Thursday, 26 May 2011

Week's jottings

I'm surfacing this afternoon from a week's worth of editing work.  I enjoy doing it but this time because I've been checking out a lot of websites it's given me a snapshot of what's happening with some government departments.  There's a lot of rationalisation of sites taking place and information services shut down. The tip of a lack of funding iceberg.

What else has been happening?

I went to see Ibsen's League of Youth at Nottingham Playhouse last week.  Apparently it's an early play but it had some digs at politicians and coalitions much appreciated by the audience of mostly older people.

Enjoyed a trip across to Norfolk on Sunday with time in Hunstanton and at Norfolk Lavender.  Hadn't seen their red cliffs before.  We did get on the beach having been blown along the promenade.  As Noel Coward said 'Very flat Norfolk' though I didn't feel quite that sense of vast emptiness I had when I went to Ely and drove across the fens. Whenever I buy vegetables in the winter I think about the people who pick them out in that area and across the Lincolnshire wolds.  Even with their technology it's still hard work.

Reading Sophie Hannah at the moment Point of Rescue - very complex plot.

Enjoyed the Vera series on television with Brenda Blethyn but had only read one of the books and they changed a lot in that episode.  Have to treat them as separate entities which is hard when you are attached to the books.  I love Elizabeth George's novels but even the early adaptations couldn't do justice to them.

Relistening on BBC 4 Extra to the wonderful Simon Russell Beale in the Smiley adaptations.  The pictures are better on radio.It's also been giving me chance to catch up with some Jane Austen adaptations with Juliet Stevenson in Persuasion.  Quite my favourite Austen book.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Quotes for writers

"When one door closes another opens;but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones that open for us.  Alexander Graham Bell

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Literary Consultancy

TLC and the Guardian Books Pages

"In the month we celebrate 15 years in the business, TLC is delighted to become part of the new Guardian online books pages. TLC is the Guardian's recommended editorial consultancy, and we look forward to working with clients who come our way via their remarkable site. Their newly renovated books section provides a fantastic variety of reviews, resources and news about current books"

For more information on The Literary Consultancy go to

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Open Mic and Poetry night Shindig! on Sunday 22 May

From 7pm in the Jam Cafe, Hockley. Entry is free. Line-up includes Rosie Garner (Salt Publishing), Di Slaney (Candlestick Press), Emma Purshouse (Nine Arches Press) and Jane Commane, the Editor of Nine Arches Press, along with music and words from local legend John Marriott, Open Mic slots and a book stall. Kitchen is open until 9pm and there is a range of alcohol, soft drinks and beverages available to purchase - also cake, a must at any poetry event!

For more details: Aly Stoneman, Poetry Editor - Leftlion Magazine

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The birth of the typewriter

Saw yesterday in The Writers Almanac that it was the anniversary of the first patent in 1893 of the kind of typewriter where you could see the text as you typed.

It's twenty five years since I was converted to using word processors but I still get a childish pleasure in some of the things you can now do on a computer in Word. 

I learned typewriting as a mature student in a class of 17 year olds.  At more than twice their age and probably older than the tutor, it offered me plenty of comic moments especially as she never knew whether to include me in her 'silly girls' admonitions to work harder and better and stop giggling.

We learned on Adler machines with their rat a tat noises and their unforgiving ways.  One of the things I hated most doing on those typewriters was centring text.  Such a performance counting letters and spaces.  What a joy when I transferred to word processing and found a function key that did it all for me.  What a doddle!

Of course a lot of the discipline of learning to type remains.  I touch type still and have this instinct to correct as I go along as we had to.  Not necessary to do it these days and I understand it's not encouraged but the urge remains.

Would I want to go back to the Adler or its modern version?  Probably not but I like the thought that I tamed the beast and could do so again if need be.

Monday, 16 May 2011

MediaCamp Nottingham 4: Saturday, May 21, 2011 from 10:00 - 5:30

Lace Market House,54 - 56 High Pavement,NG1 1HW Nottingham
MediaCampNottingham is next Saturday. As with previous events there will be a performer who has been using tech directly in their practice or in an inovative way to promote themselves as is the case with this events musician, Linda Harrison .

For more information contact Caron-Jane Lyon at

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Stretching myself as a writer

"Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature.... Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Helen Keller

Without a doubt Helen Keller's life had to be an adventure... with her challenges it would never be anything less.

How we view our own lives and construct them to be in control varies according to our personalities.  Maybe the same extends to writing.

