Next time I’m struggling with what I’m writing, taming the octopus (to paraphrase Anne Lamott in her brilliant ‘Bird by bird’), I am going to take the tube.  The most fascinating snippets of conversation drift by like airborne seeds and some get planted and germinate.  Overheard last week was a youngish guy talking to a female friend.  “At her last birthday party my grandmother went dressed as a banana.  It was a bit of a surprise but she likes to keep things interesting.  She said she just loves bananas and wasn’t sure when she would next get the opportunity to dress as one.  Her 80th party was fun too – she loves parties – the theme was ‘pearly gates’ and everyone dressed in white or as an angel.  She has such a great sense of humour.”

I just love this image of the banana granny and am determined to use it in a story somewhere.  So, if you’re blocked – catch a train.


Itchy Mayo

Just finished reading Simon Mayo’s Itch.  Loved the characters and the concept of the element hunter: like Alex Rider with a periodic table obsession.  Could have been a little shorter but it is a well developed, gripping story.  A great debut (wish it was mine!).


GR8 texts? YOYO

Text messages as dialogue: how could this be controversial?  Surely a lot of conversation takes place through mobile/cell phone texting particularly at the younger end of the population.  I just wanted to get some ideas about how to format it for my ‘middle grade’ pre-tween story.  So I popped the question on to a writer’s discussion board that has been helpful to me in the past and through which I’ve helped other writers.  It provoked such a storm of indignation that I was stunned – in fact I am still stunned.  There were snide comments about using ‘gratuitous textspeak’ and one person saying that ‘I personally despise text speak’ and would only use it if there was a ‘plot point to make’.  Excuse me while I rant, but what’s the big deal?  Surely it is just dialogue?  Or somewhere between dialogue and an email or letter.  Letters are often reproduced in books which can add to the authenticity of the message or add depth to the character of the letter writer.  Surely texting is just a currently used version of this?  The book’s readers would be familiar with it thus adding a contemporary feel (and it’s not often that you can say ‘thus’ and ‘contemporary’ in the same sentence).  

Feeling a bit better now I’ve vented.  Even trying to work out what some classic books or dialogue in books would look like in texts.  Let me know if you think of any.

Up on the roof

I’ve recently finished reading Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell – what a great book for the older ‘middle grade’ reader.  

Opening memorably as a baby is ‘found floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel,’ Sophie is cared for by her rescuer, Charles, in turn of the last century (my guess) London.  They live somewhat eccentrically and are viewed suspiciously by the mean Miss Eliot of the National Childcare Agency.  Sophie strongly feels that her mother survived the shipwreck and, when Charles is given notice that he must give up Sophie now aged 12, they set off to Paris in the hope of discovering her with just the cello case as a clue.  “Never ignore a possible,” as he says.  There Sophie meets Matteo who lives on the roofs and with his help starts to unravel the mystery.

 It is a wonderfully told and vividly imagined story of love, hope and friendship.  The main characters are distinctive and we loved the unexpected metaphors and quirky adjectives that give the story an original feel.  There were some occasional details that felt a little unlikely (the rooftopper’s fluency in English and daredevil feats) but rather than distract they perhaps added a touch of fairy tale with Matteo as a Parisian Peter Pan. 

Looking forward to reading more from this writer!


Day 2 and already I’ve failed.

Camp NaNoWriMo has finished and I didn’t meet my target (the one I set myself).  It was only for 15,000 words and I had all of April and somehow I only got to 3157.  OK, so we were away for a week at the beginning and then I was getting my ‘Friends & Company’ off to a publisher but its pretty pathetic isn’t it?  The Camp sounded like a great idea and I thought I’d finish off the story I started for NaNoWriMo: at which I also failed – 20k of the 50k.  For any other Camp Wrimo’s out there, I hope you made great progress and are basking in the golden light of glory: you deserve it.  My story remains incomplete: not even a working title and characters not quite real enough to walk in the door and get angry with me.  Now I’ll have to set my own target and police it myself.  It will never work.