Nearly seven years ago, and I really can’t believe it was that long, I began my degree at NUI Galway in Ireland. I chose Galway for one reason only: I could study creative writing there. As someone who had been interested in words, books and literature ever since I could remember, it seemed a natural choice.
These are my pick of the five best books of the year.
In one sense, and in great measure, to be peculiar is to be original, and than the true originality there is no higher literary virtue.
I interviewed the super editor/writer/all-around book aficionado Claire Hennessy about her job at one of Ireland’s major publishing houses, what she looks for in YA submissions and her best advice for aspiring authors.
Would you not like to try all sorts of lives? One is so very small.
But that is the satisfaction of writing: one can impersonate so many people.
I still think of Great Expectations as the greatest novel ever written with Magwitch, Estelle, Miss Havisham and Pip Pirrip, Dickens’s most brilliant creations. I’ve read the Dickens canon three times in my life and it’s amazing how these books have become a mirror for me, showing me how I’ve changed.
His attitude to women, for example, his sentimentality, his humour… I react differently each time I come to them… And that, of course, is the power of the greatest literature. Every time you come back to it, it’s never quite the same.”
– Anthony Horowitz
Original speech for the National Literacy Trust: http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/campaigns/anthony_horowitz_keynote_speech
Don’t gobblefunk around with words.
It’s quickly clear that Charlie Haynes has hit on an entrepreneurial concept that works: writers will pay good money to sit in a room without the distractions of the phone or the Internet.
Does a cover really have that much influence on whether or not we choose to read a book?
The New York Times recently published an article about new book covers being created for ‘classic’ novels to attract young-adult readers. Continue reading “Do You Judge A Book By Its Cover?”
“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
– CHARLES BAUDELAIRE
“Lock up your libraries if you like,
but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt
that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
– VIRGINIA WOOLF, A Room of One’s Own
Bestselling author J.K. Rowling, 46, has revealed the cover of her first adult book, The Casual Vacancy, which will be published by Little, Brown and Company on 27th September 2012.
The striking but simple yellow, red and black cover with white titles indicates a huge departure from Rowling’s previous work. The Harry Potter series, with which she made her name, used colourful character drawings on the cover to attract a younger audience.
Her last novel – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in a series of seven – was published in 2007. Rowling has since earned an OBE for services to children’s literature, as well as having been awarded France’s Légion d’Honneur, the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award and the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord.
The Casual Vacancy will centre on a small English town, Pagford, and the “blackly comic” parish council election that happens there.
“When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Seemingly an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war,” say Rowling’s publishers, Little, Brown. “[The character’s passing is] the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.”
The author is currently estimated to be worth more than £620 million from the Harry Potter brand.
What do you think of Rowling’s book cover? Will you be one of the first to buy her new novel? Comment below!
The name ‘Kathleen MacMahon’ has been on the tips of literary tongues since April 2011, when the award-winning Irish journalist picked up a €684,000 advance and a two-book deal from Little, Brown at the London Book Fair for her début novel, This Is How It Ends.
I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas;
they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
And this is one: I’m going to tell it – but take care not to smile at any part of it.
– EMILY BRONTË
“At that moment, the urge to be writing was stronger
than any notion she had of what she might write.”
– IAN MCEWAN, Atonement
During a wonderful night out with my best friend of nine years, she came out with quite an unusual statement. Now, while our conversations are generally pretty mad anyway (spluttering with inside jokes, laughter and random digressions), this one contained a remarkably deep insight.
“When I read your writing, it sounds like it’s coming from a part of you that I don’t often see,” she said.
This is coming from someone who has grown up with me for almost a decade: from eleven-year-old kids in Irish College, to (cough, cough) agonising over our secondary school exams, to being vehicle-owning college students halfway through our undergraduate degrees. We have giggled together, we have supported each other, and, most of all, we have seen each other through the dark times, when it seemed like the world had stopped turning. She knows me better than almost anyone.
She’s well used to my book obsession, journalistic ambitions, and fondness for correct spelling and grammar, but for her to say that she doesn’t often hear my writing voice, I found a bit surprising.
Writing has always been my passion, and it was many years before I met Elaine. I can’t imagine my life without it. The love of literature is completely ingrained in me. Surely, if my best friend read my writing, she would hear my familiar tones, my stubborn opinions, and my innermost thoughts ringing out through my words?
Well, not exactly. Despite its huge importance and prominence in my life, writing is still only a part of me. Elaine knows I am a writer, but she doesn’t know my creative voice, because it’s not the one I use aloud. It drives me, but it doesn’t define me. It’s a small but essential piece of me, hiding shyly at the back of my mind, waiting for the moment it can let loose on a blank page. It’s always within me, whether it’s heard or not; like she said, it’s the part of me that others don’t really see.
