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February 2009
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April 2009

March 2009

No lines to learn, what's not to like?

So, it's festival time again. That makes me sound like an old hand, which would hardly be true. Having said that, if a festival and publisher have paid for you to fly halfway round the world, they get their money's worth, and in ten days in New Zealand and Australia I did something like five festival sessions complete with post-session gallop down to the bookshop tent to sign things, as well as TV, radio, press, a couple of photos. I've a nasty feeling that real authors are supposed to hate it, to be such tender plants or introverts that standing... Read more →


Accept, adapt, ignore

Well, I'd like to pretend that the reason I haven't posted here for so long is something large and amazing - a burst of literary inspiration, a passionate affair, a killing on the stock market - but of course it isn't, it's the usual accumulation of dull but urgent stuff which domestic and freelance life attracts as a drain attracts dead leaves. Most of those leaves are terribly boring (did you think that if the oven door you were trying to mend slipped one inch to touch the floor, it would shatter? No, neither did I, but now a new... Read more →


Showing up for the genie

Has anyone asked about your writing recently in the voice we use for people with illnesses which aren't going to get better? 'How's it going?' they say, consciously radiating willingness to receive a terse 'Fine, thanks,' or a half-hour outburst of gruesome symptoms and existential fears. When you first declared, or mumbled, that you wanted to be a writer, did you get an anxious spiel about how agonising rejections are before you get a deal, and even worse four books down the line when even your agent will drop you? And how lonely it is! And what about the terror... Read more →


Ask your talent

An aspiring writer who's hovering somewhere between Reasons They're Rejecting You numbers 12 and 13 of Slushkiller's classic list (scroll down a bit), poor thing, has reached that banging-her-head-against-the-wall-and-howling stage. 'What more do I have to do?' she cries. She's written the best book she's capable of, and then made it better still. It's beautifully written, thoughtful, compelling, the voices are great and the plot excellent. Everyone who sees it loves it enough to bother to write a personal rejection, but reject it they do: somehow, it didn't quite grab them enough, in a climate where a book has to... Read more →


Telling stories and feeling the not-knowing

On Monday I was at the Royal Society, as Pepys might have said, always being at the cutting edge of the establishment of his day, for the launch of a book co-written by a friend of mine, Nicholas Beale, with the particle physicist Professor John Polkinghorne. I've not often been to that wonderfully grand, white building in Carlton House Terrace, but I never cease to be awed - once I've recovered from entering under the gaze of its founder, one of my favourite monarchs, Charles II - at the history of science which surrounds you: Newton looking mad, Faraday looking... Read more →