Archive for the ‘writing wisdom’ Category

Find Your Happy: be it at work or elsewhere…

April 14, 2018

Find Your Happy

I find myself, as the Easter holidays shuffle to their inevitable end, a happy person, despite the return to work – something I’m not as enamoured of as would be useful. I am happy because I have spent most of the holidays indulging my passion. Yes, I’ve been writing like a mad-woman, making up for lost time, living in my own strange worlds, playing with words, having a wonderful time. Actually achieving all the little writing tasks on my list.

I have, in no particular order; revised and submitted a poem for a competition; revised an old story down from over 4000 words to 3000 words for another competition; re-cast the opening of my PhD novel and had a lovely couple of days re-reading and lightly editing that – perhaps time to send it off into the harsh and brutal world of agents and small publishing houses again? And I’ve returned to my sequel to my murder-mystery – which could probably do with some revisions too. And written a couple of blogs – this being one.

In fact the original blog for this week was about being envious of people who love their work, who find their passion in their work, and wondering where mine went. But it wasn’t going well, it was turning into a big moan, an extended bit of self-indulgent self-pity. Not a good writing place to be. And, I have blogged on such things before.

Yes, I am envious of those who find joy in their job – it is the best way to be. But I am not without joy; in my life, or in my work. It’s just buried under a load of shit and cynicism from being in the job for too long. It’s better that people love their work, and especially those who work in my profession and my envy was about a former colleague (Rose, you wonder) who loves her work, who finds her passion in her job, which augurs well for a profession constantly under attack and struggling to attract newcomers.

If I think about it I can find joy in my work, and it’s important that you do too. Work matters: we spend an inordinate amount of time there; it pays the bills, keeps our world turning, gives shape to our days and brings a degree of self respect and self worth. Despite my frequent moaning about my job it has brought a great deal of satisfaction.

At the end of my career I will rest easy knowing I have actually done something positive with my working life: that I have added to the value of the world; that I have helped a great many young people along the way – either into books and the wonders of literature, or into becoming wonderful people. It is the best part of my job – young people becoming who they are, becoming good people, decent citizens: assets to the planet. Grades matter, but it’s all that other stuff that is more important, more rewarding. Just a shame that politicians and Ofsted don’t really get that bit about the wonder and importance of education…

And what if there isn’t enough joy at work – well you must find it or make it elsewhere.  Life isn’t just about bills, having things, and keeping your head above water, about paddling madly like the duck on the pond. But it isn’t about doing it alland having it all either. Despite the plethora of memes telling you to ditch the shit of life, most of us can’t just take off to the depths of the Brazilian rain forest, ride the trains and planes of the world living on beans and rice, or hide in some cabin in the woods for a year… Remember life isn’t a series of Face-book posts, memes or Instagram photos.

Joy comes from the small moments, the everyday things. You may be missing them being caught up in the drudge of your work or the nonsense of social media. Joy comes from family – you know that. Being with them, being in contact with them, having them in your lives. And friends too – just the same. And like me, hobbies or interests where your passion can thrive and keep you from going insane. Not to mention being outside. Get moving, be in the fresh air, feel alive.

Work is important, we can’t get away from that. And we need to give it some credit – it does pay the bills, it gives shape and meaning to our existence, it does reward us (even if not as much as we might like) it gives us friends (I’ve made some of my best friends at work, met my beloved there), it allows us to appreciate our holidays more, and it allows the rest of our life to happen.

But being happy matters too: it is not to be over-rated. Don’t subsume your whole life in a job that makes you miserable, don’t let the bastards grind you down, don’t let the ‘company’ own your very soul – once they’ve sucked everything from you and you have nothing left to give they willthrow you on the scrap heap. Most of us do have a sell buy date. But equally, don’t throw away a decent job on some vague belief that work doesn’t matter, that somehow it’s the other idiots you work with, that there is some magic perfection of a career somewhere, if only you could find it. Perhaps it’s you that’s the joy-sucker, not the job???

You know what to do: find a way to have both – a job that sustains you and a life that enriches you. You know it’s possible – it’s about being smart, about balance, about small joys every day. Go get it, find your happy. (Images from Private Collection)

How to Make Working from Home Work for You – tips and traps

July 6, 2013

I have happily stepped away from full time employment. It was not an entirely welcome event, but as it’s turned out, it’s been a timely event and now, on this sunny summer morning, it is a most pleasant thing.

