Sunday 26 July 2009

Toby goes bungee jumping for charity

It ain't easy watching your son lifted almost 200 feet into the air in a cage, then watching him jump out attached only to a large rubber band. Hmm.
But he did so to raise money for The Rockinghorse Appeal
He raise just north of £300.00.

(and now, back to my self-imposed exile until next weekend, when weekly posts will resume.)

Barmouth U3A

When I was in Wales a week back, I was lucky enough to secure an invitation to join the Barmouth U3A writers for their fortnightly meeting. Claudia and I set off on the train, a ten minute journey skirting the sea and crossing the Mawddach Estuary to the little town of Barmouth.
We had a great time hosted by this generous and sparky group of some twenty writers, who provided the most delicious lunch, wine, and had a complete programme organised for the afternoon. We all read our work, and it was terrific to listen to so much creativity pouring out! From poetry and doggerel to writing for children, from short stories and flash fiction to memoir and travelogue, this group celebrated everything, and really loved doing what they do. Their enthusiasm was catching!
One of their number, Mary Howell, was on the point of leaving for England for the prizegiving of the Jane Austen Short Story Award where her entry had been selected for publication in the prizewining anthology.
Claudia did her first public reading to great applause. I read 'Closed Doors' a short story composed of flash pieces, to show what flash can do.
Barmouth U3A do not just write- oh no. They have formed their own publishng house, Round House Publishing which to date has published an anthology of the group's work, and a memoir from one of their number, Richard Paramor.
Some of the poems made me smile if not laugh out loud, and the writers, Evelyn Richardson, Edward Penney and Maggi West were kind enough to send theirs to me for the blog and I am delighted to share them with you. So here they are!
Evelyn prefaces hers with a short introduction.

A little introduction :I looked up the word flibbertigibbet and found footling and the two together amused me and set my mind in motion. Perhaps it provides a different take on how a pensioner of almost 70 years can still be a bit of a dreamer and even change their approach to life, and still have a bit of a devil lurking inside! Evelyn Richardson


I want to be a flibbertigibbet, I want to footle around.
Jump, run and skip and giggle, take both feet off the ground
To cartwheel in the sand and to frolic in the rolling surf.
In fact almost anything that gives rise to an explosion of mirth.
To count all the stars and sing to the moon
Go to bed very late and not rise till past noon.

I want to conga in Dolgellau, do the cancan in Eldon Square,
Rock and roll on the Merion with a daisy chain in my hair.
Start belly dancing in Bala, play tennis in the nude
Although maybe not the latter, as it sounds extremely rude.
To giggle and wriggle like a silly young girl
Wear unsuitable shoes with skirts I can twirl.

I have lived all my life being sensible, wise and quite caring
That still is the case but occasionally I’ll be just a little more daring
As for growing old gracefully well I don’t want to sound churlish
I don’t want to be graceful I’d much rather be girlish.
Embarrass my children by my shocking demeanour
Live in a house which could be infinitely cleaner.
I want to mangle the metre and wreck up the rhyme.
Tho’ some of you here may say “you’re already doing quite fine”

So come on you flibbertigibbets and footlers all
I hope that you will heed this clarion call
The very first flibbertigibbet’s club I wish to proclaim
A new political party with fun its main aim.

So if when out walking in these hills which abound
And you happen to hear a loud laughing sound.
Don’t worry, don’t scurry, you can be sure you have found
Evelyn and her flibbertigibbetty friends and they’re probably just footling around.

CIRCLE by Edward Penney

Is life so spherically convex
Its tangents are of strife and sex?
No straight lines here and no right angles,
A circuitous route that destiny dangles.

The circle opens at conception
Just womb and warmth, its fate’s deception……
If we knew the hassle of what life’s about
We’d have stayed in there and not come out.

When small you learn at first to crawl
That hard things hurt, you start to bawl,
And stressed out mother starts to blub
And brassed off Dad goes down the pub.

Are Mums and Dads a child’s first curse…
Or not to have them… is that worse?
And Grans you kiss reluctantly
Who faintly smell of mints and wee.

And then you’re faced with life at school
In English a past imperfect fool,
And what is trigger-nometry?
A hitman’s training? Yeah, could be.

The bully boy whose name is Bates…
Nickname Master, has no mates…
But you know he’s got it in for you
With his knee in your crutch and your head down the loo.

