Friday, December 14, 2007

"I can give her no more power than what she has already. Don't you see how great it is; how well she gets through the world barefooted? She must not hear of her power from us; that power lies in her heart..." Hans Anderson's words, in this quest to recover first love and melt the ice in Kay's heart, chosen by Frome's Merlin Theatre for this year's family show.
"This is Gerda," says Bert Crow, discovering our hero(ine) in the frozen northlands of the Snow Queen, "she doesn't seem to know where she's going."
"Well no-one does in this day and age" snaps his missus, who doubles in this production as a particularly grotesque hobgoblin. Apart from timeless analogies with life and loss, this was the most topical moment in a stunning production with virtually none of the more tedious aspects of panto. Gorgeous costumes and a commendably authentic version of the Hans Anderson tale, but the highlight was the teeny weeny tap-dancing penguins.

Sarah Duncan hates reading from her books, she says, which is strange for a woman of her glamour and presence. She does so enticingly nevertheless - from her new novel 'Another Woman’s Husband' - at Topping & Co Bookshop in Bath on Thursday night, and gives a snappy round-up of 10 top tips on getting published, too. Write from the heart, is the key message: Your USP is you.
Sarah is realistic about the market and the need for strokes of random luck, now 'the days of publishers taking manuscripts off slush piles are well & truly gone.' Learn to cope with rejection is tip 9. I'm reminded of an interview with debut author Marie Phillips in the current issue of Writing Magazine, which I noticed because she sees her blog as a contribution to her success - great for practising and improving writing and storytelling. Marie gives top tips too: 'Everything is part of the process, even the misery.'

From the anguish of novel-writing to the healing power of poetry: Adam Phillips in The Observer muses on Ted Hughes and 'the idea of poetry as shamanistic, the poet as healer rather than seducer or charmer, comforter or entertainer.' Poetry, Hughes wrote in one of his letters, is 'for expressing that complicated process in which we locate, and attempt to heal, affliction... the treatment by which the poet tries to reconcile that pain with the world'.

Or maybe it's the little things that matter. I've had a few emails about my Writing Magazine column over the years. Mostly they're positive but occasionally I touch a raw nerve with a reader, and I get flamed. One arrived this week, Subject: AAAARGH!!, from a 'horrified' subscriber who discovered a typo in my copy ('believe' for 'belief') and writes to tell me "I have almost lost the will to live and will certainly think twice before renewing my subscription." I'm thinking of initiating an award for the most puerile problem of the year. Any other contenders?

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