Monday, 30 January 2012

Blogging A to Z challenge

I've just signed up for this challenge, which means I will have to post a blog every day in April, apart from Sundays, inspired by the day's corresponding letter of the alphabet. So now I have to get thinking about what I can write. I'm looking forward to it as I am consumed with all things writing! In case you hadn't noticed. Beyond that there are items such as linky lists that I should be inserting in the blogs, I don't know what they are but here one is:

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Breath, slow down

The advice I need to take to heart in order to make my readings better, according to my reading coach, Holly, is to sort out my breath and slow down. My breath is bad apparently! It comes from the chest and not the diaphragm. Not good. She very kindly gave me my first reading aloud lesson last night,  in return for a delicious dinner made by John, and I couldn't believe the difference it made to my reading style in a very short space of time. By no means ready to get up on stage but a marked improvement.

So, now I have to write and practice delivering my three minute pitch for the Get Writing event, which is only 2 short weeks away now, and then she's coming back for one final coaching session just before the big day.

In the meantime, I will  also put it into practice at my next writing class when I read out my homework. I went to the first class of Shaun Levin's Reading to Write course last Wednesday where we looked at short stories by Lydia Davis, which were far removed from the prescribed beginning, middle and end that most creative writing classes focus on.

It got me thinking in a different way and we had to write a piece that, instead of being in the first person 'I', was in the plural 'we'. It added a whole new dimension and I now have a little story idea ticking over in my head based on that piece and inspired by a story Holly told me last night, about a quanrantine in a hospital ward. More to come on that.

I also spent the day at the Urban Writer's Retreat last Sunday and got another 6,300 words of Gone in first draft. Two brand new chapters and expansion of two others. Writing my synopsis seems to have spurred me on and I'm feeling on a bit of a roll. Must get the first draft finished by April, I am a deadline needer so I have finally set one for this. So I better meet it now, or else.

Thursday, 19 January 2012 Question of the Month

A strange title I know, but bear with me as this is for a job application to write e-books for

Question: What do I think is the future of publishing?

Well, in my day job I already wrote an article touching on this. I interviewed a couple of publishing execs at Random House and Meredith about the big publishing houses buying up digital marketing agencies. The rise of the e-book has been phenomenal and traditional print publishers know that they have to expand what they are offering if they are to survive the digital revolution.

As a book lover myself I have yet to purchase an e-reader, although I have bought many e-books that I read on my PC. I know it won’t be long until I do get one though as many of the paperback books I buy get recycled to the charity shop anyway. It’s the tactile, beautiful hardbacks that remain on my shelves and I think in the long-run these are the only kind that will survive the revolution. Paperbacks will become a thing of the past.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Melaccan monkeys and green jelly worms

I've just been reading through some of my old writing bits and bobs and came across this travel piece I wrote about a holiday to Malaysia a few years ago. I didn't bother to submit it to anyone so now I have this little blog I thought I'd post it up here and then go and daydream about exotic holidays, which I don't seem to go on anymore. Anyway, hope you like it.

“Would you like to come to my house and meet my monkey?” No, not the dodgiest chat-up line ever heard but a genuine offer from Ishmail, the taxi driver who had just picked us up on the train platform at Melacca station. Never ones to decline such exciting offers, John and I laughingly accepted his kind invitation. Ishmail smiled happily as the car swung out into the traffic. “Excellent, you’ll meet my wife too – she’ll make tea. And maybe you can buy some of my whiskey as well”.

After the visit to Ishmail’s house, where the monkey was aggressive and the wife startled to say the least at us descending on her, we politely declined the loosely named whiskey and were delivered to Hotel Puri in the heritage quarter of Malaysia’s former spice trade capital – a Peranaken house with impressive mosaic floors, the best breakfast in town and a resident flock of swallows in a room next to the courtyard garden. Crumbling cornices and humidity stained walls abounded on the colonial buildings surrounding the hotel and the sense of atmosphere combined with the heady aromas transported us back to the area’s heyday.

For us, a big part of every trip is the food and Melacca’s Nyona and Peranaken cuisines are now at the top of our favourites list. Highlights in a trip crammed with delicious flavours were the transparent spring rolls – no resemblance at all to the greasy, deep-fried offerings served up in so many English restaurants – and candlenut chicken, which fell off the bone into the spicy, fragrant tomato sauce surrounding it. Cendol, the local dessert, consisted of green jelly worms floating in coconut milk sweetened with palm sugar, with a few red beans thrown in for good measure. It was sweet, savoury and glutinous – a little bit strange but nice, and very moreish.

After stuffing ourselves with these delicious morsels at Nancy’s Kitchen we ventured round the corner into Jonker Street – the heart of the city’s Chinatown where you can find some of the best examples of heritage architecture. Crammed full of boutiques, antique shops and art galleries, it’s also home to the night market where the many stalls selling street food mean the air is thick with the scents of the temptations on offer. Music throbs in the background and the trishaws get dressed up for the occasion in garlands and fairy lights. The only thing you can do is eat, drink and be merry.

Knowing that we couldn’t spend the whole time just eating, we did visit the ruins of Castle Porta di Santiago and the Baba Nyona Heritage museum, which takes you back in time to the 19th century life that was lived in the house. But mainly we ate. Our final evening’s culinary adventure saw us cooking fish, meat and vegetables in a boiling cauldron of satay sauce in the middle of the table, while getting laughed at by the locals as they didn’t appear to get too many tourists venturing into their little back-street cafe.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

It's the writing that matters

When I haven't been panicking about what I've done, I've spent the past week or so churning my plot-line over and over in my head to try and get the synopsis written for this event I have foolishly signed up for. To start with I thought I wouldn't be able to do it, as all the tips that Google brought back for writing one said I needed to know where the story was going and how it was going to get there, which I didn't think I knew yet. But I've gone and surprised myself and managed to write a fairly succinct (less than 600 words) summary that details all the main points right through to the end and also introduces all the main characters.

My very kind writing teacher, the lovely Shaun Levin, has kindly agreed to help me out with this so I have sent it off for his feedback. Now to start on writing the 3-minute pitch. Once I have written it my friend, the great actress Holly Clark, is going to help me learn how to deliver it without mumbling, fainting or talking so fast that no-one has a clue what I'm saying. Surely with all this help from such talented people I can't fail. What's that I hear you say? It all depends on my writing. Oh yes, well fingers crossed I'm not completely deluded in thinking I can do it then!

Then, one final hurdle is to come up with a compelling title as my working title, which only exists in my head anyway, is Gone. And that will never do. So any suggestions, both serious and funny, welcome. Funny would be good actually, I am in need of some light relief.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Get Writing 2012

Is the resolution that I made for the new year. So I've only gone and signed up for a literary festival of the same name where I have a 3-minute pitch to an agent and editor booked in, as well as a 10-minute review of my first chapter with Simon Taylor, Editorial Director of Transworld publishers. I am officially pooing my pants now!

I've got 2 weeks to polish up my first chapter, write an intriguing synopsis and get them both submitted for Simon to review in advance of our meeting. I can only hope that he is gentle with me.

As part of the same resolution I am going to spend some time writing short stories and submitting them for competitions so that I can get some feedback, and get my writing out there. After all, if I want people to read it I have to let them see it!

Wish me luck everyone.