Discovering A Song of Jean

Posted: May 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: authors, diary, writing | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted here – work/family have been filling my time but I’ve also been hacking apart an almost complete novel and trying to put it back together again. This involves courage – and some writing. I’m determined to have a new #1 draft by the beginning of the summer so I can take a few weeks off before the rewriting process begins – so this post might be my lot for another few weeks.

In the last couple of months I have been accepted as a member of the Tindal Street Fiction Group (TSFG). The group meets once a fortnight and so far I’m enjoying the experience. The evening goes like this: reading, analysis, pub. An excellent format in my opinion. I’ve never belonged to a writing group before and although TSFG has been established for years it doesn’t feel cliquey.

I have just discovered – while writing this post and trying to find links to TSFG – that one of the members, Sybil Ruth, is the author of a poem that I have read and reread since I first came across it last year. The poem won the Mslexia Poetry Competition and is called A Song of Jean – and you can read it here.

I suddenly feel even more chuffed about being a member of TSFG.


Posted: December 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: prizes, writing | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Well – despite my cynical post about the People’s Book Prize in November I am pleased to announce that Among Thieves has WON the October vote. This means my novel goes through to the ‘finals’ and I get to wear a frock at an event in London next year – I think.

The thing is it’s not entirely clear what happens once a novel has passed the monthly vote hurdle. Will novelists have to gee the troops again and beg everyone who’s ever met them to vote ‘one more time’? And here’s the problem with literary prizes that depend on a public vote. The very nature of independent publishing means that most of the books submitted for the prize don’t have a print-run of more than 2,000. So the readership is tiny and every novelist entered (if they care) will have to coerce their friends, family and colleagues to go online/register/vote/comment – yawn.

This means that people who have more of an online presence (and this includes me) have a better chance of winning. Democratic it is not.

On the other hand does a ‘struggling’ author pass up the chance to increase awareness of their novel? Of course not. I would love to leave all the ‘marketing and promotion’ bollocks to a PR person who actually enjoys generating column inches. For most authors, publicising their novel is simply something that distracts them from the thing they desperately want to be doing. Writing. But without a successful first outing who will publish the next one?

And so we must throw ourselves into the fray, try not to think about the whore-Factor and keep our eyes on the prize – which in reality is widening our audience.

Great Adaptations

Posted: May 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: events, writing | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

I spent an evening at Stratford Literary Festival listening to a panel of authors talking about their experiences adapting novels for the screen – and in one case, for radio.

The panel included Mary Cutler, David Nicholls and Deborah Moggach, along with a very competent chair and an actor who read a couple of pieces of the authors’ adapted and unadapted work. I was particularly intrigued by what one of the panel called ‘creating light’ when adapting a novel. The ms itself can be dense or ‘dark’ and there’s no way you can reproduce a scene in real time – so you have to create light for it to work on screen. A throw-away moment in the original text is expanded to represent a state of mind and create space for the audience to engage.

Refracted moments
David Nicholls explained how, in his adaptation of And When Did You Last See Your Father (Blake Morrison), a comment in the text about learning to drive on the beach was refracted in the adaptation. It became an extended sequence, shot on a beach, that represented, or echoed, other themes in the book but was not present in the original text. I like this strategy – and perhaps it’s worth looking out for opportunities to create light and space when writing, or at least be more visual. I can see the value in rewriting sections of a ms (especially if they’re ‘overworked’) into representational moments rather than extended descriptions, scenes, dialogue or inner lives… thinking aloud.