Tuesday, 18 December 2012

ShopGirl meets 'Bookshop Girl' - Jen Campbell

Jen Campbell in Watermark Books

I met Jen Campbell at a book-signing in Watermark Books in Kings Cross Station. I’m always excited to meet fellow shop people and exchange retail stories. I was also eager to meet her because like mine, her book started out as a blog, and blog-to-book stories happen to be one of my favourites!

I knew it was going to be good but I didn’t expect to be on the Tube in the middle of rush hour, crushed between arms and legs, reading it with a big grin on my face. It’s hilarious. HILARIOUS. It reminded me so much of working in my own shop; all the random requests and bizarre assumptions. I loved it and would recommend it as a great Christmas present for anyone who can read!


Customer: What’s your name?
Bookseller: Jen.
Customer: Hmmm. I don’t like that name. Is it ok if I call you something else?

Customer: Do you have this children’s book I’ve heard about? It’s supposed to be very good. It’s called “Lionel Richie and the Wardrobe.”


When did you start writing your blog and how did it become a book?

After a particularly strange day in May 2011, I started putting few examples of ‘weird things...’ up on my blog. They were never supposed to become a book, so what happened next was a wonderful surprise. The posts were very popular - the links were thrown around twitter by bookshops and publishers who found them funny. Neil Gaiman tweeted about them, and then blogged about them, which opened them up to a much wider audience, one of whom was Hugh, who works at Constable and Robinson. Hugh called me at the bookshop asking if I’d like to make a book of ‘Weird Things...’. Half an hour later he was standing in front of me in the bookshop. It was all very surreal. I’d just got an agent for my fiction, so Hugh and my agent had a chat, contracts were drawn up and I got on with writing it. It all happened rather quickly!

People have this silly idea that working in a bookshop is relaxing! Did you ever have time to blog/write in the shop?

Oh, if I had a pound for every time someone said to me ‘I’d love to work in a bookshop; you get to read all day!’ Very much not the case. There’s only ever one person in our bookshop (most of the time that person is me). I have to open up, deal with the buying and selling of books (I work in an antiquarian bookshop), assist customers who are in the shop/customers on the phone (sometimes both at once!); then there’s cataloguing the stock, researching for buyers, repairing books, doing the stocktake, internet orders, answering emails... the list goes on and on. There’s always a lot to do.

What’s the weirdest non-book request you’ve ever been asked?

Oh, if we sell iPod chargers, lottery tickets, Christmas trees...

I thought people only haggled at markets and chandelier shops, but no so! What was your cheekiest haggler? How do you deal with them?

The cheekiest - not even a haggle - was someone who wanted to take the dust jacket from a first edition we had, as they didn’t have a dust jacket on their own copy. He didn’t want to pay for it; he just wanted it, and wasn’t very pleased when I declined!

I read you have a section in your bookshop for toddlers. How do you avoid colossal damage being done to the shop and all your books?

I keep a beady eye on them. Obviously we want children to look at the books, but they can get a bit over-excited. Usually the parents are vigilant, but not always. The latter was more the case in Edinburgh (where I worked before moving to London, in a new independent bookshop). There was a boy who ripped the head off ‘the tiger who came to tea’ and whose parent really didn’t care, children who would climb bookshelves, and there were even parents who would leave their toddlers in the shop and disappear to Tesco next door to do their food shopping. It can be a bit stressful, but it keeps us on our toes!

What book have you found yourself mostly recommending this month?

The difficulty with an antiquarian bookshop is I can’t recommend the same book again and again as we only have one copy of a particular edition. But, for Christmas, lovely old editions of Alice, Orlando the Marmalade Cat, some signed Doctor Who books, and beautiful editions of fairy tales illustrated by Dulac, Arthur Rackham etc.

In life, outside of our older books, the books I’ve been recommending have been The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson-Walker, Sweet Home - Carys Bray, New World Fairy Tales - Cassandra Parkin and Swimming Home - Deborah Levy. Poetry-wise, I’ve been recommending One Eye’d Leigh - Katharine Kilalea, A Body Made of You - Melissa Lee-Houghton and Tomorrow We Will Live Here - Ryan Van Winkle.

