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

Writer Spotlight: Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami was born in Japan in 1949.   He grew up an only child in the coastal city of Kobe to parents who both taught Japanese literature.  Despite this, Murakami was greatly interested in western literature and counts Raymond Chandler, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Franz Kafka as some of his literature influences.Haruki Murakami by Mark Mussari

Murakami didn’t plan on being a writer.  He owned a jazz club in Tokyo called Peter Cat but at age 29 he sat at his kitchen table and began writing his first novel which would be a great success and the beginning of a prolific literary career.

“I started writing at the kitchen table after midnight. It took ten months to finish that first book; I sent it to a publisher and I got some kind of prize, so it was like a dream—I was surprised to find it happening. But after a moment, I thought, Yes, it’s happened and I’m a writer; why not? It’s that simple.”

Murakami’s style is different from most writers.  He says in his The Art of Fiction No. 182 interview that when he sat down to write that first novel he didn’t know how to go about it.  Since he hadn’t read much Japanese literature he borrowed “the style, structure, everything” from the books he had read, western books, which resulted in his unique style.  This is great advice for all writers who feel they don’t know what they’re doing.  Borrow from the masters.  Murakami describes his style to be most closely the style of Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World which is one of my favourite books.

All writers have different ways of getting the work done and the novel on the page.  Some plan every step of the way but Murakami is an example to the contrary.

“When I start to write, I don’t have any plan at all. I just wait for the story to come. I don’t choose what kind of story it is or what’s going to happen. I just wait.”

With the exception of Norwegian Wood, which Murakami says was written as a strategic move to appeal to readers preferring a more realistic novel, all his novels are unplanned.  This is pretty amazing once you’ve read one of his novels but he does go on to say that his writing process involves many drafts in which he rewrites sections once the story has revealed itself to him so he can better it.

“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.”

This, he says, is the main purpose of revision: “The first draft is messy; I have to revise and revise”.  And he goes through four or five revisions spending about six months writing the first draft and then seven or eight months rewriting.  It is comforting to know that even with his tremendous talent he also has to work hard to produce that wonderful final product.  And work hard he does.  He described the very strict routine he maintains when writing a novel:

“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”

Interestingly, Murakami talked about how your location or writing in a foreign country can have a profound effect on the type of book you write:

“During the four years of writing The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I was living in the U.S. as a stranger. That “strangeness” was always following me like a shadow and it did the same to the protagonist of the novel. Come to think of it, if I wrote it in Japan, it might have become a very different book.”

If only Murakami would write a book about writing because he has an incredible perspective that I think is very helpful.  His way of describing how he goes about creating his protagonists is a beautiful example of this and what I found to be an insightful lesson in how we can approach perspective in our writing.

“Please think about it this way: I have a twin brother. And when I was two years old, one of us—the other one—was kidnapped. He was brought to a faraway place and we haven’t seen each other since. I think my protagonist is him. A part of myself, but not me, and we haven’t seen each other for a long time. It’s a kind of alternative form of myself. In terms of DNA, we are the same, but our environment has been different. So our way of thinking would be different. Every time I write a book I put my feet in different shoes. Because sometimes I am tired of being myself. This way I can escape. It’s a fantasy. If you can’t have a fantasy, what’s the point of writing a book?”

I highly recommend reading his Art of Fiction interview as he is overflowing with gems like this one.  Murakami, like most writers, is an avid reader.  And like most readers he loves it for the same reason we all do: “That’s the power of the novel—you can go anywhere”.

His novels are a huge hit in Japan and with his work being translated into 50 languages he is a massive international success.  What I find equally admirable is that Murakami’s love for literature extends to the translation of some of the West’s greatest novels into Japanese often for the first time.

If you are interested in reading Murakami, I really enjoyed Book Oblivion’s post on the best way to read Murakami and am following this sequence myself.

Writer Spotlight: Herta Müller

Herta Müller was born in 1953 in Romania.  More specifically, she was born in a German speaking village to Banat Swabian parents placing her within the German minority of Romania which would influence a great deal of her experience of life.

herta muller photo by ulla montan
photo by Ulla Montan

Müller is a novelist, poet, and essayist whose work has been translated into more than 20 languages since the 90s.  To date, she has received more than 20 awards and in 2009 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Upon naming Müller the 2009 laureate she was described by the Swedish Academy as someone “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.” The 2009 Nobel Prize coincided with the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism and Müller’s publishing house’s head, Michael Krüger, said: “By giving the award to Herta Müller, who grew up in a German-speaking minority in Romania, the committee has recognized an author who refuses to let the inhumane side of life under communism be forgotten”.

Müller lived during the communist regime in Romania which not only impacted her and her family’s lives but her work.

“Müller is noted for her works depicting the effects of violence, cruelty and terror, usually in the setting of Communist Romania under the repressive Nicolae Ceaușescu regime which she has experienced herself. Many of her works are told from the viewpoint of the German minority in Romania and are also a depiction of the modern history of the Germans in the Banat, and Transylvania. Her much acclaimed 2009 novel The Hunger Angel (Atemschaukel) portrays the deportation of Romania’s German minority to Stalinist Soviet Gulags during the Soviet occupation of Romania for use as German forced labor.” (Wikipedia)

With regard to personal influences, Müller has described herself as being heavily influenced by her German and Romanian Language and Literature studies which she completed at the West University of Timișoara.  Müller’s relationship with language and words goes deeper than being a writer.  She is multilingual and worked as a translator in the 70s and she has talked about the difference in cultural psychology that can be revealed through language and words.  Reading Müller’s interview for the Paris review, The Art of Fiction No. 225, you begin to get a sense of what it might have been like to live under such an intense dictatorship and suffer a lack of freedom of speech as a lover of language and words.

