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Writing

Future Library places a 100-year bet on the printed page
September 5, 2014 | 2:15 pm

An interesting - and pretty conceptual - art project from Scottish artist Katie Paterson highlights issues around the future of the printed book, and even the survival of literature. The so-called Future Library (Framtidsbiblioteket) for the city of Oslo in Norway looks to commit 100 unpublished works - one per year - to a century's wait while 1000 trees grow in a Norwegian forest, awaiting the day in 2114 when they will furnish the wood to print those works in an anthology. And the first writer to contribute to the project is Margaret Atwood. "Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation...

Creative Skillset funds training in Scotland for Gaelic scriptwriters
September 4, 2014 | 2:25 pm

Normally I might be skeptical of funding initiatives from industry insider groups like the UK's Creative Skillset, "the industry skills body for the Creative Industries," especially when the amounts in question are relatively meager. But the latest announcement from Creative Skillset Scotland is about a program that actually might make some difference in Alba - even when it only involves £1.3 million ($2.14 million). According to the announcement, Creative Skillset Scotland has invested through its Skills Investments Funds, with equal matched funding from BBC Scotland, Red Kite and Digimania, STV Productions and Young Films. One of the key items in this funding...

Eleanor Catton uses NZ Post Book Award to fund Kiwi writers reading
September 4, 2014 | 10:25 am

eleanor cattonNew Zealand author Eleanor Catton, youngest ever winner of the UK's Man Booker Prize with her novel The Luminaries, has also won two of the top prizes in the New Zealand Post Book Awards. And in her acceptance speech, Catton announced that she would be using the prize money and her other income from writing to support a new, as yet unnamed, grant to give New Zealand writers more time to read. Although denied the most prestigious prize in the Awards, the New Zealand Post Book of the Year Award, by Jill Trevelyan's Peter McLeavey: The life and times of a...

Will Self envies George Orwell’s mediocrity
September 3, 2014 | 4:25 pm

George Orwell Why I Write Penguin BooksOh the woes of being Will Self. No one is going to shoot at you across a barren stretch of contested Spanish earth in a great faceoff between rival ideologies. No one is going to hunt you through the streets of Barcelona for "rabid Trotskyism." No one is going to drop a flying bomb on your flat and demolish your library. No one is going to refuse to publish one of your masterworks for fear of upsetting wartime allies. No one is going to make special requests to the Minister of Health to import the drugs needed to keep you...

Grant Snider’s guide to the perfect writer’s paradise
September 1, 2014 | 4:25 pm

Grant Snider is a comic genius with an insight into the writerly life and the writer's process that would put many practising writers to shame. And this is his all-in-one guide to the ... um ... architecture of how it should be done. I have no idea how inspiring Inspiration Overlook may be, or how useful the Emergency Idea Generator could be, but I suspect they will be for some. And as awful warnings if nothing else, you do not want to spend too much time on Procrastination Patio, let alone Desperation Drop. You can find this work, along with all Grant...

What future for writers in Scotland after the independence referendum?
September 1, 2014 | 10:25 am

BveOVUxCEAAT4NDOne of the highlight debates of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, "Writing the Future: Being a Writer After the Referendum," hinged on the question of what the actual results of the independence referendum vote - whether Yes or No - might be for writers in Scotland. The panel brought together writers, publishers, and cultural policy professionals, from both sides of the Yes/No divide. "The Society of Authors only sponsors one event in a book festival in the UK [annually], and this is that one event," as Lin Anderson, author and chair of the Society of Authors in Scotland, said in her...

John Ruskin: Pedant or pioneer?
August 30, 2014 | 12:32 pm

John Ruskin (1890-1900), art critic, amateur artist, social thinker, and brilliant literary stylist, was one of those titans of Victorian industry that make modern creative figures seem feeble dilettantes in comparison, dominating aesthetic, social, and political commentary in the English-speaking world and beyond for most of his life, not least through his enduring and superb writing. He also has a less appealing reputation as an elephantine pedant, the man sued by James McNeill Whistler for libel after accusing him of "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face," the man castigated by Vernon Lee (Violet Paget) for his "obscure,...

xkcd explains why texting is good for writing skills
August 29, 2014 | 7:18 am

Origin 8292014 70958 AM.bmpRandall Munroe, Hugo-winning webcomic artist of xkcd, has hit the nail on the head with another keen observation about our mobile lifestyle. The xkcd character Cueball is not surprised when his friend observes that SMS texting is actually good for spelling and grammar. Practice, he explains in the rest of the strip, makes perfect. (The text does contain an F-bomb, but it’s an F-bomb that was dropped by James Joyce.) Be sure and pay attention to the alt-text that comes up when you mouse over the comic. In an odd juxtaposition, this came just a few minutes after I...

Jonathan Falla on writing in Scotland and Scottish nationalism
August 26, 2014 | 1:13 pm

Jonathan Falla is an English writer long resident in Scotland, and treasurer of the Society of Authors in Scotland (SoAiS). The views that follow, however, represent his personal perspective on writing in Scotland and the Scottish nationalism/independence debate....

James Clerk Maxwell: Scot, physicist, mathematician … and poet
August 25, 2014 | 1:51 pm

While at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I'd like to pay tribute to one of the city's many great intellectual sons: James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79), the titanic Victorian scientist whose work was described by Albert Einstein as the "most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton." His genius touched pure mathematics, electromagnetics, optics (color theory), kinetic theory and thermodynamics, astronomy (the rings of Saturn), and many other disciplines. And he was also a poet....

A conversation with Jeff VanderMeer, on writers’ roles and modern publishing
August 22, 2014 | 10:25 am

IMG_20140820_152413At the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014, I was lucky to be able to catch up with Jeff VanderMeer, multiple award-winning and hugely productive speculative fiction and fantasy writer, editor and anthologist, whose latest literary outing is the Southern Reach trilogy. These are a few excerpts from our conversation, with more to follow. TeleRead: Do you think that modern speculative writers tend towards a Victorian level of industriousness? Jeff VanderMeer: When I started out I just had this idea in my head that a writer did all these things. It didn't become a strategy until later: it was just that I was writing,...

Happy birthday Howard Phillips Lovecraft
August 21, 2014 | 10:25 am

lovecraft Cthulhu plushieAugust 20th marked the birth in 1890 of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, owner of his very own adjective ("Lovecraftian") and easily the most influential figure in horror and dark fiction writing of the 20th century. All of which would have come as a surprise to the mild and retiring New Englander who was safely in his grave before feeling the slightest whiff of fame - and controversy. In his 124th year, we already have a Change.org petition to the World Fantasy Award to "Make Octavia Butler the WFA Statue Instead of Lovecraft," on the grounds that HPL was "an avowed racist and...