Bloody Scotland? Bloody Good!

It was my first time at the Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival, held in the beautiful ancient Scottish capital of Stirling, and what a festival it was, in its tenth anniversary year and its first full reincarnation since the start of the Covid pandemic. Thus far, I’ve attended literary festivals mostly as an avid reader, occasionally as a ‘correspondent’ for Crime Fiction Lover, but this time I was also there as a publisher, Corylus Books, since one of our Icelandic authors, √ďskar Gu√įmundsson, had been invited to join the panel Fair Cops and Foul.

But before I describe the panels I attended, including of course our ‘own’, I should describe two hugely embarrassing moments.

The first is that Oskar’s book The Commandments had not arrived (Waterstones is still experiencing supply problems with their changed software), so people had to make do with getting the bookmarks signed instead (and hopefully buying the book online afterwards). Lesson learnt: next time I will carry books to any event in my own suitcase, just to be sure, injured arm or no injured arm.

The second is that I had never met Oskar in person, so I only had his author photo to guide me. I ended up that first day approaching all the tall men with white hair and asking: ‘Are you Oskar?’ I must have become so notorious and obnoxious that when a group of people met Oskar in the bar later, they immediately said: ‘Ah, you’re the Oskar that woman kept looking for!’

This was the Oskar I was looking for – and someone brought their own copy of The Commandments from home to get it signed, so at least I saw ONE copy!

Filthy Rich: Jo Spain, Ellery Lloyd and Julie Mayhew

I came late to this panel on Friday, because of my missing book woes, so imagine my surprise when I walked in and I saw four people rather than the three that I was expecting and Steph Broadribb on the panel, whom I wasn’t expecting! I very nearly thought I had gone to the wrong event. It turns out that Steph was replacing Julie at the last minute, and that Ellery Lloyd is a husband and wife writing team. They didn’t talk that much about the rich and privileged (at least not the second half of the session, which was all I managed to catch), but I did get quite envious hearing about the way that the writing duo worked together, brainstorming plot points and each one writing one of the different POVs in the book.

Truth and Lies: Lisa Unger, Ruth Ware, Jane Casey

This was one of the best panels I’ve attended in recent memory, moderated in such a supportive and fun way by Jacky Collins of Dr Noir fame. The three authors clearly enjoyed each other’s work and built upon each other’s answers. A good discussion was had about strong heroines having to overcome the often peculiar challenges of the modern world: cyberstalkers, online dating, running away and creating a new identity etc. I enjoyed it all so much that I bought their books immediately afterwards and got them signed: clearly, I am the ideal target audience of such festivals.

Vaseem and Abir’s Red Hot Night of a Million Games

Mick Herron, Helen Fitzgerald and Luca Veste facing the barrage of questions from Vaseem Khan.

Vaseem Khan and Abir Mukherjee are not only very talented (and likeable and mischievous) writers and excellent podcasters, they clearly are destined to become spectacular gameshow hosts (out-Osmaning Richard Osman in reverse?). They somehow managed to persuade or coerce six crime writers to be on their quiz show. They were such good sports, miming, singing, acting, answering questions and occasionally simply collapsing in helpless giggles, as we all did in the audience.

Martyn Waites as Hannibal Lector, CL Taylor as a librarian and Elly Griffiths as (obviously!) Boris Johnson.

Cosy Makes a Comeback: Martin Edwards, Jonathan Whitelaw, SJ Bennett

Martin Edwards is not only a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Golden Age crime (he is also the consultant to the British Library Classic Crime series), but also a prolific crime writer himself, but he is not very keen on the term ‘cosy crime’. Ultimately, the subjects are all quite dark (murder, punishment, despair), and there is quite a bit of variety within the genre itself. Although the panel argued that cosy crime never really went away, it is currently experiencing even more of a boom, perhaps as a result of the beautiful British Library series, or the new attempts at cosy crime of Richard Osman, Rev Coles and others. In fact, Jonathan Whitelaw said he deliberately chose to write in this style with his Bingo Hall Detective, featuring a son-in-law and mother-in-law detecting duo, because of Osman’s success. Meanwhile, SJ Bennet, who writes a series featuring the Queen as an amateur detective, managed to escape the obvious question: will she continue writing this series now that the Queen is dead?

Moderated by the new MC Beaton, RW Green.

