Wednesday, 31 March 2010

So Much For British Summer Time

I might have known I'd put my hot water bottle away too soon!
Last week it was all gardening and thinking of Summer. But then Winter came back with a vengeance, coupled with a high tide.

Have a look if you don't believe me. The harbour usually looks like the picture above. Compare that with the video.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Pain of Slush

Wherever you look, there's a blog about the pain of slush. Every editor and agent who accepts unsolicited material seems to love nothing better than complaining about the amount of dross they have to wade through to find the occasional gem. Some even go so far as to claim none of the unsolicited manuscripts they receive are any good, but they have to read them just to be sure. Not surprisingly, this attitude can ruffle feathers on the other side of the desk. Surely they can't ALL be rubbish? And tarring them all with the same brush only demoralises those wannabes who have striven for years to learn and perfect their craft.

I think agents and editors are prone to exaggerating the onerous nature of their job. OK, I've seen enough dreadful work posted on peer review sites to concede there are a lot of seriously deluded wannabes out there, churning out manuscripts just as fast as their Hewlett-Packards can print them. Some of them have never taken a course or even read a How To book; some haven't even bothered to read what's selling in bookshops. Just because you read Dickens at school doesn't mean you have a book in you - Dickens himself has a hard time selling these days. But bad work has the advantage it is very easy to spot - usually within a few paragraphs. So in reality they're not going to read much of that shit, even if there are lots of envelopes to open.

I also suspect the industry is itself responsible for the deluge of bad material being submitted. I draw an analogy with the diet industry. Some years ago, in an attempt to lose pregnancy weight, I bought quite a few diet magazines. I was astonished to find them full of pictures of appetising food, from tasty snacks to full scale meals. Sitting down to read one had me salivating and raiding the fridge as effectively as Pavlov's dogs. Surely this can't be right, I thought. At just the time one wanted to forget about food, they are making me think about it. Then it dawned on me and made perfect sense. Of course they want you to think about food so you'll go out and buy all the diet meals in the shops, put on weight, need to diet and their magazine. If everyone lost weight they'd be out of business.

The same thing happens in publishing. There are more How To Write books, conferences and manuscript appraisal services than ever before. How do they make their money? By convincing wannabes that writing a book is not only possible but a cinch, so long as they fork out £X to find out how. If agents and editors then have to wade through the resulting drivel, it's hard to feel much sympathy.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Funeral

I spend my days sitting staring at a box
Called an iMac.
Except in the evenings when I
Sit staring at another box
Called a TV.
Alone, like solitary millions
Each communing with his box.
This is the Modern Way.

But this Thursday we'll all gather
To sit collectively staring at a different box
In which you lie.

You'll have brought us together
For ceremonial box-staring.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

A bit gutted today

I hope no one minds me posting this since it's nothing to do with writing, but my sister passed away this morning. It was completely unexpected; she was only three years older than me and not suffering from any serious illness although unwell enough to be admitted to hospital last night for observation. From what I can gather she collapsed at six this morning and by the time her husband had been contacted and got there she had gone. No one knows exactly what killed her, so we have to wait for an autopsy.

I just feel completely gutted. She was my friend as well as my sister, probably the family member I was closest to. Although we lived a long distance apart we talked regularly on the phone. It's hard to take in the fact that she isn't there any more. Now I'm replaying our last conversation and wishing I'd said this, or done that. Why don't we appreciate people while they are alive? I wish I'd had more time for her, but now it's too late.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

I'm on YouTube!

Please pardon a bit of blowing-my-own-trumpet but it's nice to see one's work put to some use.
A poem I wrote a couple of years ago was set to music by the Other Half and his Blues Forum buddy who have now posted it on YouTube if anyone cares to take a listen.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Art Of War For Writers

Yes, I know I said I wasn't going to buy any more writing books - or if I didn't I probably thought it - but I weakened again this week following a bit of advice I spotted on The Book Deal.

The Art of War For Writers by James Scott Bell is a handy little book, divided into 77 bite-sized chapters each one entitled with a maxim like The Outsized Ego Is Not A Weapon of Value and Characters All Alone Should Do More Than Think.

I haven't finished it yet but it's very wise and entertaining, a quick easy read full of useful tips.