I like writing within a structure.  It forces me to create more depth in the writing rather than let it spread out and dissipate.  But creating the structures within which I feel safe to write, i.e. that it feels under my control is another illusion of security.

The novel I've been working on for some time was created within a structure partly because I didn't have the confidence with fiction writing to let it spread, but also because I did feel it was the right container for the action.

Recently I've started planning another book.  Completely different topic and I'm struggling with the shape of the narrative.  Several times I've planned it out, tried to write some of it and failed.  For me that's an indication I haven't planned it properly.  In my head I have the whole story laid out.  What I don't have is the outline plan... and it's driving me mad.  

Yesterday I went to lunch with a friend, a fellow writer and we talked it through which helped me a bit and I came back and wrote a synopsis.  But still I'm not sure how to lay it out.  It's tantalisingly close.

So this morning I decided I'd consult a writing tutor.  At least it will give me a chance to get an outside, i.e. detached viewpoint and make me explain my reasons.  If I can convince him at least of the outline, then I can move on from there and create the format.

Should be interesting.  I have this feeling that I'll need to let go of the type of structures that I've used before and create a different type of structure and it's what's giving rise to that old, 'Can I do it?'

Won't know till I try will I?!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Lincoln Book Festival

10th May 2011 09:00 - 15th May 2011 21:00
The eighth annual Lincoln Book Festival is taking place between Tuesday 10 and Sunday 15 May 2011 and will feature an exciting and varied programme of events celebrating books and all that they inspire.

Saturday 14 May 2011, we have introduced a Children’s Fest Day to bring alive literacy to children.

Friday, 6 May 2011

National Breadmakers Week

I received the newsletter from Doves Farm the organic flour makers which flagged up the celebration next week.  This year I've started baking bread again and I love doing it on many levels.  It makes me feel connected to the earth, to the people who've created the ingredients I use and of course I love the bread being mine and fresh.

My current working book is Dan Lepard's River Cottage Book.  It's a bit serious in some places but very inspirational and I made my first crumpets earlier this year with great success.  Hot buttered crumpets on a wet afternoon.  Wonderful.

For more information on Dove's Farm see and for Dan Lepard see

Thursday, 5 May 2011

What can your writing achieve when you're true to yourself?

"The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world but to fully belong to it. It's not possible to save the world by trying to save it. You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place. discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift---your true self---is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs." [from Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin]

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Anthony Trollope

During each winter my sister and I chose a DVD series for those evenings when it's wall to wall house renovation programmes on the television.

This winter we chose The Pallisers by Anthony Trollope; a series of books about the antics and activities of the upper classes around 1870.  Part of the series is about political ins and outs, manipulation and jockeying for position.

All the way through the series there have been some classic statements about power and what it does to people. The episode we watched at the weekend was about the fate of a coalition government. 

Forget modern politcal journalism; even with all the new technology we have, the behaviour doesn't change and that's why I love reading Trollope.  His acute and accurate reflections on human nature are a joy to read and see represented.

Yes I guess his style is a bit wordy for our modern tastes but I think it's worth persevering for the pleasure of the gems you find in it.

Co-incidentally it would have been his birthday on Sunday.

The series is available on DVD; made in 1970s; it even gives you time to read the credits and chances to spot well known actors in their early days.  Including Michael Cochrane(now a senior figure in The Archers) and Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons, playing together before Brideshead Revisited.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Alex Davis Writers' Day 13 August 2011

10:30-12:30 on the theme of Writing and Selling Short Stories. It should be a really useful session for anyone interested in the short form, and will cost the same as the workshops from last time at £6.
For more details email Alex at

Monday, 2 May 2011

Ann Cleeves and Vera Stanhope

Better writers than me will be praising the adaptation of the Vera Stanhope crime novels after the first episode last night..  These are just my thoughts.

I came late to reading Ann Cleeves and my sister had been urging me to try the books for some time.  Recently I read Blue Lightning with the character Jimmy Perez set in Shetland and Telling Tales where Vera is brought in on a missolved crime.

Loved the character of Vera and who wouldn't.  Real, earthy and sharp.  And Brenda Blethyn was the perfect interpreter.  Perfect for me because she disappeared into the role.  All I saw was Vera.

This morning I've been looking at Ann Cleeves website and read some of her diary.  One of the things I picked up was her thoughts on appearances in bookshops and the difference between the mainstream and the independents.

To check it out see

and the bookshops she mentions

Funny seeing the name Urmston again.  When I worked at Lancashire County Libraries in the circulating department, Urmston was one of the places we sent books to on our Manchester area run.