Archive for category Travel
When I was young one of my ambitions was to own a secondhand bookshop. It was an ambition that was never fulfilled but I do still love to wander around shelves full of pre-loved books.
Shaun Bythell owns Scotland’s biggest secondhand bookshop and for a year he kept a diary of life in that shop. The diary was published in book form, The Diary of a Bookseller, a couple of years ago and it makes interesting reading for anyone who’s ever wondered what goes on behind the mountains of paperbacks and collectables.
There are comments on the customers (especially those who spend hours reading by the bookshop fire and then don’t buy anything), the staff (who have a tendency to the eccentric), the people who are selling their lifelong book collections and the way online ordering works in the secondhand industry. Sunny summer days are busy but in winter the takings are meagre.
Two particularly interesting points from the book are worth highlighting. Why not join the shop’s Random Book Club? For £59 a year you will be sent a surprise book every month. Might make a great present for someone who loves to try different genres?
And, if like me, you’ve ever wanted to run your own secondhand bookshop, here is the holiday for you:
Stay in the apartment above another secondhand bookshop, The Open Book, and you get to manage the bookshop (with help from volunteers) during your stay. But you need to plan ahead – the holiday is very popular and booked a couple of years into the future. Get on the waiting list via the Open Book Facebook page or book the apartment via AirBnb.
I’ve been on a writing retreat!
Unfortunately it wasn’t a week in a glamorous, sunny location but two nights in a Premier Inn on an industrial estate near Warwick. It was an experiment with a writer friend to see if 48 hours away from domestic distractions would enhance our productivity and propel us into the heart of our plots.
We worked in two and a half hour chunks before meeting up for tea and homemade cake or a 30 minute walk round the block or breakfast or dinner. This method kept us well fed and there was always a break to look forward to. I found that after two hours my concentration was waning and I was ready for some company and chat (and cake!)
Did it work?
My companion was doing NaNoWriMo. On arrival she was behind on her daily word count, when we left she was ahead, as well as having done some character sketches.
I was trying to pull together a very wobbly first draft. Prolonged writing time on the retreat enabled me to see the plot as a whole and get some editing done. In our breaks we did a lot of writing talk and my writer friend gave me a new idea to increase the tension within my story. I spent time working out how to weave this into my existing chapters.
Yes, the retreat worked and was worthwhile. But we both agreed that we couldn’t maintain that level of work/concentration beyond a weekend. So a whole week writing in the sun would probably be wasted on me (if it’s sunny I’d rather be in the pool or sightseeing!) but another weekend on an industrial estate is something I’d consider …
A few days ago I visited The Museum of Brands in London. The museum takes the visitor on a colourful stroll through the branding, advertising and consumerism of the last two hundred or so years. It’s a wonderful microcosm of British social history.
The visit left me with two thoughts. Firstly, it made me feel ancient. A large part of my childhood and the years beyond were in those glass cases. Surely I’m not old enough for my lifetime to become museum worthy! Who else out there remembers Spangles sweets, Jackie magazine, Philadelphia cheese wrapped in silver paper rather than in a plastic tub, Caramac bars (just discovered you can still buy those) and renting instead of buying a TV?
Secondly, it brought home to me how the long-lived brands had evolved over time in order to survive. Much of this evolution was done in baby steps – a change of font for the logo, moving from a metal to plastic packaging or updating the slogan. Companies like Sony have constantly innovated to ensure their products always offer the consumer something new and attractive. Unfortunately Kodak didn’t and was lost in the great tsunami of digital photography.
What has this got to with writing?
It’s a reminder that we should always be looking where we are going with our writing careers. For example the market for womag stories is rapidly shrinking meaning those of us who used to target women’s magazines with our short stories need to find new outlets or try a different form of writing. Attracting an agent for a novel is as difficult as ever – is it time to set a limit on the number of rejections and then start investigating other routes such as the growing number of new independent digital publishers like Hera who accept unagented submissions? Or maybe it’s time to try non-fiction or a different genre?
