On Top of the World.

What a magical time myself and my new writing friends had last week attending an Arvon residential writing course in Lumb Bank, Yorkshire.

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So pretty and picturesque.

Our tutors were the delightful romantic comedy writer, Chris Manby and the exuberant, larger than life Mike Gayle. We also had a motivating and amusing talk from guest speaker Jenny Colgan (who I forgot to photograph, I was so enthralled. Sorry Jenny!)

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Mike in teacher mode!

Lumb Bank is an imposing 18th century Mill house set amongst rolling hills and gorgeous gardens and was once owned by the renowned poet laureate Ted Hughes who very aptly commented that in Yorkshire, ‘only the rain never tires.’

It was pretty chilly for most of the week considering it was July – I think there was only one day without rain at some stage of the day.

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Chris in teacher mode- with wine!

But the inspiration from Chris and Mike was enough to light our inner fire for the whole week, all of us eagerly taking in the offered advice on how to prepare our outline and work our way through the ‘sticky bits’ to finish the novel. Chris shared a chart she always uses to map out her chapters and we all asked for extra copies to make sure we could plan this way when we returned home. Bloody brilliant! How did I not know about this? IMG_0269

‘TURN OFF YOUR INNER CRITIC,’ at least until your first draft is finished, was excellent advice from Mike; words that I could do with sticking above my laptop whenever I settle down to write.

We were all encouraged to start something new, although a few fellow writers wanted to continue with their ‘work in progress’ which was fine.

Thierry had travelled from France to attend the course and was only seventeen years old, as was Tara who has already self-published her excellent short novel This is How I love Henry.

When the sun finally peeked out from behind the rather stormy clouds, most of us climbed the steep, steep hill into Heptonstall to find Sylvia Plath’s grave.

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Two benches for sitting and thinking! It was like being on top of the world.

 

Sylvia, also a renowned poet was married to Ted Hughes but sadly committed suicide at the age of thirty by putting her head in the gas oven at her home, while her two children slept. She is buried in the new church in Heptonstall.

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The old St Thomas’s church in Heptonstall.

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Kinda scary!

Her grave is badly lacking in tender loving care and there has been controversy about its location for many years; fans of Sylvia wondering why she is buried in Yorkshire when she was American.

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Sylvia Plath’s gravestone.

We rounded off the week by reading our new first chapters out loud, numbing our ‘inner critic’ with plenty of wine and ended the night by playing The Hat Game. Can’t quite remember how it goes (due to my inner critic needing excessive tamping down!) but seeing Mike acting out Peter Pan was something to behold.

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I think Mike is actually flying!

Would do it again in a heartbeat!

Jackie x

Ursula Blooms Again

 

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Ursula Bloom was one of the most popular romance and historical fiction authors of the twentieth century. She wrote over 560 books, a feat which earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for many years, as the world’s most prolific female writer. She also wrote under a series of pen names, including Sheila Burns and Lozania Prole. As well as novels and non-fiction, Ursula wrote short stories, radio and stage plays, and worked as a Fleet Street journalist. Her work is now being reissued, in ebook and paperback, by Corazon Books.  The first of these, “Wonder Cruise: one woman’s romantic adventure of a lifetime”, is published today.

www.amazon.co.uk/Wonder-Cruise-romantic-adventure-lifetime-ebook/dp/B01CWCD5UA

Wonder Cruise Ursula Bloom

The Write Romantics thank Ian Skillicorn of Corazon Books for letting us share this lovely piece of Ursula’s writing with our followers.  We hope you enjoy it.

 How to enjoy someone else’s party by Ursula Bloom

Today too many people go to a party with the feeling that they are going to be bored; the result is that they are bored, and can you be surprised?

The success of the party you are asked to, as far as you are concerned, depends very largely on the mood in which you approach it. If you don’t want it, then don’t go to it. Don’t feel that it is the hostess’s job to amuse you and arrive with that amuse-me-or-get-out expression. A few more like you will spoil any party. Don’t leave dressing for it so late that you have to rush it, get into a flap, which stays with you, and find yourself like that for the rest of the evening.

