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4 simple strategies to reclaim your attention and look up

<p><span>After a period living and volunteering in the far north of India, Australian primary school teacher Hugh van Cuylenburg was blown away by the remarkable positivity of the comparatively underprivileged locals. How was it, he wondered, that young people he knew at home, who had food, shelter, friends and a loving family, struggled with their mental health, while these kids seemed overwhelmingly happy? This experience led him on a journey to find answers to this question.</span></p> <p><span>Years of study, research and questions followed and, through this, van Cuylenburg came to understand that practising gratitude, empathy and mindfulness leads us to happier and more fulfilling lives. </span><span>Backed by evidence-based analysis and inspiring personal anecdotes, <em>The Resilience Project</em> brings these life-changing messages to life for an ever-broadening audience. In the passage below, van Cuylenburg offers four tips to help reclaim our attention, look up from our devices and better experience the incredible real world that surrounds us.</span></p> <p><span>**</span></p> <p><span>A 2017 Deloitte survey found Australians checked their phones more than 35 times a day on average, an increase of around 17 per cent on just the year before. Thirty-five per cent of us check our phone within five minutes of waking up in the morning, and 70 per cent use phones during mealtimes with family and friends.</span></p> <p><span>Needless to say, it’s extremely hard to be mindful and mentally present when some of the world’s biggest media corporations are trying to rip our time and attention from our hands. Smartphones are here to stay, and so is social media. And they’re not the only threats; in 2018, the World Health Organization classified gaming addiction as a mental health disorder. Our kids are copping it from everywhere.</span></p> <p><span>That’s the bad news. The good news is that we are not powerless, and the other side of this shiny technological coin has many benefits that can help enrich our lives. But we need to be careful. There are four simple strategies that I strongly recommend you try, so you can reclaim much of what the attention economy has taken from you:</span></p> <p><strong><span>1. Delete Facebook from our phones</span></strong></p> <p><span>On 2 July 2018, I dumped Facebook from my mobile and vowed only to look at it when I was using my laptop. I haven’t been on Facebook since, and it’s not because I’m trying to avoid it – I’m just not as easy a target for Mark Zuckerberg’s addiction engineers as I was when I had Facebook in my pocket.</span></p> <p><span>The decision to delete the app was a life-changer. I didn’t feel that I was any less connected to the people I wanted to connect with, and I realised I had spent most of my time on Facebook looking at garbage – stuff that, if someone asked me to check out in real life, I’d laugh at and walk away. I’ve often wondered how I’d react if I walked past a cafe, saw a friend and they said, ‘Just in time! My coffee has arrived. Would you like to see how it looks from directly above?’</span></p> <p><strong><span>2. Turn off notifications</span></strong></p> <p><span>There is no reason whatsoever to have notifications on our phones switched on. The only reason they exist is to suck us back into the app abyss. We don’t need to know every single time someone has liked a photo, sent us a message, commented on a thread we’re following or tagged us on Twitter. It’s getting to the point where we don’t really decide when we check our phones; our phones are deciding for us – more than 35 times a day!</span></p> <p><strong><span>3. Rearrange our home screens</span></strong></p> <p><span>The only apps we should have on our home screens are ones we’re not addicted to. Once you clear all the addictive stuff off your home screen, you’ll be amazed how few things you really ‘need’ on your phone. In my case I was left with just three apps: music, podcasts and Google Maps. That’s it. Everything that has an addictive component I have placed in a separate file on the sixth screen across labelled ‘Regret’.</span></p> <p><strong><span>4. Leave home without our phones</span></strong></p> <p><span>When we disconnect from our phones we reconnect with life. Thanks largely to persuasive technology we’ve been conditioned to think we can’t be without them. When we leave home these days we check that we have our keys, wallet, sunnies and… ‘Where’s my bloody phone?’</span></p> <p><span>A few years back I started leaving mine at home at every opportunity. OK, often I need my phone for work, but do I need it if I’m going out to dinner? Going for a run? To the movies? Cricket training? Phones only serve to interrupt these moments and derail the joy of being present with the people we’re with, even if that person is ourselves.</span></p> <p><span>Not long after setting myself the rule about limiting my phone use, I caught up with a mate at a pub in Fitzroy.</span></p> <p><span>It was a very quiet night at the pub as I sat at the bar and swapped stories with my mate. After a while he got up to go to the gents’. ‘Back in a sec,’ he said and disappeared. Suddenly I was one of only a few punters in the entire pub. Like Pavlov’s dog I reached into my pocket to get my phone, and I actually felt annoyed that I’d left the thing at home.</span></p> <p><span>I had nothing to do for the next minute or so. It was a strange feeling, like the world had stopped. ‘How did we not look weird when we were sitting without anything to do, in the time before smartphones?’ I pondered. That’s when I noticed the barman just a few feet away, cleaning a pint glass.</span></p> <p><span>‘How’s your night going?’ I inquired. ‘It’s pretty quiet – you must love that?’</span></p> <p><span>‘No,’ he said, ‘I actually prefer it when it’s busy.’</span></p> <p><span>‘Really?’</span></p> <p><span>‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘I’m just going through some difficult stuff at the moment and when it’s really quiet I can’t get it out of my head, but when it’s busy I escape it for a bit.’</span></p> <p><span>Suddenly I was in the midst of a serious moment with a fellow human being, and the world felt very full again. ‘Oh,’ I said, giving him my complete attention. ‘Are you alright?’</span></p> <p><span>‘No, not really,’ he replied. ‘I’m just going through a breakup and it’s pretty full-on at the moment.’</span></p> <p><span>‘I’m really sorry about that,’ I said. ‘I know exactly how that feels. It’s awful.’</span></p> <p><span>The barman and I were still talking about his situation five minutes after my mate returned.</span></p> <p><span>‘Anyway,’ he said as a couple of customers appeared at the other end of the bar, ‘I’ll let you guys get back to it.’</span></p> <p><span>‘Take care of yourself, mate,’ I said as he turned to serve the others. He flashed me a little thumbs up.</span></p> <p><span>When I got home later, all I could think was, ‘Thank God I left my phone here.’ The barman clearly needed to reach out and make that connection in that moment; as soon as I opened my mouth to speak to him he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. If I’d had my phone with me, that conversation would never have happened. I’d have buried my head in the internet, and if the barman had wanted to talk about his emotional problems he’d have had to lean over and say, ‘Excuse me, do you want to talk about my breakup for a minute?’</span></p> <p><span>Increasingly, over the past ten years, more and more of us have been using social media to try to fulfil our basic psychological needs: the need to feel loved, to feel like we belong, to feel validated and achieve degrees of social status.</span></p> <p><span>If we’re hungry for love, we post a photo of ourselves and all people have to do is press a heart button to let us know they approve. If it’s status we crave, we can simply add a ‘status update’ to show people we aced the job interview, took the holiday, skied down the mountain or welcomed the child. In return we hope our screens will bloom with little blue thumbs to feed our psychological hunger.</span></p> <p><span>But it doesn’t really nourish us. The flesh-and-blood thumbs up that the barman at the Union Club Hotel gave me meant more than a million likes on Facebook could. I imagine our talk that night meant much more to him than a sad-face emoji, too. This was an everyday illustration of the benefits of communication and social connection, something I am passionately advocating for day in, day out at The Resilience Project.</span></p> <p><em><span>Extract from </span></em>The Resilience Project<em><span> by Hugh Van Cuylenburg, published by Ebury Australia on 19 November 2019, RRP 34.99</span></em></p>

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5 minutes with author Peter Watt

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Peter Watt, a historical fiction writer based in Maclean in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. He has worked as a soldier, prawn trawler deckhand, builder’s labourer, surveyor’s chainman, pipe layer, real estate salesman, private investigator, police sergeant and advisor to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. Currently he spends 6 months of the year working as a volunteer bush firefighter with the NSW Rural Fire Service. His latest book <em>The Queen’s Tiger </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Watt about Les Norton novels, historical fiction, and a memorable pearl of wisdom from his mother.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em>What is your best writing tip? </strong></p> <p>Peter Watt: The best tip is simply persevere and don’t get your mum/wife/partner/best friend to tell you what she thinks of what you have written.</p> <p><strong>What book do you think more people should read?</strong></p> <p>Wow! I think it cannot be simply just one book. Reading is a feast of many courses.</p> <p><strong>How have your past jobs influenced your writing? </strong></p> <p>I guess being exposed to the best and worst in humanity has helped shape my reflections on life. Nothing is black and white when you finally reach your 70<sup>th</sup> year on the planet.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>If I wanted to laugh, I read the great Robert G Barrett’s Les Norton novels.</p> <p><strong>What do you think makes for a great </strong><strong>historical fiction work?</strong></p> <p>I think that careful research makes for great historical fiction. To be able to take the reader back to a time of their ancestors and let them see how they have much in common with them. They are the living ghosts of our current lives who haunt us.</p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>During the non-fire season, I dedicate six months to research and writing. That means buckling down to a 10-hour day, six days a week. Part of being a writer also means I have to mow the lawns, take out the garbage and every other job my wife finds for me around the house! Occasionally during the day I reply to reader’s emails.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>Many authors of some note writing in our genre admire Bernard Cornwell – as I do.  I have had the pleasure of dining with a true gentleman, Wilbur Smith, whose work inspired me to write the novels that I do.</p> <p><strong>Is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>My old Irish grandmother used to tell me that you can’t afford to buy cheap. My own mother would always say when things got tough on the farm where I grew up [that] this, too, shall pass. How true in both cases, despite being clichés.</p>