Then there’s the girl in the class above
Miss Lovelylegs…it must be love…
You dream, you lust, you fantasise…
Of blonde hair, pert breasts………and those thighs.

If truth be told you’ve got no hope,
To her you’re just any old Joe Soap,
Her boyfriends got a car…he’s rich……
He’s a tosser and she’s a bitch.

You drift into an office job,
It’s better to earn an honest bob……
Your Dad tells you, of course he’s right……
But he’s not blessed with second sight.

You’re a wannabe idol, a fledgling rock star,
Ambition burns, there’s a reality bar……
An axeman, a god, a true aesthete……
With Miss Lovelylegs swooning at your feet.

Of course it’s just a dream like life,
You settle down and find a wife
And have two kids, a girl and boy
Who soon become your pride and joy.

And the circle closes, like your Dad
You’re down the pub when things are bad.
You tell your mates that life is fine
As your wife at home pours yet more wine.

Your dreams on hold for another year
You’ll make it yet, no doubt or fear.
Never stop hoping, that’s what Dad said…
Now there’s no hope ‘cause now he’s dead.

You love them all, your family…
Your wife’s the star, that’s plain to see.
Your dreams fade to obscurity
Now your mother smells of mints and wee.

With Apologies to Roger McGough
By Maggi West

I have outlived my youthfulness
An Elder I will be
I no longer need to scintillate
Or even sin till ten past three
I don’t need to find a mate
I’m happy to be me
Most of my life I’ve fitted in
I wanted to keep the peace
Now I’m growing a second skin
I’m wearing it like a fleece
I’m happy to create a stink
I just don’t care what people think
Don’t mind if I’m thought risible
I refuse to be invisible
If we’d no cash we did without
No plastic cards to use
There was no need to scream and shout
No overwhelming need to booze
I’ve been called a ‘stupid old cow’
By a yob in a tin box on wheels
Because he had to use his brakes
And didn’t like the squeals
I was on a pedestrian crossing
He was trying to beat the lights
No wonder there’s so much tension
No wonder there are so many fights
When I was a child
We respected the old
Now it’s all turned around
And we’re out in the cold
Treated with condescension
Expected to be tame
I object to all and sundry
Using my Christian name
Yes I have outlived my youthfulness
An Elder now they see
I intend to make my presence felt
Show I’m not a non-entity

Ha! They still make me smile. Thank you Evelyn, Edward and Maggi, and thank you to all the writers of barmouth U3A for their kindness and generosity. I hope we keep in touch!

Friday 24 July 2009

Couple of calls for flash anthologies...

C'mon all you flashers! Two decent calls for submissions to flash fiction anthologies are out there.

First, Cinnamon Press.
They are calling for flash fiction of up to 600 words, closing date 15th August 2009.
The Cinnamon Press submission guidelines are HERE

Second, Fast Forward Press
They are calling for submissions of flash fiction of up to 1000 words, for another in a series of Fast Forward Anthologies. Closing date 31 December 2009.
The Fast Forward Press submission guidelines are HERE.

(pic of flasher costume from United Mask and party gear website,HERE

Couple of rejections

Rejections, nice and fast, for pieces written during the retreat - from Smokelong Quarterly and Pank. Both with nice notes from the editors, Randall Brown at Smokelong and anon at Pank. The latter was particularly helpful, suggesting places where the piece wasn't working as well as it might and asking for more work in due course.
I am finding it tough not sending work out fequently now that the 'novel' takes up most of my time... I'm quite a junkie for feedback from submissions!

Thursday 23 July 2009


The Website is HERE, with booking details.

Janice Galloway,
Beryl Bainbridge,
Will Self,
Daniyal Mueenuddin
Alison MacLeod
Jane Feaver
Owen Shears
Esther Freud
Ben Okri
Tariq Ali
Manzu Islam
Courtia Newland
Sophie Woolley
Amit Chaudhuri
Helen Dunmore
A.L. Kennedy
Michael Faber
And others...

if you are a half-serious short fiction writer, you have to go!

