Blog – Laurie Graham https://lauriegraham.com Author Mon, 12 Nov 2018 04:48:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 The Zen of Unemployment https://lauriegraham.com/2018/11/11/the-zen-of-unemployment/ https://lauriegraham.com/2018/11/11/the-zen-of-unemployment/#respond Sun, 11 Nov 2018 15:00:30 +0000 https://lauriegraham.com/?p=3696   This is the button I’m definitely not going to push before, say, February’s rent is due. I’m puttering on with Volume 2  so that if/when the day to self-publish dawns I’ll have the convincing makings of a series. And when I’m not writing I’m keeping the hamster wheel of domesticity turning. The mending basket…

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This is the button I’m definitely not going to push before, say, February’s rent is due. I’m puttering on with Volume 2  so that if/when the day to self-publish dawns I’ll have the convincing makings of a series. And when I’m not writing I’m keeping the hamster wheel of domesticity turning. The mending basket is empty for the first time in years, there is nothing suspect lurking at the back of the fridge and this week it will be time to bottle my plum vodka which is looking a rather lovely cornelian red.

Then there is YouTube. Some people find daft cat videos cheer them up, others prefer videos of dog misdemeanours. I quite enjoy tapes of comedians of yesteryear. Les Dawson and Tommy Cooper are two of my favourites, but my gold standard rib-tickler which I feel moved to share with you is this 1930s recording of Wilson and Keppel’s Sand Dance. Worth two minutes of anyone’s time, I’d say.

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Displacement Activity https://lauriegraham.com/2018/11/02/displacement-activity/ https://lauriegraham.com/2018/11/02/displacement-activity/#respond Fri, 02 Nov 2018 09:21:11 +0000 https://lauriegraham.com/?p=3689 Displacement activity, definition: an unnecessary activity carried out to avoid a difficult or unpleasant scenario. Examples: A bird, faced with an ambiguous situation  –  should he fly away or hang around for some potentially nutritious crumbs?  –  will peck the ground.  A dog, unsure whether or not he’s in trouble, will scratch himself. A writer,…

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Displacement activity, definition: an unnecessary activity carried out to avoid a difficult or unpleasant scenario.

Examples: A bird, faced with an ambiguous situation  –  should he fly away or hang around for some potentially nutritious crumbs?  –  will peck the ground.  A dog, unsure whether or not he’s in trouble, will scratch himself. A writer, who knows she has fans waiting for another book but also has growing fears that no-one wants to publish her, makes an apple pie.  

I’m a recent convert to sour cream pastry and will say that it made a superb pie crust but I must also confess that this household didn’t need an apple pie. Neither has it needed two bottles of plum vodka, a tapestry cushion cover and a dozen origami harvest mice, but there it is. That’s what you get when you have an anxious novelist displacing away like there’s no tomorrow.

So yes, I’m still without a publisher. But thank you for asking.

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Words for the Season https://lauriegraham.com/2018/10/21/words-for-the-season/ https://lauriegraham.com/2018/10/21/words-for-the-season/#respond Sun, 21 Oct 2018 13:53:08 +0000 https://lauriegraham.com/?p=3681 Like every English schoolgirl I learned Keats’s Ode to Autumn by heart and can still remember fragments of it now. Uplifting as that is, I wish the part of my brain that retains poetry would also hang on to some useful stuff, like PINs and phone numbers. Autumn is a rich seam for poetry readers.…

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Like every English schoolgirl I learned Keats’s Ode to Autumn by heart and can still remember fragments of it now. Uplifting as that is, I wish the part of my brain that retains poetry would also hang on to some useful stuff, like PINs and phone numbers.

Autumn is a rich seam for poetry readers. John Clare is good, and Emily Bronte’s Fall, leaves, fall. Siegfried Sassoon’s too, though his lines are better suited to November remembrance.

One of my own favourites is Betjeman’s Diary of a Church Mouse which I thought of this morning in a church that was two thirds empty a few weeks ago but packed to the rafters today. One of my most powerful childhood memories is of standing with my classmates in the school playground, belting out Come Ye Thankful People, Come, while our mothers jostled for pole position ready for the veg stall scrum. My bet is, the children who lugged their gifts of vegetables and seeds and flowers and fruit up to the altar today will remember the moment all their lives. Thankfulness is an underestimated force for happiness.

