Friday, 22 October 2010

Fiction Uncovered (finally)

Hurrah!  Good news at last for the much derided “mid-list” author. A new scheme – Fiction Uncovered – is being launched today to promote the work of these literary Cinderellas. 

The work of eight writers of novels, short stories and graphic novels will be publicized – and any writer is eligible as long as they "deserve recognition but have yet to receive a major literary prize or media attention, or be picked for retailer promotions".
Waterstone’s, Foyles and the Book Depository are all involved and Fiction Uncovered will also work with other organizations and independent bookshops. Reading groups will be encouraged to join in by The Reading Agency.
Let’s just hope that the publishers of the obscure yet deserving writers picked for this promotion are willing to cough up the £1,250 they will be charged.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


More on the virtue of patience in the world of words.

Mark Twain, author of “Hucklberry Finn” and one of most influential American writers of the nineteenth century, stipulated that his autobiography which he described himself as – “a complete and purposed jumble” must not be published until 100 years after his death.

He died in 1910, and in 2010 his book is flying off the shelves.  Would it have done such good business if it had come out four years before the start of World War I?  Who can say – but you have to admire his PR style.

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Long Game

One of the themes that will be a recurring feature of this blog is that while writing may not be a lucrative game, it IS a long one. Dreaming of overnight success is the mark of an amateur. Look more closely at almost any writer who came "out of nowhere" and you'll find they have been writing for years. They may not have been published, but they have been learning their craft.

At the extreme end of this spectrum is German resistance fighter Hans Keilson, who fought the Nazis with the Dutch resistance and wrote a novel about his experiences 63 years ago. The Guardian reports that, at the age of 101, he has lived to see his book published in the UK for the first time, and has won belated recognition in the US as one of the greatest writers in the world.

His book Comedy in a Minor Key, follows the best selling success of an earlier novel The Death of the Adversary, published in the US when he was 100. So, if you think you a bit old to get started in the writing game, take heart. And some vitamin supplements - you may need to stick around for some time...

Sunday, 17 October 2010


Sifting through the various feeds and newsletters that fill my inbox with information about The World of Publishing. Hmm.

Serial killer fiction still the staple of escapist thrillers. (Why is reading about women being tortured in cellars a primary form of relaxation in Equality Britain? Answers please!) Amazon have new digital platform for short stories. (Need to get my head round this, will be back to you on this when I understand it properly.) The Frankfurt Book fair has been and gone and was busier than expected. (Went to the London Book Fair last year and it was curiously similar to any other trade fair, with that curious non-atmosphere and a general mood of caffeine-fuelled claustrophobia.)

Here’s a news item for you: J.K. Rowling has been voted the most influential woman in Britain by National Magazines, publishers of Cosmo and similar fat glossies. (But then again, Forbes magazine says Michelle Obama is the most influential woman in the whole world, so marrying Barack trumps inventing Harry. Or perhaps her upper arms are just more toned.)

Deep breath….and relax. This is the stuff of migraine.  I have a writer friend in California who goes through a little ritual every time he sits down to write. He closes his eyes, then focuses on Famous Writer info, self-doubt, accumulated put-downs, unease about his lack of ability, self-doubt, EPA (Empty Page Anxiety) and general white noise. Then he imagines a black box, opens it, puts all this fizzing doubt inside and sends it into outer space.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Money for old jokes?

Big literary news item of the week is of course that Howard Jacobson got the Booker for The Finkler Question, a novel which had mixed reviews, and certainly wasn’t the bookie’s favourite to win.  Lifetime achievement award, or overdue recognition of comic writing from the literary establishment? (I'll let you know when I've read it - still got last year's winner Wolf Hall on my bedside table, to be honest.)

If comic writing has been overlooked by prize judges, it certainly hasn’t been ignored by commercial publishers – the latest stand up to benefit from this is Michael McIntyre who (perhaps unwisely) informed interviewer Lynn Barber in a Sunday Times interview that he received a £2m advance from Michael Joseph for his memoir Life and Laughing.  (All the way to the bank?)

Depressed, moi? Professional writers do not get depressed when our authorial colleagues are a. garnered with awards or b.given shed-loads of money. No. We apply the biro to the page, and press on.

Friday, 15 October 2010

I write therefore I am.

What is a "proper" writer, anyway? Someone who writes, silly. The rest is about being picked, packaged and trussed up in Waterstones with the three-for-twos. (If you're lucky.) As you are reading this, you are probably one yourself. If so, make sure you do that thing today.

Write some words. Go on. I just did, and it didn't hurt a bit.