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Write to us at Mslexia Publications Limited, PO Box 656, Newcastle upon Tyne NE99 1PZ Email: postbag@mslexia.co.uk. Some letters have been edited.

Letters

MORE THAN NICE ADVICE I’ve been a subscriber for three years and my favourite section of the magazine since it fi rst appeared, has always been Bernardine Evaristo’s tutorials. Having never done a formal writing course/qualifi cation, but being in the process of fi nishing off my fi rst novel for young adults, her advice has been invaluable. Not only is she fabulously helpful, but she’s also like a best friend who knows what’s best for you, even when you don’t always know yourself! On top of that, there has been a debate about humour going on in Mslexia for a while now, but come on readers – Bernardine is just naturally funny and comes across as an all-round great woman, the kind you’d like to go out for a drink with after work. Besides that, she is a talented and innovative writer in her own right. Her prose is as you would expect - no nonsense and down to earth and at the same time, sharply perceptive. If it’s not too late to change your mind, please stay Bernardine!!! Sally Ann Siner, Derby

LYRICAL OPINIONS This is for Lisa Matthews who is doing a fi ve-part column on female singersongwriters and their lyrics. I’m very interested in your choice of women lyricists. I do hope that you will listen to the songs/lyrics of the Indigo Girls (‘Fleet of Hope’) and Aimee Mann (‘Invisible Ink’). Others who also write good songs include Chrissie Hynde, Dar Williams and Ferron. Of course, the lyric and melody should blend together to make an unforgettable listening experience. I look forward to seeing your selection. Penny Thornton, West Sussex

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS Congratulations to Daneet Steffens on her warmly appreciative and inspiring interview of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Interview, Issue 42). It has left me both admiring and envious, and feeling, ‘I wish I could write interviews like that.’ I’d be delighted to read professional advice in Mslexia about how to conduct an interview, and especially how to win the interviewee’s trust and encourage her to talk freely. One way and another my interests lead me to interviewing people and I’m eager to do it better. Part of it comes from the interviewer’s respect for the subject, I’m sure, but there must be some techniques to learn. Penelope Maclachlan, London Thank you for your feedback, Penelope. And now, please turn to this issue’s

main interview on page 13 which may address some of your questions!

SPEAKING OUT Having just read Wendy Cope’s very convincing recommendation of Stella Davis’ collection Last Boat to Avalon, I set about trying to buy the book. It is not available on Amazon, and Peterloo Poets has ceased to trade (when did that happen? I miss everything!). The poet does not have her own website – and who am I to say she should? Some people are anti-Summer of Love, no matter when they were born (I know some very 1950ish 35-yearolds). Some people are pro-Digital Revolution, and I am sure I am one of them. Still, women writers rise up and disappear at astonishing rates. This has happened since the days of Aphra Behn (in my youth I thought there were only a handful of women who ever managed to publish a book before 1945 – and we all know who they were). Don’t we all owe it to ourselves to have our own websites and our own online communities – trading books, telling each other about what is out there, and who we are? Women writers have always been part of the unoffi cial story, and maybe the web is a way to fi nd each other, outside the offi cial establishment where we are often left at the back door. If anyone knows a more imaginative way to get hold of Stella Davis’ book, please let me know. Catherine Davidson, London

has happened since the days

– trading books, telling each other

KINDLE THE NEXT FIRE I have just got round to reading Issue 38 of Mslexia (I run my own business, write and also run a small publishing house so my journal reading is bedtime!) and saw the article by Alison Baverstock about the Amazon Kindle (Agenda, issue 38). I have just returned from promoting my historical novels at the Historical Novel Society’s conference in America and had a chance to try out a Kindle with one of my American friends. I have to agree with Alison – these machines, whether it be Sony (which has been launched now in the UK) or the Kindle, are the Now: they should be viewed as another reading format just as printed books took over from Medieval manuscripts. It is just as revolutionary as that change was, but how exciting it is to live in such an age of change. Jennifer Margrave, Guildford

