Punctuation was invented to help the Reader. And the very first invention was space breaking up text — so you could tell one word from the next. Seriously.
A couple of months ago I was putting the final touches to an online course on punctuation. Not a subject to rock them in the aisles, I thought. Mind you, I love the stuff. But I have learned that, as a subject of conversation, it doesn’t generally draw children from play and old men from the chimney corner.
So when I was preparing the course, I thought I’d throw in a bit of history for context.
Only then, of course, I had to check online whether what I remembered was a) accurate and b) still received wisdom. And found something new to me: Aristophanes, Head Librarian of Alexandria aged sixty. He was sitting there, receiving rolls in Greek, the language of the prevailing empire.
Most people then, of course, would be illiterate. So the purpose of these scrolls was to provide a text for someone else to deliver in the market place or to perform as an entertainment.
BUT they arrived with all the letters in a continuous line. Presumably to save papyrus and possibly time, as they were being hand-copied by scribes.
So Aristophanes thought of a way of marking up copies of the text to help the Poor Bloody Orator who had to read them out loud. Continue reading →
This week I had a great treat. I visited Buckingham Palace Gardens. For the first time they are open for members of the public to explore on a so-called “self-guided tour”.
The idea has been so successful that demand for tickets outstripped supply. So there are now additional ticket for dates throughout July to September.
Indeed, it looks as if even the newly released tickets have already sold out. But they urge you to check back for possible cancellations. Given the uncertainty of British Weather – that great Cleopatra, as Charles Lamb called it – I should think there may be plenty
The week before last I spent a blissful holiday in Dorset as a birdwatcher’s companion. We went on long walks in sea air and generally marvelled at the countryside. It was in full fig and glorious.
The Birdwatcher saw a couple of birds he didn’t expect, as well as one genuine rarity. And I spent a couple of hours communing with a Little Owl. It sat so still I worried that it was a stuffed toy. The Amiable Birdwatcher agreed that it might be a decoy to attract owls to that quarry as a des res, so took us back to check. And then, Sleepy Sam came out of his stupor to pursue a fly up one level on the rock face. So after that, I stayed and watched him doze.
Punctuation – the Reckless Volunteer
The peace and quiet was very necessary. This last week I have been wrestling with new and exciting challenges. For I am to deliver an online course on punctuation next month and I have never done such a thing before. The online course, I mean.
A few weeks ago, I read Elizabeth Hawksley’s blog about the difficulties she had when first trying to turn one of her backlist into an ebook. She’d been filing her old manuscripts in chapters that she thought she could use. But the files turned out to include competing versions. She had real problems stitching together a continuous MS.
Elizabeth, you had all my sympathy.
Been there, done that.
Don’t have the t-shirt but probably should. Continue reading →
For some while now I have been thinking about novelists’ ways of learning to write. Then three conversations recently presented the issue to me in quite individual and thought provoking ways. And I am missing the chance to discuss it with friends and fellow authors. Missing it badly, if I’m honest.
For this is the season that the Romantic Novelists Associationholds its annual conference as I write. And I am missing the panels, the talks, the workshops – not to mention the kitchen chats and the goody bags. So all the stuff that I regularly count on to raise my industry knowledge, various writing skills and sheer enthusiasm is happening. Only. I. Am Not There.
So this blog is a sort of wish fulfilment. Were I at the Conference, I would be hunkering down in a kitchen with like minds and a decent bottle or two and… Well, you get the picture. Continue reading →
Delightful chap, isn’t he, our villain? I particularly admire those enormous teeth. And that improbable moustache.
I’ve blogged about villains before — including charismatic villains played by Alan Rickman (yes!) and Richard Armitage — but today’s blog isn’t about individual villains. It’s about what villains can bring to our manuscripts, especially when we’re stuck.
I was stuck on my current wip. It was moving at the rate of a glacier before we had climate change.
In other words, it was going nowhere very slowly.
By temperament, I’m one of nature’s collaborators. Show me a team and I’m spitting on my hands and doing my bit. With enthusiasm.
In my various day jobs, I’ve loved the sense of shared enterprise. OK, I could get a bit testy when we had meetings about meetings. But mostly interaction with other people buoyed me up when I was tired, focused me when I was floundering and made laugh a lot.
And I work a whole lot better than I do on my own.
The designer is key to a book’s reception. Readers see the cover before they’ve read a word.
A confession here: it took me a while to realise that this blog entry had to be called Self-Publisher to Designer not Author to Designer. The problem is I haven’t got used to seeing myself as publisher. Getting closer, after this experience, though.
I am a writer. Yet, by opting to self-publish, I’ve engaged in a twenty-first century business (ouch!) with many aspects: editorial, physical and digital production, marketing, sales, communications (that’s PR to you and me) and finance.
Our guest blogger today is multi-published historical author Elizabeth Hawksley. She does more than write novels. Her plays have been performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, the Oxford Playhouse and the Edinburgh Festival. She is currently the UK Children’s Book Review editor for the Historical Novel Society Review and also teaches creative writing via courses, workshop and lectures.
It is not surprising that she is in demand on the platform. Many writers will remember a certain Sunday afternoon at the RNA Conference. Elizabeth recited the whole of Elinor Glyn with a perfectly straight face while her audience rolled around, aching with laughter and pleading to be given a chance to catch their breath. A real tour de force.
Today, Elizabeth is writing about emotion in the shrubbery and how it figures in the much-loved novels of Jane Austen.
Jane Austen : Emotion in the Shrubbery
In the early 19th century, every house of consequence had a shrubbery: a grassy area with shrubs, a few trees, a bench to sit on, and a winding gravel path. In essence, it was the antithesis of the formal parterres, geometrical shapes and clipped box hedges at the front of the house which proclaimed the owner’s status and control over Nature. Continue reading →