Mar 2nd

Do You Love Your Publisher?

By Harry

Following my long series of blogs about my own publishing history, it occurred to me (and Jane Friedman, a blogger in the US) that it would be very interesting to know what traditionally published authors as a group thought of the firms who published them.

So we decided to find out.

We have put together a survey - available here: http://agenthunter.co.uk/blog/do-you-love-your-publisher-a-survey/ - which asks all the questions that we thought most interesting and most important.

If you are a traditionally published author (that is, not self-published; I don't care if your publisher is digital-only) then please fill out the survey. Your thoughts and opinons matter.

If you can blog or tweet about the survey, then please do. Our hashtag is #authorsay. A twitter-friendly version of the survey link is http://tiny.cc/2kmpux

We will keep the survey open for four weeks and gather as many responses as we can in that time. We will publish all the results and make them widely available to key opinion formers in this industry of ours. Thank you very much indeed for helping.

Mar 2nd

England in the fifties

By mike

On Saturday, I attended a celebration of Fatts Waller, at one of the small venues on the South Bank of the Thames. It seems a rather odd location for a songwriter and performer associated with the Harlem of New York in the ninteen twenties and thirties. The performers were white, male  and middle-aged.

But isn't this the music over which Philp Larkin enthused?  One of the songs the band played had, apparently, been the theme tune to Billy Cotton and the trumpter, to my ears, gave a superb imitation of Louis Armstrong - both with his trumpet and voice. The pianist gave a marvellous demonstation of the stride piano too!

The concert hall had been the Purcell Room next to the  Royal Festival Hall which is the remnant of the Festival of Brtain in the 1950'S, so the venue might well have been appropriate.

There were few black people in the audience which seemed, for the most part, to be white, middle-aged or older.  The music is not a particular interest of mine - though I did enjoy the concert.  I knew many of the songs - but I did not know that they had been conposed by Fatts Waller. 

Surely Fatts Waller should be better known than he seems to be?  Unwittiingly he had been part of my childhood.  The previous Wednesday I saw a perormance of 'Anything Goes' and surely Cole Porter is part of my childhood too - though he is much more renowned.  (I am post hippy and pre punk and have been old I am a New romantic!)

On a separate Issue

On the Saturday afternoon I went to the theatre -just down river  -and saw a play about the Moghul Empire. The play had been written by someone from Pakistan and I think all the actors were of Indian origin - ff course, they might well of Briitsh Nationality. You can see some of this play on the National Theatre website. (It is on the page for 'Dara' and there is some background to the play on the site too)  The play interested me in that it was set at a time before the British Empire.  The theme had been a conflict between Islam and Suffism actied out by two brothers who were desendants of the Moghul King whio built the Taj Mahal,

It was imaginatively staged in a series of tableax vivants which were revealed by pushing screens across a large stage with minarets and Moslem images seen in sillhoette.   These recalled my childhood  I think they are scenes that might heve illustrated children's bibles at the time.  They also seem to illustate 'Orientalism'

Did anybody see this play?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 1st

Early writing

By Squidge

I seem to remember that Spi posted some time ago her early writing attempts - as in, from her childhood.

Today, my mum gave me some of mine that she'd found during a sort-out... You can take a look at my early efforts over on the Scribbles - and there's even proof that I loved having a storychair from the word go...!

So as the blog says - what's the earliest piece of writing of yours that you've kept?

 

Feb 27th

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths gets five stars

By Loretta Milan

Just finished reading Harry Bingham's The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths. What a terrific book! Find out why I gave it five stars here...

www.literarylightbox.com/strange-death-of-fiona-griffiths-book-review

Hope you enjoy the review!

Loretta. 

Feb 27th

Aroha

By Babblefish

Tahei Rua Toru Wha,

 

I grew up in New Zealand. Aotearoa.

The Land of the long white cloud.

 

Rimu Iwa...

I don't know.

They're numbers- or at least... most of them.

I'm not sure about the spelling on Tahei. (Tahi? Tahe? Tahie)

Rimu is actually a tree, and Iwa I'm pretty sure is the number nine... maybe.

Wha (pronounced “fa” or “pha”, except not quiet) is the number four.

I could check if I went and looked in my passport- the page numbers written out in Maori and numerals down the side of each page (a fact I am eminently proud of)

 

It's embarrassing, not remembering the words- this is the language of my homeland. Not the language everybody speaks, but the language of the land itself, (or so they say).

