Monthly Archives April 2013

I agree with… Rachel Cusk

Rachel Cusk “It takes a particular kind of courage to write memoir. All writing – all creativity – involves self-exposure, but in memoir the exposure is twofold. The self is both subject and author, and as authors we are duty-bound to treat our subjects with the greatest possible objectivity. Is it possible, or even desirable, to be truly objective about oneself? And what value does that objectivity, if achieved, have for the reader?” [Rachel Cusk, in an interview at ‘Mslexia’ magazine] I’ve always been too intimidated to attempt memoir, though I have used my experiences in my fiction particularly for setting. But I do agree that all creativity must involve self-exposure, or be weaker for the omission. Surely in order to write, we have to be self-aware and with that self-awareness comes objectivity? If you agree with Rachel Cusk, perhaps you will agree with:- Lizzie Enfield – on women’s revenge Antony Gormley – everybody says what does it mean, but what does life mean? Joanne Harris – I’ve always read, and I’ve always written   ‘Outline’ by Rachel Cusk [UK: Thorndike] Read my review of Outline. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested
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Categories: On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 15… ‘Spies’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The third week of June, and there it is again: the same almost embarrassingly familiar breath of sweetness that comes every year about this time. I catch it on the warm evening air as I walk past the well-ordered gardens in my quiet street, and for a moment I’m a child again and everything’s before me – all the frightening, half-understood promise of life.” ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Brighton Rock’ by Graham Greene ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ by Haruki Murakami And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #FirstPara which makes me want to read more: SPIES by Michael Frayn #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-61 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

If books were real, Jackson Brodie…

Jackson Brodie …would drink Taylor’s Yorkshire Gold tea with full-fat milk and two sugars.   ‘Case Histories’ by Kate Atkinson [UK: Black Swan] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Mattie Ross in ‘True Grit’ Sarah Burton in ‘South Riding’ Mikael Blomkvist in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Jackson Brodie would drink tea with sugar: CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-aJ
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 14… ‘Rebecca’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.” ‘Rebecca’ Daphne du Maurier  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Sacred Hearts’ by Sarah Dunant ‘The Sea The Sea’ by Iris Murdoch ‘True Grit’ by Charles Portis And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #FirstPara which makes me want to read more: REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-8c via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

A book I love… Any Human Heart

I go back a long way with William Boyd to A Good Man in Africa and An Ice-Cream War. He is a consummate storyteller. But it was Brazzaville Beach that shocked me and made me a fan. I came late to Any Human Heart, I don’t know why. Logan Mountstuart is a fragile everyman who lives through a momentous century who gets involved in history but in off-key ways. I was locked into the story from the beginning with the three boys at school and their challenges to each other: a nifty device of differentiating the three characters. See my review of Sweet Caress. ‘Any Human Heart’ by William Boyd [UK: Penguin] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: ANY HUMAN HEART by William Boyd #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-gf via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 13… ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Sunday 1 January. 9st 3 [but post-Christmas], alcohol units 14 [but effectively covers 2 days as 4 hours of party was on New Year’s Day], cigarettes 22, calories 5424.” ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ by Helen Fielding Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #FirstPara which makes me want to read more: BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY by Helen Fielding #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7S via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

If books were real, Sarah Burton…

Sarah Burton …would spend a quiet evening in watching The Killing box set, averaging two episodes per night.     ‘South Riding’ by Winifred Holtby [UK: BBC Books] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Jo March in ‘Little Women’ Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games’ Agatha Raisin in ‘Something Borrowed, Someone Dead’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Sarah Burton would watch a boxset of ‘The Killing’: SOUTH RIDING by Winifred Holtby via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-an
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Writing exercise: getting to know a new character

