Saturday, September 19, 2009

Yo Ho Ho an' a bottle o' Amstel

Avast there, me hearties! Arrr, just so there be no mistake, today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day, and why should a lily-livered landlubber such as I not dip a toe into the briny? I be sitting on me auchsels wi' a jug o' grog nicely warmin' the cockles o' me insides, the vittles a-roastin' in the bung hole. Arrr, a plump chicken, an' assorted roots, wi' shallots thrown in for good measure, me scallywags, en't no festerin' bilge-rat can accuse Cap'n Signs o' bein' a mean-fisted swabbie.
I be ponderin' on this an' that, lookin' ahead t' th' graduation ceremony o' me son and a-realisin' that me preferred clobber o' purple leggins won't cut a dash among th'addle-brained boffins in the land o' dreamin' spires, but shiver me timbers if I be fool enough to be chuckin' pieces of eight at some scurvy clobbermonger for a piece o' schmatter* that won't see daylight from one end o' th' year to next. So purples it be, me hearties, arrr, and I'm a-thinkin' ye scurvy rascals 'd expect nothin' less from Cap'n Signs.
It bein' the 'versary o' me birth next se'ennight, me ol' mate be a-musin' 'pon what might gladden the 'eart of a wordy beauty such as I. He be full o' the joys o' i-phone, a-gazin' at the damn thing and a-downloadin' applications, such as a pox-ridden sudoku-solver, from th'internet – and now he be of a mind to get one o' th 'poxy things for me, but I be havin' none o' it, bein' a simple (as in honest, ye scurvy lubbers) sign-readin' sea-dog, wi' no need o' fancy booty to keep me treasure chest warm.
So that's the long an' short o' it, me scallywags. I'll close wi' trustin' this finds you as it leaves me – in th' pink an' addled wi' grog – pleased to be firin' a cannon through yer porthole – an jus' remember: when in doubt, say “Arrrrr!”

*it is a well-known fact that many pirates have more than a streak of yiddish in them.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

books, buddies and backbone

Peoples, hello. I was waiting for Ms North to put up something on her blog about winning the Kelpies Prize, drumming my fingers, wondering what my small tribe of dearly beloved writer friends have in common, and I think it is that no sooner have they dashed off one fine thing than they are on with the next and attending to the work in progress rather than trumpeting about the one that has just been published, though trumpeting, one feels, is in order.

So yes, she, (a.k.a. Janis Mackay), did win it, and I was there to witness the event which took place in a beautiful building close to the Edinburgh book fair, with wine, crisps, chocolate muffins and sweeties in little dishes – well it was a children's book prize, and it was Scotland. It will be published by Floris at the end of October and it will be lovely – a story about a boy called Magnus Finn who is half selkie. I have always been drawn by the selkie and even wrote a short story myself about one of them. Ms North has written an adventure story. I remember speaking to her on the phone after she had begun it. She was working on another project at the time but something on the beach where she lives caught her attention, she says, and she went home and the story of Magnus began. In her own words about this here. So it goes with creative process. You go hell for leather after one story and then another one comes and pulls at you.

Another long time writer friend I would like to trumpet is Wendy Wallace, whose book Daughter of Dust was published by Simon and Schuster in August. In Wendy's words:

Leila began life in an orphanage where most babies had been abandoned after being born outside marriage. Later, she uncovered the complex story behind her abandonment. She met - and looked after - her mother, and discovered not one father but two. She sang for President Numeiri, and came within a breath of living on the streets...
I met her when in Sudan in 2007 researching a piece for Woman's Hour on the issue of abandonment. In northern Sudan, babies continue to be born to unmarried women, despite the strict Islamic laws. Mygoma orphanage continues to receive abandoned newborns.
Leila's story moved me. I wanted to tell it, and she had always wanted it told. We formed a close friendship and agreed that if we succeeded in finding a publisher, we would split any proceeds.

Most important to Leila is that people in Sudan and elsewhere think again about their attitudes to those without families. The aim of her charity - Sunrise - is to dispel the stigma faced by 'children of sin' and its message is simple. "We are not guilty."

I love this book. I love Wendy's writing. She has a talent for creating mood and place (from which the story unfolds) which catches at the breath. I hope the book grows wings and is read by many. You can find it on Amazon, in Waterstone's or Borders under Biography, or you can order it for the discounted price of £6.50 plus £3.00 p&p (UK 1st class) by contacting Wendy at

Already mentioned (and on my sidebar), if you haven't already spotted it, is Julie Corbin, whose first book, a thriller called Tell Me No Secrets was the only good reason I found for staying awake into the small hours. An erstwhile student of mine, she came into the classroom and one knew from the outset that she was one of those can write/will write people with both talent and determination.

Three writers, all different, but what they have in common is something I can't really find a satisfying word for: they are dedicated to the business of writing and have given themselves to the work, for the love of it, the doing of it. The success, when and if it comes, is good, but they are busy with the new work – dedicated.

Next post will have something about the life and strivings of Signs. But for the moment, suffice to say that today I fell on the patio, bashed my head and put my back out. But I wrote my thousand words.