Book Review: Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

When cold weather draws in and the lights are extinguished from mid-afternoon on, I long to hibernate. To be warm and cosy at home, baking or reading or catching up on recorded episodes of Strictly. But there are times I can be coaxed into a detour on my way out of the office, and the chance to discuss Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress (Bloomsbury) with the lovely crew over at the Society of Young Publishers was one such recent occasion.

The opening line

‘The freezing rain sifts down, handfuls of shining rice thrown by some unseen celebrant.’ Continue reading

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NYC Skyline by Philipp Henzler

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Like so many others, I came to know Breakfast at Tiffany’s through the Audrey Hepburn film, which I first watched as a teenager and have replayed incessantly over the past two decades. For me, Audrey is incomparable. Never mind Clara Bow; Audrey is the it girl I have always aspired to.

When I learned that London’s National Portrait Gallery was opening an exhibit dedicated to iconic portraits of Audrey paired with screenings of her films (including Breakfast at Tiffany’s), I decided it was high time to read Truman Capote’s book and discover the original story behind Holly Golightly. What I found surprised me. Continue reading

Audrey Hepburn - Portrait of an Icon at the National Portrait Gallery

Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon

When I close my eyes and think of Audrey Hepburn, I picture several things:

  • The pixie hair cut
  • The little black dress
  • The heart-breaking rendition of ‘Moon River’ on the fire escape of a New York City brownstone
  • The characteristic poise, elegance and grace
  • The humanitarian, campaigning tirelessly for UNICEF

All of these things and more are now on display thanks to one of the most exciting exhibits of the summer, Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, open through 18 October at London’s National Portrait Gallery. Continue reading

Blurred lights of a city at night

Tap into new possibilities with Tina Seelig’s reframing exercise

I recently came across Tina Seelig’s work through Srini Rao’s Unmistakable Creative podcast and played it on repeat at least three times. I may play it again after publishing this because it’s that good.

Her suggestion on writing a failure resume – collecting all your biggest screw-ups, personal, professional and academic – and taking time to understand what went wrong and what could be done differently in the future may be the most important advice I’ve come across this year.

But I wanted to explore another theme in the podcast: that of re-framing questions. Continue reading

Stars

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

At a recent writing session, I heard about a new publishing house that was looking for female authors writing about female protagonists with an emphasis on YA novels.

I immediately started brainstorming my pitch.

But the fact is, I’m sadly out of touch with YA fiction, aside from vaguely remembered paperbacks from my tweens and the obligatory Harry Potter novels I swallowed whole after moving solo to Denver in my early twenties.

Like all good writers, I decided the first step was a little research. A trip to Waterstone’s in London’s Piccadilly Circus (one of my favourite hangouts) revealed a mind-numbing selection sprawled across an entire floor.

Where to start? Continue reading

Girl Reading by Viktor Hanacek

5 lessons learned from Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I don’t know what it is in my nature that makes me distrust the incredibly successful. But I was comforted recently by Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince to know that it’s not a perspective wholly unique to me.

In Murdoch’s novel, Bradley Pearson is a writer almost without publication, who has been saving his gift for the one book that will be his life’s crowning achievement. He is jealous and slightly resentful toward Arnold Baffin, a younger writer he ‘discovered’ who churns out a book a year, and who is, in Bradley’s opinion, squandering his talent on minor works and who moves too quickly to ever write anything worthwhile.

In the same spirit I’ve avoided novelists with huge repertoires simply because I assumed a wide appeal pointed to a diluted art form that would leave me a) wishing I could recover the time wasted on a poorly written book or b) feeling guilty for not slogging my way through something more challenging and meaningful to the human experience. Continue reading

Fish By Josefa Holland-Merten at Unsplash

Silencing negative self-talk

Srinivas Rao, host of the Unmistakable Creative podcasts. asked marketing guru Seth Godin in a recent interview how we can turn our inner monologue – the thoughts and self-talk constantly running through our heads – into something that serves us rather than sabotages us. Seth said the first step is becoming aware that a monologue even exists.

“A goldfish doesn’t notice the water in his tank,” he said. Continue reading