Friday, 16 December 2016

Happy Birthday Miss Austen (can I call you Jane?)


Hello hello. 

On this day - December 16th - 241 years ago Jane Austen came into this world. Like me a second daughter born on a Saturday, (not that I'm desperately looking for a connection with her, and not that I was born to George and Cassandra Austen). 
35 years later in 1811 the first of her novels was published (Sense & Sensibility) and then within just six short years all of her completed novels had been published. Six years!! All of those icons of English Literature, all of those stories which have given millions of people pleasure ever since - made their way into the world in just six years. 

That same year, 1817, aged only 41 ... she exited this world leaving behind both a legacy she could never have dreamt of, and her stories. Thank goodness she left behind those stories.  
I can remember the first time I read any Austen; it was in the first year of my English Literature degree, it was Emma, and from the moment I'd dived into it I wondered how I'd managed to reach my twenties without reading her until then. 

I'd never had to read any in school and, during the 90s - a period of many well known adaptations - had also bred a lot of Austen parodies which coloured my perception of her. All I really knew about the stories was that comedians portrayed them as frivolous, a little bit ridiculous, with plots and characters to be made fun of. So when I had to read one I thought I knew what I was getting ...

... how wrong could I be? 

The biggest revelation was ... she's bloody funny! 

Those parodies that present her work as laughable don't seem to acknowledge that she was actually intending to be funny. 
  • She's the one making the sharp observations, 
  • she's the one skewering pompous personalities with her pen, 
  • she's the one who knows exactly how to draw out character flaws.
If, like me back then, you haven't read Austen because you think it's going to be like the parodies ... can I gently suggest give it a try? Can I persuade you ... (see what I did there?)

American book cover Persuasion by Jane Austen

Yes, of course it's like the parodies in some ways, yes of course people go to society balls a lot, and of course there are always happy endings but ... honestly ... Austen's writing is there to laugh along with not at. 

Oh and, if you've avoided her because of the criticism that she only wrote about domestic life - rather than anything on the world stage (she was writing while the Napoleonic wars were taking place) ... then, please ...

... we've heard enough stories of 'Great Men' from history, and there are plenty of other narratives that can give you a sense of the past. Ditch the men of statues and portraits for a few hours and treat yourself to some time in the intimate, brilliantly observed, company of Austen's women.

Some Austen-alia to look forward to:

I probably should have turned around, with my iced bun in my hand, and told her that Jane Austen is not just any 'woman' ...

Happy Birthday Jane!

Julie x


p.s: 

Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Snipped Tales have landed! You can now buy my book of collaged short stories.


Hi you. 

Remember when I said that this whole publishing process wouldn't make sense until I could hold my book in my hands and hand it over into yours? 

Well ... suddenly it all makes sense (well, we all know there was nothing particularly 'sudden' about it!) ... because they're here. And here you go ...
At some point, when I've had more sleep, and when my adrenaline levels settle down, I'll share more about it here. But, until then, you can read about - and buy - the book (with its one of a kind gift tag) here in my Etsy shop.

While I've been writing this post I sold my first copy. So, I guess it's really happening now!

See you soon.

Julie


**You can buy a copy of 'Snipped Tales' here*. 



Friday, 2 December 2016

Snipped Tales: What to expect from each chapter, plus a peek at some of the pages


Hello you. 

There's a rumour ... that my book might just be ready next week. 

But who knows? It's entirely beyond my control now (just imagine how that's making me feel ... ). I can only sit and wait patiently (you know the 'patiently' part is a complete lie right?), and try to answer people's questions when they ask when they can buy the book. 

But, if we're going to trust that that everything will run smoothly, then we have to believe that this time next week I will have the shelves of my shop stocked with Snipped Tales books! And so it's about time I gave you chance to look inside. 

  • 69 tales pieced together from the pages of dozens of old books.
  • new narratives constructed from lines and words from existing ones (everything from kids' Christmas annuals to books covering history, medicine, 1950s DIY advice and gardening tips).
  • a colour photo reproduction of the tales exactly as they are in the pages of my notebook. (That particular notebook was a gift from a friend and the cover appropriately reads"If you want to be a writer, write" - which I have ... with a little help from several pairs of scissors and handful of glue sticks).
Unlike if I had a taster of a 60,000 word novel to share, at only a page long each, it's almost impossible for me to offer you a flavour of these short short stories without giving you the whole meal, dessert and the bill in one go. But here's an idea of what the book pages will actually look like:  


When I was creating these graphics the images were larger and you could actually read snippets of the stories ... it's not that I'm trying to hide them that much -but something got lost in re-sizing! So apologies if you're straining your eyes. (For larger versions head over to this post on my Facebook page.)


Here's something a bit easier to read ... 

I didn't write any of the snipped tales 'to order'; I never deliberately set out to write about a particular topic; I would just sit surrounded by paper until something bubbled up, then I'd grab it, cut it free and offer it a new life inside a new turn of events. 