Fair Cops and Foul: Mari Hannah, √ďskar Gu√įmundsson and James Oswald

We missed the Scotland/England football match, sadly, but it was worth it for this thoughtful and entertaining panel, ably moderated by artist and journalist Frankie Burr. The trio talked about a sense of social justice and other common sensibilities in Scotland, Northern England and Scandinavia, about portraying strong, stubborn women in their fiction, and whether they feel like police apologists after some recent events.

But there is so much more to Bloody Scotland than just the panels – although I did feel that they were particularly well chosen and carefully put together (I have attended some fairly random ones at other crime festivals in the past). There is the football match (Scotland won 6-4 this year, and both sides the bruises to show for it the next day), the Torch Procession (which I didn’t catch this year, as it was on Thursday night), music and whisky love at the Curly Coo bar (some surprisingly talented musicians among the crime writers). And, of course, the beautiful setting of Stirling itself. Well worth spending a few extra days!

The view from the castle.

The St Rude Kirkyard from the other side of the castle.

Robert the Bruce statute in front of the castle. By way of contrast, the Rob Roy statue near the Albert Halls was awful – looked like he had a nasty skin condition.

Above all, I enjoyed meeting old friends and making new ones.

With Ayo Onatade of Shotsmag.

With Dr Noir Jacky Collins

With Marcia of Lizzy Siddal blog fame, who kindly took many of the pictures I have included here today.

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that, unless you are a huge publisher who can spend massive amounts of marketing money, or a celebrity author, the only way to raise your profile within the crime fiction community is by word of mouth and by attending these kind of events and networking. You may well see me next at Capital Crime and Iceland Noir!

Incoming Books and Their Sources (6)

I thought I had the perfect excuse for justifying the vast amount of books that recently joined my household: it’s two months’ worth of incomings. But actually, it’s more like 6 weeks. Time to hit the pause button, I think, especially with the cost of everything going up so much and me contemplating a more part-time role (i.e. lower pay) so that I have more time to write, translate and promote Corylus. In the meantime, however, it’s been inspiration (or greed) galore. And, if I’m honest, book addiction is my way of escaping from all the anxiety that the current news cycle provokes in me.

From blogs and podcasts

I’m naming the culprits here (my daily walks while listening to podcasts are proving terribly injurious to my bank balance):

  • Backlisted Pod: for O Caledonia (mentioned in passing) and Stephen Sondheim (a full episode)
  • Slightly Foxed for Red Comet (full episode with biographer), although I vowed I had enough books about and by Sylvia Plath
  • Late to It for Hilma Wolitzer (although not this particular book) and Kirsty Gunn’s Infidelities
  • Book reviews by favourite bloggers such as Jacqui and Susana (who read it in the original Portuguese of course) and in Asymptote Journal for Empty Wardrobes
  • Dorian Stuber and his guest Niccie Panetta for the 2021 books of the year round-up which included Blue Remembered Hills and Olga Zilbergourg for mentioning The Man Between about legendary translator Michael Henry Heim.
Sent by the publisher

Someone at Penguin Classics heard my boisterous declarations of love for Mishima’s work, for which I am profoundly grateful. Meanwhile, Clare O’Dea is a Switzerland-based expat writer whom I briefly encountered at Geneva Writers Group and she asked her publisher to send me this fictional account of the very recent (1959) Swiss referendum about women’s suffrage. Finally, I’d been a keen reader of Daniel Hahn’s diary of translating Damiela Elit’s Never Did the Fire for Charco Press, and commented on some of his blog posts, so was kindly sent a copy of the final diary published in book form.

Book clubs and discussions with friends

I have several books of poetry and prose by my friend and fellow Romanian writer who writes in English, Carmen Bugan, but realised that I did not have this collected version of her poems. I had been covetously eyeing Hannah Lowe’s The Kids and finally got the nudge to buy it after it won the Costa Award. I can’t remember exactly whom I had a conversation with on Twitter about the Bloomsbury Group, but I thought it was high time I read Angelica Garnett’s memoir, which puts them all in a less golden light. Meander Spiral Explode has been recommended to me for its exploration of the writing craft for those who are no longer content with the Three Act or linear structure. Finally, for our London Reads the World Book Club in March, we will be reading a Romanian book at last and it’s one of my favourite writers, Mihail Sebastian. I thought it might be helpful to have the English translation to hand, rather than rely solely on the Romanian version I have, and I might end up having OPINIONS about the translation.

