Review: Writing Well by Mark Tredinnick

I first read Writing Well by Mark Tredinnick a few years back.  It has held pride of place on my writing book shelf because it is one of the most helpful and beautifully written books on writing I’ve read so far.

Writing Well is a guide to expressive creative writing and effective professional prose. The author, a poet, writer, editor and teacher, explains the techniques required for stylish and readable writing. Everyone who wants to improve their writing can benefit from this book, which describes how to: identify topics that inspire you to write, get into the habit of writing regularly, develop ideas, construct effective arguments, choose words for maximum effect, use grammar correctly, structure sentences and paragraphs appropriately, write with integrity. The book is enriched by examples from great modern writers, and includes a variety of exercises and suggestions for writing activities. Mark Tredinnick practises what he preaches, making his book highly enjoyable as well as technically instructive.”  (GoodReads)

In the prologue of The Sense of Style, Steven Pinker writes:

“It’s not just that I welcome advice on the lifelong challenge of perfecting the craft of writing. It’s also that credible guidance on writing must itself be well written, and the best of the manuals are paragons of their own advice.”

Writing Well fits this description and is, indeed, a paragon of its own advice.  I really enjoyed reading it.  Tredinnick provides useful advice and fantastic exercises to get you flexing your writing muscles.  He includes example passages from well known works to illustrate his points and this, too, was wonderful to read in addition to being illustrative.

My favourite chapters were Sentencing, which gave an in depth look at the structure of different types of sentences and when to make use of them; and Poetics, which was about the art of creative writing.

It was a useful and inspiring read.  This book isn’t just for fiction writers, but anyone looking to improve their writing whether you’re focusing on fiction, poetry, or report writing for work.  It’s a book you may well read more than once – I’ve just finished it for a second time.  If, like me, you enjoy reading books about writing improvement this one has got to be on your list.

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

How To Read More Books Every Year Easily

If, like me, you use GoodReads’ annual Reading Challenge feature to track and record your reading goals, you may have noticed that many people are reading over 100 books a year.

That is very impressive and I’m more than a little envious of those numbers.  The reason is that I have a substantial number of books, fiction and non fiction, that I’m hoping to get through in my lifetime.

I say lifetime because at my current rate of 25 books a year there’s no way I could get through my entire TBR list.  I mentioned in a previous post – The Health Benefits of Reading – that I read every night before I go to bed.  The thing is, while I read every day, it’s not long enough to achieve the kind of volume of books I’d like.

Then I found Charles Chu’s article about how to read 200 books a year.  He describes how we can all read 200 books a year if we reallocated the time we spend on social media and watching TV to reading.  He bases his calculations on a reading rate of 400 words per minute and the average non fiction book word count of 50 000 words.

I decided I would look into this calculation for myself to determine the veracity of his claim and get some numbers that are also relevant to fiction readers.

First, I took an online speed reading test.  Chu’s article says the average American reads between 200-400 words per minute.  On ReadingSoft, they describe the average reader as reading 200 wpm on screen and 240 wpm on paper with a 60% comprehension rate.  They describe a good reader as reading 300 wpm on screen and 400 wpm on paper with 80% comprehension.

My result was 209 wpm on screen (25o wpm on paper) with 91% comprehension.  I realised that everybody’s result will be determined by their personal reading style and the type of book they’re reading.  My reading style may not be very fast compared to some but I read for full comprehension and I enjoy taking my time.  Don’t worry about what the average reader is doing.  This is personal so do an online test to get an idea of your own speed for your calculations.

Then I set out to find out about the word count of the average fiction and non fiction book.  Chu’s article talks about 50 000 words for a non fiction book.  A large number of us, though, are reading novels with around 100 000 words or more (depending on the format of the book, this would translate into a 300 page paperback book with 300 words per page).

So, what number of books is it possible to read per year?  I recalculated using an average reading rate of 250 words per minute and an average book of 100 000 words.

If you dedicate a minimum of 60 minutes a day to reading for 365 days you’ll be able to read 55 books in a year.

If that doesn’t sound like much to you remember that you probably read books you’re enjoying faster than 250 wpm and there are going to be books that are both shorter and longer than 100 000 words.  You might also be able to allocate more than one hour to reading per day, which means your books-per-year number could be 100 books or more.

What are your thoughts on this?  With this in mind I’ve decided to allocate a time for reading in the morning in addition to before bed so that I guarantee I get at least 60 minutes of reading in a day whether I fall asleep with my book on my face or not.

At the very least, I hope this inspires you to be conscious of the amount of time you spend reading so you, too, can get to many more books than normal like all those GoodReads super heroes.

Tips To Keep You Learning That New Language

You’ve decided to learn a new language. You’ve bought a book. After the initial excitement of exploring this new world begins to fade, page by page, you may begin to wonder what you’ve got yourself into.

Fear not, it always starts that way. It’s new, it’s foreign, and it’s confusing.

I’m from a country that has 11 national languages. Being bilingual is not an option but a requirement. After learning three additional languages, I can tell you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can get to the point of actually understanding and speaking a new language. You just have to set yourself up for success.

Take Your Time

Language learning takes time and, in all honesty, never really ends. Without scaring you off, you’ve embarked on a long haul journey that may well last a lifetime. You don’t one day suddenly become proficient; you gradually improve as you put in the time. So don’t rush it, savour it. It’s like travelling — it’s a cultural experience learning a language.

Start with Personal Pronouns

Have a look at what people call themselves in this new world. Learn what to call yourself. Knowing the I’s, You’s, and We’s of a language is the perfect place to start because our sentences start with them. Another great reason to start here is to learn the intricacies of addressing people appropriately right off the bat. Knowing what to call people based on your level of intimacy with them and their age is important because it shows respect and you avoid awkwardness.

Look at the Verb System

Also known as conjugation, have a look at how verbs in the new language change according to the subject. As English speakers we’re used to just two verb forms in conjugation, like: I walk, she walks. Other languages, like the popular romance languages, have a different verb conjugation system. Getting a handle on verb conjugation in languages like Spanish and French is essential. I highly recommend listing the personal pronouns one below the other and writing the associated verb form next to each one. This way you can quickly see the verb change patterns and apply them to new words.

On to Articles and Prepositions

The articles (the, a, an) are another point of difference between languages. They also help us build simple sentences, which is what we’ll need to start doing. You’ll also need to know a few simple prepositions (to, in, on, at) to build those sentences.

Build a Basic Vocabulary

Now, you need a notebook. You’ve got to build a repertoire of words and it’s helpful not only to record them in one place for later perusal but also because the act of writing the word will help you remember it. Start with a few common nouns so you can build some sentences. At this point, you’ll be able to say, “I sing in the shower”. Fabulous!

Now You Read

The awesome thing about learning a new language in the age of the internet is that you have access to reading material in foreign languages that isn’t as tough to read as One Hundred Years of Solitude in its original Spanish.

Go online and read magazine articles — they’re a great place to start because the language is much easier and you’ll be catching a glimpse into the way people really speak the language in everyday life.

You won’t understand much at first. Try to spot words you’ve learnt, look up new words, and try to understand what you’re reading by doing simple translations. Write your new vocabulary in your notebook and jot down any phrases you notice, as this will help you build more complex sentences of your own.

From here on out you’ll spend time reading and building your vocabulary. This is where you’ll have to put in the time to improve but I assure you it’s all worth it when you can read a few paragraphs and understand them.

Listen to the Radio

Another fabulous aspect of the age of the internet: you don’t have to live in a foreign country to listen to foreign language radio. Listen to the radio to get used to hearing the language, the flow, and the accentuation. I guarantee you won’t understand anything at first but that’s ok because understanding word for word isn’t the goal. You’ve just got to get used to hearing it and, hey, there’ll be music too. Keep at it and eventually you’ll pick out a word here and there, then a sentence here and there, until eventually, you’ll be following along without problems.

Learning a new language can be tough but it’s incredibly rewarding as well as a very desirable addition to your skill set. Keep at it and enjoy it.

Mapping Your Self Education in 5 Steps

Self education is a vital part of life. It’s learning on your own terms. You decide what you’ll spend time on and which resources to use. This is important if we hope to be innovative and creative in our lives and endeavours. Many start on a self education journey with a clear goal in mind; to learn a specific skill for their career, but we should also do it for ourselves – for personal expansion. Whatever you’re interested in or always wanted to learn — don’t wait — make yourself a map for your own self education journey. Here, you’ll find some guidelines to help you do that.

Autodidactism or self education is any self-directed learning on a subject in which you have no formal education. Malcolm Knowles in his 1975 book Self Directed Learning explains the process of self education:

“In its broadest meaning, self-directed learning describes a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.”

So if you want to teach yourself writing, coding, photography, Photoshop, or [insert any topic here], these are the steps to follow based on Knowles’ definition of self directed learning:

Define what you need or want to learn.

Is there something specific you are interested in learning? Is there a particular skill that you need to improve your skill set for your career? Are you looking to make a career change and now need to learn a completely new set of skills? Define exactly what it is you will be teaching yourself.

Define your learning goals.

You know what you will be learning but now you need to set goals. What level of learning do you need to achieve and, if necessary, by when? What tasks within your chosen area do you need to be able to complete to feel satisfied or to meet certain professional requirements? Do you want to be able to pass a proficiency exam? Define what you want to achieve.

Identify who or what resources can help you.

