The Writes of Woman 2.0

Hello! Welcome to the updated, upgraded The Writes of Woman.

What’s new? Well, apart from the technical stuff (which I won’t bore you with), today sees the start of a new feature, The Writes of Woman Interviews… in which I interview a writer alongside a feature review of their work. The feature will appear every Wednesday and the video, yes video, will be on my new YouTube channel, also conveniently titled The Writes of Woman. The first one is up today with debut author Olivia Sudjic. I’m very keen that this feature is representative of all women writers – I’ve tried to ensure that this blog is intersectional for several years now – so expect a wide range of writers on this feature.

The blog now has its own Instagram feed also imaginatively titled thewritesofwoman. If you want to keep up with the books arriving in the post, what I’m reading and who I’m interviewing, you’ll see it all on there.

And you might notice I have some fabulous new headers and logos. These were all designed by Jess Yates, who’s a BA (Hons) Graphic Design graduate from Sheffield Hallam University. If you like her work, she’s available for commissions. You can contact her on @jessyatesdesign (all social media accounts) or via jessyatesbusiness@gmail.com.

I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

Coverage of Experimental Fiction Writing Is a Half-Formed Thing

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The brilliant Tilted Axis Press, who this year have published fantastic experimental fiction books by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay and Hwang Jungeun, asked me to write something for their blog. Anything I liked, they said. So I wrote about the lack of coverage of experimental fiction written by women. And I wrote it in an experimental non-fiction style. Because, why not? You can read it here.

(Sincere apologies to Eimear McBride for the title but it was too good/bad to pass up.)

The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award Shadow Panel 2016

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I’m delighted to announce that the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser Dunlop Writer of the Year Award has decided to have a group of bloggers acting as an official shadow panel this year and I’m on the panel.

The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award of £5,000 is awarded for a full-length published or self-published (in book or ebook formats) work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, by an author of 35 years or under. There are three prizes of £500 each for runners-up. The winning book will be a work of outstanding literary merit.

In 2015, the prize was awarded to Sara Howe for her debut collection Loop of Jade.

Not only am I thrilled to have been asked but also to be working alongside some of my favourite bloggers. They are:

Eric Anderson: Lonesome Reader (@lonesomereader)
Kim Forrester: Reading Matters (@kimbofo)
Charlie Place: The Worm Hole (@CarnelianValley)
Simon Savidge: Savidge Reads (@SavidgeReads)

If you don’t already read their blogs/follow them on Twitter, then I highly recommend them to you. You can read more about all of us on the prize website.

The shortlist for this year’s prize is announced on Sunday 6th November in The Sunday Times and via all the usual social media channels. Once the announcement’s been made, we’ll start reading and reviewing the shortlisted books as well as featuring some special content on our blogs. We’re hoping you’ll follow us and join the discussion.

The Waterstones’ Bloggers

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If you’re on social media, you might have seen that Waterstones have appointed seven bloggers to contribute book recommendations on their blog and I’m absolutely thrilled to be one of them.

The other six are fellow Bailey’s shadow panel member Eric, who blogs at Lonesome Reader; Simon of Savidge Reads; Kim of Reading Matters; Nina of Notes from the Chair; Kate of Adventures with Words, and Gav of An Unreliable Reader. They’re all bloggers I’ve long enjoyed reading/listening to and highly recommend them if you’re not following their blogs already.

We’ll each be making a monthly contribution to the Waterstones’ blog, recommending books we’ve loved recently. Me and Eric are up first, you can read our favourite books for March here.

Quick Reads for everyone?

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2016 is the 10th anniversary of Quick Reads and today is the launch of this year’s books. Before I tell you more about those, I want to share an anecdote…

In 2004 I became Literacy Coordinator at a school in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Barnsley has consistently been one of the lowest ranked local authorities in the country for student progress. The town was decimated by the closure of the mines and has never really recovered.

The school I worked at was considered to be one of the ‘nice’ schools in the town for several reasons: results hovered around the national average; some of the pupils were lower middle class (it was near the M1 so some of those commuting to Leeds chose to live there), and the school was situated on the edge of the countryside (everyone seemed to forget that the view from the other side of the site was the M1). Despite this, we still had a significant number of students entering the school with a reading age lower than their chronological age.

