Writerly Round-Up: July 2019

The end of July already! And it’s been a busy, fun-filled month in our household. We celebrated our forty-second wedding anniversary with a quiet supper at home, musing on whether we had finally learned the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything? We met a two-times Nobel prize-winner, the economist Joseph Stiglitz, who told us sorting out the economy was the easy part – but sorting out the politics was much harder; well, who’d have thought it? We had a slight tussle with a 40-tonne lorry on the M5, which could have been so much worse than it was. And we spent a couple of glorious days in deepest Gloucestershire, celebrating Michael’s birthday. But as well as all that, there’s been a whole lot of writerly stuff .

Writing In July

Apart from several pieces for this website and other people’s, I’ve written virtually no new words this month at all. But that’s because I’ve been concentrating on getting the next two books in The Business of Writing series out there. And as promised last month, I can now reveal Part 4 Independent Publishing is finished. The paperback is already available on Amazon; and the ebook is currently available to order at a very special pre-launch price on a variety of platforms. Check it out now, as it goes up to full price on Thursday 1st August, which is the official launch date.

Also due for release in the next few days is the Workbook associated with Parts 1-3; this will be available as a paperback only.

Sales and Marketing

The focus this month has been on the launch strategy for the new books. But I’ve also done some planning for an exciting birthday celebration later this year. More about that next month.

Research

Research? What’s that?

Out And About In July

I spent an evening in the delightful Custom House, down on Exeter Quay, at the first Writers’ Salon. This wonderful location has recently been taken over by Literature Works who are converting it into a Literary Hub. There’s been a great programme of events running throughout this month, and extending on into the early part of August, under the heading of Quay Words. Do check it out if you are in the south west. In particular, if you are around on Saturday 3rd August, do drop in and say hi. I will be sharing a stall with Cathie Hartigan of Creative Writing Matters, in the Small and Independent Presses Marketplace.

From left: Gordon Sparks, me , and Laura James – on the radio at the Beeb.

If it’s July, it must be Pause for Thought…and sure enough, I hit the road very early one Monday morning, heading for the BBC studios in Plymouth. This time, I was presenting Snapshots of Russia, talking about some of the places I visited during the post-Soviet years I was working out there. If you fancy listening in, the first piece, on Moscow, can be found here; and the rest carry on through the week, at 6.20am from Monday to Friday and at 7.20am at the weekend.

The ninth Chudleigh Literary Festival went off very well. Todd Gray gave us a fascinating insight into medieval swear words and insults; Ella Montgomery faced the Chudleigh Dragons and won; and our evening speakers, Michael Jecks and Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones kept us enthralled. If you want to read more about each of these sessions, check out the Chudleigh Writers’ Circle website.

Our Literary Festival always marks the mid-point of the ten days of madness that is Chudfest. And once again this year, the writers were taking part in the Exhibition in the church, in collaboration with members of the Newton Abbot Photographic Group. Last year, they provided the pictures, which we interpreted in words. This year, we began the process by writing to the overall theme of My World, Your World, Our World and the photographers had the challenge of coming up with a suitable picture as illustration.

The programme for the Exeter Literary Festival in November is pretty much complete and will be going up on the website very soon. The short story competition closes on Wednesday, so there are just three days to get your entries in. There are three categories, covering all age groups including children. Do check it out and consider entering if you are a writer of short stories – or the parent of a child with literary aspirations.

Writers Are Readers Too

I’ve just checked my Goodreads Challenge for 2019. I’m aiming for one book a week and should have no trouble beating it; I am currently 8 books ahead of target. I’ve not done as much reading this month as last – but then, I did spend much of June sitting next to a swimming pool with nothing to do but work my way through lots of books, so that’s hardly surprising. I’m actually reading some non-fiction at the moment, which is quite rare for me, and struggling a bit, to be honest, but the story is so fascinating I’m keeping going with it. More about that next month.

If you read my blog regularly, you will know my choices are quite eclectic. Sometimes I recommend a book that is very well-known; sometimes the author might be completely unknown. This time, my recommendation is for a book that’s getting a lot of publicity.

The concept of retelling history or myths and legends from the female perspective is not an original one. In 2018, Margaret Atwood put a whole new spin on the story of Odysseus in The Penelopiad. Both Pat Barker and Natasha Haynes have recently turned the story of the Trojan War on its head. These books are all on my current To Be Read list. But one I have recently read and absolutely loved is Circe by Madeline Miller, which was short-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

I was educated as a scientist and missed out on a lot of the classics, although if I’d paid attention in my Latin classes, I might have known more about the original stories than the interpretations seen in films and on TV. Circe is often dismissed as the witch who turned men into pigs. But in this book, she is so much more. As the blurb says, she is: Woman. Witch. Myth. Mortal. Outcast. Lover. Destroyer. Survivor. Here is my review:

“A wonderful retelling of Greek mythology from the point of view of Circe, the nymph turned witch, who defies the gods and is punished by being exiled to a remote island that becomes her home. The writing flows beautifully; the story keeps you turning the pages; and the female viewpoint makes you rethink everything you know about the heroes and villains of ancient times. A highly recommended read; I wanted to award it at least six stars.”

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By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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