Monday, 30 March 2009

Recommended reads

For the last three months I've been reading my way through a compendium of Anne Tyler's novels.

I've read The Accidental Tourist and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. I've only been reading them when I eat alone so it's taking me a while.

She shows a lot of compassion for our human frailties. My favourite character so far is Muriel in Accidental Tourist with her chaotic life but generous approach to people.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Future of the book

What's the future of the book?

Publishing is in a state of flux. Costs, new technology and the way readers want to receive text are throwing lots of spanners into traditional ways of publishing.

As an author I'm involved and at the moment am planning various ways to deliver what I know. I'm guided partly by the ways people want to learn and the technology that's available as against even a couple of years ago.

I came across a website recently that I thought was interesting.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Writing: how to create confidence

What makes a confident person?

Most of us, especially in the UK would say that we could use more confidence. And over the last couple of days I've had several examples of that.

I listened to Simon Woodruffe, founder of Yo Sushi speaking. And to my surprise he admitted that in the early days his confidence was not as it should be. He came across as in your face and sure of himself but the inside didn't match the outside.

Also in the UK I've met many loud people who dominated the meeting, the room or the group. But they're not the ones who've impressed me the most over the years. One of the business writers I've met who have impressed me is Bob Bly.

Talkative yes, but not dominating and you don't mind him talking because he knows what he's doing and has proved it over the years with his work with companies, his courses and books.

The method that works for me in writing is to try it. Write, write again then write some more.

Write about what you know, what you love and what stirs you. Make the outside and the inside match up.

That's what creates confidence.

Inspirational quotes

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Business strategy in 2009

Today we have a blog from our resident web strategist and customer service expert, Kirsty Farrelly on what the present business climate might be causing for writing businesses.

Cutting the Cost

I was at a party the other evening and as the conversation do often does these days, we got onto discussing - move a little close as I don't want the speak the word out loud - the recession. There was a guy there is is self employed like myself and he is struggling.

Why? Because people keep undercutting his prices, by halving theirs, to win contracts.

So here is my plea. Stop compromising your work and that of others by halving your price to secure a deal. Surely, people are making a loss when they do this. Surely they can barely be covering their costs. To me it is not good business and it is not fair play.

The old adage says, "you get what you pay for". So if these guys are halving their prices, are they halving the quality of the work?

On a bright note I know the people who will survive in the long run are those with better business sense.

Keep your head and your heart, don't compromise and things will get better and as one of the strong ones, you'll survive.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Recommended reads

Raving Fans by Kenneth Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles
(HarperCollins, 1998)

We have a recommended read from our web strategist Kirsty Farrelly today. As someone concerned that your website should pay off for you and with 17 years customer service experience in the retail book trade Kirsty has strong opinions about the need for not simply good customer service but excellent as a standard.

"I think that good customer service is a dying art, so I want to strongly recommend this book on excellent customer service. Using it as the basis for your service you too can create "raving fans for your business.

Even if you feel you might not be able to apply exactly these processes this book is inspiring and will certainly get you thinking about the customer service you and your staff currently offer.

Whilst working at Waterstone's I gave this book to every member of my team as I wanted them to offer great customer service. And it worked.

Go on - treat yourself, treat your customers and create yourself some raving fans.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Chocolate corner

Chocolate facts

The first chocolate bar was made in England in 1842 by Cadbury's. In 1861, Cadbury's produced the first heart-shaped box of chocolate.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Wacky Words


I may get tackled by geologists where it's a perfectly useful term but I love the sound of this one.
It's the gradual movement of wet soil down a slope. So next time you're digging in the garden and a huge clod of soil moves towards you, you'll know which word to use when it hits your feet.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Inspirational quotes

"Writing a book is a adventure. To begin with it is a toy and amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him out to the public."

Winston Churchill

Songwriting: love songs

There was a Guardian/Observer supplement about 1000 songs everyone must hear at the weekend.

The first section included songs about love and unlike their series on books I should have read, I actually had heard most of them. I wonder what that says about my reading habits! Not wide enough I guess.

I've blogged before about songwriting and how I think it's a perfect challenge for a writer. To create a mood, a story and a result in less than a couple of minutes is a masterful performance.

As I went through the list what came up of course was all the associations with each song. For instance God only knows by the Beach Boys and I'm right back in my first bedsit in Nottingham with the landlady's daughter playing it over and over again in her darkened room.

Of course matching it with the perfect sounds is what sends it round the world as a success but I say hooray for the writer.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Inspirational quotes

"The wind blows over the lake and stirs the surface of the water. The visible effects of the invisible manifest themselves." Inner Truth, The I Ching.

Copywriter's Roundtable

I keep mentioning this newsletter in my blogs - wish I was on commission!