One particular paragraph struck me because it shows so simply how living under these conditions can change the way you see the world around you.

“MÜLLER
I still can’t stand the sight of them. Or gladioli. Whenever there was a funeral or a burial of some high-ranking socialist functionary, they always had the same flowers, because those were the flowers that lasted the longest. But I’ve always liked the flowers that wilt quickly, like pansies or lily of the valley or dahlias or phlox, and that don’t let themselves be put to ill use. It’s the same with people—the people who get put to ill use are the ones whose character lends itself to that. People who don’t have those traits to begin with can’t be misused that way. Just like if the carnations and gladioli wilted more quickly, then they wouldn’t wind up inside the wreaths for the party bosses who had just died. But the flowers in the little gardens, the ones that bloom for just a short time—those were the plants of the powerless.
You know you start to get a little kooky when you live so long in a dictatorship.

INTERVIEWER
Everything begins to have connotations.

MÜLLER
And you start dividing everything up into what’s on my side and what’s on the side of the state. Even the beach. I used to think to myself, How can the sun be such a traitor? Because Ceauşescu had these villas on the Black Sea, whole stretches of the coastline would be cordoned off when he was there. Or even when he wasn’t, nobody could go there, and I always thought, Why is the sun doing that for him, why is it offering him these beautiful sunsets, doesn’t it see who it’s dealing with, couldn’t it simply refuse and say, I’m not going to do this for him anymore?
But I think this is a common theme in books about oppression. In Jorge Semprún, for example. People in the worst situations wonder how their surroundings can simply look on like that, so indifferent to all the human suffering. And if the oppression is taking place outside under open skies—like a concentration camp—then the whole landscape can seem to be an accomplice.”

Müller’s experience with the communist regime and Ceaușescu’s dictatorship are intimate.  Her grandfather was a wealthy farmer and merchant who had his land and property confiscated by the communist regime.  Her father was a member of the Waffen SS which faught during WWII and was later condemned as a criminal organisation in the Nuremberg trials.  Her mother at age 17 was deported to forced labour camps in the Soviet Union (today Ukraine) from 1945-1950.  And Müller herself was dismissed from her job as a translator in 1979 for refusing to be an informant for the Securitate or the secret police which then continued to harass her.  The Nobel biographical notes write that “because Müller had publicly criticized the dictatorship in Romania, she was prohibited from publishing in her own country”.  All of which must have influenced her work in some way.  The Land of Green Plums (1993) is said to have been written after the death of two friends in which she suspected the involvement of the secret police and one of the characters is based on a good friend of hers from the Aktionsgruppe Banat (read the article).  Strictly true or not, what remains obvious is that Müller’s work is a retelling of some of the horrors endured under Ceaușescu’s regime.

I highly recommend reading Müller’s Paris Review interview, The Art of Fiction No. 225.  I once began reading The Hunger Angel but decided that I was not in the right frame of mind to fully appreciate it and put it aside for a later date.  I imagine Müller to be no easy read for it’s content but given the underlying influences of her work it remains important to go there lest we forget the realities that some have lived in our lifetimes.

The Inspiration Journal: The Journal For Achieving Your Goals

It is a long held tradition for people to keep a journal or diary of their thoughts, the events of their lives, and their feelings.  Many powerful and successful people have done so.  There are also a number of different reasons for keeping a journal; some do so to record their lives and its events, some to vent their emotions, and others to capture their ideas and fuel their creativity.

“Swiftly, swiftly, record your thoughts before they are forever lost in time.”
Trevor Wright
A Treasury of Thoughts

The benefits of journaling are well covered so if you don’t already keep a journal the only question that remains to be asked is what kind you should write.  For as many reasons to keep a journal there are equally as many styles of journals you can keep.  If your desire is to focus on achieving your goals or expanding your knowledge I recommend creating something positive, useful, and inspirational for your life goals.  Keep the journal that focuses on what you read, what you think, pieces of information or quotes that inspire you.  Include plans and people to follow.  Keep a journal that becomes a collection of everything you want to achieve, the tools to get you there, and the inspiration you need for the journey.  Create something that motivates and re-inspires you as you read back over it.  Create an inspiration journal.

“We always attract into our lives whatever we think about most, believe most strongly, expect on the deepest level, and imagine most vividly.”
Shakti Gawain
Creative Visualization

Keep a journal filled with writing and notes focused on the life goals you are working toward which will inspire and fast track your success.

  • Fill the pages of your journal with the books you read and what you thought about them.
  • Include reading lists of the books you hope to read.
  • Note pieces of information you find helpful.
  • Jot down your ideas and your inspirations.
  • Share the quotes you love and the films that struck you.
  • List your favourite writers, bloggers, photographers, or other people you admire.
  • Write down your goals and dreams.
  • Create plans and draw.
  • Keep a list of websites, magazines, and articles you liked.
  • Brainstorm and create mind maps, jot down keywords, create tag clouds.

