Skip to Content

Comment from the book world in July 2019

July 2019

'Publication is not all it is cracked up to be'

29 July 2019

'I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do - the actual act of writing - turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.'

Anne Lamott, prolific author of 7 novels, including Hard Laughter and Imperfect Birds, several bestselling books of non-fiction and a number of collections of autobiographical essays on faith.

"The perfect word in the perfect place in the perfect time"

22 July 2019

'Poetry is described as heightened speech, as "the perfect word in the perfect place in the perfect time"; the poet Linton Kwesi Johnson says it is "the distillation of human experience through language". It is all these things, but it is also prose that wants to sign, text that operates in the realm of music, where the sound of what is penned entertains as much as its contents.

I write for myself first and foremost, but as I write, I imagine I am speaking to a friend who has just walked in, to whom I'm recounting a story already known, but for whom I am trying to make it worthwhile to listen again. Sometimes the "friend" here is one I have never met, but who I am confident will be cool with me. I write with that assumed familiarity. Sometimes I write song lyrics, sometimes lyric poems, always they are lyrical; and sometimes I write plays.'

Inua Ellams, poet, playwright, author of six poetry pamphlets, including Candy Coated All Stars and Thirteen Fairy Negro Fairy Tales, and seventeen plays, in the Sunday Times Culture

Write from the Inside

15 July 2019

'The best books come from someplace deep inside. You don't write because you want to, but because you have to. Become emotionally involved. If you don't care about your characters, your readers won't either.

Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our well-being. If you're that kind of writer, never give up! If you start a story and it isn't going well, put it aside... You can start as many as you like because you're writing for yourself. With each story you'll learn more. One day it will all come together for you, as it did for me with Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I'd published two books and several short stories before Margaret, but I hadn't found my voice yet. I hadn't written from deep inside. With Margaret I found my voice and my audience...'

Judy Blume, author of Are You there, God? It's Me, Margaret, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Forever, Wifey and 25 other books, which have sold over 85 million copies worldwide, but often been banned. From her column On Writing

'Different voices'

1 July 2019

‘There's been a great democratisation of the world of poetry, In the past, it was seen as only certain kinds of people wrote poems, but now there isn't that same divide. There's all sorts of different forms: spoken-word poetry, Instagram poetry... Poets like Hollie McNish have taken off and are selling lots. But the average poet is not selling lots, that's a bit of a press distortion; poetry is only selling more for these internet sensations. The average poet sells fewer than 200 books. But it is exciting that these different voices are coming into the world of poetry and making it more varied, more various.'

Jackie Kay, Scottish Makar (Poet Laureate) and author of nine books of poetry, including Fiere and The Empathetic Store, as well as fiction and memoirs, in the Observer