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From blog to book

Monday 3rd April 2006

From blog to book: first awards for online writers who became mainstream successes.

It had to happened; so why not me, or many of the rest of us? Not me because I like to row without a storm, in the dark in a storm, or becalmed. I have no idea where I’m going, and hate going in the same direction for long. Which explains how six blogs turned back into one which is now divided 35 times.

Julie Powel who won some prize for ‘Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes and 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen’ which started life at http://www.blogs.aslon.com/001399 says ‘the medium really liberatated me and motivated me to do the work and not obsess over the details. The community aspect of blogging and the interaction with others kept me honest, kept me writing and kept me from sinking into my habitual self-loathing.’

I should start putting what I try to call ‘my efforts to get published’ online and see where they go. But in Diaryland? I want. I’ve been here since September 1999, not that much last year though, but for most of this time.

Chair of judging panel Cory Doctrow, Boingboing.net

Judge, Paul Jones, iBiblio gives the advise ‘a great blook (sic) is not a blog shovelled on to paper. Julie and Julia successfully makes the transition and grows as it goes, having learnt from the blog readers.’

I should do as I’m told, listen to how readers respond. I’ve done this in skip loads – look for how long I have written up sex, every growing inch of it in a lifetime. Find those entries that have been read many hundreds of times: the archived pages accepted, they are the thirty dirtiest, drawn out indulges I’ve managed to express here.

Bob Young established the prize to promote lulu.com which offers anyone the change to upload their manuscript to the internet and publishes books on demand when they are ordered, and partly as a means of honouring a new form of writing.

There were 89 entries from a dozen countries; why didn’t I enter? I must have been offline at the time, silent. What would I have offered?

Cherie Priest wrote ‘Four and Twenty Blackbirds’ offline then published it in instalments in Livejournal (where I temporarily crossed 18 months ago at the behest of someone who now is a published author). Perhaps it is time to go. Diaryland did it first for me, trailed all kinds of ideas, but they have been developed better elsewhere with a model that makes money, gets publicity and deliver templates that five years ago we buddied up together to create in bespoke form.


Biodiesel Power by Lyle Estill

Hackoff.com: An Historic Murder Mystery Set in the Internet Bubble and Rubble by Tony Evslin

Encourage me, it works.

Not a great day to find I have a seven year old to entertain while his older sister goes to a drama workshop and Mum works (from home, on writing a medical market research report).

Not a great day because it starts at 1.00 a.m. when the discomfort of having a tight chest (asthma) gets me up, has me blowing into a peak Flow meter then taking my daily dose of oral steroids. I stay up for another four hours. I write online. Pasting in waffle from the last few days and working on what started as ‘A week in sport’ but is now a couple of days short of being ‘A month in sport.’ Perhaps this should be my blook, my online shared thingey – the events as they unfold in my roles as a coach and committee member in a large swimming club out in the sticks , as chairman of a modest leisure trust in the same region, as a once keen competitive swimmer, windsurfer and skier who has children who are into football, swimming, riding, basketball, netball, sailing, body boarding and cycling. I can see the yawn spread across your face.

How about my 100 most memorable sexual encounters?

How about?


Sod it.

I rang the surgery to say I was on ‘emergency rescue oral steroids’ and get called in to see the practice nurse.

First, I drop one child at a two day drama workshop.

A group of under 10s are going to work on writing then performing a short script. Jonathan Cullen I find is today’s ‘facilitator.’ I’ve known him since school, not that we were school friends; I’ve known him since the Youth Theatre at the People’s, Heaton, not that we were mates; I’ve known him since Oxford, where he was a year ahead of me reading English and acting in the OUDS with contemporaries such as Imogen Stubbs, and I joined him in such a workshop as this then; though we never acted together. I’ve knew him too through ‘Privileged’ the Oxford Feature Film completed in the year I started at the place; though I knew him here only through the minor role he played – I joined the Directors of the Oxford Film Foundation, but made nothing of it. I have circled Film for two decades, like a coward looking for a fight but never daring to step fully into the ring. I’ve known Jonathan Cullen as John Cullen, which is how I knew him even when I saw him performing in the original show of Les Liaisons Dangereuse with the RSC but I have known him, through his wife, who my wife he met, when our children were at the same toddler group in Lewes, the town where we lived on our move to East Sussex in 2001.

Jonathan C used to be John; I used to be Johnny.

School Friends from Tyneside call me Johnny still – the only ones who do, who will. I got other names through boarding prep school and public school – none of them endearing.

TBT and I set off for Knockhatch, a dry ski slope.

I should be taking TBT onto the real stuff in La Plagne, there’s been a fresh dump of snow. It would be a great end of season, as we had en famille two years ago. At £3,000 for two weeks, with the apartment paid for, I’m going to have to learn to make money, not just spend it. It was closed. I averted TBT’s disappointment by getting him to right down the opening times on the stencil on my Palm One. We’ll try again tomorrow. I hadn’t intended to go on the slope, but I’ll have to as under 16s must be attended by an adult. Pity. He could snowboard age 5, he can ski on gravel if he must (I put it down to years of playing snowboarding games on the Playstation – he gets the stance perfect on any surface).