If you weren’t a bookseller, what would you be doing?

Erm... this question makes me panicky! Ha. Well, I’d be a writer (which is my other job, anyway), though that wouldn’t pay all the bills. Hmm. Perhaps I’d be an English Literature lecturer... I don’t know. I can’t really imagine not being a bookseller.

My local stationers says Kindles will never replace books, and that he's selling more paper than ever. Other people believe digital books will replace books in the next ten - twenty years. What's your opinion on the matter? Do you fear for your bookshop?

I fear for our bookshop but not really because of Kindle - because of the massive rise in the number of charity shops and because of huge discounts on books in supermarkets and on Amazon.

Re. e-readers: at the moment I think that there’s a definite split in the market. A lot of e-readers are bought as presents and are never used; a lot of people have been converted; some people say that they have an e-reader but still buy the paperback versions of the books they love. It’s so hard to predict. I don’t own an e-reader myself, and I hate that Amazon have the monopoly on the market. I completely understand the practicality of an e-reader; it’s just not for me (but I’m a bookseller; I would say that!). I love the smell of a book, the feel of it, and the actual event of going to a bookshop to look for a book to read; it’s about the whole experience as far as I’m concerned. Also, I read a lot of poetry and I think that loses something in translation from paperback to e-book.

What I think will happen is that e-books will continue to grow in popularity and, perhaps, the market may eventually end up being e-books and hardbacks. Physical books are going to become more and more about how they look; they will be gifts, beautiful objects to treasure. I love my paperbacks and I want them to stay, though, so I’ll have my fingers crossed for that. What I don’t want is the price of e-books to fall to an unsustainable level - which in some cases they are doing, and I hope the pirating of e-books is controlled as well as it can be. Ultimately I still want books to be valued, and seen as things that are worth paying money for. So many people work their socks off for a book to be produced, and it’s hard enough for writers to make a living as it is.

I’ve heard another book is on the horizon. Tell us more!

Indeed! I’ve just finished writing it. 'More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' will be published April 2013. We’re just finalising the cover at the moment, and then the lovely Brothers McLeod will illustrate it, as they did for the first volume.

In other writing, my poetry pamphlet ‘The Hungry Ghost Festival’ is published by The Rialto (that came out in July), and I’ve just finished writing my first full-length poetry collection called ‘the day we ran away from the circus,’ which we’ll be submitting to publishers in the new year. I’m also working on a novel. So, lots of different things. I’m looking forward to having a little bit of a break over Christmas, - reading lots of books, eating lots of cheese and having a glass or two of mulled wine. Oh yes. I hope you all have a lovely Christmas, too!

Jen’s Blog
Jen on Twitter 
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops Facebook Page


Customer: Do you have a book that has a list of aphrodisiacs? I’ve got a date on Friday.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Last of My Twenties

I turned 29 on Friday.

Two days prior I’d lain in bed staring up at the ceiling, feeling dissatisfied by this turn of events

Why did it bother me so much? I suppose I felt I hadn’t really worn out 28, or for that matter, 27. It seemed a bit wasteful, like throwing that plastic spoon away after one little stir of your takeaway coffee.

It’s a condition, getting grumpy about birthdays, passed on from my Dad. He doesn’t think much of aging. In fact he laughs in its face as does my 94 year old grandmother who has never displayed a grey hair in her life.

‘You can’t do much about it,’ people say. But I’m not so sure. A woman who used to work in our shop was 59 for six, long years so clearly she knew something.

I could have a baby at this age and it wouldn’t even be a shock. That shocks me.

What would I do if I had a baby?  

Write baby books?

If you think about it, being the target market a baby would be able to give me great tips. I’d have to decipher their gurgles of course but I’m sure there’s a self-published, ‘How to interpret your Baby’s Gurgles’ on kindle that I could download.  