I am polite enough to foster the idea ‒ by no means general ‒ that it is very kind of people to ask me to their parties and that I am grateful for their efforts on my behalf. I try to make myself as pleasant a guest as I can. Unlike the famous publisher at my house, who having upset the whole of a very large drink over my best table cloth and polished table stared at me in misery. I said ‒ I hope pleasantly ‒ ‘Don’t worry in the least, the table can easily be re-polished, it doesn’t matter,’ whereupon he replied, ‘Your table doesn’t worry me in the least, it is my trousers!’ He has never been asked again!

There is a very great deal in arriving at a party in the right mood. If you go to it on the principle I-hate-the-Smiths-anyway-and-know-it’ll-be-awful-but-there-you-are, and if on the journey to the party your husband keeps up a running commentary of ‘Why-did-we-ever-start? You-know-what-I-think-of-the-Smiths. How-soon-can-we-leave-with-decency?’ none of you are going to enjoy it very much, you know. Say to yourself, ‘This is going to be a lovely party. I shall enjoy myself most enormously. This is my idea of fun,’ and after that you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll get out of it. If it is one of those dull parties where you just sit or stand around with nothing to do, then find yourself a task. It is always a great deal more fun if you are helping to hand things round; see what’s wanted, take upon yourself to be friendly, and have pity on the lonelies in the room.

Never wait for introductions because like that you may find that you’ve got yourself stuck for the whole afternoon or evening. Speak to the lonely person who happens to be sitting dully there with no one to talk to, not knowing what to do. You’d be surprised how pleased people are to have someone to talk to, and many a highly satisfactory friendship is started this way. The point of the average party is to get people together, get them to know one another and waive introductions, and if you are a good guest, you will connive with your hostess on this and do your best for her.

‘I wouldn’t know what to say’, people tell me. Now this is silly because it can so easily be got over. If the worst comes to the worst, arm yourself with a few stock remarks and let them break the ice for you. ‘Do you live near here?’ ‘Do you go to many parties? I don’t, and always feel a fish out of water.’ ‘What is that you’re drinking?’ ‘Have you known our hostess long?’ Or, as one (very pleasant) fellow I met at a party approached me with (I think) the most masterly latchkey to conversation, ‘I hope you don’t mind my saying so, but I do so like your hat, where did you get it?’

That of course is finesse!

And if you are one of those unfortunate people who nurses a hunch that you hate parties and loathe the very thought of being included in them, then don’t waste your time repining, and cursing that you are ever asked to them. Give up the idea. Find your right niche. Stay at home in the realisation that the party spirit isn’t yours and therefore it is no good trying to catapult yourself out on the principle of I’ve-come-here-to-enjoy-myself-and-enjoy-myself-I-will! At the same time if this is the attitude that you are going to adopt, don’t do it with the idea of making a martyr of yourself, deploring the fact that you never get asked out and about any more, and inferring that you are a lonely little soul, somewhat neglected by your friends.

As long as you will think only of yourself, you are going to limit your fun very sadly. Give it up. Cast an eye on the people around you, and get a little real fun out of them.

You can find out more about Ursula here:

www.ursulabloom.com

 

Mind the Gap

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So, you’ve finished writing the book.  You’ve taken it through several drafts, heaps of edits and marathon proof-reading sessions.  You’ve read it on your computer, your e-reader and in hard copy (please say you have…) and it’s passed through the capable hands of your editor, if you have one, and your trusted beta readers.  Now it’s ready for submission to your chosen agent or publisher.  Right?

Wrong.

You don’t want to send it off to meet its public with its hair in curlers, naked-faced and wearing an old cardi, do you?  Of course you don’t.

Television programme: "Last of the summer wine".
Actress Kathy S

Not so long ago I didn’t believe this either, but the moment you decide your book is ready to go, a strange, silent force moves in and deposits sneaky typos, repeated words, unclosed speech marks, rogue commas and other blemishes upon your nice clean script – all of which you’re a hundred percent sure were not there before.  At the same time, your mind starts working away behind the scenes all by itself.  Suddenly it throws out a cracker of a word or sentence or idea that absolutely must go in your first chapter, or wherever.  If you’ve already submitted, that’s an opportunity missed.

This is where The Gap comes in.

