A Giveaway! (No Bull)

Books for blog 003I’ve got books on the brain because I’ve just finished the excellent Graham Simsion novel, ‘The Rosie Project’ for our Book Club (I had to read half of it in one sitting yesterday because I’d left it to the last minute!) and also (in an unrelated move) I set ‘writing a book review’ as homework for my class this week.

I’ll be interested to see what they come up with.

A writing friend of mine told me once he was always ‘torn’ between reading and writing. Does anyone else feel like that?

Stephen King advocates in his book ‘On Writing’ (also highly recommended!) that if you want to be a writer you have to do two things: “Write a lot. And read a lot.” But there never seems to be enough time to do both, does there?

He also says in his ‘second preface’ in ‘On Writing‘: ‘This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bulls*t.’

Anyway, I thought it was time for a little giveaway! I treated myself to a set of three books from the ‘Teach Yourself’ series, namely, How To Craft A Great Story; Write Great Dialogue; Write A Novel And Get It Published. In fact, they looked so good, that I bought 2 sets and one of them is going to be given away!

If you’d like to be in the draw to win all three books, just leave a couple of lines of ‘book-related comment’ under this post. You have a choice of 3:

1) a (short!) book review
2) tell me what book you’ve just read/are reading and what you think of it!
3) answer the question ‘Are you torn between reading and writing’? (reminds me of that song, ‘Torn Between Two Lovers’ – do you remember it? ‘Feelin’ like a fool.. lovin’ both of you, is breaking all the rules…’)

I’ll pull a winner out of the proverbial hat on Saturday at 10am, so get your comments in by then! One entry per person and the draw is open to all but I can only post to a UK address – sorry! (Ninette and Philippa and others of you, living in exotic climes, if you have a friend/relative in the UK who would accept the books on your behalf, until you see them, you can, of course, still enter!)

P.S: And in other news.. I have fallen over twice in the last week and on Saturday, as we turned to close the gate of the field we’d just wandered through (well, we wandered, the dog ran. Perhaps she knew something we didn’t..), we spotted this lovely sign: BULL IN FIELD (that was ominously missing from the gate at the other side).

I am living dangerously.

Bull In Field

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37 Responses to A Giveaway! (No Bull)

  1. I’m reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain. It’s about the power of introverts and is one of those very few books I think I can call life changing. She has given a word or label to all kinds of feelings I have had over the years. Made me realise I am not alone. I would guess a lot of us could benefit from it.

  2. Nita Jain says:

    I am currently reading The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard Feynman, and I am really enjoying his anecdotes of how scientific literacy impacts his view of the world. As Neil deGrasse Tyson says, “If you’re scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you, and that understanding empowers you.”

    One of my favorite quotes from Feynman: I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

  3. Hi Helen, great giveaway, thanks. I’ve just finished reading ‘Village Wives’ by Rebecca Shaw. A saga around a vet’s practice. It’s got everything I want in a book. I’ll be reading more in the series, I enjoyed it so much.

  4. cathaber1 says:

    Hi Helen – I’m working my way through the Baileys’ Prize shortlist. I recently finished Audrey Magee’s The Undertaking, a story of love, convenience and collaboration in WW2 Germany. Well told, though I found the ending somewhat abrupt.

    • That’s the sort of thing I always say I’ll do but don’t – work my way through a shortlist! Good for you. Endings are so important, aren’t they? And so hard to get right – in novels and short stories.

  5. Downith says:

    I read The Rosie Project a few months back and loved it. I’m reading Who Will Run The Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore. Only a few chapters in but she nails the angsty teen years. In the 1960s no less, a period which I *may* have some passing familiarity with.

    • Yes, ‘The Rosie Project’ got the thumbs up from my reading group too. Er..apart from the 4 people who hadn’t read it. 2 were half way through (they’re ALWAYS half way through), one woman breezed in (late) “Oh no, I haven’t read it!” she said, in a ‘I’m-only-here-for-the-wine’ tone and another man had apparently not been able to find it on Amazon in order to download it! I despair! (hmm, but actually I’ve just given myself an idea for a story, so perhaps it wasn’t all bad!)

    • Forgot to say, I haven’t heard of the book you’re reading but what a fantastic title!

  6. KH says:

    My most recent read was The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. This book drew me, confused me but totally captivated me. I’d never have guessed the ending.