See if there is anyone in the area you are interested in who would be willing to help with your learning; someone who you could talk to, email with questions, or intern for. Seek out people who are learning the same subjects as you and exchange information and experience. Join a community if there is one or create one if there isn’t. Identify all the resources you will use to self educate. There are lot of resources available to you. One of the most important is books. List the books you will read. Go to the library, seek out the relevant literature, and have a look at university reading lists. Be sure to check for Further Reading lists at the back of books. The internet is also a rich resource but always check the veracity of your learning sources online. Find out what other people learning the same thing are reading and using.

Define your learning strategy.

What will your learning process be? How will you approach your learning? How will you combine theory and practical? What will your daily/weekly learning plan be? How much time will you dedicate to each resource? How do you plan to test your knowledge or skills?

Evaluate.

Evaluate the outcome of your learning. Were you successful, and why? Were you unsuccessful, and why? What could you improve on? What would you change about your process? What will you need to revisit?

No matter whether you are learning for your own interests or working toward a particular goal, like an exam or an improved CV, following these steps not only helps you define your learning and narrow your goals. It immerses you in the topic, connects you with others, and gets you up to speed on all the on goings in the field.

Abraham Lincoln is one famous autodidact who said, “All I have learned, I learned from books”. Read as much as you can. Read as widely as you can. Read from varied opinions of a subject.

There are a great number of other notable autodidacts too, like’ Leonardo da Vinci, Henry Ford, Charles Darwin, Ernest Hemingway, William Blake, Karl Marx, Benjamin Franklin, and Frida Kahlo to mention just a few. No one is as finely attuned to your interests and needs as you are. This undoubtedly makes you the best guide for your own learning.

“All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.” — George Whitman

Further reading: Don’t Go Back to School: A Handbook for Learning Anything by Kio Stark

Why Your Next Holiday Should Be A Roadtrip

Going on holiday is always exciting.  I love holidays and while flying to your next destination often means you can travel to more distant places much more quickly there is something special about loading up the car and hitting the road.

Here’s why making your next holiday a roadtrip will be good for the soul:

  • You have complete control over your journey.  You decide when to leave without imposed delays and you get to avoid the chaos that is airports.  Come rain, come shine, you can get in your vehicle and head off on your holiday.
  • Solitude or together time.  Whether you’re heading out on your own, with your partner, or your family you get the solitude you need to recharge, think, and enjoy me-time or you get to spend some quality time together without the interference of distracting everyday stuff.  There’s no TV or wifi and while you might have to put up with a few cell phones or tabs (depending on what rules you choose to impose) it’s still a chance to be together where no one can just get up and leave.
  • Seeing the country is a great benefit of roadtripping.  Seeing the land shift and change along the way is beautiful and gives you perspective on where you live and what’s around you.  It feels like you really are seeing the world when you cross country that you don’t normally see.
  • You can stop whenever and wherever you want.  You can plan a trip hour by hour but I guarantee that if you travel by car you’ll find something interesting that you hadn’t planned for or didn’t know was there.  This is one of the absolute draws of roadtripping because you get to discover and enjoy new things, places, and people.  This is especially nice for nature lovers because every now and then you’ll find a particularly special spot in nature which often isn’t on the map.  Pull over, grab some snacks, and spend an hour in a new spot.
  • Once you get to your destination you have a car to explore the area even further.  Obviously you can rent a car in other situations but that can be an extra hassle that you might not want to take on.  With your own car you’ll be much more inclined to spend a few hours away from your accommodation or resort to see what else the area has going on and like I mentioned above you may discover some amazing stuff that you hadn’t planned for – you just never know.
  • It inspires the adventurer in you.  With the freedom of hitting the road in your own car and an open itinerary you may feel yourself open up to the spirit of adventure.  Invigorating and fun, this is exactly what you need to relax and come home refreshed and inspired.

Get out your map book and plan a trip somewhere new.  Get your car ready.  Hit the road.  Simple as that.  Don’t forget to leave some time open to explore, discover, be a bit spontaneous.  I guarantee you’ll have a great time.

Review: The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna

I sat down and read this book cover to cover in an hour.  It is a fabulous, thought-provoking, and inspiring book filled with drawings, word art, and great advice.  In the way it is written and designed it gets you thinking practically and creatively.  I found it part inspiration and part workbook which was very helpful.The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna Review

The GoodReads blurb: “Who hasn’t asked the question “How can I find and follow my true calling?” Elle Luna frames this moment as “standing at the crossroads of Should and Must.” “Should” is what we feel we ought to be doing, or what is expected of us. “Must” is the thing we dream of doing, our heart’s desire. And it was her own personal journey that inspired Elle Luna to write a brief online manifesto that, in a few short months, has touched hundreds of thousands of people who’ve read it or heard Elle speak on the topic. Now Ms. Luna expands her ideas into an inspirational, highly visual gift book for every recent graduate, every artist, every seeker, every career changer.  The Crossroads of Should and Must has a universal message—we get to choose the path between Should and Must. And it gives every reader permission to embrace this message. It’s about the difference between jobs, careers, and callings. The difference between going to work and becoming one with your work. Why knowing what you want is often the hardest part. It gives eye-opening techniques for reconnecting with one’s inner voice, like writing your own obituary (talk about putting life in perspective). It talks about the most common fears of choosing Must over Should—money, time, space, and the ultimate fear: total vulnerability—and shores up our hesitation with inspiring stories of and quotes from the artists and writers and thinkers who’ve faced their own crossroads of Should and Must and taken the leap. It explains the importance of mistakes, of “unlearning,” of solitude, of keeping moving, of following a soul path.  Presented in four chapters—The Crossroads, The Origin of Should, Must, and The Return—inspired by the hero’s journey outlined by Joseph Campbell, The Crossroads of Should and Must guides us from the small moment, discovering our Must, to the big moment—actually doing something about it, and returning to share our new gifts with the world.”

As the title suggests this book is great for people seeking their life calling and for people who are at a crossroad in their life and not sure what to do next.  This short book will guide you through sorting through the basic questions you need to answer to get to the root of you and begin to formulate small actions you can take to move forward.  Luna’s idea isn’t about making a decision and making an overnight transformation.  It is about the process or journey to your ‘Must’ which is far more achievable and sustainable for us all.

I loved the quotes throughout and I especially liked the questions Luna asks you to ask yourself and the suggestions she gives for what you can do.  I made a few notes along the way and brainstormed my answers to the questions she poses in the book.  Reading this book was a great exercise in working out my direction.  This isn’t a book about abandoning your job to pursue your passion without a plan.  This is about helping you work out how you can live your passion and pay your bills.  But at the same time it proposes that you not be afraid of a path which has no easy answers or no set guidelines.

For no other reason than to know yourself better I recommend this book; from its questions which get you to examine your Shoulds so you can know your prison, its prompt for you to define your must-have money vs. your nice-to-have money, to creating your ‘what-are-you-so-afraid-of’ list, you are bound to learn something about where you’re at and where to next.

A lovely book to boost your life and creativity for anybody and everybody.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

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Review: Super Brain by Deepak Chopra & Rudolph Tanzi

I could not have started the year off with a better book.  Super Brain is an incredible book, part neuro science, part self help book, it was the perfect combination of fact and guidance.  On the cover it says: “Unleashing the explosive power of your mind to maximise health, happiness, and spiritual well being.”  It is this and so much more.super brain chopra tanzi

Two pioneers in health–Dr Deepak Chopra and Prof Rudolph E. Tanzi, one of the world’s foremost experts on the causes of Alzheimer’s–share a bold new understanding of the brain and a prescriptive plan for how we can use it to achieve physical, mental and spiritual well-being. (GoodReads)

Super Brain describes eloquently and backed up by scientific fact how the brain works and then shows us how we train it sometimes positively and sometimes negatively.  Super Brain explains how this training can result in either the brain using us or us using it as is supposed to be.  It provides guidance on how you can retrain your brain for maximum health, happiness, and spiritual well being.

In each chapter the authors talk about an area or function of the brain and also deal with a specific problem that many of us face in society.  For example the book explains and offers guidance on memory loss, depression, overweight, anxiety, personal crisis, self-healing, maximum longevity, among others.  And even if you don’t deal with any of these in your life the book is so well written and interesting that you will enjoy it for the simple fact that we all have a brain and it’s wonderful to better understand it and our particular nervous system because they are the vehicle through which we experience life.

The beautiful message of this book for me is that you have control over your brain and therefore your experience of life.  My favourite line in the book comes from pg 167:

“…every thought is an instruction…”

I enjoyed and highly recommend this book.  It was a fantastic read and I’ll be reading the follow up Super Genes later in the year.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

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Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I know of Elizabeth Gilbert from her Eat, Pray, Love success.  The cover of her latest book Big Magic completely drew me in and then the “Creative Living Beyond Fear” subtitle really spoke to me too.  big magic elizabeth gilbert

I consider myself a creative person (but really we all are) and I always have my hand in some kind of creative pursuit but since I am a self taught creative (my tertiary education is in the social sciences) there tends to be a bit of fear or anxiety surrounding my freedom to create without feeling like a complete fraud.  Just like when I began this blog years ago I felt I had no right to do so because I knew nothing about the world of blogging.  But it has turned out to be a wonderful creative outlet.

If you recognise yourself then this book is for you.  It is just as much for anyone working professionally in the creative arts as anyone enjoying working on creative arts in a non professional way.  I really enjoyed this book and it is chock full of great lines that you will no doubt see as affirmation style images on Pinterest.  It is inspiring and realistic.  More importantly it is a guide to just how we should be treating our creativity to enjoy it more fully as well as foster it.