Before I began the role of Literacy Coordinator, I went on a course run by the National Literacy Trust. On that course I learned about The Matthew Effect, named after the Bible verse: For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath. (Matthew 25:29) In other words, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer or in terms of literacy, those who enter school word rich become word richer and those who enter school word poor become word poorer. At age 7, children in the top quartile have approximately 7100 words in their vocabulary, while those in the lowest quartile have fewer than 3000. In other words, those children with fewer than 3000 words probably become one of the 1 in 6 adults who struggle with their reading.

One of the things the course advocated was establishing a ‘reading buddies’ programme. This had been successful in other schools where local volunteers had listened to pupils read. It was suggested you could use support staff or sixth formers, if your school had some.

I decided to do something different. My school had a particular issue with boys’ literacy and there was little hope, I felt, of persuading some of these Y7 (11/12-year-old) boys to come out of a lesson once a week to read with someone from the local community or any other adult. So I recruited a group of Y11 (15/16-year-old) boys for them to read with and bribed them with a day off-timetable for training and a certificate detailing the skills they’d used to put in their National Record of Achievement. Some of these boys were diligent pupils, some were ‘characters’, some were ‘trouble makers’. A significant number of them were on the borderline between achieving a D or the magical C grade in GCSE English.

On the training day, the first thing I asked them to do was to think about a time they’d struggled with learning something. I shared mine: maths. It still tortures me, repeatedly leaving me feeling stupid. The boys could share their responses if they wanted to. A few said learning to swim. Then one of the ‘trouble makers’, a broad built lad with very short hair and a stud in one ear, said ‘Learning to read. I still find it hard now.’

Some of the staff thought I was deluded: I was told that several of the Y11 boys wouldn’t turn up, they were unreliable; it was also suggested to me that the Y7 boys wouldn’t make any progress. I was young and exuberant; I ploughed on regardless.

The first week wasn’t perfect – pupils had to be collected from classrooms and it was a lively session – but the boys soon settled into a rhythm. The programme ran for twelve weeks. For the first half of the session students read a range of texts – fiction and non-fiction – that I’d selected because they were appropriate but offered enough challenge to stretch their vocabulary and understanding. In the second half, they read a book of their choice.

Several weeks in we began to notice ‘soft’ changes: the Y7 and the Y11 boys acknowledged each other around school; the Y7s I taught came to my lesson one day thrilled that their Y11 buddies had saved them places on the back of the bus; the boys were more confident in lessons; the Y11s I’d been told were unreliable turned up every week (one even arriving to work with his buddy and then skiving my lesson later in the day!), and in one memorable instance, one of the Y11 boys I taught ran from my classroom as we were discussing his coursework, returning five minutes later.

‘What was that about?’ I said.
‘They were getting at J [his Y7 buddy], I’m not having that!’

At the end of the twelve weeks, I retested the Y7 pupils. The minimum their reading age had increased by was 8 months, the maximum 3½ years. At the end of the academic year almost all of the Y11 boys who were on ‘the borderline’ achieved a C in GCSE English.

Hopefully it’s obvious I’ve told you all this to highlight the power of reading, but you already know that reading’s a great thing or you wouldn’t be here. For me, what’s really important about the anecdote is that the boys made progress because they were reading things that suited them. It’s often said that non-readers just need to find the right story, but what if the complexity of the story which might be ‘perfect’ for them makes it difficult to comprehend and ends in frustration?

This is where Quick Reads comes in: the books are short, the stories are linear, the vocabulary is straightforward, the plots are gripping and they’re written by big-name authors. Here’s this year’s titles:

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So what can you do to support the initiative? Here’s some ideas from Quick Reads:

  • Hold a reading break or start a reading group in your workplace, college, library or local community. You can create a buzz about reading that will encourage even the most reluctant readers to pick up a good book.
  • Set up a reading area at your organisation. You can provide a bookcase and a reading area if you have room. Use new books or ask people to donate their books.
  • Use Quick Reads as part of Reading Ahead, which challenges people to pick six reads and record their reading in a diary to get a certificate.
  • Hold a book swap by encouraging people to bring in books they have read and enjoyed to share with others. You ask people to write reviews or put stickers in the front of the books for people to write comments.

Galaxy Quick Reads are bite-sized books written by best-selling authors which cost only £1. They are available from bookshops, supermarkets and online or can be borrowed from libraries across the country. For more information visit www.readingagency.org.uk/quickreads

I’d love to hear if you get involved or have been/already are involved in this brilliant initiative in any way.