If you're looking for an easy writing style then John Forde is a good person to copy. He writes conversational English, communicates easily and again like Fred Gleeck always has something funny/interesting/useful to say. Check it out - might suit you.

Article today about writing websites that make money.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Books into film scripts

"I've loved you so long"

Watched a great film last weekend, I've loved you so long, with Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein. Along with the film which is about loss, love and relationships, there's a piece from the director Philippe Claudel.

I have to say it's the best performance I've seen from Kristin Scott Thomas who I think is often wasted in films as an elegant wearer of clothes. This was honest and raw and I rooted for her character all the way even though what's she's done is unpalatable.

What I found interesting was the director discussing the difference between his writing of the book and his approach to the film. In a unique position as the writer and director it still took him many years to make the transition to the script.

Unless your French is better than mine you, it's a subtitle experience but worth it. In fact I thought at one point I'd like to turn off the sound and just watch it as a silent film. So much emphasis on facial expressions and emotions.

Definitely worth a look. Now on DVD.

Fred Gleeck - Newsletter snippets

I always receive lots of e-newsletters. After being overwhelmed a few years ago I'm more selective about who I follow.

One of those is Fred Gleeck who always has interesting things to talk about. If you've ever thought you might like to run an information business - maybe you know loads about juggling, or knitting socks or creating patterns, then the way he does it is a place to start. Just check him out on Google and you'll find lots of references to him.

Shirley MacLaine quote

"I think of life itself, now, as a wonderful play that I've written for myself... And so my purpose is to have the most fun playing my part.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

website navigation

Why do websites make it so difficult for visitors to find their way around.

I've spent several hours today checking organisation contact details for a client. My logical head says that if you want people to contact you by phone, ie such as a helpline, then it would appear prominently on the site.

Not so. Some sites make it like a treasure hunt. Except they don't give you any clues to help you. Contact us links go nowhere near contact details. I just find the whole web design thing bemusing sometimes.

We want people to use our sites and find their way easily. So we should make it easy for them.

It's just that simple. Isn't it?

In the news

To carry on the theme from last week, you may already know about the website

Monday, 16 March 2009

Comic Books and Graphic Novels

Making Comics:Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud

I've little experience with graphic novels but I know they're a popular format for writers. This recommendation is not from personal experience but is a leading guide to the genre. If you haven't met it before then it sounds like a good place to start.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Chocolate corner

I found this joke courtesy of

A man found a bottle on the beach. He opened it and out popped a genie, who gave the man three wishes. The man wished for a million dollars, and poof! There was a million dollars. Then he wished for a convertible, and poof! There was a convertible. And then, he wished he could be irresistible to all women... Poof! He turned into a box of chocolates.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

How to create an effective website Part One

Today's blog is from the Writer's Little Book Club web strategist, Kirsty Farrelly.

Kirsty as well as having 17 years experience in selling books with Waterstone's, uses very effective methods of producing effective websites. Why is that important for an author? Well even if you have a traditional publisher handle your book, they will expect you to back up their work with what you do. And if you're in business, then it makes perfect sense to use your website to promote your book.

How to have an effective website Part 1 by Kirsty Farrelly

Remember, beauty is only skin deep!

This applies to the web too. Imagine setting your eyes on something beautiful but the conversation is dull, dull, dull and does not offer you what you want.

So many websites do this, designed beautifully but have no substance and no benefit to the user. Research shows you have 8 seconds to grab someone's attention, that's it, 8 seconds, so by the time your visitor has look at its prettiness and you have started by saying "Welocome to our website, we are..." your visitors have clicked off and moved onto your competition.

My to start off and there will be many more tips to follow - Every visitor to your website has a "problem". Start by thinking about that, then tell your visitors how you are going to solve it.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Articles - longer

Writer's Little Book Club - the purpose

I like to keep these blog entries short and snappy on the whole because if you're like me, then you're busy and want information fast.

Sometimes though I feel the need to write a longer article - not I hope to be pompous but to think through a topic in a fuller way.

We had a meeting this week of the Writer's Little Book Club team to plot the strategy for the next few months. Since we all like to eat, we met up at our favourite Thai Restaurant in Nottingham, Pretty Orchid. (I love their vegetarian noodles)

Any way, as you can imagine with strong minded people we all have to put in our 2 penny worth and of course it's valuable that it isn't just my voice. As an older person than the others, I need their input on new technologies and ways of presenting information.

What I am firm about though are three things.:
that what we offer is practical information with solid value
that we appeal to writers who want to write for business not just creative writing
and most important to me
it should be fun.

If we can offer you information in an easy to absorb way, in small chunks as Kirsty Farrelly always says, and you can enjoy learning then I think we'll meet our aims. And if we're going to learn, then why not enjoy doing it.