  7. Karen OConnor says:

    I am reading Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill. It’s a horror and pretty gruesome! Not sure about it yet and am half way through. I’m reading it because Adam is marketed as the British Stephen King, who I love, and On Writing is a great book.

  8. POLYT says:

    My latest read was Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. Gripping stuff from start to finish. Particularly liked the court scene which she must have researched in depth to write it with such authority.

  9. julielees says:

    I am working my way through Kate Atkinson (not literally you understand) and now on ‘Behind the Scenes in the Museum’ having already read ‘Life after Life’ and ‘Case Histories’ – as you can see there is no chronology here. It took me a couple of chapters to get hooked, but now I am well and truly – line and sinker – and laughing out loud at the escapades of the Lennox family and their antecedents. I’m fascinated at how Atkinson can take the saddest event you can imagine (the death of a child) and using the deceased siblings’ reactions, recreate it as comedy. Pure gold!

    • Yes, I agree, she’s brilliant. I read ‘Behind the Scenes’ years ago (and read everything else she’s ever written since) but I really want to re-read it, to see if it’s still as fabulous as I remember!

  10. Ali Newman says:

    I am currently reading ‘the sea, the sea’ by Iris Murdoch. It was slow at the beginning but as with other Iris Murdoch books; things become more and more tense as the story unravels. Some beautiful imagery if like me you love the sea and all things ‘coastal’. I am nearly finished but it’s at that point where you’re talking at the book (like you do; or maybe that’s just me) and then it turns again. The descriptions of the everyday such as what the main character does and eats or humbling and curiously add to the scene. The book dates back to the 70’s when it was written and it is quite amazing how things are moved on now. I am reading Iris Murdoch after taking a creative writing course with the Open University (A215) – highly recommended… Part of the course was life writing and I looked at some memoirs which Iris was one; LOVE the film version too.
    Helen I have found your blog so useful for my course as we had to prepare work for a magazine – I used WW…Not likely I will get that though as never had luck there before. Sorry for essay ;D

  11. Morton Gray says:

    I’ve just read ‘A Hundred Pieces of Me’ by Lucy Dillon. Enjoyed the book as I was reading it, even read during the day when I should have been doind other things (which I don’t normally allow myself to do), but what I have been most impressed about is the fact that the book has left a lasting impression on me and I am still thinking about it now! It made me think about my possessions and whether I actually need everything I am surrounded by. Definitely a case of ‘added value’ from a novel.

  12. Janey says:

    I’m reading Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. It’s a children’s book, and has won a slew of prizes, and I’m about halfway through. It’s just wonderful. The language is fabulous, the characters are lovable, and there’s a real sense of adventure! Even the book itself is beautiful – the cover is lovely, and there is a sketch of the Paris skyline at the start of every chapter, and a little bird at page breaks. I wish it was mine to keep instead of a library book!

    Jane x

  13. Angela Greenwood says:

    I’m so ashamed to say I’m reading nothing at the moment. I find if I’m reading I can’t write and If I’m writing I can’t read and at the moment writing is more important!

  14. Martine says:

    Just started Never Look Back by Clare Donoghue: A whodunnit, set in London. I’m finding it enjoyable and gripping.

  15. banksywrites says:

    I’m currently juggling several books: Alexander McCall Smith’s The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon on my Kobo, M C Beaton’s The Busy Body in hardback, Quiet by Susan Cain in paperback and 35 Tips On Saving Money by Wolfgang Riebe on my iPad. I had dipped into each of them to start with and found them all engaging, so decided to carry on with them simultaneously.

  16. Angela Watt says:

    Oh yes, the dilemma of reading or writing. I love both immensely and I’m not sure which gives the most satisfaction. There is something truly wonderful about the prospect of escaping to a long hot bath filled with bubbles and a book so enticing that you have to keep topping up the hot water to keep reading. And what about those books where the characters feel like friends you’d love to have over for dinner. As you turn the last page, it can feel like genuine loss that they won’t be around in your life tomorrow.

    But then again to sit and lose yourself in your own writing is a wonderful experience. Isn’t it great when you write a sentence that seems to encapsulate the very essence of your character or you write a twist that even you didn’t see coming until it was right there in front of you? I get a real buzz from finishing a piece of writing and knowing that despite the flaws within it, I’ve still created something that is uniquely mine.

