about writing and life and God

Books and memories

on January 16, 2013

Encumbrances, it said. Hebrews 12: 1.Throw off all encumbrances so you can run this marathon called life.

I knew the feeling – that draggy-down feeling, so yes, the encumbrances had to go. And for me, one of the encumbrances on my life is too much stuff. So I’m delighted so many of you are trawling through my list of books on writing and writers and choosing a few that I hope will help and delight you. I’ve added the third shelf-full today, and tomorrow I’ll get stuck into shelf four and maybe five. Then there’s only six and seven to go. And go, I very much hope they will!!

But as I take the books down from the shelf, check what condition they’re in and when they were published, they bring back memories. The earliest ones are about novel-writing. I wrote my first novel under a straw umbrella by a swimming pool in Northern Nigeria. We’d moved there in early January from snowy Scotland and by the end of the first week, my Scottish fluey cold had developed to full strength along with my brand -new Nigerian sunburn!

Yesterday's Suffolk snow

Yesterday’s Suffolk snow

But soon I grew to love Nigeria, made friends, got involved in church and Field Society and Drama Group, and as well as starting the second and then third novel, the first having been packed off on spec to a publisher in the UK, I was writing plays and pantomimes for an appreciative audience – as well as acting in them and designing costumes for them.

In the brief lull that followed completion of the first novel, I found myself working part-time as editor at the University Press and in the years that followed learnt my trade as a book publisher – author management, text editing, and a smattering of production knowledge so I could deal with local printers. We co-published with Oxford University Press so I didn’t need to know about marketing, sales or distribution. But I did learn how a book is put together.

Much later I put that experience and later jobs with publishers in the UK into The Bluffer’s Guide to Publishing – a tell it like it really is book I wrote when I hit the glass ceiling and moved, as I thought, out of publishing… for a few years, before someone who had read it hired me to turn round the failing publishing operation he was responsible for. Great fun.

I lasted six months, turned it round, making a profit out of a loss, and got myself fired for rocking the boat! Life’s rich tapestry.

Ah yes. Put that book away and get back to typing the list!



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