This is not about being successful in the creative arts; this book is about creative living for the sheer love of it.  No doubt there will be those that dislike this book but I am not one of them.  I have a number of creative passions that I love working on and this book has given me the boost to keep on keeping on.  My biggest take away from this book is a personal one.  Your creativity (and ability) is no less legitimate than the next person’s regardless of education or any other external factor.  Your experience is unique so get stuck in.

I really enjoyed this book, it’s a quick read and if you’re intrigued by it go ahead and read it.  If you’ve read it what did you think?

 

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

6 Books for Aspiring Copyeditors

Having a working knowledge of copyediting can’t hurt; it can only make you a better writer.  With that in mind, this book list is for aspiring copyeditors, freelance or otherwise, but it is also for anyone in the world of words from publishers, editors, and proofreaders, to writers, authors, and bloggers.  It’s for anyone who writes and wants to improve; anyone who works in written communication.  Here are my 6 choices on copyediting with blurbs from GoodReads:

The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller

subversive copyeditor“Each year writers and editors submit over three thousand grammar and style questions to the Q&A page at The Chicago Manual of Style Online. Some are arcane, some simply hilarious—and one editor, Carol Fisher Saller, reads every single one of them. All too often she notes a classic author-editor standoff, wherein both parties refuse to compromise on the “rights” and “wrongs” of prose styling: “This author is giving me a fit.” “I wish that I could just DEMAND the use of the serial comma at all times.” “My author wants his preface to come at the end of the book. This just seems ridiculous to me. I mean, it’s not a post-face.”  In The Subversive Copy Editor, Saller casts aside this adversarial view and suggests new strategies for keeping the peace. Emphasizing habits of carefulness, transparency, and flexibility, she shows copy editors how to build an environment of trust and cooperation. One chapter takes on the difficult author; another speaks to writers themselves. Throughout, the focus is on serving the reader, even if it means breaking “rules” along the way. Saller’s own foibles and misadventures provide ample material: “I mess up all the time,” she confesses. “It’s how I know things.”  Writers, Saller acknowledges, are only half the challenge, as copy editors can also make trouble for themselves. (Does any other book have an index entry that says “terrorists. See copy editors”?) The book includes helpful sections on e-mail etiquette, work-flow management, prioritizing, and organizing computer files. One chapter even addresses the special concerns of freelance editors.  Saller’s emphasis on negotiation and flexibility will surprise many copy editors who have absorbed, along with the dos and don’ts of their stylebooks, an attitude that their way is the right way. In encouraging copy editors to banish their ignorance and disorganization, insecurities and compulsions, the Chicago Q&A presents itself as a kind of alter ego to the comparatively staid Manual of Style. In The Subversive Copy Editor, Saller continues her mission with audacity and good humor.” (GoodReads)

The Copy Editing And Headline Handbook by Barbara G. Ellis

copyediting and headline handbook“Everyone in the newsroom agrees that copy editors are the unsung heroes in the business who, until now, have never had a succinct and authoritative guide for on-the-job use. From counting the headline to line breaks, from decks to jumps, from editing numbers and photo captions to editing for organization, The Copy Editing and Headline Handbook is the complete source of essential information for the copy editor. Whether copy editing on a computer or on the printed page, for a newspaper or for a magazine, Barbara Ellis shows how to clean, organize, and proof copy like a pro. With special sections on libel, captions, forbidden words, job hazards, and head counts, as well as a section of the most commonly used symbols in copy editing and proofreading, the Handbook is essential for every copy editor’s bookshelf.” (GoodReads)

The Fine Art of Copyediting by Elsie Myers Stainton

fine art of copyediting“Many stylebooks and manuals explain writing, but before the release ten years ago of Elsie Myers Stainton’s “The Fine Art of Copyediting, ” few addressed the practices and problems of editing. This handbook has guided users through the editing process for books and journals, with tips on how to be diplomatic when recommending changes, how to edit notes and bibliographies, how to check proofs, and how to negotiate the ethical, intellectual, and emotional problems characteristic of the editorial profession. Now featuring solid advice on computer editing and a new chapter on style, as well as more information on references, bibliographies, indexing, and bias-free writing.  Complete with helpful checklists for the manuscript, proof, and index stages of book production, as well as an excellent bibliography of reference works useful to the copyeditor, “The Fine Art of Copyediting, Second Edition” is an indispensable desk reference for writers and editors confronting a host of questions each day. Why use the word “people” instead of “persons?” What precautions are necessary for publishers to avoid libel suits? How can an editor win an author’s trust? What type fonts facilitate the copyediting process? How does computer editing work? For experienced and novice copyeditors, writers and students, this is the source for detailed, step-by-step guidance to the entire editorial process.” (GoodReads)

Butcher’s Copy-Editing by Judith Butcher

Butcher's copyediting“Since its first publication in 1975, Judith Butcher’s Copy-editing has become firmly established as a classic reference guide. This fourth edition has been comprehensively revised to provide an up-to-date and clearly presented source of information for all those involved in preparing typescripts and illustrations for publication. From the basics of how to prepare text and illustrations for the designer and typesetter, through the ground rules of house style, to how to read and correct proofs, Copy-editing covers all aspects of the editorial process. New and revised features: up-to-date advice on indexes, inclusive language, reference systems and preliminary pages a chapter devoted to on-screen copy-editing guidance on digital coding and publishing in other media such as e-books updated to take account of modern typesetting and printing technology an expanded section on law books an essential tool for new and experienced copy-editors, working freelance or in-house” (GoodReads)

The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn

copyeditors handbook“The Copyeditor’s Handbook is a lively, practical manual for newcomers to publishing and for experienced editors who want to fine-tune their skills or broaden their understanding of the craft. Addressed to copyeditors in book publishing and corporate communications, this thoughtful handbook explains what copyeditors do, what they look for when they edit a manuscript, and how they develop the editorial judgment needed to make sound decisions.  This revised edition reflects the most recent editions of The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.), the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.), and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.).” (GoodReads)

Developmental Editing by Scott Norton

developmental editing“Editing is a tricky business. It requires analytical flair and creative panache, the patience of a saint and the vision of a writer. Transforming a manuscript into a book that edifies, inspires, and sells? That’s the job of the developmental editor, whose desk is the first stop for many manuscripts on the road to bookdom—a route ably mapped out in the pages of Developmental Editing.  Author Scott Norton has worked with a diverse range of authors, editors, and publishers, and his handbook provides an approach to developmental editing that is logical, collaborative, humorous, and realistic. He starts with the core tasks of shaping the proposal, finding the hook, and building the narrative or argument, and then turns to the hard work of executing the plan and establishing a style.  Developmental Editing includes detailed case studies featuring a variety of nonfiction books—election-year polemic, popular science, memoir, travel guide—and authors ranging from first-timer to veteran, journalist to scholar. Handy sidebars offer advice on how to become a developmental editor, create effective illustration programs, and adapt sophisticated fiction techniques (such as point of view, suspense, plotting, character, and setting) to nonfiction writing.  Norton’s book also provides freelance copyeditors with a way to earn higher fees while introducing more creativity into their work lives. It gives acquisitions, marketing, and production staff a vocabulary for diagnosing a manuscript’s flaws and techniques for transforming it into a bestseller. And perhaps most importantly, Developmental Editing equips authors with the concrete tools they need to reach their audiences.” (GoodReads)

Have any other recommendations for us?  I’d love to hear them.

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A Photographer’s Theory Reading List

The Photosmudger did a great post on the books photographers should read to get insight into the critical theory side of the art.  I want to share with you the top three books on his list that he’s convinced me to read.  To see the rest of the reading list and to be convinced, as I was, why you should delve into critical theory head over to the photosmudger post.

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

Ways of SeeingThis, according to the photosmudger, is “the grand-daddy of them all” and required reading.

The GoodReads blurb: John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is one of the most stimulating and the most influential books on art in any language. First published in 1972, it was based on the BBC television series about which the (London) Sunday Times critic commented: “This is an eye-opener in more ways than one: by concentrating on how we look at paintings . . . he will almost certainly change the way you look at pictures.” By now he has.

On Photography by Susan Sontag

On Photography

This one comes highly recommended by many so it’s worth taking a look at.

“First published in 1973, this is a study of the force of photographic images which are continually inserted between experience and reality. Sontag develops further the concept of ‘transparency’. When anything can be photographed and photography has destroyed the boundaries and definitions of art, a viewer can approach a photograph freely with no expectations of discovering what it means. This collection of six lucid and invigorating essays, the most famous being “In Plato’s Cave”, make up a deep exploration of how the image has affected society.” (GoodReads)

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

Camera Lucida: Reflections on PhotographyThat epic line about looking on eyes that looked upon Napoleon is from this book.  Need I say more?

“This personal, wide-ranging, and contemplative volume–and the last book Barthes published–finds the author applying his influential perceptiveness and associative insight to the subject of photography. To this end, several black-and-white photos (by the likes of Avedon, Clifford, Hine, Mapplethorpe, Nadar, Van Der Zee, and so forth) are reprinted throughout the text.” (GoodReads)

Have you read any of these?  Share your thoughts with us.  Do you have any more suggestions for photographers?

