Displaying items by tag: the palace of curiosities

I'm delighted to have been invited to be Guest Speaker on an Arvon course at Lumb Bank in February 2015! Looking forward to working with Adam Marek & Kerry Hudson.

http://www.arvon.org/

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As if it wasn't exciting enough to be invited to speak at The British Library on its Gothic panel on 9th November...

 

I was invited to talk on the Steve Lamacq show on BBC Radio 6, live from the Library! Click the link to hear me ramble on about the fantastic Gothic- themed exhibition, writing gothic and singing in The March Violets.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04pgz3g

 

 

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Sunday, 23 November 2014 13:19

20.11.2014 - A passion for libraries

I was delighted to be invited to read at The Feminist Library - and they invited me to write a blog about my passion for libraries!

 

"I wish I could wax lyrical about all the reasons why I'm a fan of libraries – but there's neither space nor time. However, take it as read: I'm passionate about libraries. I'm passionate about feminism. There, I said it. Out and proud.

My feminism can be summed up as "the radical notion that women are people" (Marie Shear, 1986. For the history of this misattribution see http://www.beverlymcphail.com/feminismradicalnotion.html ). I have an equally radical belief that books – and by extension, education – should be freely available to all, and not just the wealthy. There's nowt so radical as a reader. Malala Yousafzai was right when she said "Extremists have shown what frightens them the most: a girl with a book".

Libraries are exciting, magical, transformative and dangerous.
A happy childhood memory is the Saturday trip to the local library. I chose four new books, which were mine for a whole week! And wonder of wonders: the Saturday after there were four more, then four more. I could never read them all... I explored new worlds, I learned new things. And here's the dangerous part: I thought new thoughts. It was the beginning of a love affair that's still going strong.

Which brings me to my recent visit to The Feminist Library, tucked into a University building on Westminster Bridge Road. I was honoured to read from my own work in such a great setting. It's a treasure trove of books, pamphlets, magazines and much more: many out of print, rare, if not unique. As I scanned the spines I recognised things I'd once owned but were lost, stolen or strayed over years of house moves in and out of the UK.

This is part of the power and importance of The Feminist Library and archives like it. We assume that 'somebody, somewhere' has these books and that we will never lose sight of them. It's a dangerous assumption. All too often it is simply the determination and dedication of rare individuals that stops such vital material from disappearing.

Anyone who tries to tell you that we don't need libraries any more because 'everything is online' is either woefully misinformed or lying. Besides – real, solid, here and now books can't be deleted at the click of a button or lost in a glitch in a 'hacker-proof' cloud. Libraries are time machines to the past and stargates to the future.

The Feminist Library celebrates its 40th birthday in 2015. At times it's been a bumpy ride. We need it more than ever in the face of the undermining of education for all, the wholesale eradication of public libraries and the ongoing struggle against misogyny.

I'll leave the last word to Neil Gaiman, another fervent advocate. "Libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication".

 

http://feministlibrary.co.uk/2014/11/guest-post-rosie-garland-a-passion-for-libraries/

 

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Tuesday, 28 October 2014 10:42

26.10.2014 - Gothic Manchester Festival 2014

A stellar day in the neo-gothic pomp and circumstance of John Rylands Library's magnificent Historic Reading Room. It's been a dream of mine to read there... and dreams come true.
A delicious highlight of the event was the specially designed (and rather foxy) cake by the talented Annabel de Vetten of Conjuror's Kitchen.
Click to go to Manchester Gothic Festival page

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Thank you to Write-Track for featuring me on their blog for a second time!
Here is the text in full, with the link at the end.

On the Write Track - Adventures with writing habits
Rosie Garland – the bonus interview: channelling characters and living a creative life

In our first interview with Rosie Garland we found out how she kept going using rituals to support her writing and overcome the fear of the blank page. She spoke about having to "hack out time for writing" amongst work and grown up responsibilities. Here we find out how she took steps to adjust the balance of her working and creative life, and get an insight into how she writes such amazing characters.

The work-writing balance

Rosie made the decision to go part time in her job, not to write novels specifically, but to shift the balance of her work life and creative life, which she felt was out of kilter. She describes her life as being a process of getting off the career ladder: decreasing the amount of time given over to conventional work and increasing opportunities for creativity.