As a working mother I have had extended periods away from traditional full time work over the last thirty years. I’ve had my babies and done some extra study as well. I like NOT working, it’s fine by me. I don’t miss the nonsense and rubbish that goes with working in a large organisation full of the range of humanity, both good and bad. I like having time to think and breath. I like being in charge of myself, answerable to me. But being an essentially organised person helps a great deal here, as I sit at my desk day in day out.

As I think about this, it is very much like student study times – there’s no point being on swot vac if you haven’t sorted out what you’re going to do with your time. If you have things to achieve then you must plan to ensure things happen on a day to day basis otherwise you’ll fritter away your time and achieve zip. Not a good thing, if you intend to remain self-employed, working from home.



So, here are some hints for successfully working at home.

5 Tips for Success

1.Understand the nature of your work

*What is the nature and scope of your task(s)?

*How much time do you need to complete the whole task, or parts of it?

*What resources do you need – do you have them close by – a library, other people, relevant materials and equipment?

*What is the value of the task or your time to complete it?

2.Allocate time appropriately

This can be a big trap, either pretending to work because you’re at your desk or over allocating time so that you do nothing but work. Are you working by the hour or by the task? What does completion look like for you?

*Look at your day, break it down into chunks, include breaks, exercise, lunch; even an afternoon nap, and do allow for time-wasting, it’s okay too (but see distractions below). Sometimes it may be easier to look at your week overall, instead of day by day. You can have a day out with friends, but choose to work longer hours the day before or after.

*Aim for a weekly total of hours or tasks and try to stick to it. If it’s not working reconsider your targets, your work rate. Are you being too ambitious or too modest?

*Consider your own working style – are you better in the morning or the evening? Plan your day around your times of peak efficiency, your 8 hour  (more or less) day is now up to you to organise to suit your personal working style and/or family needs.

*Have your weekend too – it is important to properly rest as well as work – there is no point in being your own boss if you don’t enjoy the freedoms it brings as well. After all, isn’t part of working from home spending more time with your loved ones, doing the other things you enjoy in life?

3.Dealing with Distractions

*Turn off the internet, if you can – especially do not open Twitter or FaceBook – their constant activity will take your full attention from your task.

*Keep others out of your workroom – make it clear that there are times when you are working and must not be disturbed. This takes a while for children and spouses to get hold of, so be firm and clear – but never rude.

4.Stay Connected

*You will need to maintain professional contacts to work effectively in your field – so be in chat groups, professional associations, be on Linkedin, be in touch with people who can help you and support you in working independently – go to lunch, email, message, but keep it limited to certain times of the day

*You will still need your friends so don’t let them go. Some of the people you worked with were mates as well as colleagues, so stay in touch with them. They will know what’s happening in the real world and you can catch up on gossip and other tasty tit-bits that could enhance your work. Remember other people can inspire and help you too just by listening to you or sharing their world too. Don’t shut yourself off when you step away from mainstream work.

5.Make your workplace attractive and work-like

*Most of us need order to work effectively, so set up your work place or room to suit you. Have the things you need close by – texts, notes, equipment. Have a clear space, have a notice board, have a calendar, use sticky notes – electronic or hardcopy – so you know where you’re up to, key dates and things to do.

* You can put some decorative things in there too – pictures, mementos and trinkets add to it being your space. Play music too, it helps many of us concentrate, be it Mozart or Zeppelin.

*A pleasant workspace helps you work better and more effectively. If you enjoy being in your ‘office’ it will be easier to be there every day and get things done.

work room


8 Traps to Avoid

1.Over-committing your time

2.Pretending you’ve done five hours when you’ve done two

3.Not exercising or taking time out from your work/tasks

4.Becoming too isolated in your new life and losing contact with friends or family

5.Under-valuing your skills and time and charging too little for what you do

6.Over-charging for your time and skills such that you price yourself out of the market

7.Working all the time – working from home does not necessarily mean a 7 day week – take at least one full day off from the desk or the workshop!