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5 minutes with author T.M. Clark

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is T.M. Clark, a Zimbabwe-born author based near Brisbane. She has continued to showcase her passion for Africa in her novels and children’s picture books. Her first novel <em>My Brother-But-One</em> was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Award 2014. Her latest book <em>Cry of the Firebird </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Clark about binge writing, second-chance romances, and her favourite Afrikaans words.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em><span>What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?</span></strong></p> <p><span>T.M. Clark: “You must write every day.” I’m a binge writer, the worst advice for me is to try to give me a routine. People need to remember that what works for one writer might not necessarily work for another. This is one of those pieces of advice that, for me, simply doesn’t gel – ever!</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book(s) are you reading right now?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Just starting <em>Hangman</em> by Jack Heath. Knowing Jack primarily as a children’s author, I’m still wrapping my head around him writing awesome successful thrillers, with serial killers, gritty crime and criminals! I’m excited that he has spread his wings and doing both genres. I am loving this book and can’t wait to find out what happens.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>The Trouble with Christmas</span></em><span> by Amy Andrews. I laughed out loud and loved this story. I think everyone should read it to get a little joy in their lives, smile and have the happy feeling I had by the end of the book. I loved this book for the unadulterated romantic comedy that it was – from the cowboy on the cover to the last tacky Christmas decorations.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How have the places you’ve been influenced your writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Obviously growing up in Zimbabwe and South Africa has had a huge influence on my writing, but also on the way I think things through. I know that now I’m an Australian princess who loves my internet and electricity working, but I still love Africa! I believe more than anything that being an Australian has opened my eyes to the beauty that is still there in Africa, and the difference of the people who just do their job and who have a seemingly bottomless source of optimism despite all the chaos going on around them. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Routine – what routine? Seriously, other than running around after the men in my life (hubby and two university-going sons), I organise the CYA Conference and the Writers at Sea Retreat and collect books from all over Brisbane and South East Queensland for our Papua New Guinea library building project. When would I get a routine?</span></p> <p><span>I do, however, have time blocked out in my diary to write and I guard that with the same ferocity as a mother leopard. Every Friday I’m usually found at the Queensland Writers Centre, joining others for the Writing Friday event, where we use the Pomodoro method of timed sprints to achieve words from 10am to 4pm. I also have my time blocked out to write my book during September and October. I don’t do much socialising or anything in those months as that is writing time.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What is your favourite word, in English or any other language?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>Voetsak.</span></em><span> It’s a South African word that means ‘go away’. Everyone in southern Africa and every dog understands it – no matter their upbringing, all colours and languages under the rainbow. </span></p> <p><span>Another favourite is the word <em>yebo</em> (Zulu origin but shared across most of the languages now), meaning ‘yes’. It also is the answer to everything whenever anyone asks and you don’t know the answer. If you are feeling under the weather but don’t want to tell someone when they ask, you just say ‘yebo’. If you ask directions from someone and they say ‘yebo’, you know they are just politely saying ‘hello and I don’t know’. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Is there a cliché that you can’t help but love? Alternatively, what trope grinds your gears?</span></strong></p> <p><span>While I know they’re a trope that doesn’t suit everyone, I love second-chance romances. Recently in real life, I got to know about a writer friend who is now in his 70s and had a second chance with his very first girlfriend from when they were 16 years old. It ended happily this time when they got married, and it just made my heart flutter because I am a softie. I believe in soulmates and fate, and I adore that they gave it another chance. </span></p> <p><span>A trope that irritates me… No, nothing. I’m blank on that, but bad or lazy writing irritates me and I have a lot to say about that. The poor tropes get an unnecessary bad rap – it has nothing to do with the author writing a bad book.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Sir James Percy FitzPatrick, writer of <em>Jock of the Bushveld</em>. It was read to me as a kid, and I reread it every now and again now as an adult. It’s one of the few books that have been with me across four changes of country and are still on my bookshelf. I adore the period he wrote of, the wagons, the teams of oxen pulling them through the <em>bundu</em> and the wild game, the frontier of Africa of yesteryear. </span></p> <p><span>He was a forward thinker for his time, with the underlying theme of this book being one of a man not accepting ‘the way’ that burdened him, wanting to break away from it all and be free. I wonder how much of himself he put into his characters, or if it was all just the story at the time…</span></p>

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5 minutes with author Maggie Joel

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Maggie Joel, a British-born writer and an operations manager based in Sydney. Her historical novels have been published in Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK. Her latest book <em>The Unforgiving City </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Joel about writing while having a full-time job, Virginia Woolf, and the experience of reading evocative books.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em>What is your best writing tip? </strong></p> <p>Maggie Joel: Definitely show not tell. I’m always surprised when writers tell us what their characters are feeling instead of showing us. It was drilled into me in every creative writing class I attended that the skill for the writer was in working out ways to show us the character’s emotions whether it be by mannerism, physical description, dialogue or whatever. Simply telling us they are scared or delighted or anxious is breathtakingly lazy almost to the point of disrespecting the sophistication of the reader.</p> <p><strong>What book do you think more people should read?</strong></p> <p><em>Little Boy Lost</em> by British author Marghanita Laski. In the ‘60s and ‘70s Laski was a well-known author and TV pundit in the UK, but she is all but forgotten now. This novel, published in 1949 and set in France in the months following the end of the war, appears to be a simple enough tale of a man’s search for his child – but don’t be fooled, this is a masterpiece of storytelling. I have never had such an emotional response to a novel before or since. It is a little gem.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>Probably the biography of Muriel Spark by Martin Stannard that a friend loaned me a few months ago. She was such a confident, witty and often quite savage observer of life and people that I’m sure I laughed out loud at various points in the book. To have that kind of confidence in your abilities and such utter contempt for the abilities and frailties of others is joyous to read. I relished it!</p> <p><strong>What do you think makes for a great </strong><strong>historical fiction work?</strong></p> <p>I think it all boils down to one thing: creating an emotional response in the reader. When I look at the books with a strong historical setting that have influenced me – <em>The Remains of the Day</em> by Kazuo Ishiguro, <em>The Go-Between</em> by L.P. Hartley, <em>The Shooting Party </em>by Isabel Colegate, <em>Brideshead Revisited</em> by Evelyn Waugh – they’re all books that look back, both fondly and critically, on the recent past, and where nostalgia for a bygone era plays a major role. They are incredibly evocative works, utilising research and literary devices to generate an emotional response within the reader.</p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>I work full-time, so my writing routine means weekends. If I am in the throes of a new novel, I will be at the computer by 8am Saturday morning and will work all day, and all-day Sunday. If I have managed things well, I take a few weeks of long service leave from work and that can make a huge difference in getting that first draft down, really in a matter of weeks. All my books involve a substantial amount of research which I try to fit in around the writing and in the evenings when I get home from work.</p> <p><strong>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</strong></p> <p>When I had writer’s block – for two years about eight years ago – I didn’t deal with it. That is to say, I tried everything and nothing worked. In the end I gave up trying, gave up reading even, and admitted I was no longer a writer. It was awful, like giving up a part of myself, but looking back I think I needed to reach that point, to start living a life that no longer involved writing, no longer involved books. After a year or so it just lifted, almost overnight. I haven’t suffered from it since. But really, if the book I am writing is not so utterly absorbing to me that I am compelled to write, then the book isn’t worth writing.</p> <p><strong>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>Diaries! That handy little journal that your character conveniently finds secreted away in the victim’s or suspect’s bedroom at exactly the right moment and that conveniently fills in all the blanks that the character otherwise could not know. And then we have to suffer page after tortuous page of italicised excerpts from said dairy. Dear God! Save me from it.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>Oh, definitely Virginia Woolf. Cliched I know, but I’d be lying if I gave any other answer. Her life and writing have inspired me more than any other writer, I come back to her time and time again. Having said that, I can imagine her being a rather reticent, if not so say, prickly dinner guest who would sit there the whole evening contributing absolutely nothing then coming out with some pithy and piercing observation right at the end of the night that leaves the rest of the company speechless and slightly offended – at least I hope she would!</p>

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5 minutes with author Penelope Janu

