Archives for On Writing

#FlashPic 47 Union Jack and Trees #writingprompt #amwriting

Central London. A special occasion. Something happens here… you decide what. First choose your year, perhaps a date from history. Now make the story your own by putting you character there. Close your eyes, imagine the time, listen to the noise, the voices, the traffic, the shouts, the whispered conversations. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. This photograph shows The Mall in London during the summer of 2012, the London Olympics. But the scene lends itself well to other landmark days in history. Using a true event as the background to a fictional story works well. Choose your true event according to your narrative and what you want to happen. If you are starting a new story, try one of these ideas as a starting point and see where it leads you:- VE Day, London – May 7, 1945 – Bring together one character mourning a loved one, and another who is celebrating the beginning of freedom from war; The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – June 2, 1953 – watched by a schoolchild standing at the kerb; A man who works on the building of The Mall in 1660 when King Charles II ordered a redesign of
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

My Porridge & Cream read… @AlexMarchant84 #books #childrensfiction

Today I’m delighted to welcome children’s author Alex Marchant. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, first in the ‘Dark is Rising’ sequence of five books. “Although I’m generally not one for re-reading books often, when Sandra kindly invited me to contribute my Porridge and Cream book, it took only a moment’s reflection to realize what it was: Susan Cooper’s ‘Over Sea, Under Stone’. Read first when I was ten or eleven – the ideal age for it and the ‘Dark is Rising’ sequence of which it is the first book – and read every few years since, it was the novel that called strongly to me during the early days of this spring’s lockdown in response to the upsurge of Coronavirus in the UK. “Set during an idyllic summer in the mystical land of Logres (aka Cornwall), it follows the holiday adventures of the Drew children – Simon, Jane and Barney – along with borrowed red setter Rufus, as they battle the malevolent forces of ‘The Dark’ in a search for an ancient grail, aided only by a treasure map and their mysterious great-uncle Merry. As in many of her books, Cooper masterfully
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

Great Opening Paragraph 128 ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.” ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by JD Salinger BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty’ by Sebastian Barry ‘The Slaves of Solitude’ by Patrick Hamilton ‘The Rainmaker’ by John Grisham  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara THE CATCHER IN THE RYE  by JD Salinger #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4ev via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#BookReview ‘The Woman of Substance’ by Piers Dudgeon #biography

The Woman of Substance by Piers Dudgeon is in part an authorised biography of A Woman of Substance writer Barbara Taylor Bradford, and part analysis of how Barbara’s own family history features in her books. The story of Emma Harte’s journey from Edwardian kitchen maid to globally successful businesswoman is well known. Less known perhaps are the connections with Barbara’s own family history. Connections she did not know herself. Starting with a meeting at the Bradfords’ New York apartment at which he is surrounded by the great and the famous, eating amidst the glittering décor, Dudgeon realises this is the world of the successful Emma Harte at the height of her powers. And then he tells Barbara’s story from her birth in 1933 in Upper Armley near Leeds, born not into the family of a kitchen maid like Emma Harte, but a tidy working class family who were neat and always made ends meet. Barbara is an only child and spoilt by her mother who takes her at every available opportunity to visit the Studley Royal estate where she learns this history of the house, the estate and the family. ‘My mother exposed me to lots of things,” said Barbara.
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read… Pam Golden #books #timetravel

Today I’m delighted to welcome children’s author Pam Golden. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe by CS Lewis. “I know it seems a strange choice for an adult, but my Porridge and Cream book is ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’ by CS Lewis.  Given as a gift for my ninth birthday, it enchanted me.   I couldn’t put down; sitting in my bed, then reading under the covers with a torch when Mum had turned my light off. “I have read it so many times in my life, both to myself and to children in school, every time it seems fresh and still has the ability to engage me. A few years ago it gave me great comfort when I was coming back from the trauma of cancer. I read it, sitting in my bedroom, warm and cosy, tucked up under the duvet, while the wind rocked the branches of the tree outside and rain lashed the windows. The cancer gave me space in my normally busy life to nurture myself. When I need a bit of ‘me time’ this is the book I turn to. “I love it on so many
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