When I’m trying to get to know a new character, nothing works better for me than a writing exercise. If I’ve already got some plot ideas I will put them into a scene which may come in useful later, otherwise I think of my character exercises as investment pieces. If I don’t know where to start, I choose a day-to-day situation and begin there. Often I will give myself 20 minutes, sitting in a busy coffee shop and write longhand in my Muji notebook. The routine seems to help. Here are two I wrote earlier. I’m not sure what the future holds for Malcolm and Doreen. Doreen looped the pinny over her head and tied the strings at her back in a floppy bow, the edges of the apron stretched across her ample bosom. She glanced at her watch as she took it off and put it in a dry spot on the windowsill. 4.36pm. She only had 54 minutes before Malcolm would be home, 54 minutes to tidy up and cook his tea. She turned on the hot tap and tested the water with her fingers before squeezing in a 1p-sized blob of Fairy into the washing up bowl.
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Categories: Writing exercises.

Great opening paragraph 12… ‘In Cold Blood’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there’. Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveller reaches them.” ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Fortunes of War’ by Olivia Manning ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ by Thomas Hardy ‘Divisadero’ by Michael Ondaatje And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #FirstPara which makes me want to read more: IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7C via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

If books were real, Torak…

Torak …would not worry about eating Toad in the Hole, no matter what the sausages were made of.   ‘Wolf Brother’ by Michelle Paver [UK: Orion] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Agatha Raisin in ‘Something Borrowed, Someone Dead’ Mikael Blomkvist in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo’ Hermione Granger ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Torak would not eat veggie sausages: WOLF BROTHER by @MichellePaver via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-b9
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

I agree with Lucian Freud…

Lucian Freud “I think half the point of painting a picture is that you don’t know what will happen. Perhaps if painters did know how it was going to turn out they wouldn’t bother actually to do it. Painting is rather like those recipes where you do all manner of elaborate things to a duck, and then end up putting it on one side and using only the skin.” [excerpt from ‘Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud’ by Martin Gayford] It reminds me of a quote I picked up years ago about writing that has stuck with me. I copied it onto a Post-It note and stuck it on the whiteboard behind my computer. ‘If the chapter’s about what you think it’s about, it’s rubbish.’  I may paraphrase so apologies to whoever it was that first said it, but I think I’ve got the meaning about right. Part of the enjoyment of writing, for me, is creating characters then putting them into situations and seeing how they react. I do write a story plan, but it is constantly being revised as my characters take charge of their lives. If the story plan remains
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Categories: On Writing.

Love books? Carry a handbag book

Check out designer these clutch bags by Olympia Le-Tan, for every book-loving girl. My favourites are:- The Catcher in the Rye Love Story… ah, Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw, that takes me back to my teenage years. I’m not sure about the purple and pink colour scheme for Jane Eyre though. The list of titles at her website is endless, lots of French novels, plus Moby Dick, Dracula, and A Streetcar Named Desire.   ‘The Story of O.L.T.’ by Olympia Le-Tan [UK: Rizzoli] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If you love #books you’ll love these bags by @olympialetan http://wp.me/p5gEM4-cc via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 11… ‘Brighton Rock’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. With his inky fingers and his bitten nails, his manner cynical and nervous, anybody could tell he didn’t belong – belong to the early summer sun, the cool Whitsun wind off the sea, the holiday crowd. They came in by train from Victoria every five minutes, rocked down Queen’s Road standing on the tops of the little local trams, stepped off in bewildered multitudes into fresh and glittering air: the new silver paint sparkled on the piers, the cream houses ran away into the west like a pale Victorian water-colour; a race in miniature motors, a band playing, flower gardens in bloom below the front, an aeroplane advertising something for the health in pale vanishing clouds across the sky.” ‘Brighton Rock’ by Graham Greene  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McEwan ‘True Grit’ by Charles Portis And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: BRIGHTON ROCK by Graham Greene #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7M via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with Dorothea Brande…