Wednesday 22 July 2009


The inaugural Fiction Workhouse Writers' Retreat, Capel Cader idris, Llwyngwril, Wales. A fabulous, newly converted Welsh Chapel in a quiet quirky seaside village, a few miles from where I spent five years at boarding school. The Welsh equivalent of St Trinians. Back row: Pauline, Jo, Martin. Front Row: Claudia, me, Valerie.
The chapel is the perfect venue for writers wanting to spend time together working, being inspired, walking, thinking, dreaming and talking. The occasional bit of eating and drinking as well. The chapel has been recently converted to a very high standard, and is equipped with computers, printers, whole libraries of craft books. There are collections of poetry, short stories, novels. There is a bar billiards table, and a vast television. Neither of which got used, even once. There are not two, not three but six huge leather settees, for dolloping, and reading. A farmhouse table, which accommodated four writers plus laptops books paper, and feet up on chairs. The well-equipped kitchen hardly got used, as there is a cafe right opposite whihc serves everything from baaked spuds to welsh lamb cutlets or fish n chips, and delicious salads. We did eat cereal and make loads of coffee. And Jo made a scrummy lentil thing one day.How did we get on? Well, I'd met ev eryone. And I knew how nice they were. But they hadn't. It was fab to arrive a day later than the rest and find that they'd all gelled - and after a few mins it was as though we'd known each other for years. Tons of work got done. I started a new bit of the novel and wrote 2 shorts and 3 flashes. We all went for walks (only I couldnt get up the mountain!)

We met some fascinating local characters. Steve the window cleaner, who has the secret of the crystal skulls...the 'pastor' who lives in a converted church, who told us how you can hear the souls of the damned in hellfire if you listen down specially drilled shafts in Siberia. And Roger, who supplied all the luggage for the Harry Potter films and lives in great splendour in another converted chapel, every inch of which is faux-gothic and filled with stunning antiques. Including a child's funeral bier made into a coffee table. Not my bag, but beautiful. We worked to a routine every day... quite disciplined. And we played hard. I did say we played hard! This is my famous Quasimodo with can of Fanta impression, and Jo's famous 'watch me while I lug a box of wine and a bottle all at the same time down Llwyngwril High Street and hope no one notices...' act. I cant recall what on earth we were doing, right now. ... But the whole week was terrific and we left inspired and refreshed as creative beings.
The chapel is owned by writer Alex keegan, and is perfect for weeks away, whether writers, or families. Five bedrooms, four bath'shower rooms, very comfortable, and huge airy living area. All watched over by Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, who hangs aloft at one end of the chapel.
Last word for Leonardo himself:
"The outstretched arms and legs of a man form a square and a circle: the square symbolizes the solid physical world and the circle the spiritual and eternal. Man bridges the gap between these two worlds.”
And so do writers.

A great week. Thanks all!

And back home last Saturday. A long drive, but the road across Wales is stunningly beaitful. There you go. Two weeks, three countries. I am one lucky girl.

(For more info on the chapel, rental rates etc, it has a website HERE)packed with photos. Squillions of them. Even the hot water tanks...(?)

Tuesday 21 July 2009


Sunday 5th July.
Flight to Cork, where I was met by local poet Lothar Luken and then driven in the company of visiting poet Richard Halperin, to Bantry and the comfort of The Maritime Hotel. (I ask you. What other festival provides a poet as a driver?) And a gloriously happy week at the West Cork Literary Festival.
In its eleventh year, this festival is simply terrific They all are, I’m sure, but this one holds a special place in my heart. The atmosphere is alive, inclusive, challenging, fascinating and fun in equal measure.
I hope I played my part in creating that atmosphere. I ran the Short Story Workshops each morning, from 9.30 to 12.30, up at the school on the hill. (Hill – hmm. Mountainside?) Fifteen buzzy, interested and interesting students. And we all worked our socks off. They created memorable characters, memorable prose, memorable storylines, and I am fascinated to see the results when they send them to me.
I didn’t force them to finish anything, (why? I don’t force myself to finish anything on a certain day…) nor did I force them to read their work out. (Why add in something scary? Somethihg that might stop them writing freely?) This way, everyone just concentrated on making their own stuff as well as they could with constant feedback from me if they sought it. And yes, plenty did want to share!)
I think both those things helped to create a really good non-anxious team spirit. After all, these workshop things are there to kick-start future writing, inject craft skills, future creativity – not just be an end in themselves.
On the final day, I spent time with every participant, planning the next steps with them, reading their work, and giving feedback and encouragement. This was billed as a workshop for beginner short story writers – well, I just wish I had been as focussed and gifted when I started!

What will I remember most from the afternoons and evening events?