Everything you are curious about, everything that inspires and helps you, every idea you have, write it all in one notebook.  Whatever project you are working on or goal you are trying to reach, whatever you are trying to learn more about or skill set you are seeking to acquire will greatly benefit from a journal that brings together everything you encounter along the way.  You may be surprised how something seemingly unrelated can bring new meaning or perspective to something else you were thinking about.

Read back over it and you will see that you have created a valuable source of focused inspiration and information.  It will help you get where you want to go in life and when you look back over it you’ll see how far you’ve come.

I like to think of it as the kind of journal left behind by brilliant people like Leonardo da Vinci or John Steinbeck.  I like the idea of putting time into something that is constructive and focused on creating the journey rather than simply recounting the journey.  For me, keeping this kind of journal has shifted my focus away from what was toward what I will do which I believe is a better recipe for success.

 

 

Writer Spotlight: Naguib Mahfouz

Naguib Mahfouz is a well known Nobel Laureate born in Cairo, Egypt in 1911.  He has written 34 novels and over 350 short stories as well as plays and film scripts over a 70 year career.  He passed away in 2006.  It was his Cairo Trilogy; Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar street that earned him the honour of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988 but his first full length novel was Khufu’s Wisdom published in 1939.  Mahfouz is the Arab world’s only Nobel Literature Prize winner.

In his younger years he is said to have read extensively and credits Hafiz Najib as being his first literary influence.  In the Art of Fiction Echoes of an Autobiography naguib mahfouzNo. 129, Charlotte Shabrawy writes that upon reading Johnson’s Son by Hafiz Najib Mahfouz says his life was changed.  Some of his other literary influences include Taha Husayn and Salama Musa.

Mahfouz attended what is today the Cairo University to study Philosophy.  He abandoned his postgraduate studies and went on to a career in the civil service.  What I find amazing is that Mahfouz never depended on his writing for a living despite being such a prolific and celebrated writer.  He says in Art of Fiction No. 129 that he was always a government employee and, on the contrary, spent on literature.  He only began making money from his writing when his stories began to be translated into English, French, and German.

Mahfouz lived through times of great change and revolution in Egypt.  As a 7 year old boy he witnessed the 1919 revolution against British occupation which also forms the backdrop for his Cairo trilogy.  He saw the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 of which Mahfouz is quoted as saying:  “I was happy with that revolution.  But unfortunately it did not bring about democracy.”  He also experienced World War II during which two of his works; Cairo Modern (1945) and Rhadopis of Nubia (1943) were censored.

Ironically, when he worked as Director of Censorship in the Bureau of Arts his novel The Children of Gabelawi (1959) was censored.  In the interview with Shabrawy (The Art of Fiction no. 129) Mahfouz says:

“Even though I was at the time in charge of all artistic censorship, the head of literary censorship advised me not to publish the book in Egypt in order to prevent conflict  with Al-Azhar – the main seat of Islam in Cairo.  It was published in Beirut but not allowed in into Egypt.  This was in 1959, in Nasser’s time.  The book still can’t be bought here.  People smuggle it in.”

Shabrawy then asks Mahfouz if he intended the book to be provocative to which he responded:  “I wanted the book to show that science has a place in society, just as a new religion does, and that science does not necessarily conflict with religious values.”

Unfortunately, with the appearance of The Satanic Verses the controversy surrounding Mahfouz’s novel was brought back up and he started to receive death threats.  He was given police protection but in 1994 an Islamic extremist succeeded in attacking the then 82 year old writer by stabbing him in the neck outside his home in Cairo.  He survived but nerves that affected his right upper arm were permanently damaged leaving him unable to write for more than a few minutes a day.

When it came to his writing habits he wrote from 4 until 7 pm everyday after work and then spent his time reading until 10pm.  Mahfouz describes how much of his work and themes came from the heart with little to no planning while other works, like the Cairo Trilogy, followed extensive research.  One thing Mahfouz is serious about is revision of his work.  Revise and rewrite.  To create art as a writer you must give of yourself, put yourself into your work.

“The writer, you see, is not simply a journalist.  He interweaves a story with his own doubts, questions, and values.  That is art.”

Ultimately, how does Mahfouz describe himself?  “Someone who loves literature…Someone who loves his work more than money or fame…Because I love writing more than anything else.” 

 

 

Further reading:

The Art of Fiction no. 129, interview with Naguib Mahfouz

Biography: Naguib Mahfouz by Marcia Lynx Qualey

 

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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6 Reading Picks for Bloggers

Today is the 6th Anniversary of my blog, Lilolia!  I created Lilolia after having just moved to a new country where they speak a different language and I needed a creative outlet.  A book blog was a natural choice for me since I’ve always loved reading but I also have a tendency to dive deep into reading when times get a bit stressful.  To put all this reading to good use I embarked on blogging.  It has been a wonderful learning experience.  My content has ebbed and flowed over the years but to all of you who read my words and to those that even return for more, THANK YOU!

I’ve put together a list of 6 books for bloggers and those looking to start blogging.  There’s a little something on writing, on my favourite social media, the mechanics of blogging, and creating content.  As always, if you have any other books to add I would love to hear about them.  All blurbs are from GoodReads.

