Wednesday 23 February 2011

The Next Generation of Freelance Writers

I was invited in to Kingston University the other day by Todd Swift - the Canadian poet - to talk to fifty or so students on the creative writing course. Kingston has a good buzz about it, (I had been there just a few weeks before talking to Alison Baverstock's Publishing MA students).

Todd very kindly cajoles all his students to buy my "Freelance Writer's Handbook" and also encouraged them to line up to have their books signed at the end of the session. Talking to some of them individually got me thinking.

It's been forty years since I was setting out like them, arriving in London straight from school, hoping for pavements of gold and all the rest. Then the freelance writer's world was one of manual typewriters and self-addressed envelopes where now it is all emails and attachments, but in essence it is still a gigantic leap of faith into a life where every morning you wake up not knowing if this is going to be the day your big break finally arrives. No doubt they were hoping that I was going to give them some clue as to what the next forty years of their lives are going to be like, but how different will it be by the time these guys are the ones blathering on to another generation of hopefuls?

The only thing I can promise to those who stick it out is that they are in for some grand adventures.

Saturday 5 February 2011

In Bed with my iPad

Like several million others I received an iPad for Christmas. Although I firmly believe that such appliances are a signpost to the route we will all eventually be travelling, I was very unsure of exactly how this newcomer would fit into my life. I have to tell you, dear reader, it is a relationship of unmitigated bliss.

In our first few weeks together I have dowloaded five books and four of them have brought great joy, (the fifth was a substitute purchase for another on the same subject - Montaigne - which proved to be unavailable for download). With each of the books I have made a spontaneous decision to buy based on a recommendation, a review or simply a whim, and I have been reading the desired texts within minutes of experiencing the initial whims - without any expenditure on petrol, postage or parking fines and with minimal damage to the forests of the world.

The screen literally brings light into my life, making it unnecessary for me to hunt out suitably illuminated corners of the house, (of which there seem to be fewer and fewer as both light bulbs and my eyes seem to grow dimmer), and allow for the turning of pages with the most satisfyingly sensual of caresses. Once we are in bed together we need no other light at all.

The books whose glow I have so far basked in, since you ask, are:

"Room" by Emma Donoghue, which is simply delightful in similar ways to "Stuart a Life Backwards" and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time".

"One Day" by David Nicholls, purchased in order to try to understand why so many people keep telling me its wonderful.

"Life" by Keith Richards - just because - which yielded the unexpected surprise of finding him (or perhaps his co-writer), quoting from a book which I once wrote with someone who was involved with the Stones during their Riviera exile.

"Just Kids" by Patti Smith, telling of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, which is both fascinating and beautifully written.

I understand that these are all commercially successful projects from authors who currently do not need to worry overly about methods of distribution but I am only a few weeks into this relationship and suspect my purchasing decisions will broaden and deepen in time. I am not entirely sure that I would have got round to actually buying any of these books in paper form, certainly not all of them - and that fact makes me feel extremely optimistic about the future for authors of all sorts.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Losing my Skyping Virginity

Having been persuaded to grasp the skyping nettle by Nikola Danaylov, the awesome brain behind the Singularity Weblog, (, I have now done my first intercontinental video interview with him, talking at enormous length, (45 minutes - but don't let that put you off), about my biography of James Martin - "The Change Agent - How to Create a Wonderful World".

The results will not only be on Nikola's website but also on YouTube and iTunes.

So, how brilliant is that? A full scale filmed interview in the form of a conversation between me in England and Nikola in Canada, all completed in time to go through to the kitchen for supper. A perfect, early example of "The Singularity" in action.