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‘Writing is not about youth but about spark’

irishtimes.com – Monday March 27, 2017

I’ve noticed recently that letters to young writers are becoming fashionable, for example, Colum McCann’s forthcoming book. But, in my case, I didn’t get my first story published till I was 30 and my first collection launched till I was 37. I wasn’t so much a late starter as a late knuckle-downer. So, this piece is for the not-so-young writers who should still go for it and make an impact on the world. Here are my pearls of wisdom (hopefully not paste):

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Eight reasons that even a good book is rejected by publishers

scroll.in – Sunday March 26, 2017

Several years ago, as an aspiring novelist with stardust in my eyes, I used to spend most of my waking hours in Yahoo’s Books and Literature chatroom in the company of fellow aspiring writers. I clearly remember how one of the main topics of conversations used to be the number of rejection slips one had received on that particular day (or the previous week), agents/publishers who had requested a synopsis or proposal, and those who had just not bothered to respond. All of us were united by the looming sense of uncertainty, suspense, and the palpable realisation that the odds were firmly stacked against us.

Today, having spent more than seven years on the other side, first as a consultant and then an agent, I think many writers have wrong notions about rejections. While most books are rejected because of poor quality and incompetence (as they should be), there are several other factors that play a role in publishing decisions. And these affect “good” books too.

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The rise of the Irish literary magazine

independent.ie – Tuesday March 21, 2017

A vibrant new wave of Irish literary journals are offering insights into contemporary trends as well as giving new ideas and new writers an audience

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'It's no longer about the vanity press': self-publishing gains respect — and sales

cbc.ca – Sunday March 19, 2017

Vancouver-based author Sharon Rowse was thrilled when after years of trying she finally landed a book deal with a New York publisher. 

"It had always been my dream to be published," Rowse said. 

Her novel, a historical crime story that takes place in her home town, had been "a bit of a hard sell" for the American market. 

But reality poured a big bucket of cold water on her dreams when the publisher was bought out, and its mystery section discontinued. 

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Is writer’s block a real thing, or just a figment of the imagination?

theguardian.com – Friday March 17, 2017

What do you do when you get writer’s block?” someone asked me the other day. I was happy to answer. I get up from my desk and wander around with a self-pitying expression on my face, sometimes clutching at my scalp in an agonised fashion. I buy sour gummy chews and eat too many; I compulsively click “refresh” on Twitter; I start to hate myself, and express it by snapping at others.

On reflection, I see why this response didn’t satisfy my questioner: he wanted to know what I do to overcome writer’s block. I’ve no idea. I keep eating the chews and snapping, and eventually it’s bedtime, and in the morning the block has usually gone. Feel free to try this solution yourself.

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The sums on creative writing degrees don't add up. So why do we do them?

theguardian.com – Monday March 13, 2017

When I tell people I’m doing a creative writing degree there are two questions that people usually ask: the first is “Why?’” and the second, “How?”

The “how” is an interesting place to start. With university course fees rising and incomes for writers falling, the financial outlook of a creative writing degree is at best optimistic, and at worst downright crazy.

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Don’t like the way you write? An artificial intelligence app promises to polish your prose

qz.com – Friday March 10, 2017

I am a professional writer, but I often hate my writing. I wish it was more concise and powerful. And it certainly doesn’t read as smoothly as the work of my literary heroes. Recently, I began to wonder: Could a software program make me better at my job?

The Hemingway App, an online writing editor created in 2013 by brothers Adam and Ben Long, promises to do just that. “Hemingway makes your writing bold and clear,” the site claims, so that “your reader will focus on your message, not your prose.” If you listen to the app’s advice, it will rid your writing of run-on sentences, needless adverbs, passive voice, and opaque words. There’s no guarantee you’ll crank out the next Farewell to Arms—but the goal is to get you closer to Ernest Hemingway’s clear, minimalist style.

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From 'alibi' to 'mauve': what famous writers' most used words say about them

theguardian.com – Friday March 10, 2017

When Ray Bradbury was asked to contribute his favourite word for the 1995 book The Logophile’s Orgy, he chose cinnamon: “The word cinnamon derives, I suppose, from visiting my grandma’s pantry when I was a kid. I loved to read the labels on spice boxes; curries from far places in India and cinnamons from across the world.”

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Writing poetry in the age of Twitter and Facebook: 'there are no answers, only questions'

list.co.uk – Wednesday March 8, 2017

Poet Christodoulos Makris did something very brave for his assignment at StAnza. With the best intentions in mind, he asked people to send him links to 'anything they found interesting on the internet'. The first question I ask him is the obvious one: did you get sent anything, well, dodgy? 'No,' he laughs. 'Just links to things I wouldn't normally have come across.'

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Learning to code can transform your writing, not just your website

thebookseller.com – Tuesday March 7, 2017

I came to coding like a mute. When I went to a conference presenting a new coding language from Google called Go last month, I realised I couldn't understand what was being said. Later I met with Inês Teles, director of London coding bootcamp Founders & Coders, curious to learn how coding could push my own writing project. But I couldn't explain my ideas as my language wouldn't translate into hers.

“What do you want to do with it?” A simple question I was unable to answer. However, I was told that, if you know how to write code, you can pretty much do anything. So I went along and started learning the basics of web development, starting with HTML and CSS. Little did I realise just how much learning code would teach me about language of the other kind.

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