Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Posting from my favourite writing place in the world...

Yes, the lion is a bit of a giveaway but it's New York Public library!I think this lion is Fortitude, but it looked quite patient this morning as I came in, allowing a hot looking pigeon to nest in the crook of its shoulder. For anyone who doesn't know, the two lions Patience and Fortitude are so named because apparently these are the qualities one needs to write... yes I can concur with that.

So, I'm sitting here at one of the long tables towards the back of the Rose Reading Room and ever since I arrived here this morning I've just had this overwhelming sense of being at home. I've always liked libraries anyway, even the Dun Laoghaire children's one that when I was growing up was just a prefab affair that on occasion housed an enormous Apple computer as well as a few scanty shelves of books.

But this one, with the lions and the brass lamps and the fresco sky overhead and the real cloudless sky out through the arched windows, definitely beats the prefab.

And if it wasn't enough to have such a beautiful building with a gift shop packed full of books on writing downstairs (half of my procrastination shelf is from there) the library is right next to a pocket of green in the middle of the city called Bryant Park. On a day like today (in the 90s, thank god this reading room is air conditioned) the park is full of people writing, reading, meeting for lunch, playing free ping pong. There's a 'library' area where there are free books to borrow on trolleys - I am thinking of planting a copy of 'The Other Boy' - and if that doesn't tickle the grey matter enough there's a chess area too. If you come in winter, there's a Christmas market and of course, an ice rink.

So for anyone who likes writing or books or history or just life you have to put this on your list to visit. Just tell the lions I sent you...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

From here to there, getting a first novel published..

Just thought I would post a link to my guest blogging piece on Writing4All.

It started out about getting published but ended up as a piece about how to keep on writing when no-one will publish you!


Monday, August 16, 2010

'Do you like green eggs and ham?'

At this risk of this turning into some kind of birthday blog, I had to post this.

Dr Seuss' children's classic 'Green Eggs and Ham' turned 50 last week.

The book was originally a wager, between Dr S (real name Theodore Seuss Geisel) and his editor in Random House, who bet that he couldn't write a children's book in 50 words.

Well, he did and won a dollar a word for his trouble. And fifty years on it's still making kids everywhere happy - and probably Random House too...


Saturday, August 14, 2010

'I paid them to read my book'

Now I work in marketing and I've actually thought about this before. I remember how, when I lived in London, that seeing what people were reading on the Tube was a real barometer of how well a book was doing and often would start a conversation about a particular book when I got into work. Planting commuters to read your book seems like a sensible thing to do to promote it.

Well, Jennifer Belle, New York author of ' The Seven Year Bitch' has beaten me to it. Not only did she hire and pay actresses to read her book but she also auditioned them to make sure their laughs sounded just right when they were chortling their way through it as well. Crazy? Maybe, but check out how it's worked for her..


Anyone want to sign up to reading 'The Other Boy' on the DART?!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy belated birthday Philip Larkin.

OK technically I don't know if it matters if a birthday is belated after you're dead, but catching up on my daily writing mails from Writers' Almanac today I saw that Philip Larkin's would have been 9th August (he was born in 1922.)

I like the Writers' Almanac because it's just the right size for a daily writing bite. A poem, some facts on people who were born or died or other significant events on that day. Plus, if you listen to the podcast it's read by Garrison Keillor who has a deep ground up voice with an edge of honey.

Anyway, back to Philip Larkin. I knew the name but it was only in the last couple of years in Yvonne Cullen's writing classes I became familiar with his poetry. And I discovered I really liked it.

Reading about him online today he has shades of an early Morrissey about him when he talks about his poetry: "Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth" and he attributes the popularity of his work to the fact that most people are unhappy.

Maybe so, or maybe the times weren't not effervescent with joy are the times we tend to dip into poetry. Either way, he seemed to find some inspiration on this side of the water and below is a link to his poem Dublinesque.


For the full experience sit down with a cup of tea, click on the podcast and let Garrison's voice wrap you in a nice warm blanket of words as he tells you a bit more about Larkin's life and Richard Nixon's resgignation as well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The writer's bookshelf

The last post on Dorothea Brand got me thinking about books on writing and I had a look at my shelves to see how many books about writing I actually had and how many I'd found useful.

Like a lot of writers, I probably have quite a few. Some I've bought, some have been presents and most I've never read.

