Friday, 27 August 2010

Frederick Forsyth

I noticed that yesterday was the birthday of Frederick Forsyth.  One of my favourite films is The Day of the Jackal and I've watched it many times.  The first time I went with my cousin, ten years younger than me and by his own admission not up on modern history

I enjoyed the film and thought it made a great thriller.  But when I discussed it with my cousin imagine my surprise when he said that he had no idea how it was going to end.  Right up to the final minutes he thought the President would be killed.

So he was able to enjoy the film on a completely different level from me since I knew De Gaulle lived.

It started me thinking about the ongoing question of read the book first or watch the film.  It seems to be a general point that if you've enjoyed the book, you're unlikely to enjoy the film because you know too much about the original.  Even if I try, it's hard to treat the two things as completely separate but I guess I should because they are differnt art forms.

After one DVD I watched, one of the extra features was about the reworking of the book on which the film was based.  It did give me some understanding of how there needed to be changes because of the different formats.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Making Music East Midlands

Not about writing but if you or anyone you know is interested in creating music this organisation co-ordinates information and events around the region.  You can sign up to receive their email bulletins at:

Snippets from this month's bulletin:

World's Largest Orchestra

On the 24 October 2010 the LG Arena Birmingham plays host to the Worlds Largest Orchestra's record breaking attempt. The event aims to bring together over 7,000 musicians of all standards and all instruments, to play in the biggest orchestra ever seen, all whilst raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. For further information.
Vocal coaching for teenagers in Leicester

The Peepul Centre in Leicester is running vocal coaching sessions for teenagers at 6pm on Wednesdays. Each session costs £1. Tel: 0116 261 6000 or 07974045661

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

E.E. Cummings: The Writer's Almanac audio clip,mofh,dv,39ve,a30z,e1o2,b2ud

100 Selected Poems

By E.E. Cummings

"To my way of thinking Cummings is, within his field of personal emotion, the lyrical field, one of the inventors of our time. He puts his inventions down with an unexpected refurbishing of phrase and a filigree delicacy of hairbreadth exact statement that is a continual challenge.”—John Dos Passos

“No one else has ever made avant-garde, experimental poems so attractive both to the general and the special reader; since the early '20s, Cummings has been more widely imitated and easily appreciated than any other modernist poet.”—Randall Jarrell

Monday, 23 August 2010

Di Slaney - businesswoman and poet

Last year at a networking event on creating a pitch in business I met Di.  An experienced entrepreneur running a success marketing company, she disclosed that she also wrote poetry and asked for volunteers to review a poetry collection she was finishing as part of a Creative Writing course at Nottingham Trent University. 

Intrigued I volunteered and last month she sent me her work which I found fascinating.  Not being a poet I couldn't judge it on it's poetic merit but as a piece of work about the joys, frustrations and challenges of running a business I could certainly relate to much of the writing. 

In return for my review, Di kindly agreed to write a piece about the challengs of writing, being in business and how to connect the two sides of what she does.  It makes interesting contrasts about  writers and what they bring to being a writer, depending on their backgrounds.

Di Slaney

I haven’t yet been published, but I’m in the throes of putting the finishing touches to my first poetry collection. This is my final stage dissertation project for the Creative Writing MA course at Nottingham Trent University. I decided to do this course in 2008 as a way to get back to writing creatively after 10 years of focusing on building my marketing business and writing commercially for clients.

What was my writing background?

In my twenties I’d written poetry sporadically, been part of a local writer’s group and had viewed it as a hobby, without any real plan or destination in mind. In my thirties, I hadn’t written anything creatively personal at all – my energies had been ploughed back into my business, with nothing left over. But in September 2008 I’d had a little epiphany after convalescing from major surgery – was time running out for me now I was into my forties? Was I always going to be tethered to the coalface of the business, despite my sizeable team? Could I really write anything decent and what would it take to find out?

I thought that the best way to see would be to do a course where there would be deadlines and goals; a structure to work within that would keep me going when the pressures of my business cranked up and even the ironing pile looked more inviting than a writing assignment ...Plus expert tuition and a supportive community of writers to keep both motivation and output high.

So how has it been?