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Penelope Janu, a writer based in northern Sydney. She won the 2017 XO Romance prize for her book <em>On the Same Page </em>and the Romantic Book of the Year title at the 2019 Romance Writers of Australia awards for <em>On the Right Track</em>. Her fourth novel <em>Up on Horseshoe Hill </em>is coming out on November 18.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Janu about the books everyone can relate to, the prejudice towards the romance genre, and her dream dinner guest.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em><span>What is your best writing tip? </span></strong></p> <p><span>Penelope Janu: My best tip is to write something that you’d love to read. That enables you to connect with the characters and the world that you will create. Writing a novel is a long, hard process – if I didn’t find a lot of joy in what I did, I’d never be able to finish the manuscript.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Books can mean such different things at different times in our lives. I often go back to my favourite classics by writers like Austen, Gaskell and Dickens, because reading these books is not only enjoyable, but it also reminds me that good writing and character driven stories are timeless.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you laugh?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I’ve just finished <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/entertainment/books/5-minutes-with-author-joanna-nell">Joanna Nell</a>’s <em>The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker,</em> which made me laugh and cry! Jo and I are good friends and writing group partners. I love the way she writes and the wonderful characters she creates – just about anybody can relate to them, whatever stage of life they are at. My mum is 84 and loved this book too. It was, in her words, “magical”. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What do you think makes for a great romance?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I like to think of characters spending long and happy lives together, for which they’ll need to have shared challenges, laughter, trust and passion. My husband and I met at law school at eighteen and have been married for thirty-three years, so I appreciate that perseverance is important as well! Sexual tension is my catnip, and is often the reason that characters find each other fascinating, notwithstanding their differences – Elizabeth and Darcy from <em>Pride and Prejudice</em> encapsulate this. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>We’re renovating our house at the moment, so… shambolic! My best-case writing scenario is waking at five in the morning and writing until around eleven, and then reviewing what I have written late in the afternoon. But the most important thing for me is to write every single day so that I stay connected to the characters and their story. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I worked as a solicitor and legal academic for many years before writing creatively. In those jobs, just like my current one as a writer, there are times when you are overwhelmed by the task ahead and you simply don’t want to face it. But generally… you do. Once I’m over halfway through a manuscript, I find it much easier to write because the story drives me, not the other way around.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I’d like to mix these questions up! I think any trope well written can get away with being a trope, and that most storytelling is one form of trope or another. Which brings me to my cliché, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Some people say, “I’d never read a romance”, perhaps without fully appreciating that it is romance that drives so many stories in both literary and genre fiction.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I’d love to have dinner with J.K. Rowling! My eldest daughter was the same age as Harry when each book in the series came out, and she and J.K. Rowling set the scene for all six of my children’s reading lives for years to come. I loved the books too, and remember tiptoeing into the room of whichever child had fallen asleep reading the latest ‘new release,’ and taking it away to read before returning it (quietly!). I now enjoy J.K. Rowling’s crime fiction, and she seems friendly, so I think we’d have plenty to talk about over dinner!</span></p>

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5 minutes with author Tricia Stringer

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Tricia Stringer, a writer based in the Copper Coast region of South Australia. Her body of work spans across various genres, from rural romance to historical saga. She won the Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year award in 2013 for her book <em>Queen of the Road</em>. Her latest fiction novel, <em>The Model Wife </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Stringer about happy endings, ‘listening’ to places and why she doesn’t believe in writer’s block.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em>What is your best writing tip? </strong></p> <p>Tricia Stringer: The best writing tip I received and that I always pass on is to write every day and if you can’t, at least write regularly. Make it a habit.</p> <p><strong>What book do you think more people should read?</strong></p> <p>Mine of course! That aside there are so many wonderful books and as long as people are reading, I’m happy. I did enjoy <em><span>Taking Tom Murray Home</span></em> by Tim Slee. It’s a moving contemporary rural Australian story, full of highs and lows and underpinned by the importance of community in our lives.</p> <p><strong>How have the places you travelled to influenced your writing?</strong></p> <p>Setting is very important to my stories and it’s imperative to get it right so the places I’ve lived in, holidayed in, travelled through, experienced in any way, have had a great impact on my writing. I like to spend time in a place, ‘listen’ to what it’s telling me about the people and the lifestyle, what’s good and what’s not so.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>Tricky question, I seem to have been reading a lot of crime or domestic thrillers lately. I recently enjoyed <em><span>Just One Wish</span></em> by Rachael Johns and while the story is a contemporary family drama and tackles some serious issues facing women in the current day, the interactions between the main characters spread across three generations often included a clever sprinkle of humour that made me chuckle.</p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>When I work on a first draft, I start work at eight in the morning and aim to write two thousand words, five days a week. I do my best to stick to that… however, I am a procrastinator.</p> <p><strong>How do you deal with writer’s block?</strong></p> <p>I don’t believe in it. If the words don’t flow it usually means a break is needed, a change of scene, time to think and then I’m off writing again. Finding a way to overcome what’s stopping the creative process is the trick.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>There are so many. I’m a big fan of Monica McInerney. We do catch up from time to time, but we live in two different countries so it’s a long time since we had dinner. I’d love to do it again.</p> <p><strong>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>If a story is well written is doesn’t matter what the trope is. I like stories that leave me with hope, where good people prevail, and have happy-for-now endings. This may be considered cliché but I never tire of it.</p>

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5 minutes with author Deborah Rodriguez

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Deborah Rodriguez, a writer, hairdresser and business owner based in Mazatlán, Mexico. She has written two fiction bestsellers – <em>The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul </em>and <em>Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul </em>– as well as two memoirs about her life in Afghanistan and America. Her latest novel, <em>Island on the Edge of the World</em>, is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Rodriguez about her life as a grandmother and spa owner, her unconventional writing routine, and the reads she recommends.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em><span>What is your best writing tip? </span></strong></p> <p><span>Rodriguez: Just write. Write from your heart. Don’t pay attention to spelling or punctuation, just get lost in your stories. Practice getting them out of your head, letting them flow down to your fingers and onto the keyboard. Don’t put it off. Tell your story, and tell it proudly. </span></p> <p><span>I struggled in school with spelling and punctuation. I still battle with it, and am very thankful for spell check and punctuation apps. When I was in school, I had a teacher discourage me from taking a writing class. I had many stories and I wrote all the time, recapping my days in a journal. But this teacher thought I would be better suited for art than for writing. I loved art and still do, but it was a shame that I had that choice made for me. I almost let that teacher take away my storytelling. I wish he had said, “Creative writing would be excellent for someone like you, who seems to have a lot to say.” </span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>That’s a tricky question. Any of my books, of course! But seriously, to me, it’s books that open our eyes and our hearts to other cultures that I feel are always “should-reads”. It’s hard for me to pick just one book, but I can share with you a couple of my favourites. What I am enjoying right now is In <em>Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams </em>by Tahir Shah<em>.</em> I’m really enjoying these stories about past and present Morocco. One of my favourite books is <em>The Hummingbird’s Daughter</em> by Luis Alberto Urrea. I could read this book over and over. It’s a mystical drama of a young woman’s sudden sainthood in late 19th century Mexico. I live in Mexico, near the area where the book takes place, and the book just captured me from beginning to end. </span></p> <p><strong><span>How have the places you travelled to influenced your writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>The places I’ve travelled and the cultures I’ve experienced have greatly affected all my books. There is not one moment when I am travelling that I am not weaving stories in my head. I have never vacationed well, because I’m always trying to peek behind the curtains. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you cry?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I am working on my next book, which takes place in Morocco, so I’m reading all things Moroccan. I recently picked up a book that I first read 18 years ago, <em>Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail</em> by Malika Oufkir. I was horrified at this true story of imprisonment and escape. It is impossible to read this book and not weep. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Do you have a writing routine? If so, what does it look like? </span></strong></p> <p><span>My life is a little crazy, as I still run a small spa in Mexico, not to mention my duties as a mother and grandmother. So I write whenever I can find the time. What may be somewhat unique about my process is the development stage. I start with a thought, I choose an appropriate (and interesting) location, and then I travel. I talk to everyone I meet along the way, and keep my ears open to everything. If I’m lucky, I come home with a novel in my head!</span></p> <p><strong><span>Who is your favourite literary character, if any?</span></strong></p> <p><span>One of my favourite literary characters is Liesel from <em>The Book Thief</em>. Of course I admired her resilience and bravery, but mostly I identified with her desire to keep books close to her. Even when she was still illiterate, she could feel their power and the need to protect them. She’s literally a “literary” hero. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I would like to have dinner with J.K. Rowling. It’s not hard to be impressed with this woman, but I have a new level of respect for her now. During the writing of <em>Island on the Edge of the World</em>, which deals with the issues surrounding the orphanages of Haiti, I learned that Rowling is the founder and president of the international non-profit organization Lumos, which works to end the institutionalisation of children globally, and ensure that all children grow up in a safe and caring environment. I would love to have dinner with her to thank her for taking on such a massive job of promoting family preservation. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</span></strong></p> <p><span>One trope that really irritates me with that the bad guy always wears black. I am a hairdresser and hairdressers always wear black. </span></p> <p><span>I live in Mexico, where there are a lot of Canadians who spend winter in my town. The first time I heard the saying “I’m off like a dirty shirt”, I thought, “What?” It means you are finished with something, and leaving quickly. I now try to use it whenever I can. </span></p>