I’m always curious to hear how writers cope with writing and looking after children.  I’ve got an image of a Big-Me and Mini-Me working side by side, me at big desk, Mini-Me at tiny desk and we’re both scribbling. Of course there is no nappy changing and the only one doing the crying is me, because I’m stuck on a chapter. Mini-Me is holding it together very nicely in fact. 

Wishful thinking? Not really. I’ve said it before I don’t want a child of mine chasing a career in the arts. No one wants to bring up a tortured soul, do they?

Back to the sad topic at hand: the last of my twenties and how I’m going to deal with it. My plan is to buy a sword, wear green for the foreseeable future, befriend a male fairy called Tinkerballs and fight pirates. Yes, it sounds pretty failure proof to me too.

If you’ve got any better suggestions, let me know.  

Before I embark on my end of twenties crisis however, I’m going to The States to spend my first Christmas ever away from home. This year I’ll be spending it with my husband’s family which is exciting as they know how to have a good time.

I’m sure we’ll do very Christmassy things like cut down a tree, wear garish knitwear and spike Santa’s milk. So, if you don’t hear from me here, you now know it’s either because I’m caught up in fairy lights or chasing Pirates around The White House with a sawn off pine tree.

I will continue to be showing signs of life on Wattpad with regular updates of my serialised novel SPRAY PAINTED BANANAS and as a Guest blogger for Mslexia Magazine.

So, toodle-pip for now and may your Christmas be full of pleasant surprises. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Author Interview: Paul Bassett Davies

Paul Bassett Davies is a writer, director and actor. Over the years he has written for dozens of British radio and television shows, working with some of the biggest names in comedy, as well as writing several BBC radio plays. He also wrote the screenplay for the feature animation children's film The Magic Roundabout. His new sitcom 'Reception' is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in June 2013.

This month his debut novel, UTTER FOLLY, has been published on kindle. I didn’t need much persuasion to buy it. If you follow him on Twitter you'll already know he’s consistently hilarious. It's an honour to have him on my blog. 


The novel is a wicked comedy about an English country house weekend. When a young man visits a well-to-do friend’s family he learns some harsh lessons about love, loyalty, and the landed gentry, as his friend’s barely-legal sister tries to seduce him, he becomes a suspect in the efforts of a deranged policeman to nail a local retired rock star for drug trafficking, and ends up with all his illusions about the upper classes – including his friends – demolished.”

This is your first novel and some people might be wondering why such a prolific writer as yourself took so long! Have you been carrying this idea around with you for some time?

I came up with the idea for this book many years ago. I originally wanted to do it as a serial, and persuade people to subscribe to it, paying to receive the next chapter, once a month. This would motivate me to write to a deadline, and also emulate the way that my hero, Dickens, wrote much of his work. It wasn't a bad idea, but I got involved in other things, and the book went to the back of my mind to simmer on a low heat, which tells me I wasn't ready to write it. I eventually began it about three years ago, by which time I think it had cooked for long enough.

There are lots of ridiculous scenes in 'Utter Folly'. I particularly loved the doomed Bingo game which made me laugh out loud. How much research did you do? And honestly, what is the most you've ever won at Bingo?

I have to be careful about admitting to how much research I did as there is quite a lot about drugs in the book, and also some bizarre sex. So I'll just mutter inaudibly about that. As for the Bingo scene, it's based on something that happened to me in my youth. A lot of the things in the book are based on my own experience, and on people I've known. However, nobody is going to recognise themselves, as the characters are drawn from several different actual people, plus a lot that's purely invented. So, put away the writs, libel lawyers. I think I can honestly say that I've never won anything at Bingo. A couple of years ago the Bingo industry spent a lot of money on PR in an attempt to rebrand it's image, and convince people it wasn't just for old ladies. There was a spate of TV ads showing hip young people having a groovy time at the Bingo game. I don't think it worked.

James, your main character, is a city boy who doesn’t have the relaxing country weekend he expected. What’s your personal preference, city life or country life? 