However ...

 ... once my notebook was full I realised that the jumble of disparate moments I'd created could actually be organised into smaller collections each with their own broad overarching theme. 

I noticed that among the ad-hoc, willy-nilly, serendipitious, 'where the mood strikes'stories, there recurred distinct subject matters and attitudes, with similar emotions and topics cropping up again and again, and after much shuffling and rearranging these broad themes became the book's seven chapters. 

Contents:

  • Chapter 1: 'Being Human' offers ... safe harbour to the vulnerabilities of being human. Its tales touch on inner conflicts, battles in our own brains, the difficulties of caring for others and the need for self-care. 
  • This is the chapter to read when ... you're wondering if it's just you. It isn't. 
  • Chapter 2: 'A Life Documented' offers ... a glimpse at the motivations, misfortunes and meanderings of someone else's existence. Find out Margot's back story, hear what the rich young man left behind and sympathise with Anne's crafting calamity. 
  • This is the chapter to read when ... you fancy walking a page in someone else's shoes, trying on someone else's perfume ... trying on another life to see how it fits. 
  • Chapter 3: 'I'm Just Saying' offers ... an opportunity to vent your frustrations and allow your sarcastic self to come out and play. A chance to snarl, snipe, lash out, and get it all out of your system! 
  • This is the chapter to read when ... you've been far too polite for far too long. Take inspiration from Sarah ... and start sharpening your claws ... 
  • Chapter 4: 'Brief Encounters' offers ... a judgement free zone to indulge in your romantic side. Get swept into the whirlwind of attraction, embraces, pledges ... but hang on to your tissues because there are things left unsaid and missed connections along the way too. 
  • This is the chapter to read when ... you're all out of Jane Austen. Either that or you want to know the final straw that made Benedick realise his relationship could go no further and why Joan doesn't consider Fred 'marriage material'. Poor Fred. 
  • Chapter 5: 'Oh My!' offers ... something a bit fruitier than Jane Austen! Something sexy, seductive and provocative; something saucy, and sea-side postcard-ish. 
  • This is the chapter to read when ... you've run out of shades of grey. (Side note: this isn't a chapter for kids. Unless you want to explain the phrase 'naughty dungeon' to them over breakfast.) 
  • Chapter 6 : 'Minor Mythologies' offers ... the tallest of the tall tales in the book. It's a chapter of fairytale flights of fancy, moments of magical realism and seriously surreal happenings. The stories herein are performed by a cast which includes a chorus line of animals, winged middle-aged men, Humpty Dumpty ... and dragons! 
  • This is the chapter to read when ... you need a departure from the realities of regular, daily living. And if ever there was a year that needed escaping from ... 2016 was certainly it! 
And finally, once you've made your way through those 6 chapters ... refreshments will be served at the end. 

No, really ....
  • Chapter 7: 'Refreshments Will be Served' offers ... you the chance to eat, drink and be merry before you close the book and head back out into the world outside Snipped Tales. Whether you've an appetite for a glass of wine after a long week, or beans on toast, or afternoon tea or one of Sally's biscuits it's all on the menu in this chapter. (Although, when you find out where she keeps those biscuits you might reconsider.) 
  • This is the chapter to read when ... you're trying to decide what to have for dinner. 'Today's Special' has some great suggestions, anyone for 'rich organic elk poached in a light tetanus serum'? No?
As far as possible each chapter begins with some of the more serious, thoughtful tales  ... and then drifts gently into lighter territory, where the more surreal, humorous, or tongue-in-cheek tales hang out. (And in the case of chapter 5 that tongue might even find itself in someone else's cheek.)

So there you have it - 69 tales, 7 chapters, 1 book. 

A book which hopefully will finally find its way into readers hands sometime this month. (I really wish they hadn't used the word 'hopefully' - twice - when I last asked when it would be ready ... but I must stay positive!.)

This whole process won't make any sense until someone else reads through these scrappy little stories of mine and finds one that speaks directly to them. One that makes them laugh out loud. One that takes on a new life inside their imagination.

Because I already know what they all say. I already know what they all mean to me. I already know that some of them still manage to make me laugh, or give me a pang of empathy, even though I created them. 

I now need someone else to open the book ... and get to know it for themselves.. 

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I really would LOVE to hear which of the 7 chapters you're looking forward to reading first.  
  • Is it the fantastical adventures you're after? Or the romantic encounters and the sexy times?! 
  • Or - if all of that sounds too exhausting - would you prefer to indulge in a spot of introspection, while noseying into other people's lives while mumbling your frustrations into your tea and biscuits?
And - to be clear - yes, I will totally be judging your personality depending on your answer! Of course I will!!

Leave your revealing comment here or get in touch via Instagram, my Facebook page or on Twitter.

More news when I have news. 

Julie ;-)
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