ref book out there somewhere about the best ways to bump your characters off .. I'll try and find the name).

    Hello Thistle - 'complete works' always terrifying (and so cumbersome - knock you out if you fall asleep reading in bed :)

    Magpie - join the club (maybe I should retitle this blog Booklovers Anonymous, or Readers Who Love Books Too Much.

    Misssy - pleasure. How exciting - will go and have a look at your questions


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