I lived in the country for a while, in the West of England, where most of the book is based. However, I was also living in Bristol at the same time, as a result of trying to have more than one girlfriend. Which didn't really work. But I love that part of the world, and my favourite type of countryside is in Somerset and Devon. It really is England's green and pleasant land. Given the right opportunity I think I'd like to end up back there.

Do you have a position on fox hunting? 

I'd like to know how the fox feels about it. In general I'm not keen on hunting unless you eat what you kill. But even then I have doubts when it comes to grouse and pheasants. They are probably the stupidest creatures in creation. There is no sport at all in killing them. A baby could do it with a stick. A pheasant is so dumb that if you went to a quiet country lane and placed an open pan of boiling water on a small primus stove in the middle of the road, eventually a pheasant would climb in.

Which character did you enjoy writing most and why?

Great Aunt Prudence, probably. She's so old, aristocratic and entitled that she simply doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. I also liked writing Jarvis, the cop who becomes increasingly demented, although in some ways you have to be more careful and controlled than ever if you try to write about people being crazy. Someone simply raving isn't interesting. What's interesting is that people who are undergoing what we describe as a psychotic breakdown actually have a very logical, coherent and complex view of the world; it's just different from the one that most of us would call sane.

The writing process has been described endlessly and usually as a form of torture. Writer @Matthaig1 recently tweeted:  ‘Writing a novel is like trying to squeeze an elephant through a doorway. And equally likely to end in crap’. How was the process for you?

It's hard work but I love it. I'm very, very lucky. To be able to make a living as a writer, as I have done for at least some parts of my life, doing what I most love in the world, is wonderful. I consider myself blessed.

What time of day do you write best? And with what beverage, if any? 

I am very undisciplined. I try to write in the morning but not until I've had some coffee. I sometimes do some more in the afternoon and evening. I often do quite a lot of thinking before I sit at my desk. I do good work in the bath, and going for walks. Writers always have problem convincing their partners that they're actually working, when it appears that they're snoozing on the couch. It's very unfair on the partner, and I feel sorry for anyone who lives with a writer, including children and pets. When I was a lot younger I used to write under the influence of various things. It felt good, and I'd be convinced I was writing pages and pages of pure genius. Then you read it in the morning and you'd find that nearly all of it was trash. I used to reckon that you'd get about an hour of reasonable work and the rest was useless. I don't recommend it. You've got to be in it for the long game, and you need to look after yourself. Just say no, kids.

Will you be writing more novels in the future?

Yes. I've nearly finished the next one. It's called 'Dead Writers in Rehab,' because it saves having to explain what it's about.

You’re currently working on a new BBC sitcom for Radio 4. Are you allowed to tell us anything about it?

I'm not going to. There's not much to say. It's a simple set up. It's all about the characters. Character first, then story, then jokes. I don't like disclosing too much about what I'm writing in case I jinx it. I'm not superstitious - just slightly stitious. A lot of writers are like that, which is an interesting dilemma, because one of the ways you're meant to build an online profile, and engage with readers, is by talking to them about what you're doing. I didn't talk much about the content of 'Utter Folly' while I was writing it. But I did something I don't think anyone else had thought of yet: I held an online book launch party on Twitter and created a hashtag: #VirtualBookLaunch. That was fun.

Have you got any tips for aspiring writers?

Just one. Persevere.

UTTER FOLLY is available to BUY  from Amazon for just £2.49

Paul Basset Davies blogs at www.thewritertype.blogspot.com

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Dangers of Writing Who You Know

Imagine that a character in your book walks into your workplace frothing at the mouth because they know what you’ve done. 

They've read every word you've written about them and they don't like it.

This is the subject of my GUEST BLOG for Wattpad. 

Read more.

