Another incentive to Write That Book

If you’re aiming to dive into writing That Novel in November – here’s yet another incentive: a £10,000 prize for previously unpublished writer: the Deborah Roger’s Foundation.

Deborah was a literary agent, and so this prize continues her life work of supporting new, emerging writers.  The entry level isn’t too strict about not having published before – the odd short story in a magazine or even poetry does not exclude you.

Read the rules.  Thank you, Deborah Rogers.  As someone commented, even if you don’t win the award, you will have written most of a book, to qualify.  Win-win!


7 actions for beginning writers

I found myself writing this encouragement to a young writer approaching a course in Literature at University – but much of it is useful to any beginning writers:

1.  Believe that you are a writer already.

This is tough.  You think “But I haven’t had my first novel published!”  “But I haven’t sold my first filmscript…..” and the minute you say “I’m a writer” to other people, they will ask “So what have you sold?”  – which doesn’t help.

But being an artist and selling work don’t always flow together.

Van Gogh was a painter to his fingertips, worked hard all his life and only ever sold ONE painting, while alive.

2.  Because you are a writer, you can begin planning a writing career.

Think of what you want to have achieved in 5 years.

Aim for it.

Don’t just meekly do what will get you good marks in School and University.  People who only concentrate on getting a good degree come to the end of it and are still waiting for someone – a lecturer – to tell them what to do, to set them a writing project.  Actually, University works best if you’re already reading and practising the art and the uni course just gives you better skills, and a chance to meet likeminded people and discuss different ideas.

3.  Look at any opportunities you have to attend workshops, lectures, writing groups – and take them.

Any local Book Festivals or writing centre?  Any free workshops on a weekend?  Consider also volunteering to help out at festivals – your face will become known.

4.  Network.  Be pleasant to people, the publishing world is small.

5.  Write often.

If it helps to have a deadline or audience, consider what you could write for a friend/family member’s birthday.  Then give it to them.  (Helps you get practice in getting your work out there).

6.  Avoid writer’s block.

Listen to Audible recording of Anne La Mott’s book “Bird by bird” – it’s a series of interesting, constructive and easy to listen to, talks by her on how to write.  (Also written in her book “Word by Word” if you prefer the written form).  Her big theme is “write shitty drafts” – write down even really poor sentences, because you’re going to refine it later.  But if you wait to write perfect sentences in the first place, you don’t even begin, you freeze up with writer’s block.  The way around writer’s block is to lower your standards and keep writing.

7.  Get the reading list for the course you want to do at University.

Usually a library will have a list of set texts online or if you phone up.  Read those key texts yourself in your holidays now, before you go to Uni.  That way, you’ll have your own thoughts about them by the time you come to study them.  It will give you less reading work to do when at college.  Even if your plans change and you end up in a different college/course – you’ll still have read some great books.  And you will have some references to bring into your commentary on other books.  If you’re an older beginner writer and not planning to go to University – these books are still worth reading, to get a grounding in what is considered great (even if you disagree).

Poet as job

So – you like writing poetry – but how can you make it into more like a paying job?

Here’s a short article by Anthony Anaxagorou.  It describes how he gradually moved from a shy 27 year old writer who printed his poems and made Youtube clips of himself reading his poems….. gradual interest led to poetry teaching work in 3 London schools….


New York! Alicia Keys, Nora Ephron

The city.  A song. Energising.


The film “You got Mail” is firmly sited in New York, written and directed by Norah Ephron. One of the joys of having it on DVD is that you get to see one of the extras which is Norah explaining how she wove the different sites of the city into the film.

You get a few minutes of this right at the start of this interview – fascinating to hear how a writer of humorous columns developed into a screenwriter and then a director – lots of say about career choices and experiences along the way.  It is 23 minutes long – but at least listen to the first 5 minutes.  If you are a writer, you may want to see all of it.

So you want to be a writer/musician/director? (2 mins)

Listen to this poem by Charles Bukowski if you want to follow a creative career, especially writing.  It just take 2 of your earth minutes.  It is compelling and clear.

He lists the main reasons to be creative – and traps that hold you back.  It’s that simple.  It’s the entry level test for creatives.

Authors’ Photos

Don’t judge a book by its front cover, right – but what about the photo of the author on the back?

Electric literature website offers picture/summary/author photos in a giant table.

Challenge: Look through the list until you’ve counted 7 people you’d genuinely be happy to meet in daylight in a public place for a chat.  Purely on how they look in the photos.

When you’ve got to 7….. count how many faces you had to sift through to get 7 you liked the look of…..

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…… (it took me an astounding 45 faces to find 7 I liked.  There seems to be a fashion in writers looking standoffish and almost resentful)


Nora Ephron nearly cooks

Came across a wee gem of a book in local library:

Nora Ephron “I feel bad about my neck, and other thoughts on being a woman.”

(From the writer/director who wrote the screenplay for “When harry met sally” and “You got mail”.)

This woman is talented, witty, writes in an engaging way and has interesting opinions.  She’s a grumpy old woman with less of the grump and more of the pointed comment.

She has a whole chapter on her relationship with cookery books – I particularly like one paragraph:

“Owning The Gourmet Cookbook made me feel tremendously sophisticated.  For years I gave it to friends as a wedding present.  It was an emblem of adulthood, a way of being smart and chic and college-educated where food was concerned, but I never really used it in the way you’re supposed to use a cookbook – by propping it open on the kitchen counter, cooking from it, staining its pages with spattered butter and chocolate splotches, conducting a unilateral dialogue with the book itself – in short, by having a relationship with it.”