Wednesday 28 May 2014

The Power of Words

A whole world of words to explore
While I was away this weekend a furore started when it was reported that Michael Gove was removing certain acclaimed American books from the GCSE syllabus. There was uproar and quite rightly so. It went viral across Facebook and Twitter within hours and several petitions were set up ranging from wanting the books reinstated to wanting Gove removed.

This was on Sunday the same day as the European Election results. Having been in PR the cynic in me considers this perfect timing. It is easily lost as a headline particularly considering what happened - I am not even going there in this post it is too depressing. Swallowed up by the panic created by the results and therefore totally ignored by the news people. I know the BBC did intend to discuss it on Monday as Matt Haig had been called in but then was told it had been pulled just forty minutes before he was due on. I also fully aware that this happens all too often if a 'more important' story comes in. But it hasn't reappeared. What has appeared is Gove rapidly declaring that he never said that and that he wouldn't do it. Now again the cynic in me thinks that is all too convenient. Perhaps he has seen the reaction and been able to respond by denying it rather than backing down and thereby losing face. For what it is worth as far as I am concerned there are two important points here which should have been and were considered by some: one is that literature does not and should not respect country boundaries and our children should know this. And secondly, there has been a huge amount about the need for diversity in children's literature recently, which is vital we know, but this diversity should not just relate to characters it should also include authors. I will now get off my soap box because if I start on my opinion of Gove I might get banned.

It is all about words and their power. The scriptwriter Peter Bowker in a recent programme on BBC4 about his writing processes was talking about this immediate reaction we get with the internet and he suggested that now the only way we can get to the truth is through fiction. I think he is probably right. Certainly for me that is very true of young adult fiction. I believe it is a place for them to find out how the world really works around them.

Words play an important part of another part of my life. I am aware that at times I make people's day with an email and for other's I might just slightly crush their dreams. It is very hard. I am constantly reading and giving feedback. For some it is for Golden Egg who want constructive feedback with the ultimate aim of wanting to get published, for others it is because they are moving towards an assignment and they want the best mark possible. All of them wanting and waiting for words from me that are going to make their words better.

You can also become blind to words when you spend your time looking at so many of them, particularly your own. I have had to send my own words over to IC because I could no longer see them. I knew it wasn't good enough but I couldn't see what else to do at that stage. I had done so much marking and read so many GE submissions my head was full of words but they were the wrong ones.

A single word can make your day or bring your world tumbling down around you. I personally think it is important to  think about what you are saying to others to make sure you don't hurt people unnecessarily. Verbal abuse can stay with you for many a year and because there are no visible bruises people often assume they don't damage you - I can assure you they do.

Words whether full of joy, truth, rhetoric, spin or venom are full of power, please use with care.

But with all words we never know what is true and what is not so here is a bit of Spandau Ballet for some old fashioned reminiscing

Saturday 10 May 2014

Guest Post by Rewan Tremethick talking about his new book Fallen on Good Times

Rewan Tremethick
I am delighted to introduce you to Rewan Tremethick who has very kindly agreed to do a guest blog post as part of his tour prior to the launch of his most recent book at the end of May. Rewan is an ex student of mine at the University of Winchester where he studied Creative Writing. I was lucky enough to supervise his final year project (dissertation).He would spend a lot of time in my office along with Sonney Stelling putting the world to writes [sics]. We had many a laugh but he was also a good student. Always listening to what I had to say, going away and working hard on his creative pieces. So It is with great joy that I hand my blog over to him. Well done Rewan and good luck

Writing my way to self discovery. And biscuits.

I learned something rather important about myself when I wrote Fallen on Good Times. Originally, I had intended it to be a nice, straightforward adventure. No subtext, no brain work, just something simple and easily consumable, like the pulp magazines of the 1920s; the period in which the book is set.

It was National Novel Writing Month: a time of year that always gets writer types excited. It's the literary challenge equivalent of running a marathon for anyone interested in using their legs. Write 50,000 words in one month, no excuses. It doesn't have to be good - the idea is just to get something out of your brain. Writers have a tendency to avoid writing, which we're allowed to do, because we're artists. If after several months, the people you had hired to build your home had only put two bricks together, because they 'hadn't felt like building', you'd be outraged. Writers, on the other hand, get away with it, hence the large kick up the backside NaNoWriMo provides being rather useful to us.

For me, writing long pieces has never been a problem. I take part in NaNoWriMo for the community. And also because it presented a nice opportunity to get working on my new project - the paranormal adventures of a private detective in 1920s America, down on his luck, looking for something better (and less deadly) to do with his life. It was an action book, and a comedy. You could laugh at it, and people got punched every now and then. All good things.

But at the end of NaNo, I looked back over it and realised it was too empty for me. I needed it to have some substance. I wasn't aiming for ideas as astounding as Decartes 'I am thinking, therefore I exist’, but I wanted the book to be something that made you do a little bit of brain work. Rather like a pile of hot coals, or a porcupine, you shouldn't be able to just hold it for several hours and then forget about it forever. It should leave a mark on you.

