Where has Kate Atkinson been all my life?

There are five pieces of writing advice from P.D. James that I like.

  1. Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it.
  2. Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.
  3. Don’t just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.
  4. Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.
  5. Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer—however happy, however tragic—is ever wasted.
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P.D James also worked as a magistrate, I’d like to hazard a guess that being brought before her in court was a rather terrifying experience.

Number 2 is very important to me, as while I don’t necessarily agree with my mother’s ‘TV rots your brain’ attitude when it comes to ease of influence, I think it’s all well and good to enjoy the cheesy and the throw-away, but if you want to do something yourself, you need to know where the bar has been set. What is the standard of literature that is considered to have artistic merit and value. And this bring me to Kate Atkinson, as I have just read A God In Ruins (which I bought simply as I liked the cover, and a it paid off) and while I wasn’t overly pleased with the ending, it’s a very good example of where the bar is set for popular fiction, the books flows so nicely it must have been such hard work to write. All of the characters jump out of the page, the amount of research feels weighty, and it is a book that will definitely stay with me. I wish Ted was my granddad.

I am now on the look out for more of her books, but there were none in the second hand shop (another sign that people like them, and don’t give them away easily) so treated myself to a new copy. I also really want to get Behind the Scenes at the Museum as with a title like that, who wouldn’t?

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But *sigh* isn’t it nice to discover an author, albeit (many years) after everyone else? It’s  so nice to have the comfortable security of knowing there are still lots of wonderful books out there.

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