 

 

Diverse December – Why Do It?

The simple answer is that BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) writers are largely ignored. Underrepresented on agents’ books, publishers’ lists, review pages, prizes lists and recommended reads.

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The catalyst for this particular initiative was the revealing of the UK’s World Book Night list last week. In case you’re not aware of WBN, the idea is that members of the public sign up to be a giver. They choose a book from the list they’d like to distribute to non-readers and, if their application’s successful, are sent 20 copies of their chosen book. It’s a great initiative and I’ve been a giver myself. However, this year there isn’t a single book by a BAME writer on the list.

Responding to this, writer Nikesh Shukla wrote a piece for the Bookseller titled ‘Where Are World Book Night 2016’s BAME Writers?’ In it, he says:

…having BAME writers will encourage more BAME readers to become givers or to take a book, but also it’ll show that, on lists, we belong just as much as everyone else. Because we certainly belong in the prizes – look at this year’s incredibly diverse Man Booker shortlist. It was so inspiring.

Unfortunately, some people didn’t feel the same way, going as far as to suggest that including BAME writers on the list would be ‘tokenism’. Using that word in this context provokes some very grim connotations.

Let’s think about that in terms of statistics for a moment. 16% of the world’s population is white, which means 84% is not. 84% of people in the world are black, Asian or minority ethnic. In the UK, the 2011 census showed that 14% of the population identify as black, Asian or minority ethnic. In the USA, the 2014 census puts the equivalent BAME population at 22%. In both countries the white population is declining. While white people only make up 16% of the world’s population they still dominate it politically, socially and culturally, meanwhile the 14% of BAME people who live in the UK are barely visible and if we include them on a list of books it’s ‘tokenism’.

In yesterday’s Guardian, Shukla commented further on the issue with regards to the publishing industry in the UK:

“When you criticise prizes and review coverage and lists for not being diverse enough, you’re told it’s because of what publishers are submitting, that it just reflects what publishers are putting out. So you say OK, publishers, and they say what they publish reflects what they’re sent by agents, so you say to agents, ‘where are the brown people?’ and they say they don’t discriminate, they just aren’t getting submissions through.”

“So you say it’s the writers’ fault. So you speak to writers, and they say they look at the prizes, the lists, the reviews, the bookshops, and they don’t see themselves reflected. So whose responsibility is it?”

Shukla says he’s taken on the responsibility of shouting about it. So who’s listening?

Yesterday, Galley Beggar Press, the small independent press who published Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, tweeted that they estimate 85% of their submissions to be from men and suspect that 80% are white men. They’ve applied for funding to appoint a ‘Diversity Editor’, a role which will include making contact with writers and writing groups around the country, actively seeking work from people who might not otherwise submit their stories. Clearly they’re listening.

My friend Dan is listening. When I returned to Twitter following the negative comments about Shukla’s Bookseller comments, Dan had begun a hashtag #diversedecember and suggested that people read and recommend books by writers of colour for the whole of the month of December. He’s written about his reasons for doing so on his blog.

I’ve joined him because I think this is important too. I wrote back in January that I was aiming to read and review more books by women of colour because my unconscious bias meant I was almost entirely focused on white women. When I was asked to be Guest Editor for Fiction Uncovered in May, I wrote about being an outsider in literature and what it means not to be represented in the stories you read. I also suggested that it was time for readers to let the publishing industry know that we want a wider range of stories by a wider range of writers.

Next time you’re choosing a book, whether it’s physical or virtual, from your own shelves, a bookshop or a library, consider the writer for a moment. Are you choosing a book by a white man or woman over a book by a person of colour? What’s the reason for your choice? Is it the time to try a book you might not otherwise have picked up and see whether it’s for you?

I’m aware that possible answers to these questions are ‘I don’t see colour’ or ‘How would I know the skin colour of the writer?’ The latter’s easily answered by looking at the author’s photograph on the inside of the book jacket or with a quick internet search of their name. The idea that someone doesn’t see colour is a more complicated one, however. In a society dominated by white narratives, if we don’t see colour we don’t see black and Asian narratives. That makes us complicit in the maintenance of a dominant white narrative. It’s not a statement of equality, it’s a statement of ignorance and it’s a dangerous one.