Considering I originally started on Fallen on Good Times because I was taking a break from the other ideas I was working on, which were much more complex and thematic, this was a bit of a problem. I had succeeded in my goal - make a straightforward book that would (hopefully) put a smile on some people's faces and give them a happy way to while away a few hours. Yet I wasn't happy with what I had produced.

Hence the moment of self-realisation. It was a very quiet epiphany, the acknowledgement that I needed to tell stories that had meaning, that said something. If they made a film of my life, they'd have to crank up the drama somewhat, perhaps by having the realisation come to me in a dream, then depicting me tearing up the pages of the manuscript, shouting at befuddled relatives 'I need something more than this!' As it was, I was alone in the living room at about 1.30 in the morning, which is when I tend to do most of my deep thinking. I was probably eating biscuits; not as dramatic though.

Perhaps that's why Mark Wilson from Paddy's Daddy Publishing, and the other people so far who have read it and enjoyed it, have liked it. It originally started out as a comic action romp. It achieves that quite well, I think. There are plenty of Discworld-esque characters and moments (my style of written humour has often been compared to that of Messers Pratchett and Adams in the past), and some nice action sequences. But what the rewrite added was a few layers of depth. It made the book resonate more, created a stronger purpose for the story, and gave the book something to say.

I never set out intending to ignore my desire to create something that had depth and subtext, I just hadn't realised when I started Fallen on Good Times just how strong that desire was. It's not a facet of my writing, it's the very reason that I do write.

I have long believed that good writing makes you feel, but great writing makes you think. If Fallen on Good Times makes people laugh, smile, and enjoy themselves, I'm happy, but if it also makes them think about their own thoughts and beliefs with regards to the issues in the novel, then I'm something more than happy. I'm fulfilled. Justified. In the film of my life, that'll probably be depicted by me running up a mountain and roaring triumphantly at the world from atop the summit.

In reality, I'll probably just have more biscuits.

Check out the trailer for the book here:

About the author:
Rewan (not pronounced ‘Rowan’) Tremethick is a British author who was named after a saint. St Ruan was invulnerable to wolves; Rewan isn’t. His paranormal detective noir, Fallen on Good Times, is being released towards the end of May. Rewan has already had two murder mystery novellas published.
When not writing, he can be found drumming, reading, and pondering. He works as a freelance copywriter, so it’s hard to find a time where he’s not writing anything. Rewan is a fan of clever plots, strong woman who don’t have to be described using words like ‘feisty’, and epic music. He has dabbled in stand-up comedy, radio presenting, and writing sentences without trying to make a joke.
He balances his desire to write something meaningful by wearing extremely tight jeans.
Click here for more information and to sign up and get chapter one for free [link:].

Other links:

Sunday 4 May 2014

UKYA is definitely booming

Feeling guilty...
I have decided guilt is my middle name. I am feeling really guilty when I realised that it is nearly a month since I last posted a blog post. It has been a long time since I have left that sort of a gap but as you probably realised from my last post things were pretty busy and they got worse. A period of intense marking plus being very ill meant there was no time for anything else. I am only just coming out the other side of it - thank goodness. I am feeling I can breathe again and there is a lightness to my step again as the sun shines and the birds are singing. I am trying not to think of the marking coming in this week, the validation document that needs to be written, the two conference papers and academic book that are also waiting to be written. But let's not talk about that.

More interestingly I wanted to talk about the buzz around UKYA. We all know how much there is to shout about but at last there people doing just that. They are really making a noise. For example check out the outstanding blog Project UKYA run by Lucie Powrie. There was #UKYA day on 19th April which took over Twitter and of course #UKYAChat. Always worth a look in and usually happens once a month. There are lots of other blogs talking about YAF that you should have a peek at too. Just do a google search on UK young adult fiction.

In July there is to be the first Young Adult Literature Convention which is being curated by Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman. Well worth a visit. At least it means that UK young adult fiction is getting the same sort of recognition that young adult fiction gets in the US. It is not surprising considering we keep reading about the number of adults who would rather read YAF and it is a burgeoning area of research within academia too. It has been a long time coming. There are some truly outstanding YA writers in this country and it is about time they are recognised. I am not even going to attempt to list them here. Just trust me and investigate for yourself.

This is all wonderful news for me, particularly as I also write YAF and I am an academic who counts YAF as once of my specialisms.

During all my stress of the last month I have to admit there was a little bit of my own excitement when the wonderful IC was telling me about the buzz that is surrounding my own novel when she took the synopsis up to LBF. Just need to find the time to get it polished. Anyone have  a machine that can create extra time? I need a few hours.

Time for a bit of music - what shall we have...Oh yes I know...Lily Allen's Alfie. Those who know my family might just understand why and thank you CT for reminding me x