Welcome to my blog

Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Write a novel in a month - NaNoWriMo

November 1st marks the start of NaNoWriMo where the challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.  Yes in one month: 1- 30th November!  If you register on the official website then you get regular emails with information on the challenge and lots of support.  There are local groups running special events like all night writing challenges (plenty of coffee needed for these!) and get-togethers.

From checking out fellow writing bloggers it seems quite a number of writers are up for the challenge.  And sadly the indoor writer is one of them.  She's going to write the first draft of her new novel, a YA theme, by end of November.  It may not quite reach 50,000 words (so possibly won't genuinely qualify for NaNoWriMo), but who's counting!  With temperatures dropping November is a good month to lock yourself indoors and hibernate with the laptop.  She's stocked up on coffee, tea and polo mints with the aim of writing 2,000 words a day (Mon-Friday and w/e's off!).

I'm worried that she's spent more time planning her playlist than her outline, but she assures me she has the chapters laid out (index cards is her method) and the main plotline and characters defined.  Hmm ... I'm not convinced, but if she keeps me well stocked with reading material and choc cake then I'm not complaining.

Let me know if you're planning to join the NaNoWriMo challenge.
Keep writing ....

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Prosperity knocks

The last two weeks have been incredibly positive for the indoor writer with a flurry of competition news - all good for once.  Rejections seem to arrive like buses, interspersed with the occasional (and rare) appearance of the tooting taxi of success.  Yet in the last fortnight two short stories have reached the shortlist stage (final judging) and a third got into the longlist, all different stories in three different competitions.  Still waiting to hear on all of these, so hoping at least one of these reaches the podium!

And the icing on the cake (she's promised me chocolate-fudge) was finding her children's novel had won Second Prize in Writers' Advice Centre First Chapter competition, click here for more details.  The premise was to enter the first chapter (up to 1000 words) plus a cover letter (as if you were approaching a real publisher) and The Wereboy of Bartoncoombe (for 9-12 years) clearly was a hit with the judges! A positive endorsement for this story, which is a completed manuscript.

Now where's that cake ....

Monday, 24 October 2011

Spotlight on West Sussex Writers' Club - New Chair

The annual AGM saw Nina Tucknott step down as reigning Chair for WSWC (West Sussex Writers' Club) with Sarah Palmer being elected as the new Chair.

Spotlight on Nina Tucknott:
Nina joined WSWC in 1996 and has been active on the committee in various posts since 1997. She was elected Chair in 2002 for a three year period and then made Club history by being elected again in 2007; this time keeping the post for four years. She has just stepped down (September 2011) but continues to produce the Club's 12 page monthly newsletter as Newsletter Editor.

Nina is a Swedish speaking Finn who moved to Sussex in 1981, and she readily admits that she wouldn't be able to write anything in Swedish anymore, bar the odd birthday card or email!

Still, the writing bug did start at an early age and no doubt her Swedish language teacher groaned at the pony stories she was regularly presented with. Amateur dramatics took over in mid to late teens and then life got in the way raising a family and being kept busy with that. When her two sons, Sebastian and Lucas, were in their early teens, Nina enrolled on a creative writing postal course and that kick started the creative writing flow again.

Nina has had hundreds of articles published - mainly on gardening and cookery - over the years and her short stories have featured in ten anthologies to date; her favourite short story genre being 'tale with a twist'. She has also been successful in various creative writing competitions and has taught creative writing in Brighton.

The first novel, after five years of slog is finished - a contemporary Brighton tale - although this hasn't been sent out anywhere as yet. Having completed a screenwriting course recently, most of Nina's time is now taken up with adapting the novel into a screenplay instead!

All of us at WSWC wish Nina continued success with her writing career and it's good to know she is still an active part of the club and Newsletter.  (Keep telling the jokes Nina!)

Spotlight on the new Chair, Sarah Palmer:
Members of West Sussex Writers' Club are an eclectic bunch. We have poets, scriptwriters, literary novelists, science fiction writers, saga writers, dramatists, creative writing tutors, children's writers, journalists and biographers – amongst others - in our midst. Many, but not all, are published. Some have a lifetime of writing experience, others are at the start of their writing career, and a few haven't written anything yet.

