Leslie Tate

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I wrote a letter…

Letter writing has somewhat gone out of fashion today having been replaced by emails. I don’t know about you, but I still get a bit of a thrill when a letter arrives, not one from a bank or some other formal organisation, and especially if there’s an indication that it’s handwritten or done on what I call an old ‘tick tick typewriter’. Believe it or not, TSL sometimes gets such letters as a few of our authors have avoided all things technology-oriented which arrived after the old ‘tick tick’ machine. We’ve also had to get manuscripts re-typed so they can used in the electronic age – and can you imagine trying to explain how marketing now works through social media to people who have no idea of what the internet looks like, let alone anything like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest? This is digressing, back to letters.

I’m not a great fan but was taken with the frank honesty of Vanessa’s letter to her brother when I was looking up some links for Great Barn Poetry which had been run by Hillingdon Libraries in 2017. Vanessa seemed to capture the essence of sibling relationships and inspired this post.
I’m wondering though if I shouldn’t change my statement about not being a great poetry fan to rather say, ‘I’m not a great reader of poetry’ because hearing poetry read or recited brings it alive in a way my reading of it fails. So, here’s a Youtube performance of A Letter to You by Vanessa Kisuule.
Then in 2018, I discovered Kat Francois who summed up a day’s conference talks on the First World War in Africa in a poem at the end of the day – wow. (Kat has subseqently published with TSL the play about her relative Lazarus who served in Africa during the First World War – it includes poetry and mention of letters).

I’ve never read any of Maya Angelou’s work but know that many people regard her writing as significant and I’ve been taken with the odd quote attributed to her, so it seems appropriate to include her third book of 28 essays written to the daughter she never had, Letter To My Daughter (2009), in this post.

Twenty years earlier, in 1988, Kurt Vonnegut felt the need to write a letter to the people living in 2088. Nearly thirty years from when he wrote the letter, we seem to have stagnated or perhaps even regressed. Will those in 2088 be thinking the same or will a difference have been made?

TSL books which feature letters (or more like emails) include:
Anna Ryland – A Second Chance
Sue Hampton – Woken
Leslie Tate – Love’s Register

And here’s a selection of poetry by TSL authors in case your appetite for poetry was whet:

first published 14 June 2017, updated 2024

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Growing pains

Good Books which deal with growing pains are actually quite rare, I think. But here are a few which have had an impact on me:

Leslie Tate – Heaven’s Rage
Louisa May Alcott – Little Women

There are a few more lighter reads such as:
And I would even go so far as to add Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven to this list.
Beatrice Holloway‘s tales about Rhys and life on a canal boat would also fit this bill.

Both Percy’s Quest by Barbara Follows
and the George and Flora series by Rachel Haywood deal with growing up issues through the lives of animals.

Growing up of a different kind is tackled in Illumination by Mavis Patcher. This is a story of two androids learning how to be human.
Gideon Master’s characters in his Lucifer’s Child trilogy (not recommended for anyone under 18 years old) have to learn to deal with new worlds and states of being.

first published 8 May 2017, updated 2024

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The author’s journey

If you’re wondering about the writing process and how it works, here are a few posts by different authors.

David Vann on becoming a writer and how he does it.

Adam Rabinowitz explains his writing process.

In Heaven’s Rage, Leslie Tate explores the aspects of writing and the creative process. He shares more along with Sue Hampton and Cy Henty in The Dream Speaks Back.

George Saunders on what writers really do when they write.

