What a cool job that would be! Designing book covers! What fun! As you can see, I've been playing around with that photo I published in a previous post, trying to get an idea of whether it might work as a cover. What do you think? It's good to have a vision in case I go down the self-publishing road, which can't be ruled out of course. I didn't hear back from that publishing house in Australia this week. Ho hum.
I know it's futile to make a cover for a book that doesn't yet exist. But isn't there something to be said for visualising what we want? Well, every little thing helps I suppose. I was prompted to do this after seeing the wonderful covers that Pundy and LM Noonan came up with for their novels. Check out their sites.
I'm off to Dublin today for a five-day visit. I'm taking the laptop with me - even though it's a pain to drag around - so I can get a bit of writing done while I'm there. I've decided to crack on with a new project after putting another one aside. Sometimes when the writing gets hard and the plot doesn't seem to be coming together, I find it's better to just put it down and focus on something else. That something else seems strong and possible and I'm eager to get the words down. That's a good sign. But don't worry, I haven't jumped ahead and thought about a cover for this new story. Give me at least the weekend to think about it! Hey, easy tiger!
Have you heard about the exciting writing project happening over at The Shameless Lions Writing Circle? Let me introduce you to Grace, whom we will all get to know a whole lot better in the coming weeks, months. Spread the word!
I have organised a collective short story, to be written by all the members of the circle, with everyone called on to add to the developing story. My photo above was the inspiration. Who knows where the tale will lead us? See here for the basic rules. Here's the story so far:
The new watch that Grace's husband had given her the week before slipped inside the sleeve of her coat as her arm went up in the air. She felt she had no control over the movement, as though it were completely natural for her to be hailing a cab in the middle of New York. She felt as if she were being directed by remote control. 4:42pm, October 7. She made a mental note of the time, thinking it might be something she'd always want to remember.
"I just want you to drive," she said as she got in, avoiding the driver's eyes.
"Drive? Drive where, sweetheart?"
He sounded like he might be Middle Eastern, although the writing on photos and cards above his head looked like it could be Greek. She also noticed African music coming from the radio.
"I'll let you know. For now just drive anywhere. Wherever your instinct takes you."
"That is strange."
"Yes, it's strange. Please just drive. Anywhere."
"Whatever you say, sweetheart."
During the few minutes it took for the cab to rejoin the flow of angry traffic, she stared at the entrance to the subway that she'd been using to get home every night for the past 12 years. Ample time to change her mind. She turned off her mobile as the cab swung into Third Avenue. Happy trumpets played as a grainy picture of Sebastian and the two little ones faded into black. (1)
Grace sat back and tried to relax. All her muscles were tense. She moved her head a little from side to side to try and release some of the tension in her neck. She made an effort to relax her face muscles that she was sure were drawn up into a tight mask.
As the cab swooped along with the stream of homeward-bound traffic, a sudden gust of wind swirled fallen orange and red leaves into a mad dance. She found their dance mesmerising. It reflected her mood of being drawn into a wild dance, almost out of control. Where the dance would lead, she had no idea.
“Ok sweetheart?” the cab driver sounded uncomfortable with his role of just driving anywhere.
She nodded, still not meeting his eyes. She wished he would stop calling her sweetheart. She didn’t feel like anybody’s sweetheart. She looked down at her tan boots and noticed one of the toes was scuffed. She fingered the money purse inside the large red shoulder-bag sitting beside her like an obedient pet. She would have to watch the fare. After all, she only had so much money to go on. She made herself stop biting her fingernails as she tried to figure out just where she wanted the taxi cab to drop her.(2)
Authors So Far:
(2) Kay at As It Happens
Next Nominated Writer: Wanderlust Scarlett at from the shores of introspect and retrospect
Feel free to promote this on your blogs, putting up the photo and the new passages as they appear.
no one dares
take a knife
to the perfect
too afraid of
knowing too well
that once it’s
gone, it’s gone
keep it whole,
they tell their
host, make it
of the bliss
of this night,
the sense that
we could never
be any happier
My fingers and toes are crossed, hoping that next month another kiwi will bag a Booker! You probably already know that Mister Pip, by New Zealander Lloyd Jones, is in the running for this year's Man Booker Prize, and that he's even been named by the bookies as favourite to win ... above Ian McEwan! If he wins, it'll only be the second time that a New Zealander has won a Booker. So, of course, us fellow kiwis - sprinkled as we are around the world - must celebrate this literary achievement. How will I do that? I have ordered Jones' book, which is said to be a real treat. The winner is announced on October the 16th and I really hope that Jones can pull it off. Of course, I'm saying that before I've even read the book, but you can understand my bias, no? Graham Sharpe from the bookies William Hill was quoted as saying: ”We have seen an unprecedented gamble on this virtually unknown writer. In a quarter of a century of Booker betting I cannot recall as spectacular a gamble before and we could be looking at our first six -figure payout in Booker history. We are even seeing people betting on a double of New Zealander Jones winning the Booker and hot favourites New Zealand winning the rugby World Cup which currently pays odds of 7/2.” It's wonderful that this work, which also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book in 2006, has been able to get its head above the choppy waters of international literature.