During my time as Chair, I want to build on what is at the heart of our constitution - a commitment to help writers in all genres, to encourage their work and offer help, if they want it, towards publication or gaining a wider readership.

My hope is that every meeting will offer something different, that there'll be plenty of airing and discussion of members' work and, above all, that everyone will leave a meeting having learned something about writing.

I'm also excited about our new collaborative project – a pantomime that will be performed as a rehearsed reading in December 2012, and that we'll be working on over the year. This is a great opportunity for everyone to work together in as large or small a way as they wish, but which I hope will get the Club writing as never before.

Sarah Palmer
October 2011

Monday, 17 October 2011

What do you listen to when you write?

The music that we write to can be inspiring, motivating or even an integral tool in the whole creative process.  Sarah Higbee (Sci-Fi author) prompted a writing exercise at the recent monthly meeting of West Sussex Writing Club: getting everyone to replay a favourite piece of music in their heads and recall the first time of hearing the piece.  We had to free write whatever came to us: the feelings, thoughts that the memory stirred.  Sarah stated that listening to music can trigger memory paths that are rarely revisited (scent can do the same) and suddenly cause us to recall an experience or emotion that has been long buried.

Many authors write to favourite soundtracks, perhaps to conjure a particular mood, or even to condition themselves into writing.  Maggie Stiefvater (author of The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy) recently tweeted her itunes songlist (>4hrs) to which she wrote her new book The Scorpio Races.   Perhaps this could be a whole new market for itunes... how to write the bestseller - just buy the songlist from your favourite author and off you go ... could even be tailored for your genre ...

So what does the indoor writer listen to?
  • Kate Bush for anything emotive.
  • Hans Zimmer soundtracks (Gladiator, Inception etc) for dark moods (anything supernatural or gothic).  Also soundtracks from Lord of The Rings films.
  • Colin Hay / Suzanne Vega for quirky, surreal flash fiction.
  • The Most Incredible Thing - the soundtrack for Tennant/Love's ballet for anything upbeat.
She loves Radio 4, but can only listen when researching.  Can't listen to anything wordy when writing, simply can't concentrate.

What do you listen to when you write?  Do you have a favourite CD or playlist?  Do you prefer to write to songs or instrumental music?

Keep writing ... and don't forget the soundtrack

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - a very personal review

Many hail him as a genius.  Time magazine (2007) named him as one of the most influential novelists in the world.  Shortlisted twice for the Man Booker prize and with five published novels David Mitchell is one of the best-known names in contemporary literary fiction.  And before I begin I'll confess right away to being a signed-up fan.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is Mitchell’s latest novel set in 19th century Japan (early 1800’s).  Mitchell is known for multiple POV's and changing narratives and time periods (often linked) within his novels.  Although there are several POV's within ‘Thousand Autumns’ the setting remains constant throughout the story.

The official website (click here) summarises the story:
Set in atmospheric coastal Japan, this epic story centers on an earnest young clerk, Jacob de Zoet, who arrives in the summer of 1799 to make his fortune and return to Holland to wed his fiancée. But Jacob's plans are shaken when he meets the daughter of a Samurai.

Some reviews describe the novel as a love story, but I feel that is an oversimplification of Mitchell’s writing and his intentions.  As in all of his novels he writes about experiences and what it is to be human.  The content is far too complex to be squashed into a concept or genre.

I came to this novel after reading Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green (in that order) and was immediately sucked into the story of midwife Orito Aibagawa in Chapter 1.  However, I struggled with the immediately following chapters which overran with characters and concepts that were quite alien to me – few of us have an in-depth knowledge of feudal Japan and Dutch trading.  Truthfully, I almost gave up before page 100, but I didn’t and was ultimately rewarded.  I had faith that all would soon fall into place and, as always with Mitchell’s writing, it did

Mitchell truly transports the reader to another time and place, immersing you in a world, which by the end of the novel you cannot bear to part from.  He lived and taught in Japan for over eight years before moving to Ireland with his family.  Mitchell’s passion and love for the country clearly shines out in this novel.