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Write Great Fiction with this Book Series

The wonderful Write Great Fiction series is published by Writers’ Digest Books and consists of 5 titles.  The books are written by different authors and each one focuses on a key area in the construction of great fiction writing.  I’ve been meaning to get to these books for myself and I think they are a very good place to start if you’re looking for books to read to get you onto the path of skills development for your writing.  The authors of these books are all accomplished writers and in particular James Scott Bell and Nancy Kress have written other popular books on the craft of writing.  Here are the five books that make up the Write Great Fiction series with blurbs from GoodReads:

Dialogue by Gloria Kempton

dialogue“Craft Compelling Dialogue.  When should your character talk, what should (or shouldn’t) he say, and when should he say it? How do you know when dialogue—or the lack thereof—is dragging down your scene? How do you fix character who speaks with the laconic wit of the Terminator? Write Great Fiction: Dialogue by successful author and instructor Gloria Kempton has the answers to all of these questions and more! It’s packed with innovative exercises and instructions designed to teach you how to: Create dialogue that drives the story; Weave dialogue with narrative and action; Use dialogue to pace your story; Write dialogue that fits specific genres; Avoid the common pitfalls of writing dialogue; Make dialogue unique for each character.  Along with dozens of dialogue excerpts form today’s most popular writers, Write Great Fiction: Dialogue gives you the edge you need to make your story stand out from the rest.”  (GoodReads)

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

plot“The second book in the Write Great Fiction series, Plot and Structure offers clear and concise information on creating a believable and engaging plot that readers can’t resist. Written by award-winning thriller and suspense author James Scott Bell, this handy instruction guide provides: Easy-to-understand techniques on every aspect of plotting and structure, from brainstorming story ideas to building scenes, and from using subplots to crafting knock-out endings; Engaging exercises, perfect for writers at any level and at any stage in their novel; Practical and encouraging guidance from one of the most respected writers publishing today; Full of diagrams, plot brainstormers, and examples from popular novels, mastering plot and structure has never been so simple.”  (GoodReads)

Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

characters“Create Complex Characters.  How do you create a main character readers won’t forget? How do you write a book in multiple-third-person point of view without confusing your readers (or yourself)? How do you plant essential information about a character’s past into a story?  Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by award-winning author Nancy Kress answers all of these questions and more! This accessible book is filled with interactive exercises and valuable advice that teaches you how to: Choose and execute the best point of view for your story; Create three-dimensional and believable characters; Develop your characters’ emotions; Create realistic love, fight, and death scenes; Use frustration to motivate your characters and drive your story.  With dozens of excerpts from some of today’s most popular writers, Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint provides you with the techniques you need to create characters and stories sure to linger in the hearts and minds of agents, editors, and readers long after they’ve finished your book.”  (GoodReads)

Description and Setting by Ron Rozelle

description“Build a Believable World. How essential is setting to a story? How much description is too much? In what ways do details and setting tie into plot and character development? How can you use setting and description to add depth to your story?  You can find all the answers you need in “Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting” by author and instructor Ron Rozelle. This nuts-and-bolts guide – complete with practical exercises at the end of each chapter – gives you all the tips and techniques you need to: Establish a realistic sense of time and place; Use description and setting to drive your story; Craft effective description and setting for different genres; Skillfully master showing vs. telling.  With dozens of excerpts from some of today’s most popular writers, “Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting” gives you all the information you need to create a sharp and believable world of people, places, events, and actions.”  (GoodReads)

Revision and Self Editing by James Scott Bell

revision“Spot and Fix Manuscript Missteps.  Don’t let the revision process intimidate you any longer. Discover how to successfully transform your first draft into a polished final draft readers won’t be able to forget.  In Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing, James Scott Bell draws on his experience as a novelist and instructor to provide specific revision tips geared toward the first read-through, as well as targeted self-editing instruction focusing on the individual elements of a novel like plot, structure, characters, theme, voice, style, setting, and endings. You’ll learn how to: Write a cleaner first draft right out of the gate using Bell’s plotting principles; Get the most out of revision and self-editing techniques by honing your skills with detailed exercises; Systematically revise a completed draft using the ultimate revision checklist that talks you through the core story elements.  Whether you’re in the process of writing a novel, have a finished draft you don’t know what to do with, or have a rejected manuscript you don’t know how to fix, Revision & Self-Editing gives you the guidance you need to write and revise like a pro.”  (GoodReads)

Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?

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Learning a Romance Language? 6 Tips on Where to Focus First

There has never been a better time to learn languages.  The world has become much smaller with the internet connecting us to eachother and so we are coming into closer contact with content in other languages.  There are a number of reasons people choose to learn another language; whether for business or for personal growth the challenge remains the same.  It can be daunting trying to figure out where to start especially if you are learning mostly on your own.  I’ve taught at a well known English language school and I’ve also attended language courses for my own language studies.  From my experience both teaching and learning I know that a huge part of becoming proficient in a language DSC_0077web compresshas to do with the work you put into it personally on your own.  It can be the make or break factor. After Chinese and English, the romance languages, particularly Spanish, Portuguese, and French are popular languages to learn.  Not only is a lot of business conducted in these languages but there is also a wealth of literature that can be enjoyed if we are able to read in them.  Once we’ve made the decision to dedicate time to learning one of the romance languages you may wonder where to start or, if you’ve attended a beginner course, where to focus for improvement.

Here are my 6 tips for moving beyond beginner level in the romance languages:

  • Get used to the idea of all nouns being either feminine or masculine
  • Know your definite & indefinite articles (the, a , an)
  • Master a few common nouns to build your vocabulary
  • Study the verbs like a demon
  • Keep a vocabulary notebook
  • Love your dictionary

All nouns in the romance languages are either feminine or masculine so they will generally end in either an ‘a’ for feminine or ‘o’ for masculine.  There are exceptions to the rule but there really aren’t that many.

Next you’ll want to get to know your articles (the, a, an).  Because of the gender of nouns you’ll have noticed that there are also both feminine and masculine versions of the definite and indefinite articles to match the nouns.  I have found it a good idea to learn new words together with their definite article to help you remember gender.  For example: la casa, el gato in Spanish or a casa, o gato in Portuguese.crop 1 webcompress

An incredibly valuable resource for your learning journey is your vocabulary notebook.  Be vigilant about writing down every new word you come across and writing its English equivalent next to it.  This notebook will become your bible.  The process of writing down the new word and looking up its translation is in itself helping you to solidify this new information in your mind.  Later, it is the place you return to to recap your vocabulary and also serves as a fantastic reminder of how far you’ve come.  I highly recommend studying using a vocabulary notebook.

You will obviously need to look up the meanings of all these new words so a good dictionary is essential.  While I was teaching there was debate about how much or how little beginner students should use dictionaries.  My opinion is that you should get one and use it regularly.  I say this simply because when I was a beginner my dictionary was my best friend.  I’m all for immersion but you won’t get anywhere in the beginning without being able to look up the words you are hearing and seeing around you.

The next big hurdle that must be overcome are the verbs.  They look scary to English speakers because of their many forms but fear not!  To begin let’s talk about why each verb in each tense has so many forms compared to English.  For this let’s take a look at our personal pronouns to see all the different perspectives crop2web compressfrom which action takes place.  There is ‘I’ 1st person singular, ‘You’ 2nd person singular, ‘He, She, It’ 3rd person singular, ‘We’ 1st person plural, ‘You’ 2nd person plural, and ‘They’ 3rd person plural.  In English the form of our verb only changes in the 3rd person singular:  I walk, you walk, she walks, they walk. Easy.  The only difference in the romance languages is that for every person the verb changes.  It does initially seem like a lot to remember but look closely and you’ll see there is a pattern to those changes that you can learn by heart.  And herein lies the important advice I give to beginners who truly want to be proficient.  Don’t shy away from learning those verbs.  Take the bull by the horns and write them out, study the endings for the pattern of change, and keep doing it until you know those verbs inside out.  Start with the present simple tense and when you know those by heart move on to the past tenses.  The most important verbs to learn to conjugate at first are: ser, estar, tener, and ir which are your ‘to be’, ‘to have’, and ‘to go’ verbs in Spanish.  All stem verbs in Spanish and Portuguese end in ‘-ar’, ‘-er’, or ‘-ir’.  Each one of these stem verb endings has its own pattern which dictates how the verb will change to match the personal pronouns I mentioned above.  So choose one verb for each of the endings (hablarto speak, comerto eat, salirto go out) and learn the pattern of the verb changes for each and then apply those to other verbs with the same ending.  In addition to dictionaries you can also buy dedicated verb books which take verb by verb and give you all the changes in all the tenses.  A super reference tool! What has been your experience with beginning language learning?

10 Self-Help Classics from Tom Butler-Bowden

50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life from Timeless Sages to Contemporary GurusI have been reading Tom Butler-Bowden’s 50 Self-Help Classics and I wanted to share with you a selection of 10 of these classics that you may or may not find interesting.  I have also really enjoyed his other books 50 Psychology Classics and 50 Spiritual Classics.  I love a good reading list and Bowden’s books are like deluxe reading lists – love them.  They are in no particular order and the quote which follows each title is but one of Bowden’s selections for his book.  If you have read any of these books please share your thoughts with me.  What are some of your favourite ‘self-help’ books not on this list?

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your DreamsThe Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra

“The best way to put the Law of Giving into operation … is to make a decision that at any time you come into contact with anyone, you will give them something. It doesn’t have to be in the form of material things; it could be a flower, a compliment, or a prayer … The gifts of caring, attention, affection, appreciation, and love are some of the most precious gifts you can give, and they don’t cost you anything.” read more on GoodReads

The Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist

This book was recommended to me while I was on my Gap year and I finally got round to reading it when I got home. I enjoyed it very much.

