Monday, 29 June 2009

Why write a book?

Writing like tennis?

I was watching an interview with Martina Navratilova and she quoted Billie Jean King.

'The ball never came over the net the same twice.'

It really struck me as profound because it was one of the reasons that Billie Jean King kept up her interest and success in the game for so long.

Maintaining that degree of focus and attention to detail has to be a key differences between the champion, at anything, and the next best.

Relating it to writing I guess it has to be the passion to choose the most appropriate and focused words possible. In writing there is natural talent just as in tennis. But there's also the determination to rise above the rejection that all writers feel and invest the time and effort.

In the western world we all have the same alphabet to use. It's what we do with it that counts to inspire, set alight or comfort others.

I've just finished reading Nadine Gordimer's Get A Life. Such elegant but intense writing. You can imagine her weighing the words to produce the result she aimed for.

It's one of those books that produces questions in your mind that you can't answer in a second.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Nelson Mandela quote

"A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special."

Friday, 26 June 2009

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Judy Garland quote

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of somebody else."

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Sixteen and Harry Christophers

Last Saturday evening we attended a concert in Derby Cathedral where the incomparable group The Sixteen performed.

I've seen them on TV and heard them on the radio but nothing prepared me for the sound they created. Singing Purcell and James Macmillan they kept us enthralled.

I can only imagine the hours of work that go in to produce a sound like that but I'm privileged that they do it and that I heard it.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Writers' working methods

I'm always fascinated by the way other writers work and organise themselves. It gives me inspiration and also comfort when I find out famous authors have struggled like me.

Two snippets from Writer's Almanac which I keep on plugging as it's full of interesting facts and nuggets.

Hunter S Thompson typed out the whole of The Great Gatsby to learn about writing style.
Dan Brown used a dictaphone while he was out jogging to get to grips with the plot of The Da Vinci Code.

Writing templates for business

There are a lot of templates out there for business writers to follow and I agree they can be helpful. But I've always recommended would be business writers especially those wanting to write for the web to do it themselves from scratch. Yes it takes a little longer but the dividends in understanding what you're doing pay off time and again.

I cane across the same thing in a review of a children's illustrator, Bruce Ingman, who was discussing his style. What stuck in my mind from the review was his comment that you have to understand what you're doing before you can pull it apart.

Copying for copying's sake will end up in stale text and parrotted phrases.

Develop your own style with your own personality so that you can write about your business with authority and passion.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Joan Baez quote on living

"You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. But you can decide how you're going to live now. "

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Cygnus Books If you're interested in spiritual development and are looking for an ethical bookseller then Cygnus Books will fit the bill for you.

Based in Wales they are a small independent company who pour their whole energy into serving their customers. They have built up a loyal following despite the challenges from larger organisations. On their website you can find books, cds, dvds and information about a holistic retreat in Wales.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Drivetime Classics Nottingham 16 June

What a fantastic experience!

I apologise because I'm probably about to babble but I've been on such a high since the concert last night.

What a sound we produced in that hall. I wanted to be both part of it and up at the top of the hall to listen to it. We sang our two pieces together in the middle of the concert and even after a very brief rehearsal with the conductor who was excellent, and the orchestra, the wonderful Halle from Manchester we sounded great!

Just to be part of such an experience was a thrill and a privilege.
So thank you to Making Music in Leicester for organising it, to Angela Kay for her hard work in rehearsing us and Greg Batsleer for making us sound wonderful.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

What makes you passionate?

I've been watching as many of the programmes in the BBC thread on poetry and reflecting that my passion for words was ignited by reading Keats.

At 14 with adolescent longings and no thought that I could write about my life, reading Keats startled me, terrified me and opened up a new world of words to me. Unlike modern teaching when children are encouraged to create for themselves, we sat in rows and listened.

It came back to me again last week when I went to a talk given by Rob Pittam from BBC ~Working Lunch~ and John Hemingway ex journalist and PR person.

The one thing they were agreed about in the fight for businesses to gain recognition and publicity was passion and it's what's lacking in many business websites. Rob described trying to get people to relax and just be themselves when they talked about their business rather than putting on their best clothes for tea in the parlour.

We get passion knocked out of us often when we enter the world of adulthood and work but if I think about the people who've drawn me to their products and services, it's those with passion I remember most. Like a young woman who ran Spanish clubs for children. She could hardly stand still she was so excited about what the classes could offer the children.

Sometimes when I get excited about things I start to babble which is embarrassing maybe but the words pour out of me as I try to communicate what I feel.

That's how we should write about our businesses. With such passion that even if people don't need our services, they remember the total commitment we have and the energy we create for what we love to do.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Nottingham Drivetime Classics 16th June 2009,6pm

Had a fantastic time yesterday at the rehearsal for the concert. There will be over 500 of us in the choir.

If you're an experienced choir member then you will be used to the excitement. But for me it was just wonderful. I was terrified but then reassured because other people hadn't done it before either.

The level of sound we managed even without the real choir taking part or the orchestra was thrilling. I'm so looking forward to it tomorrow even though it will still be scary.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Writing Bullets

An email from Ted Nicholas prompted me to add this about writing bullets.

