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

 

“Food, like sex, is a writer’s great opportunity. It offers material that is both universal and intensely personal.” (Choice Cuts by Mark Kurlansky, about the history of food writing).

Eating is an essential function, but food is also one of life’s 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: “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.”

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, it’s 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 character’s background and the prevailing social and cultural situation.

One of my favourite non-fiction food books is Elizabeth David’s 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.

David’s 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: it’s packed full of erudite musings on food and literary anecdotes. 

Nineteenth-century novels are particularly rich in food description. Emile Zola’s 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 Paris’ inhabitants.

Some fiction writers have used food as an integral part of the story. Joanne Harris’ 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 Esquivel’s 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

 

 

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

 

But it’s not hard to hang on to the implements with which you’ve 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 wasn’t 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.  There’s 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 ‘brought up’. 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??

 

Ghostwriting about ghosts Tags: paranormal ghostwriting southwest United States

                 

I belong to the Society of Southwestern Authors, Valley of the Sun Chapter.  We meet monthly and today our guest speakers were Dan Baldwin, Rhonda Hull, and Dwight Hull.  They co-authored a book recently released entitled Speaking With the Spirits of the Old Southwest.

Dan is one of our members and a ghostwriter of some renown. He puts out a steady stream of fiction and non-fiction, both as a ghostwriter and as the sole author.

I found out today he is also a dowser.  I only knew this term when used for water witching, a skill my dad was good at, a skill needed for a rancher in the thirsty desert of Arizona.  Apparently it also describes someone who holds a string with a weight at the end, and when the spirits answer “Yes’ or “no”, it circles to the right or to the left.

The Dwights are paranormal researchers and come across as kind and humble.  Low-key and unassuming, they frequently mention that their goal in life is to help both the living and the dead, in whatever way they can. In fact, they do quite a bit of pro bono work, consulting on line and holding classes to help people find their own paranormal talents, to name two.  As for the dead, they pride themselves on helping people too frightened to cross over to wherever they go to do just that.

Rhonda is a “sensitive” whose talents include mediumship and clairvoyance.

 Dwight is an animal communicator.

These three traipsed through the desert and mountains of Arizona to abandoned mining towns and military forts.  There, they invited the spirits to converse with them and share their stories.  Certainly they’ve picked a popular subject.  Dan emailed a proposal to a publisher on a Thursday and got a call on Monday.  They bought the book that week.  Since it’s published the book has done well.  Thanks to a TV feature and a radio interview, it was a top-seller on Amazon.com for three weeks running.

I am familiar with some of the places they’ve gone to, including the famous Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone.  It was fun to read through the book today and visualize their experiences.  But more interesting than that was the simple layout Dan chose.  Each chapter begins with a few pages of the history of the spot or person they encountered, double that number of pages of the conversation’s transcript, a few pictures and a couple paragraphs of summary.

He is a straightforward, concise writer with no pretenses about writing for the upper echelon of readers. I admire that.  His books sell, and he makes a living from writing.

The book is available in soft cover, hard cover, and kindle.

http://website; www.beelieveparanormal.com

 

 

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The House at Zaronza
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The Duke's Shadow
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Foreign & Far Away
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Break Out
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Deadly Pursuit
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Big Book of New Short Horror
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Tiger of Talmare
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