If you check out the link below from the Gotham writing school in NYC there has to be over 50 books they recommend for the writer's bookshelf. The problem I have with all of these books is that if you spend time reading them all, when are you actually writing? And to pose a Carrie Bradshaw type question: 'Is buying books about writing the ultimate in procrastination for a writer?'


For me, of the fifteen or so books about writing on my shelves, there were 4 I found really useful:

On Writing by Steven King - I just loved this book because he makes writing so ordinary, a job like any other. He compares it to laying pipes! A good reminder not to get too carried away I think...
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brand - I mentioned this on my Sunday post. This book is over 50 years old but still full of really sound advice. If you're stuck on something go do something physical - weed the garden, go for a run. Works for me.
The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook - for when you get to the sending out stage, deciding who to target agent and publisher wise.
The Resilient Writer, compiled by Catherine Wald - the most useful book for me of all, a collection of essays on rejection from well known writers. Kept me going through the whole 'doing the rounds' stage and would highly recommend it.

So just wondered what anyone else thought? Any books you'd highly recommend? The one I'm thinking about getting is 'Bird by Bird' by Anne Lamott. Thinking about it, it's ages since I've bought a writing book, about 2 years. Funny how it coincides with my imminent writing trip to work on novel number 2, I hope I don't hear anyone think the 'P' word...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Learning to see again

I've just spent the weekend taking part in a yoga workshop, led by John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga.

Now, I don't really tend to start blogging about yoga because (a) what I don't know about yoga would fill an ashram and b) because after 8 hours (yes 8!) of yoga over the weekend, my fingers are about the only part of me still working and maybe not for much longer.

But what I did want to post was something he said yesterday which really resonated with me and has been on my mind since then. He opened the workshop by talking about how we are all so serious about everything and what he asked of us over the 2 days was to see everything the way a child would, to drop the preconceived ideas and find the wonder in things. To laugh when we wobbled in a pose, to try something new instead of thinking 'I can't do that' - to let ourselves imagine what it would be like if we could.

As he was saying it, I thought of a piece of paper I have stuck on my writing noticeboard. It's a heading I photocopied from Dorothea Brand's book, I'm not sure what chapter it is, but it's the one called 'Learning to See Again.'In it she talks about how the key to good writing is to approach everything with the eyes of a child to see the freshness and the wonder in everything. To not take things too seriously. To be curious and drop the preconceived ideas we all have.

What struck me was the way they described it, John and Dorothea, using nearly the exact same words. Now she was around first so maybe he came across 'Becoming a Writer' and thought, 'hey I could use some of this stuff!' Or, maybe the qualities it takes for both aren't that dissimilar. And come to think of it, maybe looking at things through a child's eyes aren't just good ways to approach yoga or writing - maybe it's a way to approach life in general?

Right, enough philosophising for one night...there's a Radox filled bath with my name on it...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Breakfast at Ballymount...

OK technically it should be breakfast 'in' Ballymount, but it wouldn't have had the same impact really, would it?

So this morning was my TV debut on TV3's Ireland AM. I have to admit I was pretty nervous about it yesterday. I'm not sure what I was afraid might happen but all sorts of scenarios flashed through my mind: getting tangled in my words, getting tangled in the camera cables, last night I even had a dream that I was changing into my dress in the bathroom and my dress fell down the toilet (Freud would have field day with that, I'm sure) but I'm happy to say nothing awful happened, in fact I think I'd go so far as to say it went 'ok.'

I think what dissolved my nerves this morning was just how ordinary the whole thing was, like arriving for a work meeting really, everyone had their job and just got on with it; the make up woman, the meet and greet guy. Even when we were getting set up on the red couch with our microphones there were people all over the place asking each other how they enjoyed the bank holiday weekend and and someone in the corner of the set was drinking coffee and reading the paper while two feet away the anchors were reading the news in front of a blue screen.

The item was nine minutes and it seemed more like nine seconds. I was on with 2 other writers, Sarah Webb and Collette Caddle, both who write different types of novels than I do so while at times I did feel like the odd woman out I guess that's good territory to mine for any writer?

So all in all, I'm glad it's over and might even do it again. Just to say thanks to Ais and Jo for their Mark Cagney impressions over the weekend, they were good for a laugh if nothing else.

If they put the interview online I'll post a link for anyone who feels like a lunchtime laugh and the chance to check out how natural 'fake bake' can appear in a TV studio setting..