Sunday, January 14, 2007

Advice from an oldie to a newbie

In today's blog

Advice to a not-so-young aspiring author
Stanley Morgan's adventure : Part 2

Advice to a not-so-young author


"Housework" is not a word one would expect to spark a response. But on January 12 Liz Fenwick posted the comment "I'm doing the same on the housework but there is no joy in it."

Clicking on her name, I found that she has a website where I read -

"I am a writer or I always have been in my heart but now I am taking it more seriously. You can only say to yourself for so long this is what you really want to do and then find ways of avoiding it like earning a living, getting married, having kids, moving around the world etc. One day you have to wake up and just do it. That day happened on 1st January 2004. Since then I have written two books and had two rejections. Do I see a pattern here? No. I am learning so much that soon those rejections will turn to acceptance. So watch this space."

In my view if someone is born a writer, or an artist, or composer, their creative gene should dominate their life, even if they have to modify their daydreams in order to pay the rent. Which is why, at 17, I became a cub reporter, combining earning a living and improving my writing skills.

Liz seems to have made a promising start. Her bio tells us -
"I discovered early on that my best friends could be books. As an only child growing up just outside Boston, I filled many childhood hours lost in their pages. I went onto to study English literature at Mount Holyoke College where I obtained my degree in 1985. While on a waitlist for a Masters in Theological Studies at Harvard, I moved to London to see if life looked different from the other side of the Atlantic. It did. I soon fell in love and married an Englishman then embarked on a new life as an expatriate."

At this point Liz's urge to write seems to have been side-tracked. I can empathise, up to a point, because love is another of life's top priorities. When Mr Bookworm made me choose between marrying him and going abroad for a couple of years, or sticking with my career, it would have been insanity not to go.

But for Liz Fenwick love and marriage was a long-term distraction which makes me wonder if writing really was/is her vocation.

She writes - "As an expat, I became Global Coordinator of an award-winning, grass-roots expatriate spouses association for a 13 billion dollar international corporation. Twelve years and eight international moves later, I am now residing in both London and Cornwall with my husband, three children and a big fluffy white cat where I have rediscovered the joys of writing fiction again."

That word "residing" bothers me. Why not "living"? Also, when I read the blurb for Liz's novel August Rock there was a spelling mistake in the second line.

"American, Judith Chambers leaves one man at the alter and flees to Cornwall. Tristan Trevenen has just lost his father and is now stuck with an historic estate on the Helford River that he doesn't want. In order to sell the estate he requires the specialist help of Chambers, a PhD in History, to catalogue his father's papers."

I'm pretty sure that "alter" for "altar" must be a typo, and I would have pointed it out in a private email to Liz Fenwick except that she doesn't have an email link on her web but one of those maddening forms which require the visitor to fill in first name, last name, email address and comments.

Instead I had a look at her blog started in September.

In my view - and many will disagree - unpublished writers shouldn't waste their creative energy blogging. If and when they do start blogging, it should be a subject blog, not a personal diary or heavily self-promotional as so many authors' blogs are.

All this may sound a rather unkind response from a veteran writer to a newbie. But, as you may remember, recently I quoted Laura Miller's comment "If people were as enthusiastic about reading (or rather, buying) books as they are about writing them, the industry overall would not be in the poor economic situation it's in now."

A day or two ago at the BBC site I read, "How about spending the most boring month in the year, February, doing something crazy and creative? In February 2007, you could be writing the novel of your dreams with Write Here Right Now, Radio Scotland's 'write a novel in a month' project. Last year 1000 writers all around the world signed up to take part."

And to cap that The Times has a piece about a book on how to write chick lit…a genre already overcrowded to bursting point.

Many of the published members of the Romantic Novelists' Association, which Liz Fenwick has joined, fall over themselves to be helpful to unpublished members. It doesn't seem to occur to these self-appointed fairy godmothers that, if the unpublished people have what it takes, they will succeed unaided.

My advice to Liz Fenwick is to forget about romantic fiction and look for a relatively uninhabited region of the book world... if there is one.

Stanley Morgan's adventure : Part 2


Stanley writes -
"What followed the episode was two months of utter chaos and disaster. Mine was a 'leading man' role, playing opposite a very young Dyan Cannon (later to become Mrs Cary Grant). A very promising role for me. The film was shot entirely outdoors, on the beach and on the cliffs of that lovely coastline.

