Saturday 27 October 2012

The PINK SOFA welcomes Anne E. Johnson

American writer Ann E Johnson
Anne E. Johnson is one of the many great American writers I met through, and then we met again via Facebook. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, playwright Ken Munch. Anne has written non-fiction books for children and has had over 30 short stories published. Her series of sci fi/fantasy trios, Aliens and Weird Stuff are available from Amazon and Smashwords. 
Anne is also the author of the medieval mystery for kids, Trouble at the Scriptorium, the paranormal children's tale Ebenezer's Locker and the noir sci-fi adventure Green Light Delivery.

Anne's paranormal children's novel
The PINK SOFA asked Anne to talk about the difference between the writing life here and in America. This is what she said:

''In America, a writer slaves over a novel, sends it to as many beta readers as are still talking to her, and hears back from half of them. As she's compiling their insightful (and hopefully not too snarky) comments and revising her manuscript, she starts to draft her query letter. She writes a version with a straight-up description of her work. She writes a version with a snappy logline. She tries a version combining both, in hopes of seeming both professsional and hip. She tosses that out and tries several more times.
Anne's sci-fi novel

In America the novelist needs to be prepared with her own blurb and at least two versions of her synopsis. One describes the piece in a couple of paragraphs, and the other tells the story in two pages. It takes forever to reduce the story like this, and it's heart-wrenching to leave out the sparkly details that make the story tick.

In America, it's possible to get published without an agent, but it's nearly impossible to get an advance without an agent. And every month, more publishing companies decide to require an agent. Therefore agents are so overwhelmed by desperate novelists that many claim they don't even have time to send out a form rejection letter. So you're just left hanging.

In America, many publishers that don't require an agent expect an exclusive submission. Yet their response time is typically eight or nine months. In America, when you're lucky enough to land a contract, and you sign it and go out for a celebratory dinner with your significant other, you know that the really hard work is just around the corner. The revisions, the level of editing, the marketing, marketing, marketing. (The PINK SOFA can relate to all this. Oh yes.)

I bet this all sounds familiar, no matter where you are on this earth. But maybe you live in a place where trying to get a novel published is a very different experience. If so, I'm packing my bags and digging out my passport.''

Check Anne out at her website:  She's also on Twitter@AnneEJohnson

Thanks for that, Anne. Reassuring to know that it's no easier in America!! Anne is staying around for a while. Please feel free to sit down, comment and chat. There are some biscuits on the coffee table; help yourself.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Twittering along nicely

And so to Twitter, which I joined in August. Another steep learning curve, as I had previously been very dismissive of it, thanks to the actions of certain 'celebs' who tweeted everything from the contents of their toilet bowl to the contents of their lunch plate.

As a cautious 'fledgling' I decided to join via my laptop - tho' truth is my elderly Nokia Mum-phone' refuses to let me near the internet anyway, so it was rather a default choice. Also, that meant I had to limit my visits to certain times of the day, thus not pandering to the Inner Addict.

Twitter is fun. I am surprised how quickly you can find little groups: I'm a 'member' of the YA Fics: we hang around in a virtual bus shelter and strop. I'm also a member of the distinguished older brigade, all of whom bar me have lovely grandchildren. We tweet about life, philosophy, music, art, (actually we tweet about how knackered we feel most of the time, and how we need drink).

I love the fact that you can tweet to people all over the world. I'm following/being followed by a writer who lives on a boat in Rotterdam, a rider in New Zealand, a lovely Texan writer, and a whole bunch of American Tweeters, for whom I graciously adjust my spelling to help them out.

 I've also had the fun experience of being followed by a couple of male writers who clearly thought I was my Twitter avatar ( I use the ebook cover) and started 'flirting' with me. And, since tweeting about my attempts to get to grips with legal writing, I'm currently being followed by several lawyers. (They laugh; it's not kind).

Yes, Twitter can be annoying - there are those who only use it to push their stuff. But you can always ignore them - principally by not buying their stuff. But once again, I am struck by the niceness of people I've met up with. And I've discovered, serendipitously, some lovely blogs on the way. So, I'd like to give Twitter a 'thumbs-up'. How about you?

Saturday 13 October 2012

A Law Unto Myself .... Reprise

Interesting times at Hedges Towers. Have been writing my legal summary, as I am lay advocate for our upcoming Village Green Public Inquiry in December (see Keeping it Green) and now I know exactly why barristers and those who practice the law are so b****y expensive. Hard work? Tell me about it.

Days 1 & 2: Assembled all the stuff I thought I needed, downloading several very long actual cases, and printing out helpful emails from Open Spaces adviser, and some articles. Went through 5 years worth of files accumulated since I started working on this campaign, extracting bits and pieces that looked interesting. Took everything up to my writing room and arranged it in nice neat logical piles. Was impressed.

Day 3: Began writing. Quickly discovered that arrangement of stuff was not the same as order in which I needed stuff. Nice neat logical piles began to disintegrate into smaller and smaller piles spread over an increasingly wider area. Started to realise that legal writing is not the same as writing fiction. Absence of characters and plot. Also completely different style. Got horribly bogged down in great long sentences that went on and on with small side wanderings at every twist and turn for almost the whole paragraph so that by the time I'd got to the end I'd completely lost the thread of what I intended to say when I started out, rather like I'm doing now.