Great Opening Paragraph 127… ‘The Road’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. His hand rose and fell softly with each precious breath. He pushed away the plastic tarpaulin and raised himself in the stinking robes and blankets and looked toward the east for any light but there was none.” ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Affinity’ by Sarah Waters ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McEwan And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4er via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

How Sadie Jones writes @ThatSadieJones #amwriting #writetip

Sadie Jones “I know I’m writing badly if I’m making it up on the page…. It’s going well if it’s a thing I am reporting. So I’ll imagine [the scene] and let it play; try to hear it and see it, and then I’ll be describing that. If I’m thinking, ‘Oh, that’s quite a nice sentence’, then I know it won’t do.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine on January 11, 2019]  Until The Snakes, Sadie Jones wrote historical novels. The Snakes is a contemporary novel, a kind of anti-thriller in that it is a thriller without all the answers. She says she wanted to write a book about there being no answers and used the ‘fuel’ of the thriller to do that. An experienced screenwriter, this affects how she visualises her scenes. Two things in her quote above struck a chord with me. One, she doesn’t make it up on the page. She plans first. Second, it is fatal to stop and admire your own prose. Jones’ first novel, The Outcast, won the Costa First Novel Award, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club and adapted for the BBC. Three more novels
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Categories: On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read… @SueJohnson9 #books #duMaurier

Today I’m delighted to welcome novelist, poet and short story writer Sue Johnson. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. “My Porridge & Cream read is Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (first published in 1936). I can remember finding it in the school library one wet Friday afternoon when I was thirteen. (We’d made ginger cake in our cookery class that morning and I still associate the book with the smell and taste of ginger and spices.) Our English teacher liked us to read at least two books a month of our choice that were nothing to do with our school work. We also had to write book reviews saying what we liked – or didn’t like – about the books we’d read. From the first page of Jamaica Inn I was hooked. My friends had to prise it out of my hands when the bell went for the end of school. I then went on to devour everything else that Daphne du Maurier had written. My other favourites are Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek.  We used to spend family holidays in Cornwall and I still love the county. I never tire of Jamaica Inn
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

Great Opening Paragraph 126… ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne  ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison  ‘1984’ by George Orwell  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4ej via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#FlashPic 46 Tap Going Two ways #writingprompt #amwriting

Two families live side by side, cheek by jowl. They must share one tap for all their water. In this exercise, the challenge is to take a basic unexciting situation then make it dramatic by adding a mixture of character, confrontation and threat. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. First decide the setting of your tap. Perhaps it is a tap at a domestic house which, during a drought and water shortage, must be shared. Perhaps it is a water pump in a remote village. Imagine the place, the time, the century, and the circumstances requiring the sharing of water. Consider the practical difficulties, the emotional consequences. Is the water supply constant, or intermittent. Why is the water supply under threat. Now add your two families. Concentrate on two main characters but sketch out two other family members so you have the option of using them to add tension or balm to the situation. What key emotions and experiences sum up the relationship of your two protagonists? Have they met before, or are they strangers. Resentment. Community spirit. Jealousy. Pedantry. Hatred. Isolation. Shyness. Admiration. Suspicion. Pragmatism. Attraction. Decide the specific water needs of each family. Now put your
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

My Porridge & Cream read… Amanda Huggins @troutiemcfish #shortstories

Today I’m delighted to welcome short story writer Amanda Huggins. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “There was strong competition for my Porridge and Cream choice, and I’d just like to mention two of the worthy runners-up, both of which I return to time and time again. The wonderful Jane Eyre needs no introduction or explanation, and has been in my top ten since I was a teenager. Another contender was The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I’ve loved since first reading it in the 1980s. A beautifully written story of a life lost to duty; unsentimental and utterly heartbreaking. But my final choice has to be The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, one of the all-time bestselling – and most translated – books ever published. “I own a signed copy of The Remains of the Day as well as a Folio hardback, and I also have two copies of Jane Eyre – though sadly neither of them are signed! But I have to confess to owning a rather extravagant seven copies of The Little Prince. In my defence, they’re all in different languages – however, as I’m only
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

