Why I Don’t Go to Libraries Anymore (and Why I Love Them Anyway)

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My local council has recently built an architectural award-winning building (even though I’ve heard people describing the outside as looking like Donald Trump’s hair) and moved both its offices and the library into it. I’m assured it’s beautiful inside. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t gone in and don’t have any plans to.

I don’t go to libraries anymore. The last time I went to a library was with my sister and her then pre-school aged daughter on one of their weekly trips to return the children’s books they’d borrowed and select some more. Before that? A body corporate meeting of unit owners where I lived that just happened to be in a hired meeting room at a library. And before that? During my undergraduate studies, which I finished when I was twenty-two (nearly half my lifetime ago). Continue reading

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This Was Supposed to Be the Announcement of My New Book… But It Isn’t

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Draft Image for Black Spot Cover

This is a strange blog post to be writing. It was supposed to be the announcement of the release of my new book, Black Spot. I’ve been talking about it here for years now, from conception to writing to shortlisting in the 2016 Text Prize to its planned publication. I’d originally planned to release it in February 2018 but life and a hectic new job kept delaying it. It was eventually ready by the end of May 2018 (apart from the cover, which would be ready a few weeks later). And then came something that threw a spanner in the works. Continue reading

On Reading the Book That Beat Me for the 2016 Text Prize

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In 2016, I entered the then unpublished manuscript of my young adult novel Black Spot in the Text Prize competition for young adult and children’s writing. I wasn’t holding my breath about winning because I’m not the holding-my-breath kind of person. And when I received a blanket email from the Text Prize people thanking everybody for their entries and saying that the shortlisted authors would be contacted individually, I assumed I wasn’t one of them because I hadn’t heard anything.

A couple of days later, my phone rang. I didn’t recognise the number. I thought it might be about a job I’d applied for. Instead it was a woman named Ally, who told me she worked at Text Publishing. She was calling to let me know that Black Spot had been shortlisted for the Text Prize. And to invite me to the announcement of the winner in just under two weeks’ time.

If it sounds like I was very calm during that phone call, I wasn’t. I was stunned. I was overwhelmed. But I was happy. This was an achievement. This was amazing. This was bliss. Continue reading

Preparing for People Who Won’t Like Your Writing (and How Not to Take It Personally)

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I’ve written before about how writers seek criticism when what they really want is praise. Who doesn’t? Everybody wants their endeavours – regardless of what those endeavours are – to be validated. But no matter how hard a writer works on a piece of writing, there will be people who won’t like it. Not necessarily because it’s bad but just because. That’s life.

A writer can solve this problem by choosing not to release their writing. But it smacks of cowardice and self-perpetuating redundancy. Most people who write want to be read. So we find the courage from somewhere while reminding ourselves that universal popularity just isn’t possible. Because for every person or book or movie or decision that seemed to have plenty of admirers, there will always be a group of people who vehemently dislike or disagree with them or it. Their dislike or disagreement may be valid. It may have carefully considered logic behind it. But it may also simply be a reflection of personal prejudices or specific preferences. Continue reading

The Fiction Versus Non-Fiction Debate: Is One Better Than the Other?

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I recently spent time with a group of friends I see roughly four or five times a year and one of them asked me how my writing was going, knowing that I was doing it full-time. Well, I told her. Did I have a daily routine? she asked. Just to sit down and start, I replied. And when would my next book be out? In a few months. Non-fiction, I clarified. My next novel would be published in about a year’s time. Oh, she said with a hint of disappointment and then moved onto conversation with someone else.

That “Oh” gave me pause. Everyone else I’ve ever discussed my writing with (which isn’t too many people as I find it a little self-indulgent and difficult to do justice to when I’m the one talking) has had the exact same response, which is admiration – admiration at the fact that I’ve written and published books. After all, so many people talk about it and never get around to doing it but continue talking about it until anyone hearing them talk about it wants to beat them over the head with their non-existent book.

I also found it a little strange because I’ve always thought of non-fiction as a slightly higher, slightly more respectable calling than fiction (not my non-fiction, though, just the non-fiction of others) because it requires knowing what you are writing about (or it should) whereas in fiction you can just make up any old thing. Still, they both require effort and commitment over a reasonably lengthy period of time. Why would one let alone the lesser other (whichever you happen to think it is) elicit an “Oh”? Continue reading

Book Review: Sister by Rosamund Lupton

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I had high hopes for this book. A straight-laced woman looking for her artsy, younger, pregnant and unmarried sister after she is reported missing by her landlord. And the longer I read, the more certain I was that the end must be mind-blowing because the build-up took forever. But when it came, I realised that the author had been jerking me around, using every writer’s trick in the book, just to let me down with a mediocre ending, a not particularly complex bad guy and a cliffhanger that, to be honest, I could see coming from a mile away.

Beatrice lives in New York, is successful in an unimportant job and catalogues everything in her life according to Pantone colours (although she really only needs one – beige). She’s engaged to Todd but clearly doesn’t love him – he’s just a safe option. Tess, the missing sister, is a student at an art college in London but she’s been forced to take a sabbatical by her tutor who is also her married lover and doesn’t want his bosses to find out he’s been sexing up students. She’s just weeks away from giving birth when Beatrice receives a call from her mother telling her that her sister has gone missing. Continue reading

Reading Your Own Writing

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Do you ever read your own writing? Not as part of a rewriting and editing process but just for pleasure? In the last five years, I’ve written over half a million words – it may even be closer to a million – in the form of articles, blog posts, book reviews, novels and non-fiction books. And that doesn’t include all the paid writing – tenders, case studies, websites, brochures and other types of marketing copy. I can’t possibly remember it all. So sometimes I go back and read bits and pieces of my own writing.

There are a lot of books out there, I like discovering new ones and I’m not narcissistically self-indulgent so after the rewriting and editing process, I’ve never sat down and read one of my own books from cover to cover. But every now and then I’ll bring up one of my book reviews, articles or blog posts and read it through. Continue reading