8.Beating yourself up! Give yourself a break, allow some time to get used to being independent, expect to make mistakes: it’s okay, just don’t make the same mistakes again and again. Remember moving from working for others to working for yourself is a HUGE step.


Finally, you need to know yourself. Some people are not cut out for working for themselves or from home. The nature of the work/task or your personality may mitigate against this work choice. If you need the stimulation of others, if you need someone else to direct and monitor you to keep you on task and to deadline then working for yourself will not work. We need to work, we need money to live. But having worked for others for too many years now, I’d much rather take my chances with me!! (Images courtesy of Private Collection)

Endings are as important as Beginnings- in writing & life

April 8, 2013

As writers we know we must begin with a bang, something that the reader/agent/publisher/examiner can’t resist. We want impact, engagement, originality to make the audience want to read this little bit, this taster and then to read on, to enjoy the banquet of eloquence set down before them.

In fact, we want this as we begin new parts of our life too. We prepare for hours for a night out, a party, the first date. We do the same for a job interview, for the first day at our new workplace, school or university. We research, we plan, we prepare. We want to be liked, loved, chosen. We know we have to begin as we mean to go on – that you only get the one go to make that vital first impression.


And, if we’re lucky, if we’ve worked hard enough (because it is more about work than luck and more young people need to get hold of this simple idea) then we will prevail. We will have made the mark we want to make and not look back.

For a while anyway…

Ask any writer and they’ll tell you that writing the book is the easy bit, getting it published and read – getting it out there – is the hard bit. Ask anyone who’s been married for more than five minutes and they’ll tell you staying married, sticking at it, is the hard bit. Marriage takes work. Being successful in your job takes work too – riding the waves of success, surviving the troughs of disaster. It’s the middle of the essay where the big marks are. It’s the keeping going that shows who we are – tenacious, smart, flexible, resilient. The middle is the hard part where you can see the shore, you’re swimming towards it but the current sweeps you away, or a storm confounds you, or the sharks keep circling you want to stop or leave but must keep going, because usually the rewards are worth it. Remember Odysseus, his long journey home after the battle at Troy; remember the transition stage of delivery, when you can’t go back but a few more pushes, a sniff of gas and there is your beautiful baby.



And then there are the endings…

For some time now I’ve been teaching my beloved charges about the strength of their openings but not without attention to the importance of ending well. The examiner needs to be sucked in, but then she has to be reminded of the quality of the writing by a sound, memorable ending. Novels too must end effectively and leave the reader satisfied, wondering, uncertain – a range of emotional possibilities but they must feel something. As long as it’s not disappointment. A novelist’s job is to craft and work those words and sentences so that their message, their idea is left reverberating long after the reading has gone. As Edgar Allan Poe almost said: leave the reader feeling something, and as if their time was well spent. Sometimes it’s easier to begin with your ending and work backwards. Knowing how to end your novel can be as important as how to start it. I struggled with my latest effort (Ophelia, for my study) with the first couple of full drafts ending with a limp, wet ending that even I didn’t like. It took until draft 4 to get an ending that resonates, that has emotional impact and now I’m back to the beginning.

But too often we don’t have control over our endings. Relationships fail and we walk away too easily without thinking through the consequences of that failure. An ending that could have been avoided? Perhaps we should have talked more, taken more notice of the other one, been more considerate, more involved, less angry and selfish? More of us should think of the damage from discarding a relationship too easily – what are we left with? Debts, broken homes, damaged children, debilitating loneliness? Before you end a relationship make sure you’re doing so for the right reasons, because there is violence or abuse, because you have done all you can to make it work and you’ve thought through the next step: you’ve planned your ending, so you have an idea of the steps you will have to take towards making a positive new beginning.

What of work, when that sours, what do you do? Do you plan your exit as carefully as you planned your interview, your first day? Work can be a treacherous place and just like a relationship it can be very tricky to call the ending effectively. But to resign in temper, to go sick or stressed indefinitely is no way to end a job. Where is your dignity, your self respect, your ability to get another job and you will need one. Don’t act in haste, consider what is right about your job, what needs changing and where your best options lie. Like moving house or remodelling the existing one, the choices are never that cut and dried. Plan your work exit as carefully, if not moreso, as your beginning. Reputation matters. Leave things completed, leave on good terms (as far as is possible); say goodbye and leave any nastiness to someone else. This is about dignity and self respect. Marriage the same – it does you no good to end on a speech replete with spleen and bile. Go in peace, the quiet dignified way so you can begin again with your own integrity in tack.