"When I was a kid I was always writing and had time to draw pictures, write poems, and create alternative universes. Then at the age of 18 'real' life happened. Time to get a sensible job and put creative self-indulgence away. It may only have been a handful of years, yet it felt like a long sojourn away from what I really wanted to do. I realised that all that creativity I had as a kid was a vital part of my existence, not an add-on. What I was doing was moving away from it and denying its importance. Since my late 20s my life has been a slow process of going back to it, partly by taking part-time jobs that gave me time to think."

Despite day jobs taking Rosie away from herself, she didn't resent it: "I got gifts from work and I am very grateful for the things it has given me. I don't think I would have been right being a full time writer back then. I needed to go and engage with the outside world and not stare at my navel."

Writing is the process not the end

Like many writers, Rosie says she writes because she has to. She describes writing as being a process and uses a Zen proverb to illustrate. "If you meet the Buddha on the road – kill him." I must admit to being rather puzzled by the idea of killing the Buddha, so Rosie explains.

"Rather than being literal, the proverb symbolises the creative 'road' I travel as a writer. The 'Buddha' could stand for some idealised faultless novel and therefore the end of needing to strive, grow, create... you get the picture. This deceptive Buddha suggests that I'll reach some magical, perfect endpoint. That a magical endpoint exists. No it doesn't. So I need to throw out that illusion and keep writing. There is no retiring from being writer."

Character: it all starts with a question

The rituals Rosie previously talked about help open her up to ideas and characters. She said "Part of the process is to find ways to put myself in the way of characters, to make it easier for them to come to talk to me." I was fascinated about this approach to developing character and asked her to tell me more.

"When I'm at the absolute beginning of developing a character it will often start as a question that niggles me. So for Abel [the central character in The Palace of Curiosities] the question in my head was – 'what would it be really be like to live forever?' I began to daydream and found that a particular character was answering. He – and his answers – developed into the voice of Abel. He's one example. It happens with the others in a similar way. Often, inconveniently, at 3am..."

"I write pages and pages of conversations with these characters in notebooks, longhand. I might fill six or seven notebooks with rabbiting, unedited scribble. When I've done that I start typing up to see what I've got, where all the gaps are, whether there is a story in the mess. And if, out of all the whatever-thousand words, I see the root of a story then I will start writing."

Right character wrong novel

Rosie says that her characters have very insistent voices and they can stay with her for a long time. Abel began in "awful novel two which was woefully in search of a plot" and couldn't tell his story. Rosie carried him around in her head until she introduced him to Eve in The Palace of Curiosities who enabled him to grow and develop. "He just needed to meet the right people at the right time."

Abel has left Rosie alone. She explains. "He has told his story now. It's like closure. He gets the last line in Palace, 'I am joy, complete, forever'. And that's it. Abel has told his story and has left me alone."

Don't get it right – get it written

Tom Clancy summed it up when he said "just tell the damn story". Rosie believes that you don't have to get it right but get it written. It's very easy to get carried away with research, especially when writing novels set in the past. Because Vixen is set in 1349, it's important the historical details were correct, but they mustn't get in the way of the story. She explains,

"I did some research about mediaeval laundry and some of the awful stuff they used to bleach it, but none of it is in the story – what's important is that Thomas makes Anne do the laundry far more often than necessary and it drives her nuts having to waste all her time. That's the important thing, the interaction between them, not about what paddle she uses. Just tell the damn story."

If you get stuck over a detail Rosie advises putting it in brackets for checking later and carrying on with the storyline. She says "No one cares whether the arrow is tipped with pigeon feather, eagle feather or goshawk feather, what's important is who the hell does he shoot with the arrow."

Read our first interview with Rosie Garland. Find out what she's been up to by following her on Twitter @rosieauthor and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/rosielugosi. Or better still read her excellent novels Vixen and The Palace of Curiosities.

Click to go to Write-Track blog page

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Thank you to Write-Track for featuring me on their blog!
Here is the text in full, with the link at the end.