 

We learnt it in primary school.

The words.

The pronunciations (vowel sounds, “wha” pronounced “fa”, but not quiet)

Colours, greetings, family members (Whanau... spelling still unknown, pronounced “Fah-now”).

 

And Aroha.

 

That's important I think- its the word that stuck with me, or perhaps the word they taught us best.

 

There was a song- and entire song dedicated to teaching us this one important word.

Maybe they were trying to teach us civic mindedness while we were learning the language. Maybe the word just lends itself to music.

Aroha.

Its a rich rolly word. Warm like honey.

It means “Love,”- or rather (and this is my suspicion) “Love” is merely a rough translation of Aroha- a shadow of the concept, a dim reflection.

Aroha is the real word, and us poor Pakeha get stuck with “Love”- the substitute.

 

Sometimes, I wonder what it says- what it says about the country I grew up in, the school I went to, my teachers, that “Aroha” was taught so well. I wonder what it says when entire lessons are devoted to this one concept, while other trivial things- numbers, colours, geography- all those other concepts had to share lessons with their peers: All the colours taught in one lump. Lake, mountain, ocean, forest, river- all taught togeather.

 

Its the word that sticks with me- I don't know why. Perhaps its just me.

 

And also....

To me, Aroha always felt like a feeling. Not like Love- which means a million different things to a million different people. “To fall in Love” “two lovers” “parental love” “Lovesick” “I love you”- “Love” always seemed like a verb, and action, and a different action every time.

 

Aroha never seemed like that- maybe because I never learnt enough Maori to use it in a sentence. But even so “To fall in Aroha” doesn't quiet seem like the right kind of sentence. Instead, the word wants to be used by itself, without explanation or context.

An expression of a feeling, of recognition, or “this person is precious to me”.

 

Aroha.

 


Feb 26th

Forgiveness, moving readers and leaving a legacy of inspiration

By Loretta Milan

Had a moving interview with an author, who's published by a micro-publisher in the US, and talked about forgiveness, moving readers and leaving a legacy inspiration.

I've published my reflections here... 

www.literarylightbox.com/author-spotlight-a-j-sidransky

Hope you enjoy the article!

Loretta.

Feb 26th

A dedicated notebook - or two.

By Squidge

Following on really, from Skylark's blog about her 'Don't break the chain chart', I thought I'd share something that's working for me at the moment. I haven't been writing every day, but it has helped me to not get distracted...

It's blogged on the Scribbles if you'd like to take a look. I appreciate it's not how everyone works - and if we took a poll, we'd probably all have completely different ways of working - but if it helps even one person...

 

Feb 25th

Don't Break the Chain

By Skylark

Don't break the chain...

I've been a bit absent from the Cloud of late but it's all in a good cause. The WIP is making excellent progress: it's heading towards 70k and I think I may have just caught the first tiniest glimpse of the end peeping out at me over the horizon. But, sssh, don't let on, because it's a timid beast and if it knows I'm looking, it may take off in fright and give me another 10k to add onto the end. I don't really know how long it's going to be but the one thing I'm certain about, it's that I will get to the end of it this year. No more excuses. No more time-wasting. No more panicking about whether I can do this or whether it's good enough. I've set myself a real-proper deadline of the end of the Easter holidays to finish the first draft so I can spend the summer term re-writing so that I've got something concrete-ish to take with me to York this year. And this isn't one of those wussy deadlines that get shifted around depending on my productivity, oh no! This is a set-in-stone, You're-Not-Going-To-York-This-Year-If-You-Miss-It kind of deadline. (Slightly scared myself, tbh, with the severity of the talking to that I gave myself.)

In the meantime, it didn't pass by Skylark Husband unnoticed that I had spent much of the Autumn term wallowing in Youngest-Child-Now-At-School self-pity and not getting as much writing done as I should have been considering how much time I now had at my disposal. (And, yes, I did spot the irony of having spent the last few years looking forward to this time only to start desperately back-pedalling when it arrived.) So he got me a bunch of writing-themed Christmas presents as his way of gently kicking me up the backside: a writing mug, a word-game and a word-processed chart he made and printed off for me. The first got the laugh it deserved (and at the rate at which I break mugs, a new one is always handy) and the second turned out to be an excellent writing warm-up/brain break/relaxation tool, but it's the chart that's really pushed me out of the doldrums and got me writing at a pace I've not come close to reaching in a long time and one I thought was worth sharing in case it works for anyone else.

