Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How not to react to a review

As writers we all get stung by criticism of our work, whether it is published or just writing submitted on a course or at a writers' group.

But American author Alice Hoffman took her dismay a step too far when she launched an angry tirade against a newspaper reviewer on Twitter and worse still, published the reviewer's personal contact details, enciting her fans to attack her too.

The excellent How Publishing Really Works blog has a great summary of the whole fiasco and its ramifications here.

[For the record Alice Hoffman is a writer I feel I should like, but when I borrowed a couple of her books from the library some years ago I gave up on them. I hope she won't attack me for that...]

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Novel Racers and wet feet

Yesterday I travelled to Birmingham for the latest Novel Racers' meet up. It's not a difficult journey from here, but did involve a bus and two trains so I planned it carefully in advance and took the risk of booking my tickets early, to get a good price. On the morning I left home far earlier than I needed to, so as to avoid any possibility of missing my connection at Watford Junction. The journey went completely to plan and I finally arrived in Birmingham at 11.45 for a 12.30 meet.

That was when I discovered that Google Maps are not accurate. But despite the dubious directions we all eventually found the pub and took over a corner furnished with sofas. It was lovely to see everyone...most I had already met at a meet in London last year, but I had the pleasure of meeting DK, Rachel and Ellie for the first time. There was lots of chat, about writing, of course but about many other things too. It was so incredibly humid, that I kept turning round to look outside to see if it was raining. Eventually we heard a spectacular clap of thunder and the heavens opened.

All too soon it was time for me to wander back to the station in the now light rain. Once again my train was running on time and we sped south, eventually hitting black clouds and torrential rain not far north of Watford. When I had to alight the rain was lighter again, but due to flash flooding the underpass used to move from one platform to the other was inches deep in water, the station staff fighting a losing battle with brooms and buckets. Everyone had no choice but to tiptoe through it.

My connection was standing almost ready to go and by the time I got off again the rain was light. I had about a fifteen minute wait for my bus, all the time praying the storm would hold off until I reached home, and it did.

Despite my eventual wet feet I had a most enjoyable day!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The death of two icons

Let me take you back to your youth. Back to the time when our heroes were allowed to be normal sized people with slightly chubby faces and curves.

First there was Farrah Fawcett-Majors (as she was then known) in Charlie's Angels. A pin-up for the boys and a sassy role model for us girls, her hair was copied by millions. The Angels led us to believe that girls really could do anything, at a time when we were trying to escape the dull domesticity experienced by our mothers.

Then there was Michael Jackson, whose personal journey led him from the legendary familial Motown pop group to become the creator of some of the best and most purchased pop records ever made.

Let's hope that in time Michael Jackson will be primarily remembered for his musical and showmanship achievements, rather than the the excesses and weirdness of the 'Wacko Jacko' years, with all their dark undertones.

And I also hope that Farrah Fawcett will not be forgotten, despite being pushed from all the news bulletins by the death of an even bigger star on the same day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In the last week...

I have reached, and gone past the half way mark in my novel. That felt like a huge achievement, as I have been writing this novel on and off for two and a half years!

I have decided I am not a fast writer. I never have been able to do the fast and furious 'shitty first draft'. Instead I think a lot about each section and edit lightly as I am writing. I am hoping that this means that subsequent edits will be quicker and easier, but we will see.

I have also been thinking a lot about where my novel might fall in the market. I don't write chick lit, I simply can't do the comedy. It's certainly not literary fiction either, though I suppose it may end up falling into the Richard and Judy book club 'lit-lite' category of commercial fiction. I would be quite pleased if it does.

But after giving all this a lot of thought I decided just to think about some of the authors I particularly like for various reasons and who influence me: Anita Shreve, Maggie O'Farrell, Kate Atkinson, Sue Miller, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood, Jodi Picoult. I guess that gives you an idea of where my book is (hopefully) going...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Communicating without words

Long term readers of this blog will know that Son 2, who is severely autistic, is nonverbal. He primarily uses a combination of symbols and a few Makaton signs to communicate in a very limited fashion, usually to ask for things.

Over half term Son 2 discovered that a musical video which he used to love has been uploaded to YouTube. Now we have had many copies of this particular film over the years in both videotape and DVD format. He has eventually destroyed each one and, although it may still be available, I am not going to buy it again. So the discovery was bliss for him.

Early on Monday morning I wrote a note in his home-school book about what he'd done over half term. I explained all about his YouTube discovery (which incidentally he made himself).

Today I got a note back. When they had a class discussion about what the children had done over half term, son 2 repeatedly showed his keyworker the symbols for video and computer.

I'm so proud of him.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The best laid plans...

I thought I had the first part of this week organised. I would write today. Tomorrow I would go to a meeting followed by a supermarket trip. On Wednesday I would be teaching in Central London.

Well I had good intentions of writing today. Indeed I opened the Word document of my novel this morning. But I was too tired to focus on it. Today was my first free day after a two week half term and it's not until I finish a school holiday that it becomes physically and mentally apparent just how full-on that time caring has been This time we have also had the added bonus of daily 5am starts. I normally give myself a day or two off once Son 2 returns to school and today I found I really needed that. So I closed down Word and just played around on Twitter and Facebook instead. I also managed to colour my hair, which was desperately needed, so the day wasn't entirely wasted.

The meeting tomorrow has just been cancelled, because it is Carers Week and a lot of the other attendees are going to an event for carers. I'm not actually going to the event and will still have to do the supermarket shop, but perhaps I'll fit in some writing too.

The teaching on Wednesday is in the balance due to a proposed tube strike. I won't know until tomorrow evening if I am going or not, though obviously I will need to do the preparation and make sure I have suitable clean smart clothes.

Then on Thursday I'll be plunging into my accountancy work. The work I actually get paid to do. Despite the various changes of plan it is still going to be a busy week...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Say it in jewellery

I just love that Hazel Blears was wearing this brooch yesterday.
The lady has a sense of humour.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Britain's Got Talent...my verdict

I have to confess that this year was the first that I have watched Britain's Got Talent. I watched the first episode and like so many others, I got sucked into the Susan Boyle story and continued watching.

Now I'm quite cynical and I understand how this sort of programme works. The emphasis on back stories to arouse sympathy, the judicious editing, the hyping up of the 'chosen ones' are integral to any Simon Cowell vehicle. And we, as the audience, like to turn things on their head with our vote.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really glad Diversity won. I didn't actually vote, but if I had it would have been for them. They were fantastic on the night and over the series came up with three polished, witty performances. What's more, they all seem like nice, educated lads who can overturn prejudices about street culture and I hope they have a great future ahead of them.

But I felt exceptionally uncomfortable about the semi-finals and final. I felt I was being manipulated. I didn't like seeing young children in distress on live TV. And I didn't like seeing what the media has done to Susan Boyle.

Whilst I realise that nobody could have predicted the YouTube, Facebook and Twitter phenomena, the production team must have known that she had learning difficulties. It is possible that her intellectual and emotional functioning level is not much higher than that of the distraught 10 and 11 year olds who left the stage in tears. Along with learning difficulties often come mental health issues such as anger, anxiety and depression, caused by trying to cope with a world which is incomprehensibly not black and white. Somebody should have understood this and put expert support in place.

Hopefully whilst in The Priory, Susan will be helped to come to terms with what has happened to her over the last couple of months. Then I hope she will be nurtured and allowed to develop without being made into a freak show. If nothing else she deserves that.