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My holiday starts today, so I thought I’d write the posts for the week now…

On Tuesday I will be reflecting on the book, ‘The Tiger’s Wife‘, by Téa Obreht. It won the Orange prize for fiction a few years ago so I will probably be comparing my reaction to that of the judges!

On Thursday I will be pleased with myself for writing down my experiences over the course of the break, and be finding the beauty of the setting a huge inspiration.

On Sunday I will be sad about reaching the last night already. I will be drinking Sangria. These two things do not make for a complex, interesting or coherent post, so I will simply share a song that makes me happy 🙂

Now you know what you’ll be missing you can rest assured you aren’t missing anything…

Have a great, productive and inspirational week and I will be back soon.

Oh, and I am not going to Italy, but I like using the word ciao!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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I read for fun this week.  Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast is a collection of Oscar Wilde quotes, one of Penguin’s Little Black Classics series.

It’s more like reading poetry than reading a novel because you can skip about, read out of order, pick and choose the lines that interest you. In this particular case there’s about 50 pages of quotes covering life, art, Englishness and intelligence, amongst other things.

When you read quotes in a block, you start to notice patterns, repetition, typical language.  You start to notice why one phrase is amusing and one is not, and why some ideas resonate. I enjoy the chance to analyse and reflect; I don’t really stop and think about what I am reading in the same way when I am reading a novel.

I personally prefer the more comedic comments.  They take the words away from lecturing and towards the feeling of a shared joke.  That’s one thing I have noticed over and over: these quotes feel like a friend talking to me.

This isn’t the most standard read, and I fully appreciate that not everyone enjoys reading books of quotations, but from a writing point of view it’s great.  There’s wonderful use of language, witticism that can be reviewed and analysed, and clever ideas worth exploring.

And it’s fun to read. Which is my primary focus when choosing a book for a Tuesday!

Happy reading

EJ

🙂

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I tried out my new writing place on Friday, and I think it’ll work well.

It’s good to be around other people, but not focussed on them, when I write.  It’s as though they feed my imagination – maybe it’s an offhand comment or a quirky smile or a laugh that reminds me of something; whatever it is changes my writing and the experience of writing.

It also takes me away from the norm, bringing new stimulus into my consciousness, which in turn helps shift around my ideas until the words slot together like a jigsaw puzzle.

I have written in all sorts of places, and it’s the mix that I need to get right…

So now I have a new place to write, I have moved on to a new poem. It’s currently called The Herald but that might change once it’s completed. I’ll worry about that when it’s done!  I want to get the first draft completed before I head off on holiday next week, so watch this space!

That’s all for today – I am still in the write/revise process albeit for a different piece, so it’s all searching for the right word and being irritated when I can’t find it!  Not much excitement yet, but just wait until I get that perfect word!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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This week I read a Poirot story with a difference.  The Monogram Murders is a modern return to Hercule Poirot, written by Sophie Hannah and approved by Agatha Christie’s estate.

Having heard it discussed at last year’s crime writing convention by the editor of the Estate (who was really interesting and of course a great salesperson when it came to this story) I decided to buy it when I saw it in a charity shop.

I am fascinated by the idea of continuing a set of stories created by another person, and how well – or otherwise – a voice may be captured.  In this book, I didn’t feel that Hannah was trying to recreate Christie’s voice as such; I have not read all of her work but it didn’t feel the same as the stories I have read.  However, she was trying to make Poirot live again.

I feel a little unsure about this one.  In terms of the story, I enjoyed it and it was an easy, quick read despite being nearly 400 pages long.  It was engaging and I was wrong about who I thought had done it, and why – there are twists and these worked for me.

But it didn’t feel like it needed to be a Poirot story – marketing-wise I’m sure that was helpful! but it felt more like a story that happened to have Poirot in it than a story in which he was integral.  This is an important point because I have actually felt that about another Poirot story I read, called The Hollow; and maybe this treatment of the character is more reflective than I appreciate.