From the library

I’ve heard so many good things about this memoir of living with disability A Still Life, shortlisted for the Barbellion Prize, and I’ve been on the waiting list for it at the library for ages. When I finally went to pick up my reservation, I came across this collection of short stories by Dostoevsky and I’ve never been able to ignore anything by him, even when he infuriates me.

Spontaneous purchases

I happened to be in the lovely Marlow Bookshop in real life, and was intrigued about Gail Simmons’ journey across the Chiltern Hills, which recreates Robert Louis Stevenson’s three-day journey across the same landscape nearly 150 years earlier. With HS2 speed railway threatening to destroy this landscape forever, it’s an attempt to capture a place and time before it disappears. I also picked up a British Library anthology there, because crime fiction and books are an irresistible combination. The quest to diversity my bookcase continues with the academic study of London as a migrant city, a science-fiction take on office life by Chinese American author Ling Ma, and two crime novels by Adam Macqueen introducing Tommy Wildeblood, rent boy turned sleuth, against a backdrop of London’s recent history (1970s-80s).

Catnip topics

Communist dictatorships in the former East Bloc countries and the United Nations (or other international organisations) are very triggering for me: in other words, as soon as I see or hear something about these topics, my online buying finger gets activated. The Stasi Poetry Circle is the true story of an attempt to set up a ‘propaganda poetry writing group’ in the German Democratic Republic. As for Romain Gary’s book: as I mentioned in the blog post about Frank Moorhouse’s book, it is a satire about the United Nations (thank you, Emma, for first drawing my attention to it), which Gary initially published under a pseudonym. I managed to find it second-hand on a French website and it got here relatively quickly.

An afterthought

Last, but not least, an online conversation with the same Emma as above, following her brilliant review of the Marseille Trilogy reminded me how much I love Jean-Claude Izzo and how difficult his books are to find over here. But lo and behold, a quick online search produced these two at reasonable prices. They’re both set mainly in Marseille too.

My Favourite Moments in Lyon

I’ve written a pretty exhaustive report on the panels and encounters with writers (including quotes) for Crime Fiction Lover, so I won’t repeat myself here. Let me tell you instead some of my personal highlights.

Profile21) Max Cabanes

A few of you have noticed and complimented me on my new Avatar on Twitter. This is a very idealised portrait of myself drawn by Max Cabanes, one of the foremost artists of¬†bandes dessin√©es (graphic novels or comic strips, hugely popular in the French-speaking world but with no perfect equivalent in the rest of the world), winner of the most prestigious prize in the field, the Grand Prix du Festival d’Angoul√™me in 1990,¬†and a contributor to¬†Charlie Hebdo.¬†I had already bought his latest work, the adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s¬†Fatale¬†(I had dithered previously¬†over whether to buy this or the collected works of Manchette¬†… ended up getting both for myself for Christmas).

LyonVenue5However, I stupidly forgot it at home, right next to where I’d packed my suitcase, so I couldn’t get him to sign it (and BD artists always draw something when they give their autographs). So I kept walking up and down in the very busy main hall, trying to find a solution (they had none of Cabanes’ other volumes). Finally, I bought another copy and explained the whole dilemma to him. He was so lovely and chatty, we ended up talking for 20 minutes or so. He went to Paris initially to become a ‘serious’ artist and sculptor, claimed he wouldn’t sell his soul to BD, until he discovered he loved telling stories… and that it helped pay the bills much more effectively. He did admit that it was much more difficult for young artists today to break into the field and make a living out of it (and he had advice for my older son, who likes writing and drawing his own BD).

Fatale1Finally, although I knew that it takes at least a year to produce a normal sized graphic novel, I was stunned to discover just how long it took Cabanes to adapt Fatale – nearly 3 years! That’s because he is meticulous about his research, every little detail has to be perfect, and, even though Manchette is very cinematic in his writing, you still have to select the best ‘moments’ to illustrate. So, worth every euro, I think! He also told me he is reviewing his reworking of ‘Princess du sang’ by Manchette and will have a beautiful re-edited version published in autumn.