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5 minutes with author Fiona McIntosh

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Fiona McIntosh, a novelist and travel magazine co-founder based in South Australia. After years of working in the travel industry, McIntosh made a career switch and became a full-time author. Her latest book <em>The Diamond Hunter </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with McIntosh about the dictionary, revenge stories, and why she doesn’t believe in writer’s block.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?</span></strong></p> <p>Fiona McIntosh: <span>The worst writing advice I actually watched being delivered to a classroom of adult writers was… ’so here are the rules’. There are no rules!</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book(s) are you reading right now?</span></strong></p> <p>Everything I can about the history of champagne, production of champagne during World War I in Epernay, as well as war books about the Marne region during WWI [for my next novel <em>The Champagne Lovers</em>]. </p> <p>On the go novels include <em>A Gentleman in Moscow</em> by Amor Towles, <em>Munich</em> by Robert Harris plus a couple by Le Carré.</p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>The dictionary. It’s powerful stuff.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How have the places you’ve been to influenced your writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I spent 20 years in the travel industry travelling between the ages of 20 and 40 years. I have spent the last 20 years of my life travelling so that I can write books about the places I have seen. Yes, without any of those places of the past four decades I would not have the inspiration for my stories. It always begins with place for me.</span></p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh or cry?</strong></p> <p>Everything by Bill Bryson makes me laugh.  And I think it’s much harder to win a laugh than a tear.</p> <p><strong><span>How do you deal with writer’s block? </span></strong></p> <p><span>By not believing in it. It has no power over me.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Sharon Penman. The way she brings the deep past back to life for me is inspirational.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Revenge stories. Can’t beat them!</span></p>

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Summer reads: When you can’t travel, let a book transport you

<p>I don’t understand beach reads. And I’m not the only one. There’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/02/beach-read-summer-books-holiday-vacation">no universal consensus about the category</a>, though the marketing tends to revolve around those books popularly considered disposable, unserious, or at the very least, books “<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/what-exactly-is-a-beach-read-anyway-summery-sexy--or-sexist/2016/08/05/41ea6ea8-58e5-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html?utm_term=.03921e2c51bc">you don’t mind getting wet</a>.”</p> <p>Last year, I toted <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15823480-anna-karenina">Anna Karenina</a> along with me — it got soaked, and I abandoned it in an AirBnB in Dubrovnik, Croatia, after I’d finished reading it. It lasted nearly the whole trip and left a gaping, souvenir-sized hole in my suitcase; it was perfect. So as much as I’d like to dissolve the beach read label entirely, I must also admit I have a type: I want a meaty, absorbing book that takes me further into a vacation by connecting with the cultures that produced it. I want a book that can’t be disposed of, one that will take me somewhere entirely new.</p> <p>What I really want is to decouple the notion of summer reading as a <a href="https://electricliterature.com/what-the-fk-is-a-beach-read-anyway/">lifestyle marker</a> <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/39952655">of class</a> <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/what-exactly-is-a-beach-read-anyway-summery-sexy--or-sexist/2016/08/05/41ea6ea8-58e5-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html?utm_term=.ccc299550f05">or gender</a>. If the “<a href="https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-invention-of-the-beach-read">pursuit of intellectual betterment</a>” feels inaccessible or off-putting, I would like to propose at least the pursuit of expanding our emotional connections.</p> <p>In a cultural climate where the <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-empathy-have-limits-72637">limits of empathy</a> are increasingly under a microscope, forging cross-cultural connections feels like a pressing task. Much has been made of the relationship between <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377">fiction reading</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23383160">empathy</a>, but what happens when the limits of our worldview are bounded by the English language? While <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/census-family-language-highlights-1.4231841">linguistic diversity is growing in Canada</a>, the majority of Canadians still <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/census-wednesday-language-1.4231213">speak only English at home</a>, and <a href="https://www.vulture.com/2019/05/translated-fiction-has-been-growing-or-has-it.html">comparatively few books are translated</a> into English. If, as José Ortega y Gasset proposes, reading in translation should <a href="http://dialogos.ca/2015/09/the-misery-and-the-splendour-of-translation-v-the-splendour/">transport the reader into the language</a> — and therefore the perspective — of the author, then reading translated works may be one of the best ways to expand empathy beyond the boundaries of language.</p> <p>I’m not going abroad this summer, at least not physically. I’ll be staying in Canada, with only my books to pull me to other times and places. While in recent years, I’ve focused on <a href="https://www.vox.com/2015/12/29/10634416/reading-list-books">keeping up with new releases</a>, this year I’m fixated on atmosphere and transportation, in a mix of old favourites and new-to-me classics from around the world.</p> <p><strong>Italy</strong></p> <p>I won’t tell you to read Elena Ferrante, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/30/elena-ferrante-fan-girl-modern-tribes">because you’ve probably heard that before.</a> Instead, I will be delving into the work of Elsa Morante, a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/books/la-ca-jc-elena-ferrante-interview-20180517-htmlstory.html">possible inspiration for Ferrante’s pseudonym</a>. <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40180043-arturo-s-island"><em>Arturo’s Island</em></a>, originally published in English in 1959, has been published in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/11/books/review-arturos-island-elsa-morante-ann-goldstein.html?auth=login-facebook&amp;login=facebook">a new translation by Ann Goldstein</a> (translator of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels). The novel promises a mix of the remote island setting steeped in Morante’s preoccupation with social issues and the spectre of war.</p> <p><strong>Poland</strong></p> <p>One of my favourite themes in European literature is that of movement and fluidity, the running sense of unity of purpose amidst myriad diverse pockets of culture. The ubiquity of trains and boats support transcontinental journeys by characters who switch language mid-conversation. Last year’s <a href="https://thebookerprizes.com/international/news/flights-wins-man-booker-international-prize-2018">Man Booker International</a> winner, <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36885304-flights?from_search=true"><em>Flights</em></a> by Olga Tokarczuk takes traveling and travelers as the subject of its interconnected musings, making it an ideal choice for the vacation headspace. This year’s winner, <a href="https://thebookerprizes.com/international/"><em>Celestial Bodies</em> from Oman’s Jokha Alharthi</a>, has an English edition but has not yet been published in Canada.</p> <p><strong>Croatia</strong></p> <p>In my opinion, no contemplation of Pan-European lore can be complete without Dubravka Ugrešic’s <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/baba-yaga-laid-an-egg-by-dubravka-ugresic-1728869.html"><em>Baba Yaga Laid an Egg</em></a>. Once <a href="https://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-13827983/five-women-who-won-t-be-silenced-croatia-s-witches">labeled a witch herself</a> and driven into exile from Croatia, Ugrešic’s take on Baba Yaga explores the shifting nature of popular folklore.</p> <p><strong>Nigeria</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18749.Half_of_a_Yellow_Sun?ac=1&amp;from_search=true"><em>Half of a Yellow Sun</em></a> by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is not a translation, but it will take you to a place that only briefly existed: Biafra, a West African state founded in 1967. While the brutality of recent war may not make a particularly appetizing subject for vacation, Adichie contrasts the brutality with sumptuous descriptions of pre-war food and luxury, giving her vision of Biafra the aura of a lost dream. Adichie has referred to the war as a <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/hiding-from-our-past">shadow over her childhood</a>.</p> <p><strong>Norway</strong></p> <p>There are no beaches in <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6217.Kristin_Lavransdatter?from_search=true"><em>Kristen Lavransdatter</em></a> and many more Christmases than summers, but if you start Nobel Prize-winner Sigrid Undset’s oeuvre now, it may take you until winter to finish it. Set in Medieval Norway, the book follows the titular Kristen from childhood until death, focusing on her tumultuous love affair and marriage to Erlend Nikulaussøn. Tiina Nunnally’s translation, <a href="https://slate.com/culture/2017/01/why-sigrid-undset-author-of-the-kristin-lavransdatter-trilogy-should-be-the-next-elena-ferrante.html">focusing on plain, stripped-down language,</a> presents a change in philosophy from the first English translation that cut large portions of the text and enforced stiff, archaic language absent from the original Norwegian.</p> <p><strong>Argentina</strong></p> <p>Samanta Schweblin’s <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30763882-fever-dream?from_search=true"><em>Fever Dream</em></a> is slight in length but packs a heavy punch in both atmosphere and psychological investment. The story of a vacation gone terribly wrong, the novel’s Spanish title closely translates to “<a href="https://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-ca-jc-fever-dream-20170112-story.html">rescue distance</a>,” a recurring concept instantly familiar to parents of young children and terrifying as it becomes repeatedly destabilized. Fever Dream is so unsettling that I sometimes hesitate to recommend it, but I’ve found myself repeatedly drawn back to its tantalizing surrealism.</p> <p><strong>Canada</strong></p> <p>I’ve spent much of my life moving around, and as a recent settler on <a href="https://tkemlups.ca/profile/history/our-land/">unceded Secwepemc territory</a>, I want to learn more about the land I live on. In a summer steeped in fiction, <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34733963-secw-pemc-people-land-and-laws?ac=1&amp;from_search=true"><em>Secwépemc People, Land, and Laws</em></a> by Marianne and Ronald Ignace is the only history on my list, but in many ways it feels similar to the others, reaching out to add a new dimension to a place in which I’m still mostly an outsider. <a href="https://globalnews.ca/news/5371282/b-c-fire-season-expected-to-be-busier-than-normal/">For better or for worse</a>, Kamloops feels the most like itself in summer, the climate wants to have its stories told. It can feel intimidating to contemplate a 10,000 year history I know nothing about, but also comforting and necessary to reach back and hear the tales of the land I now call home.</p> <p><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><em>Written by </em><span><em>Amy McLay Paterson, Assessment and User Experience Librarian, Thompson Rivers University</em></span><em>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/summer-reads-when-you-cant-travel-let-a-book-transport-you-119519" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/119519/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p>

