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November 2010

Are you a course junkie?

Over on Help! I Need a Publisher, Nicola Morgan has a characteristically sensible post about if and when it's sense to invest money in your writing. One thing, especially, that she says isn't said often enough: "I would spend far more time practising what I'd been taught than I'd spent on receiving the teaching". I've had my say about the pros and cons of writing courses in general here, but I'd suggest that what Nicola's getting at is something I touched on in that post: the possibility that you are, or could become, a writing course junkie. I'm not talking... Read more →

Keeping up with the Jameses

Someone reading my post In Praise of the Long Sentence recently took issue with one of my examples, taken from un(der)educated, 15-year-old Anna's narrative in The Mathematics of Love: They were tiny of course like all the other negs I'd looked at, but different because I was looking at them in one curling strip and all still wet: clear lavender-coloured shadows and dark skies, trees and pillars and windows and faces caught click after click, coiling and springing down the film one after the other so that all the distance and time between them was pressed into plain, pale bands... Read more →

Disagreeing with Kapka Kassabova (and thanks to Ian Rankin)

On Twitter, @beathhigh, otherwise known as Ian Rankin, has just tweeted a quote from the poet Kapka Kassabova on writing courses: All you can teach is the craft, not the art. Twenty minutes in, and it's been re-tweeted by two people I follow - an agent and a writer - and goodness knows how many others who I don't. So maybe I'm a lone voice in saying that although I like her poetry very much, I don't think she's entirely right. Or rather, I don't think it's as simple as that, though what I do think isn't that complicated: it... Read more →

All that jazz

These days, when I go to a writerly-authorly sort of do it's rare that I don't see someone I know, or meet someone who turns out to have friends in common. The book trade is a very small village, and book launches, parties and gatherings of The Society of Authors, NAWE, RNA and the like are our shop, pub, and cottage hospital. (Our school bus stop is Twitter, of course). By comparison, official networking events seem depressingly cold-blooded: the speed-dating of the human world. But even that kind of event can bear fruit, though if you went looking for a... Read more →

Opening the doors

One of the odder corners of my beloved Radio 3 is the slot for really avant garde contemporary music, Hear and Now. But I love a contrast - I'm a hot chocolate sauce on cold ice cream kind of a gal - so I was lying in the bath last night, reading Georgette Heyer and listening to a programme from Cut and Splice, a festival of electronic music. The piece was as much sound art as music, really, an extraordinary plaiting and weaving of white noise and sound, the fading-in-and-out of the old Medium and Short Wave radio and so... Read more →

The Hoops You Must Jump Through: an insider's view of writing competitions, part 2

This is Part Two of a guest post by short story writer and winner of the Scott Prize, Susannah Rickards. In Part One she explored the role of the First Filter Reader, who will be the one deciding whether your work should be seen by the named judge, and here in Part Two she discusses just what it is that separates the 94% of stories which don't make it onto the longlist, from the 2% which do. And just to make it even more fun, one reader can win a signed copy of Hot Kitchen Snow. Leave a comment by... Read more →

The Hoops You Must Jump Through: an insider's view of writing competitions, part 1

Susannah Rickards won the Scott Prize with her debut collection of short fiction, Hot Kitchen Snow and it's just out from Salt. She's also the teaching a workshop on entering writing competitions at the Claygate & Esher Short Fiction Festival, which is running 26-28th November as part of National Short Story Week. For many writers competitions are their first taste of trying to get their work noticed, but most of us have little idea of how they work and therefore little idea of how we might improve our chances of getting onto the longlist. So when I heard that Susannah... Read more →

Okay, so what do I think literary fiction is?

It's a hardy perennial of a question among writers, because it matters, from which agent might represent you to what cover your book might get. The writers' forums seethe with arguments about "any book worth reading" to "would you call Dickens literary?" to "pointless pretentious rubbish" or even (seriously) "a book only academics will like". The latter can't be true, because there can't be enough academics in the world to account for the combined sales of Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Barbara Kingsolver, Helen Dunmore, Hilary Mantel, Peter Ackroyd, Barry Unsworth, Philip Roth, Jonathan Franzen, Martin Amis, Beryl Bainbridge, Gabriel Garcia... Read more →

Jerusha Cowless, agony aunt: "I'm falling before the first hurdle"

Dear Jerusha - I've been writing for over five years now. The second novel I wrote met with a pretty usual reception: eight rejections, and one request for the full novel which bred only silence in the face of several polite follow-up emails over the next two years. Since then I've written several more, which I haven't been able to face sending out at all. When I finished my most recent novel I summoned up every ounce of courage I had and sent it to two agents. Result: one rejection, one request for the whole MS which I'm sure will... Read more →