Thursday, October 29, 2009

There is no conspiracy; there is, I should say, remarkably little jealousy or personal envy between writers. - Dorothea Brande, Becoming a Writer

I am, as ever, in awe of the literary love that exists here in the Highlands, and within my small but far-reaching bookish world, which spans from Bombay to Australia to Manhattan. Authors like helping each other out. Writers need other writers.

Perhaps this is due to the nature of writing. If five writers were given the same photograph and asked to write about it, they would each produce their own distinctive piece of work. We can only produce what our imaginations can deliver. There is no standard, because literature is alive. It shimmies between genres and backgrounds and ideas, and that is why it fascinates us so.

The Highland Literary Salon met on Tuesday night, for the first time. Camaraderie is so crucial to those of us who spend our days in solitude. Our news was varied; one has just had a novel picked up by an Edinburgh publisher, another received a handwritten rejection letter from a UK literary magazine. A poem was published, a short story didn't win a competition. Somehow these things seem more vivid when others are around, others who know.

Highland Arts is an invaluable resource for people living up here. I submitted Snakes, the novel I started in February, to them in July, and received excellent feedback in August which was used to create the second draft. I'm thrilled that Hi-Arts has offered to do a second assessment of my revision, which should be ready by the end of November.

I cheekily asked if they would also assess my second novel, and I received feedback last week; I didn't look at it, as I didn't want to cross-pollinate books. Then I had a look last night*, and the book is resurrected; the assessment was brilliant, and now I feel I haven't wasted the four years it took to get that book together. So once Snakes is out the door, I'm keen to revamp the last one. Good feedback is the best feeling in the world, especially from an anonymous, professional assessor.

*After meeting with Peter Urpeth, the Writing Development guy for Hi-Arts, who couldn't believe I hadn't read it yet. He's my hero in so many ways, not least because he is fully embracing the digital age and writing a tweet-by-tweet novel on twitter. If that's confusing, read the archives, in order, here.

Good reads of the past few weeks: I'm on the Guernsey Book bandwagon now. It's my book club's October selection and it's a charming, lovely way to pass the time. Have also been introduced to Jodi Picoult who kindly responded to an email I sent her within fifteen minutes - !! And re-read Dorothea Brande. I always find something new every time I read this book.

Pitch-black, and not yet 6pm...I do love Scottish winters.

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