Monday, 18 July 2011

R J Ellroy: Inspiration and courage in spades

Had the pleasure of attending an event in Derby Library on Saturday with Roger Ellroy as speaker.  Wasn't a workshop since we didn't do any writing as such but it was a tour round the life and experience of a successful writer.

There are a lot of quotes about not giving up whether it's learning a skill, creating an invention like Edison or pursuing any other kind of dream.  To hear the story of how his first book finally made it to publication was an example of:
  1. The importance of the personal connection between the writer and someone who believes in them.
  2. The value of patience.
  3. The absolute necessity of self belief.
We looked at the elements of creating a successful novel and the first and only essential thing is to write the book you want to write.  I'd agree with that because I can only start when I have someone running round in my head demanding that I have a go at telling their story.  I've no idea whether it will lead to a published book, so far it hasn't, but tell the story I have to.

Roger gave us some good practical tips especially about self editing which is one of the hardest skills to acquire I think. 

  1. Read aloud; which is something I was taught to do with my business writing.
  2. Print it out in a different font, on different coloured paper; which I haven't tried before.
  3. Read it in a different place from where you wrote it.
It was a thoroughly entertaining day though at the start I felt embarrassed because I hadn't read any of his books.  Now I have three on my pile and knowing the background to how they were written look forward to the experience.

If I needed any other reason to like him, he's a passionate supporter of libraries and does a lot of similar events. 

For more information about him

Sunday, 17 July 2011

What's the point of language?

When I met my writing mentor last week we talked about structure of a novel, mine, which as a result needs completely overhauling.  But when we'd finished the official session, of course we carried on talking about writing.  In particular description in novels.

I confessed that I couldn't get along with Ian McEwan's books;  when I dislike a writer's work who has been given critical acclaim I tend to think there's a fault in my understanding of how to appreciate it.  It was a comfort when he admitted to a similar problem with Margaret Attwood.  We both seemed to be obsessed less with beautiful writing and more with the story.

Our chat came into my mind again this morning when I caught up with some Writer's Almanac emails and read about Jhumpa Lahiri.  The item quoted her story about buying chairs with her husband.  He wanted spectacular beautiful ones; she opted for comfort.  For her writing is less about being beautiful than about doing something useful within the context of the story she's telling.

As a struggling novelist I always gain comfort hearing about famous writers and how they've dealt with their writing challenges.  Just yesterday I dipped into a book on writing crime novels by Patricia Highsmith at a passage about having to cut out a huge number of pages she really liked in a manuscript to satisfy an editor.

Gives me the heart to keep going!

Friday, 15 July 2011


Lyric Lounge Lincolnshire is making the first of its three stops in the county in Stamford on Saturday, July 23.

A spectacular temporary performance space will be created in the Voodoo Lounge downstairs at Mama Liz’s in North Street and writers and performers of all ages are welcome to come along, listen in, get writing and maybe even start performing, alongside renowned spoken word artists Adisa, Byron Vincent and Hannah Jane Walker.

for more details see and go to the events page

Monday, 11 July 2011

War and Peace - the end

We've finally reached the end of our DVD marathon with War and Peace.  It's only the second time I've seen the series, the first being when it showed in 1972.

Of course like with any older work it's been fun spotting actors now mega famous like Antony Hopkins , long gone actors and actors who have disappeared seemingly without trace.   I enjoyed especially seeing Alan Dobie again, one of my favourite actors.

What struck us was how leisured the story was in the way it unfolded.  And on a practical note how easy it was to read the credits unlike today when they whizz past and you have very little chance to appreciate who has done what work.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Derbyshire Arts supports writers

Enjoyed a day out at Bakewell yesterday for a networking and information day called Writing Ambitions.  This is the second one I've attended and found supportive and helpful.  Speakers included Ali Betteridge, Literature Development Officer for Derbyshire(and thanks to the county for keeping her in post when so many have disappeared) James Urquhart from Arts Council in the region and Catherine Rogers from Writing East Midlands.

There's too many things going on across the East Midlands to include here so I recommend you visit the websites for events, grants (yes they still exist) mentoring and general information.

As always it was a pleasure just to be in the same room as focused, lively writers.  Two of the workshop segments I attended were on dialogue in different media like radio, screenwriting and plays with Louise Page and writers groups with Cathy Grindrod.

I've always avoided writers groups but we discussed how to set up a group that was focused on supportive critiquing and feedback.  Lots of pitfalls of course but lots of benefits if you can get it right.

Bakewell was colourful with bunting for the Carnival and the journey, especially going early in the day, an absolute pleasure.

And of course I came home with a Bakewell Tart.