Friday, 2 November 2012

How to Write a Serialized Novel

Materials Required: Cork board, post-its, map pins, pens,
mug of hot liquid, laptop

Prepare – Write a big chunk of the book before you post the first chapter. Otherwise you risk being unable to produce Chapter 2 which could lead to an inferiority complex and the belief that you're a useless writer with no ideas. The latter may be true but there’s no need to let the world know.

Get out of bed – Obvious and yet often quite tricky. You must resist the urge to melt into the warm embrace of your partner, cat, dog, chimp, water bottle, pillow... Do not be fooled by the voice, inner or otherwise, that calls out for ‘Five more minutes’. Before you know it 5 minutes have turned into an hour of strange dreams and your writing slot has come and gone. Remind yourself that the reward of completing a serialized novel will be much greater than a few more minutes cuddling someone or something that you may well be cuddling for the rest of your life anyway.  

Fuel – Put the kettle on while your computer is warming up. A hot tea will replace the cuddles you have sacrificed by getting up early. Tea, in this case, refers to any hot liquid in a mug, including coffee, perfumed herbal stuff (although I can’t recommend it) and water with something in it, like a floating lemon, slice of orange or spoon of honey. Don’t be too imaginative, you need to save your imagination  for your upcoming chapters.

Write  - The first hour is crucial. Do not check your mail, do not tweet, do no comment on banal facebook statuses, do not comment on interesting facebook statuses, do not ‘like’ anything. Write. Write. Write. Don’t edit, don’t reread. Don't play about with the font. Don't text people to tell them that you finally did it, you finally got up early to write. Just write damn it! 

Edit –  Edit a chapter a couple of days before you post it. For the purpose of continuity you might need to read the whole book from time to time. It might be that you've forgotten your character is supposed to have a limp, in which case you’ll need to reinstate it (he’ll forgive you in time).

Trust – Your pre-written chunk of novel provides a buffer when you get stuck. When this unhappy time comes and you’re staring at a blank screen with tears in your eyes and demons in your mind, keep calm. ‘Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen,’ said the essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson (along with a bunch of other people on twitter). You have committed to this project and you will finish it. Sit on the floor with your cork board of post-its and trust that an idea will come.

Spray Painted Banana story board looking healthier now & ... on Twitpic

My serialized novel SPRAY PAINTED BANANAS is live on Wattpad.com 
I post chapters every Monday and Thursday.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

ShopGirl: The Second Coming

Do you remember that chandelier shop on
Tower Bridge Road?

For over 2 years we were closing our shop.
We were closing so long that it became funny.
Have you seen the Shopgirl blog trailer?
You know the bit at the end where Blake Harrison does his cameo:

Blake: Are you closing?
Shopgirl (Katy Wix): Yeah
Blake: Not closing down though?
Shopgirl: Uh, yeah
Blake: But you’ll keep the shop, yeah?


Yeah, well, that was supposed to be a joke.
You see, at the end of our closing down sale, we moved our remaining stock upstairs and a vintage furniture and flag shop moved in called ‘Lost & Found’.
I suppose I should’ve known that while there were chandeliers in the building, it was not over.
The other give-away was that our stock kept growing.
I was working one day a week to help dress chandeliers for wholesale but not all of those lights left the building.
Most offices are illuminated with grim low energy lights but ours is heaving with sparkling crystal chandeliers.  
In the back of my mind I always knew these lights would eventually need to find a home.
And now the time has come.
The furniture and flag shop has announced they are leaving.
That means that there will be an empty shop below us.
You can guess the next part.
Well, there’s no point in keeping 150 chandeliers hidden away in an office, is there?
FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY (I’ve heard that before!) from November, the chandelier shop on Tower Bridge will be making a second appearance.
I don’t think there’s much point changing the shop name.
‘Lost & Found’ couldn’t be any more appropriate.

Our Chandelier Showroom
         (and yes, that is me trying not to laugh at the end)                 

To view some of our lights visit www.crystalpluslighting.com 
Or call:  0207 357 7244
Be warned, they are far more beautiful in the flesh. 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Launch of Serialised Novel: Spray Painted Bananas

My serialised novel Spray Painted Bananas launches today on Wattpad.com

It's a romantic comedy about Amber, a broke temp working in a catering firm in London, who after years of scrounging free wine from wacky art gallery openings with her best friend Farrell, decides there’s no reason she can’t become a conceptual artist herself. 