On the Write Track - Adventures with writing habits
Keeping going – novelist Rosie Garland on persistence and creative rituals

Three years ago Rosie Garland had pretty much given up all hope of getting her novels published. Her agent wasn't taking her calls, rejections were coming thick and fast, and she'd been diagnosed with cancer. She had spent 12 years writing four and a half novels – perhaps it was time to call it a day? As her second novel is published to great acclaim she shares her experience of keeping going through the tough times.

Overcoming creative self-harm

Rosie had an early taste of fame as a singer in post-punk band the March Violets. Grown up responsibilities soon got in the way and full time work as a teacher pushed her creative projects to the side. She wrote short stories and poetry, and performed her cabaret act Rosie Lugosi, then at the turn of the millennium she got an idea "that was too big to be a poem or short story." Rosie made the decision to work part time to shift the balance of her work and creative life, she landed an agent, and dedicated more of her time to writing novels.

However, after 12 years Rosie had pretty much given up all hope of being published. She said:
"My agent wasn't getting back to me and I felt I had to stop continually putting myself through the self-cruelty of writing and having it rejected. It felt like a bizarre form of creative self-harm."

She needed to protect herself and go to "the places that weren't harming me. That was the poetry and singing and performance. So I made a decision to do that and that was when I entered the Mslexia competition as a last ditch attempt."

Mslexia ran its inaugural competition for unpublished novelists in 2011. Rosie not only bagged the top spot with The Palace of Curiosities, but got a place on the shortlist with another (as yet unpublished) novel. From this came a bidding war between publishers and a six-figure two-book deal with Harper Collins. Her second novel Vixen has just been published to rave reviews.

The apprentice novelist

Rosie believes if success had come earlier she might not be where she is now. "I might have sunk without a trace – become one of those people who has one book." She refers to the years of writing as her apprenticeship, and doesn't resent the time spent refining her writing skills. "The amount of time I have had to work to become a novelist has paid off. I have learnt my craft, I have done my apprenticeship."
She learned from her mistakes, referring to the second novel she wrote as "awful". She said, "it's going to stay under the bed forever. I will keep it as a reminder to never get above myself. The second novel was a process of writing something really badly – I can point to it, as an example of how not to write."

Keeping going: habits and rituals to support creativity

Over the years Rosie developed tactics to support her writing. The first is being open to feedback. She told me:
"I try to give myself as much input as possible. That might be going on a writing course, or Arvon retreat, getting full, frank feedback from tutors, my agent or editors. I don't want to write in a vacuum – 'bring it on' is my mantra! Part of being a writer is always wanting to grow, always wanting to learn, never taking for granted that I am a writer. Because I think the day that happens is a really bad day for me."

Her other support mechanism has been creative rituals. This is vital to someone who admits to being terrified of the blank page and needs a routine each day to get words on the page and the creative juices flowing. Rosie starts the day with three pages of journaling – she says this isn't creative writing but "rubbing the crust out of my eyes" and getting out of the way all the 'what I did yesterday' stuff.

She continues:

"The next thing I do is write six images. What a snail looks like climbing up a leaf, what it felt like to stub your toe. I do it every morning without fail, if miss one I do a catch up session later. Coming out of the six images I write a haiku. Then I do the classic three pages of morning pages – free writing coming out of the six images or using a writing prompt."

These rituals sound like a lot of work, but taken individually they are small tasks and quick to perform, and that's the secret for Rosie. "For me it's all about small commitments. Don't set yourself up to fail. If had to write a full chapter I wouldn't be able to do it."

Dealing with an inner critic – silencing Mavis

Morning can be a special time for writers and artists, and for Rosie it's when she's open to more playful non-linear writing, but also because her internal critic hasn't got out of bed yet.

Throughout her writing life Rosie has battled with a vicious internal critic. A few years ago she gave this critic a name: Mavis. She found that naming her was a release; separating the cruelty from herself made it easier to deal with the criticism.

Rosie says "My rituals are there to nurture and support me. They enable my writing; provide nourishment, support and food for my writing. Yet Mavis will say to me, 'call yourself an artist when you enjoy rituals so much.' That's Mavis telling me an artist flounces around in clothes pulled together from a bunch of headscarves."