Writing doesn't have to be hard work. Yes we have to put in the time and the effort but we should also love doing it. I was won over to words at the age of 11 when my English teacher Mr Rush introduced me to The Kids from Dead End Street.

And meeting the plays of Shakespeare and the poetry of John Keats was a sheer sensous pleasure. It was like having drunk bottles of champagne very fast. Not that I knew what champagne was in those days. Did I understand it all? Of course not - but that wasn't the point. I loved the sound of it, the rhythym of it and the power.

So whether you're writing for business or pleasure; whether you want to write for your website or to win the Booker Prize it doesn't make any difference to me. I want to help you have fun with your writing, manage your writing projects more easily and get as much pleasure out of it as I do.

We have some ambitious plans for the next few months. Yes we'll probably make mistakes but we're going to give it our best shot and since we intend to enjoy what we do, why don't you come along for the ride? We'd love to have your company.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Proof reading errors

Writers and Proof Reading errors

We've all done it haven't we? Rushed to do a piece of work, hit send on the email and then realised there were some mistakes.

Oh how embarrassing. Except that usually they're honest mistakes not deliberate howlers. Proof reading is one of the most difficult things to do, especially for your own work. Which for would be authors can prove a test.

My sister is a proof reader and I know how complicated some of the text is that she looks at. And how much effort goes into the work she does to get it right.

With the Writer's Little Book...with Big Ideas, I decided to leave in some mistakes in the text. Well in a book with a purpose to help writers hone their skills across the writing process it seemed a good exercise for buyers of the book to look for them.

It was much against her advice though, because of course she said, people might think you don't know what you're doing. But that brings up another point. Grammar and ways of writing are so varied these days that there seems to be no one style to follow. Use of punctuation differs from country to country and spelling also. (as an aside think of the insidious march of the z instead of s in many words - spell check has a lot to answer for)

Yesterday I went into a toilet in a Nottingham city centre store. On the doors of the toilets was a message about the performance of the toilets explaining the problems. At the end the message read, "sorry for the inconvience". On each of the notices someone had added the correct spelling.

Prrrooof reeding anyone?

Music for writers - what inspires you

What inspires you when you're writing?

Do you need total silence when you write? Or do you prefer to have some background sound?

I've moved positions from this over the time I've been writing. At one time I used to listen quite happily to speech programmes in the background. Until on checking my writing for a client I found that in one part of it were words that had come from the programme not my head!

Since then I've been more careful about what I choose. And sometimes I do prefer total silence.

If I'm doing research for clients or bulletins I'm editing then I can listen to pretty much anything. I'm making notes so at that stage it doesn't matter if I've noted down anything else.

However if I'm creating new text then 'clean' sounds work best for me. Which means no words, unless it's in a language I don't know. Bach or Mozart for preference not because I think about the Genius Effect, but because the sounds are patterned and precise.

Though I must say I like a blast of Latin or Jazz when I need to generate energy especially tidying up energy!

So - what music do you play?

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Writer's Little Book Club recommended reads

The other book I was given for Christmas is Alec Ross, The Rest is Noise

This examination of 20th century music is a masterful look across the whole century relating the music and how composers came to it with the social, political and economic circumstances.

It's a book to dip into rather than read at one sitting. And it's one of those books that cause you to go listen to the music, more informed than before.

To accompany the book there is a website where you can find articles, audio clips of music and countless other excitements. Reading an entry in the book led me to the website where I found a clip of the music of Morton Feldman, which has now resulted in me buying more of his music.

This is the best kind of book that opens up a door to you.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Inspirational quotes for writers

"Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto."

Ray Bradbury

Monday, 9 March 2009

Shakespeare and Company - bookshop extraordinary

Wonderful story in the Guardian about a bookshop in Paris with a refreshing take on books and life. Although I have an Amazon link on the website, I'd be just as happy using an independent bookshop, if we could come to a sensible arrangement.

Bookshops run by people who believe in books not as commodities but as a way of life are becoming as rare as hens's teeth. We should support them and I feel guilty whenever I don't. I know that I've changed my life with the help of books and that's how I think about the Writer's Little Book Club.

Check out the article - a fascinating glimpse of what seems like another world. And the French have always done things differently haven't they?

Sunday, 8 March 2009

In the News

I've started this thread to bring you items of interest about the world of writing, publishing or more general if they catch my eye.

This week I caught up with an intiative combining a publishing company Haymarket Press with their Children and Young People magazine, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and bodies such as Prince's Trust.

Their aim is to focus attention on the good, creative activities of young people rather than all the negative press they normally receive.