The book needs to lie low for at least a week or two – longer if you’re strong-minded enough.  Hide the computer file, throw the hard copy on top of the wardrobe.  Do whatever you have to do, but put some distance between you and it.  Fill The Gap with reading, writing that short story, or planning your next novel.  Or take a break from the whole kit and caboodle and open a bottle of something bubbly.  You’ve written a book and that’s no mean achievement, whether it’s your first or your thirteenth.  Celebrate that.11427579974_8537896b98_k-800x530

When your book has served its time in exile, set it free and read it again.  You’ll be reading from a new perspective and with fresh eyes, eyes that, miraculously, can now see what was there all along.  Add that make-or-break sentence and fix the errors.  Take out the curlers, make up its face and pour it into a slinky dress.

Now it’s ready to dazzle its public.  Right?

Right.

Deirdre

Author of Remarkable Things and Dirty Weekend (Crooked Cat Publishing)

 

 

 

Five Essential Tips on Picking the Right Editor for You by Ashley R. Carlson

In our last post before a well-earned Christmas break, I’m delighted to welcome Ashley R. Carlson who I met through my adventures on Wattpad.  As well as being a fabulous writer and award winning author, Ashley is also an editor and ghostwriter and she’s joining us to share some insights on making sure you’ve got the right editor working for you. Over to Ashley…

Me headshotWhen you’re an indie author (and even sometimes with a small press), you have the ability to choose your own editor. This can be an exciting task or a daunting one, especially if you’re new to publishing. As an indie author myself and Head Editor for my company Utopia Editing & Ghostwriting Services as well as Midnight Publishing, I have personally heard and seen how some editing/writing collaborations soar, while others flounder—and I think it’s because an individual hasn’t followed this checklist. Here are my top five tips on what you must focus on when selecting the right editor for your book:

  1. Pick the right editor for what your manuscript needs

How many drafts have you written? One? Two? Ten? How many beta readers have already read the manuscript and given you their feedback, to which you’ve tweaked and revised it? If your answers to the above questions are “one/two” and “none/a few,” then you may need developmental editing. Developmental editing is an analysis of your story as a whole—the plot, character, world building, etc. It is not fixing grammar. It is looking at the fundamental building blocks of your book, and offering suggestions or highlighting issues with things like flat dialogue, clichéd characters, confusing scenes, parts that drag, and more. If you’ve not had several people read your book yet to point out these issues or you want a professional’s input, then consider this type of editing.

The next option is copyediting—sometimes combined with line editing, sometimes not—which does analyze the book’s sentence structure, verbiage, use of repeat words, etc. Copyediting also looks at continuity: ensuring facts and statements remain static throughout the manuscript (the character’s eyes do not go from “blue” to “green” halfway through, let’s say). Line editing is at times offered separately, as I mentioned earlier, and is a “less intensive” analysis of the things copyediting also looks at. It may be offered by an editor at a cheaper price, and is a great option if your manuscript is very clean.

For those with the cleanest of manuscripts, ones that have been through three or more drafts and are devoid of most errors, is proofreading. This is the final step before publication, when an editor (or “proofreader”) is looking for any final grammatical, punctuation or spelling errors before going to press. Proofreading is essential before publication to ensure a near-perfect manuscript; copyediting is not proofreading. Though copy editors do their best to find and fix all errors, it is not proofreading, and a separate final proofread should take place.

  1. Certain editors specialize in certain genres

Some editors work in fiction, some in non-fiction. Depending on the type of editing you want, you will want to select an editor who best suits your needs—aka, don’t pick an editor who specializes in cookbooks to developmentally edit your science fiction novel. Now, if you want a great copyedit that focuses strongly on continuity for your fiction, a non-fiction editor may be a good choice due to their experience dealing with historical facts, data, etc. But normally those who specialize in certain genres do not stray far from those genres—and steer clear of those who say they do.

  1. Qualifications

Because editing is a subjective field, there isn’t one “set” type of education for an editor, though a college or university degree in English, journalism or creative writing is a good start. Previous work in other publishing fields, experience with traditional publishers and involvement with editing organizations like the Editorial Freelancers Association and the American Copy Editors Society serve to support an editor’s resume. Keep in mind, however, that with experience comes a price: those who are newer in the field may charge around $20 to $60 an hour, while those freelancers with a long list of past clients (and publishers) can charge more than $160 an hour.

