Opinions & Rants


Back in February, tramping through knee-deep snow, a friend said something which surprised me.

Nationalism is a force of destruction.

No, I argued. Nationalism is a force for unity and joy.

Love, loyalty and celebration.

Admittedly, I was only thinking of the streets of Cardiff outside the Millennium Stadium after Wales had just won. The joy, the laughter, the hugs and happiness at what our tiny, brave, beautiful country just achieved. “Way-els, Way-els, Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi…”

trees sunset

Wales won last night.

Normally I’d be waving flags and cheering and gently teasing all my non-Welsh friends. But yesterday, displays of nationalism left a very bad taste.

You may not have heard about the UK referendum. Perhaps you’ve got a few problems in your own backyard and couldn’t give a toss how the British government’s petty in-fighting gambled with the future of the country and lost.

There’s a stupid six-letter word to describe this, but made-up, fallacious, simplistic, emotion-over-logic, reductionist bullshit is what got us thus far so I refuse to use it.

Let’s leave aside the likely break-up of the (dis)United Kingdom, campaign promises which were nothing more than empty slogans, the collapse of both leading governmental parties, international economic consequences, the impact on the EU’s geo-political security and the immediate uncertainty around who is responsible for clearing up this pile of political vomit.

spider

The fact is the damage is done.

The British public is polarised, enraged, divided and shocked by its own behaviour. Much like the Scottish independence referendum, the hate and vitriol stirred up did not disappear after the decision.

The fury at ‘the other side’ continues with ever more extremist and personal attacks, retreating into its own media outlets and sticking its fingers into its ears as to anything which puts a balanced view.

Political parties practise self-defense/immolation while the electorate, whichever way they may have voted, says…

Oh Holy Shit.

At the heart of this is nationalism.

A deluded belief: absolutely fine on our own, thanks very much, never needed anyone’s help before, you need us more than we need you, our superiority complex has never let us down yet.

Nationalism is not a force solely of destruction or unity. It can be both. But it is certainly emotional and heartfelt, which can be used for positive, inclusive, joyous means or the exact opposite.

Much as I am grieving over Britain’s colossal political cock-up, I still have faith in (most of) its people. Our language, our culture, our cuisine, our infrastructure, our openness and our economy depend on the ability to absorb and embrace the rest of the world.

sunset

Britain is not the sum of its politicians.

It’s the sum of its people.

And we are so much better than this.

So, anyone got a plan?

 

Thanks to JD Lewis for all these beautiful images. Check out more of her work here.

 

So things are happening…

Triskele Lit Fest: Sept 17, London

Pop-up bookshop, genre panels, Preserving the Unicorn, Human Library, goodie bags and non-stop booktalk.

This is not ‘talking about diversity’. This is being diverse.

Authors are invited to talk about their work – regardless of publishing route or ethnicity – readers are invited to add their opinions. This is for writers and readers, publishers and booksellers.

Rumour is, there’ll be a party too.

 

Creative Spark

Photo0030Sharpen your pencils, writerly sorts.

We have TEN weeks of creative writing exercises from expert tutors at your disposal.

Free. Yes, seriously free. No sign-up, no cash, no email address, this is open access.

And it is an imagination workout from some of the best international tutors there are. Drum roll…

Emma Darwin, Tracey Warr, Roz Morris, Jo Furniss, Amanda Hodgkinson, Lindsey Grant, Jessica Bell, Karen Pegg, Laurence O’Bryan and Triskele Books on all aspects of writing technique.

Starts July 1st and subsequent Fridays.

Join in, comment, share your results (if you like) and flex those writerly muscles.

 

The Woolf

partial-image-courtesy-paul-neale

Zürich’s cultural quarterly changes with the seasons.

Our next issue is themed Beginnings.

Have a look at our last issue – Borders.

And if you’d like to contribute something thinky and artistic, bring it on.

 

Unity

Can’t sign off this week’s blog without a comment. (It’s my blogpost and I’ll rant if I want to.)

