Man Booker Prize 2015 and Penelope Fitzgerald

down by the river

down by the river

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction shortlist 2015 was announced last week. See the list here: http://themanbookerprize.com/man-booker-prize-2015.

If you work in publishing or at a bookshop you will already know about the shortlist and have seen tables piled up with the six shortlisted books. For everyone else, it depends on whether you read books and if you do how much you know or care about big literary prizes. I’ll assume you have a passing interest…

The Booker (no one I know would call it the ‘Man Booker’ as the ‘Man’ sponsor was only added in 2002) is seen as equivalent to the Oscars in terms of sales and prestige. Despite this the prize has always been followed by controversy, which I would suggest is the same with the Oscars. Booker judges have been accused of choosing a bad winner, having a conflict of interests (e.g. being in a relationship with an author?) or always choosing men (since the prize started in 1969, 30 men and 16 women have won the prize). It’s probably getting better as Hilary Mantel has won twice!

I have to admit that I haven’t read loads of the Booker Prize novels, but one that I have read is the 1978 winner, Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald. It’s set in the 1960’s and is about a group of people living in riverboats on the Thames. The selection of Fitzgerald’s book as a Booker winner was criticised at the time as the novel is fairly short and the story is concentrated on domestic issues like family life, relationships, outsiders and how poverty can decide whether you sink or swim. I found it wonderful, a great evocation of the times and often very funny. I also love the fact it’s partially based on her own life with her two young daughters on a barge that sank!

Offshore bookcover

Penelope was also very inspiring as she didn’t start writing novels until she was sixty. More on Penelope here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/nov/17/penelope-fitzgerald-biography-hermione-lee

Enid Marx – Queen of the Mocquette

Enid Marx double-diamond design for London Transport 1937

Enid Marx double-diamond design 1937

When I think of the name ‘Marx’ two things come to mind – The Marx Brothers and Karl Marx. Both are interesting in their own ways, but I had never heard of Enid Marx (1902-1998) until we visited the Compton Verney Art Gallery in the summer holidays. She was an English painter, designer, children’s book writer and, yes, a distant cousin of Karl Marx. Her work is wonderful and inspiring. She did lots of printing and had a passion for patterns. I love the fact that she designed the seat covers (mocquette fabric) for London buses and tube trains in 1930’s.

The photo at the top of this post is an example of one of her seat cover designs from The London Transport shop: http://www.ltmuseumshop.co.uk/moquette/availability.html

If you want to know more about the wonderful Enid look at the Independent newspaper obituary http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/obituary-enid-marx-1158447.html and check out the Compton Verney Art Gallery website http://www.comptonverney.org.uk/collections/marx_lambert.aspx

Anyone who has ever used the London Underground and been charmed (or otherwise) by the patterns on their seats will know the names of different stations conjure up ideas and stories, even if you never actually get off at that station. TubeFlash is an interesting website based on flash fiction for different London stations. You can submit your own 300 word story (check the conditions first) or just read some of the ones already published on http://www.tubeflash.co.uk/ It’s a fun project.

Other writing news:

Very pleased to report that Words and Women, who support women writers living and working in East Anglia, have lauched their annual prose competition today! http://wordsandwomennorwich.blogspot.co.uk/p/competitions_11.html

Closing date for entries is 15 November so better get writing…

September is ‘Back to School’

left on our street

left on our street

Vivian Maier worked as a nanny in America, but her real work was photography. She took photographs everywhere (often when walking the children she was looking after) and kept the negatives. She had a few printed, but never made money from her photography. Which is a shame as after her death her negatives were discovered, printed up and displayed. Now her work is hailed as wonderful examples of street photography and reportage on the everyday and the overlooked.­ Check her out on: http://www.vivianmaier.com/

For writers I think her photographs are so interesting and evocative they beg for a story to be written about them! I will definitely be looking at them for inspiration for my next competition story: http://www.commonwealthwriters.org/our-projects/the-short-story/ The Commonwealth Writers Short Story Competition is always good and FREE to enter.

As we’re now in September, it really is ‘back to school’ in concentrating on writing projects. Always have to be working on something!

Blogging

Hello and welcome to my new blog! It’s about writing. Mainly creative writing and mine, but other types and authors are welcome too.

From my extensive research (via internet searches and things other people have told me) blogging can be a useful and fun activity. Good. However, setting up a blog is tricky and difficult if you’re over ten and don’t have a blog adviser strapped on your shoulder. As I am clearly not ten and don’t have any extra people attached to my person I am winging it. With faulty wings. This, I would suggest, is the natural state of any writer. You have an idea and then anything can happen.

To help things along I’d added a few links on the left side bar as examples of my writing. Hope you enjoy them!