Wednesday, December 22, 2010

This year, I have mostly been ...

Hard to believe how fast this year has sped past.

During 2010, I ...

So, for 2011, I'm looking forward to:

But first of all, I'm in full on bar mitzvah mode.  Just over 2 weeks to go to organise and cater the party for 180 guests for Youngest Son's Big Day.  And I'm doing it all from our tiny kitchen.  Mad?  Indubitably ...

Stay safe and warm over the holidays.  And keep writing.  And reading.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Writing: a dangerous addiction?

Dictionary definition of addiction:  the condition of being abnormally dependent on some habit, esp compulsive dependency on narcotic drugs.

Right.  So let's look at the compulsion some of us have to write and see whether that qualifies us as word junkies.

Stratospheric highs followed by crushing lows?  Yep.
Feel like you're only truly alive when you're doing it?   'fraid so.
Feeling bereft when you're not doing it?  Uh huh.
Oblivious to the outside world when you're on a high?  True.
Impact on members of your family, who are driven crazy by your glazed eyes and distracted air?  Can't deny it.

So what kind of person is susceptible to this condition?

I always thought it safe to assume that those most vulnerable are those who have always loved books and reading since early childhood.  They know how it feels to enter a different world, to explore new places and meet new people, to hear a story being told - all inside their own head without ever leaving the comfort of their armchair.

It's not such a huge leap to progress from this passive form of being a book junkie, to one who feels irresistably drawn to take the next step: to create worlds of their own and people them with casts drawn from their imagination.

So when I received an MS for editing back in May 2008 and read the covering letter, you can understand why my heart sank - and why, in spite of the dozens of MSes I've edited since, I remember this particular one so well.

'I don't read books,' the author said.  'But my wife does.  And she thinks it's good.'

Eh?  Run that by me again?  That statement begs so many questions, I hardly know where to start.  The author was obviously well-educated and highly intelligent.

Did he truly believe that feedback from his own wife (whose only apparent qualification was that she reads books) was sufficient justification for him to have given up his job in order to write?  (Yes, you did read that right.)

And why on earth would he  choose to write if he never read?  Most of us write the kinds of books we would like to read.  How could he make that decision?  And how could he know what works and what doesn't?  What readers want and expect?  What the rules are for different genres?  As I later said in my report, it's the equivalent of someone who's never swam more than a length of the bath attempting to swim the Channel.

Anyway, I had a job to do.  As soon as I began reading it came as no surprise that an enormous amount of work needed to be done in almost every area in order to raise the standard of the MS.  In that respect, the author was far from unique.  I have edited worse MSes whose authors didn't have the added disadvantage of not being avid readers.

As I continued reading, the reason this author had for writing his book became more clear.  He was working through, in a fictional setting, some very personal and painful experiences. 

Good on him!  It was a testament to his determination to transcend those experiences and turn them into something constructive and meaningful.  And blimey, he had written a whole book and that's an achievement in anyone's ... book.

I gave him the usual lecture about managing expectations and the financial realities faced by writers - even those authors considered 'successful'.  I pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of his book. I didn't hold back on how much work he needed to do on it. 

To be honest, I was pretty convinced he'd written the book he needed to write; the process had been cathartic and healing, but that would be the end of his writing career.

After I sent him the report, he replied to say my comments were spot on, in all but one regard.  He was determined to carry on writing.  He told me he 'thoroughly loved it' and had already embarked on his next book, although he knew it would most likely be a 'fruitless exercise'.

Sure enough,   I received the draft of his second book in December 2009.  I can't tell you how delighted I was to have been proved wrong.  The author assured me he was reading fiction now.  This new MS was a very different book and the progress he had made in every aspect of creative writing was impressive.

We continued to exchange emails.  I was reassured that he was realistic.  He just wanted to hone his craft and continue to work on this book.  He told me he was surprised to find out how much he was loving the writing process.

Yes, that's right.  He was hooked.  There was to be no going back.

DW and I met in Real Life when he attended a Writers' Workshop course that I ran in September.  I could see how much he wanted to stick his tongue out at me and say, 'Told you so.'  I honestly wouldn't have minded.  There's a fellowship among addicts.  He was a welcome addition to the colony.

In November, having polished according to his original report and using the new skills he'd picked up at the workshop, he submitted the redraft.  More mega improvements.  But that meant he'd now moved onto another level.  To his disappointment, this report was the longest I'd done for him yet.  It's ironic - the better the quality and overall standard, the more there is to say about it.  (It doesn't take many words to point  out a problem that recurs throughout an MS.)

'That's it,' he said when he received the report.  'I've had enough.'

He hadn't though, of course.  As soon as he spotted the validity of the feedback, he could see how it made sense.  It didn't make him throw away the crack pipe.  Instead it made him excited all over again as he saw how he could make his creation better still.

I know he loves me and hates me in equal measure.  I am his dealer, after all.  But the addiction is all his.  Just to make it clear what to expect now that he's confessed to his compulsion, I can do no better that to quote The Eagles.

'This could be heaven and this could be hell ...'

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Commitments

Less of a post and more of an excuse, I'm afraid.

Too busy to blog?  How can this be...?

In the tradition of 'show, don't tell' beloved injunction by creative writing teachers everywhere, here are a few of the things coming up soon.

25th November - Glasshouse Books gig at Bookseller Crow on the Hill in Crystal Palace.  Emma Darwin and some woman called Debi Alper will be reading from 33, the anthology with a story set in each of London's boroughs.  Karen McLeod and Paul Burston will be reading from Boys and Girls.

26th November - members of the East Dulwich Writers' Group will be appearing as part of the Peckham Literary Festival at Review Bookshop in Bellenden Road.

9th December - the writers' group will be launching Hoovering the Roof 2, their second anthology of short stories, poems and novel extracts by writers both published and yet-to-be and a couple of winners of some very prestigious competitions. Initial launch event at Bookseller Crow on the Hill in Crystal Palace.Other events to be arranged.

Various dates - running workshops and (new for 2011) online courses for Writers' Workshop.

25-27 March - the 2nd Festival of Writing in York.  I'm down to run a mini course on Developing Your Voice with Emma Darwin, a workshop on Breaking the Rules and 5 Book Doctor sessions.  Can it possibly be as good as last year?  All the signs are that it will be even better.