Blog Inc by Joy Deangdeelert Cho & Meg Mateo Llaso

Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community joy cho

“With roughly 95,000 blogs launched worldwide every 24 hours (BlogPulse), making a fledgling site stand out isn’t easy. This authoritative handbook gives creative hopefuls a leg up. Joy Cho, of the award-winning Oh Joy!, offers expert advice on starting and growing a blog, from design and finance to overcoming blogger’s block, attracting readers, and more. With a foreword from Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge plus expert interviews, this book will fine-tune what the next generation of bloggers shares with the world.”

GoodReads

Born to Blog by Mark Schaeffer

Born to Blog: Building Your Blog for Personal and Business Success One Post at a Time

“Launch a business and ignite a movement with a powerhouse blog! “Born to Blog” is filled with practical, street-smart techniques and ideas to help you create and manage a winning business blog. Learn how to attract a loyal following, promote your blog, and write powerful content that generates new business.”

GoodReads

The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

“Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care?  In The Sense of Style, the bestselling linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker answers these questions and more. Rethinking the usage guide for the twenty-first century, Pinker doesn’t carp about the decline of language or recycle pet peeves from the rulebooks of a century ago. Instead, he applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.  In this short, cheerful, and eminently practical book, Pinker shows how writing depends on imagination, empathy, coherence, grammatical know-how, and an ability to savor and reverse engineer the good prose of others. He replaces dogma about usage with reason and evidence, allowing writers and editors to apply the guidelines judiciously, rather than robotically, being mindful of what they are designed to accomplish.  Filled with examples of great and gruesome prose, Pinker shows us how the art of writing can be a form of pleasurable mastery and a fascinating intellectual topic in its own right.”

GoodReads

The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan

The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?

“Anyone can write a blog post, but not everyone can get it liked thirty-five thousand times, and not everyone can get seventy-five thousand subscribers. But the reason we’ve done these things isn’t because we’re special. It’s because we tried and failed, the same way you learn to ride a bike. We tried again and again, and now we have an idea how to get from point A to point B faster because of it.”  Three short years ago, when Chris Brogan and Julien Smith wrote their bestseller, Trust Agents, being interesting and human on the Web was enough to build a significant audience. But now, everybody has a platform. The problem is that most of them are just making noise.  In The Impact Equation, Brogan and Smith show that to make people truly care about what you have to say, you need more than just a good idea, trust among your audience, or a certain number of fol­lowers. You need a potent mix of all of the above and more.  Use the Impact Equation to figure out what you’re doing right and wrong. Apply it to a blog, a tweet, a video, or a mainstream-media advertising cam­paign. Use it to explain why a feature in a national newspaper that reaches millions might have less impact than a blog post that reaches a thousand passionate subscribers.”

GoodReads

What the Plus! Google+ For the Rest of Us by Guy Kawasaki

What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us

“You are ninety minutes and $2.99 away from mastering Google+. That’s all it takes. But don’t take Guy’s word for it. Here’s what three experts have to say about What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us:
“We didn’t expect over 100,000,000 people to join Google+ so quickly. If we had, we might have written a tutorial like this one. Lucky for us, Guy has written this wonderful introduction to Google+. Highly recommended!” Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice-President, Social, Google
“What The Plus is the G+ motherlode! Guy’s book will make you fall madly in love with Google+ and never look back!” Mari Smith, author The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day
“People ask me why I like Google+ better. I struggle to find the words, but Guy Kawasaki not only figured it out but shows you how to get the most out of this new social network.” Robert Scoble, Rackspace videoblogger”

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The Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaeffer

The Tao of Twitter, Revised and Expanded New Edition: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time

“You’re busy and you don’t have time to decipher the confusing world of Twitter. In less than two hours, Mark Schaefer’s bestselling book will show you how to connect and start creating meaningful business and personal benefits right away!  Behind every Twitter triumph is a well-defined success formula. This is “The Tao of Twitter” a path that holds the potential to improve your daily life at work and at home . . . if you know the way.  Through real-life examples and easy-to-follow steps, acclaimed marketing expert Mark Schaefer teaches you: Secrets to building influence on Twitter The formula behind every Twitter business success 22 ways to build an audience who wants to connect with you Content strategies, time savers, and useful tips 20 ways to use Twitter as a competitive advantage.”

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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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Writer Spotlight: Dalene Matthee

Dalene Matthee is a beloved Afrikaans South African author of a number of hugely successful books that have been translated into 14 languages, including English.  When I was in high school we read the first of her forest books in Afrikaans class and I fell in love with it.  It was called Kringe in n Bos (Circles in a Forest) and was an absolutely magical book about the elephants of Knysna forest, particularly one elephant named Oupoot.  I have not read her books in English but I’m sure they are equally as beautiful as her original Afrikaans ones for those interested in giving her books a try.header_bosboeke

Matthee was born in Riversdale, South Africa in 1938.  Her first novel was inspired by the Outeniqua hiking trip she took in Knysna.  After much research into these indigenous forests she gathered enough material for four books; Circles in a Forest (Kringe in n Bos), Fiela’s Child (Fiela se Kind), The Mulberry Forest (Moerbeibos), and Dream Forest (Toorbos).  She is the only South African author to have sold over one million Afrikaans books.