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5 minutes with author Katherine Johnson

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Katherine Johnson, a novelist and science journalist based in Tasmania. Her book <em>The Better Son </em>was longlisted for the Indie Book Awards and the Tasmania Book Prize. She recently completed a PhD in creative writing, which formed the basis of her latest and fourth novel <em>Paris Savages</em>.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Johnson about her book recommendation, source of inspiration, and the universal wisdom of Henry David Thoreau.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Katherine Johnson: Best tip(s) are: be observant, be brave, be honest, read, write and revise. People speak about waiting for inspiration and then writing when they are in the right frame of mind, but I think we would be waiting forever to write if that was the case. Inspiration and creativity happen when you sit down at the keyboard and let the ideas flow, one after the other and sometimes sideways in directions you didn’t anticipate. That’s the magic of it.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I always struggle with choosing one book – it’s like choosing one family member or one friend. I’ve read such varied books for different reasons and they all impact in various ways. I do think if people are interested in writing, or any form of creativity, Elizabeth Gilbert’s <em>Big Magic</em> is wonderful.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How have your past job(s) influenced your writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I worked as a science journalist for over a decade and it influences my fiction in that, if there are factual elements to a story, I like to stick to those, then imagine the rest. I also like to make it clear in the epilogues of my novels where the fact ends and the fiction begins. It’s my contract with the reader in my head.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you cry?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>No Great Mischief</span></em><span> by Alistair Macleod. I actually read it some time ago, but re-read parts just recently. So beautiful but so sad. Footsteps in the snow that simply stop… You’ll need to read it to know what I mean.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Do you have any writing routine? If so, what does it look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>My writing routine is to write whenever I can. It can be difficult to fit it in around the demands of other work and family et cetera, but I have managed to carve out time. I’ve just finished a PhD in creative writing, so I had the luxury of writing full time – 8.30am to 4.30pm every day of the week. And during editing and other processes, often some evenings and weekends as well. </span></p> <p><strong><span>How do you deal with writers’ block?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I can honestly say, I have never experienced writers’ block. Or if I have, it has felt like something else. A piece of the puzzle that wasn’t yet fitting perhaps? A walk is good. And talking out the problem with someone patient enough to listen!</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Margaret Atwood. What a woman. What a writer!</span></p> <p><strong><span>Is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I’ve recently been thinking about Henry David Thoreau, who, although writing in the 1850s, has made it onto many a fridge magnet. His thoughts about noticing nature, simplicity, walking, finding your own path, and not always conforming rang true to me when I read <em>Walden</em> as a young teenager – and I have to confess they still sit pretty comfortably now.</span></p>

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5 minutes with author Nathan Besser

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Nathan Besser, a novelist and businessperson. Having dropped writing in his young adulthood, Besser began writing again after spending years focusing on his alcohol delivery company Jimmy Brings and several other businesses. He went on to publish his first novel <em>Man in the Corner</em>, which has been optioned for film. His second novel, period drama <em>Wild </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Besser about Ritalin, Australian bogan gothic and the importance of speed chess for his writing.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip?</span></strong><span> <strong>Alternatively, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?</strong></span></p> <p><span>Nathan Besser: Best: Coffee or Ritalin. Worst: Coffee or Ritalin.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Anything will do, more people reading books would be my hope.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How have your past job(s) influenced your writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I worked as a home delivery driver for many years. When I used to work longhand, the manuscripts were often scented with tamarind or pizza dough.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you laugh or cry?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>Joy in the Morning</span></em><span> by P.G. Wodehouse. What ho!</span></p> <p><strong><span>What trope grinds your gears? </span></strong></p> <p><span>Australian bogan gothic.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Do you have any writing routine? If so, what does it look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Typically I will reserve mornings, if I can. When I can’t establish something regular, I steal available moments like a desperate meth head.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How do you deal with writer’s block? </span></strong></p> <p><span>Self-hatred and speed chess in equal measure.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Montaigne. But I don’t speak French, so we’d need a translator. And I don’t know that he’d eat… Or be good company.</span></p>

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Highly anticipated Naomi Wolf book cancelled after error was discovered

<p>Acclaimed US author Naomi Wolf was left red-faced after a major factual error was discovered on BBC radio.</p> <p>The book,<span> </span>Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalisation of Love<span> </span>has been pulled from publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt after the interview.</p> <p>The publisher announced that they and Wolf have “mutually and amicably agreed to part company”.</p> <p>The book centres on the treatment of gay people in Victorian England and previously offered examples Wolf had discovered of “several dozen executions” of men convicted of sodomy in Britain. The last example of this was back in 1930.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/Bzzmbaxp11-/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="margin: 8px 0 0 0; padding: 0 4px;"><a style="color: #000; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none; word-wrap: break-word;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Bzzmbaxp11-/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">‪Major UK based Feminist News and Opinion site, The F Word, calls Naomi Wolf’s Outrages, “a valuable piece that exposes the foundations for the outrages that still exist today when it comes to gay love.” https://thefword.org.uk/2019/07/gay-love-in-victorian-britain/ #feminist #LGBTQ #naomiwolf #naomiwolfbook‬</a></p> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;">A post shared by <a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/naomirwolf/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank"> Naomi Wolf</a> (@naomirwolf) on Jul 11, 2019 at 11:14pm PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>During a promotional tour for the book in the UK, BBC interviewer Matthew Sweet pointed out to Wolf that she had misinterpreted the legal term “death recorded”.</p> <p>The term, which is found in historical documents, left Wolf interpreting it as men who were executed for being gay.</p> <p>Sweet mentioned that it actually means that the judge abstained from pronouncing the death sentence and that the prisoner was pardoned.</p> <p>“I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened,” Sweet told a stunned Wolf.</p> <p>Wolf took the incident in her stride, saying that she didn’t “feel humiliated”.</p> <p>“I had read death recorded as meaning death recorded. The death penalty was the law of the land until 1861, [but] I misunderstood the phrase,” according to <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/21/naomi-wolf-book-outrages-new-york" target="_blank">The Guardian</a>.</p> <p>“The bottom line is that [Sweet] did me a favour by identifying a misreading that I corrected.</p> <p>“I don’t feel humiliated but I’m grateful for the correction. I feel great responsibility and humility about this history.”</p>

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Elton John reveals shocking Princess Diana confession

<p>Elton John has lived quite a colourful life, from getting into an argument with Princess Diana to sharing a joke with the queen, the musician has not held back in his new autobiography,<span> </span><em>Me</em>.</p> <p>Releasing shortly after his musical biopic<span> </span><em>Rocketman</em>, the honest memoir explores every moment of his extraordinary life.</p> <p>But possibly the most anticipated revelation is regarding his relationship with the late Princess Diana, who he first became friends with in 1981 at Prince Andrew’s 21st birthday party.</p> <p>He revealed that her thirst for gossip and company was irresistible, and after her separation from Prince Charles, there was a moment where Hollywood A-listers Sylvester Stallone and Richard Gere competed for her attention.</p> <p>Elton’s husband David found the two “squaring up to each other” and preparing to trade blows.</p> <p>It was then that Stallone stormed off, saying: “I never would have come if I’d known Prince f***in’ Charming was gonna be here.”</p> <p>The 72-year-old also addressed his infamous row with Diana, which he says was over a photography book featuring nearly naked men, by designer Gianni Versace – the proceeds of which were going to Elton’s Aids Foundation.</p> <p>Diana had originally agreed to write the foreword but decided against it at the last minute.</p> <p>The two made up in July 1997 after Versace was shot and killed. It was seven weeks before Diana herself passed away.</p> <p>Elton paid tribute to the royal by playing<span> </span><em>Candle In The Wind</em>, which he admitted to only listening to once since.</p> <p>He also revealed that he felt uncomfortable that the single, which is the biggest-selling UK song of all time, stayed at Number 1 for five weeks as it meant footage of Diana’s funeral was played constantly on<span> </span><em>Top Of The Pops.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Judy Nunn