All the time - critiquing, mentoring, school stuff, parenting, daughtering (?), arranging Little Guy's bar mitzvah in January ...

Oh, yes.  We're here again.
And once again, there are 200+ people on the invitation list.
And once again, I'm going to be doing all the catering myself.
When it was First Born's turn in 2008, regular readers here may remember the high drama when FB went down with measles the week before.
Dare I hope this one will be less traumatic?  Please?

Oh - and meanwhile my own poor WIP lies abandoned and whimpering in the corner, pleading for attention.
Hang on in there, baby.  I'll be back soon as ...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

So Sue Me ...

The only possible good way to be sued is to invite a Sue to your blog, so that's what I've done.

Today, I'm delighted to welcome Sue Guiney here as part of her virtual tour to promote her latest novel, A Clash of Innocents.

There are three good reasons to read this book:

1)  It's a wonderful book and you'll know there are delights in store as soon as you look at the sumptuous cover and turn to the first page.
2)  It's the first novel from new kids on the block, Ward Wood Publishing, and anyone brave enough to launch a company in today's climate deserves respect and support.

3)  It's a wonderful book - and you can't say that too often.

Set in present day Cambodia, Sue conveys with remarkable compassion and empathy the pain of a country struggling to come to terms with a bitter past and the damage wrought on its youngest citizens, as well as the inner landscape of those who care for them. For ten years, Deborah, an overweight 60 year old American, self-confessed earth mother, has run the Khmer Home for Blessed Children, where she is the much-loved only parent to forty children, from toddlers to teens.  But Deborah is carrying her own damage too.  She's managed to cope with it pretty well until the arrival of a new volunteer, a young American woman called Amanda, who is clearly hiding some terrible secret from her own past.

With rich and luscious prose, Sue evokes the sights, sounds and smells of a country that will be unfamiliar to most readers and is virtually unexplored in contemporary English fiction.  Her characters reach out from the page and into your heart, their narratives mirroring that of the country in which they play out their lives.

I'm always telling writers they need to show, not tell, so in the spirit of that authorial tradition I've asked Sue to do a virtual reading here, so you can see for yourself the wit, warmth and wisdom she brings to the written word.


It didn’t really take ten hours to get to Kep. Now that we were nearly two-thirds of the way through this first decade of a new century, a road had been created to parallel the Mekong and connect the capital with the southernmost portion of the country. Notice I said ‘created’ and not ‘paved.’ Although tarmac was occasionally in evidence, just enough to make us feel as if the land beneath our borrowed wheels  was under our control, more often than not the road turned again to dirt, slowing our progress as if to remind us that this was, indeed, Cambodia we were crossing and nowhere else on earth. But given that it was May and the entire country was aching for rain, all that dirt had turned to dust. We kept the car windows closed for as long as we could, but eventually we had to open them. There is only so much that the air conditioner in a twelve year-old Toyota can do. We hardly cared, though. Sam and I were happy to inch along, in and out of tiny nameless village after tiny nameless village, smelling the sweet scent of ripe mangoes and bananas baking in the afternoon sun.

It had been a while since we had ventured into this part of the country. Whenever we were able to get away I tried to take us somewhere new. For all its faults, I do love Cambodia and I want my kids to love it, too, but not for its new luxury hotels and gilded palaces; not for its sharp-eyed entrepreneurs and go-getting hustlers; not even for the tradition of its monks or the beauty of its art. I want them to love their country as it is in its heart, where the need to recreate life with each new season is accepted and respected, where generations hold each other’s hands and turn towards tomorrow, where hope refuses to die and laughter is used like fertilizer to keep their spirits growing. Some years we ventured north towards Siem Reap and the ancient temples of Angkor. Two years ago I took a group of boys to Tonle Sap Lake where pigs live in water and alligators are raised like sheep. But Dr Reith had said to head for ‘the coolness of the sea’, so we headed towards Kep and the Gulf of Thailand. Sam hadn’t been there since she was little and her excitement was growing with each kilometer. How much had changed, I wondered?

Not much. One benefit of going slowly is that you can take your time to see what is outside your window and beyond the dust clouds. The countryside is so harsh and so beautiful. Fields of rice paddies stretch for miles studded with the bony frames of oxen, white against dirt brown. Distant hills are clouded with haze like oases, mirages in a sun-parched expanse. Your eyes water as you stare and you can almost remember that in just one month or two all of this will be flooded by the rising waters of the monsoon season. Trees will then look like bushes; those distant mountains like outcrops. This scenery has lasted forever, will last forever, ebbing and flowing with time and the seasons, green turning to brown and back to green again, earth becoming water becoming earth, reminding us that of all the constants in this world, the most reliable constant is change.

The roads are never empty. Far from it. Roads here are not just ways of getting from one place to another. They are places in themselves. People live beside them. Animals walk in them. On their edges makeshift shops sell everything from lotus flowers to transmission fluid. There are no curbs, no sharp delineations between spaces to move and spaces to stop. Everything is everywhere. Motos pull up beside oxcarts beside bicycles-built-for-five beside open-backed trucks carrying thirty workers to the fields beside air-conditioned buses filled with American tourists beside Mercedes with government license plates and rolledup windows beside horses pulling trailers full of construction equipment beside barefoot children walking walking walking. Like the earth that transforms to water, here the past merges with the future leaving you with nothing else to do but work if you can in the mornings, rest as you must in the hottest part of the afternoon, and sleep as best you are able at night.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dear Mr Marr ...

Sigh ... there's nothing new about blog bashing. (See here for a post on this blog from 2006 on the subject.)
Andrew Marr is the latest to voice his negative thoughts on bloggers recently at Cheltenham Literary Festival, provoking the inevitable cyber backlash.

It's all too, too tedious, darling, so I'm not going to bother to enter the fray as such.  I just thought I'd deconstruct his comment and see if it applies to me.

socially inadequate, (quite possibly)
pimpled, (thankfully not)
single, (nope)
slightly seedy, (no again - I'm very seedy, as anyone who knows me in Real Life can attest)
bald, (nope)
cauliflower-nosed (yuck, no.  My nose is definitely a potato)
young (Yes!  Yes!  Oh, all right then, no)
men (nope)
sitting (yep - definitely guilty on this one)
in their (and this)
mother's (but not this)
basements (or this)

So that leaves me with sitting and in their as the only parts of his comment that apply to this particular blogger.

