Monday, 30 June 2014

Writing from the heart

It is always lovely to get nice reviews, and to know that a reader has really enjoyed reading one of your stories.  So when I read a recent review on for my cat charity book, Coming Home, it made me feel quite emotional.  

This book, about two Norwegian Forest cats who are lost, and their owner's frantic search for them to be reunited, is a special book for me, so when the reader commented, 
The author writes from the heart and gives from the heart

I was both delighted and grateful, and very happy.  

Thank you, Barbara, for your lovely words.

You can read the full review here

Friday, 13 June 2014

Kate Atkinson on South Bank Show: author interview

If you get a chance to see this, do watch author Kate Atkinson interviewed by Melvyn Bragg for the South Bank Show on Sky.  (Next on tomorrow!) Illuminating and inspiring - I immediately downloaded Life after Life onto my kindle!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Reflections on being a writer: Judy Croome Guest Post

I'm delighted to welcome South African author Judy Croome to The Beautiful Room.  I recently met Judy "virtually" after reading her excellent article, in which she shares her tips for reading aloud at writer events.  This really resonated with me, so I decided to visit Judy's website and contact her.  (This is one of the things I love about the internet - being able to connect with other writers anywhere in the world).  Happily, Judy very kindly agreed to be interviewed, providing some really thought-provoking and inspirational reflections on being a writer......

What is the best thing about being a writer?
Freedom, on all levels.
There’s the physical freedom of being able to work in my pyjamas on a cold winter’s morning or at a time of day that allows me to meet other commitments.

Then there’s emotional freedom. In today’s world many of us are so well-socialised or so intellectualised that we’ve lost touch with our feelings. Don’t cry, Johnny, boys don’t cry. Don’t shout, Alice, girls don’t get angry.  
No wonder we repress our deepest emotions. Whenever one writes, the possibility exists that we can, in a safe way, tap into those emotions buried so deeply and free them from where they’re nailed into our psyches. 

And, finally, when your writing pushes you into places you never thought you could go, there’s a spiritual freedom that comes from unexpectedly meeting an inner self that is truer than any other personality mask we wear.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?
Fear. The time between books is always a dangerous time for me, because it’s then that I’m most tempted to give up writing. I’m riddled with fear and doubt and anxiety about everything from the reviews of my last book to the ideas I have for future books. That’s why I procrastinate (a lot!) before diving in to the actual writing. When I do begin to write again, it takes an act of real self-discipline to keep myself writing as I travel into the dark places that the muse sometimes takes me.

Most writers complain about being easily distracted and the problems of procrastinating.  Is this something that affects you? 
I have a PhD in Procrastination. I’ve developed Procrastination into an art form more complex than anything I’ve ever written. I also have the attention span of a pea. So, yes, Procrastination is a serious issue for me. I think I’ll go and make a cup of tea now. I’ll be back in a minute to write the rest of this article!

Why do you think this especially seems to be an issue for writers? (rather than artists or composers?) 
Writing is a more intellectual process than the other creative arts. Each creative art has its own “intellectual” technique, that is, the learned part of the craft. But when it comes to the creative alchemy, words are more of the intellect than music or paintings. 

A writer needs a strong mind to keep the words dancing. While the power of the mind is a great asset in creating a logical story or character arc, or for the endless editing and revision stages that a story requires, that same mind can be a disadvantage at times.

It can deceive us into thinking we’re actually writing when we’re only perfecting our procrastination skills.  Social media, plotting our stories, seeking that perfect word to write that perfect sentence all feel like “real” writing, but they’re simply avoidance techniques.

What do writers want to avoid? All those scary emotions that writing forces to the surface in a way that the mind can’t control or repress. And so writers procrastinate more than artists or musicians who, to create, have to move into a space beyond the mind rather than (as writers do) work through the mind to create.  I sometimes think of my procrastination period as a pre-writing war: my emotional urge to create a story battling it out with my intellectual urge to keep the dark creative void at bay.

Do you have any tips for other writers to help in being focussed and maintaining that focus?
Only one. Write every day. Even if it’s only 100 words a day, write.  When I start a writing task, I use a modified version of the “Don’t Break the Chain” calendar based upon a motivation technique purportedly used by Jerry Seinfeld. It really works. Once you cross off the first block, it’s almost impossible to resist striving to keep the chain going. And don’t cheat yourself. If you don’t write on the work you’re trying to finish, you don’t get to cross off a block! Here’s the link for more information on that method: Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain Method
Here’s another link to an excellent article on writer’s procrastination and how to overcome it

Can writers change the world? 
Indirectly, yes, I do believe that writers can change the world. As the great Mahatma Gandhi said, the way to change the world is to change oneself. Our words can reach out to people and change their inner landscape. Like water dripping from a tap, drop by drop, if enough people change themselves, then the world will eventually change too. I’ve included this philosophy in my biography on my website:

If you were not a writer, which other art form or profession would you pursue to express yourself?
I used to be an accountant. I still don’t know how I survived all those years in an office environment. If I could choose another career to creatively express myself in, I’d ask God to grant me the gift of being able to create beautiful music. Music, more than any other artistic form, has the ability to transcend language and difference, reminding us of our common humanity through the harmony of wordless sounds.
Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition, Judy’s short stories and poems have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, such as the Huffington Post and the University of the Witwatersrand’s Itch Magazine.
Judy loves her family, cats, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, cats, rainy days, ancient churches with their ancient graveyards, cats, meditation and solitude. Oh, and cats. Judy loves cats (who already appear to have discovered the meaning of life.) 
Her books “The Weight of a Feather & Other Stories” (2013), “a Lamp at Midday” (2012) and “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” (2011) are available, and she is currently researching child murders for her next novel and you can visit Judy on , “Like” her Facebook Author page for updates or join her on Twitter @judy_croome.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Spinning a Yarn and Weaving Words

Detail from quilt made by my aunt, Brenda White (photo Jane Ayres)

The origin of words fascinates me.  And I discovered a new one recently - etymology - which is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.   We often use words without really thinking about the way we are doing so.  They can be rich in symbolism.  

A casual conversation got me thinking about the relationship between words that describe sewing, embroidery and the process of writing, so I did some exploring. Apparently, "text" derives from textile.

Latin textus "style or texture of a work," literally "thing woven," from past participle stem of texere "to weave, to join, fit together, braid, interweave, construct, fabricate, build *


We talk of weaving words and spinning a tale (where the term "spin doctor" originates?); we refer to the fabric of a story, the strands and threads.  A story can be a yarn, a tapestry of words. 

Spinning a tale, a tapestry of words.  And of course, a tapestry tells a story that can be communicated without the need for a knowledge of reading and writing. 

Humans have a profound need to tell their stories, by whatever means. 

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