Circles in a Forest

“Saul Barnard is a woodcutter with a restless soul – he wants to keep strangers away from the Forest and stop the destruction of the Forest. There is also the legendary elephant bull – Old Foot – which broke free from his herd. Old Foot and Saul share a strange bond … In the green duskiness of the Outeniqua they walk on circular paths. Saul Barnard, rejected by his people and humiliated by unscrupulous timber merchants; Old Foot, relentlessly followed by hunters. A man and his animal brother – together in an untouched ancient forest that is being destroyed by gold diggers, woodcutters and other eradicators. Saul follows Old Foot’s tracks, closer and closer to the truth that will change his life forever.”

Fiela’s Child

“God forgives many things, but God never forgives us the wrong we do to a child. On the one side of the mountain, in the Long Kloof, there’s Fiela Komoetie, devoted to her foundling – the child God entrusted to her one night when she found the three-year-old boy crying on her doorstep – a castaway lamb. On the other side of the mountain, in the Forest, there are the Van Rooyens. Many years ago, the three-year-old son of Elias van Rooyen, a woodcutter, and his wife Barta disappeared … The one child is Benjamin Komoetie, the other Lukas van Rooyen. Are they the same child? Was it possible for such a small child to walk that far – from the Forest to the Long Kloof? Nine years later, two census men, travelling through the Long Kloof and discovering the white child with the blue eyes among Coloured people, decided to take matters into their own hands. And many years later, this is the question that Benjamin/Lukas is asking himself: Who am I? He had to know, otherwise the woman that he came to love would never belong to him. The answer was there, he knew. Somewhere deep inside himself, hidden in the past, but the answer remained evasive.”

The Mulberry Forest

“Silkworm farmers from Italy were lured to Gouna in the Knysna Forest to establish a silk industry. The only problem was that mulberry trees refused to grow in sticky mud. Disgruntled immigrants had to battle severe winter rains, fever and a lack of understanding. They were becoming increasingly disillusioned with the government dumping them in the wilderness under false pretences. The man coming their rescue was a forest person with an unruly daughter and a head full of plans – the headstrong Silas Miggel. He wanted to get them back on board a ship, heading for Italy…”

Dreamforest

“Dreamforest (Toorbos) is forest novel. It tells the story between the intimate relationship of an initiated “forest woman” and the heart of the forest, and how it becomes an obstacle in her experience of the man she loves.  Karoliena Kapp is an only child of an unsympathetic mother who has had three men. Her father has been killed by a streak of lightning while she was still young, causing her to accept the forest as her primordial mother. Karoliena is beautiful. Soon, she was spotted by a man, Johannes, child of a woodcutter, who freed himself from the stranglehold of poverty in the forest. Before she even turns twenty, Karoliena is married to Johannes. Now she has to take on the role of spouse in the village after being coached to take her place in the hierarchy.  The world of the forest and the world of the village are juxtaposed with each other – each representing a different order of existence. The forest makes a mystical experience possible – this is the kind of ecstasy Karoliena is looking for – while life in the village is dedicated to the self-directed search for money. She is in love with Johannes who is far older than she is and is almost spellbound by the prospects he offers her. However, Karoliena uses the very first opportunity to run away from Johannes – straight back to the forest. Because the very first day after their wedding ceremony she knew something was terribly wrong. She made the wrong choice: she fled from the forest. She exchanged her precious freedom for a cage. Now she’s scared. So, she returns to the forest while the Cape sisken keeps on calling: “who are you, who are you”.”

As I already mentioned Matthee was inspired to write her forest books after hiking through an area of the Knysna forest and 904383_10151530655839099_1076473753_owondering what had happened to the Knysna elephants.  Today you can visit the area in the Garden Route of South Africa and do either a 3km or a 9km hike through what has been named the Circle in a Forest route in one of South Africa’s National Reserves.  Matthee passed away in 2005 but leaves behind a treasury of South African fiction for all to enjoy that takes a look at our country from a nature perspective rather than the more common political perspective.  I highly recommend her novels.

Have you read any of her novels? What did you think?

Writer Spotlight: Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide is one of my all time favourite books (my review).  Ghosh is a great writer and I decided to share with you more about this Amitav Ghoshauthor and his highly acclaimed novels.  No doubt many of you have read something by him before, if not, I recommend discovering his books.  Ghosh was born in Kolkata, India in 1956 and has studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexandria and Oxford.  His debut novel was The Circle of Reason published in 1986 which won the Prix Médicis étranger, one of France’s top literary awards.  And since this first The Hungry Tidenovel he has continued to write award winning novels.  His 2nd novel, Shadow Lines, published in 1988 is on the Princeton Reading List for Comparative Literature and which won him the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1989.  He has also written a number of non fiction works but his most notable works are the novels; The Glass Palace, Sea of Poppies, and River of Smoke.