See here for some of the other bloggers who break Marr's mould.
Or just take a stroll through my blogroll.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day - water

The topic for this year's Blog Action Day is 'water'.  You can find links to support the figures below at the link here.
So here it is: water by numbers.
  • Nearly 1 billion people lack access to clean water.
  • 40 Billion Hours: African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink. 
  • 38,000 Children a Week: every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. 
  • Wars Over Water: many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa.
  • A Human Right: in July, to address the water crisis, the United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right over. But we are far from implementing solutions to secure basic access to safe drinking water. 
Water over-consumption in industrialized countries:
While the developing world faces a water crisis, those in industrialized countries consume far more than their fair share.
  • Food Footprint: it takes 24 litres of water to produce one hamburger. That means it would take over 19.9 billion litres of water to make just one hamburger for every person in Europe. 
  • Technology Footprint: the shiny new iPhone in your pocket requires half a liter of water to charge. That may not seem like much, but with over 80 million active iPhones in the world, that's 40 million liters to charge those alone. 
  • Fashion Footprint: that cotton t-shirt you're wearing right now took 1,514 litres of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 6,813 litres. 
  • Bottled Water Footprint: the US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled. 
Water and the environment:
The disregard for water resources in industrialized countries impacts more than humans – it causes environmental devastation.
  • Waste Overflow: Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water sources. This not only negatively impacts the environment but also harms the health of surrounding communities. 
  • Polluted Oceans: Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year. 
  • Uninhabitable Rivers: Today, 40% of America's rivers and 46% of America's lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life.
Water solutions:
The good news is that there are great organizations working on solutions and new tools that empower people to do their part to address the water crisis.
  • Building Wells: Organizations like and charity: water are leading the charge in bringing fresh water to communities in the developing world.
  • Conservation Starts at Home: The average person uses 465 litres of water per day. Find out how much you use here.
  • Keeping Rivers Clean: We can all take small steps to help keep pollution out of our rivers and streams, like correctly disposing of household wastes. 
  • Drop the Bottle: Communities around the world are taking steps to reduce water bottle waste by eliminating bottled water.|Start Petition

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Weaving Words with Rosy

I'm delighted to welcome Rosy Thornton here today to celebrate the launch of her 4th novel, The Tapestry of Love.

Catherine Parkstone, a divorcee with grown up children, decides to make a new start.  She moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cevennes mountains to begin working as a seamstress.  Living in isolation and dealing with kind-hearted but reserved neighbours, French bureaucracy and extreme weather, Catherine may have internet access but the themes in the book are timeless and universal.

This is a gentle novel, packed with rich sensory detail and a beautiful sense of place.

So back to this blog tour.  Rosy has come up with a novel idea.  (See what I did there?)

The backdrop to the story includes the mountain landscape, Catherine's tapestries and the local cuisine.  Cevenole recipes use local produce in the peasant tradition but can be easily reproduced anywhere else in the world.

Rosy has sent me some of these mouth-watering recipes.  If you would like to receive a copy, leave your email address in the comments box and I'll send them out to you.



Monday, October 04, 2010

Breaking (and entering) news ...

I would love to write a full post about the amazing Getting Published event on Saturday.
I'd like to give you details on how doing 19 back-to-back Book Doctor sessions was intense but very rewarding.
I wish I had the time and space to tell you what an indispensable tool this book by Harry Bingham is - the writer's bible without doubt.
I would include links to Twitter, to Writers' Workshop, to Wordcloud ...

Then I'd say that I hope to see you tonight at the Story of London event at Victoria Library where I'm reading from my short story in 33

Sadly, I can do none of the above.  On Thurs evening we came home to find our home being burgled by 5 guys.
It could have been much worse.  Most of the stuff was piled up and ready to go. If we'd been a few mins later ...
And, most importantly, even though they utterly trashed our home, no one was physically hurt.

The point I'm getting to here is that my biggest panic was that my laptop was missing.  It's ancient and the letters have rubbed off the keys, but it's worth more to me personally than all the other stuff put together.

I found it on the balcony the following morning.  The hard drive was lying separately and the cable and charger were gone.  I'm trying to sort all this out, while still needing to carry on with my usual essential workload.  Meanwhile, I can't get an internet connection on it, so can't get into Outlook to access my emails.

If you need to contact me electronically, you will have to do it via comments here or via Facebook for the ttime being.

Normal service will be ... etc ... etc

Thursday, September 30, 2010

With friends like these ...

It's 9 months since I finally gave in and joined Facebook.  Time for an assessment.

Apart from the occasional confusion between FB (First Born) and FB (Facebook), I have to confess I'm really enjoying it.  I love the immediacy.  A blog post can take hours to compose, especially if it includes links, photos etc.  In contrast, I can type up a wall post in seconds.  As a way of letting people know what's happening day by day (and sometimes minute by minute) there's no comparison.   OTOH, posts are often shallow - do I really need to tell the world that I've just dropped a tub of marge? 

As I work from home, I think of these as the kinds of quickie conversations I'd have round the kettle or water cooler or on fag breaks if I worked in an office.  I can pop into my home page and see an instant snapshot of other people's recent posts.  They make me feel connected to the world Out There and make me smile - or commiserate - or fume.  Whatever the reaction, they're contact with other human beings and that can't be a bad thing, no?

Blogging has suffered in terms of quantity.  Having FB as the place for daily updates means I inevitably publish fewer posts here.  But that's good because it is actually less of a distraction from my own writing as I don't have to devote the hours and effort it takes to compose frequent blog posts.  Page views haven't suffered as much as I anticipated when I realised I was posting less.  In fact, as I usually link to posts on my FB wall, if anything I have more readers on the day a post is published.

I now have over 2000 friends.  There's a large number of people who are family and Real Life friends.  There's another swathe consisting of people I have never met in RL but consider them as genuine virtual friends, whom I've 'met' through blogging or forums.  That still leaves an awful lot of people I have only the flimsiest of connections with.  The vast majority have come to me as requests via mutual links.  I check them briefly and if they have a lit connection or look like the kinds of people who would like my books, I add them. 