Jacob de Zoet is a rare creature: a man of honour and integrity.  He really does live by his principles and sticks to them even when surrounded by corruption and treachery, despite facing ruination and death.  This is a subtle man who through his actions develops the respect and loyalty of all around him.  A man we all could follow – he embodies the qualities that we yearn for in our politic leaders but sadly know they exist only in fiction.

The narrative also follows Orito, the disfigured midwife, and Uzaemon a Japanese translator for the Dutch traders.  Orito is an intelligent, determined woman trapped in a patriarchal society and Uzaemon another high-principled man who seeks redemption by saving Orito from the convent where she’s imprisoned.  Orito and Uzaemon’s tale is reminiscent of a medieval romance where the valiant knight risks all for his lady’s honour.

The quality of the writing carries you through the interwoven narratives like a gentle whispering wind.  At times the prose is reminiscent of Japanese poetry, subtle and delicate like multiple Haikus.  I loved this element of the book and it's this aspect that will linger long in my memory.  The conclusion is not a traditional happy ending, but I found it incredibly uplifting and quite beautiful.  My eyes were blurring as I read the final pages and yet the emotions triggered are not easy to catalogue.  Simply, I did not want to leave Jacob and his world.  Rather how Jacob feels when he finally has to leave Nagasaki and return to Europe.

If you haven’t discovered David Mitchell then I’d recommend you read this novel, but start with another of his books first.  ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’ has clearly evolved from his other fiction and heaven knows how he will top it, yet I’d recommend a new reader should first start their Mitchell journey with Ghostwritten or Cloud Atlas.

I have yet to read Number9Dream, a pleasure I’m saving as then I will have read all of David Mitchell’s novels and will be left waiting on his sixth book to come out.

Keep reading …

David Mitchell’s novels to date:
Ghostwritten, 1999
Number9Dream, 2001
Cloud Atlas, 2004
Black Swan Green, 2006
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, 2010

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Buxton poetry competition 2012

The Buxton Poetry Competition 2012 is now open!

To celebrate the 2012 Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee the theme for 2012 is ‘Welcome to Britain’.
With a top prize of £300 and other cash prizes/book tokens on offer this should be plenty of inspiration to get your poetry juices flowing. 

How to enter
The competition is open to all. You can enter the Open Category for poets over 18 years old, the youth category for poetry aged between 12 and 18 or the Children's Category for poets aged 11 and under. All poems must be sent by post with an entry form to the address on the form by 6th April 2012.

To download an entry pack visitwww.derby.ac.uk/buxtonpoetrycompetition or emailclaire@buxtonfestival.co.uk or call 01298 70395.

Monday, 3 October 2011

It's not really about the money

After a lean couple of months suddenly in the last week prosperity showered the indoor writer.  Two cheques came in and she also learned a flash fiction story had won a book of short stories (for reaching the final 6 in Emerald Writing shortlist).  One cheque had been eagerly awaited - to date the biggest win of her writing career (both in monetary value and prestige) from Writing Magazine and the winning story is printed in November's issue (out this week).  This has certainly beefed up the bank account and provides funding for further competitions and writing projects.  The second cheque was 10,000% smaller but still marked a milestone in that it was payment for a small feature submitted on writing flash fiction - so the first ever payment for a non-fiction piece of work.  You have to start somewhere ...

Last week also saw a nine-way auction for M L Stedman's debut novel 'The Light Between Oceans', won by Transworld and Random House Australia.  Rather encouraging news for other hopeful novelists to see a debut novel attract such attention.  Good luck to M L Stedman - the book is planned to be published in hardback during 2012.  Click here to read more.

And so what did the indoor writer spend some of her winnings on?  New running shoes!  Heck the only time you'll see a pig running is when the trough's been topped up.

Keep writing...