Sunday, 21 September 2014

Clichés – how can we avoid them and do we really have to?



Clichés become clichés because they do what they do rather well. There isn’t anything else quite like a bull in a china shop. Nothing could be nastier than having a ton of bricks fall on you. Putting a spanner in the works probably works better than throwing a wooden clog into the machinery --- that act which gave us the word sabotage, form the French word “sabot”.
Plots and stories can be clichéd too, yet it is good for our psychological health to consume the same story over and over. Christopher Booker, anyway, tells us there are only seven stories, Arthur Frank offers us three and Robert McKee provides a template that will structure any story. Part of our enjoyment of stories comes from recognising this pattern over and over.
Language, too, has to repeat so that we understand it.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Modes of Diversity



Malorie Blackman had quite a hard time recently when she made a plea for diversity in children’s literature. She was horribly edited so that it came out as if she talked about nothing else. This was followed by a lot of racist responses to the article. (Should it call itself that? No self-respecting journalist would.).

Monday, 1 September 2014

Newsletter 1 September 2014

I’m busily getting ready for the new academic year at the university yet it still a little less hectic than the teaching weeks will be. The new students need quite a bit of attention in the first few weeks as do the students who still have pass marks missing.
I’ve taken a few odd days off here and there, mainly to use up remaining leave. I find these odd days very useful. I don’t look at university emails on those days though I might do a little forward planning. They’re useful for catching up on such tasks as paying cheques into the bank, getting a picture framed and sorting out a new phone. Plus they give me a taste of how life will be when I retire in two years’ time. Of course, I won’t retire from writing – in fact, I’ll probably get more done.
I’m suddenly making some very exciting connections. I can’t say more at the moment, but I should be able to in a few weeks’ time. Watch this space.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

De-isolating the writer



The isolated writer

Writers certainly need solitude and we have to resign ourselves to being alone quite often. In addition we have to have a unique voice and contribute something to our world something that no one else can. Inevitably we work alone.
I’m also an academic and there is an echo of this there. I’m working in my office alone today. None of my immediate colleagues are in the building and even if they were we may not see each other.
Daily I spend between six and ten hours working alone.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The very best type of feedback



Writers should be proactive when sharing their work and ask questions of their readers. They should also be passive and let the reader make their own mind up about a text. These two statements might seem to contradict but if we focus on one very important question, they actually make a lot of sense. We should ask of our readers “What do you understand from this text?”

Friday, 1 August 2014

Newsletter July 2014



I’m back at work now, and extremely busy at the university, getting ready for next academic year. I’m also dealing with students facing resits and new students applying through Clearing, though the real push comes after A-Level day – 14 August.
Today, though, I have a day off because I’ve a demanding dress and technical rehearsal this evening with a choir I’ve joined. This is something extra and over and above the choir I normally sing with. We’re involved with a special project, Honour, that remembers the Great War. Do take a look. It is going to be spectacular. Come along if you live in the Greater Manchester area.    
And if you’re a writer who feels a little isolated, I can really recommend joining a choir. You work with people and singing is good for both your physical and mental health. Find a choir in your local area here.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Paid author visits



Writers should be paid for visits – of course they should. A day in a school, for instance, isn’t just a day in a school. There is all the preparation beforehand, plus several phone-calls and emails to sort everything out, and travel to and from the venue, let alone all those years of apprenticeship in your craft. Hence, I rate such a day at £350 but only get that rarely.
It isn’t all that clear cut anyway.