Meanwhile, I have a spare copy of¬†Fatale¬†to give away, so let me know if you read French and have a hankering for it…

2) Informal Encounters with Humans

Meeting some of the big names of literature can be an intimidating experience, especially when you are just one of the hundreds who are assaulting them at such events. Plus, I have the tendency to get uncharacteristically tongue-tied and shy (afraid I can’t think of anything intelligent to say, something they haven’t heard thousands of times before). So it really helps when you bump into them informally or somehow manage to catch them at a time when they are not being jostled into place for their next panel or signing. [It must be very tiring for them, to be honest, as the timing is very tight and you have to run from one venue to the next.]

NicciFrenchMost crime writers I’ve met are delightfully unpretentious, warm human beings. I gushed to Sean French and Nicci Gerrard (of Nicci French fame) that I’ve been a huge fan ever since I heard them speak about the Moomins and the Martin Beck series at the Henley Literary Festival 6 years ago and congratulated Nicci on her brilliant initiative to allow family of dementia patients improved access to NHS hospitals.

StanleyLockeYou have to balance this, however, with the danger of being considered a stalker. I happened to come across Attica Locke powdering her nose and was not sure if I should approach or not. I’m glad I did, though, because she is funny, down-to-earth and politically engaged. She was signing books next to one half of Michael Stanley – namely Stanley Trollip – from South Africa (of Inspector Kubu fame) and you couldn’t have asked for nicer neighbours at the table. Stanley explained the very collaborative writing process with Michael Sears as ‘like an old married couple, we may bicker but we haven’t got divorced yet’. A bit like Kubu and his wife Joy, then!

LouisePennyAlongside personal hero(ines) such as Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Val McDermid and Sylvie Granotier, I also got to meet Louise Penny.  I only discovered her series about Quebecois inspector Armand Gamache 2 years ago (thanks to Margot Kinberg), but she has become one of my favourite authors with her inimitable blend of cosy location, unforgettable characters, cracking plots and profound questions about the human condition, personal relationships and the nature of beauty and creation. She is so gracious, beautiful and generous: I want to be like her when I grow up!

LyonSpring23) Online Friends and the City Itself

But what would even a beautiful and gourmet city like Lyon be without the people you meet there? I got to spend some time with the charming Lyonnaise-by-adoption Emma, who blogs in English and has done an excellent write-up of the event.

Last, but not least, I had the pleasure of meeting once more my blogging friend Catherine, whose pictures of the event are much more professional than mine. She knows more about British crime fiction than any other French person I know, plus she is my constant source of reference for French and other crime.

LyonVenue4I’ll tell you more about Saturday night’s Murder Ball and the city-wide Murder Mystery Trail in a future post, as well as the books I bought and the new-to-me authors. I’ll probably drone on and on about this event until you’ll start wishing I’d never gone there. I don’t get out much, you see – this is my one big event of the year, so bear with me…

In return, please keep me informed of all the other great events in the UK and US that I’ll be missing this summer!

 

 

Very Inspiring People to Discover

From Wikipedia.
From Wikipedia.

When I first started my blog just over two years ago, I would get terribly excited about awards. Someone was actually reading me? Someone actually thought I was worth recommending to others? I could not stop myself doing little happy dances all over the house (even the occasional major dance coreographies).

But then I realised that some of the bloggers I admired and nominated for awards were less happy about receiving them. Not that they didn’t appreciate the attention, but they already had a shelf groaning with awards, and didn’t really have time to respond.

I also discovered that I didn’t much like sharing personal things about myself, which is usually one of the requirements…

However, I am still a fan of awards, especially when:

a) they come from bloggers I hugely respect – as is the case here with Raven, a fantastic reviewer of all things crime fiction

b) they give me the opportunity to discover new blogs (yes, I know I’ll never get a chance to read all of them on a regular basis, but inspiration is great even in short, haphazard spurts!)

c) they give me the chance to spread a little love and starstruck admiration for writers, readers and reviewers even if I don’t always comment regularly on their blogs.

blogger-awardSo, thank you, Raven, for nominating me for this award!

Here are 7 things you may not know about me:

1) I have never in my life worn purple, nor ever shall.

2) I once invited my classmates over for my birthday party in April (although my birthday wasn’t until two months later) without my parents knowing anything about it. Until everyone showed up on the doorstep.

3) My first published poem appeared in the school magazine when I was 8 or 9. It was about a bridge and a stream, but all copies of this masterpiece have been destroyed.

4) I don’t usually pretend to read books I haven’t read, but I do sometimes pretend to have seen films I haven’t seen. What can I say? I don’t get out much!