So 9 months after I came on board as a blushing virgin, it's time for an audit. FB etiquette is very different, but I have my own take on it now which I feel comfortable with.  I've started to delete people who I don't know but who use my wall to post their own poems or links to videos etc.  Because they're on my wall, they appear personal, but they're not of course.  They've sent the same thing to hundreds and maybe even thousands of others, and by so doing they shunt my own posts down the page.

Just because we may not know each other in Real Life, we have to remember that an FB contact is a human being, not a virtual creation or roving bot.  The same rules of mutual respect apply in both worlds IMO.  If you came round to my home, I would invite you in.  We'd chat.  I'd put the kettle on and rifle through the cupboards in search of biscuits. 

But while I'm in the kitchen, I don't expect you to push all the pictures on my living room wall out of the way behind the settee and replace them with your own pictures.  That's just rude.  So anyone who does that, or the FB equivalent, can expect to be dropped from my friend's list.  Fair enough?

Right, I'm off ... to link to this post on FB of course.  If you're not there already, I'm here.  Wanna be my friend?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner ...

... that I can't help being excited by appearing in the Story of London Festival, reading from 33, the anthology from Glasshouse Books.  See here for a blog post by Bobby Nayyar.

I'll be at Victoria Library from 6.30 pm Monday 4th October.

For further info re this event and others in the Festival, you'll need to check the links. 

I'm currently snowed under with work that needs to be done prior to the Getting Published event on 2nd October, so please forgive the brevity of this post. 

It's all good, though I do wonder when (or if) I'll ever get a chance to wash my hair ... I'll be the one wearing a hat.  Or a wig.  Or possibly a paper bag ...

Oh, and I regret to inform you that Jimi Hendrix sadly won't be able to make it.  Apart from that, I feel great.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In an English urban garden ...

It's almost a year since Emma Darwin transformed my life by offering to allow me to use her garden as an allotment.  I thought I'd share the highs and lows of a very productive and satisfying few months.


Broad beans were the first to appear and I was so excited that I forgot they were broad beans and picked the whole pods and steamed them.  They were delicious, but the real things, once I'd allowed them to mature, were better still.

Spinach.  This has gone on and on for months.  I pick it as I need it; sweet young leaves for using raw in salads and iron-rich mature leaves for mixing into risotto, curry or just as a steamed vegetable.

Onions.  Very satisfying to watch them grow.  Even more satisfying to eat them.  I'm planning on planting lots more this time.

Garlic.  As above re onions.

Tomatoes. A veritable forest!  Sweet and juicy - essence of tomato-ness.

Potatoes.  Harvested some and I'm leaving the rest in the ground until needed.

Rocket.  Peppery gorgeousness - and self-seeding too.  Can't ask for more than that.

Butternut squash.  Not ripe yet but I've got my eye on them.  Love the way they take over such a vast space - like benevolent squatters.

 Apples.  I can't lay claim to anything other than collecting them and distributing them far and wide.  There are still several carrier bags filled with them sitting in my kitchen.  Apple pie, anyone?  Crumble?  Cake?  Juice?

Partial successes

Lettuce.  I had one fab crop but word must have gone out to the South London slug and snail community.  They nabbed the next plantings as soon as they raised their delicate little green heads.

Purple sprouting broccoli.  Only three seedlings survived the invasion of the slimy ones.  I've sprayed them with an eco confection and hope they make it to maturity.

Compost.  The bin is full and not a particularly pleasant sight (or smell TBH) but it will be worthwhile if it produces enough compost for all the plots.


Subsequent lettuce and other salad crops (see above).

Having, with great pride and excitement, constructed a fabulous set of interlinked bamboo canes to support the 50+ runner bean seeds I planted, you can imagine my disappointment when the slimies ate the whole lot. 

They also scoffed all the pak choi.

Spending time in the garden, sun on my back, pottering, pulling up weeds and tying up tomatoes, has given me enormous amounts of pleasure.  It's enabled me to get away from the computer, chill out and get some good honest dirt under my nails. 

Emma - you've made a nought-but-a-balcony woman very happy indeed.  Thank you!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Little bitty lit bits

And the winner is ...
In the last post, I invited people to vote in a poll to choose a title for the next East Dulwich Writers' Group anthology.  It's strange that the group finds editing relatively simple, but when it comes to something as simple as the back cover blurb, intro or title, the discussions can generate endless debates and some very strong feelings.

That's why the public poll has been so helpful.  It came as a surprise to some that the overwhelming reaction was that we should stick with the title of the previous anthology, Hoovering the Roof.

The public has spoken.  We have listened.  We're now working to a tight deadline in order to publish Hoovering the Roof, The Second in late November.

Novel Spaces
My guest post on Novel Spaces is up today.  Click this link if you'd like to see my version of the tools essential for writing.

The Story of London
As part of The Story of London Festival, I will be appearing at an event in Victoria Library in Buckingham Palace Road (hey!  I'm at the palace - nearly) with Jemma Wayne and Tom Bromley.  We'll all be reading from 33, the anthology published by Glasshouse Books.  (I wrote the story set in Croydon.)

Click here to see more Glasshouse events.  To celebrate Glasshouse's inclusion in the Festival, they are making a special offer: if you order either 33 East or West before 8th Oct, you will get the accompanying volume free.  Simply put the code: Story of London in the special instructions, when purchasing through PayPal. If you'd rather not use PayPal, then please email

Getting Published
Apparently (and somewhat surprisingly - it looks like a very useful day indeed) there are still a few places available for the Getting Published event on 2nd October at the Royal Overseas League.  (Yet another vaguely royal connection?  Where's my damn tiara?) 

If you've completed a novel or non-fiction MS and want to know how to go about the next steps, this is the event for you.  There's a packed and very entertaining programme (including a party afterwards - yay!) and you'll meet publishers and agents as well as getting direct feedback on your opening chapter, synopsis and covering letter from one of the Book Doctors.  Click here to see the full programme.

For short story fans, the final one "How Lucky You Are" by Debi Alper packs a punch making you glad you purchased these books.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A literary smorgasbord

I'm dusting the cobwebs off the blog and, as so often happens these days, I've accumulated a huge amount of literary 'stuff' to share which I will assemble into a single post.