Listening to Nell McCafferty, the Irish equivalent of Germaine Greer, slaughter an interviewer in the nicest way possible. Nell McCafferty has little profile in the UK, more’s the pity. Maybe because she was banned by the BBC at one point! Anyway… here is a review of her autobiography, Nell. And it gives a good thumbnail sketch of this powerhouse of a lady.
Listening to Annie Proulx reading a story from her latest collection, Just the Way it Is. The story took over an hour, and you could have heard a pin drop. (cliché!) She was good at answering questions, and spent a while on one asked by meself. About imagery in the story and whether it appeared first draft, or tenth.
“Tenth draft?” she snorted. “I work between thirty and forty drafts per story…each one is worked and worked. They take me a very long time to get right.” Wow.
It was wonderful to find that she started her fiction career at 56 or 58 depending which question you listened to!
A somewhat negative review of the book, Fine Just the Way it Is HERE. The story she read, Them Old Cowboy Songs, is long, and a masterpiece. A mon avis, of course.
I will remember for a long time the genius that is Lera Auerbach, Russian composer, pianist, poet, novelist. Lera had appeared at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival which immediately precedes the Lit fest, and she stayed on to be interviewed and to give a seminar, “A Dialogue with Time”. Guess who was lapping up every word of that seminar! There was a strange synchronicity in our work – same myths, same themes…only hers is music and mine is words. Lovely!

Meeting great characters like Rory Kilalea, who was tutoring the ‘Writing for Radio’ workshop. . Rory ended up compering the Fish prizegiving/launch of their 2009 Anthology, and also press-ganged me into doing a spot of radio acting one evening, the first ever production of the play his students had just written. (Fascinating – a real insight, albeit in a small informal event – how much you have to act with your voice alone!)
And meeting poet Richard Halperin, he of the journey at the beginning. Richard is the current featured poet in Stinging Fly magazine, and I can't find his photo. Go and read his work. It is terrific.
And lots of stuff. The Fish anthology launch was wonderful. Held in St Brendan’s Church on Wolfe Tone Square, Bantry. And there I was doing my bitty reading, and chose a particularly emotional section of my story… during which our hero says the words piss, shit and fucking in quick succession. It was only when I heard a sharp intake of breath from the back that I remember this was a church….oops.
And the best bit? Supporting one of my ‘students’ who wanted to read a story at the open mike event… his first public reading, and he was so nervous, but in the end really terrific. Good stuff Dave! (Dave has since been paid rather well for a few stories accepted by the Cork Evening Echo – eat your heart out short story writers all!)
Then, Saturday 11th, I was taken back to Cork, for an evening flight to Gatwick. 'And home?' you ask. Nope. meeting Chris there for a pizza, picking up ccar, and driving half way to my third country, Wales!

Another thank you to the organisers of the festival, especially the dynamic Sinead Collins, for inviting me to run the workshops.

Found Poetry, stories, inspiration, ideas.

I was asked about inspiration, and also about how one should credit sources when one needs to... and I think this fits the bill.
Found Poetry. (a genre all of its own, and not one to be particularly proud of, but hey.)
Both these examples were fashioned from the words of others, subbed as such, accepted as such, and published as such. As found poetry. With the original writers clearly credited.
Two examples linked to this old blog post, HERE.
As far as how I have been inspired myself... examples are legion.
And THIS STORY character's job was inspired by a character in a Raymond Carver story. A vacuum cleaner salesman. Great job to give a character, great metaphors, collecting all those little bodily bits we leave behind us! Note that the voice, the setting, the other characters, the theme, the plot, the voices, dialogue, etc etc. are my own. I created an unhappily married couple, a wife with OCD. Cleaning all the time, and a horror of her husband's bodily detritus - the bits that end up down the side of chairs.
Published early on, in 2005, would I do anything different now? Yes! I'd be a bit more creative with the title. It was a deliberate nod to Carver- ha!!

Another example is the opening paragraph of 'Dodie's Gift'. The setting of a beach with blood on the sand inspired greatly by a setting in Jim Crace's novel, Being Dead. Then I charged off down my own creative path. With my own characters, voices, settings, plots, themes. His is a brilliant novel, tracking the decomposition of two bodies in a parallel narrative alongside the characters' backstory. Mine is short story about the rape of a simple shop assistant.

