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It's heaven in Devon

I’m on holiday and not by my computer, so this email is a Cheat, a Lie and a Fraud. It’s like the fake moon landings, the CIA-created Kennedy assassination and the so-called “death” of Elvis, but in sneaky, digital form.

So, instead of a proper new email, here are reminders of nine emails from the last year or so – my personal favourites.


Nine Odd Things

One of my favourites from recent weeks. It talks about all the things that are strange in this little industry of ours. Clue: when I started writing the email originally, it was entitled Three Odd Things. Turns out, when I sat down to think about it, there was a lot more oddness than that. ☹

Image of the week: cauliflower.

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White Chairs, Green Terraces

This email got more comments on the community than anything else this year. Gotta include it for that reason, but also the email and your responses illustrate brilliantly (i) how pernickety and hard writing is and (ii) how big things end up climbing on board little ones.

Image of the week: white chairs, green terraces

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Be happy

A good news email – reasons to be positive about publishing. Also: a reminder of the happy day when eleven English pig’s-bladder kickers did better pig’s-bladder kicking than eleven Vikings.

Image of the week: a pig’s bladder, sort of.

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Finding the red thread

When you sign a 2-book deal with a publisher, you can’t just drift, waiting for inspiration to strike. You have to, in effect, industrialise the process – make it controllable and repeatable. This email suggests some techniques for doing just that.

Image of the week: moss – obviously

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Passion, the market, and you

Why you have to write what you love. And why you have to write for the market. And why those things are not in conflict.

Image of the week: mince pies.

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Building it bad to build it right

This subject is a quirky personal favourite of mine. It’s all about terrible sentences that work brilliantly because they’re terrible. It’s not really a subject you need to master as a writer – or ever show any interest in at all – but … well, it tickles me and always has.

Image of the week: a brick wall

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A song from the tightrope

This email started with a single thought, this one: “Creative writers and, really, creators of almost any sort, are often asked to perform their best work without any kind of support.” I’d forgotten it was Friday and bashed that email out quickly and thinking it was probably not much good. The response I got from you lot told me different.

Image of the week: a tightrope, what else?

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Finding Freedom

Another recent favourite that I enjoyed writing & struck a chord with many of you. It’s all about what metaphors are for – in prose rather than poetry – and how you can grope your way to finding the right image at the right time.

Image of the week: Romeo & Juliet

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A jewelled missile

An important idea in this email, I think. It’s about how you can expand your writing by using relatively uncommon – but extremely well-known – words (like ‘jewelled’ and ‘missile’ in fact.) It’s a really easy technique to get your head around and the impact on your writing can be really profound.

Image of the week: a hummingbird

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That’s it from me. Or that’s it from my digital avatar. Me, I’m swimming happily in a sea that is at least several degrees above freezing. When I get back to Oxfordshire, I will find that the combination of sea-swimming and wind-chill will have shrunk me to the size of a field mouse.

Squeak, squeak.

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    • I'm fairly certain that shrinkage to that size is unlikely, even in Devon! Desiccation seems far more likely. Thankfully, like the chicken they import from the EU, rehydration should see you back to fine fettle, though possibly a bit crusty-salty around the edges. . . 

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