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Of autumnal motivation, Shakespeare and budget recipes

Posted on October 10, 2014

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all: read a lot and write a lot.’   Stephen King

Beginnings of a book blockI had a Most Interesting Conversation in my local library earlier, when I spied a poster proclaiming a Stephen King Reader Challenge. Alas, the staff explained to me when I enquired, this does not involve reading all King’s books to receive a massive cash prize, but is an initiative by his publishers Hodder & Stoughton to encourage more people to read his books.

A little sad, as I have reread a few recently and was planning on a goodly chunk more over autumn and winter (and I had hoped for a cash prize), but good news nonetheless. Too many people ignore Stephen King as a gimmicky or trashy writer, when he has written some things that have made me cry. And not through fear… More details, and the six Stephen King books picked for the challenge, here [pdf].

This was rather timely, as last week I carried out one of my favourite pastimes as the weather grows colder and I consider making spicy lentil soup – building the winter book block, a pile of books on the bedside table to snuggle down and get through on dark evenings. The book block is also convenient for balancing glasses of mulled wine on, another cold weather pastime.

I have long been a swot come autumn. Although I am of a sunny disposition (cough) and love summer (semi-cough), autumn is my season. As a geeky nipper, autumn was when school started again and I could not only read and read and read, but actually talk and write about what I’d read. Often without invitation, a habit I have happily maintained since. It’s a time of leather coats and boots again, and new courses, and new books to write, and dozens more books to read, and did I mention mulled wine? I may even take a book out and sit by the river wrapped in a blanket like some sort of chump.

Reading on the riverbank

This autumn, Matthew, I am reading Shakespeare. The plays I have read in school and the plays I want to reread and the plays I should have read by now. This is only because, as Miss Cromwell says to Nicola Marlow about Dickens, ‘every educated person should have read at least some’, and I don’t want to be embarrassed by my ignorance. Plus, I also want to floor people when this shaven-haired pierced person quotes Othello at the dinner table.

As I may have said before on these pages, I am a Roman geek so have already (July) reread Julius CaesarAntony and Cleopatra is four and a half acts in. Next are two classics I am a tad scundered I have not yet read while older than Cleopatra: Macbeth and Othello. And then Henry V, because my other half showed me the Branagh film and it was shivery. And then King Lear, because I never got on with the mad one when in uni, and experience now leads me to believe this was down to me rather than Wills. 

I'm also very much enjoying the Antonia Forest readthrough on the spiffingly good Trennels (why AF is fab is another blog post on its own), and have added to the Shakespearely book block From the Gracchi to Nero, Les Miserables (in trepidation), The Goldfinch and the annual reread of The Lord of the Rings (hurrah!). More to be added weekly, especially when I find some Stephen King in secondhand bookshops. And of course, an Enid Blyton from the collection every week or so, and whatever Jacqueline Wilson books they still have left for me to read in aforementioned local library. 

And I am also writing. As above, autumn is new books to write. After 200,000 words and four drafts, two discarded at 30,000 words each, I am finally in the good bit of Taste the Bright Lights II: tinkering each day with a few pages and stroking my chin awfully often about the placement and replacement of commas. It is brilliant fun and I love it and I could do it all day every day forevermore. Unfortunately (bah), one must write the 200,000 words or so to play around with first...

In other news, my 'cook for a tenner a week for a month' book is simmering along nicely, and I have become slightly surprised/impressed by how inventive one gets when all one has in the fridge/freezer/cupboard are a few mushrooms, veg, milk and a bit of flour and pasta. Meals for a fiver, as the budget blogs promise? Ha. I'll see your fiver and substitute you 50p. Coming soon.

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