Endings are the doorway to new beginnings. Just because you change jobs doesn’t mean you won’t remain in contact with those people, especially if you remain in the same industry: you may need to call upon them one day. Divorced parents need to remain civil for their children’s sake, if nothing else: and you can build a whole new relationship as some of the pressures that pushed you apart fade away. Some people  re-marry! Leaving home for the first time is an ending but it is the beginning of a whole new life. You don’t want to slam the metaphorical door on your parents, do you?   After all, the way the world is you may meet or need your past again. None of us can see the future well enough to burn all our bridges…


And finally, the ultimate ending…

Go out as you want. Death stalks us all and it isn’t ghoulish to plan your own funeral. In fact I think it is a thoughtful thing to do for your loved ones, who in their grief (we hope!) will be relieved of the burden of guessing what you want. So make plans – pick your music – a bit of Highway to Hell if you must, choose your flowers, pick the poetry you want read, opt for a Viking funeral if you want, decide on the casket, book the church or which ever venue suits you. Pick the headstone and epitaph too – actually I would NOT leave this to others. Plan it as meticulously as anything else – make it the best ending ever, not forgetting to cater for the after party where your loved ones can drink your booze, eat your canapés and lament your passing. After all you want your family and friends to know you’ve gone!

viking f

Remember, beginnings matter for a whole range of areas, things where you are in control. But can you remember how you came into the world? Is there anyone left who was there? You may not ‘be’ at your own ending but you can be in control of it and make sure you are remembered as you want.

Life and stories – beginnings, middles and endings – over and over, again and again. (Images courtesy Google Images)

Why Write?

April 6, 2013

Why do anything, come to that? But in a world of words and an iMac groaning with a million of my own published and unpublished words, I do ask, as a writer should from time to time: why do I do what I do?

There are the romantics and the realists, the famous and the desperate, the paid and the unpaid. I have been paid for my writing, I have won prizes and been published. As I type and you read, my small collection of e-books garners a tiny income every day. But I am far from famous and not sure on any day how desperate or realistic I am about my writing ambitions.


Writing is one of the oldest professions, well story telling is and that is really what I am discussing herein. Men at war, travellers, families around their evening fires told stories to entertain and while away the evening. The Odyssey, the Canterbury Tales, Beowulf all come to us from this tradition. In the beginning we told stories about great deeds, noble acts and people – we told stories to inspire and teach lessons about how to behave, how to be noble and great. We made up scary fairy stories to keep our children out of the wolf heaving woods, away from the bears and things that would eat them.

Writing was for entertaining, for enjoyment, a way to connect with others. That’s not changed. The fact that we write so many different stories every day does not alter the prime imperative to entertain and say something meaningful.

the odyssey


So to one of my central points: a writer needs a reader. Many preferably but one can be enough. You know what it’s like reading stories to your child at night – it needs only the two of you – the story teller and the listener. It’s one of the most intimate relationships there is: writer and reader, as cosy and close as lovers.

These days it is like a return to the past of the old story-teller around the fire – the reader is right there responding, cheering, booing, crying. The teller discovers which bits work, which bits need refining and the next time his tale will be that bit different, that bit more atuned to the audience. Today we are in that space again with people able to comment on blogs, write reviews on-line, vote for stories to be funded based on a reading in a public place. The writer is right there in the face of the reader – no longer an anonymous distance separating them only troubled by a fan letter or a signing from time to time. This is the tradition Fan Fiction falls within – post a chapter, get responses, revise and modify your story and if you are a certain female parodying another certain female’s story of love and passion you have a best-seller. Yes, I am talking about 50 Shades of Grey!