Hoovering the anthology
You may remember that the East Dulwich Writers' Group published our first anthology, Hoovering the Roof, last year.

 I'm delighted to announce that the book has been shortlisted for the National Association of Writers' Groups awards.  Result to be announced at a ceremony on 4th Sept.

Meanwhile, we're editing the content for the 2nd anthology, to be published in Nov.  And this is where you come in.  We need your help (again) to choose a title.  Please go here to vote in our public poll.

Blushing for 33
There are several events coming up to publicise 33, the anthology of short stories with one set in each of London's boroughs. 

You can find details on Glasshouse Book's Facebook page and the books (spilt into 2 volumes) are available to buy on their website.

Meanwhile, there's a very nice review here that had me dancing (and snivelling).

Blogging for the Spaces
I have been invited by the lovely Liane Spicer to write a guest post for Novel Spaces.  My post will be appearing there on 15th September.

Getting Published
The winning team who organised the fabulous Festival of Writing in York earlier this year have turned their awesome talents to a Getting Published Event on 2nd October in London.  It promises to be a very productive and useful day.  In case you're wondering, I'm one of the Book Doctors.

Dance Your Way to Psychic Sex
This book by Alice Turing is magic.  Yes, you read that right - it's not just about magic ...  Even the way it has been produced has an undeniable whiff of the supernatural about it.

For a read unlike anything you will have come across before, order your limited edition copy here.  You can read reviews (including one by yours truly) here.

Clashing Innocents
While I'm sharing news of recently or about-to-be published books, I'm betting you will find Sue Guiney's latest novel impossible to resist.  I can't wait to receive my copy and I'm excited that this blog will be a stopping post on Sue's virtual tour.  Watch this space ...

Protecting PLR
This is really important, people.  The info below is pasted from the petition which I hope you will sign in order to protect this vital resource.

The Public Lending Right scheme, under which authors receive 6p when a book is borrowed from a public library, is funded by the Department for Culture Media and Sport. Over the last three years, while public spending has been buoyant, PLR’s allocation has fallen by 3%: over 10% in real terms.

While accepting that DCMS has been instructed to reduce its budget, we ask the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, to recognise that the £7.5m spent on PLR gives effect to a legal right and is not a subsidy. It provides working writers with a modest income when their books are read by library users free of charge. PLR is particularly important to authors whose books are sold mainly to libraries and to those whose books are no longer in print but are still being used.

Press coverage tends to focus on a few successful authors, yet most struggle to make ends meet. PLR provides a significant and much-valued part of authors’ incomes. The £6,600 upper limit ensures that the fund helps those most in need.

The admirably efficient PLR Office has already cut its running costs very substantially. Any reduction in PLR will have an immediate and detrimental effect on the ‘front line’ payments to authors. 



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Tale of Two Authors

Is there no end to the uplifting author stories in this blog?
It seems not ...

Remember I told you about Shelley Harris's triumph at Authonomy Live at the Festival of Writing in York?
Well, I'm delighted to pass on the news that Shelley's book had several publishers slavering over its potential and she has now signed a two book deal with W&N (who also published my first two books).

You can read Shelley's amazing journey in her own words here on WordCloud.
Exciting, or what?

(What d'you mean, you're not already on WordCloud?  It's only the best writing community on t'internet - and it's free to join.)

And the other tale?  No links for Roger Hardy as he has no online presence.

I first started working with Roger in October 2008.  His novel, Miracle in Carvoeiro, needed a lot of heavy engineering and there were issues in almost every area of plotting and characterisation, but there was a kernel of something very special there.   Two weeks later and after a lengthy email exchange, he was back with a complete redraft, asking for a second read, which I completed as well as posting the amended MS back to him.

By December 08, I was still discussing polishing and pitching of Book 1, but had meanwhile received Roger's second book for editing.  He'd hopped genres and produced a very good Da Vinci Code-esque book.  I thought The Eye of Sayf-Udeen had serious potential - it was different enough to provide a  fresh angle on the formula - and was far better written IMO than Dan Brown's books.  I was seriously impressed at the way Roger had learnt the lessons from previous feedback and incorporated them into his new writing.

So, by this time, Roger was pitching Book 1, editing Book 2 and already talking about Book 3.  More emails and in Jan I sent him the report of The Eye of Sayf-Udeen.  In Feb, he completed the first draft of his third book.  Artcore is a thriller set in the gay scenes in Amsterdam and Brighton.  Once again, I thought that his book should be theoretically publishable once he'd completed an edit. 

By March, he had self-published the first book on Lulu and I was working on the critique for Artcore as well as a reread for The Eye of Sayf-Udeen. I sent him an email re the latter, saying,
'Roger – I love it!  Huge respect and kudos to you – I really feel you are on the brink of coming up with a publishable MS.'

In April 2009, I pitched The Eye of Sayf-Udeen to the Writers' Workshop for the free read they offer for books recommended by editors as having commercial potential. 
They agreed with me ... YIPPEE!
... and pitched the book themselves to a well-known agent.  YIPPEE!

The agent felt the market for the genre was over saturated.  BOO!
Roger decided he'd carry on pitching to other agents himself.

May 2009 and I was editing the redraft of Artcore.
July 2009 found me editing the 3rd draft of Artcore

Book 4, Sylvia, arrived on my desk in October 2009.
Alas.  I had told Roger I was convinced he'd get there in the end as long as he kept on writing and pitching.  Sadly, with this book, he seemed to have forgotten that each book needed to be better than the last; that he needed to focus on quality, not just quantity.  Although his writing skills has improved beyond recognition, I felt this was his weakest book yet.

With characteristic resilience, Roger took the criticism on the chin.  I told him I thought he needed to slow down and do some more reading in order to prepare for his next book, which we had already discussed.

After lots more discussions, I received the first draft of The Zarathustra Principle in March 2010.  This was Roger's most ambitious book yet.  Set in Cologne in the 1920s, it told the story of a relationship between a young  agnostic man from an Orthodox Jewish family and a fellow student, the two united by a shared love for Nietzsche.  That scenario, and the central European setting in the days before Nazism took a hold, has been explored in literature before but what made Roger's book stand out was that there was a strong spiritual element in the form of a latter day prophet. 

What worried me was that this unique quality was both the book's greatest strength and its fundamental weakness.  We all know how publishers like to pigeon hole books and my concern was that this one was straddling genres.  But damn, it was good! 

