Monday, 31 October 2016

October Reflections

October is one of my favourite months – golden leaves aplenty, berries bursting, nights drawing in - it’s a magical time of year. This October did not disappoint and was the perfect time to cuddle up and be bookish, creative and cosy. Here’s a few reflections I’d like to share with you…


‘Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.’ -  Albert Einstein

Can you get out into nature this month? In what way can you enrich the moments you have outside this autumn? Whether it’s a few quick snaps of fallen leaves or a walking meditation on a crisp morning, take time to just be in the splendour of nature.


The highlight of my reading this month was Virginia Woolf in Manhatten by Maggie Gee, a wild exploration of what would happen if the Bloomsbury icon returned to us. I particularly loved the way Woolf was explored in terms of her status as a yardstick by which all female writers are measured. There are some comical moments – Woolf bringing back her politically incorrect speak with her from the early twentieth century – as well as some heat breaking ones. Woolf’s sadness over coming back to realise the lives of her loved ones, including her beloved husband Leonard, had to go on after she took her life was particularly poignant. 


This month I’ve been thinking a lot about writing from the point of view of someone completely unlike you. In my case, that’s writing from the perspectives of men and children. What I’ve discovered is, that whilst of course there are quirks and types to explore, at the crux of a character is a motivation, a need. Tapping into the truth of your character sets them free to be who they want you to write.

Focus on…Finding the words

I recently read about a selection of words that are untranslatable in English. My favourites were the Inuit word ‘iktsuarpok’ meaning the feeling of anticipation that makes you look outside when you’re expecting guests, and ‘waldeinsamkeit’, a German word for the feeling of being alone in the woods. It made me think about the power of words as well as their limitations. Appreciate your language by inventing five words to describe those indescribable feelings and phenomena.

Three things to look forward to in November:

1. Making rocky road bites with popping candy and veggie friendly marshmallows to enjoy on bonfire night.
2. Brisk, crisp walks under white, cold skies.
3. Tentatively starting Christmas preparations (!).  

Catch up with October’s Posts:

Six Ways To Enjoy Autumn

What have been your October highlights? Share with me below...

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Are You A Writer?

Question: When are you allowed to call yourself a writer?

When you’ve had a book published?

When you’ve finished a novel?

When you’ve written something through choice, for your own pleasure?

When you’ve written over ten thousand words?

I think we all have our own definition of what constitutes a writer, but there’s something about that term that we associate with grandeur and elitism. It’s no wonder, then, that writers, unpublished and published alike, have trouble awarding themselves with that title.

The reality is that no one gets to decide if you are a writer accept you. An idea might be to start seeing your writing as a calling, rather than a job title or status. When we look at it like that, a different set of criteria come to mind that has nothing to do with publishing contracts, best seller lists or dazzling book prizes. Consider the following questions…

Do you think of the book your writing or possible storylines when you’re in the shower, at work or stuck in queue?

Do you make scribbled notes on napkins, receipts, the back of your hand – unwilling to let a strike of inspiration go to waste?

Do you want to make a little squeal of joy every time you nail the perfect sentence?

Do you feel the world around you melt away when you are in the writing zone?

Do you want to move people? Even if you make only one person smile or cry or scream with your writing, will that mean the world to you?

Does writing keep you balanced and happy to the point you couldn’t imagine life without it?

Do you write even when you don’t want to, even finding time to up your word count on Christmas Day?

Do you know for sure that for every rejection, criticism and bad review you ever get you will continue to write?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then, I think it’s safe to say… you are a writer. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

Happy 1st Birthday!

The Literary Lady has been going for a whole year! Without further ado, cut yourself an enormous slice of birthday cake and settle down to read my ten favourite posts of the last year...

Is there anything you would like to see on The Literary Lady? Leave a comment below… 