It's a simple idea. At the top it says, 'Don't break the chain' and underneath are 365 boxes numbered from 1-365. All I have to do is write every day and colour a box in every day that I write, and what I must try not to do is break the chain. When I say 'write every day', it doesn't have to be for long and there is no word limit. I've set myself the goal of writing for at least half an hour a day - though on my dedicated writing days I often manage to fit in several hours - but even if I only manage ten minutes, and I've added some new words, I get to colour the box in. (Interestingly, having allowed myself the possibility of only writing for ten minutes, I've only fallen back on that once since I started. Every other writing session has been half an hour or more.)

To maximise the chances of this strategy succeeding, I sat down before I started and drew up a timetable of exactly when each day I could feasibly fit the writing in. Some days are timetabled down to the very last millisecond because there's so much else going on and that's the only way I can make sure that the writing gets its slot. Other days, like my two precious, dedicated writing days, are more flexible and if I'm on a roll, I can write for four-five hours - bliss! Some days, like my teaching days, I have no choice but to leave the writing until after the kids are in bed (phone reminder set to alarm so I can't forget after a busy day of doing non-writing related things). What I found, though, was that once I committed to finding the time, it wasn't as hard as I thought and most of the time it's been easy to stick to the routine I've set out for each day. Every now and then a day comes along that messes with the routine or is just so stupidly packed that the only time left to write is either ridiculously early in the morning or ridiculously late at night and it requires a fair amount of internal bullying to sit down and open the laptop. But even then, I've found that once I get started, I can produce a useable chunk of around 300 words, which is better than none and adds up to a significant portion of the overall word count over time.

I've often advocated the idea of trying to write every day, even if it's just with the intention to write one sentence (because a sentence can lead to a paragraph which can lead to a page which can lead to two pages and so on) but this is the first time that I've sustained the 'write every day' habit for more than a couple of 
weeks at a time because it in the past it has been soooooo easy to make an excuse when something big comes along to get in the way. And then 
once you've made the excuse for something big, it's easier to make an excuse for something medium sized, and then you make an excuse for something little, and then something tiny, and before you know it, you've not opened the WIP in a month. So why does the 'Don't Break the Chain' chart work for me where simple self-motivation doesn't? I think, first of all, it's the visual reminder of my 'chain' - it's stuck to the side of a cupboard in the kitchen where my keys also hang so I see it several times every day and it reminds me to write and it reminds me how far I've come since Day 1. Secondly, I'm quite a competitive person, but not really against other people, more with myself. I like the challenge of setting myself goals and then seeing if I can beat it the next time. Like when I took up mountain biking two years ago and determined to get to the top of the very steep lane outside my house. It took me just over a year of aiming for the next lamp post, the next tree, the next drain cover, the next telegraph poll - and never allowing myself to take a step backwards, always matching or bettering the landmark I'd reached the previous week - before I finally made it to the top without stopping. The chart taps into that competitive streak - you've made 10 days? Well done. Next goal 20 days. Now a month. Now 50 days.

I've now written for 52 days in a row without breaking the chain and it's getting easier every day, partly because I've got so far in I really, really don't want to break the chain, and partly because it's now firmly imbedded in my weekly routine, but most of all because of the creative benefits I'm now reaping as a result of writing every day. I never lose my place in the WIP, never have to waste time refreshing my memory or working out where I was planning to go next. My characters are fresh in my head, I'm living with the story all the time and that's making me more creative in between the writing sessions in terms of dreaming scenes and characters and plotting ideas, and that in turn makes each writing session more meaningful and productive, which keeps me eager to write more because I know it won't be as hard as sitting down with something I've not looked at in weeks.

My next goal? 75 days. Then 100 days. By which time I will be extremely close to the scary Not-Going-To-York deadline...but if I've managed not to break the chain, hopefully I'll also be extremely close to finishing the first draft. Yikes!

Keep on writing, 
keep on writing...

Feb 24th

Some authors are rich and some are stupid

By Harry

FInal reflections on my life and times with Big Publishing. Nip over here, take a look, report back.

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