What Just Happened? Allusions and Settings are Oh So Character Building . . .

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: DAVID FRANKEL ON THE POWER OF SUGGESTION IN THE SHORT STORY

man shuffling

“In the short story there is no slack. Everything is a clue – a glimpse that hints at something larger. Often, a great deal of the plot is implied and this intensity requires more of the reader. It is a world in which it is impossible to be a passive consumer.

Graham Greene once advised that writers should ‘keep in mind the question the reader is asking.’ For writers of short stories this is doubly important. The tools of omission and implication are not only necessary because of the obvious constraints of length, but can be instrumental in providing the intrigue that keeps the reader involved. This can be especially effective at the beginning of a story where omitting backstory can engage the reader immediately, drawing them into a ‘live’ situation and prompting them to ask questions: why is this happening and what happens next?

Hemingway was a master of this. In many of his stories (two that spring to mind are ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ and ‘Hills Like White Elephants’) we are pitched straight into the action mid-situation. Description is pared down to a minimum and dialogue is sharp. ‘The Snows Of Kilimanjaro’ opens mid-conversation .We read on, at least to begin with, in order to discover who is speaking, and what is going on:
‘“The marvellous thing is that it’s painless,” he said. “That’s how you know when it starts.”
“Is it really?”
“Absolutely. I’m awfully sorry about the odour though. That must bother you.”
“Don’t! Please don’t.”
“Look at them,” he said. “Now is it the sight or is it the scent that brings them like that?”
The cot the man lay on was in the wide shade of a mimosa tree and as he looked out past the shade onto the glare of the plain there were three of the big birds squatted obscenely, while in the sky a dozen more sailed, making quick moving shadows as they passed.’

In ‘Hills Like White Elephants’, the subject of the story (an unwanted pregnancy and prospective abortion) is never made explicit. This story is a particular moment in time, convincingly rendered with sparse but vivid detail and dialogue that makes no attempt to explain what is occurring for the benefit of an observer. The real theme is implied subtly. This has the effect of turning the readers into eavesdroppers as the protagonists skirt around the issue. It is our nosiness that makes us listen.

I often think of a short story like a low-budget film where characterisation and a limited number of sets are all that the director has, to evoke a whole off-screen universe. As though we are watching the protagonists through a single camera lens, and from that limited observation we must form an idea of the rest of their lives, projecting out into the world.

A great example of this is ‘Jesus’ Son’ by Denis Johnson. It is a collection of stories about people ‘passing through’, all seemingly at the end of a particular chapter in their life, or at the beginning of one. The collection follows an un-named narrator through a kaleidoscopic series of encounters, each with someone we will never meet again. Because of this, every action they take, every word they speak gains more weight. These glimpses become the evidence on which we will build our impression not only of them but also of the narrator’s world. Even more so than Hemingway, Johnson’s stories pitch the reader in mid-situation, forcing them to piece together what is happening. Unlike Hemingway, Johnson keeps the reader off-balance, never quite giving them all the information they need about the situations the narrator describes. The reader is prompted to imagine scenes that have happened off-screen, as in the story ‘Two Men’.

It begins,
‘I met the first man as I was going home from a dance at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall. I was being taken out of the dance by my two good friends. I had forgotten my friends had come with me, but there they were. Once again I hated the two of them. The three of us had formed a group based on something erroneous, some basic misunderstanding that hadn’t yet come to light.’

What this ‘misunderstanding’ might be is never made clear. Nor, strangely, do we meet the second man promised by the title and the opening paragraph. This feeling that we are not quite being let in on everything makes us want to know more. His endings cut off mid-action too, as if the author is afraid to write what happens next, or the narrator too ashamed to tell. ‘Two Men’, for example, ends with the narrator in pursuit of an adversary.

After breaking into the man’s flat he finds that his quarry has escaped and in the final scene he holds a gun to the head of a woman he finds there:
‘I took two steps over to the living-room window and looked down into the parking lot. I couldn’t tell for certain, but it looked like Thatcher’s car was gone.
The woman hadn’t moved. She just lay there on the rug.
“He’s really not here,” she said.
I knew he wasn’t. “I don’t care. You’re going to be sorry,” I said.’

It is a powerful ending precisely because it leaves so much to the imagination of the reader. A short story often works best when it signifies something bigger, when it asks us to imagine the shadow cast by what has happened on the page. In doing this, the short can get away with something that a novel rarely can – it can leave a question hanging, a life unexplored, an idea unresolved, inviting us to extrapolate from what we have read. In the hands of a skillful writer this gives short stories the ability to haunt the reader long after they have been read.”

Blog curated with kind permission from David Frankel, and Over The Red Line.

David Frankel is a writer and artist. His stories have been published in anthologies and magazines including The London Magazine and Lightship Anthology. His work has been shortlisted for a number of prizes, including The Willesden Herald Short Story Prize and the Fish Memoir Prize.

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A Dog’s View – Paws for Thought

350px-BlackLab2009Dog-biscuit-icon

Some incidentals to start with: My Mistress, She Who Adores Me, is always telling everyone that Labrador intestines are the most robust in the world and should be thoroughly and scientifically investigated. Why? Because these studies would help find the answer of resistance to the most violent of indigestions or accidental poisoning.

I have to admit that the odd good old vomit has always been my answer to all that life can throw at me in the way of my rather disgusting, yet splendidly greedy eating habits. People tend to forget that we are like the newly overweight and no longer nomadic North American Red Indians*, in that we, like them, no longer have to search and forage endlessly all winter long in the icy and inhospitable weather of, in my ancestors case, Labrador of the Far Northern reaches of, um l’m not quite sure of its exact geographic location, can anyone help me out here?? Canada?