All the above and more – Triskele Books, TLF, Creative Spark, The Woolf, WriteCon, Words with JAM and Bookmuse  – are the result of creative collaboration.

Collaboration is bloody hard work, often boring and frustrating, with as much energy devoted to peace-keeping as to creativity.

Sure, each of us could vote out and go it alone.

We could drop the whole thing and pursue our own egotistical agendas. Wear fake tan, go blond and thump our individual tubs.

But we don’t. We argue and discuss and get pissed/pissed off and laugh and agree and remind each of why we wanted to do this.

Every single project needs the hard slog of negotiation and commitment to the end result.

It works. It really does.

Generosity and openness, concessions and compromise lead to fabulous things, which sometimes involve Prosecco.

Teamwork, togetherness and the daily niggles of trying to do stuff with other people is damn good shit, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

The EU is hard work. But that is what democracy means. It cannot be summed up in a slogan, an image or a chant.

But I will quote my university professor: Go the bloody hard way. Don’t give up.

For me, that means Remain.

brexit

 

 

 

Tomorrow, the UK votes on whether to leave the European Union. A non-resident for over ten years, perhaps I should keep my trap shut. Or… not.

I live in Switzerland, I read and listen to a broad range of opinion and I care deeply about my continent. And I’m voting to stay.

I believe in unity and how collective power achieves more than the individual. That’s why I think Britain should stick with the EU and effect change from within. My arguments, please note, are based on the positives (well, ok, the last one is arguable). But fear-mongering paranoia merchants should be discounted from the first time they mention ‘The War’.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/easethemain/

Dante

Reasons to Vote Stay

Peace

Diplomacy, negotiation and compromise will never make for dramatic Hollywood fodder. It’s hard work and often pretty tedious. However, sitting around a table beats bombing each other into the ground.

“The EU has helped secure peace among previously warring western European nations. It helped to consolidate democracy in Spain, Portugal, Greece and former Soviet bloc countries and helped preserve peace in the Balkans since the end of the Balkans War. With the UN it now plays a leading role in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and democracy building.” ProEuropa

Power on the International Stage

The heft of the EU is far for influential than a bunch of disparate states. The collective might and unified will of 28 countries can withstand attempts to destabilise and divide its members.

“Post-Brexit, Britain would find it harder to keep close foreign-policy and security links with the EU, not least because it would no longer be in the room. There is a broader geopolitical point, too. Partly because its foreign-policy role has grown, the EU has become a key piece of the West’s defence and security architecture. Brexit would weaken the EU—and so the West.” The Economist

Power against Corporate Might

Britain’s submission to big business has been thus far held in check by European directives. Tax avoidance, minimum wages, working conditions in adherence to Human Rights Laws can only be battled by a unified power.

“Multinationals are becoming ever more devious in trying to control our lives…just look at all the fines the likes of Microsoft, Google, banks and others have had to pay out to the EU and others. This can only be effectively done if these organisations are policed and controlled by larger organisations such as the EU. Britain on its own will find it hard to fight its corner in the face of ever more powerful multinational organisations.” SayYesToEurope

https://www.flickr.com/photos/141892065@N07/

kevin.norberg

Freedom of Movement

This means in and out and is NOT the same as immigration. Our doctors, your granny’s flat in Marbella and the ebb and flow of an international workforce which supports the country’s services. “These are the rights that, reciprocally across countries, allow people to send their children abroad to study, shop internationally with consumer protection, buy houses in sunnier climes, retire and collect pensions, get emergency medical treatment, marry and have normal family life and social benefits with a foreign European spouse, and countless other shorter and longer term cross-border mobilities.” London School of Economics

Media muscle

This quote from Anthony Hilton in the Evening Standard will suffice.

I once asked Rupert Murdoch why he was so opposed to the European Union. ‘That’s easy,’ he replied. ‘When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.’

Self-interested A-holes

Boris, Farage and Trump support Brexit. Need I say more? DonaldDick

 

And finally here’s The Clash, just because they’re The Clash.

cc_icon_public_domain_work

“It’s a token payment, obviously.”