Finally, while not on writing, I found reading 13 Ways of looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley very helpful in understanding the book and its relationship with the author, reader and publisher. Here, another reader on a writer’s journey shares her thoughts on the same book.

first published 7 August 2017, updated 2024

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Breaking the Mould

Why follow the crowd? I don’t understand authors who insist on writing to formulae. Yes, there is a place for formulaic writing – for those who don’t want to concentrate. I remember as a teenager spending many a Saturday morning in the bath with a Barbara Cartland or Mills and Boon. I knew within an 90mins I’d be finished the book and would have some peace and quiet before the onslaught of family life again. As a younger adult, television programmes such as Poirot and Murder She Wrote, allowed me to get on with other things whilst keeping an eye on what was happening – I knew I was not going to miss a vital clue. But when it comes to reading, I want to break from the mould. I want each page to be a discovery and to challenge my thinking. I like writers who break the mould.

Authors break the mould in different ways. I never know what Doris Lessing’s next book is going to be about and in what style, although it does appear that aspects of feminism are a common theme (no guarantee though). (I don’t read the blurb before buying or starting a book – which makes opening a book to read even more adventurous). Similarly, John Samson has not (yet) written two books in the same genre or style. And then there is Sue Hampton‘s collections of short stories. Robbie Cheadle (and here) is another author who experiments with different styles and genres.

Others break the mould through their experiences or have a message to pass on:
Problems faced by African writers – Binyavanga Wainaina
Heaven’s Rage – Leslie Tate

More recently I heard about John Boyne who has written diverse works such as The History of Loneliness and The house of special purpose as well as children’s books. He’s now on my list (thank goodness he was highly recommended to me – I don’t think the covers would have convinced me).

first published 10 August 2017, updated 2024

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Ducks

Recently I was reminded of that wonderful Duck Song my husband found when our nieces were visiting quite some time back now. It made me think of other duck mentions…

Naughty little ducklings help count in On the Farm.

The Baby Cookie Monster reminds me of a duck, don’t you think?

In his war diary of 1942-1943, young Billy Palmer talks of catching duck and pheasant for food when the latter was scarce.

A slight variation on the term duck features in Tea at the Opalaco and other stories.

And of course, we have to include The Moon is Toast for all those players who went ‘out for duck’.

The image is from Twitter, 30 Dec 2016 (@leslietate) and in case you missed what it said: Anatidaephobia is the fear that somewhere in the world, there is a duck watching you.

First published 9 April 2017, updated 2024

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Epic Reads

What is an epic read? In my books, it’s a ‘very’ long read – whether a series or a single book.
Doris Lesing’s 5 book saga of life in Rhodesia in the 1930s, collectively called The Children of Violence, has been my most challenging fictional epic read. Somehow non-fiction epics are different. They require a different reading strategy, possibly because I invariably know the outcome, unlike with a novel.
Two single book epics I found less challenging than Doris Lessing but still thought provoking are Leslie Tate’s Love’s Register and Josie Arden’s Broken Ties of Time.
The three books are very different.
Lessing follows the life of Martha Quest, the interwar years, colonial development and the arrival of the Communist Party in Southern Rhodesia, today’s Zimbabwe. The books include Martha Quest (1952), A Proper Marriage (1954), A Ripple from the Storm (1958), Landlocked (1965), and The Four-Gated City (1969).
Tate explores relationships in their diversity and climate issues. Loves Register brings together three separate stories in a single volume.
Arden, meanwhile, tells of the challenges a young wealthy woman has getting into a relationship with a determined and dominating man working on the wrong side of the law, crossing cultures and continents.

I’ve also included some other long reads (350+ pages) for you to consider reading… all worthwhile in my opinion.

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The influence of Africa …

Leslie Tate is to be thanked for this post as his interview with Kate Innes caught my eye…
It was the mention of Zimbabwe that drew me in, only to discover that Kate has South African links too. Although not explicitly discussed in connection with Kate’s books, she does mention the influence her experiences in Africa have had on her. It is a continent that draws one in and teaches much – if you care to listen.
Africa has had a huge influence on TSL too, with a number of our authors either living on the continent, or from there – writing a mix of local and global stories: novels, short stories and poetry, non-fiction…all come ‘out of Africa’.
Take a peak and see what grabs your interest… (and please, try and buy from the author direct or a little shop).