I get inspiration everywhere. Some writers are terrific and open me up creatively, and I am eternally grateful for that.
It’s not difficult. Inspiration is such a different thing to wholesale lifting, copying, whatever term we use.
Tania Hershman puts it all far more clearly than I have, HERE on her blog post for plagiarism day last week, where she discusses her gratitude for how two short story writers have helped her to open up her own work. She says the question she asks of other writers is this:
How can I be inspired by what this writer has done and employ that in the service of telling my story?

That was, I thought, a terrific post. Lucid, honest, and perfect for the purpose. Like her stories!


England. Ipswich.
On Friday 3rd July I set off for Ipswich and the Ip Art Festival, where I was leading two back-to-back flash workshops.
That night, I attended a reception for Martin Bell, who spoke just brilliantly. He covered everything I would have wanted. The breakdown of our political system, thanks largely to the emergence of the first generation of career politicians, a lack of true vocation and plenty of untrammelled greed. The government being the first in history not to have a serving soldier in the cabinet, and the appalling treatment of our soldiers as a result. Wars without reason. Lack of correct equipment. Platitudes from ignoramuses when someone’s son dies as a result.
On Saturday 4th, I ran my two workshops at The Ipswich Institute. 12 writers per workshop, two three-hour sessions with a break for lunch. We worked in the restaurant, as it was the coolest place in the building…a very hot day. They left knackered… so did their tutor!
I had an hour to recover with a cuppa, flat out on a settee in an upper room – before a quick change and an interview led by Gill Lowe of Ipswich University, a reading from Words from a Glass Bubble and a question-and-answer session.
And on 5th, I drove down to Gatwick to hand over my car keys to Chris (husband) prior to flying to Ireland for the West Cork Lit Fest. More in next post.
Many thanks to the organisers of Ip Art literary wing for their invitation, and for their generosity.

Photo of Martin Bell from the Daily Mail online, HERE. Excellent article, by the way.

Saturday 18 July 2009

BBC Radio Interviews

As promised a few posts back, you can listen to a lengthy interview about how I traced and found my family... including four full sisters I never knew I had... HERE on the BBC's iPlayer. It's the top link... five programmes with Alison Fearns, starting Monday last.
The interview was serialised over this last week. I gather it only lasts for a week, so Mondays recording will disappear on Monday afternoon... etc etc

Anyone who wants to listen, use the slider to scroll along to about two thirds of the way through the afternoon's programme. 2.00 to 2.10 ish on the timer...if varies each day.

A nice story. And it is mine... I will be writing about this at some point, so if you are drawn to use any of it, please let me know and we can at least discuss.


Grateful thanks to Jane Smith (who among a zillion other useful things, keeps the blog How Publishing Really Works ), for instigating a viral campaign to up awareness of plagiarism. It starts HERE on her blog and has spread wider and wider. There are loads of things to say, lots of angles. Kay Sexton, always thought provoking, provokes a real humdinger of a thought storm on her blog, HERE, for example… a terrific look at the need for debate on the issue as it pertains to work on the net.

Here is my contribution, with apologies for lateness. I am technologically challenged. Put it down to the fact that I was In Wales. of which more later in the week.

or How to avoid crossing the line.
Or even better, The “Creativi-tree” and suchlike inventions.

Many writers work in face- to- face groupings or online writing communities, and gain great benefit from so doing. Positive benefits include (if I need to say it -) the giving and receiving of feedback, the sharing of information regarding markets for one’s work, the support of one’s peers when it comes to rejections and other knock-backs and of course, the joy of celebrating successes together, in addition to that unquantifiable thing, an antidote to the loneliness of the long distance writer. There can be a synergy that becomes the old cliché of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

So we are constantly reading each other’s work, analysing it, offering criticism. And, just as writers find inspiration in everything – especially reading- we may also find inspiration in the work of our colleagues. But groupings like this thrive on integrity and trust. And we must be aware of the difference between inspiration and something else…

Let’s look at what inspiration is/does. We see an image. Hear a voice. A musical phrase. We may read a line of prose, or poetry. Smell something that reminds us of….(think Proust). Suddenly, the floodgates open in our own creative spaces, pushed open by our reaction to the original stimulus. I am sure there are many intelligent academic papers dedicated to an anlysis of how stimuli work on the brain – this is just a lay interpretation. But I know from personal experience that the words of some writers work wonders on me more than others. Some writers just open me up, start the flow, inspire me to create.