  1. Utilizing a free sample

All editors should be able to deliver on their claims, right? It’s absolutely fair for you to expect and request a free sample edit of your work. Utopia Editing & Ghostwriting Services offers an edit of the first 1,000 words, while other editors I’ve come across offer the first five pages edited. Be sure to utilize this edit and get a dialogue going regarding what an editor can offer you. Do they offer two versions—a “track changes” version with their comments included, and a clean edit with all changes accepted? Do they offer a separate summary? What level of work do they put into it? Do you feel that their comments and changes are relevant, useful and constructive? Do they edit in both Chicago Manual and AP Style? (**These are both U.S. style guides—obviously this will change for your prospective country, like Oxford Style/Hart’s Rules in the UK.) Do they have a specific style guide they utilize that is personal to them? All of these questions should be asked by you before signing a contract, and answered by them to your satisfaction.

And finally…

  1. Do you get along?

Ashley R. Carlson SPR prizeThis is going to be determined by your interactions early on. Does this person seem polite? Gracious? Do they seem like someone who won’t beat around the bush and will tell you like it is? Do you feel like they understand your vision, and are passionate about helping you to achieve it to the best of your abilities? Your editor is going to be the one person along the way to publishing who will be your confidante, your coach and the source of constructive criticism. You want to make sure that they’re a fun person who just “gets” you.

Good luck, and I’m always here to bounce ideas off of! Many thanks to The Write Romantics for hosting me on this wonderful website! I’m honored to have been invited.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Ashley.  As I mentioned earlier, Ashley is also an award winning writer and you can read my review of her fabulous debut novel, The Charismatics here 

Have a great weekend! Alys xx

Grab yourself a diy website with wordpress

Ever wondered what WordPress can do other than blogging? Remember when websites were only for those who could afford them and having a website of your own wasn’t really feasible for ordinary folk?

And then came WordPress. What happened was a clever techie chap decided he’d create some software, which could build a website for people without specialist skills or loads of money. So he made a site and some pages that people could use, so they could change the photos and text of his original to make it their own, and thus create their own free website. The design he created was called a template, and the whole programme he named WordPress. The scheme really took off. Now there are well over 2,700 free templates, and many more available at a variety of costs if you want to splash out.Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 20.04.50

What’s more, he made it open source, so there is no copyright, no-one owns it and its free to use and always will be. Open source also means anyone can add bits of code to personalise their own version, though capable people update the whole thing. Many people do make it their own, because talented developers add bits of programme that we can choose to use or not, like mailing lists and special effects. It looks good on their developer’s CV, so its a win win situation. WordPress is a big hit; anyone can now have a website that they can make exactly their way, for a minimal price. Now its reckoned that around 25% of websites are powered by WordPress – its not just people on a budget, even the Rolling Stones use WordPress.Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 20.08.12

So what are the options if you’re thinking of setting up a site? There are now two different sorts of WordPress – wordpress.com and wordpress.org – and there is a difference in how they are managed, and the costs involved.

Firstly, you need somewhere to keep your website so people can see it. Your own computer isn’t set up to do it, so you need a space on someone else’s specialist computer. This is known as hosting. WordPress.com does this and is free for a few pages, but there are drawbacks. Only a few pages are free, you might have to have adverts on your site, you have to choose one of their themes, and if they don’t like your site they just take it down. There are restrictions on all sorts of things and if you want to change things you have to pay. I suppose they’ve got to make their money somehow. Its around £80 a year as at 2015, more for your own name.

There is, to my mind a much better deal. WordPress.org runs in a very different way. The software is totally free but again you must have somewhere to put it that isn’t your own computer, hosting. A Google search will give you any number of companies. In my experience those that come at the top of the list are expensive. I wanted a cheap price, lots of space, UK helpline, short waiting times to be answered, and knowledgeable service. I didn’t want much, eh? I got all that, plus room for loads of pages bulging with photos, videos, a shop and all sorts. I got that from TSO host. I knew nothing when I went to them and they talked me through the whole lot and downloaded WordPress to my own site. I bought my domain name through them (easier than trying to match up a site name with the pages elsewhere. That was around £10, the hosting is £2.99 a month (in 2015), and that was all I needed to get started.

