Friday, 28 March 2008

Writing yourself well

I've just read, over at the wonderful Stuck in a Book, that he's just about to read Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper. He has a treat in store.

And that reminded me that Perkins Gilman also wrote about why she wrote The Yellow Wallpaper. You can read the full article here, but here's an extract:

For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown. ... I went ... to a noted specialist ... [who prescribed] the rest cure [and when that worked, very quickly he] sent me home ... [saying] "never to touch pen, brush or pencil again" as long as I lived.

... I came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin ... [but with help] I cast the noted specialist's advice to the winds and [began writing once more] ... and sent a copy to the physician who so nearly drove me mad. He never acknowledged it. ... But ... many years later I was told that ... [he] had admitted to friends of his that he had altered his treatment of neurasthenia since reading The Yellow Wallpaper.

She wrote herself well, and she had the satisfaction of discovering that the 'specialist's' treatment changed as a result of what she wrote.

Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto appears in Speaking of Love because he 'wrote himself well' when he wrote it (he thought he'd never write again after a drunken performance of his first and a vile review but, with Dr Dahl's help - a wise psychiatrist this time - he got back on the horse).

I know that I am a miserable old bag if I'm not writing, or at least dreaming about a new piece of work. The alchemy is in the doing.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Prinknash (pr Prinnidge)

I am going here
where these Benedictine monks live

The reason I am going is that this was my great-grandmother's childhood home (she of the biography I was going to write, now of the novel that I am about to begin).

It's called Prinknash (pr Prinnidge) and I'm going to meet the Abbot who will show me round the house before it reverts to a closed monastic community and the Abbey they built in 1972 becomes an old people's home. (The monastic community is shrinking, hence the changes.) When I get there I shall also remeet a woman I met as a result of my Scottish research ... a woman who is the daughter of my great-grandmother's second husband's (do keep up) chauffeur. A woman who was so full of wonderful memories of my great-grandmother and the Scottish life they led.

You could, of course, say that this visit is a MAT. You could say that all research is MATing. But just as I went to Kilmalieu to get a sense of the place where my great-grandmother lived after the Titanic sank, so I want to go to Prinknash to get a sense of the place where she lived as a child, and from where she was married. That's how I justify it anyway ... .

Thursday, 20 March 2008


A friend of mine, a wonderful artist who works in all kinds of media (mediums?) told me about the Jerwood Moving image award winners.

I highly recommend Johnny Kelly's (which is called PROCRASTINATION). It'll take you about 5 minutes to watch and it's the perfect MAT.

So perfect that I've just watched it twice ... .

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Old work, new work

While staring through the window and dreaming about my new novel (and doing some planning) I find images from my first novel stealing into my mind. I ask myself if that's because I'm afraid of stepping into the new or afraid of letting go of the old? I also find weaknesses in the first.

Just now, in this wonderful book by David Bayles & Ted Orland:
I found this:

New work is supposed to replace old work. If it does so by making the old work inadequate, insufficient and incomplete - well, that's life. (Frank Lloyd Wright advised young architects to plant ivy all around their early buildings, suggesting that in time it would grow to cover their 'youthful indiscretions'.) Old work tells you what you were paying attention to then; new work comments on the old by pointing out what you were not previously paying attention to.

How to make me feel better in just a few words.
This is Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House. You can find out more here.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

The Cornflower Book Group

Yesterday, at the Cornflower Book Group, Speaking of Love came out of the hat to be read next. It's the fifth volume to be read by Cornflower Book Group members and discussion will begin from 12 April on Cornflower's blog.

I'm looking forward to finding out what the Cornflower Book Group members feel and think about Speaking of Love (including the parts that didn't appeal, didn't work or that they just didn't like) because, particularly if they say why, it'll be grist to the next novel's' mill. I'll also answer questions on the blog when the discussion gets going.

Hope to meet you there.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Monet and painting, MATing and writing

Today MATing translates as 'writing this before I begin to stare through the window'. Sometimes it takes much staring before I can write.

This story knows what I mean:

One day Monet was sitting on the bench in his garden at Giverny staring at the waterlily pond. His neighbour walked by, poked his nose over the hedge and said, 'Bonjour Monsieur Monet, I see you are not working today. There are many things I'd like to talk to you about.' And he opened the gate and walked in. But Monet didn't look at him, nor did he speak to him, and after a while the neighbour left in a huff.

The next day Monet's neighbour poked his nose over the hedge and quickly ducked back down again because Monet was at his easel, painting, by the waterlily pond. But Monet called out, 'It's all right, Monsieur le Voisin, come in. I'm not working today. Now, what was it you wanted to talk about?'

Friday, 7 March 2008

Cover story ... and fab reports

In October I asked people to tell me the short story that Speaking of Love's paperback cover told them. I promised a copy of the paperback to the writer of the story that most appealed to me (see original post here) ... and the one that most appealed to me was Richard Gray's.

It's in the post, Richard.

Also, the wonderful Mark Thornton at Mostly Books blogged yesterday about the event that Eliza Graham and I did at Mostly Books on Monday 3 March. He's got YouTube videos of us reading and all ... how do you do that Mark? And Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book also blogged about the Mostly Books event, here. Fab reports both ... thank you.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Congratulations to ...

... Jonathan Trigell and Boy A on becoming THE Book to Talk About, 2008. (Press release here.) And thank you to everyone who voted for Speaking of Love. It has been a privilege for the book to be on the shortlist.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

It's a little bit funny ...

... this feeling inside.

The rest of Elton John's song doesn't apply, but today is a day when it's difficult to concentrate because I'm feeling a bit funny inside and I'm not even trying to MAT: a MAT is being forced upon me because ...

... in 24 hours' time the author and the publisher of THE Book to Talk About 2008 will know the result. But until then the other 9 authors and all 10 publishers must be feeling a little bit funny inside too, must be having at least some difficulty concentrating, must be wondering about the result. I can't be the only one ... .

So ... what to do until this time tomorrow? I think I'll read.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Do you live near Oxford (England)?

If you do, and you aren't already doing something tonight, you might like to come to Mostly Books in Stert Street, Abingdon at 7.30 to hear Eliza Graham and I talking about the effect that the Spread the Word, Books to Talk About shortlisting has had on our writing careers, and how our books made the shortlist.

It'll cost you £3, redeemable against a book bought on the night, and the wonderful indy bookshop, Mostly Books, are here.

The winner of the award, THE Book to Talk About, will be announced on World Book Day, Thursday 6 March 2008, from the ten books on the shortlist.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Daffodils for St David's day

... from my little garden.

... aren't they beautiful?

And because it's St David's day why not support a Welsh Arts Centre that might lose its Arts Council funding? The St Donat's Arts Centre runs the wonderful Beyond the Border storytelling festival (which features in Speaking of Love) among many other brilliant events.