Archives for writing

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.

#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.

My Porridge & Cream read… Jessie Cahalin @BooksInHandbag #books

Today I’m delighted to welcome romance novelist Jessie Cahalin. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. “Wuthering Heights appeared in my life when I was eleven years old in 1983.  Following my English teacher’s recommendation, I saved pocket money to buy the novel. ‘The air made me shiver through every limb’ as I entered Heathcliff’s kitchen and lost myself in the language. This was my first taste of one of ‘the important authors’ and she was a Yorkshire lass to boot. I still remember the picture of the withering tree on the front cover and the delicious new smell of the fine pages. “The tiny writing meant I had to concentrate and there were delicious new words to savour. Even then, the rhythms of the language and the powerful setting captured me, and I read them aloud. I stood on t’top of t’world with my new book. Bronte inspired me to enjoy the power of words, and I would spend hours painting my own scenes with language. I marked pages in Wuthering Heights and would re-read them constantly. My parents took me to Howarth to visit the parsonage, and I knew Jessie had gone home. Wuthering Heights was my
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Home’ by Marilynne Robinson #classic #literary

Home by Marilynne Robinson is the story of two adult children who return home, coincidentally at the same time, who feel the shame of not living up to the standards set by their minister father, Reverend Robert Boughton. It is a profoundly sad book; the slow winding tale towards the inevitable ending is curiously addictive. It is a three-hander, concentrating on father, son and daughter. Glory and Jack Boughton grew up in a clerical family home in Gilead, Iowa. We learn of their country childhoods, quite different as siblings go, from their conversations and the memories prompted by visits from neighbours Reverend John Ames, his wife Lila and son. The story is told from Glory’s viewpoint. Jack takes lots of ‘dark nights of the soul’, long solitary walks in the dark to which we are not privy, and his true thoughts remain a mystery to the end. Just when you think you have worked him out, he confounds you. Robinson draws a picture of rural America at a time of great change. There are demonstrations in Montgomery, but Gilead seems insulated from the outside apart from occasional telephone calls to their father by Glory and Jack’s siblings, and news reports of
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 123… ‘The Ashes of London’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The noise was the worst. Not the crackling of the flames, not the explosions and the clatter of falling buildings, not the shouting and the endless beating of drums and the groans and cries of the crowd: it was the howling of the fire. It roared its rage. It was the voice of the Great Beast itself.” ‘The Ashes of London’ by Andrew Taylor, #1 Fire of London BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Personal’ by Lee Child ‘Back When We Were Grown Ups’ by Anne Tyler  ‘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: THE ASHES OF LONDON by Andrew Taylor #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Jn via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

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.

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.

Great Opening Paragraph 122… ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ #amwriting #FirstPara

‘Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.’ ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ by Tan Twan Eng  ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan ‘Couples’ by John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE HEART’S INVISIBLE FURIES by @john_boyne #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Jk via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

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.

Great Opening Paragraph 121… ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees. The mountainside sloped gently where he lay; but below it was steep and he could see the dark of the oiled road winding through the pass. There was a stream alongside the road and far down the pass he saw a mill beside the stream and the falling water of the dam, white in the summer sunlight.” ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Ernest Hemingway BUY Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend 90 ‘Sacred Hearts’ by Sarah Dunant 10 ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey 76 And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS by Ernest Hemingway #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3JG via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

How Holly Bourne writes #writerslife #amwriting

Holly Bourne “People think that world-building is something you only need to do in fantasy novels. But [with the character of Tori] I had to think: what’s the name of her book? What’s her brand? How does she write to her readers? How do they respond? I had to work on this imaginary career trajectory that she has.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, March 9, 2018]  I reacted to this remark by young adult author Holly Bourne, who is now writing adult novels too, with familiarity and and a degree of puzzlement. Familiarity because I understand what she means, how she places her character into a world and sees what happens, how she makes decisions about the framework of that world in order for the story to progress. Puzzlement about the reference to world-building as being limited to fantasy novels; really? Isn’t that what all novelists do, whatever the genre? Imagine a world, create characters, let the two combine and see what happens. Isn’t that part of writing? Or am I missing something? How Do You Like Me Now? is Bourne’s first adult novel. She is a successful YA writer, her YA novels include It Only Happens in
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Categories: On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read @JuliaThumWrites #writing #childrensfiction

Today I’m delighted to welcome children’s writer Julia Thum. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. “The story is about a beautiful valley called Moonacre that is shadowed by the tragic memory of a Moon Princess and a mysterious little white horse. When 13 year old orphan Maria Merryweather is sent to live there she finds herself involved in an ancient feud and is determined to restore peace and happiness to the whole of Moonacre Valley. “I first read this magical story when I was eleven. My father had just died and we were living on a farm in Somerset. I still remember transposing Moonacre’s fantasy world onto my own life and spending many happy hours wandering around the fields pretending to be Maria and looking for the mysterious little white horse. “I read and re-read the story all through my teens and tweens, picking it up whenever I needed a safe space. In adult life, I’ve read The Little White Horse to all my children. Now they’re teenagers, and I’m moving from writing adult to ‘middle grade’ children’s fiction, I’m re-visiting the story, looking at the form, the structure, and trying to ‘bottle’
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

#Bookreview ‘The Writing of Fiction’ by Edith Wharton #amwriting

Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She won for The Age of Innocence in 1920; it was her twelfth novel. First published in 1925, her advice is still current today and will interest readers as well as writers of fiction. Part literary analysis, part writing recommendations, this is not an indexed guide on how to write but more Wharton’s thoughts on writing fiction. At the beginning she reviews the development of ‘modern fiction’ that she says began when the action of the novel was ‘transferred from the street to the soul’; moving through the trend for providing a ‘slice of life’ via the French realists to the early twentieth century ‘stream of consciousness’. The early chapter is a little dry but the meat of this book is in three chapters: ‘Telling a Short Story’, ‘Constructing a Novel’, and ‘Character and Situation in the Novel’. Wharton’s main points have lasted the test of time. Dialogue should be used sparingly. Originality is about vision, not about technique. Minor characters should all serve a purpose, or be cut. All novelists will to a degree write the autobiographical, Wharton says, but to be a truly creative novelist one
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Categories: On Writing.