Anyway here we are, and I am, in the warmer climes of Europe. We remain nevertheless programmed to instinctively be always on the lookout for the slightest morsel which will add to our fat reserves. To cope with and to survive long cold winters in the land of our Sires of yesteryears. Subsequently we eat copiously and, some would say, greedily the slightest tit-bit which comes within our range whether it is our allotted meal time or not. (The indigenous** North Americans have given it the marvellous term “snacking.”) Thus, whether I have just eaten 5 minutes ago a huge meal of meat and veg and juices, the instinctive need is to carry on snacking. That is before She Who Adores Me yells and yanks me away from whatever delectation I have had the good sense to sniff out and attempt to devour without it touching either side of my mouth. Does she not realise that I may not get to eat again until the spring when the snow melts? Who could argue with the Labradorean logic of it all? Well, I ask you, who?

To tell you a little about myself is to impart that my breeding is ancient and impeccable. Simply tons of my nearest ancestors have come from Queen Elizabeth 2’s own breeding lines (Sandringham). Thus I have the most robust hips, quarters and a rather fab, though I say it myself, sprinter’s backside. (Oh you know, muscular and round). To the utter delight of She Who Adores Me, who has been a racehorse owner and knows a good rear end when presented with one i.e. mine! My cousins are various shades of black, yellow and chocolate. I am of a deep black. I started life in Wales, with my sister Mason. Oh by the way I’m called Fortnum. I do apologise most profusely for not introducing myself to you. And your name is?. . .

Excerpt from THE LIFE OF FORTNUM (LABRADOR, FEMALE AND GORGEOUS) by Deborah Camp-Simpson

    * Political incorrectness from Fortnum.

** Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Good girl.

Images: Dog Biscuit by Tommy Kronkvist, “BlackLab2009” by Erikeltic at English Wikipedia.
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‘Fetch, Boy’ How not to lose your VOICE when editing.

Dexter Petley

Take your time

The second blog of the month is by Dexter Petley, a successful author who also works as an editor and adviser for new writers.

Amongst his acclaimed works are a literary noir whodunnit, Little Nineveh (Polygon 1995), Joyride (Fourth Estate, 1999), and White Lies (Fourth Estate 2003). He’s a regular on the cult website www.caughtbytheriver.com

TIME AND MOTION

Time is the novel’s greatest enemy.  The time it takes, the time it occupies and even the time it represents.  We often read that so and so is a “full-time” writer.  And then we read their novels and wonder why, therefore, they didn’t take that luxury of available time to get it right instead of rushing it out.  I don’t know if it’s rat-race ethics or just the cruise control on the Microsoft treadmill, but when I urge clients to take their time on the re-write they seem to hear a starting pistol.  Three weeks later, whizz-bang-pop, they send me a wonky new version that’s still smoking.

There are very understandable reasons for attempting to write faster than your own shadow.  Encouragement is a wonderful thing.  It’s a life-saver to the struggling writer.  When it appears, we tend to think of it as fickle, ephemeral, a light which will fade.  Struggling writers are not used to attention.  So when we get it, we act like dogs chasing a stick.

In my own apprentice days I too was eager and trigger happy.  I can categorically say it got me nowhere.  It merely rejected the encouragement given by ignoring the details, the small print, the wisdom.  I had all the time in the world too; in the 1980s you wrote novels on the dole, hammering holes in scrap-paper on great iron framed machines. 

Time has not changed; the time a novel needs to be written doesn’t change.  Whatever you hear, the ability to rattle off twenty-thousand words a day is no more useful than being a pie eating champion.   What may have changed is that today we can write at miraculous, reckless speeds.   But it’s like writing on a simulator.  Cut and paste is an illusion.  When I say re-write, I mean word by word, sentence by sentence.

Why, when much of the novel might remain unaltered?

Well, the same reason a singer performs the whole song night after night.  Voice, and because there is no short cut to the whole story.

In the typewriter age we had no choice.  It was an honest job, typing; we sculpted those damned novels with bleeding fingers.  But the beauty of it was the focus and concentration to be had; the intimacy we had with our text.  The tactile engagement we had with our craft.  We felt like writers, not IT users.  That craft, the progress of it, was visible and satisfying.  I fear that’s missing these days.  You’re supposed to be writing, but between sentences there’s shopping on Ebay, someone’s cursed Youtube link, an email to read…  In other words, it’s not just distraction, it’s squandering the writing time.  It shows up in the finished work.  Making up time with cut and paste or a few days spilling the midnight oil is no substitute for the slow fuse, the whole song. 

Re-writing a novel from scratch is to reclaim it.  Just fixing the leaks doesn’t prevent it caving in later.  In typewriter mode (unplug the bloody modem at least) you recover the voice, and control the dogs pulling at your leash.  Suddenly a year is well spent.  And it should be a year at least.  Good fiction needs time in the bottle before drinking.  That time includes, just as essentially, time off; time for gaining distance and a cold heart, or just forgetting.  It takes me between 5-10 years to write a novel.  In that time there might be 14 drafts of the word for word kind.  Each novel leapfrogs over the other, so one novel finally come out every four years. 

The simplest advice is often the best: don’t ignore professional advice for a start.  Take your time.  If you haven’t time, all the more reason.  I know many writers have full-time jobs or demanding commitments which make writing time a rare luxury.  The temptation to be over-productive is an attractive one.  It so easily becomes a race with time.  When a novel is finished, no one will praise it because you bashed out the first draft in 3 months and the re-write in a week.  Remember, a novel is a two headed monster.  The first breathes white heat, sleepless nights, death-pacts with the muse.  The second is a cold blooded surgeon, a waiting game, the playing hard to get.  Successful writers have two heads; they’re the difference between interesting and great.

Dexter Petley

Reblogged from http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/time-motion-by-dexter-petley/
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“She’s not a stranger; I’ve read her book.”

She's not a stranger; I've read her book

She’s not a stranger; I’ve read her book

Our guest blog this month comes from Caro Clarke, author of ‘Furry Dice Chewing Gum’. She reflects upon the writer’s voice and what makes us who we are. As they say in Thailand, ‘Same, same but different…’

Writing: It’s Personal

‘When I was a girl, back in the time of cave painting and discovering fire, I learned penmanship, and the teacher expected all of us to write our letters exactly the same. And yet, graphologists say that our handwriting reveals who we are, the aspects about ourselves that we know and don’t want to tell, or aspects we might not even know. We cannot help revealing ourselves in what we shape with our hands and minds, and why shouldn’t we? Isn’t penmanship the way we communicate ourselves to the world?

 

As with handwriting, so with fiction writing. When we tell stories, we are not just telling a story, we are telling our readers about ourselves. One of the reviewers of my first novel let me stay in her house while she was away. She had never met me (we arranged it via email) and, when her friends said, scandalised, “You’re letting a stranger stay at your house?!?” she replied “She’s not a stranger; I’ve read her book.”

 

When we find out that the author of a particularly beloved novel was not, in fact, a lovely person, I think we sometimes question our faith, but often we decide that the author’s “better angel” did exist, but only existed when he or she was writing. I have known writers of very moving or funny books who were dull or morose in real life — until they did something (shelter a moth from harm’s way, suddenly cap a joke) that revealed the secret angel of their nature, that wellspring from which their books flowed.

 

We write who we are. What we choose to write is shaped by more than the specific inspiration (that headline, that family myth, that half-memory), but by the complete connection of ourselves to our world. This is something that we can’t help doing and what we must do. We must be ourselves, must be true to ourselves. The world doesn’t want another Atwood or Patterson or Lethem, it wants something new — and we are that something new.

 

What we bring to a story no one else will bring. We are each of us unique, and unique always sells. As a former fiction editor, and as someone who has worked with literary agents, I constantly said, and heard said, “What’s different about this? What’s its USP (unique selling point)?” It was never just the amazing plot-twist or the unusual setting or the brilliant evocation of time, but what I can only call “personality”. The book “had” something. It wasn’t a pile of paper, it was a creation.

 

I am not convinced by software programmes that will “teach you to write.” They might teach you to structure and improve sentences, but they can’t bring creation to a story. They can’t make the best-structured narrative come alive. Only your mind can do that. Only your heart can do that. How you write might be unusual. I know an author who writes on sticky notes in very tiny letters. He finds it easier to do micro-writing and then use a wall to assemble his book. I know another author who plots for two years, and then writes one single finished draft in three months. A friend of mine will only write in certain kinds of notebooks (unfortunately, these come from France, so how lucky that his books sell well).

 

I would worry if there was only one way to write. That isn’t how anything works, except perhaps for robots putting silicon chips into a hard drive. There might be a “best way” to brush your teeth or to apply bathroom tiles, but not when it comes to tapping into the mysteries of creation. I have mentioned wellsprings. I believe that we each have our own depth of wisdom, joy, anger, bitterness and fear that we draw on, only half-consciously, when in the grip of our story. How can that ever come forth in the same way from every heart and mind?

 

How we write is an expression of what our books will be. I myself write my first two or three drafts in pen in notebooks. I then type in, amending as I go, and then grind through a number of drafts either on-screen, or in print-out, hand-writing changes and typing them in after every go-through. I have done as few as four drafts, and as many as fourteen. Whatever it takes to make it right. And I think my stories reflect this. They are considered. They are (I hope) thought through. They are certainly felt through. They might not be great stories, but I have had readers’ comments back, and it seems that I connect in a particular way with particular people. That’s all I ask.

 

Would my way of writing work for anyone else? Yes, I’ve met many writers who find that the book becomes itself, creates itself, only in the last few of its many rewrites, but this is because that’s who we are. Our books are good on the little details, the small touches, because we work at that level. Others don’t sweat that small stuff; they do the sweeping narratives, the sagas, the larger-than-life characters, because that’s who they are. Even if they seem small on the outside.

 

Nobody is small who wants to write. Nobody can be small when they want to reach out to the world with a story in their hands, that thing that might become eternal, as Homer’s stories, as Shakespeare’s as Twain’s, have become immortal. How can it be taught, this impulse, this need to create? Like water from a high source, it will come down the mountain and cross the valley by the path it wants to take, must take, to reach its sea.

 

Who are you? What makes you write what you write? What makes you write how you write? Whatever it is, if you are producing living creations, then it is right for you.

 

And who cares about your penmanship.

www.caroclarke.com

© Caro Clarke All Rights Reserved.
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Furry Dice Chewing Gum – Problems for New Writers

Beginners’ four faults

As an editor, I know when I am reading someone’s first novel. I have nicknames for the four give-away faults beginners make: (1) Walk and Chew Gum (2) Furry Dice (3) Tea, Vicar? (4) Styrofoam. I see at least one of these in every manuscript where the author has not mastered the craft of writing before submitting his or her work. What are these four faults and, more importantly, how can you cure them?

(1) Walk and Chew Gum
The writer has not integrated action and dialogue, internal monologue and action, or internal monologue with dialogue. It is as if the characters can do only one thing at a time. An example:

    “If you think you’re going to town you’d better thing again,” said Ralph.
    He put down his can of beer.
    “I’m not having any daughter of mine going to a Cantrell boy’s party, and that’s final!”
    “Oh, Pa! How could you be so cruel!” JoBeth cried.
    Then, hunting in her pockets for a tissue, she dried her eyes and stared at him defiantly.
    “If I want to go, how can you stop me?” she demanded.
    Ralph knew this would happen. She had always been independent, like her mother. He half-lurched to his feet.
    “You little hussy!” he bellowed.
    Running up the stairs, JoBeth turned at the landing.
    “I am going, do you hear? I am.”

Not integrating action and dialogue makes for jerky, lifeless prose. Combine, combine, toujours combine:

    “If you think you’re going to town you’d better think again,” Ralph snapped, putting down his can of beer. She was too damn much like her mother. “I’m not having any daughter of mine going to a Cantrell boy’s party, and that’s final!”
    “Oh, Pa! How could you be so cruel!” JoBeth hunted her pockets for a tissue, dried her eyes and stared at him defiantly. “If I want to go, how can you stop me?”
    Ralph half-lurched to his feet, bellowing, “You little hussy!” But JoBeth was already upstairs. “I am going, do you hear? I am.”

This might not be award-winning prose, but it reflects the reality of the action and feelings better by having action, thought and dialogue knitted together.

(2) Furry Dice
Adjectives, adverbs and prepositions are furry dice hanging from a car’s mirror. They don’t do anything for the car’s performance, they simply clutter the place. I once stripped a fifth of a novel by removing words and phrases such as ‘very’ ‘up’ ‘down’ ‘over’ ‘about’ ‘some’ ‘a little’ ‘a bit’ ‘somewhat’ ‘whole’ ‘just’ and other modifiers. For instance:

    She picked up the gun and aimed it straight at him. His smile disappeared as he lifted up his hands into the air. She waved him over to the wall, saying, “Spread ’em out, and no funny business, you hear?” She checked all of his pockets for the money, then stepped back. “Okay, I’m convinced. You haven’t got it.”

This would be better without the modifiers, and with the tighter language you’ll have to write to replace them:

    She snatched the gun and aimed. His smile disappeared as his hands climbed. She waved him to the wall, saying, “Spread ’em, and no funny business, you hear?” She checked his pockets for the money, then retreated. “Okay, I’m convinced. You don’t have it.”

59 words have become 44, and even then the passage could be trimmed. But the first, necessary action, before you seriously begin to rewrite, is to grab that swimming pool net and remove clogging, unnecessary modifiers that muddy the water. Hemingway didn’t need them; you don’t need them.

(3) Tea, Vicar?

    “More tea, Vicar?” Angela asked, taking his cup and placing it on the tray beside her.
    “Don’t mind if I do,” said the Rev. Phelps.
    “That was two sugars, wasn’t it?” she asked, pouring the fragrant liquid from the heirloom pot into his cup and stirring in the milk. When he nodded, she dropped in two sugar lumps, stirred again, and handed him back the cup.
    “Thank you, my dear,” he said, accepting it with a smile.

How often have I read loving descriptions of cups of tea being poured, pots of coffee being made, even whole meals cooked and eaten? Or rooms cleaned or decorated, or journeys made? Too darn often. Writers get a high out of conjuring a tableau from thin air, and in the white heat of creation forget that tableaux of mundane details are not exciting. The reader will not share that euphoria.

Reading about a cup of tea being poured is about as exciting as watching paint dry. How does this scene help further the plot or character development? It doesn’t. The writer simply got carried away with describing everything. Fiction is supposed to be like life, but with the dull bits removed, not spelled out in excruciating detail. Examine your work. Test every scene. Is there anything that you think of as ‘setting the scene’ or ‘capturing the atmosphere’? If there is, cut it. Every scene needs conflict and movement to give it life, and tea for the Vicar has neither.

(4) Styrofoam
This is related to Tea, Vicar?, but it arises not from self-indulgence, but panic. Styrofoam is the padding novice writers stuff into their novels because they haven’t enough story to tell (or think they don’t) and need to create word count. Padding is distinguishable because suddenly the forward movement of the story stops dead. Nothing happens for a few pages. I read, I read, and at the end I’ve learned nothing about the characters I needed to know, nor have the characters done anything essential to the story. Every scene has to propel the plot to the crisis that will resolve the story. Styrofoam does neither.

If you fear you haven’t enough narrative, add more conflict. Don’t give me tours of the countryside, long rambling chats, the characters making travel arrangements, or any other lifeless block of prose. I want action. I want inexorable movement towards the crisis. I want to be gripped. So cut the padding. If that makes your novel too short, re-think your premise, your plot, your primary and secondary characters, and rewrite.

If you want to be published, you’ll have to cure these faults yourself, because your editor won’t do it for you. She’ll just send it back.

Copyright Caro Clarke reproduced by author’s kind permission

http://www.caroclarke.com/fourfaults.html
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Another Rejection Slip? Never Give Up, and here’s why…

Image

Adelaide Godwin, Author ‘Landing on my Feet. The Adventures of Poohka the Cat’

Guest blogger Adelaide Godwin talks to Tracy Thomson about the launch next month of her new children’s book.