Great Opening Paragraph 125… ‘Beloved’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had runaway by the time they were thirteen years old – as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny hand prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in a heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill.” ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Ashes of London’ by Andrew Taylor  ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ by Tan Twan Eng  ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara BELOVED by Toni Morrison #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4ec via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#Bookreview ‘On Writing’ by AL Kennedy @Writerer #amwriting #writerslife

If you want an insight into the nuts and bolts of a writer’s life, this book is for you. On Writing by AL Kennedy is a compilation of her blog posts written for The Guardian Online and essays on specific aspects of the fiction writing process. When you finish it, you will no longer believe that a writer’s life is full of glamour and applause. Kennedy’s life is hectic, mind-spinning in its variety, and inspiring. Join her on a journey as she writes one book, promotes another, teaches creative writing, gives talks and performs her ‘one woman’ show. Sympathise with her through her various debilitating illnesses – name a writer who hasn’t suffered with a bad back, as she does – and cringe as she travels on delayed trains, stays in poky B&Bs, and flies, terrified, to book signings across the world. Some of her stories made me laugh out loud. I loved the fact that she travels with a survival kit to enable her to survive unedifying overnight accommodation, including teabags and longlife food. She has learnt the hard way how to survive. Kennedy has written six novels, five story collections and two books of non-fiction, and she won
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 124… ‘The Camomile Lawn’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Helena Cuthbertson picked up the crumpled Times by her sleeping husband and went to the flower room to iron it.” ‘The Camomile Lawn’ by Mary Wesley BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Ernest Hemingway  ‘A Month in the Country’ by JL Carr ‘Back When We Were Grown-Ups’ by Anne Tyler  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara THE CAMOMILE LAWN by Mary Wesley #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-48b via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

How Jacqueline Wilson writes #amwriting #writetip

Jacqueline Wilson on writers’ block: “I don’t often feel blocked, though I often worry that I’m writing rubbish.” [from ‘The Author’ magazine, Winter 2018]  Dame Jacqueline Wilson has written more than 100 books for children, which have been translated into 34 languages. It is not surprising, given her output, that she doesn’t often feel blocked. She credits this to her background as a journalist, “I worked as a magazine journalist in my late teens and had to write my allotted thousand words within an hour or I’d be in serious trouble! It was very good training. The rare times I haven’t got a clue what to write next I go for a walk or a swim.” Sound advice. What is more interesting though, is her worry that she is writing rubbish. Writers, new and experienced, face this dilemma on an almost daily basis. I don’t know if it’s reassuring that she feels this way, or depressing that it’s not a feeling you shed as you publish more books. BUY THE BOOK See how these other authors write:- AJ Pearce, on immersing herself in the 1940s  Philippa Gregory, on putting the reader into the historical moment Sebastian Barry, on writing the
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Categories: On Writing.

#BookReview ‘Howards End is on the Landing’ by Susan Hill #amreading

I selected this book off my to-read shelf where it has sat for at least two years and, on reading the first paragraph, knew I must read on. Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill is a gem of a memoir, a year in the life of a crime novelist who decides to read only the books on her bookshelves. But this is more than a review of books – it can be dipped in and out of, the chapters are conveniently short which makes you want to read ‘just another’ – because Hill attaches a personal story to each book, each author. I have always felt an affinity with Susan Hill; she was born eight miles from my own Yorkshire birthplace, and I was intrigued to learn about why she writes. I learned so much more; how her first novel was published when she was only eighteen, how she lives an ordinary life but mixes with some breath-stopping names. She met and/or knew TS Eliot, EM Forster, Cecil Day Lewis, Penelope Fitzgerald, Ian Fleming, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Bowen; it is a mirror image of my reading list at university, except for the Bond. Above everything though, the book
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous #writers, writing… Jodi Picoult @jodipicoult #amwriting

