100 untimed books: shelving

87. shelving

87. shelving

One reads the Thursday Next series as much for the literary snarking as for the plot. And shelving is part of that snarking.

‘The sub-genre of Literary Smut has finally been disbanded with Fanny Hill and Moll Flanders being transferred to Racy Novel and Lady Chatterley’s Lover to Human Drama.’

We diligently wrote it all down…

Entirely coincidentally, this is the top shelf of my bookcase. I will confess that I have cropped this picture quite severely in order to make the dust less obvious. That – besides a dreadful picture – is what you get for taking photographs above your head.

My own system of shelving is bound by the physical constraints of book size and shelf height. I try to keep series and authors together, but otherwise it’s a free-for-all. To the left of Jasper Fforde there’s Damon Runyan; to the right, Archy and Mehitabel.

100 untimed books

The final stretch


On Thursday I got the last email through from my horde of editors, beta-readers, and nitpickers. At least, the last one that I’m going to pay any attention to. At least, the last one that I’m going to pay any attention to until I’ve got the manuscript prepared for print, at which point I’ll bring in a proofreader. And I’m only paying attention to this one because I’d already heard most of the comments over a pint the previous week and decided that they were things that I could fix.

Because I’ve reached the point where I am just about ready to be done with this book. Next time I will schedule the launch for September or October, so that I’m not doing all the preparation during my busiest time at work.

Work know about my writing now – and are very supportive of it. Sometimes terrifyingly so. ‘Kathleen can run a creative writing workshop! And a self-publishing one!’ somebody said the other day. I responded ‘Self-publishing is mostly hiding under the table and crying.’ I haven’t yet reached that stage. Not quite. However, I really am very tired and very aware that I could have made this easier for myself.

The feeling of just having had enough, though, that’s one that comes with every book (at least, it’s been two out of two so far). As the last of the comments come in I find myself wanting somebody to say,

‘It’s fine. Stop worrying. Just put it out there.’

They don’t. They won’t. Quite right, too. I didn’t ask them to. I asked them to find things that needed fixing, that didn’t ring true, that held up the pace, and they’ve done that. And the thing about self-publishing is that there’s only one person who can tell me that it’s time to put it out there. And that person is me.

I’m not quite ready to say it yet. But I’m very nearly there.

100 untimed books: closer

49. closer

49. closer

This has been my favourite Lent book for a very long time, and, as I slowly work my way through past series of Star Trek and get round to reading sci-fi classics that I’ve been hearing out forever, it only becomes more so. The metaphors of exploration, of setting out into the unknown with little but faith in the merits of the endeavour for sustenance, of coming to terms with mysteries that must always be beyond our comprehension, resonate deeply.

Lent is often a difficult time of year for me: it’s the very beginning of spring, and I find myself thinking that everything should be fine now that we’re out of winter, but in actual fact it takes my body a while to catch up. Remembering that Lent isn’t actually meant to be easy helps. Sometimes it’s something to engage with; sometimes the best I can do is hope to endure it.

It feels as if I’m getting further and further away (from what? from reality, from what I want to be doing, from the Divine), but in the end it brings me closer.

100 untimed books

A Spoke In The Wheel has a cover, and other exciting news

front cover asitw 1

Three things make a post, or so they say. Well, I can manage two and a half.

Firstly, and most obviously, A Spoke in the Wheel now has a cover. My very grateful thanks go to those who took their personal conveyances to bits so that I could take photographs of the wheels.

The thing itself is on track (odd metaphor, for a bicycle/wheelchair book!) to be launched (even odder metaphor!) on Saturday 5th May. (That way there’ll be something to do if the Giro d’Italia is boring. Which it might be. There’s been so much controversy around where it’s starting and who’s starting it that the race itself could be a huge anti-climax.)

Secondly, I’ve been asked to judge a writing competition to celebrate the public service union UNISON’s 25th anniversary. I don’t talk much about the day job over here, but I’ve been working for UNISON for eight years now. Most recently I’ve been in Learning and Organising Services, which oversees training for reps and learning for all members – generally speaking, continuing professional development or building confidence.

One of the most wonderful things about what we do there is getting to meet people, who, having assumed or been told all their life that they can’t, suddenly discover that they can. That’s what learning is about, that’s what this competition is about, and I’m really looking forward to reading the entries.

And – here’s the half, because it’s very closely related to the above – I’ve written a blog for Unionlearn about finding the time and the confidence to write. It’s over here.

100 untimed books: disease

67. disease

67. disease

About a decade ago, I had a temp job in the local hospital. I was based in the library and my task was to go through the shelves and find books that had updated editions, journals that were now available online, and so on, so that outdated material could be replaced with more recent thinking.

In among the back issues of The Lancet and The Journal of Otorhinolaryngology there were some really interesting books, and I spent quite a few of my breaks reading through The End of Innocence: Britain in the time of AIDS and Suffer the Children: the story of thalidomide, as well as a book whose title I can’t remember but which was about planning a hospital’s response to potential disasters.

And then there was Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, which I, a year on from the end of my English Literature degree in which I’d paid a lot of attention to the Victorians, found absolutely fascinating. The illness in which she’s mostly interested is tuberculosis, or consumption if you want to be all romantic about it. She dissects the disconnect between the horrors of the disease itself and the otherworldly depiction it receives in so many nineteenth century novels. (I wrote ‘Victorian’ at first, but of course one of the most famous is La Dame aux Camélias by Dumas fils.)

I do not possess copies of any of the books I’ve talked about here, so here are two that deal with tuberculosis. Poor Helen Burns in Jane Eyre shares the fate of two of Charlotte Brontë’s sisters: dying of the disease at boarding school. Last year, we had The Essex Serpent in which the suffering character, Stella Ransome, experiences a spes pthisica that manifests as an obsession with all things blue. I’ve included that blue glass bottle (with its distinctly unVictorian plastic spray top) in her honour.

100 untimed books