If you really don’t believe you have an unconscious bias, have a go at Harvard University’s Implicit Association test. I did it yesterday and came out as having a strong automatic preference for light skin. Did that result make me feel uncomfortable? Yes it did. Did that result contradict everything I think I believe about how I conduct myself as a member of society? As someone who supports student teachers? As a stepparent? Yes it did. But now I’m aware of it, I can move to correct it.

The Harvard University tests don’t just cover skin colour, they also test for gender bias, sexuality bias, able body bias and more. Which leads me nicely to noting that I’m aware that diversity is about more than skin colour and if a person’s identity intersects with a number of non-mainstream categories or communities the less visible they become. Try and list books by brown-skinned members of the LGBT communities for starters…then move on to those differently abled. What about BAME writers, differently abled and identifying with LGBT communities? How many did you come up with? How many of those were women? Working class?

It seems pertinent here to mention positive discrimination. Someone (white, usually male) always says that surely most people would want to be recognised on merit rather than being given ‘a helping hand’. Well, yes, of course, but, as I’ve already mentioned, there’s an unconscious bias towards white people that’s allowed them to be positively discriminated towards for centuries. They’re less likely to live in poverty and so more likely to have access to the structures that allow them thrive. One of the outcomes of this has been some very high-profile appointments of people who proved to be mediocre at best.

On a personal, anecdotal note, in 2014 10% of the books I read were by writers of colour. Those books made up 12.5% of my books of the year list. So far this year, 30% of the books I’ve read have been by writers of colour and in the draft list of my books of the year I created a couple of weeks ago, books by writers of colour make up 40%. It might be a crude measurement but it seems clear that there’s a basic correlation.

If all that has convinced you to join us in shouting about books by BAME writers, it’s really easy. Use the hashtag #diversedecember and tweet about the books you’re reading. You can also use the hashtag and the Twitter account – @DiverseDecember – to find suggestions from other readers.

If you want a few ideas to get started, I highly recommend the following:

Citizen by Claudia Rankine – a blend of flash fiction, poetry and essay looking at what it’s like to be black in America in the 21st Century

Passing by Nella Larsen – a novella in which childhood friends Irene and Clare rekindle their friendship in 1920s Harlem. But Clare’s been passing as white and her racist husband doesn’t know.

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik – Sofia’s split up with her boyfriend who wants them to live in adjoining houses with his whole family; her mother thinks she shouldn’t wear a hijab, and her publishing house boss wants her to write a Muslim dating book. Sweary, funny romantic fiction.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay – an essay collection on feminism, popular culture and Scrabble.

Springfield Road by Salena Godden – a memoir about Godden’s childhood and her largely absent father.

There are more suggestions on my ‘Women of Colour’ tab at the top of the page; the Guardian Reading Group are selecting a book from the Caribbean for this month, so you might want to read along with them, and below are a selection of great bloggers of colour who have plenty of reviews to choose from:

Folklore & Literacy

Les Reveries de Rowena

The Poco Book Reader

Brown Girl Reading

Kinna Reads

Looking forward to seeing everyone’s choices and selections throughout the month on #diversedecember.

TBR Book Tag

I don’t often take part in memes but I’m doing this one for three reasons: the first is I was tagged by Leslie at Folklore & Literacy whose blog I highly recommend, so it’s a good reason for me to send you over there for a look if you don’t read it already. The second is by confessing all about my TBR, I might do something about it! The third is so I can tag some of my favourite bloggers and see their terrible habits too!

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

Pile? Hahahaha. Book case(s). I don’t. I do keep track of the review copies I’m sent by publishers; I have a spreadsheet in which I log publication dates but I’ve been useless with it the second half of this year. I do actually have two priority piles at the moment though – the books that are on my women of colour #TBR20 pile, which I’ll be finishing reading at the end of the month (yes, it’s taken me this long) and the 2016 publications I’ve been sent which I’m reading in anticipation of my preview post around Christmas.

Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

It’s probably 75% print. I’ve bought fewer ebooks this year but that’s mostly because it was getting out of hand – it’s easy to pretend you haven’t got a huge stack of unread ebooks when they aren’t physically in front of you!

How do you determine which books from your TBR to read next?

It varies. Sometimes it’s an upcoming publication date, sometimes it’s because a book’s been nominated for a prize, sometimes I just fancy a particular type of read. What’s changed this year though is I’m consciously reading widely so I’m looking at the authors of the books I’m reading and making sure I’m reading more by women of colour and LGBT authors.A book that has been on my TBR the longest?

