Friday, 24 March 2017

A publication (of sorts ...)

Today I want to share my entry to The Write Practice short story writing competition. The stories of all the entrants have been published here and the link to my story is here

Please pop over and read my story, leave a comment and, if you like it, feel free to give me your vote in the Reader's Choice award.

Fingers crossed you like it and the judges are kind I their feedback!

Book Review - Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This one had me scratching my head. I really wanted to love it but I couldn't. The basis of the story is that Lydia has died and her family are struggling to understand why and how this could have happened to them. The setting is 1970s Ohio and the family are the only Chinese-American family in the town. James wants to fit in, to be American and not stand out; Marilyn wanted to break out and be different to her mother but has ended up just like her; Lydia wants to please her parents but can't keep up with their image of her; Nath wants to be noticed by his parents but knows he can't compete with Lydia for their affections; Hannah wants to observe and keep her family safe.

My problem is that I found the characters rather cold and distant. The narrative switches between the 1950s when James and Marilyn met and the family in the 1970s. We are told the story through the experiences and thoughts of the characters and I think some of my problems stemmed from here. I didn't really feel too much difference between the characters, they were all rather detached, as if observing events rather than taking part in them. I understand that this novel was written as part of a graduate writing programme and I can see the fingerprints of this in the text. One of the joys of writing is the energy that inhabits a story and hopefully flows out when it is read. This book felt as if it had been written and re-written so often that some of the spark was lost.

Having said that I did enjoy the unfolding of the drama/mystery of Lydia's death. Each member of the family uncovers something about her life that shocks them and makes them realise something about themselves. The family threatens to shatter beyond repair and part of the jeopardy of the story is what will happen to the family.

Celeste Ng has written a satisfying first novel and I look forward to reading her second novel when it comes out later this year.   

A to Z of Reading

So Debbie over at tagged people to take part in an A - Z of Reading. Well that was too good to be true so I put my hand up and here we are! So sit back and enjoy finding out about my reading life.

A - Author you've read the most number of books from
Either Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy, although I think as I've read all of Hardy's it's probably him.
B - Best sequel ever
I'll go for Lord of the Rings. I loved The Hobbit and was keen to read more about Middle Earth, even though it was a very long read and rather daunting for a teenager!
C - Currently reading
I've just finished a book and have yet to decide what I'll tackle next. Any ideas?
D - Drink of choice while reading
Tea. Isn't everything better with tea?
E - E-Reader or physical book?
Physical book. I love the feel of the pare, the smell of a new book, the weight of it.
F - Fictional character you would have dated in high school.
I'd have chosen Heathcliff - always wanted to date a bad boy!
G - Glad you gave this book a chance
Moby Dick - took ages to get into but I'm glad I stuck with it.
H - Hidden gems
The Bees by Laline Paull - such a wonderful book. I was stunned that a novel about a hive of bees could be so gripping and have me weeping at the end.
I - Important moment in your reading life
The moment when it all clicked and I realised that reading was a joy and a pleasure, not a chore. I was about 8, a real late bloomer.
J - Just finished
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.
K - Kinds of book you won't read
I'm not interested in erotica so have given 50 Shades a miss. I'm also not into any of the self help type books.
L - Longest book you've read
War and Peace. a real slog at times, hard to get into but some fascinating characters.
M - Major book hangover
I'm not sure what this refers to but I sometimes feel sad when a book I've enjoyed comes to an end. Recently I loved reading The Testament of Vida Tremayne by Sarah Vincent and was sad when it ended and I had to say goodbye to some beautifully written strong women characters.
N - Number of bookcases you own
Eight, not counting the space over the bed.
O - One book you've read multiple times
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This is my all time favourite book and never disappoints.
P - Preferred place to read
Sofa, bed, train, coffee shop - is there a bad place to read?
Q - Quotes that inspire you
'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars' Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde
R - Reading regrets
No regrets - I love reading!
S - Series started and not yet finished
The Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R Donaldson. I enjoyed the first three but struggled to get into number 4.
T - Three of your all time favourite books
Wuthering Heights, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and 1984
U - Unapologetic fangirl for
Dickens. The master of plot and character.
V - Very excited about this release
The third Thomas Cromwell by Hilary Mantel. I loved the first two and can't wait to see how she handles the downfall of this fascinating man.
W - Worst bookish habit
Breaking the spine of paperbacks, drives my sister dotty!
X - X marks the spot: start at the left and pick the 27th book on your shelf
A View From the Bridge by Arthur Miller.
Y - Your latest book purchase
The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3 - an anthology of modern takes on fairy tales.
Z - ZZZ snatcher: book that last kept you up late
Sadly I love my sleep too much to give it up, even for the best book!

So there we are, some questions answered and few new ones posed. What answers would you give?

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Tyranny of the Submit Button

I've recently entered a few writing contests - didn't win the first one, didn't expect to but looking forward to the feedback - and I started thinking about how hard it can be to submit my work.

As many of you will know I have had to walk a long and rocky path to calling myself a writer and acknowledging  that I consider myself to be a writer. Sharing my work has been difficult at times, especially anything of any consequence. My WIP remains unseen by any eyes than mine and I can't imagine sharing it, especially with those writers whose opinions I really value. Of course they are exactly the people I should share things with but that's for another day. I pop bits and bobs on this blog but nothing which I consider to be my real writing.

So submitting my work is something that scares me a bit. I bit the bullet and entered the first contest at the beginning of the year. We were set some criteria for a short story and could opt for feedback on the story even if we weren't chosen to progress. I chose to get feedback and have a couple of days to wait until that arrives. I didn't expect to win, I'm just a beginner after all but felt it was time to flap my writing wings a little. The second contest's deadline was yesterday and in a few weeks we will find out how we did and again get some feedback. I'm proud of myself for putting my work out there, it's a step forward and I hope will help me to develop as a writer.

I've also booked a place on a writing retreat later in the year and I know that during that weekend I will have to share my work. And in person, face to face as well! More scary stuff but I'll get through it. So I feel that I'm making progress and that makes me happy.

The submit button is a scary thing though. Every time I go to press it I have doubts. I worry about whether I'm good enough, whether I have any 'right' to put my work out there, whether I am kidding myself. Yet I know that there is no way I can improve, grow as a writer if everything sits on my hard drive or in my notebook. So I'm having to pull on my big girl's pants and just do it. I need to embrace the reality of being a writer and let my stories fly. A question occurs to me: can I call myself a writer if no-one ever reads my work? Don't writers need readers to exist? Just a thought ...

So I'm making a promise to myself. I'm going to look for opportunities to submit my work and to share it. Not just the little blog posts and linkies but the real stuff that I've worked hard on and worried about. I'll put it out there, ask for feedback and make it work for me.

Take that, submit button! I'm coming at you.