A weekly reflection inspired by Julia Cameron

The rituals are the foundations of Rosie's writing, a way of keeping in touch with her creativity. She's a big fan of Julia Cameron, though admits it took nearly a year to complete one 12-week programme and felt it "nearly killed me!"

Her final ritual was inspired by Julia Cameron from her creativity bibles The Artist's Way and Walking in the World. Rosie takes time each week to reflect on four things:

How have my morning pages been going this week?
Have given myself an artist date?
Have I gone on an artist's walk?
Other issues – what else has been going on?

Keep going

For most of her life Rosie has worked while writing. "I haven't had the luxury of being a writer as my full time job. I have had to hack out time for my writing in around all the things that put bread on the table and keep the rent man from chucking you out the time at the end of week."

Getting cancer made Rosie realise that life is too short. She told herself, "I'm not doing this any longer. I don't care what's in the future, I'll just trust." Rosie's advice to others struggling to find their creative balance is to just "keep going". It might take a long time, but it will happen.

I'm going to give the last line to one of Rosie's characters, Anne from Vixen who says "I shall live that life like the gift it is, and waste neither it nor myself. I am my own woman. I like her. She has stories to tell and all of them are interesting."

Vixen was published in July in hardback, and The Palace of Curiosities is available in paperback. You can find out what Rosie has been up to by following her on Twitter @rosieauthor and Facebook Click to go to Rosie's Facebook page

Click here to go to Write-Track blog page

 

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Authors Writing on Books
The Palace of Curiosities – reviewed by Max Scratchmann

Much as I want to like all of these books, there are, I'm afraid, a lot of fairly dull bodice-rippers and penny-dreadfuls lurking beneath the stunning cover art on the slew of mock-Victorian novels currently on the market, so it was with great joy that I discovered Rosie Garland's noir tale of life in a nineteenth-century freak show – The Palace of Curiosities.

Enticed by the gothic delicacy of cover art and then seduced by the Angela Carter comparison from Jenny Murray on the flyleaf, I delved into this novel with a mixture of anticipation and cautious scepticism – treating the alluring enticements to enter as nothing more than the world-weary siren call of an over zealous marketing man. But, miraculously, I was not disappointed this time, and though the wonderful Ms Garland, in fact, bears little resemblance to Angela Carter – she's far too original a voice to be a copy of anybody – The Palace of Curiosities is a dark and evocative exploration of the underbelly of Victorian society and a magic-realist journey through the fair grounds and freak shows that so fascinate this reviewer as a visual artist.

The novel follows the converging path of two outsiders, Eve the Lion Girl and Abel the Flayed Man – also known as Mr Lazarus – and takes us on an atmospheric journey that veers in and out of the (believable) supernatural and even manages a happy ending without ever once delving into sentimentality or sugary cliché. The writing is rich and verging on the poetic, and the characters are well-rounded and believable – Eve's story being particularly strong with a heady erotic undercurrent running throughout.

I very seldom resort to overblown kill-to-obtain-this-book soundbites, but this novel is a definite must-read. Highly recommended.

Max Scratchmann

Book: THE PALACE OF CURIOSITIES

Author: Rosie Garland

Publisher: HarperCollins

Click to go to Steve Savage's review site

Published in News
Monday, 24 March 2014 16:46

24.3.1014 - #mywritingprocess Blog Tour

#mywritingprocess – Blog Tour

I was asked to participate in this blog tour by wonderful wordsmith Steph Pike

Its purpose is to share current activities, link writers to their wider community and to spend a little time considering our latest projects - which could be either to tantalize readers or to give me the opportunity to chew over what exactly I'm doing. Either way, we get four questions to structure the post around:

1) What am I working on?

I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me, not helped by being surrounded by folk who encouraged that belief. There were many reasons, but here's the relevant one: I've always worked on more than one creative project at a time. Singing, poetry, fiction, painting my hall with a frieze of Egyptian goddesses... Do I bore easily? Am I a creativity junkie? Answers on a postcard.