Meanwhile, Roger and I finally had the chance to meet face to face in York.  Later in April, I received the second draft of The Zarathustra Principle for editing.  

And now?  Roger is still pitching his previous books and has amassed a sizable pile of rejection slips.
Think 'water' ... Think 'duck's back' ...  He's published all four (neither of us count Sylvia) on Lulu and he's cooking his next book. 

It sounds as though it will incorporate his undoubted strengths.
It sounds as though it will avoid both the genre-straddling and the too similar/too different conundrum that has dogged his previous books.
I know it will be very well-written.
It sounds like this could be the one ...!

By now, you're probably asking yourself why I'm sharing all this with you.  Maybe you're exhausted just thinking about Roger's prodigious output and his determination to keep on writing and pitching.
'After all,' you might say, 'Roger still hasn't fulfilled his ambitions in spite of all that incredibly hard work.'

But there's the point, y'see.  Roger's writing skills, which always had genuine potential as far as I'm concerned, have gone from strength to strength.  At times his creations have tortured him to the point of obsession, but most of the time he has derived wonderful satisfaction from the creative process.  He is also determined and persistent, rolling with the punches and never allowing rejections to make him lose sight of his goals.


I wanted you to hear his name here first!

Incidentally, if you have a book that's ready to be released into the world, you might be interested in the Getting Published Day this October, which should give you many of the tools you need.

Good luck!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A (true) fairy tale

Are you sitting comfortably?
Then I'll begin ...

Once upon a time, (last night actually) I attended the Brit Writers' Awards at the O2.  G and I were sitting at a table with a very nice group of people but one woman in particular stood out for her warmth and friendliness and she shared her personal story with us.

Catherine  Cooper worked as a primary school teacher for 29 years until four years ago, at the age of 50, she was simultaneously diagnosed with both breast cancer and a debilitating genetic condition resulting in severe disability.  She was forced to take immediate retirement on medical grounds, thereby losing her health and the job she loved in one devastating double whammy.

As we all know, we can't control what life throws at us.  All we can control is how we react to the hand we're dealt.  Catherine's response to her situation is awe inspiring.

'I always said I'd write a book when I retired,' she told us.  'The retirement came somewhat earlier than anticipated, but I saw it as an opportunity to get going.'

Disabled, pumped full of drugs and in constant pain that prevented her sleeping at night, she began writing a series of children's books, illustrated by her husband.

'I wanted to write the kind of magical fantasy adventure story I would have enjoyed reading to my classes, had I still been teaching,' Catherine said.

She told us it was writing fiction that kept her going through the dark days and nights, and she gave thanks for the chance it gave her to escape from a grim reality into a fictional world of her own making.

Catherine self-published the first three books and began taking them into schools, inspiring children with her love of books and reading.  She set herself a target: 500 books to be sold by Xmas; another 500 by Easter; 1500 by the summer.  Each target was met and exceeded.

Humble in spite of this impressive success, Catherine was surprised and delighted to be short listed in the BWA children's category.  When her name was announced as the winner and we watched Catherine, walking with the aid of two sticks, make her way to accept her award, all of us on the table were choked.

But the story doesn't end there.  Oh no ...

The evening wore on, with more uplifting tales of writers achieving their dreams.  The only category for published writers was won with universal approval by the mighty Terry Pratchett.  All around the O2 applause broke out as each new winner went to collect their awards.

And then ... the grand finale as we waited to hear who had won the overall BWA award.  £10,000, an instant book deal, 300 copies of the winner's book already printed and hot from the press, universal acclaim ...

Drum roll, please ...

And the winner was ... Catherine Cooper!

So, if you're one of those people who are always making excuses why they can't write ... or who crumple under life's knockbacks ... or believe dreams can't come true ... be inspired by Catherine's story.

But note:  this success didn't come to her out of thin air.  It came about through her determination to rise above adversity; her ability to create something positive from the most negative of circumstances; days, weeks and months of sheer hard work; the generosity of her spirit and the magic of her own imagination.

There's no doubt that this is just the first day of the rest of Catherine's life and I'm sure you will be hearing more from her in the future. Meanwhile, you can get a sneaky preview of her Jack Brenin series of books here.

Amazing though it is, Catherine's was not the only magical personal story last night.  I was blown away to hear that the winner of the short story category was Helen Hardy, longstanding and valued member of the East Dulwich Writer's Group.  (Before anyone suggests corruption, let me hasten to add that I judged the full length novel category, so had no hand in Helen's well-deserved success.)

Helen was unable to accept her award in person because ... she gave birth earlier the same day!  How magical is that?

And if I may be so bold, I'd like to add one small piece of personal evidence that I have had a small part to play in The BWA story.  On page 5 of the souvenir brochure there were quotes from Cameron, Clegg, Alex Salmond, a Local Literacy Leader, a member of the Muslim Writers' Awards (from which BWA grew) and two judges.  One of them was Professor Thom Brookes.

Guess who the other was ...

Here's what I said:
With the dire situation currently reflected in the publishing industry, and the almost insurmountable difficulties faced by new writers in achieving that elusive first deal, initiatives like the BWA provide a much-needed and welcome opportunity for new authors to receive recognition for their writing.

So there we go.  That's the end of the (true) fairy tale and I hope all involved live happily ever after.

As for you, what are you waiting for?  Come on.  No excuses now. Get writing!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Clear your diary ...

Oh boy, July is barely underway and I'm already overwhelmed at the number of crucial dates in my diary.

So, on the basis that a lit date shared is ... a lit date shared ... I'm giving you all the info in one post so you can put them  in your diary too.

Hope to see you there ... and there ... and ... 

Members of the East Dulwich Writers' Group will be chatting to passers by and selling Hoovering the Roof, their first anthology, as well as other books by EDWG membersHtR is now on its 2nd print run, having sold out of the 1st. 

