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

Monday 30 July 2012

Rook by Jane Rusbridge

Rook by Jane Rusbridge is published under the new Bloomsbury imprint Bloomsbury Circus. Jane is a West Sussex based writer who spent many years holidaying in Bosham, where the novel is set.

This is an atmospheric and beautifully written contemporary novel set in Bosham, West Sussex. Nora, an accomplished cellist, returns to her childhood home in Bosham to live with her elderly mother Ada. At first it’s unclear why Nora has returned and if she plans to stay. Ada is a realistic portrayal of a once glamorous woman drifting in and out of her memories, yet determined to remain independent and in control of her daughter. Their relationship is at times petulant and painful, rarely slipping into sentiment, which made it believable.

Jane Rusbridge weaves the past, both ancient and recent, into the present by creating images for the reader using all senses. At times I could almost smell the approaching tide and hear the screech of rooks. Her writing is reminiscent of the early novels from Penelope Lively and the poetic narrative style of Helen Dunmore. Reading this it did feel as if every sentence had been a labour of love for the author.

Nora rescues and nurses a fledgling rook with the help of Harry, a local handyman and artist. Harry is a quiet, understated character throughout the story, yet he is the solid, dependable hero who always seems to appear for Nora and Ada whenever disaster strikes. He’s almost an echo of the noble, Saxon warriors who haunt the beginning and end of the book.

The legend and myths of the Bosham church are also woven into the novel, along with theories on the Bayeux tapestry and the grave of Harold II (famously killed at the Battle of Hastings). A pushy TV documentary producer, who initially seems to help Nora bury the ghost of an influential ex-lover, stirs up and divides the local community with his obsession to dig up the church and open ancient tombs in search of the truth. Triggering Ada to remember the original excavation by her famous archeologist husband and his tragic death.

Gently and sensitively the tightly held secrets of both Nora and Ada become exposed, almost as if we  are archeologists prising them loose from the pages. We learn the poignant significance of Rook in Nora’s life and understand why saving him was so important to her. And we realise why she abandoned her music and previous life so dramatically. We also learn the truth about Ada and her past, which she never fully shares with Nora.

There are no neat endings to any of the story arcs in this novel. Answers are given, yet more questions are posed for the reader to explore. You feel as if the characters are continuing beyond the final pages, they still have lives to live even if you’re no longer party to what happens next. I loved this approach, as this is realistic writing – there can’t always be nice, tidy happy endings in life. But this writing style may not be to everyone’s tastes. I finished reading the end chapters with tears in my eyes and even a week later scenes and emotions from the book still linger in my thoughts.

In passing reference to that other current event LitPig awards ROOK a GOLD LITPIG (Excellent rating).

Rook is the second novel by Jane Rusbridge. I would highly recommend this as a subtle, intelligent read. Now I have a copy of her first book ‘The Devil’s Music’ and will post a review once read.

To read more about Jane Rusbridge and how to buy Rook of The Devil's Music click here.

Monday 16 July 2012

Sunshine Award

with thanks to Penelope Heyer

Many thanks to the lovely Penelope Heyer (do check out her blog The Haphazard Gardener, though I really think she should be writing Romantic Fiction with such a wonderfully romantic name) for sending me this Sunshine Award. I just love the cheerful colours! 

For this award you have to write 5 things about yourself. Include the logo in your post. Link to 5 nominees and to the person who nominated you.
OK here goes on the 5 facts about the Indoor Writer...
1. Every week I try to get out and run along the promenade at Worthing (though my pace is more of a jog). This Sunday I ran the 5km Race For LIfe with another writer, and fellow member of West Sussex Writers.
2. I have completed two novels, both unpublished. One is a children's novel The Wereboy of Bartoncoombe (Book 1) about werewolves on Dartmoor, which I am currently seeking to place with a literary agent. To date one agent has asked to read the complete manuscript, but sadly this didn't lead to anything.
3. Tomorrow I'm taking my teen son to Berlin for a city break. Every year we try and visit a European city. Last year we did Florence and Rome, and Paris was the year before. We love to explore these new places and seek out modern art galleries. I've only ever stopped at Berlin airport before so am looking forward to the trip.
4. As I no longer work full time, and not sure if you can ever describe writing as 'work', I have time to help as a volunteer driver for the surrounding villages. Through this scheme I've met lots of lovely people, many who have lived in the area for over fifty years or more. I hear great stories, some sad and many uplifting. I am also trained as a volunteer home visitor.
5. Whatever I attempt in life I take rather seriously and always aim high. This can make for a stressful existence at times. Take writing for example - with every competition win or story published I just want to do better and better. Wish I could just sit back and enjoy, but I'm not programmed that way. Not content with publication my secret ambition is to win the Man-Booker...see I have to aim high!

And my nominations for the Sunshine Award, in no particular order, are...

Patsy Collins is a prolific blogger who shares lots of FREE competitons, terrific photos and lots of fun news about her writing. Patsy has recently published her first novel: Escape to the Country. (I now have a copy and am taking it on holiday, so plan to post a review in next few weeks). 

Helen Yendall has a Blogaboutwriting where she shares lots of interesting writing news, news of her own writing (she is a Womag and features writer and keen competition entrant).

Sally Jenkins is a blogging writer that I first met on the Emerald Writing Flash Fiction competition. Sally gets out and about and shares competition news and writing facts. I always learn something new from Sally's posts.

Jo Derrick is behind The Yellow Room magazine and blog. She publishes The Yellow Room mag twice a year and you can only purchase it from her website. Do check it out as Jo has very high literary standards and the short stories are excellent. I think Jo is my nemesis right now as she keeps winning the competitions I've been shortlisted for ...hmmm

Julia Horley blogs about Life, Yoga and other adventures. Some posts about writing, but mainly about Julia's life and adventures and some cracking photos. A fun, chatty blog where you wish Julia was your next door neighbour.

