Friday, 22 April 2011


What should we look for in fiction? Are the "best" books those which are deemed to be "literary"? There seems to be an assumption about some critics - and readers - that genre fiction is always of a lower order, written cynically or obediently by lesser artists who lack the vision, originality or courage of the True Writer. Sara Sheridan (above) raises this issue in relation to the forthcoming Edinburgh Festival, and the BBC has been accused of similar snobbishness.

Writing in the Guardian, Sheridan says:

"I live in a City of Literature, but I worry about that title. I think I'd rather live in a City of Words. Literature, to me, isn't necessarily a good thing – it's exclusive, for a start. It doesn't sell to ordinary people in mass-market locations. It tells people what they ought to want to read, rather than simply grabbing readers by the imagination (which to me, has always been a writer's job, whether they are literary or not)."

Very true. This insistence on a literary pecking order is the result of muddled thinking. The divisions between literary and genre fiction have not been made by writers, but by publishers and booksellers. In fact, literary fiction is itself a genre, which came into being in the late 1960s when the Booker Prize was conceived to promote "serious" writing. What matters is that writers write good books, not where they are situated in Waterstones, or the minds of critics.

Thursday, 14 April 2011


One of the wisest men in cinematic history is Danny the drug dealer from 'Withnail & I'. And yet, his advice is widely ignored. Perhaps because it is extremely hard to follow. But just for the record, here it is again....

'Find your neutral space.' If there is one thing that a writer MUST do, that's it. Oh, and write as well. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


Now, the thing is, I have been vg in terms of setting up some kind of virtual identity, but my fear that this might prove to be another distraction (from writing) was well founded. I am drawn towards my Facebook page by some horrible cyber-gravity, irritated when people comment on each other's pages but not on mine, wrong-footed by the glamorous and famous and their seemingly effortless communication with the similarly blessed.

I am sitting here at my kitchen table, and quite frankly I would rather live inside my own head than peer queasily into other people's.... So what does that make me? Salinger? Emily Dickinson? I wish that was my problem - but it's the opposite. It's this corrosive desire to be relevant and likable and to be blended in. Sometimes, socialnetworkspace is not the right place for writers to be. Sorry, Zeitgeist.

Sunday, 3 April 2011


Motherhood is meant to be long one guilt trip. So much so that I feel guilty if I don't feel guilty - only slackers think they are just about getting it right. But if you want to do anything else apart from rant/agonise/spend/yell/micro-manage/spend/rant/agonise you have to give yourself a break sometimes. Having kids is not an excuse for not writing: it's just a mammoth day job.

Cheering thoughts from The Observer, who have come up with a brilliant roguess's gallery of dire fictional mums. Top of the list are meddling, foolish Mrs Bennett; the wonderfully dysfunctional Marge Simpson and dear old Norma Bates. Something for everyone, really...

And just think, if we were all perfect, where would we get our material? Good people are notoriously dull in fiction, so let's hear it for bad enough mums everywhere.