“He had studied Latin, Spanish and theology. But ever since he had been a child, he had wanted to know the world, and this was much more important to him than knowing God and learning about man’s sins. One afternoon, on a visit to his family, he had summoned up the courage to tell his father that he didn’t want to become a priest. That he wanted to travel.” read more on GoodReads

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: AND How to Get What You Want in Your Relationships: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting ... Want in Your Relationships (French Edition)Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray

“To feel better, women talk about past problems, future problems, potential problems, even problems that have no solutions. The more talk and exploration, the better they feel. This is the way women operate. To expect otherwise is to deny a woman her sense of self.” read more on GoodReads

The Road Less Travelled by M Scott PeckThe Road Less Travelled

“Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties in life as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy.” read more on GoodReads

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for LivingThe Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama XIV and Howard C Cutler

“I believe that the proper utilization of time is this: if you can, serve other people, other sentient beings. If not, at least refrain from harming them. I think that is the whole basis of my philosophy.” read more on GoodReads

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin FranklinThe Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

“And I was not discourag’d by the seeming Magnitude of the Undertaking, as I have always thought that one Man of tolerable Abilities may work great Changes, & accomplish great Affairs among Mankind, if he first forms a good Plan, and, cutting off all Amusements or other Employments that would divert his Attention, makes the Execution of that same Plan his sole Study and Business.” read more on GoodReads

The DhammapadaThe Dhammapada by Eknat Easwaran

This is a short book well worth reading.  Read my review.

He who in early days was unwise but later found Wisdom, he sheds a light over the world like that of the moon when free from clouds.read more on GoodReads

As A Man Thinketh by James AllenAs a Man Thinketh (Tarcher Family Inspirational Library)

“Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results … We understand this law in the natural world, and work with it; but few understand it in the mental and moral world—although its operation there is just as simple and undeviating—and they, therefore, do not cooperate with it.” read more on GoodReads

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal ChangeThe Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

“People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.” read more on GoodReads

Tao Te Ching by Lao TzuLao Tsu: Tao Te Ching

“Trying to understand is like straining to see through muddy water.  Be still, and allow the mud to settle.  Remain still, until it is the time to act.” read more on GoodReads

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A Writer’s Fiction Reading List – A Study in Elements of Fiction Writing

This list of novels comes from the Warwick University reading list for The Practice of Fiction and the following novels will be helpful for the study of the elements of fiction writing.

For a closer look at Entrances, Openings, and Beginnings:  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (2000)

A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius : A Memoir Based on a True Story“Dave Eggers is a terrifically talented writer; don’t hold his cleverness against him. What to make of a book called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: Based on a True Story? For starters, there’s a good bit of staggering genius before you even get to the true story, including a preface, a list of “Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book,” and a 20-page acknowledgements section complete with special mail-in offer, flow chart of the book’s themes, and a lovely pen-and-ink drawing of a stapler (helpfully labeled “Here is a drawing of a stapler”).  But on to the true story. At the age of 22, Eggers became both an orphan and a “single mother” when his parents died within five months of one another of unrelated cancers. In the ensuing sibling division of labor, Dave is appointed unofficial guardian of his 8-year-old brother, Christopher. The two live together in semi-squalor, decaying food and sports equipment scattered about, while Eggers worries obsessively about child-welfare authorities, molesting babysitters, and his own health. His child-rearing strategy swings between making his brother’s upbringing manically fun and performing bizarre developmental experiments on him. (Case in point: his idea of suitable bedtime reading is John Hersey’s Hiroshima.)”

For a closer look at Shapes and Structures: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2004)

“Twenty-four years after her first novel, Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story Gileadabout fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson’s beautiful, spare, and spiritual prose allows “even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order” (Slate). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life.”

For a closer look at People and Things: Austerlitz by W G Sebald (2001)

Austerlitz“In 1967, the narrator bumps into a man in the salle de pas perdus of Antwerp’s Central Station. Thus begins a long if intermittent acquaintance, during which he learns the life story of this stranger, retired architectural historian Jacques Austerlitz. Raised as Dafydd Elias by a strict Welsh Calvinist ministry family, it is only at school that Austerlitz learns his true name–and only years later, by a series of chance encounters, that he allows himself to discover the truth of his origins, as a Czech child spirited away from his mother and out of Nazi territory on the Kindertransport. He returns to confront the childhood traumas that have made him feel that “I must have made a mistake, and now I am living the wrong life.”

For a closer look at Places and Domains: I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal (1983)

“Sparkling with comic genius and narrative exuberance, I Served the King of England is a story of how the unbelievable came true. Its remarkable hero, Ditie, is a hotel waiter who I Served the King of Englandrises to become a millionaire and then loses it all again against the backdrop of events in Prague from the German invasion to the victory of Communism. Ditie’s fantastic journey intertwines the political and the personal in a narrative that both enlightens and entertains.”

For a closer look at Voices: Drown by Junot Diaz (1996)

Drown“This stunning collection of stories offers an unsentimental glimpse of life among the immigrants from the Dominican Republic–and other front-line reports on the ambivalent promise of the American dream–by an eloquent and original writer who describes more than physical dislocation in conveying the price that is paid for leaving culture and homeland behind.”

And finally, for a closer look at Endings, Finales, and Conclusions: Short Stories by Anton Chekhov

The Best Stories of Anton Chekhov is an unforgettable journey through the complexities of the human heart. Celebrated as one of the greatest short story writers of all time, The Best Stories of Anton ChekhovChekhov’s masterpieces are given the difinitive treatment by editor John Kulka in this edition.  Among the twelve stories included here are some of Chekhov’s most famous and celebrated “The Lady with the Dog,” “The Darling,” and “Peasants” as well as a few less familiar though equally accomplished masterpieces. All of the stories in this round-up reveal Chekhov as a master of storytelling.”

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Must Have Writers’ Reference Books

books writers must have

While searching for literature reading lists online I came across the Warwick University reading list for The Practise of Fiction and here are the reference books every writer needs in his arsenal to take on writing fiction:

The Oxford English Dictionary

Your own copy of the Oxford English Dictionary is essential.  The list talks about the twenty volume Oxford English Dictionary as being the best reference tool but if you don’t have all those they say the desktop version is good enough for everyday use.  I personally have the Concise Oxford English Dictionary which continues to serve me very well.  Don’t see myself buying a 20 volume dictionary set but if that’s for you, get it.

“The Concise Oxford English Dictionary is the most popular dictionary of its kind around the world and is noted for its clear, concise definitions as well as its comprehensive and authoritative coverage of the vocabulary of the English-speaking world. Authoritative and up to date, this eleventh edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary contains over 240,000 words, phrases, and definitions, including 900 new words. It offers rich vocabulary coverage, with full treatment of World English, rare, historical, and archaic terms, as well as scientific and technical vocabulary, and provides hundreds of helpful notes on grammar and usage.”

The Roget’s Thesaurus

Another essential tool is a thesaurus.  The Roget’s Thesaurus is the best unless you are American in which case an American thesaurus would be best.

“Roget’s Thesaurus is the world’s most trusted wordfinder and is the essential companion for anyone who wants to improve their command, creative use and enjoyment of the language. It remains, definitively, a writer’s best friend.”

The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage

The recommended book on English Usage is the 1996 New Fowler’s edited by R. W. Burchfield.

“First published in 1926, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage is one of the most celebrated reference books of the twentieth century. Commonly known as “Fowler,” after its inimitable author, H.W. Fowler, it has sold more than a million copies and maintained a devoted following over seven decades, in large part because of its charming blend of information and good humor, delivered in the voice of a genial if somewhat idiosyncratic schoolmaster.”

The Oxford English Grammar

A good book on grammar is also essential and the Oxford English Grammar by Sidney Greenbaum comes recommended.

“Written by one of the world’s leading grammarians, The Oxford English Grammar is an authoritative review of and topic reference for English grammar.”

The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style by W Strunk and E B White is well known and a must for every writer.

“You know the authors’ names. You recognize the title. You’ve probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered.This book’s unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact with writing.”

Line by Line

Line by Line by Claire Kherwald Cook is the recommended reference book on editing.

“The essential guide for all writers. With over 700 examples of original and edited sentences, this book provides information about editing techniques, grammar, and usage for every writer from the student to the published author.”

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2014 International Book & Writers Festivals

book-festival.jpg

Here is the 2014 list of International Book and Writers’ Festivals from around the world.  Where possible I have included website, Facebook, and Twitter links so you can get connected and keep up to date.  I will be updating this post throughout the year so for festivals with only a 2013 date now, stay tuned, as soon as the 2014 dates are available I’ll update them here.  Left out a festival? Let me know about it in the comments. Enjoy!