After worrying myself stupid that it's 'wrong' to be like this, I've accepted it's how I am (and naysayers can bugger off). Poetry nourishes fiction, fiction nurtures song writing, and all of it feeds the soul. Plus, if I was only working on one thing, it'd be easy to, well, do nothing...

Right now I'm writing poetry using prompts from Jo Bell's inspirational 52 blog

  I'm gearing up for The March Violets tour dates in UK / Europe / USA.

I'm also doing the final edits for my second novel, Vixen, which is out June 17th. I'm lurching from fear (that it's absolute rubbish) to excitement (It's finished! I've really done it!).

Click to visit HarperCollins 'Vixen' page

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don't know if it does differ, or if it needs to. What is different, anyway?

Philosophical meanderings aside, one of the 'rules' I picked up in novel-writing workshops was never to use first person when writing weird or unusual characters, because the reader won't be able to identify with them.

But I'm fed up with marginalized voices being further marginalized via the semantic distancing of third-person. So, in my debut novel 'The Palace of Curiosities', I created Eve, a woman completely covered in hair. I was determined she should speak for herself rather than have her story filtered through 'normal' eyes. One of the most striking features of the wonderful feedback I've received is how much readers have identified with Eve. Rules are there to be bent into the shape we desire.

3) Why do I write what I do?

My mother used to ask, 'why can't you write nice stories?'

I don't explore dark themes as some kind of pose, or to be difficult, or challenging for the sake of it. I write what I write because that's what comes knocking. I write what interests me about the world.

Sure, I can produce something that doesn't fire me up (I've tried), but my heart's not in it. There's the rub: I write where my passions reside. I've chased myself in circles trying to second-guess what a publisher 'might' want and it was a disaster. There's no point twisting yourself into shapes trying to please. That way lies madness, and not the interesting, creative sort. Maybe it's one of the reasons it took me so long for my novels to get published. But that's a different blog

4) How does your writing process work?

I am inspired and moved by the wealth of creative strategies we use to get ourselves writing. I reckon there are as many processes as there are writers. I don't think it matters one iota whether you're a morning / afternoon / nocturnal writer, whether you prefer a pencil, an iPad or grind your own ink from freshly-roasted acorns. It's more important to find the process that works for you. Then use it.

Let's face it, every day I'm plagued with a million reasons to avoid writing - shopping, housework, TV, social networking, let alone my inner critic screaming how useless I am. Click to read my 'dealing with the inner critic' blog

If I have a routine it's easier to get the hell over myself and write. My writing process gives me an anchor, a lifebelt to hang onto and weather those storms.

Next week the blog tour adventure features three wonderful writers – Susan Elliott Wright, Cathy Bryant and Anne Caldwell.

Susan Elliot Wright is a London-born novelist who now lives in Sheffield, where she teaches creative writing and tries hard to take her own advice. Click for Susan's website / Click for Susan's blog

Cathy Bryant's poems and short stories have been published on five continents (just Antarctica holding out), and she is a former blogger for the Huffington Post. She has won nine literary awards including the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Prize, and co-edited the anthologies Best of Manchester Poets vols. 1, 2 and 3. Her second poetry collection, Look at All the Women, will be launched later in 2014. See more at Cathy's website

Anne Caldwell is a poet and literature consultant. She works for NAWE, The University of Bolton, The Open University and runs workshops in schools and community settings. Contact Tel. 07818 052108 email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Her latest collection is Talking with the Dead, Cinnamon Press 2011.

Click to visit Anne's website

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Suzi Feay has given 'The Palace of Curiosities' an amazing review on the Emerald Steet blog!

WOMEN YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

Two events make this weekend a goodie: International Women's Day and the launch of the inaugural Folio Prize Fiction Festival. There are events celebrating both occasions all weekend but tomorrow, the two overlap at On Reading Women, a discussion on literary heroines with authors Tessa Hadley and Frances Wilson, and literary critic Suzi Feay. There are still tickets left. Can't make it? Don't worry; Suzi has shared her favourite up-and-coming female fiction writers with us...

THE PALACE OF CURIOSITIES

BY ROSIE GARLAND (HARPERCOLLINS, £14.99)

"In this fabulously strange historical debut, a hair-covered young girl with the face of a lioness runs off to join a Victorian freak show and falls in love with a man who cuts himself. Throw in a super-creepy villain and you have a romp filled with sheer, demented fun."