The thing I really like about Fan Fiction and the reason I quite admire EL James, is that long ago many of us wrote stories in our exercise books based on other stories, imagining ourselves into a world created by others and now such secret writings can be shared with others, so we can see if what we’re doing is valued by someone else, someone who likes the original stories too and wants to spend more time there. Readers are voracious creatures, once they find something they love they remain devoted for life. You simply have to witness the popularity of a ‘series’ in any genre.

fan fiction


Why do you write? The famous and great still seem to start with a story for themselves, an idea that won’t be ignored. JK Rowling had an idea that burned and worried her, Hemingway the same. Stephanie Meyer hid herself away just to write about oddly chaste vampires. Big stories began small. We know of the competition between CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein to write the best Christian allegory for modern times which gave us Narnia and The Lord of the Rings – stories that echo and resound today. Amanda Hocking sat in her room and just wrote – because she wanted to.

I think you must begin with yourself. Write a story you want to read, about characters you are interested in, doing things you find compelling. Writing to find out, to solve problems, or consider them in a different way is also a good starting point. I write to find out, to explore the great ‘what if’ questions of life. I am not interested in epic adventures of old, of heroes and wars. I’m more concerned with human failings, with love, loss, striving, falling down and how we get up again. I am quite interested in how we cope with loss, why people keep secrets and what happens when they are revealed. And I’m curious about people who live outside normal expectations of behaviour; the eccentric, the odd. I guess these are the sorts of stories I like to read about too. It follows doesn’t it?

lord of R


Recognition comes after the story and the audience. If your story is compelling enough and people love it enough (not just the agent or publisher anymore: thank you on-line self publishing) then recognition will follow. Riches and fame are still unlikely, are still for the few. For every new star there are thousands wallowing in their wake, not quite making it to shore in safety. If you’re writing fiction for money then you are a fool. You are as likely to win Lotto as you are to make it big from writing. If you’re writing to get published traditionally then you should stop now. It’s a hard as it ever was to get the attention of a mainstream publisher. EL James only got there after the Fan Fiction route, not instead. Amanda Hocking was an on-line best seller well before she hit pay dirt with the mainstream world.

Write for other reasons and then, if you are good enough, the money will follow. Most (creative) writers have another job in the real world. Ironically it seems you are freer as a writer when you are unknown, before expectations from readers and publishers push you in directions you may not want to go. Don’t write for the money it will screw with your head, push you in directions that can only compromise your integrity and imagination. Remember what happened to poor old F Scott Fitzgerald when he sold his soul to Hollywood in his latter years. Write because you want to, because it means something to you.



In the end write because

You have something to say, something you are passionate about

You love words and language and playing with them

You have to – you can’t stop yourself

Writing is the thing that makes you feel utterly alive

Writing is when you feel most yourself

Writing is like making magic and we all need more magic in our lives!

(Images courtesy Google Images)

Build on the Sand – mid week poem

January 16, 2013

To build on the sand, a wise man once said, is to risk it all

But build your enterprise on the rock of certainty, decency and truth

Indeed in the faith of the goodness and ability of men

And you will prevail

You will win the day and the war

Your name, like the greats of the ancient world, will live on

shifting sands2


Look not to the sands

They shift and play with you

Shape change and shimmer in the brightest sun

They cannot withstand the winds that rush through everything

Changing the rules, shifting the goalposts

Prolonging the journey, with the final destination always obscured,

Always out of reach

Doomed to failure

desert sands


The ark was built of wood to float on a violent sea

No-one builds an airplane while flying it

The house build on sand is washed away by the flood

Destroyed in the storm.

An enterprise build in trust, in truth may be shaken,

May incur casualties but it will endure

It will carry its passengers in safety and surety

and all who travel in it will arrive at their destination as intended

Better, stronger, wiser

Ready to embrace the new day, the new world, the new order.



(Images courtesy Google Images)

Mid week poem – Disappointment

October 31, 2012

Disappointment oozes in my blood

Boils my brain with the hopeless feeling of oh no, not again


Promises are made, soft words of high hopes

The moon is ours if only we believe and trust

And deny all that we feel in our gut


Darkly, slyly, creeping like the mist up the turgid river from the turncoat sea

You moved in like a gathering storm

A grinning front, leading us into a grey impenetrable darkness

A surge of disappointing déjà vu and here we were once more nailed to our

Wheels of fortune, of blame and recrimination

Of failure and inadequacy

You thought you saw (what?) so you accused, you blamed

We sighed, exhaled, here we go: let’s repeat the refrain

Hunting the bottom, finding the flaw, squandering good will


Oh, how much worse it is to be fooled, led by the nose

Into the field of bloody, boggy betrayal

Of arrows at dawn

Of stalking assassins in the corridors and rooms of our castle

Of smiles that dissemble, then sling the mud based on ephemera and lies

Do you know the enemy, where she skulks, waiting for you?