You know those people that are so sentimental, it’s almost comical? They sniffle over the ending of a series, they shed a tear over Titanic and absolutely bawl their eyes out after seeing The Notebook?
I’m one of them.
We cluster together, unified by our heightened emotion: knowing that the sad part is coming, the lump in our throat is getting harder and harder to ignore, our eyes sting as we try to avoid the tears…receiving the odd pat by a bewildered, wary and usually guy friend, who can’t understand this outpouring of grief…
Sad films always get me. They make me cry more than literature, probably because of the huge emphasis on the visual and aural elements, with 3D dramatic death scenes – complete with close up shots of the characters – unfolding before my eyes, accompanied by a soaring music score. Books have a slight disadvantage in this regard, because they do not have so many elements to appeal to the reader’s senses; they can only trigger those tears through the power of the words on the page. It must be one outstanding book that has the ability to move a human being by just an arrangement of black marks on paper.
This masterpiece of a book by Ian McEwan, entitled Atonement (2001), is written so beautifully that it can’t fail to move you. The tender subject matter is treated delicately and thoughtfully by the author, captured through the eyes of a young playwright named Briony, who makes a terrible mistake about a serious crime. It really struck a chord with me. The innocence of the child at the start of the novel has been shattered by the end. Her lack of life experience makes her unaware of the gravity of the situation at first, but when she realises the horrific error she has made, she spends the rest of her life trying to make amends. The sad fact is: she can never atone for what she’s done.
It is a wonderfully composed novel, well worth the read, and it might even bring a few tears to your eyes too.
I am writing this post in an angered response to the “writer’s advice” that I read online this morning. The author in question, Ray Bradbury, claims that “you can’t learn to write in college”. This ridiculous statement was provided by a man who turns ninety-one this year, and is out of touch with the brilliant learning experience and outstanding platform that writing at university today can give you.
Au contraire to Bradbury’s opinion, you can certainly learn to write well in college. Writing courses at university are there to encourage and develop creative ability. Bradbury paints writing tutors as disgusting, repugnant people for daring to have the nerve to be renowned experts in the creative fields. “The teachers always think they know more than you, and they don’t.” Excuse me, Mr. Bradbury, isn’t that the purpose of having a writing mentor? Someone to guide and shape your work, offering criticism and positive feedback, not only helping you to improve it for publication, but also increasing your belief in your capabilities? Surely you can only strengthen your chances at establishing yourself as a writer by pushing your writing limits, as well as attending seminars and lectures on your chosen art form, and by talking to those in the profession who you would otherwise not have access to? Creative writing at university is undoubtedly a marvellous opportunity for this.
Bradbury defends his assessment by stating, “They [creative writing lecturers] have prejudices. They may like Henry James, but what if you don’t want to write like Henry James? They may like John Irving, for instance, who’s the bore of all time.”
The writers that we study in college are successful for a reason. Their techniques are there, for the taking, to emulate. You don’t have to like what they have to say, you don’t have to agree with their philosophies or opinions, but you can learn something from them. Just because my mentor happens to have a soft spot for John McGahern (looking at you Dr. John Kenny) does not mean that he forces said writer’s short stories down my throat. In fact, in my experience, creative writing teachers are always open to discovering and discussing new authors. College writing courses are shaped to bring out the best in you as an author, whether your specialism be in poetry, screenwriting, playwriting, fiction, non-fiction, or even all of the above. Having a working and professional writer as a mentor is really important, because they have been in the same position as you – with the bonus that they’ve experienced the publishing game and know how to enforce the word ‘EDIT’.
I am currently undertaking Creative Writing as an undergraduate at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and having a bloody fantastic time doing so, which is why I find Bradbury’s criticism of this so infuriating. I have learned more about writing over the last two years in my course than I have in the total of fifteen years that I have been pursuing this passion, and I’ve gained a lot more confidence in my writing than if I’d dismissed it as a mere hobby and not continued it to third level. I’ve met people who thankfully are just as enthusiastic about writing as I am. Writing in a group has made me less coy about focusing on my writing future, comfortable in the knowledge that I will be spending next year working solely on my writing portfolio. Studying it at university has made me realise that writing, for me, is far more than a pastime. I want to make it my career, and thanks to college, I have mentors who are not only flourishing in terms of their own creative abilities but who are determined to help me do the same.
Link to Ray Bradbury article in ‘Advice to Writers’: http://www.advicetowriters.com/