Monday 9 July 2012

Children and chocolate - don't get them mixed up...

Here are two writing competitions with vastly different themes... please don't get them mixed up

Writer's Advice Centre 2012 Story Competition: Carrying the Flame

If you write for children then this is an excellent opportunity to showcase your writing. Click here to read further details and download entry form from the website NEWS page (scroll down to find the entry for Carrying the Flame).

The entry form states:
'Authors are invited to come up with the first 1000 words to a children’s book for any age group. This could be a picture book for very young children (in which case the word count will be well under 1000 words), or a complete short chapter book for first readers, or the first chapter to a book for older children.
The theme to this year’s competition is inspired by the Olympics but the title can be interpreted in any way you wish. Think outside the box. What we would like to see is authors taking inspiration from the spirit of the Olympics and embracing the very diverse world in which we live.

The exact targeting is up to you but what we would like, in addition to the manuscript, is for you to include a covering letter to an imaginary publisher. This should include a one sentence description of your story and where you see it fitting in the marketplace, but should not include a synopsis.'
  • £5 entry fee to accompany entry form
  • Open to all ages
  • Must be unpublished in children's publishing field
  • 1st Prize: £100, signed copy of How to Write for Children & Get Published, Free professional editorial & marketing assessment of entry. The chance to have your work submitted to a mainstream publisher, and two agents, for consideration
  • Runner-up: a copy of How to Write for Children & Get Published, Free professional editorial & marketing assessment of entry.
  • Closing date 31st August
The indoor writer came runner-up in the 2011 First Chapter (writing for children) competition and really appreciated the editorial & marketing assessment that she received from Louise Jordan. It certainly gave her a motivating boost to edit and submit her children's novel The Wereboy of Bartoncoombe.

Choc-Lit Short Story Competition 

Full details of entry rules can be found here. This is a chance to do plenty of research into CHOCOLATE, with the opportunity of winning, guess what.... more CHOCOLATE. A LitPig's dream come true.

  • Write a short story of up to 1,500 words on one of the following central themes:
    • a hero or heroes (they don't have to be irresistible or romantic)
    • chocolate in summer - eating it, drinking it or anything else
  • 1st prize: £200, publication and a tin of Cadbury's Heroes, runner-up: £50 and a tin of Cadbury's Heroes
  • Story must be original and not previously published
  • £3 per entry, can be paid by cheque or paypal transfer
  • Stories must be submitted by post or email
  • Closing date 31st August
  • Judges are: Margaret James, Sue Moorcroft (who also judges the monthly Writers' Forum competitions) & Linda Mitchelmore
  • Winners will be announced during National Short Story week 12 - 18 November (more dates for the diary!)
You can read the previous winner of the Winter competition on the website: Foreign Field by Lucy Moutland. A rather poignant story and excellent use of the chocolate theme.

The indoor writer had a go at the winter competition, but didn't make the shortlist. However, she then entered the same story (a dark fairy tale) into the Steyning Festival Short Story Prize and WON. (Don't tell anyone but she ended up winning a bigger prize than offered by Choc-Lit). So the lesson here is don't give up on your work. Judges' opinions are very subjective - as are the opinions of the readers who often pick the initial shortlist. If a story fails in a competition then: 

Good luck if you have a go at either of the above. Let me know how you get on! And keep writing...

Sunday 8 July 2012

A trick I learned from dead men by Kitty Aldridge

I confess I did slip away from the tennis this afternoon to listen to Open Book on Radio 4 (sorry Andy, but you were doing OK at that point!). Kitty Aldridge was talking about her new novel 'A trick I learned from dead men' with Mariella Frostrup. But hang on, I thought as I listened to the excerpts read out: I've heard these words before. Yet I haven't read the book (unsurprising since it only came out last week). The story and characters seemed so familiar... And then it came to me. Kitty's short story 'Arrivederci Les' won the 2011 Bridport Prize and was published in the 2011 anthology. We always buy the Bridport anthology (the indoor writer is determined to get shortlisted one year & reads previous winners for research purposes...) and yes, the short story is quite clearly the baseline for the novel. Which is a great advocate for all short story writers in that it is possible to transform a short story into a longer piece of fiction. What was surprising was the interview made no reference to the success of the original short story and how it grew into a novel. An opportunity missed? Or does the novel follow the same narrative arc as the short story? Well, to echo Harry Hill, there's only way to find out. Now I'm going to have read Kitty Aldridge's novel in full, but if the book is as delightful and intelligent as her short story then I'm in for a treat.

If anyone reads 'A trick I learned from dead men' the please share your thoughts on the book.

Monday 2 July 2012

A taste of Sussex

If you're a fan of Futurama then you'll know all about Hypno Toad and his glowing eyes. Well he seems to be living contentedly beside  our garage. And was quite happy to pose in the sun for Handsome Hubby. We rushed off to identify our ruby-eyed beauty, only to find he was a Common Toad. Rather misnamed we thought for such a gorgeous creature.

The indoor writer celebrated her birthday (last Thursday) with a long walk on the South Downs. The photo (above right) is looking south to Cissbury Ring and shows just why West Sussex is a terrific county to live. The final descent into Steyning passed between hedgerows and at one point the path and bushes were festooned with little white hearts: wild rose petals (above left). Nature's confetti.

And finally Worthing prom is a great place to run. You have the sea, the sun (occasionally) and it's very, very flat! The indoor writer runs about 5km once a week and has made Runner's World August issue - see page 30 and a feature on why some runners don't worry about coming last. Hmm, not sure she should be boasting about this. Even hubby gets a credit as official photographer. Fame at last...