An honest awareness of our own creative processes is important. It is good to know how we work best, and from where we often find our inspiration. And it is good to celebrate the differences in the approaches of our colleagues. To be aware of other ways in which to work can only be good. Trying different things out, stretching ourselves, is like going to the gym. (Don’t ask…).

But it is also important to respect the personal space of others. And I have learned the hard way that it is vital to listen to those little warning voices that tell us when something is not quite right with our working relationships.

What do I mean? Well, it is easy to draw a comparison with meeting someone face to face. We all have a personal space boundary, if you like, which, if breached, feels quite uncomfortable. Think of the over-friendly man/woman you met once at a party who stood just that little bit too close – invading your space so you felt you wanted to take a step back.

You can invade the space of a fellow writer in exactly the same way. Whereas the physical manifestation of this boundary-crossing is a sense that you want to move backwards, the writing space-invader causes a similar reaction – only maybe it is not always recognised. As I didn’t. I just felt uncomfortable! Silly me.

It is fine, wonderful and terrific and all other positive words, if a piece of writing makes us feel something, and makes us buzz so much that we rush off and spill out something new and fresh. Something that began as a phrase, a word, an image from somewhere/someone else, becomes a seed that grows into a full-grown tree produced by your own creativity. Indeed, Raymond Carver was inpired by phrases from Chekhov among other things, and he kept a list. His widow, Tess Gallagher, shared them with the world by inviting other writers to use the ones he left behind when he died.That’s fine, great! Its lovely to know that Carver worked this way. And lovely too to know that we can all feed each other these seeds.

But seeds are one thing. Uprooting whole trees from other people’s land and carting them into your own plot is entirely another!!

So here are a few things to avoid when working with other writers. To think hard about. To seek permission before doing. And to not do. And a few to not even think about because for normal people like you and I, they are beyond our experience of what is acceptable behaviour.

1) Things to avoid when working with other writers. Or at the very least, things to seek permission before doing.
• Don’t march in and take over/join in with THEIR writing. It is an invasion. It goes like this…they write a piece, and maybe post it online or bring it along to a meeting for feedback. And with no warning, no permission sought, and no feedback offered, you copy their voice, characters, storyline, setting and produce the sequel to their work. Now, it can be great fun collaborating or playing ping-pong like this with writing. But it should always be done with the agreement of the other person. Don’t assume they will like it if you muscle in. Ask if it is OK, if they want to ‘play’.
• If you do play at creating a ping-pong story like this, be aware that neither of you really ought to submit that piece of work unless it is seriously changed in the editing process. Or unless it is submitted under your joint names. It is not ‘your own work’, either of you.
• If you do obtain permission to work as above, please do not only batten on the work of others. Please remember to let others use YOUR work as a base for collaboration as well. Encourage people to do so. And if no one in your group is interested in working like this, using your work as a starting point for a collaboration, ask yourself why that might be. It might be that they do not need to, that they have plenty of ideas of their own and do not need to use other people’s work to jump-start their imaginations.
• Remember to treat these exercises, if you do them, as exercises, not as a way to increase your individual pool of work. As said above: the results are not yours, they are shared endeavours.

• Never use the work of colleagues in your own work without permission.

• For example: Don’t take a short piece of their work and rewrite it into a longer piece, just because you think you can do that story better. You may well be able to, but that is irrelevant. It is unacceptable to do this to colleagues.
• Use your own ideas. Don’t use your colleagues’ characters, images voices or storylines. It is bad enough for a writer to take not just seeds, but multiple ideas from published work they find elsewhere*… but to take them from the colleagues you are working with in a position of trust, is unacceptable.
• IF you read something of theirs that you love enough to really want to use, ask. Be prepared to accept the answer ‘no’.
• Use your common sense over this one – just because a colleague has written a story set in a space rocket does NOT mean you can’t set your story in a space rocket! But if they have written about a character who turns skybluepink in a space rocket DON’T write about a character yourself who does the same thing, in the same place. That might look like copying.

