It was sad to hear the news this weekend that Amy Winehouse had died. Partly because her life was cut short so young and partly because the path she was on almost made the outcome almost inevitable.
It seemed the “curse of 27” had struck again and Amy Winehouse added her name to a long list of stars who lived hard and died young, all at the same age:
Kurt Cobain. Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison…
But 27 is a strange age for everyone, not just multi-million selling musicians. The fact that these musicians achieved so much before they even reached 27 makes ordinary people seem – well- even more ordinary.
Up until your mid-twenties your horizons are generally widening. You go to uni and you suddenly have the freedom from the restrictions of your parents. You get a job and you have your own money which you can spend recklessly and at will, without a hint of guilt. You have the freedom to flit around from job to job, location to location, trying different lives on for size.
But at 27 you suddenly realise that certain options are no longer available to you. Your options are narrowing. It’s time to decide what to do with your life.
Last weekend was the first ever Bangkok Literary festival. Organised by the Neilson Hays library, the day provided a chance to mingle with fellow writers, hear a range of informative talks about all aspects of writing and participate in writing workshops.
I was very fortunate to be asked to speak at the festival. My talk covered two key topics. Firstly, as a new writer, I spoke about the challenges and the opportunities presented by the new publishing landscape. Secondly, I discussed short stories and my view that the short story is very much the medium for fiction in the 21st century. This then gave me the opportunity to tell people about Five Stop Story and its latest short story competition. (This will be the subject of my next blog post, but in the meantime, you can find out more here.)
Before my talk I was pretty nervous – especially when I read through the festival programme and saw the high calibre of the other speakers – including Ken Hom, Stephen Leather and Christopher G Moore. How could I compete with Ken Hom? Before I went into my talk I was wondering if I’d bitten off more than I could chew.
But luckily the audience were very receptive and welcoming. My talk went smoothly and people asked well-informed and challenging questions. And I received a bottle of wine for my efforts, which was certainly appreciated!
After my talk, I decided it would be bad form to crack open the wine immediately so I treated myself to a burger and a beer and then went to see Christopher G Moore and Stephen Leather’s talks. Christopher’s talk took the audience through each of his books, providing us with an insight into how life in Bangkok had changed since he started writing. Stephen shared his first-hand experience creating a best-selling e-book – a real bonus for new writers.
All in all, it was a great day out, extremely well organised by Annemarie Hellemans and her team at the Neilson Hays. I’m already looking forward to the next festival!
Since starting my time off work, I’ve relished the prospect of having more time to read. A couple of weeks ago, I studied my bookshelf, savouring the possibilities. The shelves were creaking under the weight of books I hadn’t read – books I bought from Amazon when I got distracted browsing the internet, gifts from friends, slightly tattered books from charity shops and a whole collection of books with the sticker “3 for 2” on their front covers.
I spent half an hour happily browsing through the shelves, envisaging myself by the swimming pool with book in hand. Eventually I selected one. The blurb sounded enticing and I wanted to start it straight away.
But by the time I go to around the fifth chapter I was starting to get a bit of déjà vu. The plot seemed a bit….familiar. But I decided that maybe I’d just watched a programme with a similar plot on TV. I put the feeling aside and read on.
By the time I was about a third in and more familiar with the characters I knew I had read it before. I was confused. The book was well-written and interesting – I was enjoying it. So why didn’t I remember it?
I racked my brains to remember the ending but couldn’t. I felt frustrated. Now I knew I’d read it before it all seemed a bit pointless. What was the point of reading it again, only to forget it again? I started to think of all the other books I wanted to read and found I couldn’t concentrate on the book any more. It was using up time, and my time was valuable.
So I put it to one side and started a new book – Dead Game, by Claire Kinton, one of the books selected for the Brit Writers publishing programme.
The old book is sitting on my bedside table and it looks at me reproachfully whenever I pick up Dead Game. I feel guilty. I enjoyed the old book, but just not enough. It wasn’t memorable.
It got me thinking. Should books be stay with you long after you read them? What makes a book memorable?
For a writer, blogging should be easy. You just put down what’s happening to you day to day, your thoughts and feelings, whatever you’re thinking. Simple!
But it’s not that easy. Unlike fiction, it requires you to reflect on your own life. It needs facts and demands honesty. Guides to blogging inform you that your posts should be entertaining and witty. You should keep your reader engaged. Whoever that mystical reader may be.
In short, it’s difficult.
The fictional world is full of drama, choices, difficult decisions – all condensed into handy novels that will fit comfortably into your backpack or briefcase. The real world is full of got up, toast for breakfast, sat at my computer a bit, tried to write, watched TV, had lunch kind of days. The kind of days that Facebook was made for. The kind of days where you don’t really do anything of note.
So why blog at all? This year of my life will be different from previous years – I’ll be splitting my time between London and Bangkok, “working” as an aspiring writer and running short story competitions through Five Stop Story. As one of the first participants in the innovative Brit Writers Awards Publishing Programme, I’m hoping that with hard work I will one day be a published novelist.
Throughout the year I’ll share with you my thoughts on writing, any useful tips and information I find, and stories of my life in Bangkok, the city of smiles.