I didn’t read this with a particular learning point in mind but I did want to successfully read something after my last efforts were wasted!  However, from a reading point of view I can say that the style of the ‘golden age’ of crime writing really appeals to me.  I do not like violent, graphic crime and the slick cleverness of this one was much more entertaining to me than a lot of modern crime writing.

I don’t know if I’d choose to read Sophie Hannah’s other books – she writes psychological thrillers usually, which aren’t really my preference – but I’d read her other Poirot to see how it compared.

I would want to compare it to an original Christie though!

Until next time,

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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The book is Rachel Cusk’s Arlington Park and I did indeed give up.

I cajoled myself to read a bit more after last week, but this one isn’t for me.  It may well suit me at another time, but I have too many books I am excited to start reading to keep going with one I am not really enjoying at the moment.

I don’t really relish the writing style, which is the biggest issue for me: metaphors, word repitition and prolonged descriptions abound.  All have their value of course, but all at once it can be a little overwhelming and I found myself wanting to skip through it. Also, the first four characters I met all showed fairly unedifying personality traits.  Put these together and there’s no hook for me, as a reader.

It’s a shame because I was really hoping to see something more from this.  From other reviews I’ve seen it’s quite deeply feminist and I wonder if that also has an impact: if something is overtly political it can seem more focussed on the message than the plot. Interestingly (to me!), the last book I gave up on was also overtly political.

Mind you, I have been put off by what I consider overuse of metaphorical devices before too.  Some examples can be beautiful but for me as a reader it is much more enjoyable and much more effective when it is deftly controlled.  In this book it felt out of control.

If you look on goodreads you’ll see it’s definitely one that divides opinion.  I know that some people adore it – and some of the descriptions really are brilliant.  It’s just that I prefer not to notice every description because when you notice the writing too much, you stop living in the world the writer has created.

If I am going to take a learning point from this book it’s that intelligent and unexpected word choices can improve a story, but there has to be a balance between action and description.  It is of course up to the writer to define what that is, because you’ll never please every reader!

Perhaps one day I’ll return to it, but now I am going on to something a little different…

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

 

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Firstly, apologies for another short post; it’s been a long day and I have no idea where the last hour of it went!

This week I have been thinking about titles.  In all sorts of ways, actually, but keeping to the writing point, I focussed on how a title builds a poem.

When I did my second writing course way back in 2010-11, there was an exercise where we had to write a poem based on a given title.  I have shared the poem that came from it before but if you’re interested let me know and I’ll post it again.

I loved that exercise, because it relied on something sparking in me, and led to me creating my own list of possible titles. ‘Stone Dragon’, the poem about my Grandfather, was born from that list.

I am struggling now with the poem inspired by the sofa cushions and thought this ‘pick a title’ approach might help.  I won’t post the options but I will admit some make me want to go in a completely different direction.

Maybe I should let them: writing to demand is hard enough, writing to a particular theme on demand is worse.

Still, a working title to build from might be helpful if only to focus my attention on something specific.  I need to really get to grips with this project before another year is over…

If you have any fun ideas or useful words for me, feel free to post them; I need all the help I can get!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I have just started a new book, which I chose because I thought it would give me a standard to aim for in my writing.  The blurb calls the writer ‘strikingly elegant’ (I assume in her prose not her person!) and the subject matter is domestic reality, which is really where all my stories are centred.

These made it seem like a good read for learning and improving my own work.

However, I am a little concerned by the start.  It is not to my taste, I kept losing focus and having to re-read lines, and after only a short space of time I am left with limited memory of the section except it being vaguely irritating.  I will carry on but I wasn’t really engaged.

Saying that, I do remember noticing some interesting descriptions and an unusual choice of words here and there which I did appreciate. Maybe it will all make more sense when I get a bit further…

It’s not a huge book so I hope to finish by next week – if I haven’t, I have probably given up!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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