2) Things I would suggest should never be done by any writer. Working colleagues or not.
• Don’t take anyone’s unwritten ideas for your own. You may well discuss ideas and plans for future projects among yourselves in a writing group. If a colleague shares a plan with you, do not go away and use those as- yet-unwritten ideas yourself.
• If you are given someone’s work as a trusted reader, respect that work. Don’t plunder it for ideas.
• If you find yourself inspired to write a piece, and having done so, realise it bears a remarkable similarity to something you read recently by a colleague, it is not enough to argue that the inspiration came from elsewhere. That’s irrelevant. They got there first.
• Do not use more than one, maybe two salient points from any published work. There are plenty of examples of stories that run along the same plotlines as the classics. With different characters, settings, and so on and so forth. What is not acceptable is to take someone else’s structure, AND character, AND storyline, AND setting, AND other unique selling points- and then pass it off as yours.

Please remember. Very few people would even think of doing any of these things. But they do happen. Be aware of it.

I’ve had so many writers saying “but of COURSE people would never do that! There’s no need to say these things. It’s like reminding a normal person that they must not go and murder someone!”
Yes, my lovely friends and colleagues, I hear you. I do so in case there is a new writer out there who is wondering what the boundaries are. I do so to give a guideline to writers setting up new groupings.

• and finally -Just an observation, really. More about the Creativi-Tree. If we are to create original work, we have to learn to see things for ourselves. Grow our own seeds, into our own trees. We have to learn to find what is original in things that seem ordinary. Copying others stops us doing that. It is not only lazy, it endangers the perpetrator in so many ways. It could be argued that every time you fall back on the ideas that were born in someone else’s head, you blunt your own creativity. Besides which, you lay yourself open to censure. To have the lable ‘plagiarist’ attached to your name is a dreadful thing.

N B Oak Tree image from Stanley Bronstein’s site, HERE
and little burglar-person from HERE

Thursday 2 July 2009

Great Interview!

I am interviewed on the lovely Nik Perring's blog, LINK HERE. All sorts of interesting questions, such as:
What does the word 'story' mean to me?
What does the word 'writer' mean to me?
What's my writing process?
How do you keep writing life and personal life separate?
and lots more.

No, I do not always talk like this. I had about fifteen minutes to address some really interesting questions, and just zapped out the replies fast. It came out quite well!

Wednesday 1 July 2009


Radio news
Either next week or the week after, an interview with moi by Allison Fearns for BBC Southern Counties radio will be serialised every day, and also available on their iPlayer thingummy.
Great stuff. How I set about finding my birth family, and what happened when I did…including finding four sisters.
Times and links to be added as and when.

Frank O Connor Shortlist announced. HERE
It includes Elegy for Easterly, by Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah. I reviewed the collection for HERE and featured it on this blog HERE.
And I stuck my neck out, saying I thought it would win something big… well this is the first step. Fingers crossed.

EVENT. GRANTA. SOUTH BANK. 9th July. email round-robin:
What is the future of our literary culture?
Join us to debate the future of our literary culture at Southbank Centre on Thursday 9th July including a pre-event drinks reception hosted by our new editor John Freeman.

The new Granta editor John Freeman joins novelists A.L. Kennedy and Adam Thirlwell to discuss writing in the digital age and the future of literary magazines in a world moving on from the printed word. Erica Wagner, Literary Editor of the Times, chairs this urgent debate.
For 30 years, Granta has published the best in fiction, reportage and memoir. Two distinguished contributors, A.L. Kennedy, author of Paradise and Day and Adam Thirlwell, author of Politics look back on its legacy and look forward to the next 30 years.
You can book tickets for this event here at just £9 per person (£4.50 for Concessions, limited availability) or call 0871 663 2500.
Pre-event drinks reception
You are welcome to attend our pre-event drinks reception in the Sunley Pavilion, Southbank Centre at 7pm where you can meet our new editor John Freeman and toast the release of our latest issue, 107.
We look forward to seeing you on the evening.

My books…
Would seem to have got irretrievably lost. Neither Ireland nor Ipswich bookshops had been able to get them from the distributors, for over a week. So I rang them. They were very helpful, said it would be best if they spoke to Salt, but confirmed there were several orders backed up.
So I rang Salt, (none too pleased, they are far too busy for this…) who confirmed they have now sent the distributors two lots of books over the last ten days.

That was Monday. This is Wednesday. How many Glass Bubbles are now at the distributors? Answer: None. This from their search facility.

ISBN/EAN 1844717348 9781844717347 Words from a Glass Bubble Gebbie, Vanessa £8.99 Paperback 0