On Friday evening, an editor sent me an e-mail about proofs which ended: “I just spoke to two very charming very young people at your house who said they would pass on this message, but I just wanted to email to check.” It’s lucky she DID check. There are neither very charming nor very young people Chez Ardagh, let alone charming young people… I wonder who on EARTH she spoke to and what their puzzled father made of her message?
I was lucky enough to capture this special moment when my orange Barrington Stoke squirrel pen first met my Got-It-For-Christmas squirrel. It’s all about being at the right place at the right time. And now I can share it with you.
I already have two books published by Barrington Stoke – The Green Men of Gressingham and The Red Dragons of Gressingham — and have just submitted the manuscript for The Black Knight of Gressingham which I had SUCH fun writing. But back to those squirrels:
It’s always nice to work with those with inside knowledge. A big THANK YOU to Plump and friend for helping to make the Big Garden Birdwatch such fun.
Just before Christmas, I went into M&M World off Leicester Square. It is an enormous and glorified sweetshop (full of giant plastic M&M characters) into which they pump the smell of artificial chocolate, making the whole place even more sickening. I was visiting the M&M tribute to the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover — having written that book with Paul, I felt it a moral duty — and was about to flee, feeling slightly sick, when a man stopped me to tell me that I’d been on breakfast telly with his daughter, and who I am to disbelieve him? (It’s not the kind of thing you’d make up.) Today, I found this photo on my phone, so I did what anyone would do. I tweeted it to William Shatner with the words: “It’s the Beatles’ Abbey Road, Jim, but not as we know it…” and, within minutes, he’d tweeted back. Yes, CAPTAIN KIRK (FROM THE ORIGINAL STAR TREK SERIES) TWEETED ME BACK. And if that’s not life-changing, I don’t know what is.
Wigtown is Scotland’s national book town, and home to the wonderful annual Wigtown Book Festival. The council wants to slash Wigtown library’s opening hours. Do they REALLY think the people of Wigtown are just going to roll over and let it happen? #SaveLibraries
These five Sherlock Holmes stamps issued in October 1993 — blimey, that’s nearly 21 years ago — contain a secret. There’s a single letter hidden in each stamp. Put the stamps in the right order and they spell DOYLE. This isn’t as a tribute to Mrs Doyle in Father Ted, of course, which wasn’t broadcast until 1995, but to Holmes’s creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. boy, I do LOVE Sherlock Holmes!
1. Sit down.
2. Write down the title. Don’t waste time worrying too much whether it’s right or wrong. It’ll do for now.
3. Write your name underneath. (You know you want to.) Don’t get bogged down by size of lettering, whether to use initials or names or whether to use a pseudonym. (Like the title, this can change later.)
4. Decide what kind of writer you are. Are you:
(a) a need-to-plan-it-all-out-first kind of writer
(b) a let-it-all-spill-out-on-the-page-and-see-where-it-takes-me kind of writer
(c) a somewhere-in-between kind of writer?
You probably know the answer in your gut but, if you’re not sure, NOW IS THE TIME TO FIND OUT. Try writing a list of some of the characters you expect to be peopling the pages, and flesh them out.
If this develops into a extraordinarily detailed cross-referenced list with back-stories, exact positioning of operation scars, etc., you’re probably (a), aren’t you?
If you find your characters interacting as you type and dialogue pouring onto the page, you’re probably (b).
If you’re somewhere in between, you’re likely to be (c).
5. If you’re (a), get plotting and planning; If you’re (b), GET WRITING and see where it takes you. There’s plenty of time to go back and change things. Writing is all about rewriting. If you’re (c), sketch out a rough plan, then get started.
Good luck. Books get written by someone writing them. Put aside the time and get stuck in. The rest is up to you.
I’ve mixed feelings about SHERLOCK, but there’s much to like about Cumberbatch and Freeman’s portrayal of Holmes and Watson. For me, the greatest TV Sherlock Holmes was, and will, I suspect, always be, Jeremy Brett. I’m very glad to have seen him as Holmes, live on stage, in — I think — 1988.
I’m please announce that I’ll be judging this year’s Divine Chocolate poetry competition which is open to ADULTS and CHILDREN. There are some great chocolaty prizes from a great chocolate company, 45% owned by the cocoa farmers themselves. You can find out more, here: http://www.divinechocolate.com/uk/poetry Why not give it a go?
NEWS JUST IN: “23 March 5.30pm, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford. As part of the Oxford Literary Festival, Nicolette Jones will be discussing the dory-hunky Roald Dahl with Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan (who’s writing a book about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and previous Roald Dahl Funny Prize winner Philip Ardagh (who isn’t), with singing from one of the astonishing Matildas from the RSC production… Spread the word & book festival tickets for events from 22 to 30 March.
Here’s a rather splendid video by One Man And His Beard — no, that’s NOT me — about how important libraries are. People sent in photos of themselves holding their library cards which were then framed and hung from a tree. (You’ll find the lovely ME very near the beginning.) Clink on the link (AS SOON AS I’VE FIXED IT!) and take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdMcjhM3IvM
I’m filling in my income tax return on-line. The HMRC website automatically calculates the tax and Class 4 National Insurance contributions I owe. The figure it came up with was barmy. I rang the tax office and, after a brief holiday listening to charming muzak — which makes hanging around a dentist’s waiting room seem like a week in Cornwall with beautiful sunny weather and all the Cornish vanilla ice-cream you can lick — I spoke to a very helpful man. He agreed that the figures seemed puzzling, to say the least. His solution? Submit my return with with these barmy payment-due figures anyway… because only then can it be sorted out. In the meantime they can pretend that the money is theirs and play Monopoly with it.
In January, the British Library lets us authors know how much money we’ll begetting for our Public Lending Rights. The idea is that every time one of our books gets taken out of the library, we get given two-and-a-bit pennies. If, like me, you have quite a few books in libraries and they get taken out quite a few times, that all adds up. To make sure that there’s enough money to go round, the maximum you can get is £6,600… which is VERY nice, thank you very much indeed. A big hug and a kiss to you wonderful readers!
Fans of my books/those to whom I owe money will be thrilled to know that I should be appearing at the ‘big three’ UK book festivals this year — Edinburgh, Cheltenham and Hay — and also at the Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival (of which I’m a patron), Oxford, the Aye Write! Festival in Glasgow, a number of Pop-Up Festival events, the Imagine Festival on the Southbank, the Roald Dahl Museum plus quite a few more, including one in Singapore (subject to legroom). I reckon this will be my 18th Edinburgh in 19 years. Why do I love festivals so? Hmmmm.