Posts Tagged Mike Gayle

World Book Night

Saturday 5th March was World Book Night. It’s purpose was to celebrate great writing, the power of books and the pleasure of reading. To help achieve this 40,000 copies each of 25 books were specially printed to be given away free to the general public. That’s one million extra books put into circulation. It’s hoped that these books will be read, enjoyed and then passed on or shared with others. The titles given away covered a wide range of tastes and included Killing Floor by Lee Child, Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes and Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.

I went to a special event at the Birmingham Library Theatre to mark the occasion. It featured a discussion on reading and writing between authors Mike Gayle (My Legendary Girlfriend), Catherine O’Flynn (What was Lost) and RJ Ellory (A Quiet Belief in Angels).  The three writers covered many topics.

Mike told us how a light went on in his head when he came across Adrian Mole as a teenager. Here was a character with whom he totally identified and it was at this point that Mike began to realise the power that words could wield.

Catherine described her childhood longing to be a detective, fuelled by an Usborne book she was given as a youngster that was filled with advice on clues and suspects and methods of detection. She took to sitting outside her local bank and noting down car registration plates in case there was ever a big robbery – to her disappointment there never was.

Roger Ellory told us about a favourite book In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This is based on the true story of the 1959 murder of a family in Holcomb, Kansas. Capote was a friend of To Kill a Mockingbird author, Harper Lee and she went with him to Holcomb to dig out the story behind the murders. Apparently, there is a theory that both of these books were written as a collaboration between the two authors and each put their name to one book. They both became bestsellers and neither writer ever published anything else.

Everyone at Saturday’s event went home with free books to read and pass on. I received Seamus Heaney’s New Selected Poems 1966 – 1987. This is not a book I would ever have chosen myself  but maybe that was the purpose of World Book Night – to encourage those that never read to pick up a book and to push enthusiastic readers into trying something more challenging. I’m going to give it a go!

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Real Writing Lives

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There are as many different methods of writing as there are writers. There is no ‘special’ method that brings fame and fortune with it – we all have to find our own way of creating literary masterpieces whilst paying the mortgage.

At the annual Writers’ Toolkit event in Birmingham, three writers gave an insight into their working days.

Jo Bell is a poet but most of her days are filled with other activities to keep the wolf from the door. Amongst other things, she is a freelance organiser of literary events, teaches creative writing, gives readings and does book promotions. When Jo checked her diary, she had only 3 days in the next fortnight available for actual writing.

She wisely told us that we shouldn’t look upon the essential but non-writing stuff in our lives as an obstacle to being creative – instead it should be seen as something that enables the writing to happen.

Jo also advised, “Work out what you want to do and then go out and find it. This might mean knocking on doors and suggesting workshops or offering yourself as a writer in residence. Above all, make sure you get paid because otherwise you devalue Writing as a whole.”

Mike Gayle is a full-time novelist but doesn’t believe that having all the time in the world is an effective way of writing. He wrote his first book whilst still earning his living elsewhere and looked forward to his snatched periods of writing time.

“But as a full-time writer I found there was a tendency to take a whole afternoon to eke out one paragraph,” he explained, “and it’s easy to feel removed from the real world and ordinary people. This means there’s no ready raw material to feed the fiction.”

Having discovered he’s a morning person, Mike now squeezes his writing day into 9am – 1:30pm, giving himself a structure within which to work.

Chris McCabe writes novels under the pseudonyms John Macken and John McCabe.  He is also a full-time Professor of Molecular Endocrinology at the University of Birmingham. He writes during his lunch hour and from 8:30 – 10:00 in the evening. He has no time for writers’ block and has to make the most of every minute.

Chris did try taking a year out from his ‘proper’ job to concentrate on writing but it didn’t work for him.

“Even though I hate gardening I found myself doing it to avoid having to write,” he said. “I need a time a shortage to get me going.”   

So, giving up the day job and writing full-time might not be the best option. Most people need a little bit of time pressure to make them effective and we all need outside stimuli to feed our work.

Today’s writing prompt is:

A Last Will and Testament – who inherits what is up to your imagination.

P.S. If you fancy winning a great bundle of writing books, nip over to my writing buddy Helen’s blog and enter her (very easy) competition. 

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