I do love writers groups. I’ve been a member of a few for some years now, and I’ve learned so much from my fellow writers. But as I’m starting to become obsessed with all things Jane Austen these days (see the submissions page for a clue!) I was reminded of the great piece on Buzzfeed: ‘If Jane Austen Got Feedback From Some Guy In A Writing Workshop.’ It goes something like: ‘I didn't hate reading this draft of your novel, which you're calling Pride and Prejudice…I do have a
My first cookbook was a big, yellow-paged tome. It was from the days before glossy photo spreads. Before the need for a gushing, personal introduction from the chef for each and every recipe. There was no evangelising about some ingredient you had no hope of pronouncing or finding in the supermarket. It was not a manifesto urging people to rediscover the joys of the simple lemon. It didn’t contain the word Himalayan anywhere. The chapter headings were simple: meats, fish, pou
A lesson in journalism Nora Ephron’s high school journalism teacher once set the class an assignment to write an article for the student newspaper, about an all day conference all faculty members were attending the following Thursday. Nora went away, interviewed the teachers, found out all the relevant facts about the conference: the times, the topics, the speakers. She wrote it up, taking care over every sentence, making sure it was well structured and clear. And she handed
In her book The Sum of Our Days Isabel Allende tells how she’s often asked at cocktail parties what she does. When she responds that she’s a novelist, most people’s first reaction is to say 'I’ve always wanted to write a novel. Perhaps when I retire and have more time I’ll do just that.' And her response is always the same, 'You said you were a dentist? That’s interesting. Maybe when I retire I’ll start pulling teeth.” Not the most gracious of responses but it does make me la
A journalist friend of mine once said that she never asks for feedback because writing is a matter of personal taste, and so if she likes it that’s all that matters. Sometimes, as I stare in despair at the fifteenth draft of a chapter, I wish I had that confidence. Writing is an individual act. It’s just you and the words. It’s your voice. Your name on the front. No one else can or should make the tough decisions for you. Even if you did write yourself into a corner somewhere
In 1981, Peter H. Stone of The Paris Review sat down with Gabriel García Márquez in his studio in Mexico City to discuss the art of fiction. The in-depth interview is fascinating for anyone interested in the Nobel Prize winner’s life and work. But it is perhaps of greatest interest to aspiring writers, who can learn much from García Márquez’s practical, down-to-earth advice. I re-read the interview when I was working on the anthology of personal essays, Was Gabo an Irishman?