5) I skipped many classes in high school to play ping-pong.

6) My favourite three countries in the world are Brazil, Norway and Canada, despite the fact that I only spent 2 weeks in the first, had a few short business trips in the 2nd and have never visited the third.

7) I really, really can’t draw. Nor sing. And my botanical skills are second to all…

Here are my list of nominees. As always, there is no obligation to participate, but it’s my way of saying thank you to blogs which always make my day or my week. Apologies if by any chance you have been nominated already by others for the same award.

Books and Reviews¬†– crime fiction, women’s representation and feminism

Books, Biscuits and Tea – ¬†crime, women’s fiction and YA

Shiteki na Usagi – a poetic rabbit and literary journal

JacquiWine’s Journal – Jacqui has only recently started her own blog, but her reviews are already legendary. Plus, she likes wine!

A Life in Books Рbook news, reviews and recommendations

7Saturdays – quirky, eclectic, poems, meditations, but always inspirational

Claudia Schoenfeld – artist and poet, co-founder of dVerse Poets, warm and imaginative

Brian Miller – tongue firmly in cheek, co-founder of dVerse Poets, a man to expand your mind and vocabulary

The Mocking Bird Sings Рpoems, prose and jazz

My Cup of Stars Р uninhibited reviews, independent reading tastes

Bonespark – writing inspiration, prompts and reviews

Smithereens – French woman reading and blogging in English – charming, witty and wise

Stuck in a Book –¬†Mostly books, some cake, and the occasional paean to cats

Zouxzoux – photography, prose, poetry and New Orleans come to life

IpsoFactoDotMe – supposedly comfort zone reading, but a very broad choice of literature

 

Here’s what you should do if you have been nominated :
Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
List the rules and display the award.
Share seven facts about yourself.
Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
Optional: display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

About Inspiration and Awards

Who or what inspires you as a writer? What fuels your passion and your life?¬† What makes you forget about time, eating, an aching back or even your friends and your children’s supper?¬† Not that I would recommend the last of these.¬† And I have only done it very occasionally.¬† Hardly worth pointing out, really.¬† Even if afore-mentioned children and friends do remind me of it on a regular basis.

So here are some of my favourite sources of inspiration in random order (ah, but is ‘off the top of my head’ really random?):

1) mountains and seascapes, preferably both together, as in the picture above

2) Shakespeare, especially ‘The Tempest’

3) the music of Brazil, almost any kind of jazz, plus David Bowie and a few other heroes

4) reciting or hearing poetry, the rhythm and roll of the images flooding your ears

5) when reading, finding the perfect phrase, the thought-stretching twist, the heartbreaking confession or the remarkable plot which makes me think:’yes, this is it, this is what life is all about’ and turn slightly green with envy that I could never write anything like that myself

6) the beauty of small creatures and shy buds, everyday things that are the last to be noticed and the first to be forgotten

7) the kindness of strangers, given without forethought or afterthought: things that make me believe once more in the generosity of the human spirit

All this is leading up to the Versatile Blogger Award that Polly Robinson has so kindly insisted I should have.¬† Thank you, Polly, you are one of the most encouraging people I have had the pleasure of meeting on the Internet.¬† I can always count on her to read my poems and make some comments.¬† I don’t know when she does it all, write her own poetry, organise events in her local area in Worcester, United Kingdom, setting up writers’ groups and open mic evenings… she is just amazing!

The rules for this award are typical of many others: share 7 things about yourself (my sources of inspiration, above), thank the person who nominated you and nominate 15 bloggers whom you recommend unreservedly.  I know that to some of them these awards (because they receive so many of them) can be a pain, so there is no obligation.  Unless they wish to leave a small comment below sharing perhaps not seven, but at least one thing that inspires them.  That would be wonderful!

I would so love to hear that from you all, and not just the people I am nominating below.¬† I am trying to nominate some that I haven’t mentioned before, so they are all fairly recent discoveries to me, although some of them are very well known.

Poetic magic

The Thread Is Red

Marousia

The Wheel and the Star

KD DeFehr

Jeannie Leflar

Stars Rain Sun Moon

Anything but prosaic

Andy’s Words and Pictures

Eric Alagan

Lisa Ahn

Write What You Know

Thought-provoking skullduggery

Crime Fiction Lover – and I loved them even before I started reviewing books for them!