Robert Frost is also very good for the season. O hushed October morning mild…  but my Frost of choice is After Apple Picking. We used to have a recording of the man himself reading it. Heaven knows what became of it. Lost in one of our many moves, or loaned and never returned. My husband knew the poem by heart and would recite it when called upon. Like Frost, he’s done with apple-picking now. And with reciting poems. He has fallen silent. Dementia has got his tongue.

But I still have mine, so when I visit him this week I’ll be bringing along Robert Frost and his two-pointed ladder sticking through a tree. Essence of winter sleep is on the night…

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Something For the Weekend https://lauriegraham.com/2018/10/13/something-for-the-weekend/ https://lauriegraham.com/2018/10/13/something-for-the-weekend/#respond Sat, 13 Oct 2018 09:12:06 +0000 https://lauriegraham.com/?p=3675 Thanks, first, to readers who sent me words of encouragement in these dark days. I may be out in the publishing wilderness but I’m still writing and probably always will. My dying breath will likely be, ‘Quick, a pen…’ I received a lovely gift yesterday: two issues of Slightly Foxed, that most charming and readable…

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Thanks, first, to readers who sent me words of encouragement in these dark days. I may be out in the publishing wilderness but I’m still writing and probably always will. My dying breath will likely be, ‘Quick, a pen…’

I received a lovely gift yesterday: two issues of Slightly Foxed, that most charming and readable literary quarterly. It was particularly welcome with a grey, wet weekend in prospect and an ugly sea roiling outside my window. I haven’t read Slightly Foxed in years, tsk tsk, but I’m going to buy myself a subscription for my fast-approaching birthday.

I’m very picky about what I read these days. Newspapers seem so lightweight in content in spite of the fact that the weekend editions weigh a ton. Even my old journalistic perch, the formerly steady Daily Telegraph, now runs fashion features dreamed up by people who are clearly out of their minds. Haven’t they noticed the ads for Velcro shoes and stair lifts? Don’t they understand where their readers are at, or do they just not care?

Magazines like the Literary Review seem ponderously up their own fundaments. Cosmopolitan, where I started out in the ’80s, now makes me shudder. SHE, where I enjoyed happy times as a contributing editor in the ’90s, died of excessive efforts at trendiness but by then I was cold toast. And Private Eye just isn’t funny any more.

I do read the Spectator. When it flops through the letterbox I rip off the envelope and proceed as follows. First I look at the cartoons. Then I read Rod Liddle and Jeremy Clarke. I always hope to find a piece by Aidan Hartley too but he doesn’t appear nearly often enough. He is currently leading the field for my Best Opening Sentence of the Year award, with, Last night the hyenas made off with our fudge cake. Unlikely to be beaten, I’d say.

The rest of the magazine I save for the many train journeys I take, rattling around Dublin Bay on the DART.

The Spectator fits snugly in my bag and so will Slightly Foxed. Sorted.

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On Being Binge-Read https://lauriegraham.com/2018/10/07/on-being-binge-read/ https://lauriegraham.com/2018/10/07/on-being-binge-read/#comments Sun, 07 Oct 2018 14:24:03 +0000 https://lauriegraham.com/?p=3671 As I wait, anxiously, for publishers to break through the security cordon screaming, ‘Me, me! Let me be the one to publish your next undoubtedly brilliant novel’, I try to keep my chins up by staying productive. So how hath this little busy bee improved each shining hour during the past week? I repaired a…

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As I wait, anxiously, for publishers to break through the security cordon screaming, ‘Me, me! Let me be the one to publish your next undoubtedly brilliant novel’, I try to keep my chins up by staying productive. So how hath this little busy bee improved each shining hour during the past week? I repaired a skirt I haven’t been able to wear for months, I made half a litre of plum vodka and a jar of pickled prunes (looking good), went for a long and bracing walk along the seashore, and wrote a bit more of a book no-one may want.

Then I bumped into someone who brought me great joy and hope in these bleak times. ‘Laurie!’ she said, ‘I’m having such fun. I’m binge-reading everything you ever wrote!’