Off we go instead to a pub with a large outside assault course.

It isn’t, in fact there is no one about all. So we head over to Hailsham. I want to see what another leisure trust on our doorstep have done – a sporthall into a giant softplay and a bowling alley don’t strike me as sporting advances we could take on, though a gym full of kit that can be used by an 8 year old sounds brilliant. They are booked up all day every day for ten days to cater for kids who have already signed up.

I collect Zoe from drama, bring a mate of hers and TBTs home too (we met him six years ago when we came to look at a house in Lewes – they lived two doors up).

Then to the doctors.

I’ve followed the routine for dealing with my diminishing breath to the letter. My peak flow meter is recalibrated and once the nurse has listened to my chest the doctor is called in for a second opinion. It transpires they may be a small blockage in my right lung; a week of antibiotics will be used to hit what appears to be the infection that slipped from my sinuses into my chest –as it did last November and four years ago last May, leaving me tired, tiresome, fatigued, a bit wheezy and tight around the chest. Last November I gagged and choked for ten days and spent two weeks in bed, then another few weeks wandering around the house in a daze. I NEVER want to experience anything like that again.

Home. I need to get Zozo and her friend to take an interest in the piece they are preparing for tomorrow’s drama club.

They are kids during the Second World War. Zoe spend half an hour on the phone to my mother, eight when war broke out, living on Kensington Avenue, off the Great North Road opposite what was then a Greyhound Track, but is now the ASDA opposite Gosforth Comp (or Academy) or whatever they renamed it. My grandfather, veteran of the First War as a Fire Warden. He dug the family an Anderson shelter in the rockery. Two hours later she’s on the phone to my mother-in-law. Her family fled Italy as her father was a journalist who had been critical of Mussolini – a very different war, a young girl in London who was educated at the French Lycee. Her husband, an Oxford Don when she met him, was a veteran of the Warsaw Uprising – a story I’ve told elsewhere.

I cook. The children play.

For a while having ‘a friend around’ keeps them both from under my feet. I make lamb kebabs for them, salmon for the grownups. We have roast parsnips in olive oil and butter. We have ‘crispy potatoes,’ Sainsbury Organic, sugar cube size, first steamed, then baked in the oven, the crisped in a thick iron pan with more butter.

It worked. I wanted to get some red meat into my lot; they need the protein.

Afterwards I creep off to rest, to write, to read, to breathe slowly. I take my double dose of inhaled steroids, four sucks through a ‘spacer’ device, holding my breath for ten seconds to hold the drug in my lungs. It has the wrong effect; If hurts my lungs all over and for a few minutes I think it has done my harm than good, I may even gag. I guess it’s the water particles in the spray irritating any infection in the depths of my lungs.

This isn’t like me; I may need to go an did out Salbutamol, a reliever drug that even the nurse refers to as Ventolin, another brand name for the same drug – the classic blue-cased ‘puffer’ that asthmatics are shown clinging too. I do not look like an asthmatic, not now (not yet) not ever. I may have slipped below 6ft tall, but my chest is 44 inches, my waist 36 – I still look like I can swim a mile at a time, or row for four.

‘Practice saying No.’

I am told by my wife as we both regret my decision to have a friend of our two kids round to stay. They are riotous and silly, crashing through doors and pranking about while I’m feeling weak and my wife wishes she could stick with her work in the study on the ground floor.

I have an office in Lewes, the size of a single bedroom.

I am so often on duty back here that there are bits of me, bits of my writing, my projects, print out, photographs, little stacks of newspaper cuttings and pictures I’ve taken on a digital SLR or my camera in two corners of the sitting room. These piles have a precarious existence, like a snowman on Tyneside. Something promising begins too look forlorn until the hole lot slips onto the floor. I lose the plot, literarily. I lose track of ideas. If there had been a flow, the channel is allowed to go dry. I can find myself clueless when I get back to it – if I get back to it. When I get back to it. If only I could be shut up somewhere with nothing else to do but write up one topic at a time. If only.

I stay up when BBC TV NEWS picks up this story, probably the exact same story.

I should have done something with the first Writing Marathon online that I’m aware of – the one I initiated four years ago. The trickles may have turned into a tidal wave by now.

The Blookers

Conventional publishers are taking notice.
Millions of voices, millions of words.

Arthur Collins spotted Eggs, Chips Beans … thousands of people were reading it. So I should get skieasy up.

‘Deserves recognition and deserves reward,’ says Prof. Paul Jones.

California, where blogging was born.

Heading for the end of traditional publishing.
But bloggers don’t have editors, so their will be misinformation.

Personal, meaningful, meaningless.

See, TV says so little, radio says a little more, but you’ve got to read it in a paper or online.

Newlands School Closes

No Sunday swimming for the entire group!

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