Thursday, 30 June 2011

3BT: geekery, writing, and newish friends

1. Tomorrow's first lesson is cancelled. Not only does this mean a lie-in, it means I can watch the numbers change on Authonomy at the stroke of midnight - a momentous monthly event. And if that weren't enough, there's also a by-election to geek out over.

2. I sit down to do my fifteen minute daily writing prompt exercise, and thirty minutes later I'm still writing what might turn out to be a short story; better yet, it even ends with a line that has inexplicably been in my head for the last year or so.

3. I'm walking back from the station, and a car pulls up alongside me: it's a friend from the Saturday Bible studies. She gives me lift home, with her two daughters, whom it's a pleasure to meet. I feel good about my little town and the people I am getting to know here.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

3BT: time, stories, and a refreshing breeze

1. I'm told that over the summer there will be no Tuesday or Friday lessons. I have been given the gift of time, and I don't intend to squander it.

2. At my writers' group, inspiration strikes for stories and novels: I want my friends to hurry up and write them so I can read them. Marie mentions a photocopier, and this, for some reason, is the trigger. I begin to write. It seems my worries about life post-Inevitable were unfounded. There are stories in me yet.

3. The oppressive heat breaks at last, and I watch the rain flow down the train windows. If I'd caught the one before, as I wanted to, I would have had to walk home from the station in the downpour. Instead of which, I let a welcome breeze refresh me and read The Grapes of Wrath as the occasional lightning bolt lights up the sky.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Please allow me a tiny bit of bragging...

I've been kicking around the addictive world of Authonomy for a couple of months now, and my book is currently hovering at number 101. People seem to like it, even guys, and here's an eloquent, thoughtful and positive comment I got today, from someone whose book is highly ranked, and deservedly so.

Pretty chuffed!

What initially attracted me to this was the languages aspect, and the teaching thereof. Being a language teacher myself and an avid learner, I have a soft spot for any book that deals with foreign tongues. Inevitable certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front. Not only is there an entertaining representation of the language learning process but there is also an exploration of that sometimes strangely intimate relationship that develops between teacher and student during one to one lessons, where the teacher veers unexpectedly into the waters of friend and psychologist. It’s an idea I’ve often thought about exploring in a novel myself so it’s both interesting and satisfying to see it so well realized here with Kate and Brad.

That being said, this is not something I would necessarily read were I to find it in a book shop, the chick lit tag marking it as something outside of my usual comfort zone. That I enjoyed reading this as much as I did then speaks to the quality of the writing and the story. This is very ambitious storytelling, moving as it does from past to future, from relative obscurity in Belgium to the corridors of power in Washington. From the pitch, I might have thought this too ambitious but any such fears are quickly allayed by the very authentic feel that the future political aspect has. The relationships between Kate the politician and her aides feels well researched yet natural and her recounting of her political career is incredibly interesting. And I very much enjoyed the idea of looking back from the future to the present. It gives an interesting slant to the POV. Given that The West Wing features in the story I had to wonder whether another US TV show, How I met Your Mother, was at all an influence in this particular regard.

What else? This very up-to-date in a way that I can’t remember many other books feeling. Ipods, The West Wing, Obama etc. This definitely struck me as a keen use of observation. It may not seem a particularly remarkable achievement at first but I’m often irritated by TV shows and books that seem to ignore the contemporary world to suit their storylines, e.g., a set of characters tries desperately to get hold of another character but not a one of them has a mobile phone for some reason. So the contemporary observations were something I enjoyed. My only slight worry for the book as a whole, however, stems from the same issue. Will setting a lot of it so much in the here and now, with contemporary references, make it date quicker than most books? I hope not and it’s certainly not a major fear since so much of the story takes place in the future. This is more just me thinking aloud and nitpicking at something since there seems nothing else for me to crit.
Hmm, so not much useful in this here comment I imagine. If this is chick-lit then the sometimes snidey pronunciation utilized when invoking the genre should be removed for Inevitable is a very classy, innovative and mature piece of work.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Snapshots of Starbucks

The muffins taste the same, the coffee tastes the same. A little piece of America, or London, depending on my mood. No purple sofas, but the chairs are so comfortable, the décor so tasteful with its as yet untarnished wood flooring, that I can let that go.

American kids take pictures of themselves
and their frappuccinos, high-fiving each other, exclaiming loudly about how great it all is.

Good-looking guys who would not look out of place in DC have what I presume to be an intelligent conversation, just within my eyesight.

The barista thanks me for being a good customer when I don't express the depths of my disappointment at the lack of wifi. (It helps that I've been prewarned.)

My friend Kyle and his wife Amy come over and say hi. "I'll be spending some time here," he says, and I wonder if I'll be bumping into him a lot, if I will become friends with "regulars", if it might be time to bring out the "I <3 Democrat Boys" tshirt, just in case one of those regulars turns out to be a Josh Lyman far away from home.

The staff are polite, smiling, efficient. They greet each of us in three languages, including British English: I'm asked if I want my coffee "to take away". It's the little things.