What's the point of bullets?

  1. You can get over all your important points very quickly.
  2. They're easy for people to read.
  3. They make you focus on what's important.

Of course like any other form of writing there is a skill to designing them. I read Gary Halbert's newsletter when I was learning copywriting and he challenged beginners to copy 500 successful bullets to help them understand how to write them.

Did I reach 500? Not quite but I still have the several hundred that I did do. Like copying successful sales letters, what it teaches you is the rhythm and structure.

Bullets should be designed to tease, to attract attention and to confirm you know what you're talking about.

A tip I learned from Rodale Books bullets. If you're selling a book then include the page number of the book in the bullet. That confirms it's real and leads the reader to want to go straight to that page.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Business Writer's Block and how to slide around it

When I learned copywriting one of the strategies I was given was to create a swipe file.

That is find successful promotions, sales letters and emails and learn from them. As far as I can tell all the great business copywriters do it. I know that Joe Vitale has a collection of successful promotional material stretching back into the 19th century.

My collection measures about 2 metres on my bookshelves and if I get stuck then I go looking for help. Of course you're not going to copy word for word what other people have done. Not ethical and in the long run stupid. But the ideas that the material contains can jump start your imagination and your writing.

Why re-invent the wheel when there are such great guides out there for you to learn from.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Cardiff Singer of the World competition is a treat.

Intensity, drama, pathos, love, reconciliation. What more could you want in a 15 minute programme. Have I a favourite yet? Yes several but I'm reserving judgement till I've heard them all.

Will confess to a leaning towards the counter tenor Yuriy Mynenko and I very much like the English soprano Anna Stephany. I don't think either of them will win but they both drew me into their performances.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Monday, 8 June 2009

QUAD Gallery Derby Prayer Project by Daphne Wright

was fascinating. 7 Videos showing individuals involved in the act of prayer or meditation. I found the experience moving as I watched them connect with their inner thoughts and what represents the divine for them.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Alice Munro winner of Man Booker award

I'm a great fan of short stories and it's good to see Alice Munro be awarded this prize. I love the spare nature of her writing with never a word wasted.

Here's a very brief interview with her.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Simon Armitage - Gawain and the Green Knight

Fascinating BBC programme about the translation that he did of the medieval poem. Following what is thought to be the route Sir Gawain took in his quest for the Green Knight.

I've recently read Armitage's translation of The Oddysey which I raced through because it was so captivating. Like the best reviews or programmes about books, listening him talk in the programme made me want to race to read his translation.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Ken Follett writing routine

In an interview Follett said that he writes at home from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., five days a week, six if he gets 'excited.' He aims for writing 3,000 'publishable' words a day, and he doesn't rewrite more than once.

Drive Time Concert, Nottingham 16 June 2009

Concert taking place at 6pm till 7pm in Royal Concert Hall. They asked for singers to go and sing with the Halle orchestra.

So before I could turn coward I applied and have now received some music. We're joining in with Zadok the Priest and something from Carmina Burana.

It's 40 years plus since I sang in a choir and I was only dragged there to make up the numbers. It will be a great experience and who knows could lead to more fun.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Gary Short poem about cats hunting

in the Writer's Almanac today.

Very apt because we had the present of a baby wood pigeon in our kitchen last night. Humphrey our loving but maddening cat had brought it home to eat in comfort.

Ugh. We've given it a decent burial in the garden this morning. And we're still waiting for Humphrey to turn up.

He's not staying away from shame. Definitely not his style.

Iit's because the tree surgeons are in the residential complex next to us chopping down the trees. Humphrey hates mowers, rubbish lorries and any other whining equipment.

Sad to see the trees go but they are very tall and maybe dangerous. Don't know but I hope they'll come back soon. Also sad to see them done this time of year rather than before they came into leaf.

Our cynical thought is that it's probably a budgetary thing.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Allen Ginsberg quote

'Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private.'

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Taking five minutes out for the garden

I just took a look round the garden. Beautiful and I wish I could do justice to it in words. The colour, the scents and the sounds.

Life affirming and encouraging.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Leonard Bernstein on inspiration

"Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time...The wait is simply too long."

BBC poetry season

What a treat the Beeb is giving us at present. I've had my interest turned from passive into active again listening to its programmes.

The fun thing was trying to write a poem in the morning programme with Ian Macmillan and Sara Mohr-Pietsch. Though I did struggle to keep up and my efforts weren't anywhere as good as those chosen

The important thing is that I was motivated to try.

And watching the programmes on John Donne, Milton and Beowulf made me take down long unopened volumes from the shelves. Unlike a lot of people my age I didn't meet any of them at school. But I did dive into John Keats and what a perfect poet for an emotional, adolescent wordsmith in the making.

John Donne I did meet later and many years ago did a course on at Missenden Abbey with Geoffrey Smith the jazz presenter. (his Jazz Record Requests is required Saturday afteroon listening in our house)

Writing for business you sometimes lose the richness and depth of poetic language so it's been great to have my senses re-awakened. I'm looking forward to the other programmes to see what else I can learn.