Sunday, 28 June 2009

Thursday last week

The sun has shone nearly every day since we moved, which has been very jolly and made a trip to the coast great fun this weekend. I am perverse, perhaps, but my favourite day was Thursday last week, when it rained. We'd been walking by the river every evening in the good weather but on Wednesday I wimped out because the heat and sun was getting too much for my Saxon blood. On Thursday, the rain came and I was happy. I walked up the hill through the squares and gardens, smelling roses and hedges, wet grass. The whole world just washed - you know that smell? I bought a cup of excellent coffee and walked with it to the highest point in the city to see how it all looked, newly clean. The trip restored my equilibrium. I came home ready to write, made copious notes for the new novel, cleared the clouds from my head. Today the sun is back and just as bright. I'm glad because it's the weekend and we can pooter along the coast road, do some more discovering. But I can't wait for the next rainy day.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


Well, I'm here in the new pad. Nearly all the unpacking has been done and it already feels like home. I've yet to get into my stride with the new regime for writing but that will come. For now I'm enjoying being here, in a two hundred year old apartment filled with light and character, hearing seagulls instead of sparrows, walking up the hill for a coffee in the morning, strolling by the river at the end of the day. It feels expansive, and liberating. I'm the happiest I've been in a long time, lighter on my feet, brighter in my mind, everything sharper and cleaner - in focus. Thanks to everyone who sent good wishes and cards for the move.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


I haven't found writing easy over the last few weeks. So it was great to get an almost instant acceptance for a piece I wrote recently, Taking the cinder path down to the sea. It will appear in Word Riot in July.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Don't Twitter, SHUSH

Dear me, I love Hugh Laurie. Interviewed by Jonathan Ross on Friday night, he maintained his dignity, was humble and funny and gently wary of Ross (in the manner of an intelligent man confronted by a small, sly snake of little brain). Asked whether he was on Twitter, Hugh replied, "No, I don't Twitter. I Shush." Finger on lips. "Shhhush. I belong to the Silence Network." On his physique, having to keep in shape for House: "I'm whip-cord taut." On his approaching fiftieth birthday: "Thanks, thanks. Shucks. It was nothing."

This man has talent by the bucket-load. As fans of House will attest, his acting is a revelation, subtle, layered, always surprising. Plus he can write. And he's funny and smart and humble. Not to mention the fact that he's musical, can play piano, guitar, harmonica - you name it.

I'm in awe of multi-talented individuals. As someone who's still mastering her one talent, I envy those who combine literary skill with artistic ability. My writing buddy, Gay Degani, is an artist and makes fabulous jewellery on the side. Pat Jourdan, whose short stories blow my socks off, is an artist of the Liverpool school.

Hats off to the multi-talented. And long live the sublime Mr Laurie.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


I've just received my first Foto8 subscriber response to A Perspex Crucifix. Jerry Barnett, a talented photographer, wrote to say:

Hi Sarah, I'm a recent subscriber to 8 magazine and read your article "A Perspex Crucifix" today. I'm not normally a magazine reader, being more of a photo-and-news junkie, but this is one of the best short pieces I've read in ages. Being of Jewish background and my grandfather having served in the RAF while his friends and relatives vanished across Europe, I share a fascination and personal involvement with the legacy of the war. Thanks, Jerry

As Jerry and I discussed, there must be many people of our generation who are custodians of family history which needs to be kept alive. It was really good to hear from one of them, via the column in Foto8. I hope the story will reach (and touch) many more.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Rainy Pavements Review

The new issue of The Short Review is out, which is great news for lovers of short stories. It includes interviews and reviews of collections by Ali Smith, Barry Graham and Pat Jourdan, whose Rainy Pavements I enjoyed reading (and reviewing!) very much.

In extremis

I've had my fair share of experiences lately which have shaken my faith in human kind, most recently the shock discovery that someone I trusted and liked has been ripping off other people's work and entering it in contests under his own name. Almost worse than this is the failure by the contest organisers to disqualify him when evidence is produced by the victims of his plagiarism. The writers whose work has been stolen have effectively been victimised twice: once by the plagiarist and then again by the contest organisers who have treated their complaints with indifference at best, contempt at worst. It leaves a terrible taste in my mouth. These contest venues have been struck off my list for subbing in the future, which is a shame because one of them had commended my work in the past, but how else are we to show these people that we have standards and expectations as writers?

Moving on to some pleasant news, I was invited to produce a guest blog for Strictly Writing, a lively and thriving site with contributions from editors, agents and writers. I'll post a link when my guest blog is up there. This assignment inspired me to do a little more research into my family history, which led me to the Changi quilts, an astounding piece of evidence to restore my faith in humanity. Click on the image above for an enlarged version in which you can see details.

These quilts were worked by women interned in Changi jail in Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion. Each woman worked a separate square, embroidering a picture or words. This did more than alleviate the boredom of internment. It provided evidence that the women (and their children) were alive; the finished quilts were sent to the military hospital at Changi Barracks, where many husbands and fathers were held. Apart from being a vital means of communication, the quilts are works of art, beautiful and poignant. Examples can be seen at the Imperial War Museum in London, and at the Australian War Memorial Museum, Canberra.