My next project is to transfer my novel and shorts stories on to Kindle. I laughingly thought that I would have achieved formatting Gene Genie by the end of May. But then I didn’t factor in the raft of issues that get dumped on me as a lone parent, friend and de facto counsellor. I really should learn to be a bad listener; I know lots of people who are, so there are models out there that I could learn from. The trouble is as a writer one is naturally a good listener, it goes with the territory; all those nuggets of character and morsels of plot are contained within the sagas of our companions. As the youngest of four children I had a very low profile in my family and listening was a skill that I developed from the cradle. I worked out last week that if I take into account the friends whose lives are in more of a muddle than my own and who telephone me on a regular basis, I can lose a full day’s work out of every working week. Of course I should employ the MPs' tactic of the fifteen minute slot. When I was researching Gene Genie I spent a day with my local MP and found that he had an excellent method for truncating meetings. He allocated fifteen minutes after that he said, they just repeat themselves. When time was up an assistant popped his head around the door and announced that his taxi was waiting – there was no taxi. You can’t quite do that with friends, they would soon cotton on and you wouldn't have any left, and I do like my friends. They support me, I support them, that’s how it works friendship.
Interruptions have got even worse since I got a Blackberry, it buzzes and bleeps when emails and text messages come in and I really need to learn how to silence it, but that will require a patronising conversation with my offspring, who cautioned against my upgrading my mobile on the basis that I would not know how to use it and I don’t want to confirm their low opinion of my technological skills. According to Carl Wilkinson in the Telegraph review September 1st, Nick Hornby, Dave Eggers and Zadie Smith are struggling with Internet-addiction. In the article Will Self describes how he writes his first draft on a typewriter and has done so since 2002/3 he felt ‘oppressed by the digital distractions’. Imagine…no cut and paste! I am not a ‘digital native’ as Ned Beauman describes himself in the article – he was born in 1985 and so has spent his life surrounded by digital technology. Whereas I remember the television being delivered when I was five years old and the telephone being a party line shared with the neighbours two doors away, if you picked up the handset stealthily you could listen in on their conversation and I did. That is, until Mrs Tuttle on the local switchboard caught you and insisted that you hang up, mind you that meant that she was listening in too! Mrs Tuttle knew everything. The nearest thing I had to technology in my childhood was Etch and Sketch and a WWII Morse code set that was rigged up between the dens and no, I am not as old a Methuselah.
Apparently (Carl Wilkinson the Telegraph) you can download Freedom© and Selfcontrol© computer applications that increase your productivity by blocking the Internet. Has it come to this? The irony of downloading an application entitled Selfcontrol© is not lost on me. My internet addiction is Rightmove, you can lose a good hour there happily fantasising about your dream home and indie home wares and clothing websites like Etsy, Toast, Pedlars and Labour and Wait, along with designers like Ally Capelino and Margaret Howell, are also regulars that I visit although I generally manage to restrain myself until the evening. Computer repair geeks have mentioned my extensive website favourites list ‘unparalleled’ was the term one of them used; at the time I took it as a compliment after all, I am passionate about my research.
While I don’t feel the need to download an application to manage my distractions, I have taken action and turned the volume off on the answerphone, this at least prevents me from hearing the messages until the days end. Now I need to consign the Blackberry to the ground floor – my office is on the third – where I won’t hear the buzzing and bleeping, I could turn it off but that seems rather drastic given that I got it in order to stay in touch. The solution for the de facto counselling might be to get my girlfriends together to précis their current dramas and let them co-council on a regular basis. My new tactic with the answerphone has already paid off, by the end of next week I should have made significant progress and Gene Genie will be coming to a Kindle near you in the not too distant future - so watch this space.
In the meantime can I recommend a delightful book of poems for children by George Szirtes.
In The Land Of The Giants is published by SALT and sells for £6.99 at the delightful Bookhive in Norwich and at other good book shops. It’s a gem of a book with wonderful illustrations by his daughter Helen, illustrations that she made as a young child.
More writer news of Amanda Addison’s novel. Newton Compton, Amanda’s Italian publishers have made a wonderful book trailer complete with vintage music to help launch the Italian version of Laura's Handmade Life. To see the Italian title and the cover too just click on the link below. http://www.amandaaddison.com/news.html
And don’t miss Elspeth Barker’s launch of Dog Days Thursday Oct 11th 6.30pm at the Bookhive, London Street, Norwich.
Please go to the shorts and images page for this month’s writing task.