Back To Work

The Goldfinch

Actually, this summer has been busier than I expected workwise. But I did have very lovely breaks in Stockholm, Berlin, and the Isle of Wight, and I did get some good reading done, and also adored Orange Is The New Black. And yay, we had sun! Decent summer weather was gratefully received.

Going back to my last post, my reading highlight must have been Donna Tartt’s new novel The Goldfinch, which is FANTASTIC. Maybe I’ll say something about its many wondrous wonders anon, but it’s one of those books where (probably) nothing should be known in advance, so duck the reviews and just get hold of a copy (coming to a bookstore near you in October, and yes, I’m very grateful for friends in high – and lowly – places in publishers, especially when they have access to very desirable advance reading copies). The Goldfinch was for me one of those (increasingly rare) experiences that was really all about the pleasure of reading. I cleared the decks of work and television and friends, and really made time for this great fat book (771 pages), and I finished it in the garden one sunny Friday morning, and the ending made me cry. That pretty little bird, that sweet little bird. I just got teary looking at the end again.

Tomorrow I’m off to the Writers’ Workshop’s Festival of Writing in York. I’m finally catching my breath after typing up notes for thirty one-on-one book doctor sessions, and I’m just here procrastinating before I finish handouts for the workshops on Editing For Writers and How To Write A Sentence. I’m also running a mini-course on the Four Elements of Creativity (woo woo, a bit hippie there, bring on the patchouli) and taking part in a panel on fantasy and science fiction.

And if you’re reading this while thinking about getting feedback from myself or anyone else at York (or most anywhere else, for that matter), don’t be anxious! (Not that you are, of course. But some people can be, especially if they’ve not attended such an event before.) The point of giving and getting feedback in such contexts is finding ways to improve the writing. Some people get nice strokes to the ego too, and sometimes even agents and book deals. But for most people such rewards are further down the line. Usually we’ll be having discussions like: This has a lot of this, but maybe not much of that. Or: This works well, so why don’t you do more of it, or let it stand out more clearly. Or: Have you maybe thought of trying this? Or: Why did you do that? Or: Concrete and specific details, please. Or: Don’t forget to paginate your manuscript. Or: Publishers might HATE this, but do it anyway, because much of the time they don’t know what the hell they’re doing (only kidding – maybe …). So: it’s a dialogue, and it’s pretty relaxed, and intended most of all to be helpful.

And beyond your book doctor sessions and the workshops and keynote speeches and literary competitions that are intended to give you professional insights and fire you with inspiration, you’ll be enjoying the company of writers and readers – and after all, good editors and agents are simply good readers, so they are included there too. It’s likely that there’ll be more work to do, after the weekend, but something that can come immediately is the forming of new friendships with like-minded booklovers, and they will be there in droves.

I’ll report back next week, when regular blog service will resume. Not sure I’ll be doing Friday Writing Experiments, or even posting weekly, but I’ll make regular-ish posts of some sort or other.


Festival of Writing, York, 13-15 September 2013

I’m taking part in the Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing in York from 13 to 15 September 2013.

I’m teaching a mini-course on the Four Elements of Writing and running shorter workshops on How To Write A Sentence and Editing For Writers, and I’ll also be doing lots of book doctoring.

More information and booking details are available from the good people of the Writers’ Workshop. They really know how to put together and organise a first-rate programme of events, and in attendance will be lots of writers, agents, editors, and publishers from whom you can glean good advice.

And there’s a film about 2012’s Festival here.