Epiphany — 6th January — marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, and the day when the Three Kings brought gifts to the infant Jesus. The tryptich above is by Hieronymus Bosch, dated to around the end of the 15th century. But, with apologies to those who prefer the religious meaning of Epiphany, that’s not what I’m writing about in this blog.
In the UK, Epiphany can be a bit of a downer, an end to things. It’s when we take down our Christmas decorations, put the cards in the recycling bin, and chop up the tree ready for the bonfire. We go back to work, if we haven’t done so already. The fun and games are over. Once we’ve hoovered up all the pine needles and the glitter that gets absolutely everywhere, the house looks a bit drab, doesn’t it? (And, next year, glitter is definitely banned in the Maitland house!) Continue reading →
A couple of years ago, Sophie produced a series of blogs around The Twelve Days of Christmas and books that the verses suggested to her. Many of you followed the blogs — which are still available here — and read some of the books Sophie suggested.
I was one of those who found new authors that way. And I am very grateful.
I’m not doing anything so erudite this year. But the carol came into my mind when I was sorting through photographs from a mate’s safari trip to Botswana. (Isn’t that a fabulous sunset, above?) I have permission to use the pics to illustrate the doggerel I’ve created, with apologies to whoever wrote the original carol. (For my Twelve Days Botswana version, there isn’t enough content for 12 blogs, so you get it all in one!)
Twelve Days of Christmas, Botswana-style:
you may wish to sing along as you read 😉
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
A few years ago, we featured polar bears (left) in our Christmas blog. They were fun, in shop windows and on market stalls. I thought they were almost as good as our burglarious santas.
But this year, even though we were nowhere near the end of November, the polar bears had grown. I found nine-foot high bears on the pavement in Piccadilly outside the Park Lane Hotel (shown left and below).
They were eye-catching, certainly, but in the middle of November?
What do we poor punters have to do to be spared Christmas adverts and — crucially — Christmas jingles for weeks and weeks in the run-up to the great day? Continue reading →
This weekend, we four Libertà authors are reminiscing about things military.There’s something about a man in uniform, isn’t there? Even Lizzie Bennet was impressed (for a while) by George Wickham in his scarlet regimentals. But is it also true of contemporary military men? Continue reading →
This week, I finished a book. Writing a book, that is. So I’m feeling smug. (No mention, please, of the fact that the agreed deadline for the MS was end of July.)
And when I finished it, I thought:
“I’m a completer-finisher. Eureka!”
She’s off again, I hear you groan. What on earth is a completer-finisher? Continue reading →
On a recent visit to Winchester — which, to my shame, I hadn’t visited before, even though I lived in Hampshire for 20 years — I felt duty-bound to pay homage at Jane Austen’s grave in the cathedral.
Jane Austen’s Gravestone
It’s a plain black stone, set into the northern aisle of Winchester cathedral, among dozens of others. If you weren’t looking for it, it would be easy to walk over and past it. The cathedral, though, knows it’s a tourist draw so they’ve made quite a display of it, with several stands that tell visitors about Austen’s life, and about her early death in 1817.
The gravestone makes no mention of Jane Austen’s writing. Women at that time (and later) were usually described by their virtues and by their relationships with men; as daughters, wives, mothers, aunts. So it was with Jane. Continue reading →
The writing life is hard. And some parts of it are harder than others. [Yes, I know. Cue violins?]
When i do talks for readers, they regularly ask me, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I answer. Of course I do. But for me — and, I suspect, for a lot of other writers — the challenge isn’t finding new ideas to write about. My challenge is turning the zillions of ideas fizzing around my brain into words on the page.
Thousands and thousands of words.
If you’ve read any great books recently, the chances are that you raced through thousands of words in a few hours. Perhaps you missed out on several hours’ sleep because you just had to keep turning the pages? That’s really pleasing for the writer. But it’s also daunting. Because you, dear reader, may well want another book by the same author.
It takes a few hours to read a great book. It takes months, or years, to write one.
Last week, I attended The Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick for the first time. I must say that I’d forgotten what it’s like to be a writing conference newbie — I’ve been going to the RNA Conference for more years than I’m prepared to admit — and it was salutary to experience newbie-dom all over again.
(At my first RNA Conference, I wasn’t published and didn’t really know anyone. But I met loads of writers whose books I’d read and loved. I remember chatting with Nicola Cornick who was then one of my writing heroes, and still is. The RNA sort of enfolded me, from that point on, it seemed.) Continue reading →
Almost every writing tutor — including Sophie and Joanna of this parish — will tell aspiring writers that it’s a really good idea to read aloud during the editing process, in order to judge whether the manuscript needs more work. Basically, if you fall over your prose while trying to read it aloud, you haven’t got it right. Yet.
Apparently, we and all the other tutors are guilty of logocentrism. (Is that another of those incomprehensible words that Dame Isadora was ranting about, a few weeks ago? Maybe, but I haven’t been able to ask her, because she’s off in one of the wilder parts of the world, advising some government panjandrums about communication skills. I imagine her audience is still reeling…)