Not too late for an advent calendar…

Forget chocolate ones – besides you’ve probably eaten all the chocolate from yours now, even the Christmas eve one. Don’t try and pretend that’s just me…

Nope, the calendar with the mostest this year is the one organised by the amazing 26 Writers’ Collective, with 26 stories/poems/thoughts of 62 words posted daily until 26th December. So even if you’re coming to it now, you can go back and read them all with a sense of wonder and joy.

See. More for your money.

And much more given that the site is collecting for two charities, the Teenage Cancer Trust and It’s Good 2 Give. So you get to read great stories, see the wonderful pictures drawn by those who will benefit from your donations and not have to go on a diet in the New Year from all that chocolate.

What’s not to like?

Here’s where you click.

My little story, The Wobbly Tree, will be up on Christmas Eve.

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On-line Consequences

Nope, not the bad ones. Do you remember that game you used to play when you’d write one line, fold the page to hide what you’d written before passing it on for someone else to add a bit?

Well, the clever folk at Litro are going to be playing a version over Christmas, and asking for us all to join in too. #Litrostory is a collective story told on Twitter by as many writers as possible.

Here’s the information from their email:

The next #Litrostory starts at Friday 20th December and closes at midnight on Monday 6th January 2014. The collective story will then be published on Litro.

#Litrostory will be kicked off by author Wiley Cash, whose new gripping novel This Dark Road to Mercy, Transworld Books, is out in January 2014 and the third title in the Litro Book Club.

How it works

· Litro Book Club novelist Wiley Cash@WileyCash will write the first line of a brand new story on Friday afternoon on Twitter.

· To take part, you just have to add the #Litrostory. Check out the Twitter hashtag #nextline to read the story so far, and add your line, using the same hashtag at the end. You’ll have to be quick, or someone else might get there first!

· You can take the story in any direction you want to, but remember that the aim is to end up with something readable, so please consider the next contributor before going too crazy.

· You can add as many lines as you want to the story, but not consecutively. Please wait for someone else to add the #Litrostory before you add again.

· You can see the compiled story as it goes along on the Litro site – we will be updating a page with the story as it stands daily.

Check the @LitroMagazine Twitter feed, or the #Litro hashtag on Frididay afternoon

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Ten Books That Have Made Me A Writer

There’s a quizzy-thing going round Facebook at the moment where people put up the ten books that made an impact on them, and I was tagged. So I sat down and made a list. I was worried that I would not find ten, or find a hundred, but surprisingly I knew exactly which ones I want to include. It’s a good thing to have done – because I realised that there is a little bit from each of these books in my writerly make up today. I’m rather like this little fellow..

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Here they are:

Elizabeth Goudge – The Little White Horse
Denton Welch – Maiden Voyage
Stella Gibbon – Cold Comfort Farm
Nancy Mitford – Love in a Cold Climate
Alice Duer Miller – Are Women People?
Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary
Patricia Nell Warren – The Front Runner
Toni Morrison – Beloved
Bret Easton Ellis – Less than Zero
Anne Carson – The Beauty of the Husband

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The Shepherd in London … coming to your wireless sets soon

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This is George Donald, a shepherd from Aberdeen who in the 1920′s would bring a flock of sheep from Scotland to graze in the London parks. Not surprisingly they quickly became a tourist attraction, and there were even questions in the House of Commons. ‘Why Scottish sheep? Don’t we have any of our own?’

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And these are children from one of the outdoor schools that became popular at that time. They would learn their lessons, eat, play and even sleep outside. Apparently even in the snow. It was a cure for TB and other breathing related diseases caused by the city pollution of that time.

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And behind the glass in the recording studio is Bill Paterson, as he recorded a story I wrote for BBC Radio 4 about what happened when George Donald (and his sheep) met the children from the outdoor school in 1927!

It’s due to go out on January 26th, following another story about George on the 19th by my writing partner, Jerome Vincent. His is a brilliant one about what happened when the sheep, Selfridge’s Department Store, and Logie Baird all collided on Hyde Park Corner. There are more in the pipeline, we have plans for George!

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The tailor’s hands…

Today was the first meeting of the ‘Southern chapter’ of a new writing and tailoring project, Bespoke(n). More information to come soon – including some opportunities to get yourself some goodies – but in the meantime just look at how fast Nathalie’s hands work…

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A beautiful coat in production:

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Who couldn’t fail to find inspiration here:

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And here’s one of the other writers involved, Viccy Adams, trying out a new editing device:

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The Book Quack will see you now…

I’m feeling very pleased with myself today because a clip from an article I wrote about the advantages of getting lost for Psychologies Magazine was picked as one of the top 100 quotes from their last 100 issues:

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And of course one of the best places to get lost is in books. (I know, sometimes my segues hurt me too..).

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But seriously, nothing beats a word-of-mouth surprise choice you might never have picked out yourself or pulling a book off the shelf and finding it is just what you needed right now.

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So I’m delighted to tell you that the wise Clare Law and I will be at OXFAM BOOKS TUNBRIDGE WELLS (in Chapel Place, Tunbridge Wells) on Sunday 15th December between 2-5pm offering ‘book prescriptions’.

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The idea is that you will come to us and give an idea what you want help with for 2014 (or as a present for a friend, for example) and we will find a book that will surprise, delight or perhaps terrify you.

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Each ‘go’ will cost £5 and all the money will go to Oxfam’s Education Fund, so it really is a win-win situation. And it may just change your life, because you can trust me I’m a book doctor quack.

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But of course if you want a more authoritative guide to bibliotherapy, can I direct you towards The Novel Cure. I’ve just reviewed it for Mslexia magazine, and have to admit I keep dipping into it. The perfect guide for your friendly hypochondriac writer and/or reader! (It does cost more than £5 though, see Clare and I are a BARGAIN.)

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Faking with Amy

I’ve just come back from a day working with students at the University of Kent, thinking about issues of confidence and how they can get the most out of university. One of the things we did was to watch this TED talk by Amy Cuddy – I always love how after watching everyone – including me – sits a bit straighter, takes up a bit more space in the room (although not as much as these guys).

If you haven’t seen it already, it’s definitely worth a look.

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