At first I had to watch a lot of videos to see how it worked, and they’re all free too. But now I’m pretty good at zipping around it, and if I fancy changing the colour or something, I can do that with the press of a few buttons. There are extra bits of software you can use to tag on features; they’re called widgets and plugins. You look for what you want via the management pages of your website. Say you want an emailing list, find a plugin that does what you want, read the reviews just to check if it’s okay or not, click a few boxes and, hey presto, its added a bit of code for you and job done. I love the freedom its given me.

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Of course there is a drawback. As WordPress is developed by so many people, there isn’t one central person you can go to for support, though lots of people will know a lot. Each plugin or widget will have a developer you can approach for help, but mostly you go to one of the dedicated message boards and ask on there. Its not as scary as it sounds, and pretty soon you’ll be answering questions yourself.

And you know what else I like? The language. There are all sorts of zany terms for humdrum items. For example there is one button which you click and then a whole load of other menus come up and you’ll never guess what its called. Because it contains so many useful functions its called the kitchen sink! Isn’t that sweet? Its the only kitchen sink I can happily use without getting an attack of the heebie jeebies!

I’ve dotted a few screenshots of websites built with WordPress, hope you like them. There even a new plug-in called moo berry dreams, especially for authors, which lists your books and uses the information to prepare press releases and other things leaving more time for writing. See mooberrydreams.com

Lynne Pardoe.

Stop, look & listen with Kathy Paterson

KP pictureOur guest on the blog today is Kathy Paterson, a writer from West Sussex whose poem was recently selected from among hundreds of entries into a competition held by the British animal rescue charity, Waders, to feature in an anthology raising funds for its vital work in wildlife rescue. Kathy is also busy penning short stories for women’s magazines and is in the process of writing her debut novel. Welcome to the blog, Kathy, and over to you.

Well, this is a nice diversion, writing a guest post for the Write Romantics rather than my own – how lovely to be asked and rather scary to live up to the expectations of another blog!

I was thinking about why I started to write – if I’m perfectly honest, it wasn’t down to a burning passion to get the stories whirling in my head committed to paper. Instead it was a solution to a problem that I had – ever practical, that’s me. I’d been ill and as a consequence my life was changing dramatically. Physically I was limited, and mentally too to some degree, so I knew that, just as it was vital to exercise my body to retain what capability I had, I needed to do the same for my brain.

Cue a new Creative Writing Group at my local Community Centre. It fitted the bill and so I signed up. From the get go, the Group has been astonishing. I am in awe of the creativity and quality of the writing. Their breadth of knowledge and passion is inspirational. Above all, there’s no judgement. Honest appraisals will be given – make no mistake about that! But there’s encouragement to try new styles and genres. Being part of a trusted circle has allowed me to experiment and write outside my comfort zone.

I feel rather ashamed to have admitted that’s how I started writing. I’d always written – factual (for the most part) reports for work and I am passionate about reading – if I wasn’t a ruthless de-clutterer, the house would be subsumed by stacks of books. However, there are so many astounding authors; it can let fear and laziness persuade me that I have nothing to contribute.

So, due to said fear and laziness, I know that I have to set myself writing goals. First up was to start writing my own blog, The Middle-aged Pensioner which I did in 2014. I aim to write at least one post a month; sometimes more if I discover a rich subject seam. This writing is non-fiction, more observations on my own situation which may perhaps offer help to others.

My second goal is to finish my novel. I began it properly earlier this year; but the pesky characters keep surprising me, so I’m not quite clear where it’s going or what genre it will be. This for me is the joy of writing – it’s consistently surprising and I’m baffled how a concept in my imagination can take on a life of its own.

I usually write at my dining table, once all chores have been completed. Malin with toyThe radio is switched off as is the internet connection. Total silence apart from a ticking clock and the tip-tapping of my fingers on the keyboard are the only sounds. The afternoon is usually best as the street where I live is quiet and my young dog is walked and, hopefully, asleep! The discipline of writing for an hour each day works best for me – when and what is written is not as important so much as actually getting into the habit. Invariably, I write for much longer than the sixty minutes.

That sounds terribly formal doesn’t it? I can honestly say that inspiration does suddenly strike too and that’s when I tend to write poetry. If I can translate a sight or emotion in a form that triggers the same in another person, it’s magical. Inspiration itself can literally come from anywhere. I’m a great believer of taking time to “Stop, look and listen”. Almost any situation, conversation, written article or notice can trigger an idea or concept which can be explored further. Then it’s a case of hoping I’ve remembered a notebook and pen to record the idea; or if those are not to hand, usually I have my mobile ‘phone to capture a cryptic note or a snatch of dialogue.