The important thing is to stay current with what’s going on in the writing world and be proactive to avoid being left behind. Be a Sony not a Kodak! Simon Whaley has been talking about a similar topic on his blog this week.
Incidentally, whilst going through my kitchen cupboards to take the photo accompanying this post, I discovered that most of my tins and packets were supermarket own brands. I wonder what that says for branding in the future?
The next Senior Travel Expert writing competition is now open for entries.
The competition calls for original travel articles on the theme ‘Heritage’ up to 750 words in length. Historical, cultural and natural heritage are all included under this theme.
Unusually for an article writing competition, entertaining fictional entries are also allowed. Entry is free.
The author of the best entry will receive £100 cash. Ten runners-up will each receive £10 Amazon UK Vouchers. The winning entry and runner-up entries will be published on the Senior Travel Expert website. Closing date is October 31st.
When writing your entry don’t forget that the Senior Travel Expert website is aimed at travellers aged 55 and over. And, as always, make sure you read the full terms and conditions.
I’ve been busy novelling for the last eight months or so and haven’t had time for competitions. However, a couple have popped into my inbox lately and, since I can’t use them, I thought I’d share them with you lovely people. Fingers crossed, one (or more) of you might have what it takes to be a winner!
Travel Writing Competition run by Travel for Seniors
This is free to enter and offers a first prize of £100 plus internet publication. They want 750 words on the theme ‘Travel for Seniors’ and the closing date is 31st July 2017. Entries can be fact or fiction.
Details are on the Senior Travel Expert website.
The Fiction Desk Newcomer Prize for Short Stories
This is aimed at ‘new and emerging writers who haven’t already been published by us, and have yet to publish a novel or full-length collection of short stories on paper‘. There is an entry fee of £8 and a first prize of £500 and second prize of £250. Closing date is 31st May 2017. Full details are on the Fiction Desk website.
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover and don’t judge a shop by its entrance. Down a backstreet in Funchal this unpromising doorway led to a giant of a bookshop. There were books displayed in twenty rooms across several floors. It was an Aladdin’s cave – I only wish there’d been more than a handful in English!
This book shop is special because all the books are displayed by cover, not spine. So it’s possible to easily see the front cover of every book. The shop was founded in 1886 and has been within the same family ever since. There are around seventy different literary sections covering subjects such as Economics, Childrens, History, Education etc. etc. Even if (like me) you don’t speak Portugese it’s fun to wander around spotting best-selling author names such as John Grisham and the like. And the notices by the door are in English.
For more information see the shop’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FundacaoLivrariaEsperanca/
Have you ever travelled via Heathrow Airport? Was it memorable in some way? For example did you meet your partner in the check-in queue or give birth in the departure lounge or were you en route to start a new life outside the UK?
2016 is Heathrow Airport’s 70th birthday and they are giving away some great ‘birthday gifts’ to the writers of the best stories. The stories will be judged according to the following criteria:
- Quality of story
- How the story shows personal progression/ development as a result of your Heathrow experience
- If the story includes Heathrow as catalyst for change
- How heart-warming the story is
The ‘birthday gifts’ up for grabs are many and varied. They range from a trip to Sydney through Gucci hampers to luggage tags.
Entries should be “about a fascinating, relatively unknown place near to where you live or that you came across by chance when travelling around, or it may be a totally fictional place”. The winner should “persuade readers of the Senior Travel Expert website that the place you describe is somewhere they would very much like to visit”. The closing date is September 30th 2016.
Often when you’re on holiday the things you stumble across by chance turn out to be the most interesting. I’m just back from a holiday in Madrid and Barcelona. One evening we sat in the window of a cafe in Madrid and above me was hung a display of books (see picture on the right). The next day we spotted a grand building that turned out to be The Society of Authors building – which I think is something like ALCS but please correct me if I’m wrong.
And remember, you don’t have to travel to enter this competition – your destination can be purely fictional.