Your very own Thane of Cawdor


Do you wonder that we despise

And despair once more, immured in the squalor of our disappointment

Brought by you to our intrepid door

To our stoic hearts

Tenaciously fighting against the entrenched tides of ignorance

And over-whelming arrogance


Who are you to disdain us

To condemn us

To accuse us of being second rate

Of not being able or worthy or mighty?


It is you who falter

You who are deceived by your elevation

Your foolish counsel, your belligerent, ignorant generals

Your inexperience

You, fresh prince-ling, with your schoolboy bullyboy tactics, your Stepford strategies

You know not the trees from Burnham Wood

It is you who fail us

You, who disappoint Us (Images courtesy Google Images)

The Artistic Paradox: Need spirit of a marshmallow, hide of a buffalo

October 27, 2012

Just as there is a fine line between pleasure and pain (oh how I loved thee, Divinyls) so there is a gaping chasm at the heart of every artist. In order to create you do need a soul more sensitive than others, a sensibility a bit more fragile, a world view that does not accord with the masses, which puts you inevitably and invariably on the outside. What else can it do?



The artists role is to sit outside, to view the world, humanity and its infinite foibles from a distant land, so they/we can comment freely, unhindered by the norms that stem creativity, the imagination: ART.




The artist is soft, gentle, searching: sensitive. They have to be or they cannot do what they do: look, see observe: find things that we do not, see the world as it really is and make us see it anew, different, real or unreal. We must have artists in our lives, our communities to comment on the world and shape it for us.




But the artist is caught. She has to be sensitive, but she wants to be heard, read, viewed. And that means exposing yourself to the public; to ridicule, rejection, venom, ignorance: even death.



How does the artist reconcile these two opposing axioms – the necessity for sensitivity and the need for a public?



The public is quixotic, cruel, adoring, lambasting, forgiving, understanding, ignorant. How does an artist survive in the face of this?

Sadly some cannot manage this. The road to public acceptance, let alone acclaim, is riddled with dead artists, with those unable to withstand the brutality of their public lives. Consider the alcoholics: my beloved Fitzgerald, and Dylan Thomas. And the tormented: Van Gough, Hemingway, David Foster Wallace, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Frida Khalo, Mark Rothko and of course, Kurt Cobain.




Please feel free to correct me but I don’t think scientists top themselves with the monotonous regularity that artists do.



What does this tell us? That the imperative to create kills? Or is the critic, the rejecting agent, the cavalier reader, the careless reviewer, the indifferent public– do they drive the sensitive, the fragile gifted ones amongst us to the precipice and then without a thought, with a casual throw away line: ‘I don’t love it enough’ tip us into the abyss?



It’s hard to wrap your marshmallow heart inside a pachyderm’s hide but it is what you must do. Withstand the storms of criticism, the cruel winds of rejections, the swamps of ignorance and get your message out. An artist needs to be heard, they want to be heard, appreciated, challenged; they need to know that they have reached someone, that their work has a point.


Do not be like the house that has withstood the cyclone only to crumble in the summer breeze. (Images courtesy Google Images)

Getting Published – Never mind the story: It’s All In The Initials

October 21, 2012

So, you’ve written something wonderful. Fan Fiction loves it, your friends love it and of course your mum does. It’s a timely topic, on trend, actually it’s well written so shouldn’t you be able to find an agent and then a publisher, therefore reaching your much dreamed of wider audience, not to mention some money (so you can give up the shitful day job) and the divine pleasure of holding your very own book with your (possibly pseudonymous) name on the cover?

You know what, it’s not going to happen. Well written doesn’t cut it. You don’t have to be eloquent, erudite and expressive, you just have to be engaging – whatever that really means. You do need a story that somehow grabs the imagination, that taps into the zeitgeist of the times and if you manage that then you are away – home and hosed for the rest of your life.