Here is a taste of Ghosh’s wonderful writing from The Glass Palace (2000) from the author’s website:

‘There was only one person in the food-stall who knew exactly what that sound was that was rolling in across the plain, along the silver curve of the Irrawaddy, to the western wall of Mandalay’s fort. His name was Rajkumar and he was an Indian, a boy of eleven – not an authority to be relied upon.  The The Glass Palacenoise was unfamiliar and unsettling, a distant booming followed by low, stuttering growls. At times it was like the snapping of dry twigs, sudden and unexpected. And then, abruptly, it would change to a deep rumble, shaking the food-stall and rattling its steaming pot of soup. The stall had only two benches, and they were both packed with people, sitting pressed up against each other. It was cold, the start of central Burma’s brief but chilly winter, and the sun had not risen high enough yet to burn off the damp mist that had drifted in at dawn from the river. When the first booms reached the stall there was a silence, followed by a flurry of questions and whispered answers. People looked around in bewilderment: What is it? Ba le? What can it be? And then Rajkumar’s sharp, excited voice cut through the buzz of speculation. “English cannon,” he said in his fluent but heavily accented Burmese. “They’re shooting somewhere up the river. Heading in this direction.”

His Ibis Trilogy has been very popular among his fans and begins with Sea of Poppies (2008), followed by River of Smoke (2010), and the final book to be published in 2015 will be entitled Flood of Fire.  In the article Fashioning Narrative Pleasures From River of Smoke (Ibis trilogy, #2)Narcotic Ones by Chandrahas Choudhury  you get a feel for the Ibis trilogy so far:

‘No writer in modern India has held a novelistic lamp to the subcontinent’s densely thicketed past as vividly and acutely as Amitav Ghosh. Since the publication of “The Circle of Reason,” in the mid-1980s, Ghosh’s work has been animated by its inventive collages and connections. “River of Smoke,” the second volume of his ambitious Ibis trilogy, is the work of a writer with a historical awareness and an appetite for polyphony that are equal to the immense demands of the material he seeks to illuminate.  Like its predecessor, “Sea of Poppies,” this new novel fashions narrative pleasures from narcotic ones, exploring the fizzing currents of language, politics, trade and culture that swept through the vast opium network operated by the British East India Company in the 19th century. “Sea of Poppies” was set almost entirely in the cities, harbors and plains of India, the source of the poppies from which the opium was made. “River of Smoke” takes the action forward to the same opium’s destination, the Chinese trading outpost of Canton.’

Have you read anything by Amitav Ghosh?  What was your favourite novel?

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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Writer Spotlight: Donna Tartt

I decided to share with you information about Donna Tartt and her other novels – I recently finished The Goldfinch (2013) by Tartt and since I really enjoyed the novel I would like TARTTto read more by her.  As it turns out Tartt publishes a novel once every decade more or less so there are only 3 novels to read by her.  The fact that she publishes so rarely makes me feel even more intrigued in her other works as she obviously spends a great deal of time on each novel, perfecting it.  If The Goldfinch is anything to go by that means there is great reading held within the pages of the other 2 novels for sure.

Tartt was born in Mississippi, US, in 1963.  She went to the University of Mississippi in 1981 where Barry Hannah, writer in residence at the university at the time, was her teacher.  In a Paris Review interview – The Art of Fiction no 184 – he praised her talent:

“The writing was so bad here [Ole Miss] I almost went right back to Iowa, but I got one genius, Donna Tartt. Willie Morris was a writer-in-residence in journalism and he said, “Hannah, I got a little genius for you.” She was a freshman in my graduate workshop. She was well read; all she needed was life and a story. She says I was her best teacher—introduced me that way in New York at a reading—but if you come here that loaded, not much teaching is required. Most people at eighteen haven’t read much. They haven’t read Keats or the French poets as she had. Poe. She was deeply literary when she got here. I wasn’t like that and I hardly ever see the species. Perhaps in the East, where they go to boarding school. Just a rare genius, really. A literary star.”

The Secret History

Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History, was published in 1992 and became a bestseller.  The novel is described as an inverted detective story as it reveals the murder, location, and perpetrators in the opening pages.  Not a whodunnit but a whydunnit.

“Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another…a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life…and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning…”

Tartt’s second novel, The Little Friend, was published in 2002 and won Tartt the WH Smith Literary Award in 2003.  The Little Friend is a different kind of The Little Friendnovel from her first and she talks to Katharine Viner of the Guardian about how she wanted to write something technically different:

“After The Secret History I wanted to write a different kind of book on every single level,” she says. “I wanted to take on a completely different set of technical problems. The Secret History was all from the point of view of Richard, a single camera, but the new book is symphonic, like War And Peace. That’s widely thought to be the most difficult form.” She reiterates this throughout the interview – that what drives her novel-writing is purely technical, a labour for new writerly challenges, rather than particular concerns or fascinations, such as the return to the south of her childhood, or a search for truth.”

On GoodReads The Little Friend is described as set “in a small Mississippi town, [where] Harriet Cleve Dufresnes grows up in the shadow of her brother, who – when she was only a baby – was found hanging dead from a black-tupelo tree in their yard. His killer was never identified, nor has his family, in the years since, recovered from the tragedy.” For Harriet, who has grown up largely unsupervised, in a world of her own imagination, her brother is a link to a glorious past she has only heard stories about or glimpsed in photograph albums. Fiercely determined, precocious far beyond her twelve years, and steeped in the adventurous literature of Stevenson, Kipling, and Conan Doyle, she resolves, one summer, to solve the murder and exact her revenge. Harriet’s sole ally in this quest, her friend Hely, is devoted to her, but what they soon encounter has nothing to do with child’s play: it is dark, adult, and all too menacing.”