Is this the first novel you have ever written? Yes
What about when you were younger at school?  I enjoyed writing but I am not sure the examiners felt the same when marking!
Was your first language French?  No, this is why at the age of 9, I had to start from scratch, having lessons in French and abandoning my limited knowledge of English grammar!
Did you shine at English composition or find yourself naturally more steered towards images and painting?
I loved to draw but we did not have art classes at the school.  I took my Art O Level for a joke and got an A grade. I never had any tuition until attending art classes, here, over the last 4 years. I never really shined at anything academically, I was more sporty, I like to think.
How did you conceive of the novel?  We saved a feral cat (he had been missing from our Urbanisation for a month) returning with a bad leg injury.  He is now a three legged cat living with us as part of the family.
Did you see images of a little cat and then let your imagination flow with a journey, friends and morals? Yes, my imagination took over and I set to painting his journey at my art classes.
You said you saw the book first in images and then came up with the joined up writing part, could you perhaps elaborate on that?  Once I had completed the paintings, I then put pen to paper to write the story as I imagined it.  My Publisher, Digital Leaf, said that was completely the wrong way round.
Initially you saw the reader as being older than the eventual age chosen. Yes, I thought perhaps with mentioning a cat being neutered it might be for a slightly older group.  But then again I have a talking tree! So I can see how the publisher’s thought differently. 
Did any differences between the Publisher and you cause problems?  No, I was happy to go along with whatever the publisher’s thought. I was just so pleased they were as passionate about my story as I was.
Who or what served as inspiration for you on your writing journey?  Our dear pussycat “Pooka” (Poohka in the book)  We bonded with him when he was living outside and he would walk around the Urbanisation with us on a daily basis.  So when he went missing we were most concerned for him.
How long did it take?  From starting with the paintings then the writing just under 2 years.  The actual writing took approximately 6 months, but I did not have a routine.  I wrote when I had the time and that was not as frequently as I would have liked.
Why did you decide on a nom de plume?   I always thought I should have used a different name when acting but never did, so this time I decided I would for writing. I have chosen  my grandmother’s two middle names.
I understand more than one Publisher was interested, what helped you to decide which one to go with? No only the one.  When sending off submissions I had 13 refusals but a number of them came back with complimentary responses, saying it was not for them, but someone out there will take it!  It is finding that someone, sadly they never guide you.  Anyway, I was most fortunate.
Have you started the next one yet? Yes, the first two chapters, it is just finding the time to shut myself away and get on with the rest.  I need a routine.
The publishing process can seem arduous do you have any advice for others out there who are taking their own baby steps?  Never give up.  I understand JK Rowling found an agent on her 12th attempt.  Geoffrey Archer on his 27th.  The lady who wrote The Help on her 61st attempt.  So there is hope for us all.  Basically if I can do it, anyone can.  I have absolutely no writing background at all.
What is the best approach for negotiating with the Publishers along the way vis a vis book jacket and illustrations.  I was lucky I liked the front and back cover.  The internal illustrations had to be changed because they were too English, so with a bit of coaxing and gentle persuasion they were altered.
How will you keep track of book sales? Will you access Amazon sales via the Amazon account set up or is that all being done by your Publisher?  This is all being done by the publisher. They will be sending me quarterly accounts of sales and so on.
Below is a brief bio of the author (in her own words):

Adelaide was educated at an Ursuline convent in a remote Belgian village before attending Winkfield Place Finishing School, famous as Constance Spry’s school. There she achieved a Cordon Bleu Diploma and went on to work for Prue Leith in London and as chef at the Little London Restaurant in Chichester.


Adelaide then joined British Airways and took to the skies, working as Cabin Crew for fifteen years and travelling the world extensively.


Adelaide has also worked in the television and film industry doing small acting roles, as well as some photographic and voiceover work.


She now divides her time between the UK and southern Spain where she cares for animals, writes, paints and enjoys the Mediterranean sunshine.

So with a vivid imagination Adelaide picked up a pen and a piece of paper and started to write!

The result is:

Landing on my Feet; the Adventures of Poohka the Cat by Adelaide Godwin

This is the incredible tale of Poohka a feral cat from Sotogrande who through an error of judgement ends up on a landfill site many miles away from home. Seriously injured and left for dead, this story takes you on his epic journey of survival.

With courage and determination Poohka starts his amazing journey with the assistance of some very unexpected friends he makes along the way. With highs and lows, twists and turns, the story leads you to a heart-stopping conclusion.

A taster from my book:

Chapter 2 – No place for a siesta

In August, the hottest time of the year in southern Spain, Spike sat motionless in the heat of the sun. He was perched on a decaying branch of an old cork oak tree. The week had passed too slowly for Spike, a mature and splendid looking vulture. Spike longed for Wednesdays to come around, and waited impatiently.
There was a gentle but obvious roar of a lorry in the distance. Spike jumped up, stretched his scaly neck and flexed his claws. ‘It’s coming!’ he cried joyfully.

Señor Arbol, the once majestic cork oak tree, groaned loudly. ‘For goodness’ sake, Spike, if you carry on with this behaviour you will break my weary old branch. Then you will lose your prime spot here at the rubbish tip.’

‘OK, OK!’ he yelled with excitement, struggling to contain himself. ‘I’ll try my best, but my tummy is rumbling so much, and my food is on its way!’

As if in reply, the decaying branch beneath Spike made a big creaking noise. Spike gulped and immediately stopped bouncing up and down. Spike liked his vantage point closest to the dumping area, and he’d fought hard to get this prime position. He had no intention of losing it now!

Described as:

“A roller-coaster ride of a book for young animal-lovers everywhere.”
Age: 8 +
Digital Leaf

“A claw-biting journey of bravery, persistence and unusual friendships set atmospherically in southern Spain”
Heather Hacking Bestselling Author-Illustrator

More: Poohka the Cat age 8 yrs+

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Five Minutes of Flame. – When Nigella’s Twinkly Lights Go Out.

Nigella Lawson; as divisive as Marmite on a good day, but at the moment her once revered culinary abilities and the poetic descriptions of her creations are the last things on anybody’s lips.

So where did it all go wrong?  How could our love affair with the twinkly-lit muted scenes of conviviality turn sour overnight?

Was it because we discovered to our horror that Nigella is only as human as the rest of us?  Can we not forgive somebody who we have put so high upon a pedestal?  Not even at Christmas?  Not even when we have all – and frankly, we’d be lying through clenched teeth if we said otherwise – stolen some of her whimsically festive ideas?

Nigella hasn’t changed.  We have changed.  We’ve changed our minds.  We’re no longer willing to love her unconditionally.  She’s not this glossy, flawless creature after all.  It was all just a show for the cameras, an illusion.

We are the fools to have ever thought otherwise.

But I have an affinity with Nigella.  No, it’s not just because I happen to have her cookbook open on my wanabee kitchen island – sadly it’ll never rival hers – musing at the Baked Alaska, wondering where I can get myself one of those kitsch skier models that she has snowploughing down her meringue.  It’s because Nigella’s current debacle is actually a hammed up version of my past.  And I suspect a highly-dramatised version of many a person’s past, present, and sadly, future to come.

I used to live two lives, became quite a master of it.  We all have an actor inside as it turns out.

