Friday, 29 October 2010

Writer's Block.

No, this is not an advert for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) It's an advert for me and my pathetic Writer's Block. A lot of writers say that writer's block is just a myth, that if you're a writer you just write. You have good work days and bad work days just like everyone else.

But what if you have two bad weeks? I've lost my motivation and inspiration. Usually I write every morning between 9 and 12 no matter what. Some of those mornings I write pages and pages and am annoyed when my alarm goes off, and I have to go to my other job at the library. Some of those mornings I stare at the clock and write about two sentences and make about twenty-two mugs of tea.

It's just that for the past two weeks I haven't even felt like sitting in front of my screen. My bed has been a more tempting place. The pub has been a more tempting place. My friends houses have been more tempting places. I've distracted myself.

When I visit schools and libraries to talk about my writing I often get the question:
Do you get writer's block and what do you do about it?
Usually I answer that luckily it doesn't happen very often and if it happens I go for long walks and read, and trust that my lust will come back. It has never happened before that my motivation and inspiration hasn't come back. Two weeks is not that long really.

Like with other problems the best thing is to find out where they come from. Why do I feel blocked? The answer is obvious: stress in my life. Uncertainty about where I live, missing my Ex (even if we separated two years ago), waiting for an agent to take me on. If other people have stress in their life I always say: Write about it. So maybe I should follow my own advice. But when I pick up my pen all I want to write is SHIT. And when I sit in front of the computer all I want to do is to spy on people on Facebook. Some people say they can only write when they are depressed. I can only write when I'm happy.

I do a bit of journal writing, which helps. But I don't have my usual flow. Maybe I have to follow my other bit of advice: do it anyway. Even if I just write SHIT SHIT SHIT for a hundred pages I'm still writing. And I have a list in the back of my journal with ideas I've collected. I could just pick one of those ideas and write and see where it takes me. I could, but don't really feel like it.

At least I edited a story today. The Snail House on the theme Hope & Faith for Liar's League.

Monday, 25 October 2010


When I have no inspiration and motivation I turn to nature, trusting my spark will return just like the seasons do ...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Short Story published in Scribble

My short story, The Butter Dish, will be published in the Scribble Magazine!!! (It's not yet confirmed which issue.)

What inspired me to write the story was buying a butter dish in a charity shop in a moment of a nostalgia ... (I didn't even eat "real" butter at the time). Buying the totally wrong birthday present for a friend's daughter (not a butter dish) was another inspiration. Tim - a writer friend - said he admired my ability to find inspiration in every day life. Well, write what you know as they say ... But the story is not really about butter dishes and birthday presents. It's more about being bitter ... I thought about calling the story The Bitter Dish at one stage ...

Thanks to Brian M and Tim P for feedback. And to Rachel for some nice comments.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Who the f*** is Kitty?

"Knutte", a punk guy I was in love with (unhappily) when I was fifteen, told me he refused to wear advertising. I wonder if he's escaped Kitty. Even I own a pair of Hello Kitty socks. (A birthday present from my mum). But I do wonder. Who the f*** is Kitty?

In almost every shop I've been lately there are clothes, wallets, pens etc. with the Hello Kitty logo. What worries me is that people just buy these items because they are available. What if Kitty is a murderer? Luckily she isn't, but I had to google her to find out what she's all about. A Japanese animation. Fair enough. I doubt though that most people who wear Hello Kitty T-shirts/socks/knickers or write with a Hello Kitty pen have ever seen an episode of the animation.

This got me thinking. I could probably attract people to buy my novel, Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd, by producing products with the book logo. It was actually my brother's idea with the top (the image on the top is the same as my book cover). I only had two of them especially made to wear when I go to book fairs etc. But every time I wear the top someone asks me where they can buy it. It would be free advertising for me.

The only downside is that I don't own the copy right of the image. It belongs to the designer Ida Branzell Rosén and I can't thank her enough for making such a brilliant image. It would be weird if people walked about with the image of my book cover and not even knowing where the image came from ... So next time you buy a Hello Kitty T-shirt think about if you really want to be a walking advertisement for something you're not passionate about. (Apologies to all true Hello Kitty fans.)

Monday, 11 October 2010

One Sentence at a Time

*I bounce down the street, knowing I'll never go to Peter's flat again.

*'If you fall in love with me, you're going to regret it,' she said.

*I only wear false teeth on a Saturday.

*A fortune teller once told me that I'd die on my 35th birthday, but it would be a good thing.

*We were finally on the road with our thumbs up in the air.

Above are a few of the opening lines I generated at the One Sentence at a Time workshop, curated by James Burt and Ellen de Vries, as part of Brighton Creative Writing Sessions. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday than to be creative together with other people. And James and Ellen have an ability to trick you into working by playing ...

To spark the imagination Love Heart-sweets, Miracle Fish and words on pieces of paper were passed around. And if you were really stuck you could stick your hands in Ellen's magic box ...

Before the first break the focus was just on writing opening lines for short stories or novels. After that we carried on writing opening paragraphs, and then we were encouraged to build on some of these paragraphs. Everybody read out three paragraphs and the other participants voted for the one they wanted to be developed. By the end of the workshop a few of us had more or less completed stories or at least a big chunk of material to carry on working at.

