The Chase

April 7, 2018

It all began in iron pot
Potion thick and fire hot
All you get is just one shot

Moment lost and off it goes
darting fast on nimble toes
Give chase and follow to the close

Bala Lake, he charges in.
Mimic every roll and spin
Reach the paw to catch the fin

Now to the sky, our quarry flies
How obvious this new disguise
But he’s no match for your sharp eyes

He falls away, down to the ground
One little grain onto a mound
Hunt and peck until you’ve found

I ask you please, now, if you will,
for I have not your clever skill
Help me catch with key or quill

Diana Sanchez


Robertson Davies, the great Canadian novelist, once observed: ‘There is absolutely no point in sitting down to write a book unless you feel that you must write that book, or else go mad, or die.’ He might have added as a PS: a novelist’s troubles do not end with publication. Getting a first novel published – and publicised – is harder than ever before. Once upon a time, a first novel could afford to be a dress rehearsal, a proving ground. That is no longer true. As Juliet Annan, founding editor of the Penguin imprint Fig Tree, says: ‘The world of booksellers is such that you have to make an impact from the word go.’

First-time novelists divide into those paid small sums by their publishers (rarely above £12,000 for a two-book deal) and a lucky minority who secure flamboyant advances (Orion paid £800,000 for The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield; John Murray spent around £500,000 on The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox. And celebrities do best of all. Jordan is rumoured to have been offered £1m by Ebury for a clutch of autobiographical novels under her real name ‘Katie Price’). What seems to be missing is a middle ground.

One of London’s leading literary agents, Pat Kavanagh, points out that high advances can create ‘artificial expectations’ for writers. Take Gautam Malkani. Last year, his ambitious first novel, Londonstani, about Asian youth in west London, for which he received a £300,000 advance, was hyped to the hilt before publication, then panned. Not a good preparation for writing a second book. And for a distinguished author like Timothy Mo, nominated three times for the Booker, it seems that no longer being able to command the high advances he did earlier in his career has done more than knock his pride. (He hasn’t had a novel published since 1999.)

Kate Kellaway
That difficult first novel
The Guardian 25th March 2007

remember pain

April 7, 2018

But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.

Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale

Anyone who is observant, who discovers the person they have always dreamed of, knows that sexual energy comes into play before sex even takes place. The greatest pleasure isn’t sex, but the passion with which it is practiced. When the passion is intense, then sex joins in to complete the dance, but it is never the principal aim.

Paulo Coelho
Eleven Minutes