    It’s a tough call so I guess I’ll have to go 50/50 and continue with the joys of both pursuits.

    Thanks for posing the question and making me think about it.

  17. lauraclipson says:

    I love both reading and writing, but I often find it difficult to balance the two out. Usually I’ll have enough time for one, so I have to choose between them both.
    I love to read, to lose myself in someone else’s story for a while; it’s addictive. As soon as I finish one book I can’t wait to devour the next.
    On the other hand, I love to lose myself in creating my own stories. There’s nothing like finishing a story you’ve written yourself, and loving what you’ve written.
    So yes, I am definitely torn between reading and writing. I wish I had more time in my life to fit them both in.

  18. I’m reading Angela Carter’ ‘The Bloody Chamber,’ (Folio Society edition). Amazing twists on old fairy stories; really enjoying it in a gothic sort of way.

  19. Helen Lowry says:

    Hi Helen. I’m reading The Daughters of Gentlemen, a Francis Doughty mystery by Linda Stratmann. This is the second book in a series of three, set in Victorian times. Francis is a private detective, an unusual occupation for a young lady at the time! The books are very well written and researched and full of character. Easy to read and very enjoyable.

  20. Wendy Clarke says:

    I always feel that I’m reading when I should be writing and writing when I should be reading!

  21. What a great giveaway – and might just be the kick I need to keep my backside in my writing chair!

    I’m currently between books, as am trying to give as much time as possible to the first few thousand words of my own next project to get it well underway without too many distractions.
    The last great book I read was ‘Cry Baby’ by David Jackson – a really interesting twist but still using his central NYPD Detective character from his previous books. Don’t worry, it can easily be picked up and read even if you’ve not read the other books. It was a bold venture by the author and his agent, Oli Munson, to publish as an ebook using amazon’s ‘White Glove’ platform – a gamble which has clearly paid off as the book’s getting rave reviews and a lot of downloads.
    Here’s what I thought about it and the author’s comments about twitter and reviewers too: http://www.keithbwalters.com/?p=3112

  22. philippabowe says:

    Writing or reading: both ideally, but when time is at even more of a premium than usual, writing may fall by the wayside, whereas reading never does; there will always be time for reading. However, when I want to focus intensely on a piece of writing, preparing something for a competition for instance, I avoid reading one of those delicious huge novels that will totally pull me in, like Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, and stick to something I can more easily delve in and out of, possibly a short story collection.
    And yes Helen, happily I do have my sisters in the UK who happily accept parcels for me!

  23. Reading always makes me want to write. When reading novels or short stories I keep finding myself thinking, “but what if she did this instead of that?” or “what if this happened in a different place?” or I imagine myself in the story, and then have to think of reasons for me to be there and a parallel plot for me to go alongside the story’s main plot. So then I’m torn between wanting to read because I’m immersed in it and wanting to write because I feel inspired. Sometimes I try to make notes while I’m reading, but it’s hard to remember to when I’m really into a book.

  24. piarve says:

    How do you pick between reading and writing? It is something I ask myself constantly during my free time, once the little one is in bed, the house is silent, and I have a few moments to do whatever it is I wish to catch up on.

    I love writing, its a great form of reflection, it reveals to you things which often you might overlook if you had decided to simply…go to bed.At times putting thoughts down on paper free’s something within, without loosing it, as there is always the opportunity to revisit those feelings (and then you can laugh, or cry, or share how silly or cute or intelligent you came across). Reading can do something similar, it can help evaluate your thoughts (based on the authors themes). I have some opinions which are difficult to bring into words, and it is refreshing to have an author word those thoughts whilst introducing new concepts and ideas.

    Then again writing does help you form your own ideas, if we are talking fiction and imaginative pieces. It is surprising to watch a world unravel onto paper (or computer screen), and often creating characters explores a world which you may never visit, whilst reading takes you to those worlds.

    They complement each other, often to write you need to be a reader. I think when you become a reader you become encouraged to write. Reading feeds the mind and soul, and writing is the product of the information one persons mind has stored.

    I love reading and writing but if I want to pick which one to do, I ask myself do I want to do a little work, or should I appreciate someone else’s?

  25. What a great idea and great prize! I love the short form and I’m in the middle of Jon McGregor’s ‘This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You’ – a collection of short stories that keeps you on a roller coaster. All the stories are so different and so beautifully crafted. Expert short story writing. x

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