“We’re a charity, so can’t offer a fee.”

“We’re offering exposure instead of expenses.”

“To speak at the festival, you’ll have to buy a full-price pass.”

UPDATE: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/joanne-harris-withdraws-festival-over-unreasonable-demands-322968

Philip Pullman set off a mushroom cloud by resigning as patron of the Oxford LitFest because they do not pay authors.

p pullman

The principle is very simple: a festival pays the people who supply the marquees, it pays the printers who print the brochure, it pays the rent for the lecture halls and other places, it pays the people who run the administration and the publicity, it pays for the electricity it uses, it pays for the drinks and dinners it lays on: why is it that the authors, the very people at the centre of the whole thing, the only reason customers come along and buy their tickets in the first place, are the only ones who are expected to work for nothing?

 

This led to a call for a boycott by author Amanda Craig in an open letter to The Bookseller.

amanda craigFor too long, authors have been persuaded to give our services to the public for free – even though the public is paying in good faith to see us. We are the only people in festivals who are not paid, and yet without us the festivals could not exist. Writing is a vocation but it is also a profession, and it is time we all stiffened our spines, dug in our heels and said No.

 

This was not the first criticism of literary festivals and the treatment of writers in general – Nicola Solomon of The Society of Authors sounded the alarm last November and again in January.

illustration by @jabberworks

illustration by @jabberworks

 

We should ensure that authors are paid properly for appearances.

Making appearances involves preparation and travelling time and authors earn their living as freelancers, so it is only fair that time is paid for.

 

 

 

I agree.

I stand up and applaud.

As a writer, speaker and panellist, of course. But also as a workshop and conference organiser.

audienceThe Woolf pays people for their time and experience (not just the event, but the travelling and preparation, plus expenses). It’s only fair. Speakers are the main reason people attend the event and should be remunerated. In the early days, we gave our time for free and even shelled out for any shortfall, but the speakers were always, always, paid.

Photography by Libby O'Loghlin

Philip Pullman, Nicola Solomon and Amanda Craig deserve applause and support for exhorting all of us who benefit from writers.

We need to make a New Year’s Resolution:

So here it is.

Ideas underpin publishing houses, television series, literary festivals, bookshops, bedtime stories, erotica on e-readers, audio-absorption for commuters, escapism to another world or examination of this one.

Ideas provide private introspection and collective water cooler conversations; stories, tales, narratives we need to make sense of life.

Ideas would be impossible without the imagination of the artist.

Ideas are worth paying for.

Treasure the storytellers.

Credit the creators.

Cough up.

 

JJ Marsh, Susan Jane Gilman, Joanna Penn, Libby O'Loghlin and Emma Darwin

JJ Marsh, Susan Jane Gilman, Joanna Penn, Libby O’Loghlin and Emma Darwin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

theo fennellDecember 6 2007.

A hotel room in London.

An old friend and I sat chatting about life, work, family, friends and writing. We agreed the old adage is true – a friend in need is a friend in deed – but a true friend will still be there applauding from the sidelines when that same person achieves extraordinary success. No envy or green-eyed venom, just genuine joy for well-deserved recognition.

The world of writers is small and in my experience, warmly supportive. Other authors have taught me a great deal and many have become close friends. This is a community in which I feel at home. Not all my colleagues write the kind of books I want to read, and not all of them read what I want to write, but I respect and admire their talents.

Today, I was shocked and alarmed to read of truly vicious attacks on authors by fellow writers/publishers who should be above such behaviour. Sock-puppetry, fake reviews, sham websites, trolling and online abuse to a degree which requires official investigation – how do they carve out enough time in their days of spite to actually write?

I’m not going to link to these nasty stories, as I don’t want to promote them or their unpleasantness. Instead, I want to draw your attention to this:

EthicalAuthor_CodeofConduct

 

This is the Ethical Author Code, from The Alliance of Independent Authors

I’m an Ethical Author and I’d like you to be one too. It costs you nothing but bolsters the message that the majority of us are decent people. We support each other, rejoice in everyone’s successes and admire creativity with words. Sign up, whether you’re a member or not.