#FlashPIC 42 Ethereal Rubbish #writingprompt #amwriting

A plastic bag is blown along a pavement by the breeze. Use this moody scene as your trigger to start writing today. An inanimate object like this is a useful tool to use in a short story or novel. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. This plastic bag can:- Illustrate a particular theme. For example, perhaps your character is a rolling stone, always drifting, never settling in one place. Or your theme could be climate change; Reinforce a character trait. Perhaps you want to hint to the reader that a character is transparent, flimsy, without foundation. Or if your bag is paper, perhaps they are vulnerable, easily damaged and never repaired. You get the idea; Be a linking device to introduce two characters to each other. Imagine watching a film where a lonely man drops a plastic bag which is picked up by the wind. He runs to pick it up and put it in the rubbish bin, and collides with a woman who is part of a charitable litter collection scheme. If it helps, visualise this scene as if you are watching it on television; Demonstrate atmosphere. Perhaps your scene is described in black and white. The
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Great Opening Paragraph 120… ‘The Pursuit of Love’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“There is a photograph in existence of Aunt Sadie and her six children sitting round the tea-table at Alconleigh. The table is situated, as it was, is now, and ever shall be, in the hall, in front of a huge open fire of logs. Over the chimney-piece plainly visible in the photograph hangs an entrenching tool, with which, in 1915, Uncle Matthew had whacked to death eight Germans one by one as they crawled out of a dug-out. It is still covered with blood and hairs, an object of fascination to us as children. In the photograph Aunt Sadie’s face, always beautiful, appears strangely round, her hair strangely fluffy, and her clothes strangely dowdy, but it is unmistakably she who sits there with Robin, in oceans of lace, lolling in on knee. She seems uncertain what to do with his head, and the presence of Nanny waiting to take him away is felt though not seen. The other children, between Louisa’s eleven and Matt’s two years, sit around the table in party dresses or frilly bibs, holding cups or mugs according to age, all of them gazing at the camera with large eyes opened wide by the flash, and all
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Categories: Book Love.

#WritersLife Jane Davis @janedavisauthor #writingcompetitions

The last time I saw Jane Davis was at the London Book Fair 2019 at 9am in the morning when she was standing on a stage talking about her eighth novel, a finalist in The Selfies. Later the same day, Smash all the Windows won the inaugural award. The Selfies is unusual in that while only novels by indie authors are eligible, the announcement took places at the UK’s major traditional publishing event. So Jane is a trailblazer. I asked her to share with us her journey with Smash all the Windows and her experience of writing competitions. “London Book Fair 2018 provided an excellent venue for the launch of Smash all the Windows. It was a high-concept (and potentially high-risk) novel, in which I created a fictional disaster to explore my outrage at the reaction of the press to the verdict of the Hillsborough second inquest. “It has taken conviction to right the wrongs. It will take courage to learn how to live again. For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#BookReview ‘My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You’ by Louisa Young @rileypurefoy #WW1

This is a Great War story of love/war, of duty/self-sacrifice, of denial of the truth and fear of change, of physical/mental scars. At the centre of the story is a lie told to protect. In My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young, Riley Purefoy and Nadine Waveney, children from different classes, meet in a London park. When war is declared, knowing the gulf in their backgrounds prevents them from marrying, Riley volunteers and goes off to war. In the trenches he meets commanding officer, Peter Locke, whose wife Julia and cousin Rose remain at home in Kent throughout the war. This is the story of these five people. The first half of the book is a long set-up for the second half, when the interesting stuff begins. I made myself continue reading through the first half, and raced through the second. We see Riley and Nadine meeting, Riley’s transition from boy to teenager, his introduction to a new world. Nadine’s father is a famous conductor; their friends include musicians, writers and artists. He is taken under the wing of artist Sir Alfred who introduces him to art and music; good-looking Riley becomes a model for Sir Alfred
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Categories: Book Love.

How AJ Pearce writes #writerslife #amwriting

AJ Pearce immersed herself in the music of the 1940s and watched air raids on You Tube “with the volume turned up as loud as possible, trying to get some idea of what on earth it was like.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, January 12, 2018]   Any novelist who has set a story in the recent past knows the joys, and pitfalls, of online research. Such is depth of digitised records now that there is almost nothing from the 20th century that is not accessible online. Author AJ Pearce, whose debut novel Dear Mrs Bird, is set in World War Two, turned to contemporary novels and You Tube. In Dear Mrs Bird, Emmy Lake becomes an agony aunt on a magazine, offering advice, or not, to letter writers. Obviously Pearce immersed herself in magazines of the period. But she also read novels of the time, particularly Cheerfulness Breaks In by Angela Thirkell, published in 1940, and Henrietta’s War by Joyce Denys. “It’s funny and light but every now and then there’s a line that takes your breath away because it is so sad,” she explains. In The Bookseller interview, Pearce is asked why she chose the World
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Categories: On Writing.