Tartt also explained to Viner, after The Little Friend‘s publication, the decade it took to write the second novel:

“It took a full decade to write The Little Friend. “I can’t think of anything worse than having to turn out a book every year. It would be hell,” she says. “Part of the problem with success is that it seduces people into overproduction. When my first book came out, I was very confused because I was thrown into a world that I knew nothing about. I just kind of lived like a student, worked like a student. And then all of a sudden – well, the metaphor that comes to mind is a shark tank. It wasn’t quite that bad. But it was a shock. It was a bucket of cold water. People you’d meet and talk to and journalists would say, ‘Oh, what are you going to do to top this one? If your name’s not out there in two years, people will forget all about you.’ I mean, jeez, what are they talking about? William Styron said, when he was about my age, that he realised he had about five books in him, and that was OK. I think I have about the same number. Five.”

The GoldfinchAnd with this in mind it comes as no surprise that it was 11 years before Tartt’s third book, The Goldfinch, was published in 2013.

“A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends’ apartments and on the city streets. He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother, a small, mysteriously captivating painting that soon draws Theo into the art underworld.”

Read my review of The Goldfinch here.

Have you read any of Donna Tartt’s novels?  What are your thoughts?

2014 International Book & Writers Festivals

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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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Writer Spotlight: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a prominent author of African literature.  She was born in Nigeria, lives in America, but continues to go between the two  countries

teaching writing workshops in Nigeria.  Adichie’s novels have been translated into 30 languages and she has won various prestigious awards for her work.

Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), received wide critical acclaim; it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (2005).

Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), named after the flag of the short-lived nation of Biafra, is set before and during the Biafran War. It was awarded the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Her third book, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), is a collection of short stories.
In 2010 she was listed among the authors of The New Yorker′s “20 Under 40” Fiction Issue.[6] Adichie’s story, “Ceiling”, was included in the 2011 edition of The Best American Short Stories.

In 2013 she published her fourth novel, Americanah. (wikipedia)  All blurbs are from GoodReads.

Purple HibiscusPurple Hibiscus

The limits of fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world are defined by the high walls of her family estate and the dictates of her fanatically religious father. Her life is regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study, prayer.  When Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, Kambili’s father, involved mysteriously in the political crisis, sends her to live with her aunt. In this house, noisy and full of laughter, she discovers life and love – and a terrible, bruising secret deep within her family.  This extraordinary debut novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Half of a Yellow Sun, is about the blurred lines between the old gods and the new, childhood and adulthood, love and hatred – the grey spaces in which truths are revealed and real life is lived. (GoodReads)

Half of a Yellow SunHalf of a Yellow Sun

With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.  Epic, ambitious, and triumphantly realized, Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all. Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise and the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place, bringing us one of the most powerful, dramatic, and intensely emotional pictures of modern Africa that we have ever had. (GoodReads)

The Thing Around Your NeckThe Thing Around Your Neck

In “A Private Experience,” a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she’s been pushing away. In “Tomorrow is Too Far,” a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother’s death. The young mother at the center of “Imitation” finds her comfortable life in Philadelphia threatened when she learns that her husband has moved his mistress into their Lagos home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to reexamine them.  Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. The Thing Around Your Neck is a resounding confirmation of the prodigious literary powers of one of our most essential writers. (GoodReads)

AmericanahAmericanah

As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.  Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives.  Fearless, gripping, at once darkly funny and tender, spanning three continents and numerous lives, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s most powerful and astonishing novel yet. (GoodReads)

Adichie recently gave an interview to the Boston Review surrounding her newly released novel Americanah and Aaron Bady had this to say about Adichie and Americanah:

“By the end of the interview, I understood something about her new novel that I don’t think I could have learned without meeting her. Like its author, Americanah can be painfully blunt, but it’s never unkind, never purposefully hurtful. And it’s meant to be funny. If she touches on uncomfortable topics—racial tension between Africans and African Americans, for example, or the silliness of white people—she does so without judgment, only deep and careful interest in the things that human beings do. She writes to understand and empathize. But most of all, she wrote this book for herself, because she wanted to write a love story about hair and race and visa applications, about Nigerians in America. She wanted to write a novel that was a little bit light-hearted, as un-serious and trivial and overloaded with superfluities as life itself. And because it is the novel she wanted to write, she doesn’t mind that much if you don’t find it funny. That’s up to you. Her job was just to write it.”

Read the full interview and get a closer look at the person behind these novels.

The official Chimamanda Adichie website: http://chimamanda.com/

What kind of books should we be reading? Kafka knows.

A Piece of Monologue’s wonderful post:

Franz Kafka: ‘A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us’

From a letter by Franz Kafka to his schoolmate Oskar Pollak, 27 January 1904 (translated by Richard and Clara Winston): ‘I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.’

For more gems like this and other interesting articles head over to the A Piece of Monologue blog

International Book & Writers’ Festivals 2013

book-festival.jpg

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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Writer Spotlight: Lee Child

As you may have noticed, Lee Child’s novels tend to come out on top of the New York Times Best Sellers’ List and his recent Reacher novel, Worth Dying For, is no exception.  In fact, Worth Dying For made the list on the 29th of October taking the number one spot, held it for a second week and is still in the top ten now.