Sooner or later, the good will outweigh the bad.

 

Herewith the oft-quoted and possibly apocryphal Picasso anecdote:

Picasso is sketching at a park. A woman walks by, recognizes him, and begs for her portrait. A few minutes later, he hands her the sketch. She is elated, excited about how wonderfully it captures the very essence of her character, what beautiful work it is, and asks how much she owes him. “5000 francs, madam,” says Picasso. The woman is outraged as it only took him five minutes. Picasso says: “No, madam, it took me my whole life.”

As an author, I’m anti-frees. I spent years honing each of my books, not to mention the years of craft and education it took me to get to publication stage. You want all that – gratis?

booksnake

Book Snake by Alan Levine (Creative Commons)

Before I even pressed the publish button, I promised my novels two things: Never free, never exclusive. If I don’t value my work, why would anyone else? And I feel the same way as Dorothy Parker regarding eggs.

Things have changed. According to better-informed observers, the ‘free’ phenomenon no longer works in terms of connecting books to readers. It had its moment, filling up e-reading devices with the unread, unreviewed and undervalued. That strategy of luring the reader into your series proved to be largely a myth as many never bothered to read the first one. Some who downloaded and read freebies left poor reviews, reflecting how little worth a free book holds.

Pulp fiction.

But I want to address this issue as a reader, not a writer.

I just had a cleansing cull of my Twitter feed, deleting all those who post largely FREE!!!! announcements and constant book promotion.

Because…

I do not want your new free book.

I will not read, I will not look.

If I dig down the back of the sofa and root about in the corners of my handbag, I can probably come up with three quid. An e-book costs me less than a birthday card and contains a lot more words. It holds the possibility of an enjoyable experience. Just that, a possibility.

But you’re not asking for my money. You want something far, far more valuable.

You want my time.

Reading is my sanctuary and my education. It’s my reward at the end of a difficult day. Those precious hours I spend with my paperbacks or e-reader are anything but throwaway.

I listen to friends, read reviews, hoard recommendations and if an author seems interesting, I buy their books. This is a big leap for me. Parting with three gilded coins is one thing, but six to ten hours of my attention is a much greater investment.

Discounted! Free! Limited time only! I couldn’t care less.

For a great premise, intriguing blurb and appealing cover, I’ll have a look. I’ll try a few pages. Plus if the author’s personality is something more interesting than Self-Promo Klaxon, I’ll pay full price, read and review.

Today, I bought some pumpkin-seed bread. It costs more than the bog-standard loaf, but I know I will enjoy it. The cashier threw a honey rice-cracker into my carrier bag as a little extra. I thanked him, took it home, crumbled it up and put it on the bird-table.

After all, it was free.

 

Image by Alan Levine

 

 

 

002 - Copy (3)

My bookshelf – a glorious mish-mash

The newspaper I’ve read since I was able to choose for myself  is The Guardian. We share a roughly similar world view, their standard of journalism is high and they tackle controversial issues. Best of all, I love their books section, book passion and literary mindset. I could spend all day browsing their features and reviews.

They were one of the first broadsheets to get behind self-publishing as a serious literary phenomenon and I couldn’t have been prouder to appear in their pages as a Reader Recommended indie book last year.

Now they’ve launched a prize for Best Self-Published Book, which runs monthly. Hooray!

Or… not?

(Note: As a non-UK resident, I am ineligible to enter. This is not a ‘How Dare They Overlook My Genius’ hissy fit, but a general concern.)

It’s early days, but the first two winning books have been selected and duly reviewed. Two very different winners; a comic romp and the story of a suffragette.

Much to admire in Tom Moran’s Dinosaurs and Prime Numbers, but the reviewer says this:

But it is surprisingly easy to forget that Dinosaurs and Prime Numbers is self-published – that it hasn’t been through the editing, streamlining, stringent process of a publishing house. Spelling, grammar, the rest of it, are all spot-on, and Moran’s story hangs together neatly, pleasingly, and open-endedly ready for a follow-up.

 … a slice of (sometimes) comic fantasy which deserves comparison to the likes of Robert Rankin – another author who isn’t afraid to pile on the quips, and who nonetheless enjoys a home at a mainstream publisher. There’s talent, here, if you can trample through the jokes to find it.

The reviewer of The Right of the Subjects, by Jude Starling, makes her judgement in the headline. A closely researched and passionately told story of suffragism, this novel could have been greatly improved by a conventional publisher.

… They [editors] may remind you that people don’t describe themselves as going somewhere with “our eyes shining”. They’ll mention that The Right of the Subjects might not be the most alluring title. They won’t let you use the word “tut” three times on one page, or the same formula each time you describe someone’s physical appearance, or have a character called Annie appearing alongside a character called Amie. They’ll tell you when your book is, say, 25% (30,000 words or so, in this case) too long.

Rather makes me glad I’m not eligible if this is my reward. A pat on the head for a ‘nice try’?

I have several issues with this.

If you are awarding a prize for the Best Self-Published Novel, why not choose one you can rave about? I’m a regular reviewer for Bookmuse, never differentiating between indie, trad or small press (unless I feel it deserves a mention, such as with A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing). I’ve read literary fiction, horror, in translation, YA, thriller and general fiction from a range of sources, and won’t review if I can’t recommend. Not one self-published novel on the site merited such half-hearted enthusiasm as these prize winners. If I were Mr Moran or Ms Starling, I’d find this chalice not quite poisoned, but certainly corked.

Example indie books I’ve loved: I Stopped Time by Jane Davis,  The Flesh Market by Richard Wright, String Bridge by Jessica Bell

Traditional/conventional/mainstream/trade publishing is not always better. Top indie authors use professional editors, copy editors and proofreaders. They work with expert designers and typesetters. They work hard on their marketing just the same as any midlist author with a trad press must, and are often more creative and flexible in reaching readers.

Example of trade press publication editing: (author unnamed as I see this as publisher failure).

 p.21 – A. was explaining something to S., elaborately gesticulating. He liked to use them a lot while talking, just like an Italian.
p. 42 – Wrong character name
p. 68 – Wrong character name
p. 77 – For a few seconds, she lost balance, the creaking tyres leaving a long black mark behind.
p. 81 – C smiled afflicted.
p. 89 – Truly awful metaphor
p. 90 – …there was something grander then the trivial petty misery
p. 90 – A fomer boyfriend
p. 109 – The spheric sound of Goldfrap
p. 129 – “Take me under you microscope”
p. 132 – …as she watched him filetting that turbot
p. 138 – Mother and daugther.
p. 157 – C. and her friends are a rangle of mid-thirties character without…

 

The assessment of what ‘the best’ is always going to be subjective. Is that a polished package with its own branding? Or something that makes news because it sells? Or a brilliantly imaginative experiment in a tacky cover with a nasty font? Or a multimedia set of discoverables for readers to assemble and interpret? Or ‘almost as good as something the Big Five might put out’?

I find it depressing that the first two reviews of Best Self-Published Books in The Guardian/Legend Prize contain such reactionary observations and still hold up the trade model as ideal.

Self-publishing’s grown up.

Time reviewers caught up.

 

 

the leapStandards in self-publishing.

This whole argument feels like a perennial pinball machine, where opinions converge, collide, bend at impossible angles and ricochet off in another direction.

Debbie Young confronted the Elephant in the Room on the Self-Publishing Advice blog. Porter Anderson raised the topic via his Twitter debate #muse14. This phenomenon is the slightly awkward relative at a wedding, whose social skills are dubious, but you can’t get away from the fact you are related.

Let’s face it, lots of self-published books are crap. Whether that’s the cover, the writing or simply the concept, which might have been better off unpublished and retained as a private, personal seven-volume diatribe on vengeance / erotica / combustion engines.

It’s my hugest concern.

‘How could this be better?’ is the question I ask most. (This includes Where’s the corkscrew? Who the hell gave that git a driving licence? Do you need a pee and poo? – to husband, pugs and random strangers, not necessarily in that order.)

Self/indie publishing has many different perspectives. The radical and ground-breaking such as eightcutsgallerypress. The various methods of author collectives – genre, marketing, support, shared readership – all show that there is no one route to success.

When starting the Triskele Books collective, we set ourselves a challenge. Three elements were non-negotiable:

  • Our books will look professional
  • Every book must reflect our USP – Time and Place
  • Top quality writing

The first two points are pretty easy to judge, but the last, as we grow and learn, is far harder to define. What IS good writing? And who says so? We’ve worked together for years; as amateur critique partners, indie team-mates and now professional colleagues, thus we trust each other’s insight.

I could break down each of my books and tell you where the Triskelites made it better. I hope they’d say the same. Because we don’t settle for OK. It’s never ‘good enough’. It has to be the very best it can be, and that can take three or seven rewrites, a new cover design, or a total change of blurb.

New Triskele associates get that. These are writers prepared to listen, do the work and make a good book something exceptional. A collective depends on every single book being a flagship. You liked this? Well, there’s more where that came from. We’re currently reading the manuscripts from new potential associates, and offering structural/copy edit/line edit support, alongside marketing advice and collaborative opportunities.

This is what we do.

I’ve read some great books lately. Lowland, String Bridge, Night Train to Lisbon, A Funeral for an Owl, The Glass RoomThe Fleshmarket, Vlad the Inhaler, Spilt Milk: approximately 50/50 indie & trad published.

I’ve read some utter bilge, too. Seven (trad) books sit on the StinkPile, to be exchanged at the local coffee shop for something worth reading. At least six Kindle indies got deleted less than 10% in. Life’s too short for derivative, shallow and crappy – unless that’s what you’re looking for. (If so, you’re in luck – there’s a shedload.)

Standards.

I have them in reading. I want them in my writing. And as much as I am a bigmouthed, opinionated gobshite, I know other people’s input will take my work beyond my own reach. I hope mine can contribute in the same way.

jo stars

photo by JP Masclett

It’s such a terrible shame to see precious column inches wasted by someone talking out of their hole.

I thought I’d seen a fair few stupid things over the past week, but Lynn Shepherd’s absurd take on why JK Rowling should make way for other writers put the Flake in my idiot’s ice-cream. Here it is, if you’ve not read it, but it’ll be thirty seconds of your life you won’t get back.

If JK Rowling cares about writing, she should stop doing it.

Said ‘columnist’ admits to not having a clue in the first place. Making comments on Rowling’s literary merit while saying ‘never read a word’, ‘apparently’, ‘by all accounts’. Accepting the Potter novels were OK for kids (because children obviously have no critical judgement or comprehension of good storytelling) but it was a ‘shame’ to see adults read them.

As for ‘sucking the oxygen from the publishing industry’, JK Rowling is the same woman who encouraged a generation to fall in love with books and reading. The same woman who created a fanbase so loyal they would purchase her shopping list. Not by slagging off her peers, but by writing stories and characters people returned to again and again. The devious cow.

The claim that Rowling’s success leaves no room for others is presumably based on Shepherd’s  well-researched premise that readers only buy one book a year, critics only assess one novel a month and bookshops clear all their shelves so as to stock exclusively all things Rowling.

Lynn Shepherd, I know little about your journalism, but if this is anything to go by, I am less than eager to  seek out pieces attacking other writers purely for gaining more attention than you. I have no idea if you are a decent yet cruelly overlooked novelist, so shall refrain from comment. Even preceded by an ‘apparently’.

So, my plea to you, by all means keep spouting your opinion for your personal pleasure – it sure ain’t for anyone else’s – but when it comes to the publishing perspective you’ve had your turn. Enjoy your vast reputation for being a moron, luxuriate in the bliss only ignorance can bring, and good luck to you on both counts.

But it’s time to give other journalists an opportunity. They might even write something worth reading.

