Monday, 10 March 2014
The first was this. A friend informed me that I was wearing rose-tinted glasses if I thought I could make a living as a writer and that I should just get a 'normal' job. This wasn't a personal slap-in-the-face but rather this person's opinion of writers in general.
Secondly, a worried writer friend sent me the link below. The article that had so chafed on her emotions appeared in the Guardian, From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author's life? by Robert McCrum.
This article uses the story of a handful of successful authors (Rupert Thomson, Paul Bailey, and Joanna Kavenna) to discuss whether it is profitable, or even sustainable, to write for a living nowadays. With the onslaught of Amazon, the ongoing worrying financial climate, the growing popularity of ebooks and the increasing availability of free material online, can writers support themselves financially through their literary creations?
"All I want is enough money to carry on writing full time. And it's not a huge amount of money. I suppose you could say that I've been lucky to survive as long as I have, to develop a certain way of working. Sadly, longevity is no longer a sign of staying power." - Rupert Thomson
It's a fascinating, if a tad downcast, article, which led to a lengthy discussion between my worried friend and me. She has two novels under her belt and another one being written. She still has a 'day job' but would love to support herself solely from her writing.
I'm still working on my novel but my writing income comes from the plays I pen for my business Murdering The Text. It doesn't bring in an incredible amount of money but I love it, and I'm lucky to have a supportive husband.
We all know that to sell our books (whether self published or traditionally published) and writing, we are expected to self publicise, often imaginatively and diversely. Very few of us expect the massive advances that existed pre 2008. Magazines look to their readers for much of the material they would previously have paid for and many of the new online magazines don't pay at all.
So what does that mean? Well, unless you have a millionaire for a partner (or are already a millionaire yourself), there has to be a back up plan. Mostly, that plan is to keep the day job or create one for yourself (several writer friends offer editing services and do extremely well out of it). There's no reason to be a starving artist these days.
So am I wearing the proverbial pink lenses? No, I don't think so and having spoken to other writer friends, I've come to the conclusion that most of them have binned their tinted spectacles too. Writing, in many ways, is no different to life in general. It requires effort, imagination and a realistic attitude. In my view, that's nothing to be depressed about.
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
Here's an interesting way to test your writing. Take the Writer's Diet Test. I used the first chapter of my novel and got "lean, no improvements needed" - phew.
Friday, 28 February 2014
It's the last day of February. There is blossom in my garden. It feels like spring is here - although it doesn't officially start until 20th May - so I felt like a fresh beginning on my blog, something new. Starting today, each month will see a new writing exercise appear on this site. I won't be marking papers. These exercises are for you to do with as you please, for personal, private work or to share, if you wish. That's up to you.
This month's exercise is about food. Or rather it begins with food. Take one of your favourite foods and write a short piece on where you first ate it.
For me, the food is bagels, and the place was Venice in Italy. It was my second short visit there. I planned to go with a friend but at the last minute, she cancelled. I had paid for the whole trip, expecting her to pay me back, so I now had two plane tickets and two hotel bookings. None of my other friends wanted to go. I was single at the time and, in my very early twenties, the thought of going on my own was terrifying. In the end, my mum rescued me. We had a girly long weekend. We became friends on that trip, rather than simply mother and daughter.
The bakery was on the corner of an alleyway that fed onto St Mark's Square. Swept along with a crowd of tourists and locals, we almost missed the shop front. Mum was always a foodie and the brightly coloured pastries caught her eye first. I could almost hear my Father saying, "Dolly, don't drool." Inside, the bakery was small but expertly arranged with pristinely kept glass cases. My mother chose a selection of sweet things but my eye was drawn by something I'd never seen before - a selection of multi-coloured bagels, expertly displayed under glass. The man behind the counter, speaking in fluid, lyrical tones of English, asked what I wanted in my bagel. When I didn't answer, he smiled and took one of the bagels to the back counter. I watched as he deftly sliced the bagel and began to add ingredients. What he handed me, a few minutes later, was a cream cheese and pastrami bagel wrapped in paper. I had never experienced that combination, or a bagel, but my mother paid before I had a chance to doubt his choice.
We ate as we wandered around the square, stopping outside the Doges Palace, taking a photo of the Campanile, chatting about our new finds. The coolness of the cream cheese tamed the salty meatiness of the pastrami, and enveloping both was the chewy texture of the bagel itself. At that moment, it was the best sandwich I had ever tasted and a large part of that 'best' was the company, the place and the newness of it all.
So there you have it, my first taste of a bagel. What about you? What was your food? What made it special?
Thursday, 27 February 2014
In the massive miscellany of photographs that my parents left to me are many unidentified faces. I can guess at which side of the family some of them belong to (the smiling man that looks like my Father, the family photographed in a studio in Leeds where my Mother came from) but I have no idea whom the majority of them are. I thought I would use one of these as this month's photo inspiration.
I would guess that this family were photographed pre 1920s. What can you tell me about them? Did they all get on? Was the daughter the centre of attention? What did the boys grow up to be?
Tell me a story about these faces.
Tuesday, 25 February 2014
It's half term holiday here. My husband has taken the week off too. I have one script to finish and another one to start. My children keep reminding me that there's a world outside the front door (park, softplay, McDonalds). I am therefore becoming very adept at juggling (and nowadays my children are old enough to land on their feet if I drop them). So this podcast (with transcript) from Steven Pressfield - Family Pressure - came just in time.