January

Jaipur Literary Festival, India. 17-21 January 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Cairo International Book Fair, Egypt. 22 January – 4 February 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

February

TIBE – Taipei International Book Exhibition, Taiwan. 5–10 February 2014

Perth Writers’ Week, Australia. 7 Feb – 1 March 2014 –  Facebook  Twitter

Havana International Book Fair, Cuba. 13-23 February 2014

New Delhi Book Fair, India. 15-23 February 2014 – Facebook

Jerusalem International Book Fair, Israel.  February 2015 – Facebook

Vilnius Book Fair, Lithuania. 20-23 February 2014 – Facebook 

Brussels Book Fair, Belgium. 20-24 February 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Adelaide Writers’ Week, Australia. 28 Feb – 16 March 2014 –  Facebook  Twitter

March

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Dubai, UAE. 4-8 March 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Leipzig Book Fair, Germany. 13-16 March 2014 & 12-15 March 2015 – Twitter

Salon du Livre Paris, France. 21-24 March 2014

Oxford Literary Festival, UK. 22-30 March 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Alexandrina International Book Fair Alexandria, Egypt. 26 March – 9 April 2013   *

Bangkok International Book Fair, Thailand. 28 March – 7 April 2014 – Facebook

April

London Book Fair, UK. 8-10 April 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Quebec International Book Fair, Canada. 9-13 April 2014 – Facebook   Twitter

LA Times Festival of Books, LA, USA. 12-13 April 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Budapest International Book Festival, Hungary. 24-27 April 2014

Buenos Aires International Book Fair, Argentina. 24 April – 12 May 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Prague Writers’ Festival, Czech Republic. 17-19 April 2013 – Facebook  Twitter   *

Feira do Livro da Livraria Minerva, Maputo, Mozambique.  April  18 April – 4 May 2013 – Facebook    *

St Petersburg International Book Salon, Russia. 24-27 April 2014

Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair, Malaysia. 26 April – 5 May 2013        *

PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, New York, USA. 28 April – 4 May 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Bogotá International Book Fair, Colombia. 29 April – 12 May 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Geneva International Book, Press, and Multimedia Fair, Switzerland. 30 April – 4 May 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Tehran International Book Fair, Iran. 30 April – 10 May 2014

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, UAE. 30 April – 5 May 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Bocas Lit Fest, Trinidad and Tobago. April 2014 – Facebook  Twitter   *

May

NIBF – Nigeria International Book Fair Lagos,Nigeria. 5-10 May 2014

Thessaloniki Book Fair, Greece. 16-19 May 2013   *

Turin International Book Fair, Italy. 8-12 May 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Prague International Book Fair & Literary Festival Book World, Czech Republic. 15-18 May 2014 – Facebook

Franschoek Literary Festival, South Africa. 16-18 May 2014  –  Twitter

Dublin Writers’ Festival, Ireland. 17-25 May 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Sidney Writers’ Festival, Australia. 19-25 May 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Norwegian Festival of Literature, Lillehammer, Norway. 20-25 May 2014

Warsaw Book Fair, Poland. 22-25 May 2014 – Facebook

Lisbon Book Fair, Portugal. 23 May – 10 June 2013 – Facebook  Twitter *

Emerging Writers’ Festival, Melbourne, Australia. 27 May – 6 June 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Bucharest Book Fair, Romania. 29 May – 2 June 2013 – Facebook   *

BookExpo America Norwalk, USA. 29-31 May 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

June

Seoul International Book Fair, South Korea. 19-23 June 2013   *

Cape Town Book Fair, South Africa.  13-15 June 2014 – Facebook Twitter

July

Tokyo International Book Fair, Japan. 2-5 July 2014

Hong Kong Book Fair, Hong Kong. 16-22 July 2014

FIL – Lima International Book Festival, Peru. 18 July – 3 August 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

August

Edinburgh International Book Festival, UK. 9-25 August 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Melbourne Writers’ Festival, Australia. 21-31 August 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

São Paulo International Book Biennial, Brazil. 22-31 August 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Beijing International Book Fair, China. 27-31 August 2014

Bienal do Livro Rio, Brazil. 20-30 August 2015 – Facebook  Twitter

September

Brisbane Writers’ Festival, Australia. 4-8 September 2013 – Facebook  Twitter    *

Moscow International Book Fair, Russia. 3-8 September 2014

Open Book Festival Cape Town, South Africa. 7-11 September 2013 – Facebook  Twitter   *

Berlin International Literature Festival, Germany. 10-21 September 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Reykjavik International Literary Festival , Iceland. 11-15 September 2013 – Facebook    *

Library of Congress National Book Festival, Washington D.C., USA. 21-22 September 2013 – Facebook  Twitter   *

Nairobi International Book Fair, Kenya. 25-29 September 2013   *

Gothenburg Book Fair, Sweden. 25-28 September 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Bangalore Literature Festival, India. 26-28 September 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

October

LIBER International Book Fair, Barcelona, Spain. 2-4 October 2014 – Facebook   *

Frankfurt Book Fair, Germany. 8-12 October 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

San Francisco Litquake, USA. 10-18 October 2014 – Facebook  Twitter

Vancouver Writers’ Fest, Canada. 22-27 October 2013 – Facebook  Twitter    *

Toronto International Festival of Authors, Canada. 24 October – 3 November 2013 – Facebook  Twitter     *

November

Hong Kong International Literary Festival, Hong Kong. 1-11 November 2013 – Facebook  Twitter   *

Singapore Writers’ Festival  – November 2014 – Facebook  *

Istanbul Book Fair, Turkey. 17-25 November 2013 – Facebook  Twitter    *

Miami Book Fair International, USA. 17-24 November 2013 – Facebook  Twitter     *

Iceland Noir Crime Fiction Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland.  21-24 Nov 2013        *

Guadalajara International Book Fair, Mexico. 30 November – 8 December 2013 – Facebook  Twitter    *

December

Doha International Book Fair, Qatar. 4-14 December 2013 *

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9 Pieces of Writer Wisdom from Paris Review Interviews

Over the last two weeks or so I have spent some time reading some of the online Paris Review Interviews and many ofparis review interview booksthem have been very interesting to read.  Some of them have inspired me to read certain, possibly lesser known, novels from great and well loved authors.  If you enjoy the interviews as much as I did you may be interested in the Four Volume Boxed Set of The Paris Review Interviews full of many more of these wonderful in depth interviews with leading novelists, poets, and playwrights.

Here are 9 pieces of writer wisdom put together from some of my favourites of the interviews.

1. Write as if you are writing in secret.

Louise Erdrich, The Art of Fiction No. 208

INTERVIEWER
How does your father feel about your books?

ERDRICHerdrich_pic
He gave me those nickels, remember? It didn’t occur to me that my books would be widely read at all, and that enabled me to write anything I wanted to. And even once I realized that they were being read, I still wrote as if I were writing in secret. That’s how one has to write anyway—in secret. At a certain point, you have to not please your parents, although for me that’s painful because I’m close to my parents and of course I want them to be happy.”

2. You don’t need to go to college to learn to write.

Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203

INTERVIEWERbradbury
You have said that you don’t believe in going to college to learn to write. Why is that?

BRADBURY
You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices. They may like Henry James, but what if you don’t want to write like Henry James? They may like John Irving, for instance, who’s the bore of all time. A lot of the people whose work they’ve taught in the schools for the last thirty years, I can’t understand why people read them and why they are taught. The library, on the other hand, has no biases. The information is all there for you to interpret. You don’t have someone telling you what to think. You discover it for yourself.

3. Don’t overwrite.

Jonathan Franzen, The Art of Fiction No. 207

FRANZENJonathan_Franzen
I’d started by working for months and months on the first chapter, which was about Probst walking his dog and thinking with culpably extreme satisfaction about his accomplishments. I poured countless hours into very purple sentences describing the beauty of the light in Webster Groves, my hometown, on a late weekday afternoon. It was a chapter that ended with the death of the dog. It was terribly overwritten.

INTERVIEWER
What do you mean by overwritten?

FRANZEN
Trying to do too much with a sentence. I was very much still under the spell of the Germans. You can do things in German with sentence structure that are less advisable in English—pack in all sorts of syntactical elements ­before the final verb. I was playing with language and with the possibilities of sound, although not so much with alliteration. I’d read Rabbit, Run at a certain point and spent a couple of weeks being highly alliterative before coming to my senses and realizing that not only was my alliteration bad, Updike’s was, too.
I was doing a lot of punning, though. I was very attached at that young age to pure linguistic play, and blissfully unaware of how it might all read. I thought the concept of my book, the unfolding of a conspiracy, ought to be strong enough to drag the reader through any amount of linguistic playfulness.
I was reaching; I was writing about stuff I didn’t really know anything about and trying to incorporate every scrap of information and interesting observation I’d ever had. I would write as many pages as I could in a day. I once wrote seventeen pages in a day. And those seventeen pages are in the finished book. When I got rolling, my determination to get the book done and have it be good and get it published was so strong that I had limit­less ­energy. The finished manuscript was thirteen hundred pages. I was twenty-five.

4. A character’s choice of words or dialogue is a powerful tool because it is so revealing.

David Mitchell, The Art of Fiction No. 204

INTERVIEWERdavid mitchell
What about dialogue? You’ve had that skill from the very beginning.

MITCHELL
Dialogue is a halfway house. I heard the British crime writer David Peace speak last year. David’s a second-person narrative specialist, and a member of the audience asked what it is about the second person that appeals to him. David’s deadpan reply was, Well, it’s halfway between the first person and the third. Dialogue-driven narrative is a more conventional means of having first-person connection with third-person detachment from you, the writer. It’s an elastic-tether way for people with first-person dependency issues—like me—to range further than the “I” form usually allows. Dialogue can be a revealing tool—you can smuggle in a lot about your characters simply by their choice of words. On seeing a snapshot of my infant son, an elderly and somewhat racist relative exclaimed, But he doesn’t even look Japanese! Rather than get angry, I thanked her, inwardly, for reminding me how revealing a person’s choice of words can be. I also thought, I’ll use that line one day.

5. Give your first draft time to breathe before you go back to it to rewrite.

Stephen King, The Art of Fiction No. 189

INTERVIEWER
What do you do once you finish a first draft?

