Category Archives: Writing

Theresa May, the Queen and Boris Johnson and, more seriously, Kent Haruf

A friend of mine sent me this sometime after the Brexit Bungle: There’s not much else to say, is there? On a much more serious note (and far wiser, kinder, more compassionate and life-enhancing), I read Kent Haruf (to rhyme with Sheriff)’s … Continue reading

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How dramatic stories change brain chemistry, and NOT the Booker Prize

Good strong stories, as we all know, transport us to other people’s worlds. So, when we’re reading fiction, even though we know the people we’re reading about aren’t real, if the story has a successful dramatic arc we’ll empathise with those imaginary people and … Continue reading

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The UK Referendum, Brexit, and Meike Ziervogel on the importance of listening to other people’s stories

On 1 July Meike Ziervogel, founder and publisher at Peirene Press, published this: Translation is Europe’s only common language. Umberto Eco It’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece about the UK referendum, Brexit, and the importance of listening to other people’s … Continue reading

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Why Readers Stop Reading; Lisa McInerney’s 2016 Bailey’s win, and Penicillin

An interesting survey on why readers stop reading: There’s more here. It’s published by Lit World Interviews (I found it on a TLC facebook post.) The conclusions are mostly what you’d expect to put readers off (although I particularly loved Unexpected Sex as a deterrent to reading on). But … Continue reading

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Do you want Escape or Experience when you read fiction? And: from food desert to food forest

I found this definition of the distinction between genre and literary fiction here: The main reason for a person to read Genre Fiction is for entertainment, for a riveting story, an escape from reality. Literary Fiction separates itself from Genre because it … Continue reading

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Mindfulness, Fitzroy Square and Subversive (Guerilla) Gardening

A few weeks ago I did an Introduction to Mindfulness day at the London Mindfulness Project (whose rooms are in the astonishingly beautiful, Georgian Fitzroy Square, at No 6): No 6, according to the Georgian Society, has: Over the years … Continue reading

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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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Electoral Reform in the UK. And Inspiration.

On 5 May 2011 a referendum on electoral reform was held in the UK: 68% of us voted No; 32% (including me) voted Yes; the turnout was 42%. We weren’t collectively brave enough, or we were too frightened of change to vote … Continue reading

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103 years on, Titanic; and the things that come unbidden when you write

One hundred and three years ago today more than 1,500 people died in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic when RMS Titanic hit the iceberg and then sank, in the early hours of 15 April. My great-grandmother, Nöel Rothes, was one … 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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Writing a novel is just like life …

… it’s only in the doing of it that I discover what works and what doesn’t. I can plan and plan and plan and I do, but when I do I tend, at least some of the time, to let … 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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