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Judy Nunn, a novelist, scriptwriter and actor. After achieving success as a writer for the TV series <em>Neighbours</em> and as an actor for iconic soap <em>Home and Away</em>, Nunn expanded into prose in 1991 with her debut novel <em>The Glitter Game</em>. Since then, Nunn has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. In 2015, she was named a Member of the Order of Australia for her “significant service to the performing arts as a scriptwriter and actor of stage and screen, and to literature as an author”. Her latest book, <em>Khaki Town </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Nunn about the books more people should read, a trick she swears by to ward off writers’ block and the difference between writing for TV and novel.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip?</span></strong><span> <strong>Alternatively, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?</strong></span></p> <p>Judy Nunn: Best writing tip: Never let the book out of your head for too long or you’ll lose not only the plot but also your confidence.</p> <p>Worst writing advice (actually came from a UK publisher): “All scenes must be written from one character’s perspective”, which means if you have a scene between two major characters, you’re not supposed to see, within their minds, their specific thoughts or points of view. Ghastly!</p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>J.M. Barrie’s <em>Peter Pan</em>, Lewis Carroll’s <em>Alice in Wonderland</em> – anything that fires up the imagination of the young and reminds adults that they too were once young.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you laugh?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>Beware of God</span></em><span> by Shalom Auslander. I read it years ago – it was first published in 2005 – and recently re-read it. I laughed out loud all over again.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I head off to my ‘office’ – across the balcony to the room at the front of the house – and start work around 9.30. Break for a sandwich around 12.30, back to work until a rewarding glass of wine at 5, on for another hour or so, and that’s it.</span></p> <p><strong>In your view, what is the biggest difference between scriptwriting and prose writing?</strong></p> <p>Utterly different mediums. Scripts are written for interpretation on the stage or screen, prose is written to be interpreted by the reader’s imagination.</p> <p><strong>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you handle it?</strong></p> <p>I’ve fortunately never suffered writer’s block, but I have a trick to ward it off. At the end of my writing day I go into ‘upper case’, give no thought to form or ‘correct prose’, just freefall, giving vent to where my characters might go, what they might say and where the plot is leading me. Then, even if I have to leave off writing for several days, I can go back to work, read my big print and I’m right back on track.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>Authors are often less interesting than the characters they create. I might prefer to have dinner with Doctor Zhivago rather than Boris Pasternak or to have cocktails with Silas Marner rather than George Eliot. But if pushed, what about a beer with Spike Milligan?</p> <p><strong>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>I can’t stand ‘The bottom line is…’ and ‘At the end of the day…’. They’re so constantly repeated that to me they lose impact. I love the cliché ‘Fact is stranger than fiction’.</p>

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How to invent a Tolkien-style language

<p>The success of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies brought the languages that JRR Tolkien invented for the Elves to the attention of a much wider public. There are <a href="http://www.councilofelrond.com/content/elvish-resources/">now numerous books and websites</a> that allow devotees to learn Quenya and Sindarin. The <a href="http://www.oocities.org/petristikka/elvish/tikka.pdf">origins of Quenya in Finnish</a> and the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z2hthyc">Welsh inspirations of Sindarin</a> have fascinated Tolkien fans, with many learning and expanding on the tongues that were created by the author the best part of 100 years ago.</p> <p>Though enchanting, language invention has also baffled readers and critics alike. Bewildered critic <a href="https://www.ewtn.com/library/HOMELIBR/TOLFAIR.HTM">Robert Reilly exclaimed in 1963</a>: “No one ever exposed the nerves and fibres of his being in order to make up a language; it is not only insane but unnecessary.” But that’s where he was completely wrong.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6de_SbVUVfA?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> <span class="caption">JRR Tolkien recites the Quenya poem Namárië, sung by Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings.</span></p> <p>Language invention for works of fiction has a long history, from <a href="http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/21cc/utopia/more1/moreutopia.html">Thomas More’s Utopia</a> and <a href="http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item104566.html">Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels</a>, all the way to Tolkien’s immediate predecessors, such as <a href="https://archive.org/details/acrosszodiacsto01greggoog">Percy Gray</a> and <a href="http://www.sacred-texts.com/atl/vril/">Edward Bulwer Lytton</a>.</p> <p>Tolkien himself began composing his Middle-earth mythology at a time when the vogue for artificial languages was at its zenith. At the turn of the 20th century <a href="http://www.omniglot.com/writing/esperanto.htm">Esperanto</a> was taking the world by storm, and it competed with more than 100 other artificial languages, including Volapuk, Ido and Novial. It is also worth remembering too that this same period was a time of language experimentation. Russian zaum, the Dada movement and Modernism (among others) were attempting to break language and make it afresh.</p> <h2>Tolkien’s vice</h2> <p>In <a href="https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008131395/a-secret-vice">A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages</a>, edited by myself and Andrew Higgins, we present Tolkien’s own reflections on his language invention. In particular, the full publication of A Secret Vice, a paper Tolkien gave in 1931 at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he talked about his engagement with Esperanto and his contribution to nursery languages (codes children use, often for playful communication). Tolkien went on to unveil his many experiments in inventing new languages that would be aesthetically pleasing, including a sketch of a previously unknown imaginary language, published for the first time in the new book. He also commented on the “coeval and congenital” art of creating a world and characters that would speak these languages – the first seeds of the vast secondary world of Middle-earth.</p> <p>The book also includes a hitherto unpublished new essay on phonetic symbolism, in which Tolkien muses on the idea that the sounds of words may fit their meanings. Tolkien’s drafts and notes for both essays are also included. Some of these notes make mention of James Joyce and Gertrude Stein – hardly the literary company one expects Tolkien to be seen alongside.</p> <p>Contemporary popular culture has witnessed a renewed interest in fictional languages. Perhaps the best-known recent examples are <a href="http://docs.dothraki.org/Dothraki.pdf">Dothraki</a> and <a href="http://www.makinggameofthrones.com/production-diary/2014/5/8/high-valyrian-101-learn-and-pronounce-common-phrases">High Valyrian</a>, the languages invented by linguist David J. Petterson for HBO’s Game of Thrones. But they are by no means the only ones. Even non-fans of the Star Trek franchise will have at least heard of <a href="http://www.kli.org/about-klingon/klingon-history/">Klingon</a>, and James Cameron’s Avatar also includes an invented language: <a href="http://learnnavi.org/">Na'avi</a>.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0knxW76bDuI?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> <span class="caption">The creators of Na'avi, Klingon and Dothraki explain how to make a language.</span></p> <p>Whether intentional or not, Tolkien’s language creation has been highly influential for this new generation of inventors. In A Secret Vice, Tolkien outlined several rules for constructing imaginary languages, which later inventors appear to have followed.</p> <p>First, invented names and words should be coherent and consistent. Their sounds should both be aesthetically pleasing and fit the nature of the people who speak them. For example, the phonetic make-up of Klingon befits its militaristic speakers (who else would recite <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiRMGYQfXrs">Shakespeare’s “To be, or not to be” as “taH pagh taHbe”</a>?)</p> <p>Second, fictional languages should have a grammatical structure behind them. In <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Living-Language-Dothraki-Conversational-Original/dp/0804160864">Living Language Dothraki</a>, Peterson gives all the grammatical rules you need to form questions such as “hash yer dothrae chek asshekh?” (“do you ride well today?”).</p> <p>And finally, invented languages should be an integral, indeed vital, part of myth-making - as Tolkien said: “Your language construction will breed a mythology”. There are far too many examples to list here, but what may have astounded Tolkien is the central position that language invention has achieved in the building of new entertainment franchises such as Star Trek, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, and Game of Thrones.</p> <p>Like Tolkien himself, many inventors of today’s fictional languages have been linguists and communicators: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5Did-eVQDc">Marc Okrand</a>, the inventor of Klingon, has a PhD in linguistics from Berkeley; <a href="http://www.marshall.usc.edu/faculty/directory/frommer">Paul Frommer</a>, creator of Na'avi, is professor emeritus of clinical management communication at the University of Southern California. Tolkien’s legacy also lives on in the many thousands of constructed languages (con-langs) which are invented just for fun and discovery through groups like <a href="http://conlang.org/">The Language Construction Society</a>.</p> <p>What is rarer, and shows Tolkien’s genius, is that the complex interweaving of myth-making and language invention that make Middle-earth feel real was the achievement of a single man. And that is a tough act to follow.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/57380/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Dimitra Fimi, Lecturer in English, Cardiff Metropolitan University</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-invent-a-tolkien-style-language-57380" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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"I’ll have what she’s having": How and why we copy the choices of others

