Thursday, September 30, 2010

National Poetry Day

I'm not doing anything much on NPD this year, but if you're in or around London on Thursday October 7th, this free poetry event is going on most of the afternoon at the Southbank Centre. 

Poetry Society and Southbank Centre presents
National Poetry Day Live
Thursday 7 October 2010
Free event
For the second year running, the Poetry Society has organised this lively event for National Poetry Day together with the Southbank Centre. Once again the event is entirely free. All welcome, including groups.
Discover poetry in the foyers and hidden corners of the Royal Festival Hall, and make yourself at home in the Clore Ballroom for live performances by a host of poetry’s famous names and rising stars. The day’s events are hosted by Ross Sutherland & Caroline Bird, featuring:
  • Simon Armitage, Jane Draycott, Ian Duhig, Luke Kennard, Daljit Nagra
  • Lemn Sissay performing Coleridge’s ‘Ancient Mariner’
  • Joelle Taylor & SLAMbassadors
  • Former Foyle Young Poets: Jay Bernard, Swithun Cooper, Holly Hopkins, Sarah Howe & Laura Seymour
  • Forward Prize Poets: Robin Robertson, Fiona Sampson & Jo Shapcott
'Getting Published’- a Poetry Review workshop ♦ Foyle Young Poets of the Year ♦ ‘Pick a Poem’ ♦
Folk in a Box presents ‘Poetry in a Box’ ♦ Screening of Postcards from Home ♦ Prescriptions & quizzes

Venue: Royal Festival Hall foyers & Clore Ballroom, Southbank Centre, London SE1.

For more information visit

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Longhand v. Keyboard

Working on this Tudor novel, which is longer than anything I've written since an unpublished psychological thriller I grew, almost under laboratory conditions, in the early noughties, I've been returning to earlier ways of generating inspiration.

In other words, I've started writing new sections longhand, and then transferring them to the computer later in the day. I also rather cunningly expand and revise as I type up, so that 500 words by hand develops into 1000 on screen.

This seems an ideal solution to keeping up the daily word count, which does feel inexorable at times, especially since I occasionally become inexplicably blocked at the sight of my laptop. Association of object with activity.

It just seems nice and undemanding, kind of old-fashioned, writing a few carefully-chosen words by hand into a notebook. Those then grow, line by line, into paragraphs, and then pages ...

I couldn't write the whole book like this, of course. It would probably kill me, and take over a year to do so. Let's face it, I can type much faster than I can write longhand. Legibly, at least. But when it's cold and damp outside, as it is today, and I can curl up on the sofa with a notebook and ink pen, there's a Virginia Woolf feel to the process of writing a novel.

Shh, if you listen carefully, you can hear the birds singing in Greek.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The grim beauty of a deadline

I was chastened to see how long it's been since my last blog post. Many thanks to writer Talli Roland for leaving a comment on my last entry and reminding me that people do actually read this blog.

It's been an astonishing summer, work-wise. Things have just blossomed and ballooned, on a number of fronts. That's partly why this blog has been so silent, as I've been trying to spend some quality time with my three youngest children over their summer holidays at the same time as getting up to speed on some rapid developments in my career as a writer and editor.

I'll confine my comments today to my novel, since that's the least complicated situation. It's a long Tudor historical, set in 1575, and features Elizabeth 1st as a point-of-view character. Though the novel is not actually about the queen, per se. It's about one of her court entertainers. More I am reluctant to say at this stage. But the book is just over halfway through, and I've agreed to finish it by the end of the first week in October.

That's a tall order. We're talking roughly 60,000 words in just over 4 weeks. But it's not an impossible task. I need to knuckle down to a serious daily word count, improve my time management, and say 'No, thanks' to nearly all offers of other work.

What's brilliant in all this is that I'm up against it so severely, and have so many other things revolving about in my head whilst writing, that I am very unlikely to suffer from 'can't finish it' syndrome. That tends to strike when you have nothing else but the novel to consume you, and it's so large in the window the thought of waking up one day to an empty view begins to terrify you.

So you put off finishing for as long as possible, and keep polishing instead, or making 'necessary' changes, or suddenly get absorbed in some other non-writing activity that takes you away from the keyboard, or obsess about other, far better stories you could be writing.

Thank goodness for deadlines, that's what I say. The sine qua non of novel writing.