Friday, July 30, 2010

New authors left on the shelf?

I don't usually buy the Sunday Independent, but last night my Mum fished an article from the green bin that she had kept for me. It was by Alison Walsh and the headline was "New authors left on shelf in chapter of caution."

Not exactly the kind of article that looked set to put me in top form for a bank holiday weekend but a must read all the same.

In the article (which I have tried and failed to find on the independent website, so if anyone can find it do post a link) Imogen Taylor, publishing director at Headline and Sheila Crowley, literary agent at Curtis Brown, both agree that it is becoming even harder to get published as the book market tightens even further with decreases in sales of up to 30% reported by some booksellers.

Depressing statistics, but as I read on, I began to wonder if there was a silver cloud in that possibly the new more discerning publisher could be a good thing for readers. It seems that the area hit most hard is commercial women's fiction where titles that would have been accepted over the past decade or so when as Crowley puts it "it became a very buzz thing to write a book and there were all levels of quality" are simply not making sales the way they used to.

Today's readers, it seems, are saving their money, not only for paperbacks over hardbacks but also for meatier, more compelling stories like Kathryn Stockett's 'The Help' or the Stig Larsson trilogy. Based on this new trend, to quote Crowley again, publishers are looking for "the new something as opposed to another version of something."

I don't know about you, but I think that's a pretty good development and arguably what should be the core role of publishers anyway? And while of course, the market will still be dominated by celebrity and"brand authors" - a term that makes me shudder - let's hope it means there'll be a little more time taken over submissions, a little less pressure on new writers working on first novels to be described as the new 'someone' and just allowed to be themselves.

That's it from me until next week, off to West Cork for the weekend, with my copy of The Help...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Best Bookstores in the world

9 of the best bookstores in the world with some great photos. I've only been to one, Strand in New York (18 miles of books) but it's definitely up there in my favourites!

Anyone else any suggestions to add? Other than The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin, obviously...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dublin as Unesco City of Literature

Nice article in today's Irish Times, where Eileen Battersby examines why Dublin, a city "firmly planted on a bedrock of words" deserves to be a designated Unesco City of Literature.

Below is an edited timeline from the Dublin Unesco website

Eighth-century Book of Kells created. Housed in Trinity College Dublin since 1661

Twelth-century Aoibhinn bheith in mBinn Eadair is a Gaelic poem celebrating the beauty of the Hill of Howth

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral whose masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels , has never been out of print since first published in 1726

1701 Foundation of Marsh’s Library, Ireland’s first public library

Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774), author of The Vicar of Wakefield , was a student at Trinity College where a statue to him now stands

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) had a spectacular career as a playwright and as a theatre manager. His sparkling comedies such as The School for Scandal and The Rivals are still performed today

Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) author of one of the earliest vampire tales, Carmilla . Many of his stories are set around the Dublin area

Dionysius Lardner (Dion) Boucicault (1820-1890) was one of the most popular Irish playwrights of the mid-nineteenth century

Bram Stoker (1847-1912) best known as the author who inspired an entire genre, the vampire novel, with Dracula

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Wilde’s mastery of language is demonstrated in his plays, poetry, novel and short tales for children

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 and an Oscar in 1938 for his work on the film of Pygmalion

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was one of the major poets of 20th century literature and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923

John Millington Synge (1871-1909) whose play, The Playboy of the Western World , caused riots when it was first performed in the Abbey Theatre in 1907

Seán OCasey (1880-1964) whose play, The Plough and the Stars , provoked riots at the Abbey Theatre in 1926. He left Ireland in disgust

James Joyce (1882-1941). Dublin was a major force in Joyces imagination, forming the core of his great work Ulysses, one of the greatest of the Modernist writers in English

Austin Clarke (1896-1974) was a major 20th century poet, who also wrote drama, memoir and novels

1904 The Abbey Theatre first opened its doors

Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967) is considered one of the major Irish poets in the period between Yeats and Heaney, and has written some of the most moving odes to the city

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) was winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969. Born and brought up in Dublin, he lived most of his life in Paris

Máirtín Ó Direáin (1910-1988) Irish language poet born in the Aran Islands, he spent most of his life in Dublin working as a civil servant

Brendan Behan (1923-1964) wrote plays including The Quare Fellow, An Giall and The Hostage