Click here to go to Emerald Street site

Published in News
Someone out there loves your work. Maybe they just haven't seen it yet.

Here's my blog on Women Writers, Women Books. Get submitting. Then the person who loves your work might actually get to see it.

Click for Books By Women website

This month, three judges decide the winner of the 2nd Mslexia Unpublished Novel Competition. Someone is about to receive a life-changing phone call. Two years ago, I was that woman.

I never imagined I would be. Fairytales are for other folk. I'd lost faith in my writing 'getting anywhere': indeed, I'd lost faith in my ability to write. But my winning novel, The Palace of Curiosities, was published in March 2013 by HarperCollins UK, one of the world's largest publishing companies. It's still a shock.

Like many writers, I've been writing for as long as I remember (I have a cough-sweet tin filled with miniature books I wrote for my dolls). By the end of the 90s I'd had poetry and short stories published, and I'd built up a following on the performance poetry circuit. I got an idea for a novel and was buoyed up by a run of early success: commendations in two fiction competitions and interest from a small publisher.

The crowning event of 2000 was a letter from a major London literary agency. They'd seen my competition entry, were impressed, and wanted to represent me. I danced around the room! I showed them my first novel, expecting wild enthusiasm. The agent advised waiting for a mainstream deal, so I turned down the small press. Naively, I waited for lucrative deals to come flying in. They didn't.

Over the next twelve years, I wrote four-and-a-half novels. Not one was 'good enough', however hard I tried – and I tried very hard. Then I was passed to a different agent who regaled me with stories of the terrible state of the publishing industry. No-one showed interest in what I was writing.

I stopped telling friends about my novels, humiliated by rejection after rejection. I regretted turning down the small publisher. It was a tough job to keep going during those long, slow, arid years. Then I got throat cancer and everything stopped while I put my life-energy into recovery. But there's nothing like a peek at your sell-by date to give you a boot up the backside. So, after I got the all-clear I emailed my agent and said, Let's Do This Thing. He didn't even reply.

His final rejection was my lowest point. I needed to move on. I could not continue putting my life into something that was giving me no nourishment. I didn't regret those twelve years, because no writing is ever wasted. But it was time to stop banging my head against a brick wall.

In 2011 Mslexia announced their Inaugural Novel Competition. As a last-ditch-last-fling, I dusted off novels #3 and #4 and sent them in, figuring I had nothing to lose except the entry fee. Both made the shortlist of ten. I was astounded: perhaps I could write fiction, after all. And one of the judges was Sarah Waters. A writing heroine. Liked. My. Work.

Novel #4, 'The Palace of Curiosities' won outright. Within a week I had an enthusiastic new agent. Within a fortnight she sent it to fifteen UK publishers and I was at the heart of a bidding war. The result was a 2-book deal with HarperCollins UK. It was bizarre – the same words in the same order, yet a year before I couldn't get it through the door of one publisher, let alone fifteen. I spent a long time pinching myself.

To say winning the Mslexia Novel Competition boosted my confidence is a vast understatement. I've proved to myself that I can write fiction: it was just a case of finding the right people to read it. The competition was judged anonymously and that makes me particularly proud. I am not This Year's Bright Young Thing, have not attended a fashionable Creative Writing Masters program, nor do I have industry connections. I won because of the quality of the writing.

It was the best £25 I spent in my entire life. I strongly encourage writers to enter as many competitions as possible. Someone out there loves your work – but they need to see it. So get it out there. Do it now.

Yes, I still have crises of self-doubt. But I've discovered a sense of validation, a punching-the-air 'I did it!' The win - and the resulting two-book deal – have given financial choices I never thought to have. I've given up my day job to focus full-time on writing. I've received writing commissions, invitations to lecture on University courses, been nominated for and won awards, toured book festivals...

I still subscribe to Mslexia. I still get up every morning and write. I take nothing for granted. I'm not a rest-on-my-laurels gal. I've built resilience, learned humility and discovered the extent of my determination to keep going in the face of rejection and failure. And I have regained a belief in my writing.

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