15 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: September 2017

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Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books they’ve read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Here are their recommendations for September 2017:

  1. HOME FIRE BY KAMILA SHAMSIE
  2. THE NAMES OF DEAD GIRLS BY ERIC RICKSTAD
  3. SILENCER BY MARCUS WICKER
  4. SID SANFORD LIVES! BY DANIEL FORD
  5. HEAVY GREEN: THE COLLISION OF TWO UNLIKELY MISSIONS IN AMERICA’S SECRET WAR BY SAM LIGHTNER JR.
  6. THE TRESPASSER BY TANA FRENCH
  7. SMART BASEBALL BY KEITH LAW
  8. WELCOME TO THE SLIPSTREAM BY NATALKA BURIAN
  9. MARCEL’S LETTERS BY CAROLYN PORTER
  10. BEFORE THE FALL BY NOAH HAWLEY
  11. THE FIRE NEXT TIME BY JAMES BALDWIN
  12. MARLENA BY JULIE BUNTIN
  13. PAULINA AND FRAN BY RACHEL B. GLASER
  14. STEPHEN FLORIDA BY GABE HABASH
  15. MONSTERS: A LOVE STORY BY LIZ KAY

Click on the links above for a detailed synopsis of each book, or follow the following link to see what the Writer’s Bone crew had to say: http://www.writersbone.com/book-recommendations/books-that-should-be-on-your-radar-september-2017

 

Stephen King’s “Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully – in Ten Minutes” 

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I came across the following article by Stephen King a little while ago. I believe it was originally published in a 1986 edition of The Writer magazine and republished in the 1988 edition of The Writer’s Handbook. I reproduce it here for educational and entertainment purposes, as it’s a brilliant piece. Enjoy!

I. The First Introduction

THAT’S RIGHT. I know it sounds like an ad for some sleazy writers’ school, but I really am going to tell you everything you need to pursue a successful and financially rewarding career writing fiction, and I really am going to do it in ten minutes, which is exactly how long it took me to learn. It will actually take you twenty minutes or so to read this essay, however, because I have to tell you a story, and then I have to write a second introduction. But these, I argue, should not count in the ten minutes.

II. The Story, or, How Stephen King Learned to Write

When I was a sophomore in high school, I did a sophomoric thing which got me in a pot of fairly hot water, as sophomoric didoes often do. I wrote and published a small satiric newspaper called The Village Vomit. In this little paper I lampooned a number of teachers at Lisbon (Maine) High School, where I was under instruction. These were not very gentle lampoons; they ranged from the scatological to the downright cruel.

Eventually, a copy of this little newspaper found its way into the hands of a faculty member, and since I had been unwise enough to put my name on it (a fault, some critics argue, of which I have still not been entirely cured), I was brought into the office. The sophisticated satirist had by that time reverted to what he really was: a fourteen-year-old kid who was shaking in his boots and wondering if he was going to get a suspension … what we called “a three-day vacation” in those dim days of 1964.

I wasn’t suspended. I was forced to make a number of apologies – they were warranted, but they still tasted like dog-dirt in my mouth – and spent a week in detention hall. And the guidance counselor arranged what he no doubt thought of as a more constructive channel for my talents. This was a job – contingent upon the editor’s approval – writing sports for the Lisbon Enterprise, a twelve-page weekly of the sort with which any small-town resident will be familiar. This editor was the man who taught me everything I know about writing in ten minutes. His name was John Gould – not the famed New England humorist or the novelist who wrote The Greenleaf Fires, but a relative of both, I believe.

He told me he needed a sports writer and we could “try each other out” if I wanted.

I told him I knew more about advanced algebra than I did sports.

Gould nodded and said, “You’ll learn.”

I said I would at least try to learn. Gould gave me a huge roll of yellow paper and promised me a wage of 1/2 cent per word. The first two pieces I wrote had to do with a high school basketball game in which a member of my school team broke the Lisbon High scoring record. One of these pieces was straight reportage. The second was a feature article.

I brought them to Gould the day after the game, so he’d have them for the paper, which came out Fridays. He read the straight piece, made two minor corrections, and spiked it. Then he started in on the feature piece with a large black pen and taught me all I ever needed to know about my craft. I wish I still had the piece – it deserves to be framed, editorial corrections and all – but I can remember pretty well how it looked when he had finished with it. Here’s an example:

(note: this is before the edit marks indicated on King’s original copy)

Last night, in the well-loved gymnasium of Lisbon High School, partisans and Jay Hills fans alike were stunned by an athletic performance unequaled in school history: Bob Ransom, known as “Bullet” Bob for both his size and accuracy, scored thirty-seven points. He did it with grace and speed … and he did it with an odd courtesy as well, committing only two personal fouls in his knight-like quest for a record which has eluded Lisbon thinclads since 1953….

(after edit marks)

Last night, in the Lisbon High School gymnasium, partisans and Jay Hills fans alike were stunned by an athletic performance unequaled in school history: Bob Ransom scored thirty-seven points. He did it with grace and speed … and he did it with an odd courtesy as well, committing only two personal fouls in his quest for a record which has eluded Lisbon’s basketball team since 1953….

When Gould finished marking up my copy in the manner I have indicated above, he looked up and must have seen something on my face. I think he must have thought it was horror, but it was not: it was revelation.

“I only took out the bad parts, you know,” he said. “Most of it’s pretty good.”

“I know,” I said, meaning both things: yes, most of it was good, and yes, he had only taken out the bad parts. “I won’t do it again.”

“If that’s true,” he said, “you’ll never have to work again. You can do this for a living.” Then he threw back his head and laughed.

And he was right; I am doing this for a living, and as long as I can keep on, I don’t expect ever to have to work again.

III. The Second Introduction

All of what follows has been said before. If you are interested enough in writing to be a purchaser of this magazine, you will have either heard or read all (or almost all) of it before. Thousands of writing courses are taught across the United States each year; seminars are convened; guest lecturers talk, then answer questions, then drink as many gin and tonics as their expense-fees will allow, and it all boils down to what follows.

I am going to tell you these things again because often people will only listen – really listen – to someone who makes a lot of money doing the thing he’s talking about. This is sad but true. And I told you the story above not to make myself sound like a character out of a Horatio Alger novel but to make a point: I saw, I listened, and I learned. Until that day in John Gould’s little office, I had been writing first drafts of stories which might run 2,500 words. The second drafts were apt to run 3,300 words. Following that day, my 2,500-word first drafts became 2,200-word second drafts. And two years after that, I sold the first one.

So here it is, with all the bark stripped off. It’ll take ten minutes to read, and you can apply it right away … if you listen.

IV. Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully

1. Be talented
This, of course, is the killer. What is talent? I can hear someone shouting, and here we are, ready to get into a discussion right up there with “what is the meaning of life?” for weighty pronouncements and total uselessness. For the purposes of the beginning writer, talent may as well be defined as eventual success – publication and money. If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented. Now some of you are really hollering. Some of you are calling me one crass money-fixated creep. And some of you are calling me bad names. Are you calling Harold Robbins talented? someone in one of the Great English Departments of America is screeching. V.C. Andrews? Theodore Dreiser? Or what about you, you dyslexic moron?

Nonsense. Worse than nonsense, off the subject. We’re not talking about good or bad here. I’m interested in telling you how to get your stuff published, not in critical judgments of who’s good or bad. As a rule the critical judgments come after the check’s been spent, anyway. I have my own opinions, but most times I keep them to myself. People who are published steadily and are paid for what they are writing may be either saints or trollops, but they are clearly reaching a great many someones who want what they have. Ergo, they are communicating. Ergo, they are talented. The biggest part of writing successfully is being talented, and in the context of marketing, the only bad writer is one who doesn’t get paid. If you’re not talented, you won’t succeed. And if you’re not succeeding, you should know when to quit. When is that? I don’t know. It’s different for each writer. Not after six rejection slips, certainly, nor after sixty. But after six hundred? Maybe. After six thousand? My friend, after six thousand pinks, it’s time you tried painting or computer programming. Further, almost every aspiring writer knows when he is getting warmer – you start getting little jotted notes on your rejection slips, or personal letters . . . maybe a commiserating phone call. It’s lonely out there in the cold, but there are encouraging voices … unless there is nothing in your words which warrants encouragement. I think you owe it to yourself to skip as much of the self-illusion as possible. If your eyes are open, you’ll know which way to go … or when to turn back.

2. Be neat
Type. Double-space. Use a nice heavy white paper, never that erasable onion-skin stuff. If you’ve marked up your manuscript a lot, do another draft.

3. Be self-critical
If you haven’t marked up your manuscript a lot, you did a lazy job. Only God gets things right the first time. Don’t be a slob.

4. Remove every extraneous word
You want to get up on a soapbox and preach? Fine. Get one and try your local park. You want to write for money? Get to the point. And if you remove all the excess garbage and discover you can’t find the point, tear up what you wrote and start all over again . . . or try something new.

5. Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft
You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule. You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right – and breaking your train of thought and the writer’s trance in the bargain – or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere? And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don’t have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it … but later. When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.

6. Know the markets
Only a dimwit would send a story about giant vampire bats surrounding a high school to McCall’s. Only a dimwit would send a tender story about a mother and daughter making up their differences on Christmas Eve to Playboy … but people do it all the time. I’m not exaggerating; I have seen such stories in the slush piles of the actual magazines. If you write a good story, why send it out in an ignorant fashion? Would you send your kid out in a snowstorm dressed in Bermuda shorts and a tank top? If you like science fiction, read the magazines. If you want to write confession stories, read the magazines. And so on. It isn’t just a matter of knowing what’s right for the present story; you can begin to catch on, after awhile, to overall rhythms, editorial likes and dislikes, a magazine’s entire slant. Sometimes your reading can influence the next story, and create a sale.

7. Write to entertain
Does this mean you can’t write “serious fiction”? It does not. Somewhere along the line pernicious critics have invested the American reading and writing public with the idea that entertaining fiction and serious ideas do not overlap. This would have surprised Charles Dickens, not to mention Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Bernard Malamud, and hundreds of others. But your serious ideas must always serve your story, not the other way around. I repeat: if you want to preach, get a soapbox.

8. Ask yourself frequently, “Am I having fun?”
The answer needn’t always be yes. But if it’s always no, it’s time for a new project or a new career.

9. How to evaluate criticism
Show your piece to a number of people – ten, let us say. Listen carefully to what they tell you. Smile and nod a lot. Then review what was said very carefully. If your critics are all telling you the same thing about some facet of your story – a plot twist that doesn’t work, a character who rings false, stilted narrative, or half a dozen other possibles – change that facet. It doesn’t matter if you really liked that twist of that character; if a lot of people are telling you something is wrong with you piece, it is. If seven or eight of them are hitting on that same thing, I’d still suggest changing it. But if everyone – or even most everyone – is criticizing something different, you can safely disregard what all of them say.

10. Observe all rules for proper submission
Return postage, self-addressed envelope, all of that.

11. An agent? Forget it. For now
Agents get 10% of monies earned by their clients. 10% of nothing is nothing. Agents also have to pay the rent. Beginning writers do not contribute to that or any other necessity of life. Flog your stories around yourself. If you’ve done a novel, send around query letters to publishers, one by one, and follow up with sample chapters and/or the manuscript complete. And remember Stephen King’s First Rule of Writers and Agents, learned by bitter personal experience: You don’t need one until you’re making enough for someone to steal … and if you’re making that much, you’ll be able to take your pick of good agents.

12. If it’s bad, kill it
When it comes to people, mercy killing is against the law. When it comes to fiction, it is the law.

That’s everything you need to know. And if you listened, you can write everything and anything you want. Now I believe I will wish you a pleasant day and sign off.

My ten minutes are up.

Via: http://www.aerogrammestudio.com/stephen-king-everything-you-need-to-know-about-writing-successfully/

11 Tips For Finding Your Writing Zone 

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As the great Dorothy Parker once said, “writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat”. If only it were so simple. Every writer knows the struggle of setting aside the time to write, sitting down at the computer, opening a new document in your word processor of choice… and then realising that four hours have gone by and you’ve done nothing but watch unboxing videos on YouTube and stalk your ex’s hot cousin on Instagram. Writing is hard. Getting into the right frame of mind for writing is hard. Staying on task and not being distracted by your own crippling fear of failure is hard. So, here are a few tips for getting into the writing zone, because you can’t just sit around waiting for inspiration to strike (trust me, I’ve tried).

Of course, the “writing zone” looks different for everyone. Some writers work best in the dead of night, churning out page after page in a writing frenzy as they chug energy drinks and cookie dough. Other writers like to wake up at the crack of dawn to take a contemplative walk, or write every afternoon come rain or shine, or spend hours mumbling to themselves in their characters’ voices. There’s no wrong way to write. But here are some tips for finding a way into your own, personal writing zone:

1. Create a ritual

You don’t have to sacrifice a lamb to the writing gods every time you sit down to write, but sometimes it helps to have a small ritual transition between normal-you and writer-you. Maybe you light a candle, or make yourself a cup of coffee. Maybe you start by writing out a description of your week so far, or you put on your favourite shade of lipstick, or you straighten up your desk. Try out a couple of different rituals if you need to, and find what gets you psyched up/chilled out enough to write.

2. Find your ideal time of day

Are you an early riser or a night owl? Try setting aside writing time first thing in the morning, in the mid-afternoon, and right before bed to see which works best for you. Then stick with that time as much as you can. Sometimes finding your writing zone is as simple as finding the right hour of the day to start writing.

3. Find your ideal writing environment

If you know that you write best in a coffee shop, find a local coffee shop and become a regular. If you write best at your own desk, make sure that it stays relatively neat. If you like to write from bed, then… just do that, I guess. And if you can’t force yourself to start writing alone, find a writer buddy so the two of you can sit there and suffer together.

4. Find your music

Some people can only write in dead silence, others like to write while blasting out Celtic rock. Whatever your musical tastes, find a reliable writing playlist for yourself. You could try listening to the radio, movie soundtracks, or even classical music if lyrics are going to be too much of a distraction. Even if you don’t like to write with music, having a pump up or chill out song to get you into the zone can help focus your energy on your manuscript instead of work/stress/the guy who’s currently ghosting you.

5. Go off the grid

Put your phone on airplane mode. Turn off your computer’s Wi-Fi. Tell your friends you’ll be out of reach for the afternoon. If you need to, download a self-control app that’ll shut you out of distracting websites. I promise that you’ll survive life off the grid, and you’ll find it much harder to procrastinate without the world wide web at your fingertips.

6. Get out of the house

Remember outside? The air moves out there. It’s pretty great. If you’ve been spending the whole day in bed, or staring at a screen, or lying motionless on the floor, you might want to try going for an old fashioned walk. Grab a notebook and walk to the park/beach, or even around the block. Go for a run if that’s your thing. Go buy yourself a new flavor of ice cream. If you’re really feeling ambitious, leave your phone at home. Just getting out of the house and moving your body might help you refocus and start thinking about how to start that next chapter.

7. Give yourself incentives

Unfortunately, we don’t always have unlimited time to stroll through the park or try out different writing spots. Many of us have to work at “jobs” to earn “money” for “rent.” So if you need a shortcut to get yourself writing, you can always bribe yourself with some kind of treat: if you write 500 words today, you get to take a bubble bath, or watch the next episode of your favourite show; 1,000 words, you treat yourself to lunch; 5,000 words, you buy that cute item of clothing/new bag/pair of shoes you saw. (Use this method sparingly, though, because it gets expensive fast!)

8. Get rid of excess energy

I am forever making other people nervous with my pacing, foot jiggling, and hand wringing. If you tend to have a lot of excess energy, try jumping jacks or yoga before you dive back into writing. Stretch. Breathe. Invest in a standing desk, or a fidget spinner, or silly putty, so that you’re not just sitting motionless as you try to come up with ideas. You’ll be surprised just how much easier it is to stay in that zone when you’re not bursting with restless energy.

9. Read

If you just aren’t in the mood to write, try reading. Get another author’s voice inside your head, and you’ll find it a lot easier to start putting words on paper yourself. Every writer needs books to fuel their weird writer brains. And while it can be hard to go from watching TV or talking with friends to writing the next Great Novel, going from reading to writing is the most natural transition in the world.

10. Be consistent

Stick with it. If you train yourself to write at the same time every day, or every other day, or even every week, chances are it’s going to get easier and easier to get into the zone. Make your writing time sacred. It’s not just free time that you’re using to write, it’s your daily allotment of writing time, and it must be respected. Write something during every session, even if it’s just a list of ideas.

11. Write your way into the zone

Don’t underestimate the power of a good free-write. Not in the right creative mood to revise your poetry chapbook? Too bad. Just start writing whichever words come to your brain, until some of those words start to take shape as ideas. Free yourself from the need to write “well,” and just write. Write like nobody’s reading. Don’t beat yourself up if you write for a solid hour and none of it is usable. Count it as a success, because you were able to start writing and keep writing, and that’s no mean feat.

Happy writing!

***

Via: https://www.bustle.com/p/11-tips-for-finding-your-writing-zone

5 Reasons Why You Should Share Your Writing 

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Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions.” – Paulo Coelho

All writers are in some part afraid or reluctant to share their writing with others, be it friends, family, colleagues, or strangers. However, writing is meant to be read. It’s meant to be performed, heard and experienced. So don’t keep it to yourself. This article is all about putting your writing out there and how it will help you learn and grow as a writer. Here are five reasons why you should share your writing…

1. Get Valuable Feedback

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary.” – Winston Churchill

We can never be the best judge on our own writing – we’ve spent too much time with it and are too emotionally attached in most cases. This is why we need feedback. Having someone else read your work is a great way to find out what’s working and what’s not. Is the character ‘real’? Is the setting clear? Are the rhymes contrived or natural? A fresh mind will pick out flaws quickly, and note if the writing is confusing, convoluted, or careless. Sharing your draft is the only way of knowing if the message you want to convey with your writing is getting across to the reader.

It’s important though, to carefully choose who will see your writing. There’s no point forcing it upon friends who don’t read a lot or aren’t particularly interested in what you do, just as there is no point handing your manuscript over to your mother, who will most likely tell you it’s fantastic, no matter what she really thinks… These people may be better utilised as proof-readers. For true feedback, the best people to show your work to are your contemporaries, other writers who know the process and can give you valuable advice and clarification. If you have an editor, that’s even better. Otherwise, anyone with an insatiable appetite for literature will work as a general indicator.

2. Increase Your Confidence

It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.” – Erma Bombeck

To write well one has to write confidently, but confidence can be cripplingly absent for a lot of writers. It’s never easy to hand over sweat-and-tear-soaked efforts for someone else to critique. However it is something all authors have to come to terms with. Constructive criticism is a vital stretch of road on the path to publication and is the only way of knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are. Gaining feedback will increase your understanding of your own writing and allow you to perfect your writing process. Reading your work aloud at groups or events will open up many opportunities for you to seek out the analysis you need from others. Not to mention the public speaking practice you’ll need for when you’re a bestselling author.

3. Learn and be Inspired

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”- Dr. Seuss

It’s well documented that children learn a lot from observing and playing with each other. The same can be said of writers. The more you read, the more ideas will spark and the more you’ll write. What better way is there to learn than from other writers of your generation?

If you ask your colleagues to take a look at your work it’s very likely they’ll request the same of you. Ideally this will lead to a regular exchange between a number of you. By networking in this way you’ll be reading the freshest material there is. Again this will provide you with feedback on your work. In this situation it will be especially useful as you will begin to see if particular issues with your writing crop up repeatedly, and you’ll learn what criticism you find most helpful. The best feedback is one that provides suggestions and options to any problems you may be having because it allows you to take a new line of thinking while reworking the material in your own way.

4. Influence An Audience

A drop of ink may make a million think.” – George Gordon Byron

Writing really can change the way people think and feel. It’s a major reason why writers write and readers read. They want to introduce and be introduced to new ideas and powerful emotions.

Your writing may mean as much to someone else as it does to you. We write about things that are important to us or things we feel strongly about. It may be something that scares us, a political stance, emotional turmoil, etc.  How many times have you been reading only to stop and think about how a particular paragraph reminded you of your own life? You can offer that same experience to others.

When you share your writing with someone they will ideally be able to tell you how it made them feel and how they were able to relate to it. Hearing this will instil in you the fact your writing isn’t just words, it’s an organism. The more people read it, the more it lives.

Even if you set out to write solely for yourself, to remain stable and centred, the potential to connect to a reader should be too much to ignore. It’s no exaggeration to say that words can save lives (some have completely changed this author’s perspective) and no one should hold that power within themselves.

5. It’s Your Job

You’re not really a writer unless people are reading your shit.” – Pearl Madison, The United States Of Leland

Despite the embarrassment that sometimes plagues us when we tell people we are a writer, and the occasional sniggers or blank nods that follow, writing has to be a job. You have to take your writing seriously if you want to succeed. You have to treat it like work, even if you already have a ‘day’ job.

Sharing your work is a job requirement if you want to call yourself a writer. It’s part of the process that leads to publication, acknowledgement and renown. You wouldn’t skimp on important tasks at your other jobs, so don’t hold out on this one.

Ultimately there are few negatives to sharing your work. You will gain exposure, learn new techniques, find inspiration, make friends and contacts, raise your self-esteem all while undertaking a worthy pursuit called writing.

Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/5-compelling-reasons-share-writing/amp/

Transworld Sign 70-Year-Old Debut Author

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Here is a heartwarming piece of news that should put hope in your heart and a tear in your eye, and just goes to prove you can be published at any age with the right story. Enjoy!

A debut novel by 70-year-old Anne Youngson has been pre-empted by Transworld and is set to become the publisher’s lead fiction title for summer 2018.

Transworld editorial director Jane Lawson pre-empted UK and Commonwealth rights including Canada to Meet Me At The Museum, described as “the gentlest, most humane and emotional” novel, from Judith Murray at Greene & Heaton, just 48 hours after receiving the submission.

Meet Me at the Museum tells of a man and a woman with more of their life behind them than ahead, who find new beginnings when they connect unexpectedly through a mutual love of ancient history, personal treasures and nature.

Lawson said it was rare for her to fall for a novel so “instantly and irrevocably”.

Anne Youngson has created an enduring novel of ideas, full of grace and humanity, and charged with emotion”, said Lawson. “I realised as soon as I started this novel that I would not stop until I had acquired it. And I am fortunate to have a superb team at Transworld who read overnight and loved it equally”.

Youngson said: “It is astonishing and thrilling in equal measure to have my first novel selected for publication by the team at Doubleday. My agent advised me not to hesitate to accept their offer and she was right. I have been so impressed with the passion and professionalism they have brought to the process (all new to me) of moving towards publication. I feel truly privileged to have this opportunity to develop another career, and I plan to take full advantage of it.”

Youngson, a debut novelist who is just turning 70-years-old, worked at a senior level in product development at a major car company. “It is all the more surprising therefore that after so many years in the cut and thrust of a high-pressure day job, Anne has produced the gentlest, most humane and emotional novel”, the publisher said. Since then she has also supported many charities in governance roles, including Chair of the Writers in Prison Network. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband.

Transworld will publish in Doubleday hardback on 14th June 2018, backed by a “major impact” publicity campaign.

Via: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/transworld-snaps-most-humane-debut-summer-2018

Man Booker Prize Announces 2017 Shortlist

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Paul Auster, Emily Fridlund, Mohsin Hamid, Fiona Mozley, George Saunders and Ali Smith were announced on 13th September 2017 as the six shortlisted authors for the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

Their names were announced by 2017 Chair of judges, Lola, Baroness Young, at a press conference at the offices of Man Group, the prize sponsor.

The judges remarked that the novels, each in its own way, challenge and subtly shift our preconceptions — about the nature of love, about the experience of time, about questions of identity and even death.

The shortlist, which features three women and three men, covers a wide range of subjects, from the struggle of a family trying to retain its self-sufficiency in rural England to a love story between two refugees seeking to flee an unnamed city in the throes of civil war.

In the fourth year that the prize has been open to writers of any nationality, the shortlist is made up of two British, one British-Pakistani and three American writers.

Two novels from independent publishers, Faber & Faber and Bloomsbury, are shortlisted, alongside two from Penguin Random House imprint Hamish Hamilton and two from Hachette imprints, Weidenfeld & Nicolson and JM Originals.

 

The 2017 shortlist of six novels is:

Title Author (nationality) (imprint)

4321 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (UK-Pakistan) (Hamish Hamilton)

Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

 

Lola, Baroness Young comments:

‘With six unique and intrepid books that collectively push against the borders of convention, this year’s shortlist both acknowledges established authors and introduces new voices to the literary stage. Playful, sincere, unsettling, fierce: here is a group of novels grown from tradition but also radical and contemporary. The emotional, cultural, political and intellectual range of these books is remarkable, and the ways in which they challenge our thinking is a testament to the power of literature.’

Ali Smith makes the Man Booker shortlist for the fourth time (she was previously shortlisted for Hotel World in 2001, The Accidental in 2005 and How to Be Both in 2014). This year also sees a repeat shortlisting for Mohsin Hamid, who made the list in 2007 with The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Hachette imprint JM Originals makes the shortlist for the first time with Fiona Mozley’s Elmet, which was the first ever acquisition of assistant editor Becky Walsh. Mozley is also the youngest author on the shortlist, aged 29, and one of two debut writers to make the list – the other being 38 year-old American Emily Fridlund with History of Wolves.

The other two American authors on the shortlist are Paul Auster and George Saunders. 4321 by Auster, who turned 70 this year, is the longest novel on the shortlist at 866 pages and, according to the author, took three and a half years, working 6 and a half days a week, to write. Lincoln in the Bardo, the first full-length novel by Saunders — an acclaimed short story writer and Folio Prize winner — completes the list.

 

Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group, comments:

‘Congratulations to each of the authors who have been shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. The list represents a celebration of exceptional literary talent, ranging from established novelists to debut writers, that we are honoured to support. As well as playing an important role in recognising literary endeavour, the prize’s charitable activities underscore Man Group’s charitable focus on literacy and education and our commitment to creativity and excellence.’

The judging panel, chaired by Lola, Baroness Young, consists of: the literary critic, Lila Azam Zanganeh; the Man Booker Prize shortlisted novelist, Sarah Hall; the artist, Tom Phillips CBE RA; and the travel writer and novelist, Colin Thubron CBE.

 

The 2017 winner announcement

The 2017 winner will be announced on Tuesday 17 October in London’s Guildhall, at a dinner that brings together the shortlisted authors and well-known figures from the literary world. The ceremony will be broadcast by the BBC.

In the meantime, there will be a number of public events featuring the shortlisted authors. These include an event at the Nottingham Lakeside Arts Theatre in partnership with Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature on Tuesday 10 October and two events at The Times & The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival on Saturday 14 October. The traditional Man Booker Prize readings will take place at the Southbank Centre on the eve of the prize, 16 October, hosted by broadcaster and author Gemma Cairney.

The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner will receive a further £50,000 and can expect international recognition.

The Booker Prize Foundation provides funding for the Royal National Institute of Blind People to ensure that braille, giant print & audio versions of the shortlisted books are available for the visually impaired in time for the winner announcement. The majority of this year’s shortlist is already available for readers in these formats. The Booker Prize Foundation has a longstanding partnership with RNIB to provide Man Booker Prize books to the tens of thousands of blind and partially sighted members of the RNIB Library.

 

The leading prize for quality fiction in English

From longlist stage onwards, the ‘Man Booker Dozen’ receives widespread interest from the media, booksellers and the public, in the form of critical engagement, media coverage and significantly increased book sales.

First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is recognised as the leading prize for high quality literary fiction written in English. Its list of winners includes many of the giants of the last four decades, from Salman Rushdie to Hilary Mantel, Iris Murdoch to Ian McEwan. The prize has also recognised many authors early in their careers, including Eleanor Catton, Aravind Adiga and Ben Okri.

The rules of the prize were changed at the end of 2013 to embrace the English language ‘in all its vigour, its vitality, its versatility and its glory’, opening it up to writers beyond the UK and Commonwealth when their novels are published in UK.

Man Group, an active investment management firm, has sponsored the prize since 2002.

Via: http://themanbookerprize.com/news/man-booker-prize-announces-2017-shortlist

The Sleeping Beauty Fairy Tale | Interesting Literature

I found this very interesting, being a ‘child of Disney’ I only knew half of this fairystory, and believed Sleeping Beauty’s tale came to an end upon waking and falling in love with the Prince – and they all lived happily ever after – but apparently not! The tale goes on and a whole new saga unfolds with the Queen Mother and her children.

Read this and see how much of the story (which version) you know and love from your childhood:

‘Sleeping Beauty’ is, depending on which version of the story you read, called Sleeping Beauty, Talia, Little Briar Rose, Rosamond, or Aurora. This is because, like many other classic fairy tales, the tale of Sleeping Beauty exists in numerous versions, each of which is subtly – or, in some cases, quite strikingly – different from the others. In the Italian version published in the Pentamerone, an Italian collection of fairy tales published in 1634, the heroine is named Talia. Charles Perrault, in his version published later in the century, calls her the Sleeping Beauty. The Brothers Grimm call her Dornröschen or ‘Little Briar Rose’, which is sometimes adapted as ‘Rosamond’. In the Disney film, the adult heroine is named Aurora. For the purposes of clarity here, we’re going to call her ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or ‘the princess’.

Nevertheless, the overall plot of these different versions of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ remains broadly the same, so it might not prove entirely impossible to offer a short plot summary. A king is protective of his beautiful daughter, the princess. An evil fairy curses the princess, pronouncing that she will die when she is pricked by a spindle. However, a good fairy manages to intervene so that the prophecy is softened: the princess will not die if she is pricked with a spindle, but she will fall unconscious for a hundred years. The king bans flax and spinning equipment from his palace, so as to protect his daughter from such a fate. 

However, around fifteen or sixteen years later, when the king and queen were away from the palace, the princess was exploring many rooms when she came upon an old woman with a spindle, who knew nothing about the spinning ban. The princess asked if she could have a go, and the old woman let her – you can guess what happened next. The princess pricked her finger on the spindle, and dropped down unconscious. The old woman fetched help, and everyone tried to revive the princess, but to no avail. So there was nothing for it but to let the princess sleep for a hundred years. The good fairy cast a spell that essentially protected the princess in the palace, with trees grown up around the building and all of the princess’s servants, attendants, and pets made to sleep for a hundred years too.

After the century had elapsed, another king (of a different royal family) sits on the throne. His son, the prince, heard tales of the palace where the princess slept, and became interested in what he’d find if he ventured there. So he cut a path through to the palace and at length came upon the sleeping form of the princess, falling to his knees at the sight of her beauty.

His timing couldn’t have been better. For at that moment, the hundred years came to an end and the spell was lifted; the princess woke, and seeing the prince she fell in love with him, and they talked a great deal (well, after all, the princess had missed out on a hundred years of news). The whole of the palace then woke up – the servants and animals that had been put under the spell by the good fairy – and the prince and princess lived happily together, having two children, a daughter and a son whom they called Morning and Day respectively.

The prince returned to his parents, the King and Queen, but said nothing about the princess whom he had fallen in love with, because the Queen was part ogress and there were rumours that she had ‘ogreish’ tendencies – in other words, she wanted to eat people. The prince married Sleeping Beauty in private, without his parents’ knowledge.

A couple of years later, the King died and his son, the prince, became King, and brought his wife publicly to the court. But shortly after this he had to go to war with the emperor of a neighbouring country. In his absence, his mother, the Queen Mother, sent away Sleeping Beauty to the country, and sent the cook to kill Morning, the young daughter of the King and Sleeping Beauty, and cook her so that the Queen Mother could eat her with a nice sauce. But the cook was a kind man, who instead slaughtered a lamb and dished it up for the Queen Mother to eat. (She couldn’t tell that it was Lamb and not Little Girl that she was eating.) Meanwhile, the cook sent away Morning to be kept safe by his wife in their chambers in the palace.

But the Queen Mother was soon hungry again, and wanted to have Day for her dinner this time. Once again, the cook sent away the little boy and served up a young kid or baby goat for the Queen Mother to feast upon instead. But the Queen Mother’s appetite was insatiable, and next she wanted to eat the Queen, Sleeping Beauty, herself. The cook despaired of being able to deceive the Queen Mother a third time, so he went up to Sleeping Beauty’s chambers with the intention of slitting her throat. When the Queen saw him, she told him to kill her, so she might join her children, whom she feared dead. The cook told her that her children were alive and well and of how he had tricked the ogreish Queen Mother, and he took her to where his wife was looking after the Queen’s children. Then the cook dished up a hind for the Queen Mother to eat, thinking it was Sleeping Beauty.

But soon after this, the evil Queen Mother heard Sleeping Beauty and her children in the palace, where they were concealed, and she realised she had been tricked! She set about plotting her revenge, ordering that a huge tub be placed in the courtyard and filled with vipers and venomous toads and other dangerous creatures, so that Sleeping Beauty, Morning, Day, the cook, his wife, and his maid, might be thrown in there the next day, and suffer a horrible death. Next day, the prisoners were brought out for the sentence to be carried out – but just as they were about to be thrown into the tub, the King returned, and, angry that her plan had been foiled, the ogreish Queen Mother threw herself in the tub and was killed by the snakes and toads. The King was reunited with Sleeping Beauty and his children, and they all lived happily ever after.

This summary of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is based on the tale that the Opies include in their The Classic Fairy Tales; there are some minor differences between the various versions of the tale, which has been told by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, among others. Indeed, the only reason the Brothers Grimm didn’t throw out ‘Sleeping Beauty’ from their catalogue of fairy tales for being too French was the tale’s suggestive affinities with the myth of Brynhild in the Völsunga saga, which was the inspiration for Wagner’s Ring Cycle among other things. (Brynhild was imprisoned in a remote castle behind a wall of shields and doomed to sleep there in a ring of flames until a man comes along, and rescues and marries her.)

It was Charles Perrault, however, who first made the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty famous, when he included it in his landmark 1697 collection of fairy stories. Yet as we remarked at the beginning of our summary and analysis of this, one of the most famous of all fairy tales, the basic story predates Perrault, and a similar version can be found in the 1630 Pentamerone. Yet even by this stage, the story of Sleeping Beauty was a few centuries old: one of the stories in the anonymous fourteenth-century prose romance Perceforest features a princess named Zellandine who, like Sleeping Beauty after her, is cursed to end up being pricked by a spindle, an accident which prompts her to fall asleep until – you’ve guessed it – a dashing prince, in this case a chap named Troylus, arrives to wake her up. (Unfortunately, this important medieval collection of tales remains criminally out of print and in need of a good translation/edition: Oxford University Press or Penguin, please commission one!)

‘Sleeping Beauty’ features many of the common tropes of classic fairy tales: the beautiful princess, the evil stepmother figure (the evil Queen Mother), the handsome prince, the good fairy, and the patterning of three (the Queen Mother’s planned meals of Morning, Day, and Sleeping Beauty respectively). Throw in a palace and a bit of suspended animation, not to mention a cunning servant (that enterprising and kindly cook) and you have all of the ingredients of a classic.

Via A Summary and Analysis of the Sleeping Beauty Fairy Tale — Interesting Literature

Writer’s Workshop: Festival of Writing

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This weekend, I attended the fabulous Festival of Writing in York. It was, as ever, a valuable weekend of learning, feedback, and meeting new and old writer friends. To give you a taste of how amazing it was, here is a post from Julie Crisp, who taught at the FoW:

I spent a rather lovely weekend doing some of my favourite things: meeting new authors and talking about books and publishing. This was my first time attending The Festival of Writing in York and, as such, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be quite as BIG with so many enthusiastic attendees.

I did two workshops and a series of one-to-ones. For anyone who knows me – they’ll know how much I hate public speaking. I always over prepare and spend far too much time worrying about having an unreceptive or unresponsive audience . . . a lecture hall filled with empty seats and a long awkward silence. Thankfully – there was none of that!

The first workshop I did was: How to Get an Agent: The Dos and Dont’s. Trying to come up with something fresh to say when there’s SO much information on the Internet about it (Juliet Mushens’ post on it is especially good), is always difficult. But the authors attending were fabulous. Lots of great ideas and information were exchanged and it was chatty, informal, and lots of fun. I may have been buzzing and gabbling a bit from the caffeine overdose but no one seemed to mind.

One of the most interesting questions for me as both editor and agent was: Who has the final say in the direction your novel is going? Who decides what can be kept and what gets changed? My personal answer to that is: You. The author. Agents and Editors are not there to rewrite your entire work to fit a template of their own making. They are not there to shoehorn it in a direction that you don’t agree with. What they will try to do is help you shape it into something that fits within commercial expectations. They’ll have a vision that uses those ideas and structures in the book that work and help you to take it a step further.

And for anyone attending that who wanted to know what a good pitch letter to me looks like then this is it:

THE PITCH LETTER

Dear (get the name right please),

  1)  One paragraph of an introduction to the book (listing the market, genre and readership you’re aiming at) and maybe one line or so about why you choose this agent. If it starts to feel like you’re following a script or template just keep the letter brief, businesslike and to the point. I’d much prefer succinct professionalism than overwriting.

  2)  A paragraph or two (more than that starts to feel like a retelling of the novel) about the book. The best pitches for me are those which read like cover copy rather than a synopsis…so a shoutline and then brief description.

  3)  A paragraph about yourself listing any relevant writing credits – look at published author bios – this is what you should be aiming at. Don’t over share!

Yours,

I also did a series of one-to-one meetings which I thoroughly enjoyed. I LOVE offering editorial feedback. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. There were some brilliant concepts. Lots of wonderful writing. I don’t think I totally ruined anyone’s day. At least no one left in tears so that’s always a plus! And I did ask for one complete script which I’m eagerly awaiting.

The Gala dinner was great, I got to catch-up with a few friends and make some new ones. But I did dash halfway through so could finish prepping for my workshop the next day.

Again, despite the large turnout – it felt like a really friendly, informative, sharing workshop. Everyone had ideas and thoughts about what worked to market your book on social media. I’d put a suvey poll on Twitter the night before.

So it was interesting to see that the hit rate for readers being influenced by social media in book sales was about 50% for those who participated, bearing in mind my usual followers are pretty book engaged. If it went out to a larger spread of people I’d expect it to go down…what we do know from the workshop is that no one likes the hard sell. Not from authors or publishers. And that the time you spend on Social Media will rarely result in equivalent book sales. If you’re interested in the rest of the presentation you can find it here. It’s rough notes but could be useful. There are loads of great articles on the web though which go into a lot more detail than mine about how to market your book online.

All in all I thought the Festival was fabulous. The Writer’s Workshop organised everything brilliantly and were happy to help wherever they could. I can see why it’s such a popular festival and why so many authors return year after year. It’s great for contacts, networking, up-to-date information, advice and support. As Tor Udall, author of A Thousand Paper Birds said, ‘I sit in workshops at #FoW17 and I still learn.’

Don’t we all.

Hope everyone enjoyed it and found it as useful as I did.

I certainly did.

See the original post here: http://www.juliecrisp.co.uk/writers-workshop-festival-of-writing

Joanna Walsh: Author Interview

joanna walsh

Taking in everything from linguistic dystopianism to Freudian whimsy, the stories in Joanna Walsh’s second collection, Worlds from the Word’s End, are alternately playful, melancholic, subversive and wistful. The collection demonstrates the wide range of Walsh’s writing, and her continual desire to shift the boundaries of conventional storytelling. From the mid-European detachment of Hauptbahnhof to the playful fairy tale Simple HansWorlds from the Word’s End marks Walsh out as one of our most inventive authors.

Here, she talks to Minor Literature[s] about the impact of technology on storytelling, autofiction, and demystifying the role of the author:

In many of your stories, from Fractals (2013) and Grow a Pair (2015) up to your current collection, you examine the influence of technology on the way we communicate; this is perhaps most directly addressed in the title story from Worlds From the Word’s End. As a writer, how do you incorporate these changes in discourse into your work, and what challenges do you face? 

It a no-brainer. We live via technologies–and always have: writing is the original technology if by technology you mean an artifice created to replace or extend a human function–and each technological shift creates different styles of language that facilitate (and hamper) our uses of it, and its uses of us. Language that wants to section itself off as ‘literary’ is dead. Interesting writers keep a close eye on changes in the ways we speak and write to each other, as well as how this speaking and writing changes us. 

As you showed with your novella Seed, you’re very open to experimenting with digital storytelling techniques; what sort of possibilities do you think new technologies open up for your work, and how can this help to move literature forward? 

I’m not interested in the digital reproduction of the conventional book form. If I’m reading a ‘book’ I prefer print. I hope digital offers a huge number possibilities that do not already exist in print for representing experience via words, most of which I know nothing about. In Seed, I’ve used digital to explore written ways of telling developed by modernist and postmodernist writers, and in feminist and posthumanist thought, that challenge conventional linear notions of time and memory, and conventionally coherent subjectivity (aka ‘plot’ and ‘character’). 

You’ve already published short fiction, digital fiction, creative non-fiction (Hotel) and the A7-sized Shklovsky’s Zoo, amongst other forms; do you see yourself as a sort of ‘format agnostic’? Or is there a particular form you’d like to focus on in the future? Equally, is there anything you haven’t yet tackled which you’d like to try?

Form seems to arise to fit individual projects, or projects to fit situations. I’m flexible, and innovation is always also response, depending on collaboration, funding opportunities etc. But Hotel was a challenge to genre rather than form. If it began as response, it became deliberate, which makes me less an agnostic than an iconoclast. It started as an attempt to tell an autobiographical story outside the bounds of ‘memoir’. Traditionally memoir seems to concentrate on the subject. I’m only interested in myself as a starting point for discussing something wider. 

Following on from this, you’ve previously said that in the Anglosphere, the terms ‘writer’ and ‘novelist’ are almost synonymous. Do you think there have been any negative consequences from having moved between styles and formats early in your career, or is this something you’ve ever worried about? 

I started writing with no expectations of a ‘career,’ conscious of  not having written books that fit into easily saleable categories. But I haven’t been a writer all my adult life, and the idea of writing ‘the next book’ for the sake of writing the next book makes no sense to me. If that became the case, I hope I could walk away from it. But I hope I’ll be able to continue as an ‘amateur,’ like Clarice Lispector… though I also hope my amateurism has a long course  🙂

Autofiction has been an influence on your work; at the moment, the most prominent autofiction writers, such as Chris Kraus, Michelle Tea and Sheila Heti, seem to be based in North America. Do you think there’s something in the British literary scene which discourages this style of writing, and if so, are we likely to see that change? 

The UK reviews of Heti’s How Should a Person Be were almost unanimously negative, usually due to a perception that it is ‘narcissistic’ to write about yourself. I don’t see much change to that yet, but I meet (and teach!) people who want to read (and write) something they can’t quite define: a take on their own story, but not memoir or biography… and I spend a lot of my teaching time giving them permission to write what they want. But my influences don’t come only from North America, but also Europe, particularly France: NDiaye, Garreta, Duras, Sarraute, Ernaux… 

You’ve spoken previously about the importance of authors talking about how they make a living, if not solely from their work. Do you think there needs to be a process of demystifying the role of the author? And is this a shift that you see happening? 

Going back to Lispector: though she claimed to be an ‘amateur’ writer, she was a successful journalist, producing hundreds of columns on a variety of subjects for Brazilian newspapers. Perhaps her amateurism resided in her ability to separate paid work from play. “A professional has a personal commitment to writing. Or a commitment to someone else to write,” she said. “I insist on not being a professional. To keep my freedom.

When I read novelists in newspapers complaining they can’t make a living as a writer like they used to, I usually find they are living the sorts of lives I wouldn’t want to live, writing the sorts of works I wouldn’t want to write. They are ‘authors.’  

“If there’s any mystery left around the position or author (rather than around the practice), I’m be happy to see it evaporate.

But who is paid, and what they are paid, to write, is never neutral. These are things we need to question, and re-question. It is nice to be paid for something you’re skilled at, but the relationship between money and art can never be entirely ‘demystified,’ or art would become static. Fair returns should be paid to people whose work is sold,’ but that’s a commercial proposition. If writing can be weighed out and paid for per word, I don’t want to know what that exchange rate is. 

But, to answer your question: in practice, I have earned a living from journalism and teaching and, at the moment, PhD funding plus the occasional grant or residency. I don’t make much money from writing books, nothing like the UK living wage, but this has made my practice wider that it would have been were it easier to comfortably make a living by producing books.

What’s the relationship between the stories in Worlds From the Word’s End, and those in your previous collection, Vertigo? Was there a particular feeling you envisioned for each collection, that influenced your choice of stories? 

The stories for the two collections were mostly written concurrently – I had not idea that they’d be collected into these two volumes. Danielle Dutton of Dorothy made the initial selection of stories for Vertigo, selecting those with a hyperreal focus, about women in family relationships. I realised that the remaining stories had something in common too: a concentration on wordplay and abstraction. With a little work, they formed what I hope is an equally coherent collection. 

If you were an Egyptian pharaoh and had to be buried with a few key objects to take to the next world, what would they be?

It sounds wanky, but I’m not attached to particular objects, though I for preference I will live in a pleasant—though easily-reproducible—environment (a few nice clothes, a reasonable laptop, good coffee & decent alcohol please). I’m happy being temporary, in anonymous spaces, in other people’s houses. And I like to say goodbye to things. Recently I destroyed a lot of my artwork from when I was an illustrator because I have less storage space in my new place. I had a few twinges about that after, but it was probably the right thing to do because I felt it was at the time. I don’t like to go to writers’ houses, but I was in Prague with someone who wanted to visit Kafka’s house, and it’s now my favourite writers’ museum: so beautifully designed, around so little of him. I’m horrified how writers are interpreted via their ephemera: burn it all!

What’s your favourite portrait (it can be a song, a painting, a film, anything)?

This week? Maybe Joni Mitchell’s Carey.

***

Via: https://minorliteratures.com/2017/09/06/an-interview-with-joanna-walsh/