Two-faced January

English: Bust of the god Janus, Vatican museum, .
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As I said at the start of the year, my post on the last Tuesday of each month would be a look back at my month in terms of my reading, writing and other significant/trivial/funny/sad news. So let’s see…

At the beginning of the month, and indeed the year, I resolved to get on with my novel. It’s my second book and it’s two-thirds written. I planned my time and input, set my word count targets and was raring to go. Then as you’ll see below, to paraphrase John Lennon, while I was making my plans – life happened – and my newly gained momentum was stopped in its tracks. I did however manage to continue to take part in the ‘A River of Stones’ 2012 project and have posted a small piece of mindful and observational writing each day this month. All have been posted here on the blog. I also wrote my regular piece for the writers’ magazine ‘Words with Jam’.

My reading this month has included fiction and non-fiction. And, before I tell you about it, I want to share a cool quote from Annie Proulx with you that sums up how important I believe reading to be for all of us who call ourselves writers. ‘Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write. I read omnivorously – technical manuals, history, all sorts of things. it’s a relief to get away from your own stuff.’ I think that says it all.

I began with Sara Maitland‘s ‘Book of Silence‘. Maitland is a long time favourite fiction author of mine. But this was non-fiction – part account of her retreat into silence and part reflection on her own writing and creative processes. It was interesting and, in places, thought-provoking but it was a little slow and rather repetitive here and there. I guess a bit of a tighter edit would have resolved these problems in an otherwise fascinating book.

My fiction reading is a freebie – a pre-publication proof copy from the publisher of ‘Brighton Belle’ – the latest novel from Sara Sheridan. I’m almost finished it and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable crime thriller set in the 1950s. I’ll be doing a full review of it  soon.

And in other news – so, there was I, all organised – ready to go back to work after the festive break – writing plans in place for the evenings and weekends, house move imminent… Then wham! The house move went bosoms skyward, the car had a catastrophic breakdown, and my dear father-in-law passed away very suddenly. Yes, a bit of a stressful time – the muse fled.

However, things are resolved – the house move is back on track, the car is fixed – £700 later – all down to dirty fuel apparently. And although it was tough to say goodbye to ‘Grandpa’, his passing did bring the whole family together and gave us some unexpected time with our lovely, wee, seven-week old granddaughter. A true January scenario –  with our family looking to the past and to the future.

I hope that February will be a bit quieter – although there is the small matter of moving house mid-month – and that my muse will feel safe to come out of her cupboard…

 

 

 

 

The Third Tuesday Review

As I promised/threatened in an earlier post, I intend, on the third Tuesday of every month, to do a book review and also to announce my blog of the month.

BOOK REVIEW

My January book is ‘A Book of Silence’ by Sara Maitland. Maitland is an author whose feminist fiction I’ve admired and enjoyed for around thirty years (her novel ‘Women Fly When men Aren’t Watching’ would be one of my desert island volumes). ‘A Book of Silence’ is difficult to categorise, but it’s not fiction. It’s part memoir/autobiography, part travelogue, part reflection on her own writing processes, but is mainly a reflection and discussion of her study of the concept of silence. Silence is something she views as a presence rather than an absence. She sees being in silence as a religious and spiritual experience and as something she longs to have more of.  I don’t completely agree with everything she says, but there’s a lot that resonates and it is beautifully and intelligently written.

I suspect this is a book for writers, especially those fascinated by the writing process. It’s also one for Maitland fans, not least because it has been a while since she published anything.

It’s not a light read. The reader needs to think, concentrate and reflect. I read it on my Kindle but  maybe the old-fashioned paper version would have been better. This is a book to dip in and out of and to flick back and forth in as you read.  It certainly gives the reader a lot to ponder.

BLOG OF THE MONTH

My blog of the month is Sleepwell and Fly written by a writer who goes by the name of Fletcher Moss. You can sample it for yourself at http://sleepwellandfly.blogspot.com Moss is a writer of young adult fiction and his book (of the same title as the blog) is on the longlist for The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2012. His blog is always entertaining and often thought-provoking. There’s humour, honesty, seriousness and insight – often within the one post. It’s a great example of a writer’s blog but will appeal to non-writers who appreciate good writing. Well worth a visit.