There are books on my TBR still that I bought in Sixth Form which is 20 years ago now. They’re mostly classics – Middlemarch (which I attempted last year but stalled on) and The Woman in White spring to mind although I’m sure there’s more.

A book you recently added to your TBR?

I bought a copy of Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe which has just been shortlisted for the Young Writer of the Year Award.

A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?

The 4th Estate boxset of Nell Zink’s The Wallcreeper and Mislaid. I already had a copy of The Wallcreeper from the Dorothy Project but the boxset is so beautiful I couldn’t resist.

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?

Haha! I think I got rid of all these in the summer. I culled 300 books before moving house and I was very strict about ones I’d held on to that I was never going to read. They were mostly by middle-aged British and American white men!

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?

I’m going to be cheeky and have three: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon which it seems everyone’s talking about; My Name Is Leon by Kit De Waal which people I trust are telling me is wonderful, and Where Love Begins by Judith Hermann which I’ve had a sneaky read of the opening of and promises to be wonderful.

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?

Middlemarch!

A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you?

Beloved by Toni Morrison. I’m going to rectify that before the end of the month.

A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?

So many! If I was choosing one it’d be Pleasantville by Attica Locke. I loved Black Water Rising, I think Jay Porter’s a brilliant, complex character and Locke’s writing about politics is smart, nuanced and creates cracking page-turners.

How many books are on your TBR shelf?

Oh. Ah. Well, earlier this year I calculated it would take me 23 years to read all the books I have. I’ve removed 300 since then but added some too. Let’s just go with a lot!

People I’m tagging:

Susan at A Life in Books
Cathy at 746 Books
Jacqui at JacquiWine’s Journal
Eleanor at Elle Thinks
Janet at From First Page to Last 
Eric at Lonesome Reader
LaChouett at Chouett
Ali at HeavenAli

Buy Books for Syria with Waterstones

 

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You might have seen that Waterstones have teamed up with a number of publishing houses and big name authors to create a campaign to raise money for Oxfam’s Syria Crisis Appeal. ALL of the money from the sale of each of the books in the campaign will go towards the appeal.

Waterstones asked whether I’d champion one of the books, which I’m delighted to do. I’ve chosen Jojo Moyes’ The One Plus One. Moyes is one of my favourite writers and I think The One Plus One is her best book (Disclaimer: I haven’t read her latest yet.) Here’s what I wrote about it on publication:

‘…families are different shapes now, right? It doesn’t have to be two point four anymore.’

Jessica Thomas is a cleaner and a barmaid. She’s good at practical things – grouting, picture-hanging – and budgeting, because she has to be. She’s got two kids, Tanzie who’s gifted at maths and Nicky, her eyeliner-wearing, sullen, continually being beaten by nasty intolerant kids stepson. Marty, their father upped and left over a year ago, telling Jess he needed time to sort himself out. This is the thing that upsets Jess the most:

There were lots of awful things about the father of your children leaving: the money issues, the suppressed anger on behalf of your children, the way most of your coupled-up friends now treated you as if you were some kind of potential husband-stealer. But worse than that, worse than the endless, relentless, bloody exhausting financial and energy sapping struggle, was that being a parent on your own when you were totally out of your depth was actually the loneliest place on earth.

At the beginning of the novel, Jess receives a phone call about Tanzie; the local private school has tested her and wants to interview her for a subsidised place. Tanzie’s successful and desperate to attend the school, where students can walk around reading without getting beaten up, but Jess needs to find two thousand pounds to pay for the first year. Marty refuses to help. In what could have been an oh-so-predictable plot twist, Tanzie’s maths teacher telephones Jess to tell her about a Maths Olympiad that Tanzie is eligible for. The prizes are £500, £1000 and £5000. However, it’s in Scotland. Despite the resources it will take them to get to there, Jess starts putting a plan together.

But The One Plus One isn’t just Jess’ story. It’s also Ed Nicholls’. Ed’s story begins with him being suspended from his own company, by his partner Ronan, while the Financial Services Authority search his office. After his actress wife, Lara, left him, Ed had hooked up with Deanna Lewis, a woman both Ed and Ronan had fancied at college. However, she turned out to be exactly not what Ed needed six months after his wife left him and in a bid to get rid of her – she’d love to travel but can’t afford it – he tells her to buy some shares in his company as they’ve got something new about to be released. Deanna tells her brother, they make some money and Ed gets himself arrested. There is one thing Ed doesn’t need to worry about though:

He told [Deanna] of the day they’d gone public, when he had sat on the edge of his bath watching the share price go up and up…
‘You’re that wealthy?’
‘I do okay.’
‘Define okay.’
He was aware that he was this close to sounding like a dick. ‘Well…I was doing better until I got divorced, obviously…I do okay. You know, I’m not really interested in the money.’