WORKING IT The idea that everything can be reduced to a formula is one of the more depressing aspects of modern thinking. Debbie Taylor’s (rather carping) article suggests that we could all write a bestseller. Interestingly, however, in the section headed ‘Why it Works’ her answers are only partial and focus largely on what not to do. Surely the quality and style of writing plays some part in producing a bestseller? But I guess we should be glad that not every aspect of producing a book can be put under the marketing microscope and that some magic and mystery remains in the process of telling a story well. Caroline Sutton, Bristol DT’s response: The idea behind ‘How to write a bestseller’ is to deconstruct

a bestselling novel from a marketing and PR point of view. It’s not intended to be in any sense a literary assessment. It’s just an analysis of what it is about a particular book that makes it a commercial success. Unfortunately it’s by no means the case that quality and writing style are essential for the production

a bestselling novel from a marketing and PR point of view. It’s not intended to be in any sense a literary assessment. It’s just an analysis of what it is about a particular book that makes it a commercial success. Unfortunately it’s by no means the case that quality and writing style are essential for the production of a bestseller. Indeed, this is why we need literary prizes: to publicise quality literature that would not otherwise reach a wide readership.

CRISIS AVERTED Thank you so much for a fantastic magazine. Issue 41 is the fi rst copy I have seen in over a year having had a real crisis of confi dence, but after an Open University Creative Writing course and a very enjoyable afternoon spent leafi ng through your magazine I feel ready to start again. I particularly enjoyed Bekki Hill’s article about ‘Spring Cleaning’ which has helped me clear out my work pile and fi ll me with motivation to get going on some new projects rather than clinging on to the old. I very much look forward to the next edition. Jane Snoswell, Kent

DOOM AND GLOOM? I have just read the winning stories of the story competition and fi nd them very disappointing. I didn’t actually have an entry in the competition so have no personal axe to grind. They all had such similar doom and gloom themes – bullying, mental breakdown and mourning – and were extremely depressing, like something you would read in a tabloid newspaper sensationalising a one-sided down view of life

in modern-day Britain. Surely, a short story should have some entertainment value, some humour or inspiration, not just streams of negative tirades. One story like this would have been enough but not all three. Jean Blackwell, Brazil

MORE DOOM, MORE GLOOM? It was a pleasure to read Sue Pickard’s letter (Letters, Issue 41) regarding the scarcity of articles on humorous writing. I also think that the economic climate has resulted in a move away from focus on stress to an interest in emotional health: when your back’s to the wall, stress is a luxury you can’t afford. Similarly, I’d expect an upsurge in the market for humorous writing. I did actually draft a humorous article for Mslexia but decided not to submit it. Having dutifully done my market research of this (excellent) magazine, it seemed to me that only Doom and Gloom would be likely to be accepted. Could we have a bit of light relief and tips on how to write successful humorous writing? Please? Eleanor Lancaster, Wales You’ll fi nd our most recent how-to article on the subject in Issue 40 (The Lowdown on Comedy Writing), and a Bedside Table interview with funnywoman Jane Bussmann in Issue 42. And if you have a feature idea on the subject of humour, or a humorous feature that you’d like to suggest to Mslexia, please email your 200-word pitch and writing samples to postbag@mslexia.co.uk.

THE BOOK’S THE THING Book artists, as featured in Issue 41’s Agenda, and their traditional-bookbinder counterparts, both strive to make books beautiful. But we must not forget the contents. Books exist primarily to preserve words and pictures – or blank pages for potential content – for the enjoyment and interest of their readers. Book artists relate their art to the content, and binders strive to preserve the content in the most appropriate and lasting form. While the boundaries between the two disciplines are blurred, they meet in recognising the importance of content. As an author and bookbinder myself, I am constantly aware that unless a book is capable of being read when it has been bound, however fi ne it might look on the outside, much of its importance both as an object and purveyor of information is lost. Writers and book artists/bookbinders are therefore equal partners in the creation of books. Polly Bird, Bedlington

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