Monday, 23 November 2009

Plug of the Month

Last Christmas by Julia Williams

Not being a fan of carols in September, I have been avoiding the dreaded "C" word for weeks. But, since we are now only a month away, I realise it is time to divest myself of my Scrooge tendencies and start getting ready for the big day.

And what better way to begin the festive season then to give a shout for my lovely twin sister, Julia Williams? Her latest novel, Last Christmas, is a perfect holiday treat:

It's the most wonderful time of year. Isn't it? Discover the true spirit of Christmas with this seasonal treat for fans of Love, Actually and The Holiday. Discover the true spirit of Christmas...Catherine Tinsall is dreading Christmas. As the 'Happy Homemaker' she is an online sensation, but the reality couldn't be more different. With Catherine's marriage in tatters, her children running wild and her mother increasingly forgetful, seasonal cheer is running low. Husband Noel also hides a secret: he's facing the axe at work. Until he chances upon the village of Hope Christmas, deep in the Shropshire countryside, which could be the second chance he's searching for. If he can save it from the developers! In Hope Christmas itself, schoolteacher Marianne Moore is trying to heal her battered heart. But Christmas is a time for families, and memories of what she's lost haunt her at every turn. Meanwhile, Gabriel North faces a lonely Christmas but hides his sadness for the sake of his son. Will his wife ever come home? Or does love lie elsewhere? All four need a Christmas miracle. And it might just happen - courtesy of a mysterious guardian angel ! Forced to reassess their lives, will Catherine, Noel, Marianne and Gabriel discover what the meaning of Christmas really is? An irresistible gift of a tale that will warm the hearts of Christmas-lovers and Scrooges alike!

This is a light, funny read ("The Happy Homemaker" is particularly inspired) and is already selling like hot mince-pies. I'd love to see it rise even higher in the bestseller lists, so all you chick-lit lovers (or lovers of chick-lit lovers) go out and buy your copy today!

Friday, 20 November 2009

A Case of Mistaken Identity

My lovely twin, Julia Williams, tweeted about this very common problem today. So I thought it apt to post this poem. It started life as a sonnet, and I'm inclined to agree with my tutor, probably should have stayed that way. But to meet the mad structure I set myself on assignment, it's become a villanelle, and I can't be bothered to turn it back...

Shall I forgive you? It happens quite a lot-
a stranger greets me in the street, or on a bus -
it causes confusion more often than not.

Did you suffer from such a delusion? What
were you thinking? That I wouldn't make a fuss?
Should I forgive you, since it happens a lot?

Perhaps you understood at first - but then forgot
alike was not the same - that there are two of us.
I know it's confusing, more often than not.

Suppose I tried again? Gave you another shot?
Perhaps, after all, I've been making too much fuss.
Could I forgive you, since it happens such a lot?

It’s not surprising, really, that you’ve lost the plot.
You're not the first to be bemused by two of us.
It can be confusing, more often than not.

Maybe, after all, I’ve been making too much fuss.
And...if I can absolve the person on the bus,
surely, I can forgive you? It happens such a lot -
causing confusion more often than not.

Coming soon on Plug of the Month - Julia Williams - Last Christmas - currently doing rather well in the bookshops.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

London Launch of "How to Fall" and other fine poetry collections

Karen Annesen, Anne Berkely and Carole Bromley invite you to the launch of their new collections (3 poets for the price of 1!)

How to Fall – Karen Annesen
The Men from Praga - Anne Berkeley,
Skylight – Carole Bromley

On Thursday 3rd December 7-10pm (short readings at 8pm)

At The London Irish Centre, 50-52 Camden Square, London, NW1 9XB 020 7916-2222

Compere Roisin Tierney as part of the London Irish Centre Reading Series.

Nearest tube Camden Town (Northern Line) Nearest train Camden Road Silverlink. Bus routes 29,253,274.Free parking after 6.30pm

This should be  a great event. If you can't get to London, don't worry, there'll be events in Oxford and Wallingford in the New Year. Watch this space!.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

This writing life.

Earlier this week I contributed to a blog discussion on the She Writes website about where I write. I said, I write anywhere, because I have to. In a crowded life, competing with the demands of family, work and writing, with no room of my own, I have no choice. And generally, I think it works for me.

Yesterday, this theory was tested to the utmost, by a request from  the Guardian to contribute an opinion piece to their Comment is Free blog. I'd submitted a response to their Question of the Week back in May on behalf of my good friends at Peace News and the editor had remembered me. I wasn't going to turn down a request from the Guardian, but the request came at 4 o'clock and the deadline was 6. I had tea to cook, washing up to do, a washing machine to empty, a work phone call to make,  and my husband and I were going out at 6.30. I swallowed hard, said yes, and the clock started ticking.

Luckily, the subject was something that I feel passionately about - the death penalty, specifically focussing on the case of the John Allen Muhammed, the Washington Sniper who was executed at 2am this morning. The Guardian editor said he'd send me some links to the background, so I thought I'd do the washing up, while I waited, and start putting together some arguments in my mind. Ten minutes later, I checked my email, no message yet, and my son wanted the computer. That's OK, I said, I'll use the laptop in the back room. No problem, except, having to work with no mouse, an unfamiliar keyboard and Disney Channel blaring in the background. I began to type, intermittently flitting between googling websites about the case, death penalty laws in Virginia and Maryland, and murder rates around the world. Then a quick break to peel potatoes, put on the sausages, and back to it.

The piece began to take some shape, the Guardian emailed some useful links, then suddenly it was quarter to 5, and I hadn't made my work phone call. I jumped up, ran to the phone, was pretty relieved no-one was there and left a message. Passing the kitchen, I peeled some veg and went back to work. At quarter past five, my husband returned. Aha, he said, I've caught you. Ah, I replied cannily, But I am not frivolously wasting time on the net, I am earning us money by writing for a national newspaper. Besides, I have been super efficient and dinner is nearly done. He was  suitably  impressed, and left me to it. At half 5, I was beginning to sweat. I couldn't work out my conclusion and some of my thoughts still felt thin. I took a break to put tea on the table, which my beloved wonderfully supervised, and returned to the laptop. The disappearance of Hannah Montana at this point was greatly welcome, but by the time tea was over, at 5 to 6, I still hadn't got a last paragraph. My husband popped his head over my shoulder, It's very good, but you've quoted Tolkien? (he's no Lord of the Rings fan).

Still, I was in to the final strait. Slightly breathless and a bit sweaty, competing with the TV switched back on, and trying not to worry as the minutes ticked past 6, I finally reached the last word. It was 100 words over, but it would have to do. My husband did his last chivalrous task of the evening by saving it on the  laptop's version of word, and the deed was done. Only quarter of an hour late as well.  I gobbled down to tea and off we went for our night out. Later that evening, when we were able to look at the post,  we were stunned to discover 93 comments had been left. They weren't all pleasant, but, what a reaction. The debate has raged all day, and finally closed after 400 comments. That's not bad for my first ever opinion piece.

I didn't speak to the children for two hours, and I never got the washing machine emptied, but something had to give. I was quite pleased with the final article,and amazed at the furore it provoked. With a bit more time, I'd have couched things slightly differently, had something to say about the victims, and been more careful with my use of statistics. I'm also acutely conscious, that whilst I was writing about some of my core beliefs and enjoying the experience, a man was being put to death, and thirteen families were still grieving for the people he killed. Nonetheless, I think it's important that those views are expressed and debated and it was wonderful to be given the chance to state my case.

I feel I gained my spurs as a writer today. And I'm immensely grateful for the opportunity.