Spoken just like someone who doesn’t need to think about it.

It’s not difficult to work out that somehow Moyes is going to bring Jess and Ed together – they’re exactly what each other needs, right? In the hands of a less experienced writer, this could have been forced and difficult to believe but Moyes allows the story to unravel in its own time. It’s helped by Jess’ absolute determination that she will look after her kids and do everything she can to get Tanzie to Scotland and Ed’s sister, Gemma, who seems to be almost constantly berating him for being a useless brother and son. Despite everything, Ed doesn’t want people to think he’s an arsehole, cue a road trip from Southampton to Scotland featuring Ed, Jess, Nicky, Tanzie and Norman, their enormous, slobbering dog.

The One Plus One is a mature piece of work. It looks at the current state of the UK – the poor get poorer with little hope of escape while the rich get richer without curtailment – and wonders what if? What if someone from either side of the fence was allowed to look at each other’s life, what would they see? What would they think? How would they behave? And what’s really great about Moyes’ characterisation is Jess and Ed aren’t stereotypes; she allows neither of them to be entirely ‘good’ or ‘bad’ nor does she judge either of them for their choices.

I thoroughly enjoyed The One Plus One and I think it’s Moyes’ best book yet.

If you’d like to support the campaign and fancy a read of The One Plus One (or know someone who might), click on the picture below to buy it. I’m told you must use this link as only certain editions are eligible.

TheOnePlusOneCardIf you want to look at all the books in the campaign then click on the picture at the top of the post to take to you to the page for all titles. Now you’ve got a legitimate excuse for topping up the TBR pile!

An Update

My personal situation is beginning to sort itself out, so I thought I’d give you an update on plans for the blog. First though, I just want to say thank you again to everyone who sent messages. People – some of whom I’ve never met – have been absolutely brilliant. I wouldn’t have got through the last three weeks without everyone’s support and I’m so grateful that I know so many wonderful people.

The outcome of my situation is that we’re going to be moving house over the summer. As well as that, I’m currently doing an intense block of paid work. I also have a substantial amount of PhD work to do – including my confirmation seminar at the beginning of September and next semester (from the end of September/beginning of October) I’m going to be teaching undergraduates for a few hours a week as well. The latter means I’ve some reading and planning to do over the summer too.

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What this means is that I’ll update the blog as and when I can. I have a stack of books I’ve already read waiting to be reviewed so I’ll post them as I manage them.

One of the things that’s happened over the last three weeks is my reading has slowed enormously; I don’t think this is a bad thing. I re-read a book last week, pencil in hand, making notes and it was thoroughly enjoyable. I’d like to do more of that. I’ve also so many books in the house – both review copies and ones I’ve bought – that I really want to read (and in some cases re-read) that I’ve given myself a stern talking to about accepting review copies when I have a stack of books already. It’s not as though I accept them indiscriminately either, there are just so many interesting sounding books about. (If you follow me on Twitter, you will have seen I’ve broken my book-buying ban though. What can I say? I was low and what better pick-me-up? See photos for damage!)

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What that means for the future of the blog is I won’t be posting reviews as frequently as I have in the last six months or so. Partly because I won’t have time, partly because I won’t be reviewing everything I read. I’m going to be kinder to myself, both in terms of reading things I want to read, not finishing things I’m not enjoying and reading books for the sheer pleasure of reading them.

As for In the Media, I’m going to leave it on hiatus until some point in September. I know a lot of people enjoy that post and I love compiling it but it had begun to take a lot of time. When it returns it will be in a slightly different (and reduced) format and will most likely be fortnightly rather than every week. I haven’t quite worked out all the details myself so I’ll write more about it closer to the time.

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Meanwhile, I’m toying with a post about Kamila Shamsie’s call for a year of publishing only books by women – and the responses to it so far, and a list of ‘unlikeable’ heroines spurred by a comment Antonia Honeywell made when I interviewed her last week. Watch this space, as they say.