As far as I know this is my first instance of being binge-read and I can’t tell you how cockle-warming it is. Don’t ever be afraid to tell an author how much you like their books. Well…. perhaps tread carefully if they’re terribly grand or already laden with awards. Perhaps don’t approach too chummily if there’s a research assistant or bag-carrier trailing humbly in their wake. But generally speaking you can assume that any mid-list novelist is grateful for and touched by words of appreciation. Some of us don’t get out much, you know?

 

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Words in Their Mouths https://lauriegraham.com/2018/09/30/words-in-their-mouths/ https://lauriegraham.com/2018/09/30/words-in-their-mouths/#respond Sun, 30 Sep 2018 12:31:34 +0000 https://lauriegraham.com/?p=3666 The lowlight of my recent visit to the UK was when the Yeoman Warder tour of the Tower of London which my granddaughter and I had so looked forward to was cancelled for reasons of health and safety (rain, basically). I guess even the Royal Palaces have to be risk-averse in these litigious times. But…

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The lowlight of my recent visit to the UK was when the Yeoman Warder tour of the Tower of London which my granddaughter and I had so looked forward to was cancelled for reasons of health and safety (rain, basically). I guess even the Royal Palaces have to be risk-averse in these litigious times. But we did enjoy the ravens who are good value whatever the weather.

The high point of my trip, indeed its main purpose, was to appear at the Hampshire Festival of Book Clubs. It was a superbly curated event and though it probably isn’t my place to praise the quality of the speakers I can certainly vouch for the quality of the cake. Dear literary event organisers, I am a low-maintenance, moderately successful novelist and available all dates in 2019. If you’re offering cake, count me in.

I had just one unsettling encounter. A reader approached me to tell me that though she had quite enjoyed one of my historical novels she was uncomfortable with the way I put words in the mouths of real people, now deceased.

My own mouth was momentarily lost for words. I then recovered my composure sufficiently to say that I always think very carefully about what my characters say, that I tried in my historical novels, to recount familiar events from a different angle and perhaps give the dead a fairer hearing and that, as far I recall, I’ve never done anyone a terrible injustice with my pen. Still, makes you think though. At least I’m back on safer ground with my return to current times and invented characters.

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On the Road Again https://lauriegraham.com/2018/09/10/on-the-road-again/ https://lauriegraham.com/2018/09/10/on-the-road-again/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2018 10:06:52 +0000 https://lauriegraham.com/?p=3659 The suitcase is out again. I’m off to England later this week to inspect some of my grandchildren, catch up with some friends and, most important of all, to meet some of my readers. The Hampshire Festival of Book Clubs takes place next week at Lord Wandsworth College. What a lovely place to go to…

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The suitcase is out again. I’m off to England later this week to inspect some of my grandchildren, catch up with some friends and, most important of all, to meet some of my readers. The Hampshire Festival of Book Clubs takes place next week at Lord Wandsworth College.

What a lovely place to go to school. I might ask if I can stay and retake my GCSE Maths. I still have the name tapes that have lurked in my Mum’s old sewing box for more than sixty years. I wonder if they’d make me do Phys Ed though? Hmm.

There’s a little interview with me today on the History Girls blog. I was formerly of that parish, a lightweight contributor compared to most of their learned members, so it’s very generous of them to have me back to talk about the vagaries of sequel-writing and the bonuses of ageing.

The downside of ageing is that you go to more funerals. My old home town, Leicester, will be another pit-stop on my UK tour, to attend the funeral of my second cousin, Colleen, a much-loved matriarch, a formidable line-dancer and pretty much the last of her generation in the family.  Dress code: blue.

So a bit of Granny Time, a bit of work, and a moment of sad farewell. A good balance, I think you’d agree.

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Writer NOT at work? https://lauriegraham.com/2018/09/01/writer-not-at-work/ https://lauriegraham.com/2018/09/01/writer-not-at-work/#comments Sat, 01 Sep 2018 09:17:09 +0000 https://lauriegraham.com/?p=3655 Writers sometimes hit the buffers. Maybe the brilliant idea they thought they’d had turns out not to be so brilliant after all. Maybe there’s a basic structural fault in their construction. Or, they think they’re suffering from writer’s block. Years ago they’d sit slumped over the typewriter snivelling, ‘I’m blocked.’ Nowadays they can find reams…

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Writers sometimes hit the buffers. Maybe the brilliant idea they thought they’d had turns out not to be so brilliant after all. Maybe there’s a basic structural fault in their construction. Or, they think they’re suffering from writer’s block. Years ago they’d sit slumped over the typewriter snivelling, ‘I’m blocked.’ Nowadays they can find reams of ‘unblocking’ advice online. They can attend a workshop. A kind of Dyno-Rod for novelists.