Nigella’s pristinely applied cosmetics; the pillar box red lippy and doe-eyes; that was me glammed up for a business trip.  Nigella’s flirtation at the camera to every male viewer in the country was my cry for salvation from the horrors that lay waiting for me at home.  I scoured the cities of Frankfurt, Bologna, Paris and Hong Kong for a Knight in Shining Armour instead.  Nigella’s – alleged – substance abuse?  That’s the metaphor for my cake addiction to numb the pain.  Not just cake.  Biscuits, chocolate, 500ml tubs of Haagen Daz, I wasn’t fussy.  Bolstering came in all shapes and sizes.  Okay, drugs might be the most harmful of those – if indeed Charles Saatchi’s allegations are founded – let us not forget the gas-lighting ways and the manipulative workings of a perpetrator’s mind.  The cocaine, the chocolate, the wine; ultimately they’re all a symbol for the same thing:  the outlet.  When you are alone in that dark place, in the dark days and nights of the soul, you will turn to anything for some bolstering.  It’s just a shame Nigella didn’t lean toward her delectable snow-flecked brownies.

Yet there’s a silver lining to be found in the cloud that hangs over Nigella:  she has finally, publicly, broken the taboo.  Domestic violence – and the ways we resort to dealing with it – goes on in every walk of life, every culture and every circle.  Now we have it in writing.

We’re a nation of celebrity junkies.  No not all of us, but those of us who are, are many.  We wouldn’t even abandon our favourite football team with the disdain we dish out freely to the likes of Nigella.  Does the underdog rule not apply to our kitchen heroines as well?  Is it – dare I say it – because she’s a woman?

‘She’s a toff.  She should know better.’

Since when did upper class status and money buy happiness?

‘She’s a celebrity.  She has to accept the intrusion of the paparazzi into her life, it goes with the territory.  She’s asked for it.’

Has she?  Is that why she frequently chose a seemingly discreet corner of a trusted restaurant to dine out as inconspicuously as possible?  Do we often see her splashed all over the front pages of The Sun with all the panache of a Z-lister wearing a belt and a see-through bra whilst snorting a line?  The last time I recall her being snapped up in private prior to her downfall, she was wearing a hideously unflattering all-in-one UV suit paddling on the Australian Gold Coast.  Hardly a contender for the me-me-me syndrome that plagues some of our ‘stars’.

What we give out we get boomeranged right back at us.  This is Newton’s Law.

The greatest gift we can give to ourselves then; is to quit deflecting from our own inadequacies.  Nigella’s situation is but a mirror of our own.  We have all had our Nigella moment.  It’s the very reason we act so strongly, so bitterly towards her.  Nigella is the icon of the shameful skeletons lurking in our own cupboards; the juicy stories we know would be aired if only we had our five minutes in the limelight, too.

And the greatest gift we can give to Nigella is the opportunity to dust herself down, pick herself up and get back to what she does best; giving us permission to indulge In glorious cake hot out the oven… and buying fairy lights.

Sam Curtis
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Mind the Gap, NLP and Me

Guest blogger Andrea Myers is a certified master practitioner of NLP and her blog  focuses on mind maps and filters.  Before you dismiss this as “pseudo science with quack factor stats” remember this, we learn, read and write in different ways. If we can increase our readership, or inject credible characterisation from looking at how others think, it has been worth the journey.

‘He searched her eyes with deep emotion – it was the mention of his childhood that brought the flood of memories and finally moved him to act…’

George sighed, “I just do not get this author. I am not on the same wavelength at all I feel I have just wasted my time trying to read this, and what a waste of money!” and with that, he slammed the book shut and tossed it into the bin.

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Oh dear, not the reaction we authors want at all! So what went wrong? George and the author were indeed “not on the same wavelength” and the reason is this: Our author used the word “childhood” as a huge emotional turning point to his story – but “childhood” means something different to every one of us. Some of us had an idyllic youth, others a busy hectic time as part of large bustling family, others were very alone, perhaps an only child. So we need to be aware as authors that our language and our use of it is totally coloured by our own, individual map of the world. A world made up of our own very unique experiences and emotions. And when we use key words we need to ensure our readers get onto our wavelength. Try using the phrase “How specifically?” to ask yourself what you mean and ensure your reader has understood. Had our author said “tortured childhood” or “soporific” perhaps our reader would have stayed with him.

NLP or Neurolinguistic Programme is the study of the effect of language (linguistic) on our brain (neuro) patterns, created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s.They studied how the pathways or filters into our neuro system worked and how the language we use mirrors our own personal world. They created a set of models that can be used to achieve excellence in everyday life: business, education, health, sport as well as psychology.
If you look up “NLP and writing”, you will see that there are dozens and dozens of courses being offered to writers and journalists, using NLP as a foundation. Many scriptwriters use NLP in their work – in particular in TV series and films. This year over 1,200 teachers were trained in NLP and it is also used in education, medicine and in many different aspects of therapy.

At our last Writer’s Workshop I spoke about the two basic tenets of NLP – Our Map of the World and the filters we use to take in information. The example given above with George explains Our Map of the World. Let’s look now at filters.

Bandler and Grinder found that we take in information through 5 basic filters Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, the primary filters, and Gustatory, and Olfactory the secondary filters. What filters we use as our primary ones are very individual. But if you try to communicate with someone without using their primary filter – you may again find “we are not on the same wavelength”.

You have only to ask a group of people who have just come out of a film what they liked about the film – and some will say the photography was fabulous (Visual) some will have noticed the musical score (Auditory) and some will have said the film made them feel great (Kinesthetic) And we cannot help using the words that actually give away what filters most influence us. For example, at a meeting, if something is decided, and the individuals are asked for their understanding, some will say, “I hear what you say” others will say, “I see what you mean” and others, “feels good to me”.

Returning to our reader, George, he gave us a clue as to his primary filter with his words “I feel I have wasted my time” He may well be a kinesthetic. If a writer totally ignores his kinesthetic readers, this could well be the outcome. If you try to sell a car to a kinesthetic and you focus on the visual qualities – you might not get a sale! Mention the comfort of the seats, the smooth ride, the heated seats and fabulous climate control and the sale could be yours.
I found another very interesting aspect to the VAK filters – I am a Visual, and I found to my surprise that my writing was lacking the visual aspect – too much dialogue and not enough scene setting. The reason must be that as a visual I just assumed everyone would be able to create the scene in their minds and didn’t need me to describe things. Not so! When I reversed things, and “told less and showed more” I got a far better response.