To date Keri Hulme is the only kiwi who has a Booker sitting on her shelf - I assume she hasn't sold it or binned it! The Bone People, which is one of my favourite books of all time, won back in 1985. I will never forget the experience of reading this for the first time, at the age of 18, so blown away by the style. It was so different to anything I had ever read and the characters have never left me. It is one of the few books that I have read several times. If you haven't read it then I highly recommend you do. It is very hard to describe the experience, what makes it a winner on so many levels. Of course, many people disagree, and there was enormous controversy when it won. The story of how the book was born - rejected by mainstream publishers and then taken on by a women's collective - is great. Keri Hulme herself is a wonderful, colourful character: she lives in a house she built herself; she's mad about fishing; she has been working on "twin" follow-up novels for years, living alone in a wild, coastal part of New Zealand's south island. The media often describes her as someone who's turned into a recluse, a label she flatly rejects. Yes, she does get out of the house and she does see people! I just hope that she does publish some more novels. There have been some short stories and other pieces of wonderful writing over the years since her win, but I am keen to skin and cook up something more substantial.
If I've been sounding a bit gaga lately - in the nice sense of the word - there may be a good explanation: we're the proud godparents of identical twins! Let me introduce you to Roman and Simon, who were born here in Lyon in February.
Aren't they gorgeous? It is becoming increasingly difficult to tell them apart and I fear that I will never get it right. Luckily the parents have decided they will be dressed differently!
As you can see, we are getting in early with the whole book thing - you may laugh, but they actually do pay attention and seem to enjoy the experience of having something read out to them.
Which brings me on to something I've often pondered. Are we taught to become book lovers and avid readers, or is it something in our genes, in our individual make-up? Will a child who is often read to and surrounded by books go on to adore them later in life? Is a child who is not encouraged to read or treasure books likely to fall in love with them when they're an adult? I'm sure there are many opinions on this. I have friends who say they don't read books because they were never introduced to them as a child. I have other friends who say they are book fanatics but don't know why: their parents didn't read, there were no books in the house and they hated reading at school.
In 2005 the National Literary Trust in Britain carried out a survey of 8,000 pupils from 98 schools in England, producing these interesting findings:
Half the sample of pupils said they enjoy reading either very much or
quite a lot and rated themselves as proficient readers.
The majority of pupils read every day or once/twice a week.
Almost half the sample believed that they were reading enough. A fifth of
pupils stated that not only were they not reading enough, but they also
would not want to read more.
Pupils generally held positive attitudes towards reading - agreeing with
statements that reading is important and disagreeing with statements that
reading is boring, hard, or for girls rather than boys.
Pupils indicated reading a diverse range of materials outside class, which
included texts other than books. When asked specifically about fiction
preferences, adventure, comedy and horror/ghost stories were the most
frequently chosen types.
Most pupils read in the bedroom, followed by the classroom and the
When asked why they were reading, most pupils indicated that they read
because it is a skill for life, it helps them find out what they want/need to
know and because it is fun. Only a fifth of pupils read because they have
Pupils said that they would read more if they had more time, if they
enjoyed it more, if books were cheaper and if books were about subjects
they were interested in.
When asked what activities would encourage them to read more, half the
sample stated that designing websites/magazines, meeting
authors/celebrity readers and reading games would motivate them.
Rating books and writing book reviews were only motivating for a fifth of
Over 80% of pupils reported that it was their mother who had taught
them to read, followed by their teacher and their father.
Almost half the pupils never or almost never talked with their family
about what they were reading. Their mother, father and friend were the
top three people with whom pupils discussed their reading. Their mother,
teacher and father were also the most frequently cited reading partners.
Pupils also believed that their mother spends more time reading than
A quarter of pupils reported that their father never spent any time
Pupils stated that their mother encourages them to read more frequently
than their father.
Finally, when asked who should teach them to read and who should
encourage them to enjoy reading, the majority of pupils stated that these
should be done by both the home and the school.
So, it goes without saying that Roman and Simon can look forward to lots of books from us in the future! We also plan to always hit home the importance of reading ... in French and English, of course.
OK, it's time now for a little escape! Get a cuppa, put your feet up, turn up the volume, and let yourself fly away to the Greek Islands - accompanied by my own original piano music. Click twice on the play button.