I'll be posting 2 chapters to begin with and then one chapter per week. 

Please come and find me on Wattpad and VOTE if you'd like me to continue the story!


Chapter 1

There comes a point in your life when you can’t go on being scared. For me that point comes regularly, most often after my third glass of free wine. I say ‘free’ because I do most of my drinking at posh gallery openings. I stand in the middle of them, look around me at all the glamorous individuals muttering appreciatively and I pretend I’m in my natural environment. I pretend I’m an art collector and select pieces for my many rooms in my many mansions, and then I get the bus home.
If Londoners complain that booze is too expensive it’s because they’re not making the effort to track down the free stuff. There must be a show opening every evening of the week in this city and as long as you can stomach a bit of pretentious chatter then you can succeed in having an entertaining and cheap night out.
My partner in crime tonight is my best friend Farrell. He works part-time in a book shop and is as broke as I am. Pretending to acknowledge the striking composition of a randomly placed chair or the depth of meaning of some paint-splattered socks suspended from the ceiling is a small sacrifice to pay for a few complimentary beverages. We’d volunteer our comments if it meant getting free nibbles, but unfortunately the art industry seems to survive on a liquid diet only. And also no one particularly wants our comments.
Tonight the artist’s chosen materials are thick paint and reclaimed plywood. Plywood which has been reclaimed from skips, though judging by the state of them I’d be more inclined to say reclaimed from war zones. It’s the most traditional exhibition we’ve seen in ages. There’s still a concept thrown in though; there’s always got to be a concept typed up and displayed on a wall to be mulled over for months to come. Farrell and I prefer to make them up as we walk around.
A lot of strange things make it into galleries. Frankly I don’t know what went wrong with creating something you might actually want to put in your living room. I like landscapes but a landscape in the world of conceptual art could be anything from a peanut on a stick to a video of a talking meringue.  
The show is called Life & Death of a Ghost and is made up of five paintings on rough sheets of plywood and a stuffed chicken. The artist, who goes by the name of ‘Ghost’ has only used two colours, grey and green. Contrary to what you’d expect, the greener the subject the more dead they are supposed to be. The chicken is a grey lump. This means the chicken is alive. And yet it is stuffed. 

Continue reading on Wattpad...

Friday, 5 October 2012

'SHOPGIRL BLOG' TASTER FOR SITCOM - Starring Katy Wix as ShopGirl


I'm so happy to be able to share with you the final edit of the Shopgirl Blog Film. It stars Katy Wix (Not Going Out) as Shopgirl and Annette Badland (Torchwood) as Mum. It also features a cameo by Blake Harrison (Inbetweeners).

For the background story you can read the blog post I wrote not long after we shot the film in my Mum's chandelier shop, 'ShopGirl: Take 1, Camera, Action!'

A massive thanks to all the crew and cast who made it possible. It was a great experience and I'm thrilled with the result. 

Signed copies of my book 'Shop Girl Diaries' are available to order from My Books. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

How (Not) To Make a Book Trailer

Once I’d decided to take on the challenge to write a serialised novel I knew I needed a book trailer. Words aren’t enough anymore. Writers need to know how to use images, audio and special effects to promote their work.

The problem is I had no idea how to make a video.

I spent a whole Sunday fiddling about with Windows Movie Maker and had nothing to show for it at the end.

‘You’re not supposed to know how to make one,’ my husband said, trying to make me feel better about what I felt was a complete and utter waste of a day.

But I wanted to know! 

'I'm not aiming for an Oscar!' I said. 'Just a basic video with pictures moving to a bit of music...'

Do you often hear yourself saying, ‘I’m not technically-minded’? Do you say it when you secretly want to be technically- minded? Well, don’t say it anymore because the more you say it the harder it will be to change. Open up to the possibility and you might just surprise yourself!