KINGstephen_king
It’s good to give the thing at least six weeks to sit and breathe. But I don’t always have that luxury. I didn’t have it with Cell. The publisher had two manuscripts of mine. One of them was Lisey’s Story, which I had been working on exclusively for a long time, and the other was Cell, which I had been thinking about for a long time, and it just sort of announced itself: It’s time, you have to do it now. When that happens, you have to do it or let it go, so Cell was like my unplanned pregnancy.

INTERVIEWER
You mean you wrote Cell in the middle of writing Lisey’s Story?

KING
I was carrying both of them at the same time for a while. I had finished a first draft ofLisey, so I revised it at night and worked on Cell during the day. I used to work that way when I was drinking. During the day I would work on whatever was fresh and new, and I was pretty much straight as an arrow. Hung over a lot of the time, but straight. At night I’d be looped, and that’s when I would revise. It was fun, it was great, and it seemed to work for me for a long time, but I can’t sustain that anymore.
I wanted to publish Lisey first, but Susan Moldow, Scribner’s publisher, wanted to lead with Cell because she thought the attention it would receive would benefit the sale of Lisey. So they put Cell on a fast track, and I had to go right to work on the rewrite. This is one thing publishers can do now, which isn’t always necessarily good for the book.

INTERVIEWER
Can’t you tell them no?

KING
Yes, but in this case it was actually the right thing to do, and it was a huge success. Cell was an unusual case though. You know, Graham Greene used to talk about books that were novels and books that were entertainments. Cell was an entertainment. I don’t want to say I didn’t care, because I did—I care about anything that goes out with my name on it. If you’re going to do the work and if someone is going to pay you for it, I think you ought to do the best job that you can. But after I finished the first draft of Lisey, I gave myself six weeks. When you return to a novel after that amount of time, it seems almost as if a different person wrote it. You’re not quite as wedded to it. You find all sorts of horrible errors, but you also find passages that make you say, Jesus, that’s good!

6. Don’t worry about getting the story perfect in the first draft because you can go back to it and tweak it once it has revealed itself to you.

Haruki Murakami, The Art of Fiction No. 182

INTERVIEWERmurakami
You say that you don’t know who the killer is as you’re writing, but a possible exception occurs to me: the character of Gotanda in Dance Dance Dance. There’s a certain deliberate buildup in that novel toward the moment at which Gotanda makes his confession—in classic crime-novel style, he’s presented to us as the last person to suspect. Did you not perhaps know that Gotanda was guilty in advance?

MURAKAMI
In the first draft I didn’t know it was Gotanda. Closer to the end—two-thirds in or so—I knew. When I wrote the second draft I rewrote the Gotanda scenes, knowing it was him.

INTERVIEWER
Is that one of the main purposes of revision, then—to take what you’ve learned from the end of the first draft and rework the earlier sections to give a certain feeling of inevitability?

MURAKAMI
That’s right. The first draft is messy; I have to revise and revise.

INTERVIEWER
How many drafts do you generally go through?

MURAKAMI
Four or five. I spend six months writing the first draft and then spend seven or eight months rewriting.

7. Experiment with narration points of view until the character comes through you and leads you through the story.

Salman Rushdie, The Art of Fiction No. 186

INTERVIEWER
What was it about Saleem Sinai that released you?

RUSHDIE Salman-Rushdie1
I’d always wanted to write something that would come out of my experience as a child in Bombay. I’d been away from India for a while and began to fear that the connection was eroding. Childhood—that was the impetus long before I knew what the story was and how big it would become. But if you’re going to have the child born at the same time as the country, so that they’re twins in a way, you have to tell the story of both twins. So it forced me to take on history. One of the reasons it took five years to write is that I didn’t know how to write it. One early version opened with the line, “Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence.” I meant that children don’t come naked into the world, they come burdened with the accumulated history of their family and their world. But it was too Tolstoyan. I thought, If there’s one thing this book is not, it’s Anna Karenina. The sentence is still there in the book somewhere, but I buried it.
The third-person narration wasn’t working, so I decided to try a first-person narrative, and there was a day when I sat down and I wrote more or less exactly what is now the first page of Midnight’s Children. It just arrived, this voice of Saleem’s: quite savvy, full of all kinds of arcana, funny but sort of ridiculous. I was electrified by what was coming out of my typewriter. It was one of those moments when you believe that the writing comes through you rather than from you. I saw how to drag in everything from the ancient traditions of India to the oral narrative form to, above all, the noise and the music of the Indian city. That first paragraph showed me the book. I held onto Saleem’s coattails and let him run. As the book developed, as Saleem grew up, there were moments where I felt frustrated by him. As he got older, he became more and more passive. I kept trying to force him to be more active, to take charge of events—and it just didn’t work. Afterwards, people assumed the book was autobiographical, but to me Saleem always felt very unlike me, because I had a kind of wrestling match with him, which I lost.

8. To create genuine characters, good and bad, we have to identify with them but there must be areas where they don’t represent you.

Chinua Achebe, The Art of Fiction No. 139

INTERVIEWERchinua achebe
One of the great women characters you have created, I think, is Beatrice in Anthills of the Savannah. Do you identify with her? Do you see any part of yourself in that character? She’s sort of a savior, I think.

ACHEBE
Yes, yes, I identify with her. Actually, I identify with all my characters, good and bad. I have to do that in order to make them genuine. I have to understand them even if I don’t approve of them. Not completely—it’s impossible; complete identification is, in fact, not desirable. There must be areas in which a particular character does not represent you. At times, though, the characters—like Beatrice—do contain, I think, elements of my own self and my systems of beliefs and hopes and aspirations. Beatrice is the first major woman character in my fiction. Those who do not read me as carefully as they ought have suggested that this is the only woman character I have ever written about and that I probably created her out of pressure from the feminists. Actually, the character of Beatrice has been there in virtually all my fiction, certainly from No Longer at Ease, A Man of the People, right down to Anthills of the Savannah. There is a certain increase in the importance I assign to women in getting us out of the mess that we are in, which is a reflection of the role of women in my traditional culture—that they do not interfere in politics until men really make such a mess that the society is unable to go backward or forward. Then women will move in . . . this is the way the stories have been constructed, and this is what I have tried to say. In one of Sembene Ousmane’s films he portrays that same kind of situation where the men struggle, are beaten and cannot defend their rights against French colonial rule. They surrender their rice harvest, which is an abomination. They dance one last time in the village arena and leave their spears where they danced and go away—this is the final humiliation. The women then emerge, pick up the spears, and begin their own dance. So it’s not just in the Igbo culture. It seems to be something that other African peoples also taught us.

9. There is no right or wrong way to write a novel.  Whether you write it linearly from beginning to end or write it in segments as scenes come to you what matters is that you write it how you are comfortable.

Margaret Atwood, The Art of Fiction No. 121

INTERVIEWER
Do you write a novel from page one through to the end?

ATWOODatwood
No. Scenes present themselves. Sometimes it proceeds in a linear fashion, but sometimes it’s all over the place. I wrote two parts of Surfacing five years before I wrote the rest of the novel—the scene in which the mother’s soul appears as a bird and the first drive to the lake. They are the two anchors for that novel.

 

Doris Lessing, The Art of Fiction No. 102

INTERVIEWERDoris_Lessing
I’d imagine then that you work from beginning to end, rather than mixing around . . .

LESSING
Yes, I do. I’ve never done it any other way. If you write in bits, you lose some kind of very valuable continuity of form. It is an invisible inner continuity. Sometimes you only discover it is there if you are trying to reshape.

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International Book & Writers’ Festivals 2013

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I have put together a list of International Book and Writers’ Festivals from around the world with their dates for 2013.  Where possible I have included websites and Facebook page links so you can get connected and keep up to date.  Some of these festivals have already taken place so in the case of these festivals if there was a 2014 date available I have included it here.  Left out a festival? Let me know about it in the comments. Enjoy!

January

Cairo International Book Fair, Egypt. 23 January – 5 February 2013

Jaipur Literary Festival, India. 24-28 January 2013 https://www.facebook.com/JaipurLiteratureFestival

TIBE – Taipei International Book Exhibition, Taiwan. 30 January – 4 February 2013

February

New Delhi Book Fair, India. 15-23 February 2014 https://www.facebook.com/NewDelhiWorldBookFair?fref=ts

Jerusalem International Book Fair, Israel. 10-15 February 2013 https://www.facebook.com/jerusalembookfair

Havana International Book Fair, Cuba. 14-24 February 2013

Vilnius Book Fair, Lithuania. 21-24 February 2013

Singapore Writers’ Festival 25 February – 9 March 2013 https://www.facebook.com/sgwritersfest

March

Adelaide Writers’ Week, Australia. 1-17 March 2013 https://www.facebook.com/adelaidefestival

Trujillo International Book Festival, Peru. 1-10 March 2013 http://www.rpp.com.pe/2013-03-01-inauguran-feria-internacional-del-libro-de-trujillo-noticia_571985.html

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Dubai, UAE. 4-8 March 2014 https://www.facebook.com/emirateslitfest

Brussels Book Fair, Belgium. 7-11 March 2013

Leipzig Book Fair, Germany. 13-16 March 2014 & 12-15 March 2015

Oxford Literary Festival, UK. 16-24 March 2013 https://www.facebook.com/oxfordliteraryfestival

Salon du Livre Paris, France. 22-25 March 2013

Alexandrina International Book Fair Alexandria, Egypt. 26 March – 9 April 2013

Bangkok International Book Fair, Thailand. 28 March – 8 April 2013

Perth Writers’ Week, Australia. March 2013 https://www.facebook.com/perthfestival