How can we use this information for us as writers? My suggestions are:
When you are doing your first edit of your writing identify the key words or turning points in your writing – and ask yourself, “What specifically do I mean by this word or phrase?” Remind yourself that your map of the world is unique to you and that to engage your reader you need to expand or illustrate your meaning.

Again, at your first edit stage ask yourself what is your writing style? – Have you engaged the Visual Auditory or Kinesthetic filters in your overall approach? Is there a balance?

I have only skimmed the surface of NLP and its practices and philosophies – but I close with one of the ten basic tenets of NLP:

‘The meaning of your communication is the response that you get, which may be different to the one you intended. There is no such thing as a resistant person, only an inflexible communicator.”

Andrea Myers


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The Wonderful World of Foreign Rights

The guest blogger this week is Sam Curtis and her mission, which she chose to accept for thirteen years, was Foreign Rights.

Over to you Sam

Foreign Rights

WHAT IS IT?

Foreign rights is a specialised field of publishing, whereby the translation rights for a specific title or project are sold in another language.

I was lucky enough to work in the F.R side of the children’s industry for thirteen years; first for a small novelty book packager, then on to Bath where I headed up the department for a medium-sized mass-market publisher, another stint with a non-fiction publisher, and then finally I ran my own agency for a couple of years.

HOW DO YOU GET INTO IT?

The usual route is by starting out at junior level as an assistant, ideally with a second language.  I was extremely lucky.  After a degree in Modern Languages, I took a risk and applied for a job I wasn’t at all qualified for!  Nobody else from London was prepared to move from The City to The West Country… and the rest is History.  I started out at managerial level, looking after my own list of countries, whilst answering the phones and packing parcels for a company of 6.

HOW IS A FOREIGN RIGHTS SALE MADE?

The front (and backlist) are presented to customers at the three main book fairs; Frankfurt (largest fair in the world), Bologna (largest children’s fair in the world) and London.  A customer will request to be sent samples of the book(s) for further consideration, along with prices and schedules.  The sale can happen in one of two ways:

1)       Co-edition

2)      CD/royalty

Co-edition is the most usual route when selling board, novelty, pop up books etc.  In the ideal world, several F.R editions  will ‘piggyback’ onto the US/UK print run, keeping costs down and achieving one nice, uniform printing.  But nowadays, the likes of France, Germany and Poland are in a position to print alone, satisfying their own particular delivery requirements.

Once a contract has been signed, the customer (usually they are also the editor!) will be sent a disc.  This contains high resolution images for the cover and title page; so the font can be changed, their logo, barcode and imprint details added.  The inside files are in low resolution, so only the translated text of the customer can be input onto the disc.  The customer then sends their translated files back to the F.R team.  They are given a cursory glance by the production department, before winging their way to the printer in China.  Hopefully every country’s material has been sent in on time so the schedule will be adhered to…  The printer will produce ozalids (or blueprints as they are called nowadays).  A set goes to the customer, and a set to the F.R team.  There will almost always be corrections to be made!  Even with a one sentence per page board book.  Editors are notoriously overworked.  The process is repeated again until everybody is happy.  Then an advance copy will be sent.  Checks will be made and the OKTP (okay to print) will be given.  A pre-production sample will also be sent just prior to shipment.  This is the very last opportunity to check for mistakes!  The F.R team would also add their PPS to the ever-growing archive – something which should be kept religiously as a source of reference for future reprints.  Are the cover and binding the same?  Is the paper quality up to scratch?

Most customers will buy on a CIF (Carriage Insurance and Freight) basis, meaning the F.R department will arrange the shipping from Hong Kong to their port of entry for them.  This is fairly common for Europe.  Other customers, such as those in the Far East, will pay a slightly lower price and work on an FOB (Free On Board) basis.  This means they arrange their own shipping, to say Tokyo or Manila.

For a CD/royalty sale, a percentage per copy is paid 100% in advance (on the retail price of the initial print run).  The high resolution disc (containing four colour files for both covers AND insides) is sent to the customer.  In this situation they have a little more flexibility with regards to the format, meaning they can change it to better suit their market; they could also change the font and cover design to allow it to ‘travel’ in their particular country.  This kind of sale happens mostly in South Korea, China, Brazil and Eastern Europe with non-fiction, but also compilations of stories – a Bedtime Story Collection for example.  It was largely trust based.  A royalty statement should be sent once a year, and hopefully there is no piracy going on!

BOOK FAIRS/SALES TRIPS

A Foreign Rights Manager (in the heyday) could expect to be on a plane every 6 weeks, either to a book fair or for a sales trip.  In addition to the 3 big fairs, there is a lesser book fair somewhere in the world, each and every week; Moscow, Warsaw, Prague, Tokyo, Taipei and Guadalajara to name but a few.  In days gone by, attendance at the fairs with the company stand would be critical to sell.  In the age of the internet and aftermath of the global recession however, it’s becoming much more common for buyers to spend less time out of the office – some even shunning both Bologna and Frankfurt, making all of their acquisitions for their children and adult lists in London in one fell swoop.

 

ILLUSTRATION STYLES

The hardest thing of all is finding one common style that suits all pre-school, mass-market novelty books!  Germany is one of the trickiest markets, with an extremely refined style that is very difficult to emulate.  We found that our backlist was extremely popular in Eastern Europe (and some Southern European countries).  But if you wanted to sell into Scandinavia, sophistication was critical.

PHENOMENONS

Every now and again, a ground-breaking idea would come along that EVERYONE wished they had thought of first.  More often than not, it would see itself reincarnated in the guise of various rip-offs by other companies (no names mentioned).  As the years went on, and the competition and cost prices increased, coming up with a novel novelty grew harder and harder.