So what would be my advice to share? Hmmm, well based on my experience, if you can identify what’s stopping you from writing, you’ll be able to find a way to overcome it. Equally important, find a cheerleader or three (family, friends, complete strangers who’ve come across your musings via the internet); their motivation will act as a spur or sharp stick when yours is flagging. Finally, remember your Green Cross Code!

Kathy Paterson

Thank you so much for joining us on the blog today, Kathy, good luck with the anthology and please let us know how your novel is progressing.

Follow Kathy at her blog:

https://middleagedpensioner.wordpress.com/

You can purchase a copy of the anthology featuring Kathy’s poem – Words for Waders – here.

 

 

 

 

This book belongs to…

Buying a brand new book is a treat, one of life’s little pleasures.  But the book itself, well, it’s just a book, isn’t it?  A sterile bundle of paper.  If it’s fiction, you’ve bought yourself a story, and that’s a very special thing.  You may collect all the books that author has written, or know them personally, and that’s special, too.

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But root around among the offerings in charity shops and jumble sales, as I like to do, and you’ll find books with stories of their own, aside from those printed on the pages.

I’m not a prolific reader of poetry by any means but I do think a poem belongs inside a proper book, the older the better, and I’m always on the look-out for those.  One of my favourite finds, bought for pence at a jumble sale, is a small red-bound copy of The Albatross Book of Living Verse, published in 1933.  Inside the cover is written in green ink: ‘Bought at Steyning, Sussex, 1949’, and a name I can’t decipher, so even by that time I imagine it had passed through other hands.

Flicking through the tissue-thin pages when I arrived home with my prize, I found there was more to this little book than the inscription.  Several passages had been emphatically underlined with the same green ink.  No casual enjoyment of verses here, then; this was somebody who took their poetry seriously. There’s a note written in the margin of a Rupert Brooke war poem.  It says: ‘Pilot Officer Frank Stanyon  ??, 1940, RAF,’ in the same handwriting as the note in the front.  A nice sense of mystery there – was the book owned by Frank himself, or somebody connected to him?

Inscriptions inside books intrigue me, even if it’s just the owner’s

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name. It feels as if I’m being allowed a glimpse into somebody’s life.  Children’s books are a good source.  Who remembers proudly writing inside the cover of a new book: ‘This book belongs to…’?  Do children still do that?  I don’t know; there aren’t any children in our family, but I suspect they do.

When my boys were young I bought them a jolly-looking Enid Blyton story book at the school Christmas fair.  Actually, I think I bought it for me because of the lovely old-fashioned illustrations – I don’t remember the boys taking much interest.  Inside was written in wobbly writing the name of a girl who had been in my class at school some 30 years earlier.  I felt that book had made a round trip, carrying its own story with it.

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Sometimes it’s not what’s written inside a book but what is hidden among the pages which tells another story.  Somebody passed on to me an ancient copy of The Good Housekeeping Compendium which belonged to an elderly lady. I won’t be attempting to stuff a hare or hang a pheasant but I’ve kept the book because tucked inside is a yellowing page torn from The Farmer and Stockbreeder, October 20, 1930.  On one side it urges the reader to ‘Practise Making Sweets for Christmas’, with recipes for delights such as Elves’ Fudge and My Cocoanut Candy. Common sense tells me that the recipes were why she kept it, but I prefer the other side of the page which has an article entitled ‘Fashion Inclines to Comfort’.  It’s all about hats, hemlines, corsets and knickers for countrywomen.  Did countrywomen need special knickers?  Maybe they did, to keep out the cold!

As well as being interesting in their own right, it occurred to me that these hidden stories could provide a writer with an idea for a brand new story.  The author Ali Smith certainly thinks so.  She made many discoveries among the books she was sorting for Amnesty International.  In an article on the subject, she talks about intriguing inscriptions, postcards, and photos she found among the pages, and how  some of them inspired and informed her own writing.  One of her finds – a vintage photo of a girl in a bathing suit – set her thinking about the structure of her best-selling novel How to be Both.

‘Who says books don’t beget books?’ she says.  And that’s a good way of putting it, I think.

Deirdre