Hilary Mantel - on interruptions to writing

Found this article in the Guardian Review yesterday. It always fascinates me about how other writers work and think about writing. Plus it's always comforting that we're not alone in getting stuck. The point she makes about sometimes not knowing when we're finished is so true. It's such a temptation to tinker.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

How to be a writer

Another blog from my colleague Babu Basu

Writer in thought, writer indeed.

What do you think you need to become a writer?
a) A love of words
b) An ability to express your self
c) A life devoted to nothing but writing

It might surprise you to learn that option c) is not necessary, and, for many of us, it’s just not possible. Like other people, writers need money to survive. If you’re having to supplement your income by doing none writing jobs, fear not.

How you think of yourself is key. You can be a writer who is currently temping, or you can be an office temp who occasionally writes.
You decide.

Even if you are only able devote 15 minutes a day to writing, then for those 15 minutes, YOU ARE A WRITER.

Working another job does not make you any less of a writer, just a more determined one. Not convinced? Here’s a few examples for you to consider:
Stephen King, the legendary writer of horror was a high-school history teacher. In order to get himself into a dark frame of mind, he would write in his trailer’s built-in wardrobe.
Michael Burke, author of “Dances with Wolves” was making ends meet working as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant. Blake had just been fired when Kevin Costner rang, asking him to write a screen play for the book.
And whilst writing award winning songs, Madonna made money working at Dunkin’ Donuts and as a nude still-life model.

So, if you want to be a writer, be a writer in your head as well as on the page.

Wisdom by Babu Basu-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Babu BasuThe right business writer for youw. /

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Recommended reads

Today's choice is The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy

"Gripping, chilling and awarded the Booker Prize. Roy's debut novel revolves around young twins who, through family misfortunes, lose their innocence.

At times you fear so much for a character, that you dare not read on.
Roy is both a master wordsmith and a consummate story teller.

A must read.
Babu Basu

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Wacky Words

This word comes from the Uxbridge English Dictionary courtesy of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue


A soft drink for weddings.

I'm not sure if it will ever return after the loss of Humphrey Lyttleton but I'm Sorry was a joy to anyone who loves playing around with words.

Books into films

Read an article in Saturday's Guardian by Salman Rushdie about adaptations. By and large he's not in favour! I loved the film Adaptation and Being John Malkovich both of which he critiques. Never tried to turn a book into a script so have not comments. But read the Sucker's Kiss by Alan Parker recently which was full of visual. As a film director maybe he might have it sussed.

Monday, 2 March 2009

How to become a writer

A longer blog

Normally I try to keep these blogs short and snappy to make a point, bring a smile to your face or inspire you in some other way. I know that you're probably as busy as me and people writing at length may not be what you want.

But I've been inspired to write in more depth following some conversations I've had recently with would be writers.

The first was with a coach I've know for several years. She's always seemed to me confident, up-beat and very focused on achieving what she wants. I was surprised when she confided in me that she'd read a book by someone known to her and found herself wishing that she'd had the guts to write on the same topic.

The second conversation was with someone who runs a business caring for horses. She loves what she does and is very good at it and she wants to write a book about how she came into her business and what it's meant to her. Her lack of confidence is about her poor English.

To put it into context with my own writing business, for many years I would have laughed if you'd suggested I'd be a successful writer for businesses and now an author. I'd have said, "That would be other people you mean."

But here I am six years later and acknowledged as both.

What made the difference for me? How did I persuade myself into being a writer?

I'm convinced that what worked for me is having something I want to say.

I know that's what's happened to me before with other things I've achieved. For example:

It always made me laugh that whenever anyone guessed what I did, for years they guessed I was a teacher. At the time that was the furthest away from a job I wanted. The thought of standing up in front of a group of people turned my stomach to a quivering mass of jelly.

Until... I became an aromatherapist in 1996 and suddenly I had something I wanted to share with people. Something so important to me that I found a way to overcome my shyness and insecurity and started speaking to groups. Any groups that would have me. I talked to women's groups, church groups, WI groups until I'd forgotten completely that I didn't like speaking in public.

And the same happened with my writing. From being unsure about being any good, I suddenly wanted people to know how passionate I am about making sure what they can offer is put across clearly to readers.

So to cut to the chase:

If you want to be a writer then dig into what drives you, what injustice you want to right, what passions you have to change the world, your country, your neighbourhood.

Fire yourself up then write about it. Forget about not having the grammar or the words. All that can be put right if needs be.

Dale Carnegie who was one of the most influential teachers of public speaking always stressed that people will forgive you almost anything about poor speaking or grammar. If you connect with them.

And you can only do that by being honest and yes sometimes making yourself vulnerable by letting your emotions show. Facts and figures are important yes. But most important of all is emotion.

So if you're still hesitating, I beg you begin. And if you've begun and got stuck, then have another go.

Maybe we'll meet somewhere on the writing road. But even if we don't, I'll be rooting for you.