<p>Imagine you’re dining out at a casual restaurant with some friends. After looking over the menu, you decide to order the steak. But then, after a dinner companion orders a salad for their main course, you declare: “I’ll have the salad too.”</p> <p>This kind of situation – making choices that you probably otherwise wouldn’t make <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucv012">were you alone</a> – probably happens more often than you think in a wide variety of settings, from eating out to shopping and even donating to charity. And it’s not just a matter of you suddenly realizing the salad sounds more appetizing.</p> <p><a href="https://explorable.com/chameleon-effect">Prior research has shown</a> people have a tendency to mimic the choices and behaviors of others. But other work suggests people also want to do the exact opposite to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/317585">signal their uniqueness</a> in a group by making a different choice from others.</p> <p>As scholars who examine consumer behavior, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0022243719853221">we wanted</a> to resolve this discrepancy: What makes people more likely to copy others’ behavior, and what leads them to do their own thing?</p> <p><strong>A social signal</strong></p> <p>We developed a theory that how and why people match or mimic others’ choices depends a lot on the attributes of the thing being selected.</p> <p>Choices have what we call “ordinal” attributes that can be ranked objectively – such as size or price – as well as “nominal” attributes that are not as easily ranked – such as flavor or shape. We hypothesized that ordinal attributes have more social influence, alerting others to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2013.08.007">what may be seen as “appropriate”</a> in a given context.</p> <p>Nominal attributes, on the other hand, would seem to be understood as a reflection of one’s personal preferences.</p> <p>So we performed 11 studies to test our theory.</p> <p><strong>One scoop or two</strong></p> <p>In one study conducted with 190 undergraduate students, we told participants that they were on their way to an ice cream parlor with a friend to get a cone. We then told our would-be ice cream consumers that their companion was getting either one scoop of vanilla, one scoop of chocolate, two scoops of vanilla or two scoops of chocolate. We then asked participants what they wanted to order.</p> <p>We found that people were much more likely to order the same size as their companion but not the same flavor.</p> <p>The participants seemed to interpret the number of scoops the companion ordered as an indication of what’s appropriate. For example, ordering two scoops might signal “permission” to indulge or seem the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1509/jm.11.0261">more financially savvy</a> – if less healthy – choice, since it usually costs only marginally more than one. Or a single scoop might suggest “let’s enjoy some ice cream – but not too much.”</p> <p>The choice of chocolate or vanilla, on the other hand, is readily understood as a personal preference and thus signals nothing about which is better or more appropriate. I like vanilla, you like chocolate – everyone’s happy.</p> <p>We also asked participants to rate how important avoiding social discomfort was in their decision. Those who ordered the same number of scoops as their companion rated it as more important than those who picked a different amount.</p> <p><strong>Examining other contexts</strong></p> <p>In the other studies, we replicated our results using different products, in various settings and with a variety of ordinal and nominal attributes.</p> <p>For example, in another experiment, we gave participants US$1 to buy one of four granola bars from a mock store we set up inside the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz/CBA Business Research Center. As the ordinal attribute, we used <a href="https://doi.org/10.1509/jmkg.65.1.71.18132">brand prestige</a>: They could pick either a more expensive well-known national brand or a cheaper one sold by a grocery store under its own label. Our nominal attribute was chocolate or peanut butter.</p> <p>Before making the choice, a “store employee” stationed behind the checkout register told participants she or he had tested out a granola bar, randomly specifying one of the four – without saying anything about how it tasted. We rotated which granola bar the employee mentioned every hour during the five-day experiment.</p> <p>Similar to the ice cream study, participants tended to choose the brand that the employee said he or she had chosen – whether it was the cheaper or pricier one – but ignored the suggested flavor.</p> <p>Moving away from food, we also examined influences on charitable donations. In this study, we recruited online participants who were paid for their time. In addition, we gave each participant 50 cents to either keep or donate to charity.</p> <p>If they chose to donate the money, they could give all of it or half to a charity focused on saving either <a href="https://www.savetheelephants.org">elephants</a> or <a href="https://polarbearsinternational.org/">polar bears</a>. Before they made their choice, we told them what another participant had supposedly decided to do with their money – randomly based on one of the four possibilities.</p> <p>The results were the same as in all our other studies, including ones we conducted involving different brands and shapes of pasta and varieties and taste profiles of wine. People matched the ordinal attribute – in this case the amount – but paid little heed to the nominal attribute – the chosen charity – which remained a personal preference.</p> <p>These kinds of social cues regarding others’ choices are everywhere, from face-to-face interactions with friends to online tweets or Instagram posts, making it difficult to escape the influence of what others do on our own consumption choices.</p> <p>And if we believe we’re making our companions feel more comfortable while still choosing something we like, what’s the harm in that?</p> <p><em>Written by <span>Kelly L. Haws, Associate Professor of Marketing, Vanderbilt University; Brent McFerran, W. J. Van Duse Associate Professor, Marketing, Simon Fraser University, and Peggy Liu, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, University of Pittsburgh</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/ill-have-what-shes-having-how-and-why-we-copy-the-choices-of-others-122682" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p>

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What makes a book 'good'?

<p>How many copies of <em>Fifty Shades of Grey</em> does it take to make a fort? A branch of Oxfam in Swansea, south Wales, received so many unwanted copies of EL James’s erotic novel, that staff decided to build a fort out of them in the back office.</p> <p>Well, why not? Once the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-18618648">hottest book in publishing</a>, <em>Fifty Shades</em> now can’t be given away fast enough. Relief at last, perhaps, for all those high-brow academics and frustrated authors – myself among them – whose hearts sank when this fan fiction-derived tale became the <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9459779/50-Shades-of-Grey-is-best-selling-book-of-all-time.html">fastest-selling paperback of all time in Britain</a> and went on to sell more than 125m copies around the world.</p> <p>But was it any good? <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/28/what-el-james-grey-success-tells-us-about-future-of-fiction">Critics seemed to think not</a>, but just as publishers will tell you a good review does not necessarily sell books, nor, it seems, does a whole series of bad reviews harm sales of a book once momentum has been achieved.</p> <p>When I was a child listening to the Top 40 countdown on Radio 1 on a Sunday evening, there was no doubt in my mind that the higher up the charts my favourite singles climbed, the better those particular songs were shown to be. In my ten-year-old mind there was a straightforward correlation between commercial success and artistic quality. A single that reached number ten was pretty good, but one that went straight into the chart at number one and stayed there for four weeks was clearly better.</p> <p>At some point I must have given voice to this theory, because my elder sister once told me that “just because one song is higher up in the charts doesn’t make it better than another song that’s lower down.” While I reeled at this news, she did happily agree that Slade’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTEGxVDHpGU"><em>Cum On Feel the Noize</em></a> was nevertheless the best song around at the time.</p> <p><strong>Making good</strong></p> <p>So what does make a book – or a film or a song – good? What gives a work lasting value? There are methods of assessment; you can apply criteria. As a lecturer in creative writing, who marks novels written by MA students, I would say that, wouldn’t I? But as a reader – and as an editor for a small publisher – I obviously have my own, subjective views on what’s good and what’s not so good.</p> <p>The lesson my sister taught me has stayed with me over the years and I’ll admit that these days I’m suspicious of anything that seems to be enjoying too much success. Was Zadie Smith’s award-winning <em>White Teeth</em> really that good? How about David Mitchell’s acclaimed <em>Cloud Atlas</em>? <em>Fifty Shades of Grey</em>? I don’t know, because I haven’t read them. There are lots of interesting-sounding books out there, but why should I feel obliged to read the same ones everyone else is reading? Is the culture really nothing but a huge book club?</p> <p>It’s frustrating for publishers working hard to launch new careers (they’ve long given up trying to sustain flagging ones) when they know that only a tiny number of titles will account for the vast majority of sales.</p> <p>One first-time author of my acquaintance whose debut novel was published in 2015 to a small number of enthusiastic reviews and poor sales feels so disappointed by the whole experience he often talks of jacking it all in. Is the <em>Fifty Shades</em> phenomenon part of that problem? Would I rather that great literature was achieving that level of commercial success? Well, yes, but can we as a society agree on what is great literature? I don’t think we can and I even prefer to think that we shouldn’t, being inherently suspicious of <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-tale-of-squirrelling-away-books-that-sparked-a-nutty-row-over-childrens-literature-35442">the exclusivity of the canon</a>.</p> <p>So, let big houses continue to publish bestsellers. They make money and keep people in jobs and maybe, just maybe, there’s a trickle-down effect. Profits from big books may enable risks to be taken on smaller ones. EL James <a href="http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/el-james-fifty-shades-grey-1m-charity-482496">donated £1m of her royalties to charity</a>.</p> <p>And so what if we end up with mountains of unwanted books? As long as we continue to build new roads (and that’s a whole other subject), we’ll continue to need unwanted books. When the M6 Toll opened in 2003, building materials supplier Tarmac revealed that <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_midlands/3330245.stm">2.5m Mills &amp; Boon novels had been pulped and used in the manufacture of the asphalt</a>.</p> <p>Swansea’s red-faced consumers of James’s “mommy porn” may not have donated 2.5m copies of <em>Fifty Shades</em> to Oxfam, but a quick calculation, studying the <a href="http://metro.co.uk/2016/03/22/charity-shop-begs-women-not-to-return-used-copies-of-fifty-shades-of-grey-5767801/">photograph of the house-like construction that has been tweeted all over the world</a>, suggests it takes about 600 copies of <em>Fifty Shades</em> to make a fort.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/57077/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Nicholas Royle, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Manchester Metropolitan University</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/what-makes-a-book-good-57077" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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3 alternative romantic fiction authors that will heat up any beach trip