Máire Mhac an tSaoi (1922) born in Dublin and one of the most renowned poets working in the Irish language

1928 The Gate Theatre was founded

Thomas Kinsella (1928) Awarded the Honorary Freedom of the City in 2007, Kinsella has made a major poetic contribution to the cultural heritage of Dublin

Seamus Heaney (1939) Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. While Heaney is very much identified with his native Northern Ireland, since 1976 he has lived in Dublin

Maeve Binchy (1940) and Gordon Snell (1933) work side-by-side in Dalkey. Maeve is acclaimed as one of the world’s master storytellers. Gordon has written many popular childrens novels

Eavan Boland (1944) one of Ireland’s foremost poets on the international stage

Paul Durcan (1944) is one of the best-known of contemporary Dublin poets. He uses the distinctive idiom of the city of Dublin in many of his poems

John Banville (1945) who also writes as Benjamin Black has been the recipient of the Guardian and the Man Booker awards for his work

Colm Tóibín (1955) Winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Costa Novel Award. Tóibín lives in Dublin. His most recent work is Brooklyn

Sebastian Barry (1955) Playwright, poet and novelist, Barrys work frequently has a historical base. A Long Long Way was selected for Dublin’s 2007 One City, One Book

Paula Meehan (1955), a poet and playwright who was born in and has lived most of her life in Dublin. Her work conjures up the voices of those who mourn what has been lost

1957 Dublin Theatre Festival founded

Roddy Doyle (1958) Novelist, playwright and childrens writer. Awarded the Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha in 1993

Colum McCann (1965) Born in Dublin. Awarded the National Book Award (US) in 2009 for Let the Great World Spin

1995 International Impac Dublin Literary Award founded, which is the world’s richest fiction prize

2000 The first Dublin Writer’s Festival was held

2006 One City, One Book established in Dublin

2010 Dublin Unesco City of Literature

Monday, July 26, 2010

Advice from Other Writers

One of the things I like to dip into (sometimes as an excuse to put off doing any actual writing) is to read advice and tips from other writers.

Below is a list of 10 good writing tips from Zadie Smith which I received via e-mail from Gotham Writers' Workshops, originally published by The Guardian.

I like it because a lot of it is just sensible advice - 'work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet' although I think for most of us it might be a little late to take up her first point...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A morning well spent

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited along to a writers' workshop with Brenda Flanagan, novelist, poet and short story writer who also happens to be a Cultural Ambassador for the US embassy.

The night before, I'd been to see Brenda read at the embassy, although "perform" would be a better word for it. As she strode back and forth, refusing to stand behind the podium she told some of what it was like to grow up one of 14 children in Trinidad, she sang to us and she read to us a short little page and a half story, "The Girl from Bahia" from her collection "In Praise of Island Women and Other Crimes." A story which has been in my mind ever since.

So, you could say I knew it was going to be an interesting workshop. What I hadn't been expecting though was the level of energy in the room, the openness of sharing between the fifteen female novelists, poets, journalists, short story writers who turned up. In two and a half hours we shared our thoughts on writing, we gave each other advice, we analysed a poem and a short story and even had time to write as well.

Without doubt it's the most enjoyable Friday morning I've spent in a while. And it reminded me that in this solitary pursuit of writing, how important it is to get away from the desk and around the table with people who see the world in a little of the same way.

Monday, July 19, 2010

First Post

OK, so this is my first post.

I am pretty much posting to myself, so I guess I can say anything at this point.

The question that's in my head is why I am starting this blog? Do I have time to keep a blog? I know that the way to make a blog work is to post witty, relevant and interesting pieces of information that my audience will enjoy. And to do this every day.

At this point it feels like this blogging lark involves more commitment to this than most relationships..

So why am I doing it?

Honestly? Because I've written a novel and because I want a place I can post updates on my writing and to create a place where anyone who's reading it can share their thoughts with me and others and let me know what that think and we can talk about other books too and share recommendations with each other on writing and reading. Oh, and that hopefully more people will buy it.

It's called The Other Boy, by the way. Here's the link to it on Amazon...

And no, not all the reviews are my friends!

So there you go, that's the first post over with. I guess I'll be back soon, if anyone is out there, do say hi...