10.00 am - 3.00 pm Sat  3rd July

Northcross Road market, London, SE22

EDWG members are at it again - this time with munchies and readings from Hoovering the Roof

4.00 - 6.00 pm Sun 4th July

Alhambra (sumptuous shop selling Spanish goodies), 148 Kirkdale, London, SE26 4BB

24 hr Oxfam Bookfest readathon.
Last year’s Bookfest resulted in a 40% increase in book donations to Oxfam, and hundreds of thousands of pounds of additional book sales in the months following Bookfest. When you consider that the sale of just 21 books is enough to equip a whole classroom in Vietnam, or that a normal month’s book sales buys safe water for 2.1 million people, you can appreciate how much more your support of Oxfam’s Bookfest events can achieve.  
9.00 am Mon 5th July - 9.00 am Tues 6th July.  7 members of EDWG (including some woman called Debi Alper) will  be reading in 20 minute slots between midnight and 2.00 am. (Gasp)

Oxfam Bookstore, 91 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 4RB


EDWG event with readings from the anthology

7.00 - 8.30 pm Thurs 8th July

Review Bookshop, Bellenden Road, SE15 4QY


Launch of 33, short story anthology published by Glasshouse Books with a story set in each of London's boroughs.  Authors include Stella Duffy,  Emma Darwin, Nicola Monaghan, Jess Ruston, Rachael Dunlop and many more.  (That Debi Alper woman crops up there again.)  See here for further details.

From 6.30 pm Wed 14th July

The Press House Wine Bar, 1 St Bride's Passage, EC4Y 8EJ.  If you can't make the launch, you can pre-order a copy of the book here.


Brit Writers' Awards Ceremony.  The talented finalists, selected from 21,000 entries, will hear the results in a stellar evening.  (Hang on - that Alper woman isn't one of them ... oh yeah, she was one of the judges instead.)

Thurs 15th July

IndigO2,  O2 Arena, Peninsula Square, London, SE10 0DX


What I really need now is an extended lie down in a darkened room.
Can't see that happening before August ...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Hearty Welcome to the Magpies

I'm delighted and honoured to be this week's stop on Elizabeth Baines's blog tour to promote her gem of a book, Too Many Magpies.

It's over a year ago that Elizabeth was last here, promoting her short stories  (busy woman, eh?).  As that took the form of an interview (which you can see here) this time I've asked Elizabeth to do a virtual reading.

First the intro:
Can we believe in magic and spells? Can we put our faith in science?

A young mother married to a scientist fears for her children’s safety as the natural world around her becomes ever more uncertain. Until, that is, she meets a charismatic stranger who seems to offer a different kind of power… But is he a saviour or a frightening danger? And, as her life is overturned, what is happening to her children whom she vowed to keep safe? Why is her son Danny now acting so strangely?

In this haunting, urgent and timely novel, Elizabeth Baines brings her customary searing insight to the problems of sorting our rational from our irrational fears and of bringing children into a newly precarious world. In prose that spins its own spell she exposes our hidden desires and the scientific and magical modes of thinking which have got us to where we are now.

Got that?  Sounds good?  So here we go.  Top up your glass.  Make yourself comfortable.  An extract follows.


On the baby’s first birthday the Smarties on the cake went frilly round the edges. The first sign of odd things happening.

No one took it seriously.

He said it was magic. (He; he doesn’t have a name, not here, not in my head.). ‘I told you,’ he said afterwards, ‘things would start happening now you and I have met.’

‘Magic,’ said Danny too, four years old and excited, waiting in an agony of impatience for the start of the birthday tea in the garden, though never in any doubt that things would go as planned, or that birthday teas would go on happening, and Daddy always come to join them in time.

And, this time, he did. He came round the side of the house, Daddy, my husband, ducking under the honeysuckle and coming to kiss us all, smelling faintly of the lab, that sharp high chemical smell.

He was a scientist, my husband. He had a rational explanation. He looked at the Smarties and grinned. Lovely teeth, he had, not a single filling, and naturally curly hair. The kinks of it glistened in the sun. It came back to me then, all the reasons I loved my husband.

‘See,’ said Danny, pointing the funny way he did with his left middle finger, ‘they’re like little mince pies.’

And they were, each sweet surrounded by a perfect row of frills. My husband looked at them and laughed.

‘Osmosis,’ I think he said, I wasn’t in a state to remember the actual word. Something about things running, their contents seeping through their skins, leaving themselves behind. At any rate, he said I must have put them on when the icing was too wet.

Of course. Because of what had happened, I hadn’t been in a state to judge the drying time of icing.

But it was odd. Why, for instance, if things had melted, had the colours not run?

I cut the cake. I doled them out, the magic Smarties. A piece for my husband, and one for each child.

And the blackbird pipped confidently, as if that garden and those hedges would always be there for him to call across; and there we sat, husband and wife and two-point-four children, point-four being the child we might have had if certain chemical chances in our bodies had or hadn’t occurred, and which we’d never have now, now things had started to happen.

It was the day before the baby’s first birthday that I met him.

In the park there were magpies, too many to be counted. When I was a child there were never so many of them — one for sorrow, you said, two for joy — but now there were too many for such short rhymes or such simple messages, they’d multiplied and colonized the towns.

That afternoon we’d both been on a committee, educationists drafted in to advise on artists in schools, my first outside commitment since before I’d had the babies. My first time back in the world.

Though I wasn’t really back there; I couldn’t concentrate on the dry committee language, I’d got too used to simple sounds linked to the vivid senses, or to holding and
rocking without the need for words at all.

It was hot in that committee room, early May and unseasonably hot although there’d been no sun all day. They had the window open and puffs of engine smell rose up through the still air. They were discussing the database of artists, and I was thinking idly of how in the centre of town there was never the sound of birds.

A train rolled over the viaduct, blue-and-grey toytown carriages sliding unbelievably along the top of a sky-high brick wall towards the suburbs where my husband would be putting the children to bed.

Tonight, for once, the baby would have to go to bed without his breastfeed.

On cue, as I thought of that, my breasts tingled, automatic, with primitive life, and on cue the familiar sleepiness overcame me. I’d lost the drift of the argument in the room now. I’d gone too far, metamorphosing down those baby years, and I was gaping now, hardly breathing in this flat dry committee-land. I yawned.

He’d hardly spoken till then.

He didn’t speak when he didn’t have to. Knowing too much about words to squander them.

I looked, I noticed him, for the first time really, just before he spoke. I saw a careful tension around his large mouth. Fastidiousness reining in something else.

And when he spoke he held his lips as though tasting something. Testing.

