What’s in a name?

Names are a funny thing. As I know a lot of teachers, professionally and in my own family, it’s sometimes a topic of conversation – how someone can live up to their name without even knowing it. If you’ve got a Tyler in your class, beware! Emilys will usually be sweet and quiet, at least early on, and then you’ve got the more quirky – I once taught a class that had a Willow and a Branch in it! Of course, there are exceptions, but names are very powerful things – in old stories and ancient mythology, to know someone’s …

In defence of the blockbuster

The Atlantic has an interesting article in defence, really, of Stephen King. Essentially, it says that despite the fact his prose is neither beautiful nor poetic, he writes excellent stories that are worth reading. That’s not exactly full of praise, but I suppose it’s a start: What’s not really arguable, I think, is that such tales are worth writing and worth reading, even if beauty of language and subtlety of characterization get sacrificed along the way. Not all stories have to do the same things. In the original argument over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, the debate was …

Poetry Friday: Marital Visit

Marital Visit The odd thing put away in the wrong place – cups and plates back in the cupboard that I always leave out, curtains open on the street that I always keep drawn, remind me of your recent brief progress through here, looking for something in the attic. How could I forget: butter in the fridge, but never eggs, burnt matches everywhere, in spite of the gas lighter, jam jars soaking in water to get the labels off. How typical of you to give the Chinese teapot a last chance to prove itself in company. And look at that …

Children’s fantasy worlds

This article by the Guardian – Children’s Books Reflect Harsh Reality – has some definitely interesting points to it. It’s been written in response to an article “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: Challenging the Mythology of Home” published in the Journal of Children’s Literature which suggests that instead of coming home to a loving, secure environment – albeit one that’s been temporarily disrupted by evil step-parents, witches or smugglers, that children instead have homes which have problems of abuse, children taking on the parental role, and so on. Parents are either “ineffective, amoral or confusing” or at best “loving but traumatised” …

Ways to Live Forever: Sally Nicholls

Sam is a 12 year old boy with leukemia. He starts writing at home, because he’s too ill to attend school, and starts making lists of questions he wants answered, and of things he wants to do before he dies. He writes in a very honest and open way about his fears, hopes and worries about dying, and what the rest of his family are experiencing. At the same time, though, there’s a depth to it because Sam doesn’t explicitly describe a lot – he ignores his parents’ relationship, his sister’s emotional difficulties and other things he alludes to but …

Rewriting endings

Rewriting stories is always the hardest part for me. Editing your own work is always difficult. Not the proof-reading or checking the spelling – although there, too, it’s always difficult to read what you’ve written instead of what you intended to write – but the fundamental plotline or needing to know a character better (or less!). As a writer, you know a lot more than the reader needs to but communicating it, or holding it back, is a really difficult balance. There are other reasons for rewriting as well, one of which I’m working with at the moment.