Well, it’s been a tough two years on the course with some real high and low points. I chose to study part time so that I could continue to work full time in the business, and while this has been essential to keep all the plates spinning, it’s been really difficult to juggle personal and commercial priorities. I’ve found the best way to get concentrated writing time is to get all the business stuff out of the way during the day, deal with domestics in the evening (cats, dog, husband!), have an hour watching TV to mentally ‘switch heads’ then head off upstairs to my office to write into the small hours. Midnight to 2.00am has been the most productive time for me, when everything has gone quiet and no one is screaming for attention in my e-mail inbox. And the rest of the household is snoring happily!

The reality of the course...

has been that – as per everything else in life – you get out what you put in. I have to say that I’ve been disappointed by the lack of community spirit with some of my fellow students, but I’ve accepted that writers tend to be solitary, defensive creatures who don’t necessarily network and ‘trade’ in the way that I’m used to as a business person. I’ve made one strong contact who has been fantastically supportive and we swap morale boosting e-mails in times of writing crisis. I hope that we stay in touch beyond the course and continue to support each other in our writing (her fiction/my poetry). It would be great if we could both get what we’re looking for in terms of readership and publication.

Tuition standards on the course have been similarly patchy, but I’ve had great fortune in my poetry tutor who is inspirational, rigorous and generous with his teaching time – traits that I’ve seen to be in short supply with other tutors who are maybe more focused on their own writing careers than on developing their students.

Have I been a typical student?

No, because I’m used to running and controlling my own environment, setting the goals and organising a team to deliver them. I’m also more numerate, clinical and impatient than most of the literary types that I’ve encountered, and have often felt that I’ve been speaking a foreign language in my dealings with academia.

Have I got what I’d hoped for from the course?

Overall, I think yes – I’ve definitely been spurred on to write regularly and have learned a lot about form, editing, the perils of publishing and the literary scene. Will I keep writing beyond the course? Definitely. I’ve got focused energy and purpose now for my own writing and also, as an unexpected by-product of the whole process, renewed passion and enthusiasm for my business.

The irony is that having started the course feeling dispirited about life in general and my business in particular, my poetry collection is all about the process of building and running a business! A business/poetry fusion project, as it were.

Where do I go from here?

’sME – the poetry diary of an entrepreneur will be finished in the next two weeks, and available in pamphlet form at the Prowess conference at The Belfry Hotel, Nottingham on 16th September. Hopefully this will mark the start of a new phase for me as a poet, as well as the end of my time as a creative writing student.

For more information about Di Slaney, her company and her upcoming event go to

Eileen's footnote
Thanks Di for your thoughts about your experiences.  As a businesswoman of many years, I find writers often self absorbed and not very practical in the way they work.  Because I write for business, I'm used to deadlines, being paid and being pragmatic.  Doesn't sit well with me then when I see them throw up their hands because the practical side of writing seems hard.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Verbotomy: a site for lovers of language

Site encourages web surfers to create their own words to fit the amusing definitions provided each day. ‘lexactitude’ (indicating the tendency to unstoppably correct others’ grammar). If you're a syntaxidermist, then take a look.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Resources for writers: The Yellow Room

The Yellow Room

is a place where women writers can gather for support, encouragement and friendship. It produces a smart print magazine twice a year full of short stories written by women in the UK, as well as an informative and welcoming website with invaluable information about how to write a good short story for any market.

Do Send short stories of up to 5,000 wds

Don't send multiple submissions

Friday, 20 August 2010

What's your book about?

'If you are pointing out one of the things a story is about, then you are very probably right; if you are pointing out the only thing a story is about you are very probably wrong - even if you're the author.'
Neil Gaiman

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Essential characteristics to be a writer

If I had to list the top 5 characteristics a writer needs they'd be:

The quote below from Ray Bradbury equates to my Joy plus some extra energy.

'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

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Fiction Fire writing course, Trinity College, Oxford


offers creative writing day courses, mentoring, critiquing and editorial advice with novelist and experienced writing tutor Lorna Fergusson. Inspiration in the beauty of historic Oxford. Courses include: Making Memorable Scenes (2 October) and Shape Up and Make Your Pitch (16 October).