I knew then. He had the power.

As we crossed the park afterwards, suddenly there were birds again. Magpies, dropping out of the trees, like bunting, like Jacks-out-of-boxes. They cackled, they seemed hilarious.

We tried counting.

‘Seven,’ he said. ‘What does that signify?’

I said, too sternly, that I didn’t believe in charms or spells.

He laughed. I saw that his teeth were bad, stained and very full of fillings. He said: ‘There are charms and there are charms, and there are spells and there are spells,’ and I had no idea what he meant.

The sun came out, dazzling and disorientating between the trees. The magpies glistened then, medallion green and alchemy blue. They were watching us sideways, they cocked their heads slyly over their bird-shoulders, waiting, or maybe taunting, it was hard to say.

We moved on, and they flapped away into the columns of sun between black tree trunks, still there but suffused and melted with the light.

He said, ‘Seven for a secret never to be told.’

I said quickly that I didn’t believe in secrets. And I told him all about my husband, and about the kids, to indicate at once that there was no chance whatever, should he be thinking along those lines, of any kind of intrigue, any kind of setup where I’d need to make divisions, protect him from knowledge or guard my family’s privacy from him. And, to nip in the bud any growing attraction, I babbled on about the children in the bourgeois way I’d guessed by now he wouldn’t approve of. But those shapes in the sun, I could sense them shifting. I lost courage in what I was saying, and he was laughing at it anyway, showing those big handsome teeth with all those awful brown fillings. I guessed suddenly what he’d meant: that the best charm, the real secret, is in losing your fear.

I’d stopped walking, I discovered. The bark of a tree was behind me, ridged and warm. Under my feet something crumbled, sugary, the dead catkins off the tree.

I said stupidly, no not stupidly, I thought it might protect me, it was one the things which Richard and I held most important in our life together: ‘We only give the children sugar at special times like birthdays.’

After all, it was my baby’s first birthday next day.

It didn’t work, that spell. And I knew, after all, that it wouldn’t. I sensed, didn’t see him come closer. He took hold of my hand. He knew that vivid power of touching, he knew without being told that once he’d made contact I wouldn’t be able to take it away.

The magpies flew off again.

The first time I’d seen so many was the day I discovered I was pregnant with Danny, my first child. Three for a girl, you once said, four for a boy, god knows what seeing so many could mean.

He had hold of my hand.

He said, ‘What are their names?’

If this has whetted your appetite, follow the rest of the tour here.
If you'd like to hear Elizabeth's podcast, go here.
Links to reviews can be found in the sidebar on Elizabeth's blog here.
Next stop on the tour is at Tom Vowler's blog here.
The last stop was at Nuala Ni Chonchuir's blog here.
For further insights, I really do recommend you check out the other stops on the tour.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Because you're worth it?

An interesting double take on literary prizes.

Lionel Shriver’s 2005 novel We Need to Talk About Kevin has received the public vote as the most popular previous Orange Prize winner.  Nevertheless, she's very disparaging about the value of literary awards in this article in the Independent last week.

Even more to the point, she's hesitant about recommending a career as a writer, saying:
I'm very sympathetic to aspirant writers. It's very difficult and there are no guarantees that cream will ever rise to the top.
It'd be totally hypocritical to discourage people from joining my profession, which was good to me in the end, but I have qualms about being encouraging. The odds are stacked against you. I want to give people enough of an idea of the capriciousness of the industry.

Michele Roberts, one of the Orange prize judges, conducts a robust defense of literary awards in this article, also in the Indie.

But she too is relentlessly downbeat about the realities facing authors, saying:
Deciding to write means volunteering for poverty: 20 years ago, publishers might offer certain well-known writers six-figure advances on sales and could afford to be reasonably generous to some of the less well known. Those times are over.
Nowadays, many authors augment their meagre incomes from writing by taking on whatever freelance work they can get, or by teaching. A joyful acknowledgment that you write from a sense of vocation, driven by single-minded devotion to language, image-making, storytelling, co-exists with a sense of belt-tightening, an increase in the sheer bloody-mindedness necessary for survival as an artist. 

When I conduct workshops, I always have a section that I call 'managing expectations'.  On the one hand, I don't want to destroy dreams and hate the idea that someone might feel so discouraged to hear how high the odds are stacked against them that they feel there's no point in continuing to write. 

On t'other hand, I still get MSes for edit in which the covering letters state that the author 'just' wants to pay off their mortgage or take early retirement and write full time.  Clearly, it would be wrong of me not to balance their expectations with a reality check, however unwelcome that might be.

If someone decides that there's no point in writing on the grounds that there's such a minuscule chance of achieving fame and fortune, I suspect they were never truly committed in the first place. 
You can write and hold down an unrelated job. 
You can earn money by doing other related work.
You can grow your own veg and shop at Lidl.
There are ways to survive, if you're prepared to set your priorities accordingly.

Yes, there's a payoff.  Rent still has to be paid, food still has to be put on the table.  We seem to have returned to the concept of the starving artist in the garret boiling up old shoes to make soup.  Progress, eh?

But if you're prepared to accept the likelihood of poverty ...
... and you have the hide of a rhino ...
... and you realise that this road will be bumpy and you have to watch out for the potholes ...
... and have the energy to climb back out of those you fall in along the way ...

... I genuinely believe there can be no more rewarding way to live a life.  

Those highs when your writing takes wings ... when your characters take you in surprising directions ... when you slap yourself on the head, yelling, 'Of course!' ... when you sit back and reflect that you have created an entire world and populated it with an eclectic cast drawn from inside your own head ... when you fall in love with a particular phrase or image ...

Ah, there's nothing like it.

If the price to pay is eating pasta five nights a week and a minimal social life (apart from lit events - lots of them!) then so be it. I'm in. 

And anyway, there are still those amazing stories of people who make it to the big time, even though they are few and far between.

As the old lottery slogan used to say, 'It could be you!'

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Watch out for visiting magpies

I'm delighted to announce that Elizabeth Baines will be visiting here on 26th June to give a virtual reading as part of her tour to promote Too Many Magpies.

I've been very remiss - I should have been posting about this long ago.
You can check the previous stops on the tour here.  And here

The current stop is at our very own Barbara Smith's blog. 
Next week - Vanessa Gebbie.