And, well done you. You may have written something truly banally awful but if the great unwashed public eat it up, who are the critics, or the bitter unpublished writers to comment or complain? Not everyone wants to read the latest Booker or Costa winner, do they?

But here’s something of note, dear reader. The last two block busting best sellers have been women (okay, that’s good) but women without a first name on their books. Instead they entered the published world with their initials. Yes, the much loved, revered, reviled, envied, JK Rowling and EL James.

Further musing on this matter led me to PD James, also a mega-seller in her field of crime writing. Fantasy has JRR Tolkien and kids books have AA Milne. Both hugely popular still and well loved. These two have stood the test of time but will our mega-selling ladies?

But wait – there’s much more. Consider:

JD Salinger and Catcher in the Rye – all time classic with the unreliable Holden Caulfield as the epitome of the teen anti-hero

CS Lewis – JRR’s mate – equally loved creator of classic kids fiction – hello Narnia

DH Lawrence – oh did I love Women in Love and The Rainbow when I was at uni

LP Hartley – the Go Between where ‘the past is another country’

EM ForsterWhere Angels Fear to Tread, A Passage to India; Merchant Ivory’s muse there for some years

RL Stine – he of Goosebumps who saw my boy through early childhood and sells millions

SE Hinton – she of the famous disengaged teen novels of the 70s & 80s, part of my early teaching days – Rumble Fish, The Outsiders, That Was Then, This is Now

And the poets: WB Yeats, WH Auden, TS Eliot, ee cummings:  and AB Paterson, AD Hope – de rigeur as an Ozzie child to read and know both!

Plus: AS Byatt, HE Bates, GK Chesterton, HP Lovecraft, JB Priestly, HG Wells, JG Ballard, JM Barrie, JM Coetzee, RL Stevenson, TE Lawrence, VS Naipaul, etc

What does this tell us? Well both Rowling and James were more lucky than anything else. We all know by now that neither writer is particularly gifted in terms of crafting or beauty of language. Yes, I have read 6 of the 7 Potter books: my stamina failed me at the end. Too much crappy writing for too long meant I could not endure the finale. I have read one page of Ms James – some utterly banal dialogue that flouted all the rules of dialogue – to reveal character, to move the story on, to break up the narrative for a bit – such that I was mortally wounded by its wretchedly wrought writing and couldn’t even get to any of the supposed juicy bits.

Popularity isn’t always about quality. So be it. I write as an envious scribe who can’t get past an agent, so I am not an unbiased contributor to the debate about merit and payment, publication and adulation. But, dear reader, it seems, does it not, that should you desire publication, either in the real world or the e-world, a change of name is advisable.

Just as it was sensible for the Brontes and women of by-gone eras to use men’s names, and writers used to be advised to change your end-of-alphabet surname to something more ABCD to be more visible on the bookshelves, now it seems that initials, your own or someone your pretending-to-be, is the sure fire way to get yourself an agent, a publisher and a book out there in the wide, wild world. So that the agent can say, ‘Oh, I do love it enough to take it on’!

All the best. JAC Rat (Images courtesy Google Images)

Mid week Poem: Say No

October 16, 2012

Just say no, she thought

Stop, she thought

Just stop

Don’t do it anymore

Resist the temptation

Pull away from the abyss

Pull yourself together

Don’t falter

Don’t let weakness into your mind

Stay strong

Stand up tall


Walk away now

While you can

While dignity and courage remain


Don’t sleep again – murder sleep

Don’t close your eyes – remain vigilant

Until it’s done

Until it’s all over

Once and for all

(Image courtesy Google Images)

Not enough time… A short poem

September 30, 2012

There are not enough hours in my day

Too much work, never enough play

Weekends roll around too fast

Snooze and nod and they’ve run on past

I need some space

Some free play from the constancy of the rat race

To write erudite chapters, up-date fan fiction, write my blog

Without it all feeling like a never-ending slog

A life less frantic

Spent somewhere coastal, perhaps the Atlantic

Would suffice this person longing to be an ex-teacher

So I could write and be, adrift amongst dreams, lazing on beaches

If Time is an illusion

That would explain my confusion, my constant delusion

That I can do it all, if I just worked a bit harder, smarter

Before I succumb to endless darkness: sacrificed: Art & Work’s martyr.

(Images courtesy Google Images)