Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Wise Woman of Earthsea

Working alone at a desk can be wonderful and it can be hard. Not as hard as lots of other things I've done, but still. What do you do when inspiration goes awol? Most often you look to other writers- ransack the bookshelves and the teetering piles on the desk. But there's often inspiration - and distractions - to be had online, on the phone, a quick coffee-therapy with another writer. And I like to dip into Ursula Le Guin's site ; it's like a brisk talking-to from a wise old auntie, if that's not too disrespectful. Full of nuggets of wisdom and insight. Aged 14, I submerged myself in her Earthsea books. That's a map of Earthsea above. I fled my life and a rainsodden Scottish summer on the windowseat of my local library. (Is it any wonder I ended up writing about an Earth all at sea?) I just read this on Sara O'Leary's site via the bookwitch, who just tagged me (see below).

Anyway, some wise words from Le Guin: "the writers who are my friends now are generous people with a strong sense of community. I keep away from writers who think art is a competition for fame, money, prizes, etc. What matters is the work."

Which sort of leads me onto bookwitch's 'tagging game' this morning. She does these things just to keep us off our work.

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Okay, 6th sentence on p123 of my nearest book, Keith Gray's soon-to-be-published 'Ostrich Boys':
"'I pulled my rucksack closer to my feet, wrapped my legs around it as if to protect what was inside. At last Sim said: 'You know. Just...' 'O-kay. Dodgy question,' Joe said."

Wise woman Ursula would approve of Keith and it's a cracking read.

My chosen taggees, who might want to avoid some work by joining the blogchain (do steps I to 5 above) are: The Greenhouse, Julia Bell, Fidra, Notes from The Slushpile and Normblog.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Not an April Fool

It's Publication Day for EXODUS in the USA. A bit of a worrying date! So I did a quick check on Amazon.com but it's definitely there.

It's been a long journey for Exodus to reach the USA. When it was first published in 2002, America was, understandably, caught up in the aftermath of September 11th. A novel about a flooded world was just the wrong book at the wrong time, though it was going down a storm here, published as it was during a summer of mass floods in Asia, Europe and the UK. My home city, Glasgow, which I'd envisioned engulfed by floods in the year 2100 had cars floating down the streets that monsoon summer.... I felt like a prophet of doom.

Now, it's been published in many countries and America has suffered its own catastrophic floods too. So for all the wrong, sad reasons this feels like the right time for the book there. The responses so far have been amazing. But it's early days. Books provoke all kinds of reactions, so we'll see....

But so far so good. The ALA (American Library Association) BOOKLIST made Exodus a front page feature, which was wonderful. See Love Among The Ruins Booklist feature and review.

Another review from Jen Robinson's fantastic site - a small universe of books in one blog, and, oops, I've managed to lose the links for the other nice ones, like the US School Library Journal. Obviously I won't put them all up but publishing a book is as scary as it is exciting. Anyone can strangle your baby, so to speak, so it's great when people welcome it to the world. Most of all, I've been overwhelmed by the passion of young readers - their emails and debates are furiously passionate, obsessional, inspiring!

If you are a reading group, a teacher or librarian and want to get the debate going, Walker have published a wonderful reading guide for the US publication, downloadable here.

Facts and reality are often too overwhelming. Humans have always needed stories. I think of stories as a map, torch and compass to take on the journey through life. Maybe that's why Mara's journey, and the other young characters in Exodus and Zenith, have such resonance for young people (and a lot of older ones too) who are wondering and worrying about the future. It's such a vast, exciting and scary unknown. But an epic adventure with characters you love - well, all I can say is I loved writing it, even when it's bending my brain!

And it's currently bent in three 3 different directions: remembering what I wrote in Exodus for a US interview, doing events on the new paperback of Zenith (the 2nd book), and writing Aurora.

Today, as Exodus starts a new journey, I decided to do something special. I'm writing the ending of AURORA, the last book in the trilogy. (Though there's a gaping big bit in the middle still to be written...) Writing with goosebumps, a racing heart. And a big box of tissues.