April

Quebec International Book Fair, Canada. 10-14 April 2013 https://www.facebook.com/SalonLivreQc

London Book Fair, UK. 8-10 April 2014 https://www.facebook.com/thelondonbookfairexhibition

LA Times Festival of Books, LA, USA. 12-13 April 2014 https://www.facebook.com/LATimesEvents

Budapest International Book Festival, Hungary. 18-24 April 2013

Prague Writers’ Festival, Czech Republic. 17-19 April 2013

Bogotá International Book Fair, Colombia. 17 April – 1 May 2013 https://www.facebook.com/FILBogota

Feira do Livro da Livraria Minerva, Maputo, Mozambique.  April  18 April – 4 May

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, UAE. 24-29 April 2013 https://www.facebook.com/ADBookFair

Buenos Aires International Book Fair, Argentina. 25 April – 13 May 2013 https://www.facebook.com/feriadellibro

St Petersburg International Book Salon, Russia. 25-28 April 2013

Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair, Malaysia. 26 April – 5 May 2013

PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, New York, USA. 29 April – 5 May 2013 https://www.facebook.com/PENamerican

May

Geneva International Book, Press, and Multimedia Fair, Switzerland. 1-5 May 2013 https://www.facebook.com/livreGeneve

Tehran International Book Fair, Iran. 1-11 May 2013

NIBF – Nigeria International Book Fair Lagos,Nigeria. 6-11 May 2013

Thessaloniki Book Fair, Greece. 16-19 May 2013

Prague International Book Fair & Literary Festival Book World, Czech Republic. 16-19 May 2013

Turin International Book Fair, Italy. 16-20 May 2013

Warsaw Book Fair, Poland. 16-19 May 2013

Franschoek Literary Festival, South Africa. 17-19 May 2013

Sidney Writers’ Festival, Australia. 20-26 May 2013 https://www.facebook.com/SydWritersFest

Dublin Writers’ Festival, Ireland. 20-26 May 2013 https://www.facebook.com/dublinwritersfestival

Lisbon Book Fair, Portugal. 23 May – 10 June 2013

Emerging Writers’ Festival, Melbourne, Australia. 23 May – 2 June 2013 http://www.facebook.com/pages/Emerging-Writers-Festival/22221031271

Norwegian Festival of Literature, Lillehammer, Norway. 28 May – 2 June 2013

Bucharest Book Fair, Romania. 29 May – 2 June 2013

BookExpo America Norwalk, USA. 30 May – 1 June 2013 https://www.facebook.com/bookexpoamerica

June

Seoul International Book Fair, South Korea. 19-23 June 2013

Cape Town Book Fair, South Africa. 21-23 June 2013 & 13-15 June 2014 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cape-Town-Book-Fair/277677959363

São Paulo International Book Biennial, Brazil. 22-31 August 2013

July

Tokyo International Book Fair, Japan. 3-6 July 2013

Hong Kong Book Fair, Hong Kong. 17-23 July 2013

August

Berlin International Literature Festival, Germany. 4-15 September 2013

Edinburgh International Book Festival, UK. 10-26 August 2013 https://www.facebook.com/edbookfest

Melbourne Writers’ Festival, Australia. 22 August – 1 September 2013 https://www.facebook.com/MelbourneWritersFestival

Bienal do Livro Rio, Brazil. 29 August – 8 September 2013 https://www.facebook.com/bienaldolivro

Beijing International Book Fair, China. 28 August – 1 September 2013

September

Brisbane Writers’ Festival, Australia. 4-8 September 2013 https://www.facebook.com/briswritersfest

Moscow International Book Fair, Russia. 5-10 September 2013

Open Book Festival Cape Town, South Africa. 7-11 September 2013

Reykjavik International Literary Festival , Iceland. 11-15 September 2013

Library of Congress National Book Festival, Washington D.C., USA. 21-22 September 2013

Nairobi International Book Fair, Kenya. 25-29 September 2013

Gothenburg Book Fair, Sweden. 26-29 September 2013

Bangalore Literature Festival, India. 27-29 September 2013 https://www.facebook.com/BlrLitFest

October

LIBER Madrid International Book Fair, Spain. 2-4 October 2013 https://www.facebook.com/FeriaLiber

Frankfurt Book Fair, Germany. 9-13 October 2013 https://www.facebook.com/frankfurtbookfair

San Francisco Litquake, USA. 11-19 October 2013 https://www.facebook.com/litquake

Vancouver Writers’ Fest, Canada. 22-27 October 2013 https://www.facebook.com/VanWritersFest

Toronto International Festival of Authors, Canada. 24 October – 3 November 2013 http://www.facebook.com/pages/IFOA-International-Festival-of-Authors/167507489980116

November

Hong Kong International Literary Festival, Hong Kong. 1-11 November 2013 https://www.facebook.com/HKILF?v=wall&ref=ts

Istanbul Book Fair, Turkey. 17-25 November 2013

Miami Book Fair International, USA. 17-24 November 2013 https://www.facebook.com/MiamiBookFair

Guadalajara International Book Fair, Mexico. 30 November – 8 December 2013

December

Doha International Book Fair, Qatar. 4-14 December 2013

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Creating Captivating Characters

Creating characters that readers want to follow on novel length adventures can be tricky.  You might not find it difficult to invent the basic details of your characters like their appearances and names but where it can get tricky is creating your character’s backstory and life details because these are the details that inform your character’s decisions, habits, and nature.  These are the wonderful elements that turn your characters into people.

I came across a set of 45 questions designed to help you create fuller characters by Anita Riggio.  These questions will bring you to the core of your character very quickly and will guide you when you ask yourself how your character would respond to situations and other characters in your novel.  Answering each question fully and referring back to them will bring consistency throughout your writing but will also help you define how your character might need to change.  Take a look and enjoy.

 

  1. What do you know about this character now that s/he doesn’t yet know?
  2. What is this character’s greatest flaw?
  3. What do you know about this character that s/he would never admit?
  4. What is this character’s greatest asset?
  5. If this character could choose a different identity, who would s/he be?
  6. What music does this character sing to when no one else is around?
  7. In what or whom does this character have the greatest faith?
  8. What is this character’s favorite movie?
  9. Does this character have a favorite article of clothing? Favorite shoes?
  10. Does this character have a vice? Name it.
  11. Name this character’s favorite person (living or dead).
  12. What is this character’s secret wish?
  13. What is this character’s proudest achievement?
  14. Describe this character’s most embarrassing moment.
  15. What is this character’s deepest regret?
  16. What is this character’s greatest fear?
  17. Describe this character’s most devastating moment.
  18. What is this character’s greatest achievement?
  19. What is this character’s greatest hope?
  20. Does this character have an obsession? Name it.
  21. What is this character’s greatest disappointment?
  22. What is this character’s worst nightmare?
  23. Whom does this character most wish to please? Why?
  24. Describe this character’s mother.
  25. Describe this character’s father.
  26. If s/he had to choose, with whom would this character prefer to live?
  27. Where does this character fall in birth order? What effect does this have?
  28. Describe this character’s siblings or other close relatives.
  29. Describe this character’s bedroom. Include three cherished items.
  30. What is this character’s birth date? How does this character manifest traits of his/her astrological sign?
  31. If this character had to live in seclusion for six months, what six items would s/he bring?
  32. Why is this character angry?
  33. What calms this character?
  34. Describe a recurring dream or nightmare this character might have.
  35. List the choices (not circumstances) that led this character to his/her current predicament.
  36. List the circumstances over which this character has no control.
  37. What wakes this character in the middle of the night?
  38. How would a stranger describe this character?
  39. What does this character resolve to do differently every morning?
  40. Who depends on this character? Why?
  41. If this character knew s/he had exactly one month to live, what would s/he do?
  42. How would a dear friend or relative describe this character?
  43. What is this character’s most noticeable physical attribute?
  44. What is this character hiding from him/herself?
  45. Write one additional thing about your character.

© 2008 Anita Riggio

 

Thanks must go to Anita Riggio for compiling such a helpful list of questions.

Please follow the link to view the original article:

http://character-development.suite101.com/article.cfm/developing_memorable_characters

10 Rules for Writing Fiction from Established Authors

Elmore Leonard wrote his ‘Ten Rules for Writing’ which has inspired The Guardian to ask established authors for their 10 rules for successful writing.  The guardian post “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction” is a composite of advice from a wide range of successful novelists including;  Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James, AL Kennedy, Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson.

Here is an excerpt from the post featuring Michael Moorcock’s advice which I particularly liked:

Michael Moorcock

  1. My first rule was given to me by TH White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies and was: Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.
  2. Find an author you admire (mine was Conrad) and copy their plots and characters in order to tell your own story, just as people learn to draw and paint by copying the masters.
  3. Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel.
  4. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction.
  5. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development.
  6. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution.
  7. For a good melodrama study the famous “Lester Dent master plot formula” which you can find online. It was written to show how to write a short story for the pulps, but can be adapted successfully for most stories of any length or genre.
  8. If possible have something going on while you have your characters delivering exposition or philosophising. This helps retain dramatic tension.
  9. Carrot and stick – have protagonists pursued (by an obsession or a villain) and pursuing (idea, object, person, mystery).
  10. Ignore all proferred rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say.

A reservoir of advice from the masters!  Head over to The Guardian to read the full article: The Guardian: Ten Rules for Writing Fiction