Category Archives: Literary News

Are you ready to blog?

The CIBAS ‘Blogging for Success’ event on Tuesday evening attracted a mixed crowd of people some already bloggers, some thinking about it and some who may well have gone away with itchy fingers for the keyboard.

The speakers were Alison Baverstock, a publisher, trainer and writer on all aspects of publishing and marketing, and Yemisi Blake an active creative writer, blogger, poet and photographer.

Alison started with a brief history of how blogging evolved and then moved on to explain its relevance and usefulness for the creative writer.

She explained the advantages of blogging, who could benefit and how it might enhance and fuel a creative writing talent. For newer writers, it can be simply a matter of starting, then keeping up the practice and discipline of writing something regularly. For other already published writers it can be a means to keep in the public eye between actual publications.

Alison suggested that would-be bloggers should consider a number of points before starting – such as whether they had the time and energy to maintain such a project, and more importantly to decide and define exactly what the blog is intended to achieve, how personal it will be.

On the downside, Alison mentioned legal issues – be careful because you are not immune from libel and copyright issue just because you are online and not in print. It can help to draft posts offline, check facts, names and links and ask permission before quoting more than very brief extracts from other people’s work.

Her advice was to read other blogs before starting your own and suggested a few – see links at the end of the post. Another technique is to comment on other people’s blogs and also to try to get yourself involved in multi-contributor blog projects.

Yemisi Blake’s slant on blogging, was rather more technical, discussing the ‘how’ rather than the ‘why and why nots’ of blogging. We were introduced to the places online that can host your blog free or the options you have if you wish to pay for a domain and web hosting.

Yemisi showed on screen, how easy it was to set up a blog on the free site WordPress.com and how he had constructed his blog, with static pages as well as the active posts. Yemisi’s blog is a little different from what you can do with WordPress.com as it is on his own webspace and this gives him far more options in terms of construction and layout.

He also mentioned the ‘microblogging sites’ Twitter and Jaiku – micro in the sense that your posts are short messages, in the case of Twitter just 140 characters. Rather than use the shortened words you might use in an SMS text, it can encourage creativity and good use of language by forcing you to be concise and create an impact while still using complete words.

Both speakers talked about how to get your blog noticed via:

  • a signature line on all your emails and forum posts
  • word of mouth – don’t be shy, tell all your friends
  • commenting on other blogs, leaving a link to your own
  • putting tags on blog posts which will be picked up by Google and other search engines
  • letting other people blog about you

There was a chance for audience members to ask questions and to comment on what the speakers said, and handouts were available to help people get started.

I am putting together a resource sheet which will be downloadable here and will contain links to the information handed out and also some of the blogs that our speakers recommended reading. Please bookmark this post and come back in a day or two, ask questions and comment if you wish.

What is a Poetry Slam?

BBC Radio 4 introduces COMPETITIVE poetry tonight (Thursday 24th September) at 11pm. A high octane content is guaranteed, with marks awarded for content, delivery and audience response.

A selection of modern poets will perform their work live for the judges during the first of a 3 part series. We pick up the competition at the semi-final stage.

Competititors from around the country have already performed and have won or been eliminated in heats at Exeter,  Edinburgh, Birmingham, Belfast, Brighton, Newport, Newcastle, Manchester and London, with two performers from each heat getting through to the semi-finals.

This first program comes from Bluecoats in Liverpool and is hosted by poetry performer Dreadlockalien.

Next week’s second semi-final comes from the Arts Centre in Reading and the final at the Conservatoire in Birmingham on Tuesday 6th October at 7pm, appropriately on National Poetry Day.

For free tickets for the recording of the Poetry Slam final,, please visit the Birmingham Book Festival website or ring 0121 303 2323.

Programmes will be available on BBC Iplayer/Listen again after transmission.

The Brown Phenomena

I may be one of the first in Havant to own a copy of ‘The Lost Symbol’, but I don’t have it in my hands yet and won’t for another 24 hours at least, so this isn’t a review. I bought it online as soon as it appeared on the Amazon website in the dark hours after midnight.

I’m more interested in why Dan Brown has become so successful when so many people denounce his books as badly written and even as outright heresy.

In an article in the Mail on Sunday, Brown says he was already writing ‘The Lost Symbol’ as ‘The Da Vinci Code’ was released and was unprepared for the success and the controversy. He also said that having been raised Episcopalian and very religious as a child, he then began to question the more fundamentalist ideas about creation.

I came to ‘The Da Vinci Code’ already a committed pagan so the idea of the sacred feminine was nothing new. I had read ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ some years before and hunted through boxes of books to find and re-read it. My Dad was a  Mason and it held a fascination for me and also an irritation that it was closed to women and even anti-feminine.

‘The Da Vinci Code’ also appealed to the conspiracy theorist in me – I was deeply into ‘X-Files’ at the time. It was a book I couldn’t put down till I’d finished it, but I also realised that it was going to be hated and reviled by some Christians.

I subsequently also read ‘Angels and Demons’ which I found to be a weaker and less believable plot and not so well-written. I enjoyed ‘Digital Fortress’ far more because I understood from an IT standpoint that such a plot was scarily plausible.

Christian organisations around the world have condemned Dan Brown and ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and a few have tried to ban it – well book-burning never was a good idea and inevitably increases sales elsewhere. Reportedly, the South Korean church tried and failed to launch a legal challenge against the film being shown in the country.

What really annoyed me is that many of the critics appeared not to have actually READ the book or seen the film at all, only reviews and summaries. I hope would-be critics will at least take the time to read ‘The Lost Symbol’ in full before they speak out.

Brown has been very clever; the personal doubts and theories that he had about religion and the Bible might have been put into a non-fictional book and his thoughts and ideas may quite possibly sunk without trace. Or, the result would have been too close to ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ to survive the lawsuits for plagiarism.

By ascribing the ideas and theories to the fictional character of Robert Langdon, he has gained himself a far wider audience and the legal challenge from Baigent and Leigh brought even more publicity for himself and the book.

I’ll be sitting and watching for the postman to deliver me my copy of ‘The Lost Symbol’ tomorrow and have abandoned any other plans for the day. Weather forecast says rain, so sitting indoors with a book will be just fine.

Do I believe that there is a Vatican conspiracy to conceal ancient writings that might destroy Christianity?  Well I don’t totally rule it out…

Man Booker Prize 2009 Nominees

The six nominees for the Man Booker Prize for 2009 were announced this evening on the BBC Radio 4 arts review programme Front Row, by  broadcaster James Naughtie who is the chairman of the judging panel.

Here are the nominees and their books

A.S. Byatt – The Children’s Book

J.M Coetzee – Summertime

Adam Foulds – The Quickening Maze

Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall

Simon Mawer – The Glass Room

Sarah Waters – The Little Stranger

The winner will be announced on Tuesday 6th October

 Read more about the authors and summaries of the books, on the Man Booker website