Thanks to Paul Carroll’s article in Writing Magazine, I learnt about Kevin Macleod and FMA (Free Music Archive) where I could browse through thousands of tunes to use for my video.  

Great! I had music but no pictures.

I realised after that frustrating Sunday that I was never going to find free pictures to illustrate the idea I had in my head.  

Not willing to be defeated, I began to draw.

I only draw once a year usually and that’s in August just before my Dad’s birthday. He’s been collecting my homemade cards since I was little and they make him so happy that I can’t possibly stop now. 

Step 1 I drew

Step 2 I scanned the drawing into my computer
Step 3 I edited them in Paint (colouring in with a mouse can be very tedious so background music is essential, a glass of wine helps too).
Step 4 I added pictures to the easy-to-use timeline.

Paint is old-school I know, but I wasn’t going to wait around until I’d learned Photoshop. You've got to start somewhere.

I loved making it and although it’s not very polished or professional, I think it captures the mood I’ve been in since starting Spray Painting Bananas

Upbeat and happy!

My first chapter should be out on Monday 15th October on wattpad.com – so sign up and come find me!
Meanwhile I hope you enjoy my lovingly-made book trailer:


If you like it, share it! 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

UPCOMING WORKSHOP: Blogging for Beginners

There's now less than a month to sign up for my next Blog Workshop! 
Blogging for Beginners (& Improvers) will take place on 
Saturday 27th October.
It's a 3.5 hour information-packed workshop ideal for those who have yet to begin a blog or for those who want to improve on what they have started. 

The workshop will give you the chance to develop your blog idea, learn the tools to set it up, keep it interesting, promote it, and gain a readership. I will share with you all the do's and don't I've learnt over the last 4 years of blogging.

Below is a rough guideline of what we'll cover:

Introduction to Blogging 
Online vs Offline
Inspiration - Analysis of Material
The Blog Post - do's & don'ts
The Big Idea – Group discussion; exercises to develop your idea
Set it up – Blog platform, layout, design, style...
Content – multimedia, changing content, linking, widgets 
Building an Audience – tools for marketing your blog
Social Networking – Facebook, Twitter

There will be handouts to take away so you won’t have to remember everything!

If you've been meaning to start a blog for a long time, why put it off any longer? Come along to a friendly, fun and informative workshop! 

Saturday 27th October
10am - 2.00pm (including 30min break) 
@ 77 Tower Bridge Road, SE1 4TW * (above 'Lost & Found')
Fee: £40.00
Limited Places. 

* Some of you may recognise the venue which inspired 'Shop Girl Diaries' - yes, there will be lots of sparkling chandeliers above your head!

I began my blog in June 2008. Since then it has been turned into a book and a short film. It won the Completely Novel Author Blog Awards (published writer category) in 2010 and it has just been featured in the new guidebook ‘Blogging for Creatives.’

'Emily Benet's Blog Workshop is ideal for anyone interested in 

blogging and not sure where to start. Emily takes you through the 

basics and really gets you thinking about what your blog should be 
about. I picked up some great hints and tips from the workshop and am 
already seeing an increase in traffic to my blog. A morning definitely well-spent!' – Amy Duthie, blogger of my tattered notebook

'A really inspiring workshop with a friendly and knowledgeable tutor. Hands-on with lots of great ideas to put into practice straight away' 
Marianne Powell, playwright

For more information please don't hesitate to get in touch with me: emily@emilybenet.com

Or to book your place via Paypal, please visit my Workshop Page

Monday, 24 September 2012

Author Interview: Naomi Alderman


"It was a time of brutal tyranny and occupation. Young men and women took to the streets to protest. Dictators put them down with iron force. Rumours spread from mouth to mouth. Rebels attacked the greatest empire the world has ever known.The Empire gathered its forces to make those rebels pay. 

And in the Midst of all of that. One inconsequential preacher died. And either something miraculous happened, or someone lied."  


