Writing
Words Good Enough to Eat
Category: Writing
Tags: Writers Abroad ex-pat writers food writing

ďFood, like sex, is a writerís great opportunity. It offers material that is both universal and intensely personal.Ē (Choice Cuts by Mark Kurlansky, about the history of food writing).

Eating is an essential function, but food is also one of lifeís pleasures. Equally, if you were a Roman emperor or an enemy of the Borgias, eating could be a hazardous enterprise. Food, or lack of it, has been the cause of wars, social change (the Irish famine) and political upheaval (the Russian Revolution). Plenty of scope here for writers.

The early food writers associated food with a wider philosophy. The Chinese wrote about its uses in medicine and healthy lifestyle. The Greek philosopher Epicurus linked it with his theory that good comes from pleasure and evil from pain. Later on, the French savant Brillat-Savarin devised a social theory around diet: ďTell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.Ē

The best writers about food, whether fiction or non-fiction, have the ability to stir up not only tastes, textures and scents, but also a sense of time, place and setting (not just place-setting). Like all writing, itís about showing rather than telling; making the reader experience what is around the plate as well as on it.

I plan to use food more in my historical fiction, since it can say so much about a characterís background and the prevailing social and cultural situation.

One of my favourite non-fiction food books is Elizabeth Davidís French Provincial Cooking, first published in 1960. My well-thumbed copy is shown at the top. Britain had emerged from the throes of post-war rationing only a few years before, and food was plain and unadventurous.

Davidís book burst onto the culinary scene, with its wonderful descriptions of meals in off-the-beaten-track French auberges, composed of colourful and exotic (then) ingredients. French Provincial Cooking is much more than a recipe book: itís packed full of erudite musings on food and literary anecdotes.†

Nineteenth-century novels are particularly rich in food description. Emile Zolaís Le Ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris) takes place in and around les Halles in Paris, the sprawling food market, which, sadly, has moved to the suburbs. His extensive descriptions of the food stalls are a metaphor for the contrast between plenty and the poverty of many of Parisí inhabitants.

Some fiction writers have used food as an integral part of the story. Joanne Harrisí Chocolat is an obvious one. Her description of a birthday meal near the end of the novel has me salivating each time I read it. In Laura Esquivelís Like Water for Chocolate, the food that the main character, Tita, cooks is imbued with whatever emotion she feels while preparing it. Her dishes can move people to tears or ecstasy.

Here is a list of novels that focus on food.†

And if you want to try your fictional food writing skills, the annual Mogford Food & Drink Short Story Prize opens for entries on 5th November 2018 and offers a very tasty prize of £10,000.††

Which writers do you think cook up evocative descriptions of food?

Box of Inspirations
Category: Writing
Tags: inspiration artefacts writing memoir aids

Box of inspirations

Iím in the process of decluttering. Sorting out a lifetimeís accumulated junk. Wondering why on earth I have held on to so much stuff for so long.

But itís not hard to hang on to the implements with which youíve written so many words through your life: notes, letters (many many letters), cheques, contracts, shopping lists, thoughts, story ideas - the stories themselves, poems, and reminders.†

Rifling through my box of pencils I can remember where I was and what was going on in my life just by holding each one.

Do you remember when I used my big bulging button tin as my inspiration for my 2014 nano novel? It wasnít a personal memoir, but I used it to help my protagonist (with dementia) remember poignant moments in her life.†

And so it is with these pens and pencils. In just the first handful I see the gold Sheaffer fountain pen I had for signing contracts when I was an IT consultant.† Thereís the ICL training pencil from fabulous programming courses at ICL Beaumont near Windsor many years ago (oh those wonderful work colleagues.) And a multitude from hotels across the globe (oh those trips.) So many memories are all buried here in this clutch of pens and pencils.

Then there is this - the pencil from the Public Record Office in Kew where, in the early 1990s, I researched my mysterious father. This was before access to wartime records via the internet. This was when you had an appointment at the Public Record Office in Kew, were given a pencil (and only a pencil) with which to make notes. When requests were sent to the archives. When you waited for old yellowing original hand written files to be Ďbrought upí. This was when I found what happened to my father, Pilot Officer† FJ Roberts RCAF DFM (the medal of courage), when he and fellow crew members were shot down in their Lancaster JB400 (L for La Loupe) of RAF 103 Squadron. It was the 5th Berlin Raid. I was five days old. And he was just 22.†

And this is why I took up writing again.

Do you have an old pencil box filled with memories?† With inspirations??

Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Category: Writing
Tags: writers abroad writing audio books audible

Then Iíll beginÖ

Iím not sure I should be admitting that I know the programme that started with these words. Do you? Itís Listen with Mother, a radio broadcast which ran in the UK for over thirty years. I remember my mum, with four children all under the age of five, sitting me down to listen to this programme whilst she juggled all the spinning plates she had to deal with. It was a mesmerising experience, I half-believed that the narrator was somehow in the box and would look around the back to see if I could let her out.

Since weíve been travelling in the motorhome Iíve revisited this method through the Audible app from Amazon. It helped pass the time whilst motoring through wide empty spaces (yes, you guessed right, not in the UK!) and kept us alert enough to keep our eye on the road and our ear listening to the story. I chose thrillers as a genre because, for me, they lend themselves to the audible experience more easily than say a romance. They grip your attention enough to keep up with the story whilst still operating the vehicle in a safe manner. I must admit, the miles (or kilometres) just sped by and both Simon and I were gripped by the tension that each chapter brought. We stopped for comfort breaks, swallowed a quick coffee and were back in the van eager to listen on. The active equivalent of a page turner, I suppose.

When I started to write this blog, I imagined that young people today would not appreciate this form of storytelling, but Iíve since talked myself out of that point of view. Being so intricately attached to their smart phones and tablets, perhaps audio books are their preferred method and if it gets them accessing fiction then that canít be a bad thing, can it?

Itís not a form Iíd use on a regular basis outside of travelling, I donít think. Luckily, I donít have a long daily commute to work, I just roll out of bed along with my kindle. However, if I am doing something thatís going to take some time, like decorating, I always search for a drama on the radio to help pass the time with a chore I quite detest.

I know many writers are now choosing this method as an additional alternative for their readers but itís not something Iíve investigated in any detail. That is perhaps a subject for another blogÖ

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The House at Zaronza
tagged: writers, abroad, vanessa, couchman, historical, and fiction
Love is All You Need: Ten tales of love from The Sophie King Prize
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Out of Control
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, croft, members, and publications
The Duke's Shadow
tagged: the, duke-s, shadow, louise, charles, debut, and novel
Foreign & Far Away
tagged: writers, abroad, amanda, hodkinson, books, charity, anthology, 2013...
Losing Control
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, and croft
Enchantment
tagged: nina, croft, writes, and abroad
Conversations with S. Teri O'Type
tagged: writers, abroad, christopher, and allen
Break Out
tagged: writers, abroad, ninca, and croft
Deadly Pursuit
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, and croft
The Calling
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Big Book of New Short Horror
tagged: featuring, wa, member, alyson, and hillbourne
Tiger of Talmare
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, and croft

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