Shortly after shooting commenced, Dyan contracted a poisoned thumb from fossil grains, and went to local hospital to have it treated. That evening, we, a group of actors, were sitting in the Fortaleza Restaurant courtyard having a meal, when Dyan suddenly keeled out of her seat and struck the stone floor with her head. We got her back to the villa (the same villa Morton and I lived in), and called a Portugese doctor. He arrived, I kid you not, swathed in a black gaucho cape, wearing a black-and-silver Zorro sombrero, and smoking a cigarette through a long black holder. Could you make this up?

Dyan awoke from a partial coma, unable to speak, and scratched her feelings of terror on the plaster wall beside her bed with her finger nail. Although not hospitalised, she was unable to work for a week or so, during which time she lost so much weight that when she eventually began to work she looked quite dreadful in the rushes. There followed a litany of disasters that beggar belief and the imagination. Homosexual relationships developed among the crew that triggered jealousies which threatened the technical stability of the shoot; the producer offended the local populace by driving like a madman through the villages; Dyan became increasingly unhappy with her contract and discovered that the producer had not been telephoning her L.A. agent, as promised; the producer was running out of money; the weather turned cold and made outdoor shooting difficult for everyone (I spent quite some time in the sea, knife-fighting with dear old Morton who, mostly in his cups, was so potentially lethal that eventually I had to refuse to do the scenes!)

And the story? Now, promise not to laugh...oh, all right then, go on... We were a band of shipwrecked individuals who, in the opening scenes, drag ourselves ashore from a wrecked yacht, and find ourselves on a beach entirely land-locked by towering cliffs. Thus imprisoned, frustrated by many failed attempts to climb the cliffs, our relationships begin to disintegrate. But then - hold the phone! - on the verge of murdering one another, we spot a band of gauchos on the cliff top! Hurrah! We are saved! No, we are not. For they are not really gauchos, they are...yes, you've guessed it...they are ALIENS from a distant planet! Oh, was it really that obvious? Anne, I don't know who conceived the initial script. I do know that we all sat around daily, before shooting commenced and tried to repair the damage. But it was unfixable. The sad ending to the story is that the film 'The Sleepwalkers' was never distributed. The producer ran foul of the English unions by employing cheap Portugese non-union labour to haul the heavy equipment up the cliffs, and the unions shut him out. For me, it was particularly frustrating because it was my first major role, teamed with Dyan who was a Warner starlet. But everybody lost on that one. Anyway, it has been fun relating it to you, and thank you for listening."

Thank you for telling, Stanley. I was interested to learn that when Dyan married Cary Grant she was 28 to his 61. Not surprisingly it didn't last long.

6 Comments:

At 15 January, 2007, Blogger liz fenwick said...

Anne, little did I know that reading your blog and commenting on housework would lead to a wealth of advice from you and none of it on cleaning tips. Many thanks for your thoughts.

You touched upon many areas but first let me start with my blog. I write my blog not for publicity but to be a part of a larger community of writers – published and unpublished. Writing as you are well aware is generally a solo occupation. Blogging opens lines of communication. Communication is good.

My Blog and my website focus on my fiction writing. I am sorry this led you to believe in those intervening years I stopped writing. Quite the contrary but it just wasn’t fiction. During my years travelling the world with some stops being as short as six months with three kids in tow writing anything of length was impossible. However during my time as head of the Schlumberger Spouses Association I wrote frequently on the topics involved with trailing spouses, travel with children, and children’s education plus working on papers to be presented at various conference ( see an example here http://www.ssafara.net/SSA_Worldwide/#11957). So, Anne, writing never stopped it just wasn’t fiction. Clearly unlike you I need more time to perfect my writing skills but have had the advantage of accumulating a tremendous amount of life experience at the same time.

Regarding our fellow members of Romantic Novelist Association, they do not delude themselves. They are aware that the worthy will find there way without them but they know the battle and I suspect enjoy the buzz they receive from helping make it a bit easier. It also comes back to the fact that writing is a solo occupation and a community of writers is a gift.

Sorry that ‘reside’ bothers you. It is a reflection of our transient state. We will not be in London much longer although Cornwall is a permanent home. This is reflected in my word choice. Thank you for pointing out the typo. It’s now corrected. May I point out that the blurb is from August Rock and not Atlantic Rock.

Finally thank you for all the publicity (which I wasn’t seeking) that will arise from your educational comments. I appreciate the time you took to look into my writing life. I enjoyed your views. I will be sticking with romantic fiction as I love it. It’s a joy to write.

Best,
Liz

 
At 15 January, 2007, Blogger Anne Weale said...

Liz, I apologise for getting the name of your book wrong.

I've corrected it, and will comment on some points in your comment a little later.

I'm a bit rushed at the moment.

Anne

 
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