At the launch of THE LIARS GOSPEL, Naomi Alderman was introduced to us all by Penguin editor, Mary Mount, as 'one of the most important writers of her generation'. I've been very lucky to have spent time with her at a writers group and seen her work in progress. She is a brilliant writer and a gorgeous person. I am thrilled to have her on my blog.

We all cheered when you told us that so far you’ve had no death threats. Is this a genuine concern?

I have already had anti-Semitic emails about the novel, so... maybe? I'm a bit worried about what will happen when the novel is published in the US. But we'll see!

Are you apprehensive of people feeling angry?

Yeah. I don't actually want to upset people, but when I gave it to a Christian friend she burst into tears at a section where she said "but Jesus just wouldn't have done that!" I had to point out to her that I'd taken it directly from the New Testament.

How do you deal with criticism?

I have therapy ;-). I mean, constructive criticism is fine of course.
But now the book's done the best thing is to try to ignore the criticism and just move on with the new one.

I was brought up a Catholic and when I read your book, I was aware of myself feeling defensive and thinking, ‘Wait, Jesus didn’t say that!’ I was quite surprised because I’m a very cynical Catholic! Is this your book’s fundamental aim? To challenge the people who have accepted the story of Jesus without question?

I suppose a bit! There are a few things. Firstly, there are things in the Christian story that are either *really weird* or clearly anti-Semitic, like, for example, the Jews at the crucifixion shouting "let his blood be on us and our children!" and this idea that the people would never have asked for Barrabas if the evil priests hadn't stirred them up. I've been thinking about those things for a long time and how silly it is to imagine that there mightn't have been perfectly good reasons for most of the people not to have liked Jesus. So there was that "can we just stop saying nasty things about Pharisees and really interrogate this story?" feeling.

Also, I got interested while researching the novel in the world that's usually just the backdrop to Jesus' story. It's a really fascinating political and military landscape which gets lost because of this overwhelming story. So I wanted to put that in its right place again - and I feel now that the story of Jesus really only makes sense if you understand the politics of the time.

I was struck particularly by the description of the protests against Rome that were happening at the time of Jesus, and the greater historical context which is generally ignored! 

Was it a subject that was discussed at home? Is it true you had the idea to write this book when you were a teenager?

Yes, it's funny how little we tend to look at that period, since it was the explosive meeting between Jewish and Roman culture that really created the modern world. So many of the tensions in Christianity come from turning a Jewish cult into the state religion of Rome (e.g. how did 'the prince of peace' end up inspiring *so many* crusades?).

My dad's a historian and my mum's also very keen on history so I suppose this sort of conversation happened at home quite a bit – not necessarily Jesus, but the general principle of tracing the reasons for the present in the events of the past.

I did get the idea for this novel when I was a teenager! It was when I was studying Hebrew and Latin at the same time - I remember saying to my Hebrew teacher that someone ought to write a novel about the Jewish Jesus, and she said "no no, that would be terrible for the Jews!" Because she thought it would cause anti-Semitism.

However, I've done it anyway ;-). Let's see...

What’s your writing routine like?

I have a word count I have to reach every day: usually 800 words when I'm working on a new book. And I never sit down to write saying "I must write 800 words", only ever "I'll do 100 words and then I'll have a break". I'm very creative in the evenings, but I do try to get my words done earlier in the day so they don't hang over me.

What are you greatest distractions?

TV. Instant messenger. But the truth is, if I know where the book is going then I usually can't wait to get to it. If I'm distracting myself, it probably means there's a problem with the novel I haven't resolved.

Margaret Atwood is now your mentor! I’m very jealous! What is she like?

It's a really wonderful thing - she is so funny and so intimidatingly clever, I'm incredibly inspired by her sharp honesty and wide-ranging mind.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Keep writing :-). Do it because you love it. If you don't love it enough to do it for its own sake, you probably won't get far anyway.


The Liars Gospel is available on Amazon and all good book shops.