Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Paperback cover

This is what the paperback cover of Speaking of Love, to be published on 6 March 2008, will look like.

If you've got any thoughts about it, I'd love to know. In fact, how about this:

Tell me what story you think this cover tells in, say, a long sentence (or two) and the plotline that most appeals to me, or that makes me laugh the most, will be rewarded with a paperback copy of Speaking of Love when it's published next year. (Any obvious adaptation of the synopsis from the book's website will most definitely not qualify. And if you've read the book in hardback, you'll have to rid your head of its subject matter and come up with something solely inspired by the paperback cover.)

I look forward to reading what you write because much debate goes on in the book trade about covers, about what kinds of cover work and what kinds don't. But publishers, wholesalers and retailers don't usually ask the book-buying public what they think before a cover goes to press ... .

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

The Man Booker prize

And so it's:

Anne Enright for The Gathering.

Congratulations to her and her book.

I heard on the radio (four) news last night (have you noticed that they say 'BBC News for Radio Four' now instead of the old 'BBC Radio Four News'? I wonder why the strange, minute, change?). Anyway, as I was saying, I heard on the radio (four) news last night that so far The Gathering has only sold 3,000 copies ... but literary fiction sales are notoriously low. Why? For some reactions to the win, and the present sales figures of all the books on the shortlist, see Shane Hegarty's blog for the Irish Times.

Last night's award will make an impact on the sales figures for The Gathering, goodie goodie, and I'm looking forward to reading it. Sad about Mister Pip though, because it's wonderful, but it won The Commonwealth Writer's Prize and so it's well on its way out into the world already.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

The Man Booker prize

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.

(That's the one I'd like to win.)

The short story that was a novel ...

... is a draft away from finished, but I can't post it here because one of the competitions that I am going to submit it to requires that it has not been published in ANY form.

So I shall hear what the writers group has to say tomorrow, redraft, let it rest for a while (Hemingway put his work away in a drawer for three months and then, when he got it out again, there was an emotional distance between him and the work and he could edit it as if it had been written by someone else). Then I shall fill in the entry forms and kiss it goodbye.

I always used to kiss the envelopes that held stories I was sending out into the world as I stood by the pillar box (My Brilliant Career, anyone?); but now that, mostly, work is submitted to competitions online, I blow a kiss at my computer screen ... .

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

When is a MAT harder than writing? ...

... when it results in this:

Describe your five strengths as a writer

I found the challenge HERE and because I was busy MATing (reading readers' and writers' blogs to avoid writing) I told myself that I would do it, that stumbling across it served me right for avoiding writing, and that I'd get back to writing as soon as I'd done it.

Now that I've said I'll do it I'm as horrified as Sarah was when Bendrix walks back into their bedroom after the bomb. She thinks he's dead and she's on her knees promising God that if he will let Bendrix live she will never see him again. (The End of the Affair, Graham Greene). He lives so she has to keep her promise.

An excessive reaction you may think ... but the fear that positive honesty will result in ridicule resides in all of us, I think. (Enough rs. Ed.)

1 I write emotional truth
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes that emotional truth is difficult to define but instantly recognisable. It is the antithesis of explanation. It is an empathetic human quality and my writing has it. It is the most important thing to me about my writing. When I read I want to be engaged, and the only way a novel truly engages me is when it touches me. My writing touches readers.

2 I write courageously and honestly
If I didn't my stories would bore. I write what I know to be true, metaphorically speaking. I write about soul truths. I write about heart truths. These are, of course, my truths and the truths that belong to the characters I write, so they are subjective truths. But every time I write something that evades the truth of a story I delete it, eventually.

3 The language I use is poetic, lyrical
The words matter. The way they are put together matters. I will work at the way a story is written until the words sing back to me. Sometimes they sing straight away, but usually I need to redraft, and redraft, to find the right rhythms before the words can sing.

4 I paint pictures with words
When I am writing, I see what I'm writing about in my mind's eye. I see the place, the person, the people who aren't speaking, the colours, the angles, the action, the inaction and I know what the weather's doing even if I haven't described it. My writing transmits pictures to its readers.

5 I write succinctly because less is always more
(I cut a lot.)

Friday, 5 October 2007

Another new first page ...

... this is how it goes.


But here is a redrafted first page for the short story that was a novel.


I drift from place to place and from year to year with such ease, now. But, despite what they think, I usually know that I am drifting. It’s just that I can’t come back quickly so when they put me on the commode, or help me drink my tea, or get me ready for bed I don’t always make sense, at least not to their way of thinking.

Just now I said to Bethany, ‘Isn’t the cherry blossom beautiful?’ Of course I meant the spindle whose leaves are heartbreakingly scarlet today, but I was still in the middle of a bright spring day; I was still sitting under my favourite cherry blossom, and so, when she asked me what I was looking at, I told her what was in my mind and not what was actually out there, what she could see, by the pond.

But I know I heard someone playing the piano in the studio last night, I wasn’t drifting then. The sound woke me up. It came through the window. It drifted in across the garden from the other side of the pond, under the bright full moon, and I lay there staring at the ceiling, willing it to stop, hating it for the flood of memories it brought with it, trying to staunch the flood.

I wouldn’t mind hearing music if I could still dance, or at least make some kind of movement, but hearing music and not being able to move is unbearably painful. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. I despise my feeble attempts to move when I hear music these days and, because my mind rambles along paths of its own choosing, I often see my young self dancing when music invades my broken-down being. It infuriates me. And it breaks my heart.
I've been editing my head off for the last ten days or so (so my bank manager's got a nice surprise coming), but I'll be back to writing, after one last bit of editing, early next week.

I'd love to know how you feel about this redrafted first page, if you felt like commenting.