The Ackroyd Tendency

ackroyd     I don’t spend too much of my time poring over the work of other, better writers and feeling bitter. You can only do your best, as my old Mum used to say. I’ve always admired the work of Peter Ackroyd and was particularly shocked to discover that he’s younger than me. How did he get to be so good so fast? Ah well.

Sue Townsend and the N Word

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Today the sad but not unexpected announcement of Sue Townsend’s death. In recent years she was prey to a shocking list of disabilities and a testament to the old saying that health is wealth.

Sue and I grew up on the same street and went to the same school. We were never friends. She was a year older than me and lived in what my Mum sniffily referred to as The Prefabs. They were just little bungalows erected to house people while Leicester recovered from its wartime bomb damage, but they were the source of a kind of apartheid on Grange Drive. My mother could be a bit ‘bay-window’ when provoked and Sue’s enormous success with her first Adrian Mole book was the occasion for some maternal bristling in our house. My mother believed that God only handed out one publishing contract per street, per century, and that Sue had gone and pipped me to it.

Wearing the Green

vladimir1   I was tickled to see HM Queen wearing the Vladimir Tiara (emerald version) as a gesture of Oirishry to President Michael D Higgins last evening. Tiaras are not part of my daily life   -  though I’d wear one given half a chance  -  but I do know a bit about the Vladimir because its rescue from the chaos of Russia in 1917 features in this year’s book, The Grand Duchess of Nowhere.

Things Writers Do

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As is well known (because I’m always  complaining about it) I never have enough time to write my books. It’s now April 5th, this year’s book is still not quite put to bed, and I have to deliver another finished manuscript by next February 1st. So I’d like to assure my editor that the frittering away of valuable writing time in the creation these origami Easter hens had nothing to do with me. I’d like to, but I cannot tell a lie. I was tired of novelising. My fingers itched to make something. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Is that enough excuses?

And the Winner Is….

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I’m delighted to announce the dedicatee of this year’s book, drawn from my ratty old hat without favour or prejudice. Ernest Pig was nominated by his Humans and he seems a particularly appropriate winner because The Grand Duchess of Nowhere already contains a couple of Ernests: Grand Duke Ernie of Hesse and Ernst, Prince of Hohenlohe. E.Pig (if you’re interested in a pig’s perspective you can follow him on Twitter @ErnestPig) will now complete the triumvirate. Okay, a pig doesn’t count as a vir. You know perfectly well what I mean.

A Shrug Too Far

Man shrugs    First, thanks to all those who have so far stepped up and offered themselves as dedicatees of my new book. Your enthusiasm is appreciated. I’ll draw a name from the hat during the first week of April.

Next, the  aforementioned book is now off my desk for a while. I delivered the revised manuscript to my editor this morning. I’m not saying it’s over. There will still be Final Tinker, followed by Proof Corrections, but for a week or two I’m off the hook. How do I feel about it? Flat as yesterday’s Tizer.

To Tom, No To Dick, No…To Harry

dedicationThe edit is nearly done which means I can turn my attention to important details such as which earrings to wear to the Man Booker award ceremony. Also, to whom should I dedicate this new book? I have a patchy history when it comes to dedications. Two friends who have been my dedicatees are no longer my friends (and I don’t think it was anything to do with the quality of the writing) and one friend still doesn’t know I dedicated a book to her because she’s never opened the copy I gave her and I’m now too pissed off to mention it.

Verdict’s In

judge    In the matter of Laurie Graham v. Editor, the jury is back. The unanimous verdict is that it would be more powerful to leave the narrator in partial ignorance of the fate of her relatives. The Editor has graciously conceded. ‘You’re the writer, Laurie,’ she said. ‘I trust your judgment.’

I thank all of you who took the time to give me your opinion. I’m quite an old hand at this novel-writing game, but even old hands have moments of self-doubt. So now it’s on with the edit which must be delivered by the middle of this month if I’m to catch my October publication slot. Crazy isn’t it? You’d think each copy had to be handwritten by a monk.

Writer Seeks Advice

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As my regulars know my view has always been that writers should go quietly about their business and not seek the opinion of every Tom, Dick and writers’ workshop. No-one sees my stuff until I deliver first draft to my editor and my agent. My husband gets to read final draft, if he asks nicely. So, anyway, I’m now at first edit stage. My agent and my editor have sent me their notes which, comfortingly and amazingly  are almost perfectly congruent, and now I have to see what I can do with their suggestions. Blue pencil time.

Can’t Give ‘Em Away

emptyshelves     I just spent a frustrating half hour on the telephone to libraries. First my local one, a piss-poor ghost of a place with sadly depleted shelves. Perhaps everything’s out on loan? I don’t think so.

The reason for my call  -  my house is groaning under the weight of brand new copies of my books, hardback, paperback, LARGE PRINT, audio. I thought I’d donate one of each. Admittedly there’d be something in it for me. I earn a tiny fee each time someone borrows one of my books. But it was not my principal motive. I just want them out of my way.