<p>There’s no better way to escape the stresses than to put your reading into “romance” gear. For summer relief, try instead the question of the heart versus the mind. That is the core problem of much of my very favourite, intellectually inspiring fiction.</p> <p>Chick lit is out, I’m afraid: an avowed literary snob, I like my dilemmas of desire served up in rich, fulsome English, with slowly unravelled plots and textured characters, not two-dimensional patriarchal fairy tales dished up in elementary school grammatical structures (<em>hides under the table</em>).</p> <p>Current favourites are George Gissing’s <em><a href="https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/odd-women">The Odd Women</a></em> and an assortment of Margaret Drabble, the queen of 1970s British letters, and pretty much anything by Iris Murdoch.</p> <p><strong>George Gissing</strong></p> <p>For the tensions and irrationalities of romantic feeling, <em>The Odd Women</em> (1893) is superlative. What it does so brilliantly is take one of the burning sets of issues of the day – women’s rights, particularly in relation to marriage – and pits its intellectual and ideological propositions against the anarchic, intrusive power of dawning love.</p> <p>Let me lure you further. The book’s main characters are two vehement feminists, the excellently named Rhoda Nunn, and her partner in crime, the angelic yet forceful Mary Barfoot. Together – they live together, too – they seek to save single, or “odd” women from the desolate dregs of the old maids’ job market by training them up as clerks on typewriters.</p> <p>Suddenly, Rhoda finds herself in an odd position. An avowed spinster, determined to practice what she preaches, she is also of “strong and shapely” figure and “handsome” feature. So when Mary’s sexy cousin, Everard, begins visiting the house on return from his relaxed bachelor travels around the Orient, he takes an interest in her. Rhoda’s position is the following: “I am seriously convinced that before the female sex can be raised from its low level there will have to be a widespread revolt against sexual instinct.”</p> <p>Catnip for Everard who – as stubborn as Rhoda – begins a woo that is hard to resist, seeming to fall not only for Rhoda but for women’s equality, too. The delicious yet unexpected conclusion to this story is head and shoulders above your usual romance fare, the work of a master stylist who never abandons humour, even as he makes you cry.</p> <p><strong>Margaret Drabble</strong></p> <p>Drabble, 80 years later, gives a softer but equally crystalline gender-aware portrait of relationships. In <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/books/97/10/19/home/drabble-oates.html"><em>The Needle’s Eye</em></a> (1972), reserved Simon Camish goes to a dreadful supper party and is offended by the guests’ vulgarity. But then rough-skinned, makeup-free, and self-dispossessed heiress Rose walks in, and with her genteel delicacy of manner and genuine modesty, immediately entrances Simon, himself married to a minor heiress he can’t stand.</p> <p>Simon gets involved in Rose’s divorce saga; desperate to play the legal knight in shining armour (he is a lawyer) to Rose’s sensitive yet deeply stubborn damsel in distress. Both reveal astonishing integrity of character as Rose is buffeted with extreme violence for rejecting social expectations by insisting on being poor.</p> <p>But if you’re feeling anxious, I recommend <em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/15/the-millstone-the-crucial-1960s-feminist-novel">The Millstone</a></em>, Drabble’s 1965 peach about an adorable unmarried scholar of Elizabethan verse who gets pregnant the first time she has sex, and never tells the father, who she worships from afar. It’s both soothing and sad. The father is a BBC radio announcer, and she merely switches on the radio when she wants to feel reassured by him, which is a lovely bit of romance. It is a very slim book, but it’s perfectly formed: a story of an intelligent, liberated woman leaving the man out while falling in love with the baby everyone told her not to have on any account.</p> <p>Happy ending? Unclear. Like real life, in which convention, rationality and deep emotional drives do not always mesh? Definitely, but sweeter.</p> <p><strong>Iris Murdoch</strong></p> <p>Iris isn’t for everyone. But I have loved her ever since a friend handed me <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/books/98/12/20/specials/murdoch-prince.html"><em>The Black Prince</em></a> (1973) on a rainy holiday in Sicily. Cowering on a deserted beach, I found myself intrigued and amused as ageing author Bradley becomes increasingly caught in a cat’s cradle of deadly desire, starring a striking assortment of women with men’s names such as Christian and Julian.</p> <p>Booker Prize-winning <em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2009/feb/10/iris-murdoch-sea-booker">The Sea, the Sea</a> </em>(1978) also completely bewitched me: once more, a story of explosive obsession ripping through the reserve of an otherwise orderly, if arrogant, English life of letters.</p> <p>And currently I’m savouring <em><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/books/98/12/20/specials/murdoch-sandcastle.html">The Sandcastle</a> </em>(1957), about a middle-aged Surrey schoolmaster, Bill Mor, who falls ill-advisedly in love with the deliciously named Rain Carter, a nymph-like portrait painter hired to capture the retired headmaster. The parched school grounds, the doe-like yet strong Rain, the prudish ferocity of Mrs Mor and their children’s spectral games cast a magic spell, just as Murdoch – I assume – intended.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/61549/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Zoe Strimpel, Doctoral researcher, History, University of Sussex</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/three-alternative-romantic-fiction-authors-that-will-heat-up-any-beach-trip-61549" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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5 minutes with author Favel Parrett

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Favel Parrett, a Victoria-based writer. Her 2011 debut novel <em>Past the Shallows </em>won the Dobbie Literary Award and was shortlisted in the prestigious Miles Franklin Award. Parrett’s short stories have also been published in various journals, including <em>Island</em>, <em>Griffith Review </em>and <em>Wet Ink</em>. Her new book <em>There Was Still Love </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Parrett about her best writing tip, the wonders of nature for writing, and the most epic novel she’s read.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Favel Parrett: It is possible! Keep going, keep working, keep putting your work out there.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book(s) are you reading right now? </span></strong></p> <p><em><span>Big Sky </span></em><span>by Kate Atkinson.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you cry or laugh?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>Tin Man</span></em><span> by Sarah Winman – it made me cry.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think is underrated? </span></strong></p> <p><em><span>The Vanishing Act</span></em><span> by Mette Jakobsen.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What do you think is the most challenging work you’ve ever read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Maybe not the most challenging, but the most epic – <em>The Grapes of Wrath</em> by John Steinbeck.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How do you deal with writer’s block?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Surf, walk, daydream, garden, bird-watch. Nature is the key! </span></p> <p><strong><span>Which three authors – living or deceased – would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Tove Jansson, Maya Angelou, and Sarah Winman.</span></p>

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“Extraordinary permission”: Queen Elizabeth allows close friend to write tell-all book

<p>The Queen’s personal dresser and confidant Angela Kelly has been given “extraordinary permission” from the Queen herself to write a tell-all book that details their working relationship.</p> <p>Kelly has been employed by Her Majesty since 1994 and is the first member of the royal household to be given permission to write about their experiences on the job, according to<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://honey.nine.com.au/royals/queen-elizabeth-dresser-angela-kelly-given-permission-to-write-book/72ecda56-bfa1-42e1-9e7d-44737ca321e8" target="_blank">Nine Honey</a></em>.</p> <p>The monarch has "personally given Angela her blessing to share their unparalleled bond with the world", says a spokesperson for the publisher, HarperCollins.</p> <p>Kelly, 51, started at the palace as the Queen’s senior dresser before rising to Her Majesty’s Personal Advisor and Curator, which includes jewellery, insignias and wardrobe as well as in-house designer.</p> <p>She is the first person in history to hold such a job title and shares a uniquely close working relationship with the Queen.</p> <p><em>The Other Side of the Coin</em> will include never-before-seen photographs from Kelly's private collection as well as anecdotes of their time spent together.</p> <p>"Angela Kelly is the first serving member of the Royal Household to have been given this extraordinary permission," the publisher says.</p> <p>Kelly likened her relationship with the Queen as “two typical women” who “discuss clothes, make-up and jewellery” in a 2007 interview with<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1571986/The-Queen-and-I-by-Her-Majestys-PA.html" target="_blank">The Telegraph</a></em>.</p> <p>"I don't know why the Queen seems fond of me - because I don't give her an easy time," Kelly said. "I do think she values my opinion, but she is the one who is in control. I do worry about her and care about her. But we also have a lot of fun together."</p> <p>Australian palace aid Samantha Cohen, assistant Private Secretary to the Queen between 2011-2018, says the book "gives a rare glimpse into the demands of the job of supporting the Monarch, and we gain privileged insight into a successful working relationship, characterised by humour, creativity, hard work, and a mutual commitment to service and duty".</p> <p>"Angela is a talented and inspiring woman, who has captured the highlights of her long career with The Queen for us all to share."</p>

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