Tuesday, June 12, 2007

84,630 Words

I've recently joined Facebook. I warn you, it's highly addictive - like Friends Reunited but with loads of space for photos and free messaging. It's amazing how many people will come and find you on it within days of joining. It's very strange to see those old faces again: different hairstyles, more or less tanned, fatter, thinner, greyer than you remember them, and yet their voices are wonderfully unchanged.

It's made me realise how provincial I've become, living up here. I hadn't exactly forgotten that London or Leicester existed - I hadn't quite re-centred my whole world view on Dewsbury just yet - but I had allowed these other places to shrink away gradually from my Everyday Life, until they were but blips on the radar. I feel like my world has suddenly expanded again. So-and-so doesn't just live in Wolverhampton, she LIVES there - her full-on 24-hours-a-day-7-days-a-week life is going on, concurrently with my own, with all its particular dramas, joys and difficulties, as are all the other anonymous lives on and off the website.

Re: The Book.
I've ordered the latest Writer's Handbook, and am well into the re-write already.

Love A

Sunday, June 10, 2007

84,610 Words

I've bloody finished it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


81,448 Words

So close. So close now and I'm dying to print it all out again so that I can just hold it in my hands - the whole thing, and feel the completeness of it. I know it'd be a waste of paper. I still have six or seven pages to go and then of course there will come another monster re-write, because I have dashed off these last twenty thousand words so quickly, there will be inconsistencies and spelling errors galore. Still, it felt really great to pass the 80K mark. It felt like I could actually start thinking of myself as 'a writer', rather than just a tryer. The 2nd biggest challenge is yet to come (the first being writing the damned thing) so I still I can't say it out loud until someone agrees to publish the book. Until that moment I will continue to answer the perennial question "So, when are you thinking about going back to work?" with my usual, noncommital "Oh I don't know. Not just yet. I think maybe I want to do something completely different."

I've been giving a lot of thought to the first page and the last page - surely the most important pages of any book. The first page (apart from the jacket and blurb, which are likely to be outside my control) is my one shot at getting the potential reader to take it to the till, and the last page is what will determine their lasting impression of the book if they finish it - will they feel their time has been well-spent? Will they recommend it to a friend? Will they even remember what happened in a fortnight's time? Instead of endlessly tinkering with my first page I decided to write a whole new one (I'll put in on the website later today) and I'm much happier with it now. The last page hasn't been written yet but I have some ideas. Better get on with it I suppose...
Love A

P.S. On the subject of book jackets, I really fancy white, snow-covered ground with the slightly fuzzy shape of a scarlet coat lying there, abandoned. I've read many times that 'white covers don't sell' but I have several books with white or mostly white covers, and it's never been a factor in my choosing or not choosing to pick up a book. My favourite book covers though are the deep turquoise covers of Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell & The Butterfly. Now both those covers did influence me to pick up those books, and still they glint invitingly on my bookshelves, calling me to re-read each more than once. Blue wouldn't have any relevance to my story though. A shame really. Perhaps I could have just a close-up of Amelia's red coat - so close that you could see the weave of the woollen fabric - that would be nice. Red is my favourite colour.

P.P.S. I can see that all this daydreaming about 'what I'll do when I'm published' might seem annoyingly presumptuous to some readers, but really, what's the point in all this effort unless you believe in yourself? in the strength of your will to succeed? I read that Marina Lewyncka gave up trying to get her 1st manuscript published after 40 rejections. Forty? I'm expecting that many in the first wave alone.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Essential books to read to children

After listing my own favourite books, I started to think of the books that my children have read and loved and re-read. With the picture books, these are the ones they learn by heart - the ones I have heard them telling themselves in their cots late at night when I have thought they must have fallen asleep already (they were being so quiet). With the books for older children, they are the ones I have read to my older daughter and now find her taking down and re-reading to herself. With most of the books for over-sevens (as J is only just coming into that bracket) these aren't books we've read together yet but rather the ones I remember most vividly from my own childhood, and so I look forward to reading them aloud.

Most, perhaps all, of these books are just as good for either sex but, as I am raising only girls, there certainly a bias towards girly books or books with female characters. If I could deliver these forty books to every baby girl born in the english-speaking world, I would do so with love and die happy.