I’ll tell you what I think. Crying ‘blocked!’ is a cop-out. People ask me if I ever get writer’s block and my answer is that I have never had the luxury. My writing put (and still puts) food on the table. If I wake up wishing I’d done something different with my life, I go to my desk anyway and write. If it ends up in the trash bin, so be it. I have to write because that has been my chosen path and it’s too late to change now. The occasional patch of ennui and uninspired dreck-production goes with the job.

There are things I do, when whatever I’m writing isn’t quite working, when the Inner Laurie whispers, ‘no, no, no, can do better.’ I go for a walk or clean the windows. Ironing is good too. It’s an activity that allows the brain to coast out of gear and, okay, unblock itself. A kind of castor oil for the creative mind which comes with the bonus benefit of lovely smooth sheets. So a win-win.

But one last radical thought. No-one has to become a writer. Everyone doesn’t have a book in them any more than they have a symphony up their sleeve. Sorry. If you think you’re a writer, if you’re just starting out and you find you keep getting blocked, walk away, be something else for heaven’s sake. Life is long and wide and full of wonderful possibilities. Trust me, there will never be a world shortage of writers.

 

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Publication Day! https://lauriegraham.com/2018/08/23/publication-day/ https://lauriegraham.com/2018/08/23/publication-day/#respond Thu, 23 Aug 2018 08:38:17 +0000 https://lauriegraham.com/?p=3647 So it’s out!  Anyone for Seconds, now available in all good book shops and perhaps in some not so good ones. It’s my seventeenth novel  –  at least, the seventeenth I’ll admit to  – and I’m sorry to say that for me publication days aren’t what they used to be. They used to be a…

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So it’s out!  Anyone for Seconds, now available in all good book shops and perhaps in some not so good ones. It’s my seventeenth novel  –  at least, the seventeenth I’ll admit to  – and I’m sorry to say that for me publication days aren’t what they used to be. They used to be a reason for a party and indeed I’ve had some great launches, a few of them hosted by kind and generous friends. But by number 17 it’s all a bit ho-hum. Sense of achievement? Not really. Optimism? I wouldn’t be so foolish.

However…. A f S has already had some super reviews from advance readers and when I opened a copy at a random page yesterday it actually made me laugh so I certainly have grounds for a wee celebration this evening. A glass of fizz and the last scrapings of my Russian caviar.

I used not to work on pub day but given the currently dire straits of my career I will put in a couple of hours. Other projects for the day: salting runner beans and turning up the sleeves on my latest acquisition from the second-hand clothes rail. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a 1950s housewife? No, it’s Laurie Graham on publication day.

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Back in Business https://lauriegraham.com/2018/08/12/back-in-business-2/ https://lauriegraham.com/2018/08/12/back-in-business-2/#comments Sun, 12 Aug 2018 08:11:16 +0000 https://lauriegraham.com/?p=3642 By which I mean, behold my spiffy new-look website. What’s changed? It’s less cluttered and it is small screen friendly. This, I’m told by those in the know, is very important these days when even grannies use mobile devices and anyone under the age of 45 has the attention span of a flea. I’m not,…

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By which I mean, behold my spiffy new-look website. What’s changed? It’s less cluttered and it is small screen friendly. This, I’m told by those in the know, is very important these days when even grannies use mobile devices and anyone under the age of 45 has the attention span of a flea.

I’m not, strictly speaking, back in business work-wise. The stampede to publish my next book hasn’t raised any dust, but Anyone for Seconds? will be out on the 23rd so two cheers for publication day. A glass will be raised.

It may only be mid-August but I’ve had my summer: two wonderful, relaxing episodes of lolling poolside and murmuring, ‘I wonder what’s for dinner.’ I’m now back at work, making final (I hope) improvements to my new project, Book 1 of a proposed series  –  watch this space  – and making a start on Book 2. If it isn’t snapped up, I’ll publish it myself. So unless God has something else scheduled for me, there will be a new book next year.

 

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