Do Editors Know Best?

I’m guest posting this week over at Once Upon a Bookcase on the subject of  a controversial aspect of editorial influence.

Whether you’re a writer or reader, I’d love to know what your take on this is.

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One Year On

Today is the anniversary of moving into this house. Yesterday, in what seemed like an appropriate celebratory gesture, I set up the stereo so I have music at last! Or at least that selection of cds which has so far been unpacked, which is, mysteriously, a motley collection. I was sure I packed them in an orderly fashion. There are a lot more in a box somewhere. Who knows where.

I am glad to have some music anyway. But still no books. Because my study isn’t decorated yet, which hasn’t happened because I’ve been busy with my current work-in-progress, I haven’t got any shelves so I can’t unpack them.


I feel bad about it.

I sometimes imagine them, all those characters in all those novels, and they’re tired of being shut up in the dark, and they’re calling, ‘Let us out!’

And I wish I could. Because I’ve missed them. Like you miss old friends you haven’t seen for far too long.

On numerous occasions this last year in the same way that you might suddenly fancy a particular tasty something – a chocolate biscuit, say, or a banana – I’ve desired the flavour of this book or that.

I’ve had a sudden desire for a snackerel of Shakespeare – a sonnet maybe or a dip into Hamlet. Or a modern poem, something unfamiliar, that might provide a little epiphany, a moment to pause and savour. And Dickens keeps coming round, yes, I’m definitely fancying some Dickens.

And it’s not just the reading I miss but the books themselves, their physical presence.

This week, taking a deep breath, I braved a certain store known for its flat-packed furniture and meatballs. As well as purchasing chairs, I chose which bookcases I will have when the room is ready for them, but I couldn’t bring them home with me because it’s too soon.

I hope it won’t be too long before they’re actually here.

When the books are on the shelves I reckon this house will feel like home.

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When You Don’t Need Words

As a writer and an avid reader, I obviously love words, but I find some art forms without words wonderfully expressive. I’ve been reminded of this by seeing the film Pina directed by Wim Wenders.

I’m ashamed to say that before this I didn’t know anything about the dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch. I’m really glad that this moving film has given me a chance to experience her work.

The film almost didn’t happen. Planned with Pina herself, it was cancelled when she died shockingly suddenly two days before shooting was to begin. After a time her dancers from the Tanztheater Wuppertal approached Wenders and asked him to film them dancing her pieces so that instead of a film about Pina it became a film for Pina.

She had an original creative method: she asked the dancers questions and they answered with movement and from their movements she created the works, pieces that ‘talk with the language of movement’ as Wim Wenders puts it.

I found some of the pieces disturbing, but also saw humour and tenderness in Pina’s work.

There’s something about simple repetitive movements performed by everyone together that really gets me. This piece of Pina’s makes me smile.

Check it out. You might like it too!

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Fifty Shades of Cream

I have heard back from my lovely editor who has read the first draft of my latest project. Her response wasn’t, ‘Thanks , but no thanks,’ as I’d feared it might be. It was more, ‘Hmm, yes, well…’ and the hint that what I’ve written is…well… not really novel- shaped yet, but more a series of episodes. I knew it, really. But was hoping that a series of episodes might be acceptably post-modern and cool. It turns out that it’s not…acceptable that is…so more thinking is required.

So I must turn my attention away from house décor and back to the WorkInProgress.

Which is, actually, something of a relief. Because choosing colours is proving a headache. Not that it should be difficult. Here, the colour of choice is neutral, unadventurous, bland even. Basically, it’s cream. But how can shades of cream be so different from each other?

And how is it that those little rectangles of paint on paint charts no way resemble the colour when you try it out on paper and in turn neither of these shades resemble the actual colour of the paint once you’ve forked out a large sum of money and bought a big tin of the stuff and started daubing it on the walls?

It’s a mystery. And while I’m scratching my head over this and also over the question of What To Do With My Novel, the estimable Bookwitch has found this lovely idea.

What a marvellous distraction. I’m now busy pondering which books I would choose for my staircase. And what an opportunity for bold and cheery colours…

Hah! As if…

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Seasonal Fun

I guess many people at this point are focusing on preparations for Christmas – shopping, wrapping gifts, stressing, shopping etc….

I’m celebrating the season in a novel way this year: stripping and rubbing down…

Before you get the wrong idea, I’m talking about removing paint!

Having got the first draft of the latest book finished and sent off – hurrah! – I can now start thinking about the house. Since workmen are arriving very early in the new year to instal a new bathroom, it seems a good idea to get the messy preparations, like stripping door frames, done now.

Sandpapering is tedious but I’ve discovered a helpful tool: a heat gun. The only drawback is that it’s pretty dangerous. There’s nothing like the thrill of wielding something that shoots out 650° of heat (it warns you not to use it to dry your hair…).

It’s not so bad while it’s directed at the paint, which bubbles up very satisfactorily, but while you’re scraping, you can’t keep an eye on your other hand which can’t help waving the gun around…

jane stripping

I’m hoping we don’t have the added excitement of a visit from the fire brigade.

A very merry (and flame-free) festive season to you all!

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