Dorothea Brande “The unconscious is shy, elusive, and unwieldy, but it is possible to learn to tap it at will, and even to direct it. The conscious mind is meddlesome, opinionated, and arrogant, but it can be made subservient to the inborn talent through training. By isolating as far as possible the functions of these two sides of the mind, even by considering them not merely as aspects of the same mind but as separate personalities, we can arrive at a kind of working metaphor, impossible to confuse with reality, but infinitely helpful in self-education.” ‘excerpt from ‘Becoming a Writer’ by Dorothea Brande]  I’m still working on isolating the two sides of my mind. Being a journalist by training does have its benefits – writing as a daily routine, working to a deadline etc – but freeing my unconscious mind is still a work in progress. But I have come a long way from that first creative writing class where I struggled to write a description of a bridge [belated thanks to my tutor Nina Rapi for her patience!]. If you agree with Dorothea Brande, perhaps you will agree with:- Janice Galloway – write about the credible now and the implied
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Categories: On Writing.

If books were real, Mattie Ross…

Mattie Ross …would be a women’s rights lawyer with a secret Stella McCartney habit.   How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Torak in ‘Wolf Brother’ Bella Swan, vampire, in ‘Breaking Dawn’ Jackson Brodie in ‘Case Histories’ To read the first paragraph of True Grit, click here.   ‘True Grit’ by Charles Portis [UK: Bloomsbury] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Mattie Ross would become a lawyer: TRUE GRIT by Charles Portis via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-az
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 10… ‘Sacred Hearts’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Before the screaming starts, the night silence of the convent is alive with its own particular sounds.” ‘Sacred Hearts’ by Sarah Dunant  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Ernest Hemingway ‘Time Will Darken It’ by William Maxwell ‘Nineteen Minutes’ by Jodi Picoult And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: SACRED HEARTS by Sarah Dunant #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-f0 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

A book I love… The Wind in the Willows

One of the reasons I still love my copy of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, is the actual edition: a green cloth-covered hardback with a green paper cover.  I can remember the excitement at being given a hardback book which in 1969 was expensive. I was more used to devouring as many Famous Five and Secret Seven books as possible that we could pick up secondhand at the school fete: my reading at that age was voracious. The book was a birthday gift from my parents for my ninth birthday, the birthday greeting inside is written in my elder sister’s neat italic script. It never dawned on me that the language was old-fashioned – Oddsboddikins! – I just lapped it up. Today the book sits on my bookshelf between Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, and Stamboul Train by Graham Greene.   ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame [UK: Wordsworth Editions] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame http://wp.me/p5gEM4-cZ #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

My Top 5… the Booker winners I re-read, and why

All lists are completely subjective, and I am not claiming to have read every Booker winner. So this list is a little like a celebrity’s ‘Desert Island Discs’, it has changed in recent years and will no doubt change again. There are more recent Booker winners which I love, Hilary Mantel for example, but have yet to re-read and so strictly they do not belong here. In no particular order, my current Top 5 are:- ‘Possession’ by AS Byatt [UK: Vintage] The plaiting together of storylines and points of view in two centuries, it showed me how to plot. ‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel [UK: Canongate] The sheer magical ambition of it, a tiger in a boat. ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie [UK: Vintage] The scope, the exotic setting, what a way of recounting the birth of a new country. ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively [UK: Penguin] Perhaps my all-time favourite, for its gentle romance, its clever manipulation of point of view, the handling of death and grief. And she gets the dialogue spot-on too. ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ by Peter Carey [UK: Faber] The first Peter Carey I read, the first of many, and picked up on impulse because it had won
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Categories: Book Love and My Top 5....

Great opening paragraph 9… ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn’t his. Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I’ve changed all the names.” ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn ‘Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World’ by Haruki Murakami ‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5 by Kurt Vonnegut Jr #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-eX via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

If books were real, Adam Dalgliesh…

Adam Dalgliesh would secretly eat a whole 100g bar of Maya Gold Green & Black chocolate in one sitting. 55% cocoa with a hint of orange and spices. ‘Devices and Desires’ by PD James [Faber] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Hobbit’ Jack Ryan in ‘Patriot Games’ Jackson Brodie in ‘Case Histories’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Adam Dalgliesh would eat chocolate: DEVICES AND DESIRES by PD James via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-e0
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....