Category Archives: Writers

A Valentine to Fear; and Visual Verse

In Elizabeth Gilbert‘s brilliant new book Big Magic (I reviewed it here) she acknowledges that we need fear in our lives, otherwise we’d be: Straight-up sociopaths … [or an] exceptionally reckless three-year-old … . But you do not need your fear in the realm of … Continue reading

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Mistakes, for a new year

The first days of this new year have brought oddly mixed emotions. Happiness and gratitude that all those celebrations with friends and family went well, mingled with sadness for the absence of all those we used to celebrate with who are no longer alive. Memories … Continue reading

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What it’s like to write and what it’s like to imagine you might write; and Suffragette

In Edith Wharton‘s 1925 The Writing of Fiction  in the section called ‘Constructing a Navel’ – obviously a typographical mistake but one I like for its overtones of contemplation – Wharton writes about the creation of character in a novel: The creatures … Continue reading

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Mindfulness; 18 things creative people do differently and the ever-magical Elizabeth Gilbert

Mindfulness, according to The Mindfulness Project in London, is: A simple and very powerful practice of training our attention. It’s … about paying attention to what’s happening here and now (sensations, thoughts, emotions) in a non-judgemental way. It can interrupt the habit … Continue reading

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How incomprehensible unworkable things inspire

Joanna Briscoe and Grace Paley caught my attention this month. They’re very different writers but I’ve just read articles about writing by both. Grace Paley died in 2007 but a friend sent me her thoughts on writing recently. Here’s an extract … Continue reading

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Ideas are NOT stories; and the Biblioteca Jardim

It becomes obvious if you write, but perhaps not if you don’t: ideas are not stories. Before I wrote or, at least, before I finished a novel, I didn’t grasp this fundamental fact because ideas, when they come (and I’ve no idea … Continue reading

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The Brain in Love; and Jim Burge’s Burgeoning Promotional Videos for writers and artists

Dr Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, studies the brain, in love. She gave a glorious TED talk about it, here. I particularly loved Walt Whitman: Oh, I would stake all for you. and Emily Dickinson: Parting is all we need to know of Hell. … Continue reading

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Fog Island Mountains and Dr Atal Gawande, this year’s BBC Reith Lecturer

Michelle Bailat-Jones has written a beautiful novel called Fog Island Mountains. I’ve just posted a review of it here. The novel won the 2013 Christopher Doheny Award and I hope it goes on to sell, and so to affect, many many readers. It deserves to … Continue reading

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Sequels, Literary Festivals and Natasha O’Farrell’s heavenly handbag

There have been some heart-warming reactions to The Dance of Love and several people have suggested I write a sequel, possibly set in the Depression and the lead-up to the Second World War because, they said, it would be fascinating to find … Continue reading

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Haworth Parsonage, Richard Flanagan and Anselm Keifer

In September we holidayed in England: we travelled north-west to Stratford (and saw a wonderful production of The Roaring Girl, a play about Mary Frith, an astonishing sixteenth-century woman who lived and dressed as a man, partly in defiance of … Continue reading

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The Launch of The Dance of Love, History of the Rain, and Emily Young’s Kew Gardens angel video

The DANCE of LOVE was launched at the wonderful Barnes Bookshop last Thursday: I wrote about on Robert Hale’s blog – the book’s publishers – here. It was a happy family affair: my whole family was there: my two younger sisters smuggled … Continue reading

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Niall Williams’s History of the Rain

I’m so full of Niall Williams‘s History of the Rain that I don’t want to write about anything else this month. It is the most beautiful and beautifully-written novel I’ve read, probably ever, and if not ever, then certainly for a very … Continue reading

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Failure is the Mother of Success; and Paula Meehan

失败是成功之母 Shībài shì chénggōng zhī mǔ Failure is the Mother of Success (a Chinese Proverb) Last week Anne Enright, Booker Prize-winning wonderful writer, gave one of BBC Radio 4’s The Value of Failure programmes. Sadly they’re no longer available to … Continue reading

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The Shock of the Fall : hurray for mental illness in fiction

The subject matter of this year’s Costa first novel winner (and now overall 2013 winner), The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Fileris mental illness. Hurray! (Because publishers so often swerve when they see one of those coming.) And hurray for … Continue reading

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Second novel, and Cornelia Parker

I’ve just delivered my second novel to my agent for submission to publishers … and I’m about to plunge back into my third. It’s an exciting full-of-possibilities time and I wish the novel well out there in the real world. … Continue reading

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Jacob Ross (and TLC)’s three-part master class, and campanology

Jacob Ross is running a three-part master class in writing the short story, the novel and genre fiction for the wonderful TLC (without whose wise criticism I doubt Speaking of Love would ever have found a publisher). The short story part … Continue reading

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The making of character

Sometime last week I heard part of an interview with John le Carre about the making of character. This is what he said: You can’t actually make up a character out of other people, you simply can’t. You grab the … Continue reading

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Free indirect style, and the CCWC

I’ve struggled to understand free indirect style, let alone how to use it in fiction. But in James Wood’s brilliant How Fiction Works all is made wondrously clear through his lucid prose. As he writes, on page 11: Thanks to free … Continue reading

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Second novels

Stephen Fry wrote (I found it here, thank you Lydia Netzer, although I couldn’t find it directly from him): The problem with a second novel is that it takes almost no time to write compared with a first novel. If I … Continue reading

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Searching for the Secret River

I’ve just finished reading Kate Grenville‘s Searching for the Secret River: it’s brilliant, and a must-read for anyone who writes historical fiction (my second, about-to-be-redrafted, novel is one of those). Searching for the Secret River is a kind and wise book … Continue reading

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