You’ve read every word, every line, every page and yet there is still room for improvement. Every writer knows the stage when the book feels as if it should be finished but isn’t, not quite. Jodi Picoult has sold 14 million print books worldwide in 34 languages but the scene shown here is familiar to every writer – Jodi is editing surrounded by Post-It notes, the latest draft from her editor with tracking changes, a sheaf of papers held together by a bulldog clip. Picoult’s most recent book, A Spark of Light, was published in 2018 and was a New York Times and Sunday Times number one bestseller. It is her twenty-fifth book. BUY THE BOOK Read the opening paragraphs of Nineteen Minutes and Vanishing Acts, and here’s my review of Vanishing Acts. See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Gregory Peck JK Rowling John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… @jodipicoult #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-49E via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing.

How AL Kennedy writes @Writerer #amwriting #writetip

AL Kennedy on spending time with a Harris hawk; thanks to the man who decorated her mother’s bathroom who was also a falconer: “I have no idea if or when I will make use of Mr Hawk, but he will have rattled something somewhere which will eventually rattle something else and meanwhile it was a blast to meet him.”  [from ‘On Writing’ by AL Kennedy]  I love this story from On Writing, AL Kennedy’s book about her life as a writer and based on the blog she writes for the Guardian newspaper. I love it because it demonstrates how authors collect ideas like squirrels store nuts and that the process can, perhaps should, be enjoyable. Given an unexpected opportunity [the decorator/falconer] Kennedy grabbed it and stored away the observations, the experience, the emotions, for another time. It may appear in her writing in any number of ways but on the day she saw Mr Hawk she had no plans. She goes on to protest, mildly, that the day spent with Mr Hawk was for purely professional reasons. ‘It’s not fun with Mr Hawk – it’s work’. Researching becomes enjoyable; a treat, even. Surely this is reflected on the page when the
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Categories: On Researching and On Writing.

How Penny Vincenzi wrote #writerslife #amwriting #bestseller

Penny Vincenzi “I haven’t the faintest idea what is going to happen, ever. I just get the kernel of the idea, which in this case was supposing a company was about to go under, and then the characters wander in. I never have any idea what is going to happen at the end, I truly don’t, which is why they are so long.” [on writing ‘A Question of Trust’, in an interview with ‘The Telegraph’ on June 16, 2014]  Penny Vincenzi didn’t get writer’s block. And she didn’t plot. The first I understand and I think that is due to her journalistic background. But the second; no plotting? At all? It didn’t stopped her selling 7 million big books, her novels came in at around 300,000 words. Her first, Old Sins, was published in 1989. She died in 2018. On writer’s block, she said, “I don’t agonise. I do have terrible days when I realise I have gone down a completely blind alley and I’ve got to come back. The only cure is to press the delete button, I’m afraid. I once deleted 20,000 words, and I felt much better after that.” Read the full article at The Telegraph. BUY
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Categories: On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read Clare Rhoden @ClareER #books #Regency

Today I’m delighted to welcome dystopian sci-fi author Clare Rhoden. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer. “I’m now onto my third copy of The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer. What’s that? There’s a copy in your local charity shop?! Let me at it! “I first read this book as a teenager, home from school with a bad case of something or other. My big sister assured me I’d love it. As usual, she was right. I have since read all Heyer’s Regency romances, and own most of them. My little library of happy, witty, female-centred adventure books followed me through several house moves. Then, after a somewhat uneventful decade, I was stuck at home for a long recovery after surgery. Time for The Talisman Ring again! “Imagine my surprise to discover that the book had changed. Well, of course it hadn’t changed, but I had. I recalled a dashing young couple diving headlong into adventure, assisted by an older cousin and a clever spinster. But no! Instead, thirty-year-old Sir Tristram and Sally Thane – unmarried in her late twenties – were actually the heroes in the story. I enjoyed it all the more. “The
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.