At 9.25 they cheer together at a job well done, the first successful day over.

They kick us out, still polite, still smiling, at 9.30.

Monday, 20 June 2011

3BT: coffee, opinions, and the nicest ever rejection

1. The Starbucks sign is up at Gare Centrale, and I see a man in a green apron. Two more sleeps until my next latté.

2. At my writers' group, I am, as so often, confidenty advancing a strong opinion. 'You should write for the Guardian,' says my friend.

3. I get a personalised rejection from a well-known agent. She says there is a lot to like about my book - a controlled tone and an ability to captivate the reader. I've had, I think, my first 'near miss', and it feels good.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A damsel in distress..

Anyone out there know the Voice Recorder app for iPad?

I recorded something for work the other week, and didn't touch it for a couple of weeks - in part, I think, because I was worried I might accidentally delete it. When I could no longer avoid opening the app, I did so - and my recording had disappeared. I know I took it because I played it straight afterwards. I didn't delete it - certainly not knowingly.

Does anyone know where this file might be hiding, or how I could find it?

It's pretty urgent and fairly desperate so I would be forever grateful!

Anthony Weiner and the Evil American Press

Well, American press, you have what you wanted.

You did want Anthony Weiner to resign, didn't you? Because the way you hounded him certainly didn't indicate otherwise.

Yes, what he did was pretty terrible. But you know what was also terrible, and possibly even worse? Your treatment of him. Your revealing to the world that his wife is pregnant, a private detail that should have remained private until she chose to tell people, probably in about six weeks. Your insistence that he should continue to be ridiculed and embarrassed, when he was clearly contrite and ready to move on and keep serving his country.

Right-wing American press, of course you wanted his resignation. But Democrats? This guy has fought hard for the liberal cause; yet you too got you wanted, by ensuring he remain in the news: every day a different prominent Party member calling for his resignation. This was certainly not the way to get the focus back onto the President's agenda.

You left him, in the end, with no choice. I hope you don't regret this decision. I suspect, though, that you will.

Monday, 13 June 2011

A West Wing wedding...

For those of us who follow the West Wing characters on twitter, yesterday was a lot of fun.

Charlie and Zoey got married in Manchester, New Hampshire. There was much merriment, despite the drama when Donna thought she was going into labour eight weeks early. Overcome with the excitement of it all, Josh forgot about his sensitive system and thought it would be fun to ride one of the Bartlet horses. Not having any clue how to make a horse stop, he then had to be rescued by secret service agents. Meanwhile, Gail the Fish stayed behind in DC and amused herself by swapping round the letters on the keyboards.

They also took the opportunity to highlight a couple of charities that people might want to donate to, in honour of Charlie and Zoey: the National MS Society and Missing Kids.

This morning, they are all hungover and perhaps a little grumpy.

Check out the #bartletyoung2011 hashtag. For those who doubt the reality of it all, there's a photo of Zoey in her wedding dress, and another of CJ and Danny arriving together.

Makes you wonder who these people are, running these accounts, though. Do they not have lives? Are they all separate people? Did they coordinate beforehand? Will Aaron Sorkin give them all jobs in his next show? We can but hope.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Happy birthday Aaron Sorkin!

Just pausing to reflect on the impact Aaron Sorkin has had on my life.

Without him, I might never have...

- known or cared about American politics
- known much or cared much about America, full stop (sorry, guys)
- visited DC
- been introduced to my very favourite actor
- been inspired to write the book I have just finished
- fallen in love with the English language
- known who Rob Lowe was (yes, I'm that culturally inept)
- gone to Hay to meet Rob Lowe, and ended up meeting another author who inspired me, listened to me, and may well be helpful to me later down the line...
- met Rebecca, who's now one of my best friends, and made countless other friends online

I realise I'm repeating the word "inspired". Which, when you come to think of it, is quite apt.

Aaron Sorkin, you can be my three beautiful things for today.

Monday, 6 June 2011

3BT: the BBC, Inevitable, and Starbucks

1. I log into the BBC website during my lunchbreak. A banner informs me that it wasn't a vicious rumour: soon we foreigners will be able to access iplayer. Hooray: no more kicking myself because I forgot to record Question Time.

2. Many unexpected backings and kind comments on my book. I even get an email back from an agent saying she 'likes the tone'. It's still a no, but it makes my day.

3. Another tweet, another happy shriek: the Gare Centrale Starbucks is apparently not just a rumour either. It's going to open on 22nd June. I'd been looking for something to use my countdown app on.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

3BT: journalism, writers, and good food

1. I do my first ever interview as a freelance journalist. I'm not quite ready to be the next Mariella Frostrup - maybe in time for Rob Lowe's next book - but it goes well, with no need for prodding or artificial sounding questions. I've chosen my subject carefully; I knew this lady would have fascinating stories, and I am happy to be proved right.

2. At my writers' group, a newish member reads out her story and beams when we all (deservedly) congratulate her on her excellent writing. I recognise that smile, and it feels good even to see its reflection on someone else's face.

3. Honey-glazed duck, accompanied by a glass of red wine.