PROUD MOMENTS

–          Selling our carnation of photographic First Word Books into 24 languages (including Icelandic!)

–          Making the first ever sale (so I was told) of Papiamento language text books into the schools of Aruba.  Prior to that, all books were in Dutch.

–          My record-breaking, eye-brow raising 25,000 copy ‘New Suit for Santa’ deal with a Finnish book club.

–          My Arabic edition Farm Pop Up made it onto the official top 10 list in Israel… for several weeks in a row.

Okay, I’ll stop blowing my trumpet now.

BIGGEST COCK-UPS

I once approved a shipment of well-overdue Argentinian/Venezuelan edition books to Hamburg instead of Buenos Aires!

I’ve committed the ultimate faux-pas by foolishly going against the advice I gave to my employees:  Never, ever berate a customer in an internal email.  You never know when you’re going to send it to the customer instead by mistake…  The Swedish client, who I fortunately never did meet, took it extremely well under the circumstances.  But I do believe it was THE ONLY set of non-text board books he bought from us.  We never did get to the bottom of why he wanted to purchase blank books…

A certain set of company directors decided to go against the advice of myself and my former boss.  Instead they thought it would be wise to put all eggs in one basket, selling everything to one giant client in Belgium, working with them on a Bill of Exchange basis, too, and authorising them to collect their goods from Antwerp before they’d even sent shipping documents that we could have used as ransom!  The client eventually went bust for the third or fourth time in a row, owing our company just shy of a million Euros.  Ouch.

I could go on.

WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF FOREIGN RIGHTS?

The era of the ‘good old days’ is sadly long gone.  No longer can a prepared contract be taken to a book fair meeting ready for the client to sign on the dotted line!  And in the words of my former F.R director:  ‘It is now 10 times harder to get a sale.  You even have to beg and plead sometimes.’  Chinese print prices rose sharply for the novelty book market, and along with the global recession, this resorted in many of the big companies sadly swallowing up the little independent fish.  I don’t think anybody would venture into F.R for the jet-set lifestyle anymore, either.  The travel budgets must be a shell of their former selves.

But I do believe the demand for F.R for older children’s books (as well as the adult market) will continue after this blip.  The world has an insatiable hunger for books, in whichever medium we are choosing to read them.

The Ebook and self-publishing have also created their own tides of change.  I don’t think there will ever be an on-screen substitute for a good, old, interactive novelty book… there just might be a lot less of them!
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‘Silence’ – Stream of Consciousness

An example of the literary technique ‘stream of consciousness’ by SW member Emma Wilson that illustrates the benefit of free-flow writing. Getting down what comes into your mind without interruption can be a powerful stimulus that can help to kick-start the creative process and help you get inside the mind of a character.

Silence

I dream of silence.

Tap Tap, Scratch Scratch, Tick Tock, Cough.

That’s the sound of my life.

No wait, that’s just the dark hours. The evenings. The darkness.

Darkness means silence right? Nope.

Tap Tap, Scratch Scratch, Tick Tock, Cough

My days are not like this.

Oh no, they are much worse.

I DREAM of silence.

I rise from my bed to the ear piercing scream…

“muuuuuummmmmy!”

I lift my body unwillingly and lurch toward the high pitched screech,

Inevitably followed by the clatter of cereal bowls and cups in the kitchen.

Here we go again.

Oh god I dream dream dream of silence.

Mummmmmmy!

Tap Tap Bang Bang “I want juice!!”

I glance longingly back at the bedroom door and my inner clock starts the countdown.

How many hours until we are re-united once again in silence.

Tap Tap Bang Bang Hiss Bang Screech

Oh God I dream of silence.

“Darling, where are my car keys?” It starts again.

Oh Lord just give me five….

“Mummy I want my…. Honey I cant find them – Jesus is that the time?”

 The day drags on, the air filled with noises. Screams and cries, giggles and groans.

The darkness of the coffee pulls me in… darkness, stillness, black and thick. Oh god im dreaming of silence.

As their heads hit the pillows and their eyes slowly close, little breaths and whispers escape their dreams.

Tick tock tick tock – counting down. Nearly time for sleep.

We meet again my dear old friend, a million noises have kept us apart.

Tick tock, click click and suddenly its dark.

His tinnitus takes over and tap tap here come the noises.

“Today in the news” – Lord above here we go again.

 Tap tap scratch scratch Cough tap tap.

Finally he slips into sleep and the radio clicks one last time, finally the start of silence…

But then it starts…

I fear the silence.

“Is the oven off, is that bill paid. Did she clean her teeth – what was that noise, is that her out of bed?”

Holy hell I just want to sleep.

I dread the silence, because that’s when it starts – that’s when my day begins.

All the worries, all the questions, in the silence my fears sing.

I fear the silence.

But then the birds begin to sing.

Tap tap bang bang “mummy I’m thirsty”

I sigh, and rise and look to the bed – breath in and out and take a beat.

I dream of silence once more… that is until it starts again.

Blogged by Emma Wilson

…And look at why she did it…

Hi [Jo and Tracy]. I dont generally do this, but i blame both of you. It seems since joining the group my brain simply wont stop. The dam i put up around my creative brain has been ripped down and i cant stop the flow. I woke up last week (at around 3am) and my brain just would not stop. So for the first time in a long time i wrote it all down and didnt think about it again.

Last night i took a look at what was written. To be honest i don’t even REMEMBER writing the words – reading it over last night it made me giggle.

It is completely stream of consciousness but really does sum up the life of a mother of two in my eyes.. i thought it might interest you to see it. Normally i would simply leave these musings in my notebook never to be seen again – but after meeting a fellow “compulsive writer” in Lindsey last week i think it might interest people to see they are not alone when they write nonsense words on scraps of paper in the wee morning hours.

Hope you like it

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