Trinity College, Oxford

2 and 16 October

£95 for each course, including refreshments and a course pack

07827 455723

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Random thoughts from a consultation with a client

Talked to Sara Dale about her book, books and writing in general last week. 

With her book she's moving smartly on towards the end of her first draft.  She has the last few chapters mapped out and on past experience when she sits down to write, it's flowed well with her thoughts crystallised and focused.

The question then is what to do with the first draft.  Thanks to our combined strategy, she's already started making links with people in her field, and those at the sharp end of managing work and life issues.  These links have provided feedback for her that she's on the correct track with the book and also guided her towards topics that are relevant and appropriate.

It's been a fascinating process as an observer and Sarah certainly thinks she's made more progress than she thought possible in only four months with the help of an outside nudger.

Now she's scanning her network for contacts that might help her on the next stage of taking the book to published stage.  But shaping the book from the beginning has I believe been an important strategy that will pay off for her big time later down the road.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Writer's block

'There's no such thing as writer's block. That was invented by people in California who couldn't write.'
Terry Pratchett

Friday, 13 August 2010

Writing: do you have special notebooks?

I have a friend who havswhat amounts to an obsession with stationery and can't resist buying, 'just another notebook'.  She's not even a writer!

I came across this article which made me laugh about stationery obsessions and writers.

And then I found a couple of sites devoted to special stationery - and pens.

I met the man from Lincoln Pen Company sometime ago but his pens are a little out of my league.(till I sell my novel for millions that is).

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Have you been published?

"People are certainly impressed by the aura of creative power which a writer may wear, but can easily demolish it with a few well-chosen questions. Bob Shaw has observed that the deadliest questions usually come as a pair: "Have you published anything?" – loosely translated as: I've never heard of you – and "What name do you write under?" – loosely translatable as: I've definitely never heard of you.

Brian Stableford

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Monday, 9 August 2010

Bookshops - home and abroad

Last week I was on holiday in Switzerland. One thing that being out of your normal surroundings offers is the chance to see how other countries do things.

I'm always struck by how many more independent bookshops there are abroad than now seems the case in the UK.  Last year when I was in Palma, Majorca, I walked down a street in the old town and found three of significant size. 

It wasn't any different in Switzerland.  In Interlaken where I was based last week, I saw three among all the tourist shops. 

Now I'm not sure how their publishing and bookselling industry is organised but maybe there aren't the same overwhelming constricting deals with large supermarkets and chains over there.  The two big supermarket groups in Switzerland are Migros and Coop.(no I haven't missed out the hyphen.  That's how they spell it over there.)

And yes they did have books and magazines  like in our giants but that didn't seem to have throttled the smaller shops.  Maybe I'm looking at things through rose coloured glasses but I'd like to believe that the independents are thriving. 

I'm looking to buy some books but I want to browse among the topic before I buy.  On Amazon I need to do searches and even with their search inside facility it doesn't give me the same feeling as having the book in my hand..  In Waterstones I'm looking at what people think is commercial and will sell.  On two occasions this year I've searched for what seem to be significant authors in a certain field.  Not only were they not represented on the shelves in the Nottingham Waterstones, they didn't even appear in their online availability.  This despite them being available on Amazon.

But please, I want to look first before I buy.  Is that too much to ask?

Is it just me or are you as frustrated in your book buying?

Thursday, 5 August 2010

On Writing

'I didn't want to be a writer, but I became one. And now I have many readers, in many countries. I think that's a miracle. So I think I have to be humble regarding this ability. I'm proud of it and I enjoy it, and it is strange to say it this way, but I respect it.'

Haruki Murakami

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Publishers submission guidelines

Following on from yesterday's entry about finding an agent it's important to understand about the format that publishers and agents prefer for submissions.  Anything in the wrong format will be chucked out without reading.  Brutal but you can see their point when they receive so many.

Here's a link to find many submission guides in one place.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Literary agents: how to find one

The question people ask me the most is how do I find a publisher or an agent.  It's a bit like how long is a piece of string.  Depends on your type of writing, their interests and many other intangible factors.

What you have to do is think about what you're doing when you're looking.

Here is a link to offer some advice and the names of some agents.