Friday, 14 October 2016

Getting Children Into Reading: Part Three - Teens

Imagination doesn’t end when a child turns thirteen so don’t let their bookish adventures end either. My early teens were when I read the least. Books became a school thing rather than a treasured hobby. I didn’t rediscover reading until my mid-teens and when I did I noticed I was more creative, getting better marks for essays and developing the way I thought. Here are a few ways you can get your teens into reading…
  • Encourage and give books that generate discussion. The teenage era is when young adults are deciding who they are. Talking about important issues allows them to explore where they stand. How about trying these for older teens: Never let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.
  • These are fraught years. Match up your teenagers with heroes and heroines they can aspire to and learn from. Whether it be Jane Eyre or Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen or Elizabeth Bennett, an inspiring character can be a source of strength.
  • Recommend books that you love. Recommendations bring a personal connection and a book shared and loved will create a bond.
  • Coming of age books are an ideal choice for this era of transition as they tackle the issues facing young adults like first love, alienation and friendship. Some good ones to start with might be The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
  • Adaptations of classic books offer another way in. Seeing the drama come alive on the screen may give a desire to find it on the page.
  • Keep up with new young adult releases for a diverse selection of books. Have a look here for ideas.
  • At this age, bonding over books can be really easy and a great way to do it is through literary trips together. Find out about book festivals and author talks where you live. You could also research literary landmarks like The Bronte Museum and The Dickens Museum.

Which of these ideas are you going to try? How would recommend getting children into reading? Let me know in the comments below…
Catch up with the previous posts in this series:

Sunday, 9 October 2016

A Literary Alphabet: D is for Diaries

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” - Oscar Wilde

If you saw a diary lying open what would you do? Those personal documents, often made impenetrable and more enticing by little gold padlocks, tantalize us because they offer a private glimpse into an inner world. The act of reading someone’s diary is the ultimate act of literary invasion. And yet, go into a bookshop and the shelves will be full of diaries. Diaries, though strangely performative, are meant to be for the writer’s eyes only so we get a sense of rawness, of intimacy and that makes it compelling.

With this in mind it’s not surprising that authors turn to the confessional form of the diary for their novels. Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller offers a gripping insight into the working of a character’s mind as obsession takes hold. Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle puts an adolescent girl at the centre of the action, negotiating the onset of adulthood and first love in the pages of her journal. Consider how much the nation took Bridget Jones to their hearts after getting to know her through her diary entries. It seems that diaries can hook a reader like nothing else.

How about the real thing? There are plenty of non-fiction diaries to dig into. There is something so powerful about someone writing their life and us getting to read it like it’s a letter to the future. Think of how many people have been able to understand the realities of the Holocaust from Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, or the sociohistorical riches we’ve been able to garner from Samuel Pepys’ diary. What most fascinates me are the diaries of our greatest writers. Virginia Woolf’s diaries can be dipped in and out of for instant inspiration. I love the fact she saw her diary as a way of practising: ‘But what is more to the point is my belief that the habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments.’ The diaries offer an insight into the creative process that can help those of us writing today.

If you don’t keep a diary maybe it’s time to start. Read all about why here.

What are your favourite diaries, both fiction and non-fiction? Let me know in the comment section below… 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Six Ways To Enjoy Autumn

‘No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.’ - John Donne

Autumn is in the midst of its glorious rein. Leaves are falling, candles are glinting and cosy pyjama sets are being adorned. Before it slips away make the most it with these six ways to celebrate autumn. 

1. This is the season of hibernation. Snuggling up with blankets, naps in front of the fireplace…autumn is the time for cosiness. On a rainy, cold afternoon schedule some me time. Don’t forget a hot drink, a crumbly biscuit and something good to read (how about these)

2. Don’t hide inside too much though or you’ll miss out on the beautiful colours outside. Albert Camus said that ‘autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.’ Marvel at the beauties of nature dying back in all its glory. Take a walk and look for the oranges, reds and browns adorning the trees like majestic crowns. 

3. Autumn is like the less commercial, materialistic cousin of winter. In autumn, there is a plethora of inexpensive, childish delights to indulge in. Leaf crunching and kicking, swirling a sparkler on a cold dark night and giving a pumpkin a spooky smile. Spoil your inner child and make it an autumn of fun. 

4. Maybe it’s got something to do with back to school in the autumn term, but this is the season that makes me want to be studious. Learn something new to keep your mind active. Maybe settle down with a thick non-fiction book and be inspired by the lives of people that fascinate you. 

5. If you’re not outside kicking leaves you should be in the kitchen. Cinnamon, treacle, toffee, gingerbread and lots of sugar – these are the main ingredients for an edible autumn well spent. 

6. Whilst autumn is the best season in existence it does come with a few dreary, grey days. The antidote to this is to plan something! A guided ghost tour, a Halloween tea party, a fireworks night, a movie night with giant mugs of hot chocolate… take your pick. 

What’s your favourite thing about autumn? How will you be enjoying it? 

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