Day 4: Brain hurt. Seemed to spend ages staring at nothing. Hours passed. Something occasionally got written. Every now and then  totally understood the legal thread I was pursuing. Then it all went opaque and runny at the edges. Smaller and smaller piles became even smaller piles and began to take over every available flat surface. At one point, couldn't locate laptop. Managed to compose a whole paragraph without understanding a single word. The phrase 'upon the balance of probability' now starting to creep relentlessly into everyday conversation. Cat not convinced.

Day 5: Reality fading. Began to have strange fantasies about being a lawyer dressed in a long black gown and curled wig kept in a wig box under the table. Was writing with a quill pen dipped into a wooden inkwell. Sat at a high wooden desk and had a pet raven called Quoth. Unable to cross room without treading on pieces of paper. Not sure if ate anything all day.

Day 6: Can't remember.

Day 7: Conclusion finally reached. Re-read whole thing. Seemed to have more clauses than the lion house at London Zoo, but sounded exactly like the actual cases I'd been using. Probably because had lifted large sections and transplanted them. Printed it all out and placed in boxfile with rest of documents before temptation to edit and do second draft took over.

Day 8: Slept. Ate. Recovered equilibrium. Reconnected with real world.

Day 9: Wrote this post.
The Public Inquiry resulted in a recommendation from the Inspector that the County Council could choose to await the outcome of a similar case, being heard in the Supreme Court in 2014. Sadly, Harpenden Town Council chose to ignore this, used their ''influence'' on their colleagues in the County Council and got my application turned down. However, it is not over until the Mad Redhead sings...and this mad redhead isn't even tuning up.

I am currently up for Blogger of the Year 2014: If you would like to vote for me (or indeed any of the other bloggers) please go to:

Saturday 6 October 2012

The Pink Sofa welcomes Gilli Allan

Gilli Allan is one of the many lovely writers I have met online. Since starting my blog in May, I have been using Social Media to publicize my books and E-book. Gilli and I are Facebook friends and Tweet to each other. Gilli has recently had a new novel, Torn published. The Pink Sofa wanted to ask her about it, and about her writing experience. 


Firstly, Gilli, what sort of books do you write?
My books are contemporary. They always have a love story at their core, but they're unconventional. I'd like to create a new sub-genre - but what to call it? Maybe romance with the edges left on?

What kick-started your writing care
I suspect I've always been a writer. When I was young, developed long and complex stories in my head, peopled with fairies, princesses and the sons and daughters of red-Indian chieftains. I left school at 16 with just enough exam passes to get me into art college. It was when I stopped work to look after my young son that I started writing seriously.

What were your favourite childhood books?

 I was slow to get the hang of reading. The light bulb moment didn't happen for me until I was around seven. I still remember the feeling of awe and excitement on unwrapping Heidi by Johanna Spyri on my eighth birthday. Other than that, my main reading were fairy stories and stories of myth and magic.We had a Hans Anderson collection as well as aan old and bulky book of the brothers Grimm stories, and I endlessly read stories about Gods and Goddesses, from the Greeks through the Romans to the Norse legends.

Talk about your writing process. 
When I first started writing, I began in January, had reached final draft by the end of the year and started the next book the following January. But then we moved, my publisher shut up shop, and life changed. I felt bereaved and abandoned in a place where I knew no one, and without the comfort blanket of a publisher. The idea of starting a new book became more and more resistable.  What I have to do now is just sit sit down at he computer and start. It's a type of approach aptly described 'as into the mist'. (The Pink Sofa does this, all the time, but calls it 'winging it')

What do you find challenging about the writing process?
I am not one of those writers who are bubbling geysers of plots and new ideas. In fact I've described starting a book as like carving a block of granite with a teaspoon. Fortunately once I have persuaded myself to sit down and START SOMETHING NEW, it will usually come alive for me. That's what makes writing worthwhile - when the story catches fire and races off with you. That's also when you have to be disciplined about the other things in life, like getting dressed, and doing the shopping, the washing, and the ironing.

What was your worst writing experience?
My publisher going bust was pretty horrible! But I think it was the particular morning a thick heavy envelope plopped onto the mat. I picked it up and tore it open. I stared at the top page, unable to make sense of it. It seemed familiar. Suddenly I realised I was looking at my own letter. The rest of the material was the three chapters I'd sent. There was no letter from the agent. Not even a compliments slip. Scrawled across the bottom of my own submission letter were 3 words - unsigned: 'Not for us'.

Oooh, nasty! But now you have a new book, 'Torn' ? Talk about that.
Jessica Avery is a woman in her early thirties with a three year old son, Rory. She has made a series of wrong choices in her life -job, men and life-style. Her choice now is to live a steady, responsible life in a tranquil new environment, putting he son's needs as her number one priority. 

But then her ex partner tracks her down, as an incomer, she is not made welcome by the local mothers and she begins to wonder if leaving London was the right move. The title Torn can be understood as referring to the personal choices which confront Jessica, in life and men and priorities. My one line summary is: You can escape your old life, but can you ever escape yourself?

And the next book? 
Hard question. Except to say that I am drawn to the theme of: Time Team meets Educating Rita. Whether the completed story will be able to be described in this way is another matter!

Thanks Gilli - The Pink Sofa has loved having you as a guest - feel free to hang around. I'm sure there are some more visitors about to arrive:

Gilli's books can be found at: ISBN=9781458003409  B004U36DIG

Contact Gilli:   @gilliallan