I felt so inspired that I wanted to go home and spend the rest of the afternoon/evening/night writing and was annoyed that I had other plans ... (Even if the party at Zu Studios in Lewes also was a good source for inspiration.)

It's amazing how people's imagination works. The oldest participant in the workshop wrote a story about bondage pets, a very sweet guy wrote a story about a sex addict politician and one girl wrote about nuns having a fight. And I got very inspired by someone else's opening line:

'The prints of Mary were still fresh on the snow.'

What I liked best about the workshop was the playful atmosphere. Once we stopped just to pop a party popper. James said Herman Melville used to do this when he felt stuck in his writing ... Whether that's true is up to you ... What is true though is that whenever you're stuck throw in a clown in the story and see what happens.

Good news is that there are more workshops and happenings planned. I think this is the way forward for writing workshops. Instead of "learning the craft" these sessions are about letting go and setting yourself free and let the words flow. Passion, inspiration and imagination is sometimes more important than style.


20 Essential Works of Feminist Fiction

Following on from previous blog post about Fay Weldon, I received an email from a reader with a link to a blog that lists 20 novels by women that is essential reading. Among them are already a few of my favourite books: Cat's eye by Margaret Atwood, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Fear of Flying by Erica Jong.


Which books are your favourite books by women? Which books would you add to the list?

A male friend recently sent me a list of 40 novels he'd recommend. Of those 40 novels only 3 were written by women ... (I don't blame you Brian, if I was to send you a list I'd probably recommend 37 women and 3 men ...)

Any other thoughts on this? Do women prefer to read books written by women and do men prefer to read books written by men? It's more common that women read books by both male and female authors whilst some men wouldn't touch a book written by a woman ... Why is that? Sometimes I wish all writers would just use their initials like M.J. Hyland and A.L. Kennedy, and that no information about them was available on the book jacket.

I think about 75% of the books I read are written by women, maybe because I find it easier to identify myself with female writers and their experience. I'm still in the stage of life when I'm trying to find out who the hell I am and then it helps reading books written by women about women. Especially young and confused ones... On the other hand lots of female writers use a male protagonist and vice versa.

In November there's a festival in Brighton called Storyville - Women Writers Festival. Why do we still need these divisions? Do these festivals highlight women or do they make it more visible that female writing is a minority? How many men will attend the festival?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Fay Weldon - the only feminist

Fay Weldon guested Brighton yesterday to do a talk at the Pavilion Theatre, hosted by New Writing South. She has inspired me not to have children. At least not more than one. Fay is soon turning eighty and talks about women, men, children and sex more easily than anyone else I've come across lately.

One of the things she said was that it was easier for women of her generation to raise children than it is for women today. Mainly because today there are more expectations that you should do everything "right" whilst back in her day people were more relaxed ...

With no shame she tells the audience that she's the only feminist and that a lot of feminists probably hate her. She feels sorry for men. Because women don't need them any more ... Then she goes on to say that life stops at thirty-five because it's around that age women lose their sex appeal. If these words had come out of someone else's mouth I'm sure it would've caused a lot of reaction, but Fay is more convincing than any politician when she speaks ...

And yes she talked about writing too. Saying that you are as bad as the worst of your characters. She also thinks that you get better at writing novels with time, but that doesn't mean your novels get any better, it's just that you know what to do.

Another intersting thing she pointed out was that when she was writing for TV she was asked to make a lot of changes and when she handed in the new version of the script they asked her to make more changes and so on, but were still not happy with it. In the end she gave them her original version - which they accpeted. People like what's familiar, she says. And that first version was familiar to them.

I've only read a couple of Fay's novels, but am planning to read more. One that I really remember is Big Women about a group of women fighting for feminism in their own ways ... Her latest novel is Kehua which deals with ghosts from a departed past, based on Maori mythologi.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Treat yourself to a writing workshop this Saturday

There are different kinds of writing workshops: the ones where writers share and crit each other's works, the more serious ones where you learn all about character/plotting/setting etc, and then there are workshops where you write for the sake of writing, letting your imagination run wild ...

I'm gutted to have missed three of the Brighton Creative Writing Sessions (hosted by James Burt and Ellen de Vries), but am very happy to be able to attend the last one, which is happening on Saturday, 9 October. See info below.

One sentence at a time (October 9th, 10am-4pm, at Jake Spicer's studio New England House Brighton)
Asked how he wrote a short story, Raymond Carver answered “I write the first sentence, and then I write the next sentence and then the next.” Starting with a list of first lines, we will add to them until a new story is prepared. By working together, participants will see how other people approach creation, as well as being able to generate a veritable catalogue of new ideas to take away for working on at home.


To read about previous sessions click here and here

Sunday, 3 October 2010

National Poetry Week

Next week is National Poetry Day (Thursday 7 Oct), but the celebrations are lasting for over a week.

I've been invited to both Jubilee Library in Brighton and Hove Library to perform some poems at the Study Support sessions "We Love Mondays" and "We Love Thursdays". I'll also inspire Young People (9-19 year-olds) to write their own poems and enter a competition on the theme "Home".


The week after, Wed 13 Oct, I'm co-hosting (with Brian Marley) a FREE POETRY OPEN MIC night, "Every Day is Poetry Day" at Hove Library. Everybody welcome! Doors 6.30pm for 7pm start. Sign up early at the door if you want to read. Special guests: Yvo Luna, Rosy Carrick and Ben Graham.