Article Archive: March 2012

I Love Words!

In the past few weeks I’ve had interview requests from people who want to ask me questions specifically geared towards the difference between my traditional book writing and my blogging. I know exactly what they expect me to say because of the difference between the type of printed books that I write (handmade, years of research, traditionally published as hardbacks and then paperbacks as opposed to my online writing which could easily be stitched together as an ebook and sold online). The most recent interviewer opened her questions with “So what’s the secret to your success?” (An alien idea, that, but impossible to squash politely so I just went quiet with sheer embarrassment and pointed at a crow stealing a sandwich out the window). Then I bumbled on about not really doing anything unusual except trying to write well. I think it’s just in my DNA to want to be a better writer. Or as my granny puts it, “You were born a scribbler”.

With that bit of the interview whackery thankfully out of the way the interviewer moved onto the question of ebooks and writing on digital platforms (the question she really wanted to ask in the first place). She was looking to investigate the difference between “real” books and was hoping that I would say that “blogging and one click download ebooks from onto my Kindle App on my Mac or iPhone were the future of publishing.” My optician would freak (I’ve started to squint quite a lot recently from screen glare) but let me be honest, realistic and frank, I don’t see publishing that way at all so I mumbled something along the lines of “Charlotte Bronte said: “Better to try all things and to find all empty, than to try nothing and leave your life a blank.” I said this because if you agree to an interview you have to say something, and it usually sounds better if it’s something at least half-decent. Also I didn’t want to be pressured into saying that ebooks are going to take over the world because I really don’t see it like this.

A while ago I tapped out this post about my ten favorite books. It’s a baseline, the list that I would pack for a desert island trip. And if you’re wondering whether I’d pay extra and lug a suitcase full of printed titles to an island like in Castaway Tom Hanks style then the answer most definitely would be YES! The truth is, I love nothing more than the pleasure of a physical book. My house is lined with them. Actually as I look, there are even rows precariously leaning against by dressing table begging to be read. I spend a lot of money on hardbacks for keepsies and if I find a great book through my kindle App AND love it, I’ll buy the hardback or paperback just to have. See I support both book forms and like to own a book if it’s really great. I suppose without getting all deep about this, quite simply the pleasure of flicking through a physical book, savoring the words, studying the colours of the images and the beautiful cover art can’t be equalled YET by ebooks. That said, if you’re just talking about the simple practicality of reading plain text and fiction then after a bit of practice, I’ve found a certain way to prop up my Macbook Air or iPad like a physical book on a neat cushion so that it kind of feels like I’m reading a physical book while I sip a cup of tea. No Kindle yet then? No, not yet, I use the Kindle App.

Fact.. whether it’s physical book or ebook good writing is good writing and beautiful sentence structure regardless of the medium can sometimes leave me with feelings of great despair and good old-fashioned must-try-harder thoughts. Such feelings I think serve as a constant reminder as to how much I still have to learn and keeps my feet firmly planted on terra firma. When I feel that a writer has swept me gently into his/her world then I know I am in the presence of greatness and frankly I don’t care which type of package this experience comes in (digital or traditional). But if pressed hard I will admit that the book publishing landscape is changing rapidly as will in no time be a twin of the music industry but I also feel that there are enough of us who will always want the smell of libraries, the sound of real pages and a shelf of unforgettable book covers. Question is.. are there enough of us? Hope so!

Happy Word Book Day! XXX

What you reading?

You know how you hear a word for the first time and then hear it again twice more in the same week? A similar thing is happening to me with books. A couple of weeks back, I found myself documenting backstage during the month of fashion weeks. As if that weren’t exciting enough, there were books. A good few people were reading this one above, Scar Tissue (the autobiography of Red Hot Chilli Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis penned with Larry Sloman). The first I met was Canadian born model Tara Gill (above) who told me that since buying it in Toronto she could barely put it down. I concur. It’s excellent and exciting. Currently I have it on the go along with…

Ulysses. I know. Could it be any different? I like to read a few books simultaneously but James Joyce’s Ulysses, well it’s a challenge which I started yesterday on my birthday (you’ll agree that’s a good incentive as any to finish it). I’ve always wanted to read it properly so I’m digesting it in little bites. Worth mentioning, I think, that in a radical break from tradition, I’ve typing this blog post about books in public and not per usual behind my writer’s closed door. I’ve been downing copious cups of tea here in The Parlour at Sketch feeling a lot like J.K. Rowling must have done when she was doing her first Potter book in that bistro in Edinburgh. It would be optimistic, however, to claim, my efforts will have the same striking effect on the global cultural consciousness or my future. It’s nice here though handwriting first and then tapping away on my laptop. I always hand write things first (even blog posts) as my flow of thought is different on pen and paper, more free, uninhibited and relaxed. The best thing about this is that many seem to agree with me. I hope they do, anyway. It’s a nice excuse to have nice notebooks and pens. I like having physical copies of my words.

And having saved all my books (they line the walls of my boyfriend’s house in Dublin) even before clothes when I survived the ordeal of the floods at his house in Dublin a few weeks back, I decided that maybe like Marta Ortiz above I’d carry some of my most favourite hardbacks with me digitally when traveling so that they wouldn’t get scuffed and worn (of course I am a sucker for the physical book so a physical copy will be added to my little collection back in Ireland for safekeeping and when I depart and go to that big library in the sky I’d like to donate the lot to someone who might love them, like I do.) The morning after the Dublin floods I made my way back to London and in a way the incident sparked a change to my writing life. I realised that I simply have to read and write a lot more so I started by buying a copy of Ulyses at the airport. Yesterday for my birthday I promised myself I’d finally start to read it and next week I plan to reorganise my book collection. Strange behaviour? Of course, but this kind of relentless archiving makes me very happy. No doubt a psychologist would say it gives me the illusion of being in control over my life. And they’d be right.

Virgina Woolf wrote that the common reader (yes, that’d be me) “snatches now this book, now that, without caring where he finds it or of what nature it may be.” And a really good book has the power to stay with us, at first the effect is subtle but it changes us for life. T.S Eliot echoed this, “reading introduces us to one powerful personality after another and so affects us as entire human beings.” Eliot believed that an author’s views could stay with us long after we’d finished a book and even colour our own views over time. I think it’s obvious from the shots above that a good book whether on paper or digital has the power to steal us from reality just for a little while and lets us live life in a new and different world. Model Georgina Bevan backstage at Vivienne Westwood thought that The Understudy by David Nicholls gave her “a different fashion week experience.” She said she smiled more. I believe that each of us secretly has one book that has done that.