Lee Child is the pseudonym of British crime writer Jim Grant.  Born in 1954, Child was born, raised and educated in England.  He went to the University of Sheffield to study Law but upon graduating took a job as presentation director at Granada Television where he spent 18 years.  After being fired in 1995,  due to corporate restructuring, Child began his writing career.  His first novel, Killing Floor the first of the Jack Reacher series, was published in 1997.  In the summer of 1998 he moved to the US.  He currently lives between his Manhattan apartment and country home in France.  In November 2008, Child took up a Visiting Professorship at the University of Sheffield and in 2009 he funded 52 Jack Reacher scholarships to the university.

According to Wikipedia, Child’s inspiration for his main character’s name came about because

he is himself tall and, in a supermarket, his wife Jane told him: “Hey, if this writing thing doesn’t pan out, you could always be a reacher in a supermarket.”… “I thought, Reacher — good name.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Child

Bibliography: The Jack Reacher Series

  1. Killing Floor (March 1997) (Anthony Award & Barry Award winner, Dilys Award & Macavity Award nominee)
  2. Die Trying (July 1998) (WH Smith Thumping Good Read Award winner)
  3. Tripwire (June 1999)
  4. Running Blind/The Visitor (published as The Visitor in the UK and Australia) (April 2000)
  5. Echo Burning (April 2001)
  6. Without Fail (April 2002) (Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award & Dilys Award nominee)
  7. Persuader (April 2003) (Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award nominee)
  8. The Enemy (Prequel, occurs before Killing Floor) (April 2004) (Dilys Award nominee)
  9. One Shot (April 2005) (Macavity Award nominee)
  10. The Hard Way (May 2006)
  11. Bad Luck and Trouble (April 2007)
  12. Nothing to Lose (March 2008)
  13. Gone Tomorrow (April 2009)
  14. 61 Hours (March 2010)
  15. Worth Dying For (September 2010)

For more detailed information about the character, Jack Reacher, and the specific plots of each Reacher novel follow this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Reacher

The author’s official website is www.leechild.com where you can find novel covers, synopses, reviews and extracts along with a lot of other interesting multimedia stuff.

Writer Spotlight: Aesop

Aesop.  Aesop’s fables.  Aesop is a famous guy, we know him as the great fable teller whose stories are still used to teach children valuable morals through animal characters.  You may even have read a few yourself, but even if you haven’t the point is you’ve probably heard of them at some point.  The strange thing about Aesop is that he is practically unknown.  Yes he is famous, but what is factually known about his life?  Not very much it seems…

Aesop’s life has left so little evidence of his existence that some scholars, such as Martin Luther (1483-1546), deny he ever lived.  Aesop’s place of birth is also highly contended and the following places are the nominations for his birthplace: Thrace, Phrygia, Aethiopia, Samos, Athens and Sardis.  Not only is it clear that we are uncertain of his nationality but no one is one hundred percent sure what he looked like either.  Richard Lobban (Professor of African Studies) has discussed the likelihood of his name being derived from the Greek word ‘Aethiopian’ which referred to people of dark skin from the African Interior.  Another point made to support the hypothesis that Aesop may have originated from the African Interior is the content of his fables which have been argued to contain animals predominantly present on the African continent as opposed to Europe or Greece.  Aesop has at times been depicted in sculptures as having physical deformities or being hideous.  He is also said by some to have had a speech impediment which was miraculously cured by a deity.  Debate rages on, however and even these few details are not a certainty.

Since we know so little about the guy how did he come to be famous in the first place?  It turns out that Aesop has appeared in the works of great ancient authors such as; Aristophanes, Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle and particular documents which give accounts of his life are ‘The Life of Aesop’ and ‘The Book of Xanthus the Philosopher and his Slave Aesop’.  It is from these accounts that Aesop became known as the slave to a man named Xanthus who lived on an island called Samos around 550 B.C. but he is also said to be the slave of a man named Ladmon of the same island – Samos.  Aesop apparently did not capture his fables in the written form himself and it may have been the above mentioned authors that set about that task after having heard his stories told.

Aesop is then said to have been freed from slavery by Ladmon according to Herodotus’ ‘History’ which contains the earliest mention of him.  How do we know that Aesop was released from slavery?  It is said that his public defence of Samian Demagogue (Aristotle, Rhetoric, ii 20) which could only have taken place with him a free man is reason to believe so.

Aesop’s life is shrouded in mystery and even in death the mystery and debate continues.  Herodotus describes Aesop’s death as violent at the hands of the people of Delphi who pushed him off a cliff although the cause is unknown, or the cause is the theft of a silver cup, while others say the theft of the silver cup was a separate death incident altogether having nothing to do with Delphi or the cliff.

Whoever he was, I think it is inspiring that someone’s work can live on for so long without any idea of the true identity of the author.  Today, it is refreshing because now more than ever identity comes before the work or often, at the expense of the work.

Speaking of the work, here is a short list of some of Aesop’s fables:

The Lion and the Mouse
The Ant and the Grasshopper
The Tortoise and the Hare
The Fox and the Goat
The Fox and the Crane (or Crow)
The Fox and the Grapes
The Dog and the Bone
The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Hen (or Goose) that Laid the Golden Eggs
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
The North Wind and the Sun
The Ass in the Lion’s Skin
The Old Man and Death

I found these sites very interesting so for more information please visit the following websites:

www.online-literature.com/aesop/

www.biographybase.com/biography/Aesop.html

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesop