Open Out those Pivotal Moments

  All too often, in autobiographical writing, I see writers dodge the knotty, meaningful moments when they changed their minds about something significant. Yes, those moments often feel hard to write about. But if you open out those pivotal moments, you’ll find they’re the places that most clearly show your reader who their subject is..…

Prizes and Pubs, Feb 2018

Louise Allan’s first novel, The Sisters’ Song, has become a bestseller for Allen & Unwin, Australia’s leading independent publisher.  Marie-Elsa Bragg’s novel, Towards Mellbreak (Chatto & Windus, Penguin) has been shortlisted for the Writers’ Guild Best First Novel Award and selected as a 2017 Book of the Year in The New Statesman. Both Marie-Elsa and Zillah Bowes will be reading at this…

Writing is a Process

Writing Is a Process (that Your Inner Critic Treats as a Product) Do you ever feel suddenly convinced that you can’t write one more word (of your novel, memoir, Ph.D. thesis, etc.) without going back to revise what you’ve already written? Suddenly you’re walking in cement boots, dragging your way forward. “Go back!” your inner…

She Turned Her Head Away by Patricia Moffat.

She Turned Her Head Away by Patricia Moffat.  Subtitled “An Adoption Memoir”, this book is in fact so much more than that. Sometimes it reads like an intelligent whodunit (as the author pursues the trail of her birth-mother), sometimes like an insightful psychological novel. And on every page, it provides what I think I primarily…

Welcome Discouragement

To be open to writing is to be open to all the familiar parts of the writing process: the elation, the discouragement, and all that lies between.  Welcome discouragement.  Without it, you’ll get nowhere, even though it can be the hardest of your old friends to love.

Poem: A Center

You must hold your quiet center, where you do what only you can do. If others call you a maniac or a fool, just let them wag their tongues.  If some praise your perseverance,  don’t feel too happy about it — only solitude is a lasting friend.   You must hold your distant center. Don’t…

March, 2020, Prizes and Publications

Zillah Bowes was one of four poets shortlisted for the £10,000 Manchester Poetry Prize (2018). Her poems, and those of the other finalists, can be read on The Manchester Poetry Prize Website. (No prize for guessing whose poems I think should have won!). Marie-Elsa Bragg has had a second book, Sleeping Letters, begun at Freefall, accepted by Chatto…

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley. I think I’ve written before about this jewel of a novel, written in the 1950s, when the novel had aspirations for itself that are only a distant memory now. It’s as intimate as it is rich in metaphor:  a beautifully written book that no amount of time or the making of…

The Victorian and the Romantic by Nell Stevens

The Victorian and the Romantic by Nell Stevens.  So many memoirs these days seek uniqueness by bringing two unlikely things together. Here, a fictionalized love affair between Victorian novelist, Mrs. Gaskell, and American writer, Charles Elliot Norton, is paired with the author’s mysterious, on-again, off-again relationship with Max, her present-day lover. Amazingly, Stevens pulls this off…

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.  This sprawling family saga explores the world of Korean immigrants living in Japan (who currently number 700,000). Many jobs are closed to these “resident aliens”, but the “pachinko” (pinball) emporiums they run gross over $200 billion annually, or 30 times the annual revenue of Las Vegas (who knew?). Tenderly and with…

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