It’s a Crime

Nicci French

Jeff Goins

A picture says more than a thousand words

From the Right Bank

An Afternoon With…

Shedworking

How Deserving Am I of Awards?

That perennial shrew and busybody, Old Mother Busyness, has prevented me from graciously accepting and passing on two awards I have received this glorious month of May.¬† But it’s not just her, it’s also that nasty old hag called Shame.¬† Just how deserving am I anyway of these awards? When there are so many other brilliant writers out there?

Today, however, I will kick those two old witches to one side, and mention both awards in one post.  Hopefully that will not cause gross offence to the Great Owlish Order of the Great Lords of E-Wisdom, or whoever is currently ruling the Internet.

So, first of all, thank you to Ami Fidele, who has been waiting so patiently for me to respond to his Inspiring Blog award nomination.  I have mentioned him before and I will mention him again: he is philosophical, lyrical, a true romantic and he writes beautiful poetry.  Oh, and did I say he is a lovely online friend, too?

The second award , One Lovely Blog, comes from a more recent acquaintance, Ash N. Finn.¬† But such is the marriage of true minds over the blogosphere that I already feel we understand each other very well.¬† Thank you, Ash, and if you appreciate really clever and surprising flash fiction, you will love her blog.¬† I was also simultaneously nominated by Honor√© Dupuis for this same award, so big thanks to him too, he is such a supportive and active presence on blogs and Twitter, it’s been a pleasure knowing and reading him.

The requirements are quite similar, thanking your ‘nominator’, sharing those dreaded seven personal revelations, the only difference being the number of bloggers you then link to.¬† I will err on the side of plenty, and I will start with the Inspiring Blog Awards, because these are all bloggers I love and look forward to reading.¬† My only complaint is that some of them do not post frequently enough for my taste.¬† Please, guys, let me hear from you soon!

A Literal Girl – American in Oxford, blogs about books, meeting of the minds on the Internet, writing, music and anxiety

Iliterate Poet – poetry and art with a pinch of humour

Rivenrod – completely, delightfully mad and brilliant at art, poetry and microfictions

Writing for Ghosts – teacher, writer, musician and parent, he does it all

Creative Flux – or rather Terre Britton, who curates this wonderful site, full of resources and inspiration for writers

Hyakunin Isshu – translation and commentary of some of the most beautiful classic Japanese poems

Irretrievably Broken – beautiful writing about a grim subject, divorce

Mullings of a Mindtramp – searingly honest poetry

The Linnet – get drunk in the lush imagery of these poems

The Thread is Red – creative adventures and one of the most attractive sites ever

Rebuilding Holly –¬† naturally gifted writer trying to break out of the corporate stranglehold

Poet Janstie – he’s waited all his life to write – and how well he does it!

Mind’s Sky – I’ve nominated her before – can I help it, if she is so good? Really thoughtful, gorgeous poetry

Mocha Beanie Mummy – combines photography, storytelling and coffee – a winning combination

Connie Assad – fellow Cowbirder, amazing personal stories

And seven more for the One Lovely Blog Award, who do post regularly, but whom I read with undiminished enthusiasm:

RC Gale – he makes me laugh, he makes me cry, he makes me think

Project White Space – a newish discovery for me, she remotivates me with her energy

Writing on Board – sailor, sculptor, writer, adventurer

Coffee and Spellcheck – subsists on coffee, imagination and her love of words

Madame Guillotine – not that she needs my awards – very popular, fun and informed about history

Keat’s Babe – she is so multitalented and diverse!

Writeitdownith – inspiring writer but also great connector and encourager of people

There are so many more I would love to mention, or mention again.¬† But that’s given you enough to be getting on with. And it also serves as a reminder that I need to update my blogroll.

So now, for those of you who haven’t yet wandered off to check out these lovely bloggers … why haven’t you?¬† That’s the best thing about awards, to connect with others and discover new minds and souls.¬† But if you are waiting with bated breath for those stunning personal revelations, here they are, my favourite seven words in the English language (at least, at this moment in time):

1) belligerent

2) serendipity (mine and everyone else’s, but who said I had to be original?)

3) rivulets

4) surfeit

5) exaltation

6) imagination

7) jitterbug (by the way, did you know that the term was originally used to describe alcoholics?)

Uh-oh, it’s just occured to me: I do like long, pretentious sounding words, don’t I?¬† Maybe I should develop a loving relationship with the word ‘purge’!

