Thursday, April 18, 2013

Palaces of books

So I had a break from writing and spent a couple of days in London, as I was delighted to be taking part in a Salt panel discussion at the London Book Fair, on Building Brand and Social Equity on a Shoestring (that means creating a brand - essential now: the fair was fair buzzing with that word - and promoting and selling books thereby, all without a budget via social media). I was speaking alongside our publisher Chris Hamilton-Emery, my irrepressible fellow Salt author and blogging colleague, poet Katy Evans-Bush, and Salt crime writer Christina James, whom I was delighted to meet for the first time. It was lovely too to meet Elaine Aldred, who chaired us in excellent and tactful fashion (10 mins each didn't seem nearly enough for all the things we had to say!). Elaine will be writing up the gist of the whole discussion, and I'll link to her piece when it appears. We had a receptive and communicative audience - about 200 people, I'd say, consisting of authors, a few journalists and a majority of publishers. I enjoyed it immensely, and found my fellow panelists' contributions practical and helpful. Christina has blogged about it here.

Then (after waiting to pay in a long queue of literary types hugging plastic pots of salad) I had a catch-up over lunch with Katy, who always cheers and inspires me (she's so good with words!) before attending a very interesting session on the Future of the Literary Agent, which I've written about a bit on my Fictionbitch blog.

After that session I went back to my nearby hotel for a short while and, all ready to put into practice my own advice on social networking, tweeting on the hop and uploading the pics I'd taken on my iphone, I dropped the thing down the loo and it was kaput!

Well, I'd never been to a book fair before - oh, that's not quite true, I've been to alternative book fairs - and this really was amazing: a place two or three times the size of an aeroplane hangar filled with publishers and industry professionals in their tellingly differently-sized sections, from the shared shelves of members of the Independent Publishers' Guild, to Bloomsbury's section which was, as Katy said, like a palace, and HarperCollins's, well.. city, really.

Bit of an eye-opener, really.

And, do you know, there's a pub near Euston station with a cat that always comes and sits on your knees?

Saturday, April 06, 2013

How long stories take to write, and a seminar on social media for books

Funny how the different things you write can take different lengths of times, however similar they are in word count. Three weeks ago I had the idea for a story and completed it all in one week, and then the week before last in three swift days I wrote a second which had come to me as I was writing the first. However, the next story I turned to write had been brewing for a year, which means it had a pretty long gestation period. And when it came to the actual writing, I couldn't decide how to approach it - in retrospect, maybe that's why in a whole year I hadn't got round to it. I also discovered that before I could approach it anyway I needed to do a fair amount of research. So I spent the whole of last week researching, and it was only at the end of that week, with all the facts collated and bringing with them images which in turn sparked connections, that I finally saw how the story must be done.  And then of course I needed a short break over the weekend, in order to let the research settle back into a more general sense of background (rather than a series of facts asserting themselves and insisting on being included), so I still haven't even begun the actual story. And next week will be interrupted by a necessary visit to relatives, and - if I don't get the story written around that in the week - the following week there'll be a three-day visit to London stirring it all up.

And I do wonder sometimes if interruptions affect the outcome, making a different result from that which would have been produced by uninterrupted concentration.... 

My visit to London will include taking part in a panel discussion on book promotion via digital social media, which is part of the London Book Fair's Love Learning Programme. My fellow-panelists will be my inspired and energetic publisher, Salt's Chris Hamilton-Emery, and two of my brilliant fellow Salt authors, Katy Evans-Bush and Christina James. The seminars are free, but I think you have to have bought a ticket to the LBF to attend. Here are the details:

Tuesday 16th April 11.30 – 12.30, Cromwell Room, EC1

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Rosie Garland's launch of The Palace of Curiosities

This is my first chance to write about the launch last week of Rosie Garland'sThe Palace of Curiosities, which won the Myslexia competition for a debut novel (I wrote about that here.) I must say it's weird going out when you haven't done so for ages (see what writing can do to you!) (how cold is it in the evenings nowadays? What clothes, in any case, have you got to wear - you can hardly remember). I must say too that these Waterstone's reading events aren't what they were - there was no wine, we were kept waiting outside the door to the reading room and then herded in all at once, but in spite of all that, so great is Rosie's popularity that the room was packed to the gunnels with a cheering, whooping audience eager to hear her read from the novel. And she didn't disappoint. Anyone who has experienced Rosie's performances as a compere will know of her energy, her arresting visual style and especially her witty way with language, and all of these are evident in the novel, the tale of the crossed lives of two unusual narrators, a 'lion-woman' covered in hair, and a man whose body when injured instantly heals. I'm about a quarter-way through the book: the characters are fascinating, and Victorian London is vividly captured, and of course the language sparkles like sharp-cut jewels.