Top ten for under 3s

Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear - EMILY GRAVETT
The Baby's Catalogue - JANET & ALLAN AHLBERG
Moo, Baa, La, La, La - SANDRA BOYNTON
Where's Spot? - ERIC HILL
I Want My Potty - TONY ROSS
The Very Hungry Caterpillar - ERIC CARLE
We're Going On a Bear Hunt - MICHAEL ROSEN
Where Does Maisy Live? - LUCY COUSINS

Three to Five

Rosie's Babies - MARTIN WADDELL
The Hairy Book - BABETTE COLE
The Tiger Who Came To Tea - JUDITH KERR
Mr Gumpy's Outing - JOHN BURNINGHAM
I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go To Bed - LAUREN CHILD
Slinky Malinki - LYNLEY DODD

Five to Seven

The Enchanted Wood - ENID BLYTON
The Twits - ROALD DAHL
Popular Folk Tales - THE BROTHERS GRIMM
Harry Potter & The Philiosopher's Stone - J.K. ROWLING
The Wind in the Willows - KENNETH GRAHAME
Flat Stanley - JEFF BROWN
Utterly Me, Clarice Bean - LAUREN CHILD
The Bad Beginning - LEMONY SNICKET

Seven to Nine

The Just So Stories - RUDYARD KIPLING
The Happy Prince & Other Stories - OSCAR WILDE
Lorna Doone - R.D. BLACKMORE (Ladybird Children's Classics version)
Gulliver's Kingdom - JONATHAN SWIFT (Ladybird Children's Classics version)
Matilda - ROALD DAHL
The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe - C.S. LEWIS

Nine to Twelve

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. MONTGOMERY
Daddy Long-Legs - JEAN WEBSTER
The Dead Letterbox - JAN MARK
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 - SUE TOWNSEND
Over Sea, Under Stone - SUSAN COOPER
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - JUDY BLUME
The Children of Green Knowe - LUCY M. BOSTON
Carrie's War - NINA BAWDEN
The Silver Sword - IAN SERRAILLIER

Love A

My Books of 2007

They're not all mine. The one at the back is J's best friend from two doors down.

I've noticed that many book-bloggers keep an online diary of what they're reading and this prompted me to try and list my own reads of 2007. I couldn't remember all of the talking books I've had but I tend to think that if they weren't memorable enough to stay with me, they're probably not worth mentioning.

In no particular order:

A Rebus (can't remember which) - Ian Rankin

An Insp. Wexford (ditto) - Ruth Rendell (seriously dull)

R is for Ricochet - Sue Grafton (An awful shopping list of a book)

Sleep Pale Sister - Joanne Harris (too self-consciously gothic, including annoying over-use of the word 'gothic')

Taras Bulba - Nikolai Gogol (fascinating but brutal)

The Blooding - Joseph Wambaugh (plenty of amusing American misunderstandings of English words)

The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (enjoyed it but was a bit baffled about why it was SO popular)

Books I & II of Tender is the Night - F.Scott Fitzgerald (really love the style but needed a break before book III)

Persuasion - Jane Austen (SO much better than the recent TV adaptation)

The Children of Men - P.D. James (interesting premise, slightly dull book results)

A Henning Mankell (can't remember which)

Hen and the art of chicken maintenance - Martin Gurdon

Collected Poems - Fernando Pessoa

Glad to Wear Glasses - John Hegley

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

Currently reading:

The Life of PI - Yann Martel (enjoying)

Behind the scenes at the museum - Kate Atkinson (enjoying most of it, the odd slow patch makes me pick up something else instead)

Death and the Penguin - Andrey Kurkov (really enjoying)

Perdita - Paula Byrne (may never finish)

A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth (keep picking this up and then getting distracted by other things)

The Crimson Petal & The White - Michael Faber (again, may never finish)

Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak (needs more attention than I can give it at the moment)

Days of the Consuls - Ivo Andric (slow-going)

My favourite books:

Orlando - Virginia Woolf

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen

I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith

Chocolat - Joanne Harris

The Diving Bell & The Butterfly - Jean Dominique Bauby

The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald

Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

Collected Poems - Fernando Pessoa

If I Don't Know - Wendy Cope

Other books I intend to read this year:

Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

Snow - Orhan Pamuk

Portrait of a Lady - Henry James

I'll let you know how I get on.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

77,510 Words

I thought I might finish it today. I'm so close. Only another two or three thousand words I think. I could go at it for another couple of hours but my fingers hurt. So do my elbows, my wrists, my buttocks, my eyes... I'll have to wait until Friday now to do any more but I really think I might be celebrating Friday night!
Fingers crossed.
Love A

Friday, June 01, 2007

74,134 Words

A burning building, a decapitation - I'm really starting to let myself go with the flow now that I'm so close to finishing. The characters are almost writing themselves, now that I have such a strong idea of what they would or wouldn't do - especially the baddies! It's great fun.