For this award, I would like to thank…

Do you get annoyed when the Academy Award winners go on and on, well beyond their allotted minutes, and thank their entire family, circle of friends, business associates, fellow actors, pets and maybe even their stamp collection?¬† I know that like all sensible, rational people (i.e. people I call ‘friends’), I do find award ceremonies a bit of a tiresome lovefest…¬† Unless, of course, I happen to be the one nominated, in which case, like all creative, imaginative, brilliant people (whom I also call ‘friends’), I begin to think that awards are a wonderful, meaningful process of appreciating one’s fellow geniuses (genii?).

So, yes, you might have surmised from this that I was jumping up and down in excitement when I came back from holiday and discovered that my dear faithful (by name and by nature) friend Ami Fid√®le had nominated me for the Liebster Blog award.¬† It’s my first award and only the second time I have been tagged for something, so bear with me while I do a little dance around my living room.

OK, back now, and ready to fulfill my obligations for the award:

1) Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them. Well, if you haven’t come across the beautifully romantic poetry of Ami Fid√®le or Ami de R√™ve, a Cyrano de Bergerac who has somehow wandered into the 21st century, then I strongly recommend you go to his blog and enjoy it.

2) Copy and paste the award logo – done!

3)  Nominate five other bloggers you would like to pass the award on to.

This was really hard, partly because there are so many wonderful bloggers that I have discovered recently, who have become firm favourites.  Also, because quite a few of them have awards already, or have just been nominated by someone else.  Or are way too well-known and universally appreciated to worry about this teeny-timid clap on the back from me.   Still, I have done my best, they are all blogs I can whole-heartedly recommend (and I only fear that they may be too busy to respond).

Ethan Greenwood – Letters from the Wasteland – for outstanding word-craft

Polly Robinson – for variety, versatility and encouraging activity

Layla from Be Not Afeard – for thoughtful provocation

Already Not Published – for being candid about her writing journey

Eclectic Nomad – because I would like to read more from her

4) Tell your readers ten random facts about you.  To alleviate the potential monotony of such a long list, I have tried to associate each random fact with a book title.

 

Ballet Shoes  I always dreamt of becoming a ballet dancer, but, when I was about seven, my mother happened to be in the same ward in hospital as a ballet dancer who had broken her spine after her partner dropped her (and was paralysed for life).  So I was never allowed to continue with my dancing.  I read all of Noel Streatfield and Lorna Hill instead.

Water for Elephants  My second dream job was to work as a keeper in an elephant orphanage somewhere in Africa.  I still adore elephants and have a collection of elephant figures (sadly, mostly stored in the attic with all of this moving around).  And I would never, ever buy any ivory.

The Sea, the Sea  My favourite colours are blue and turquoise. And I love anything to do with the sea.

Starman ¬† The first single I ever bought (way before downloads) was David Bowie‚Äôs ‚ÄėScary Monsters (Super Creeps)‚Äô and I remain a big fan to this day (prefer the earlier work, though).

James and the Giant Peach  I like all fruit and vegetables, except for the notorious durian, which makes me gag.

Chocolat  I have a sweet tooth and used to be able to eat up to five desserts a day (instead of proper food). No longer!

Not Waving but Drowning  I never learnt to swim properly (although I can float and do breast stroke), and am terrified of drowning.

Bleak House  My guilty pleasure is reading home improvement/ interior design magazines.  I’ve been known to buy them at airports even if they are in Danish, Swedish and other languages that I do not speak.

Confessions of an (English?) Opium Eater  I’m not English.  But I write and dream in English and I speak English better than any other language.

There Is No Long Distance Now¬† I started this blog about two months ago as a place to ‚Äėpark‚Äô all my work in progress, and as a way to hold myself to account and write something every day, after sooooo many years of putting my creative writing last. I was inspired by the wonderful poet Naomi Shihab Nye, who, with her wonderful eyes, deep voice and luminous presence, told me that even seven minutes a day spent working on a poem counts as writing.¬† Since then, I have never looked back. I never expected anybody to read the blog and was firmly convinced all my first readers were spammers.¬† I have been overwhelmed by the encouragement, support and new friends that I have gained from it.¬† And that I have not been forgotten even during the three weeks I was offline. I am very grateful indeed, thank you all!

So there you are, I still managed to thank everybody for this award. Except for my (imaginary) stamp collection.