*Addendum*

Re one star reviews on Lynn Shepherd’s books: I see this as unfair extrapolation. Sure, the article quoted above was a cheap piece of Katie Hopkins style bear-baiting to attract attention. I stand by the piece I wrote above, retaliating against poor journalism. But leaving one star reviews and unpleasant comments on her books is simply sinking to the same level of trolling as the original.

My writers’ groups are an eclectic bunch. Both the real and virtual ones. Talk about diversity of genre: science-fictioneers, literary sorts, an essayist, several short story supremos, a fantasist, flash fiction champion, a screenwriter, several children’s and YA authors, an eroticist and several colleagues in crime.

But where my real group differs to the virtual is in diversity of background. True, native English speakers from the US and the UK dominate. But we are lucky enough to have people from Finland, Turkey, the Dominican Republic, India, Denmark and happily, Switzerland.

I feel lucky. And a little abashed. Because these amazing individuals can write, and write beautifully, in a second language. Not only that, but they achieve a freedom a native speaker cannot.

Unbound by the cliché of collocation, many of these writers create fresh, surprising images and their prose, or poetry, is all the richer for it. A creativity with syntax, whether through unfamiliarity with that of English, or familiarity with their mother tongue, generates original expressions and ambiguous concepts.

Here are a few random extracts from a Turkish writer of short stories:

Within our racehorse minds of adolescence.

Couldn’t get a joy of the breath I was forced, I felt like a newborn, I needed to cry, I needed to push out that air.

I wanted her.  Not just her eyes, I wanted to catch her hair.  I wanted to unbutton her blouse in the name of passion.

All images which made me stop and consider. What does ‘catch her hair’ really mean?

From Finland, this hypnotic piece which deserves to be read aloud.

The blue gleaming moon, the Stranger, had last been seen full and close in the sky many years past. Now it was back, vexing the reliable yellow satellite, the Guardian. Double full moon was a time of spirits, or beings of the immaterial sort.

I felt a mantle of moonbeams on my skin, wrapping me in their warm embrace.

The willing ones, the witches, were the ones to fear in particular. Though they worked their spells hidden among common folk, humans were no longer the people they called their own.

Let those paths lie in the hands of witches and mages, dreamers and crazies.

So rich in sounds and symbols, and so strangely perfect.

A Swiss friend is writing about the reality of death. The book is surprisingly upbeat and affirming. Some extracts below:

Showing the pieces of beauty that lay hidden inside a catastrophe.

And the voice will add that only you yourself will be to blame if you die for your lack of self-confidence. Your beloved ones are going through the same emotions but at different wavelengths.

Cancer is the heavy bell of the wake-up call that turns into the weight at your ankle in the deep water of despair.

I could never write such densely weighted concepts with such a chiaroscuro of lightness and gravitas.

An Indian writer is working on a children’s book, about cricket and imagination. He has a stunning skill with direct yet unusual imagery and deeply satisfying rhythms.

But his pictures didn’t look like galaxies at all, they looked like burnt egg omelets.

What a mighty bummer, the size of the biggest cricket stadium in the whole world.

If Ziptux had the plinkies and was really imagining all this, he would only touch air, not a real person. *

Another children’s writer from Denmark has a delicate ability with alliteration and sound. I suspect she’d make a brilliant rapper.

Life is tough, then you die. The first five words didn’t disturb him; their cool orange and blue patterns would make anyone proud. The black scrawl of the last word stood out. Was it intentionally ugly and unfinished, or did the lack of colour reflect a need for speed towards the end?

 Millions of freckles fought for space in his face.

The last word continued to echo inside his head, die, die, die, as if it was an order spoken in a void.

There’s something limitless, unpredictable and exciting about these writers. As Melvyn Bragg says in The Adventure of English: [English] continues to reinvent new Englishes wherever it goes and shows no sign at all of slowing down.

Hooray for that.

* PS: Here’s the wonderfully talented Brijesh reading an extract, including his excellent line above.

 

« Previous PageNext Page »