Four Novelists and a Narrator

‘Everyone has a novel in them’.  How many times have we heard that said?  It’s possible.  Probable, even.  The world is full of the blissfully ignorant, who will write their novel ‘one day’ (when they have time) and the woefully knowledgeable, who have a drawer full of rejections. To write a novel is to find oneself in a gleefully negative community.  Head-shakes and rueful smiles precede a useful little sound bite: ‘who do you know (have slept with/can blackmail/preferably all three) in the publishing business?’ or ‘JK Rowling had 3 million rejections, you know’ or ‘have you thought of bee-keeping instead? Fewer stings. Ha ha.’At the other end of the scale is the urban myth of the bored bricklayer (brain-surgeon/dog-breeder) who wrote a thriller during a wet weekend in Wales and got a £billion advance and a 6-book deal.So should the Regular Joseph/ine give up now? Of course not.  And I...
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Ten reasons to join a creative writing class...

Thanks to an off the cuff remark by one of the participants in my Thursday morning writing class, I came up with a whole host of potential ice-breakers last week.  I'm always on the look out for new 'warm up' writing exercises that are fun, vaguely useful and never reminiscent of terrible office team-building days.The man I will call Mr H (in case he's too modest to own his ideas here...) mentioned he had once written - for creative, not personal reasons, you understand - a list of 'Five Reasons to Date Oneself'.*  This started the cogs turning and I took the idea if  not the content to another writing group, twisted it to make it as convoluted as possible and asked them to create a list of things they would write Ten Reasons  about.  If it came from personal experience, all the better. Yes, it did take half the class to explain...
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Images From Bhola

 What's the best way to beat the blues?  You know: the end of the summer, the increasingly dark mornings and shorter evenings, a new term's work already piling up...   Well, you sit down and peruse the Emirates website and the next minute find your fingers are compelled to book flights for Bangladesh!  January 2014, Bhola (and who knows where else?) here we come. With that in mind, and given your patience at my various pontifications over the last few months, I thought I'd simply post a few random snaps of the children and young people currently living in Bhola. Here they are -    Ahsan picking the carrots he's grown on our land in ValumiaBoys relaxing on the roof - where they are building the parapet The girls on a break from the tailoring building stop to chatSchool children practising for Independence Day Parade Salina giving Rosina treatment  in the new physio room The boys getting a lesson in sewing and mending their...
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Edinburgh Fringe, Toddler-Style

August.Edinburgh.Simon shaking me at dawn and demanding, 'mummy, is it morning-time and what show we will see today?'It must be the Fringe.  And Simon is a 3 year old groupie...  If he could write his reviews, he would.  Verbally, he's deconstructed the performances at length and it goes something like this:ALIENS LOVE UNDERPANTS - 'very excellent funny'That's good, because neither of us had read the book before we went.  We have since.  Many, many times.  Nearly as many times as we, and all house-guests, have had to check our underpants have not been stolen.  However, it seem we're okay: we live on the second floor, and aliens, like Darleks, can't - apparently - climb stairs...BIG RED STORY BUS - 'mummy, why don't all buses have stories?'A trip up Arthur's Seat, accompanied by songs and stories from top-deck storyteller, Peter Snow, was very well-received but has set us up for a lifetime of disappointment on Lothian...
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Much Madness; or, A World Within a World.

Here's a conundrum for all you writers - and readers - out there (keep reading, I'll get to the point eventually): In the 1950's, the psychologist Erving Goffman developed the concept of the Total Institution.  This, he defined as: ‘A place of residence and work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time together, lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life.’ (Goffman, 1961)It was the heyday of the 'mental asylum' and of the boarding school, even the convent.  Care in the community wasn't even embryonic and criminals were far more likely to be incarcerated than paroled. Goffman was talking about actual bricks-and-mortar buildings where people on the inside only had contact with people on the outside through a strict system of gatekeeping.  These places were, then, worlds within worlds; they were enclosed.Now, I'm fast-forwarding through lots of theoretical and philosophical debate (I...
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