Monthly Archives: February 2013

Mirrors Don’t Tell Lies

 

Mirrors Don't Tell Lies A5 Cover

Joe Clarke, golfer, traveller, fisher, has always had a healthy fascination with the written word. His first novel, Mirrors Don’t Tell Lies, has been reprinted this year by Selfpublishbooks.ie and we caught up with the author this week to chat about it.

 

Mirrors Don’t Tell Lies was my first novel,” Joe says, “It caught the bug from talking to another author friend in the States. I set about writing this book almost 5 years ago initially taking 5 months to complete. I have since rewritten it twice adding another 4 months on to this time-frame. With a love for detective movies, crime and the solving of same was always going to be the topic for my book. Pretty much with an open mind, no set agenda, I let my imagination run wild all the time developing the story and introducing characters as it went along. I have changed the original ending adding another chapter in the process.

 

“From my teenage years I had a love for writing although in those days I favoured lyric writing, hoping it would give me my big break but alas it didn’t happen. For a time I also contributed to the Drogheda United match day programme. In the subsequent years following on from my retirement I initially wrote poetry which I still very much love to do.

 

I asked Joe what his favourite part to write was. “Chapter 19,” he says, without a doubt, “when protagonist Tom Doyle who is a much accredited, well-respected retired Scotland Yard detective suddenly gives in to his softer side when he once again, after 5 years, meets up with his only daughter Susan and two grand children Elle and Toby who he knew nothing about.”

 

Sounds intriguing! Joe talked a little about what made him rewrite and reprint this book. “Since I finished the re-write of my first book my family have asked me to publish it but I always felt that the expense simply didn’t justify it. However, when I checked it out I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it wasn’t nearly as expensive as first thought. Having had no prior experience with publishing I adopted a very nervous and cautious approach. Daunting would probably describe the initial phase but with the help and assistance of Sharon, my fears were quickly allayed. As you can imagine it was a big learning curve for me but I must say that I found the whole process a pleasant experience.”

 

I asked Joe what the physical book was like: “The finished product was beyond my expectations and I am obviously most pleased with it.”

 

So what’s next for the mystery writer? “My next publication ‘My Watchmaker’s Time’ is already written and is currently being proofed. I expect to have the final file ready in three weeks and intend to then publish it through Selfpublishishbooks.ie. I then intend to write my third novel but haven’t yet decided on a plot. Watch this space!”

 

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Literary Mixtape: What’s Happening This Week

#10

What do we make of Marcel (Proust)?

#9

More children are using libraries

#8

Self-Publishing 2013 with Catherine Ryan Howard

#7

The Book Thief film adaptation

#6

Sylvia Plath: Reflections on her legacy

#5

The National Emerging Writer Programme

#4

A new look into Jane Austen

#3

On Richard III being found in a Leicester car park.

#2

How much should you budget to self-publish your book?

#1

Get a free copy of Poetry Magazine!

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Going to College as a Mature Student

Going to College as a Mature Student

This week, the team at Selfpublishbooks.ie caught up with Denis Staunton. I asked Denis about himself and what may have prompted him to write Going to College as a Mature Student.

“I am originally from Limerick, now living in Cork, married with four grown-up up children,” said Denis, “I have been involved in education at many different levels and in several different contexts for the past thirty-five years. I have worked in the non-formal education sector as a community youth worker, in the in-formal sector as an adult education co-ordinator and in the third-level sector as a lecturer, researcher and policy formation. I know the Irish education system from both the outside and the inside.

“When I left secondary school I knew what I did not want to do but not what I wanted to do. I did not want to work in an ok kind of job, with ok kind of money, in an ok type of office. I felt there was something better out there waiting for me through education. I discovered a ‘thing’ called Sociology and went to UCD as a mature student to study for a degree in Social Science. I loved the challenge of learning and became a lifelong learner.

“Professionally I have worked as a youth work in the inner city of Dublin; Community worker in Donegal with the Combat Poverty Programme; Training Officer with a Community Development Organisation in Cork and for the past twenty five years in University College Cork (UCC) teaching in the Department of Applied Social Studies, Assistant Director (Academic) in the Centre for Adult Continuing Education and Director of Access.

“I have always studied topics related to my work. For example, I completed my Masters in the area of Burnout and Stress among Youth and Community Workers and my PhD was entitled ‘Was it worth it?: The occupational benefits of getting a degree qualification as a Mature Student.’ ”

Where did he get the idea for this book?

“It arose out of the many interviews I carried out with mature students for my PhD Thesis. Reflecting back on their educational journey through college many mentioned the fact that so
much time and stress could have been avoided  (especially in the first year) if they had known more about the academic cultural expectations and the skills and strategies required to become a competent student.
It took me three years to complete. It was hard work but I adopted a simple strategy: no matter what, do an hour every day and write 200
words. It’s amazing how quickly the words add up and after a year a
‘shape’ begins to appear. Year one was given to reading, researching
and drafting (enjoyable part), Year two focused on structure, clarity
and purpose (the self-doubting part), Year three (the really hard
part) was entirely given to rewriting, rewriting and more rewriting.
Receiving written feedback from ‘critical colleagues and friends’ is
essential during the rewriting phase.”

I was curious to know if Denis always enjoyed education. “Yes, love libraries and books. Always reading – even if pottering
around the house or garden I listen to audio CD’s. This allows me
experiment with all sorts of reading material. If I really like one I
can always get copy of book to read at my leisure or study in detail.”

What books or authors inspired him?

“I am more inspired by ideas and certain organisations. However, since
education is my primary interest I have been influenced by
educationalist such as John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Pierre Boudieu,
Malcolm Knowles and Jack Mezirow to mention but a few. I admire the
work of organisation like UNESCO, Amnesty and One in Four.”

Surely there must have been something in particular about this project that attracted him.

“I most enjoyed researching and writing about working with your brain
(chapter 6). Learning how the adult brain works put me in touch with
new research from a number of scientific fields, such as neuroscience,
cognitive science and developmental psychology. Up to a few years ago,
the prevailing notion was that we were born with all of the brain
cells we were ever going to get, and they steadily eroded in a
depressing journey through adulthood and old age. It is now thought
that throughout life, the adult brain is losing connections at the
same time it is creating new connections in the region of the brain
involved in learning. This notion of creating new connections is
called ‘brain plasticity’, namely, the adult brain has the ability to
change its structure and function in response to experience. This is
really good news for adults who return to study as it shows that
intelligence is not fixed but changes as we learn. The popular phrase
‘use it or lose it’ certainly applies to the adult brain.”

What was it about self-publishing that caught his attention?

“The book I wanted to publish was in the middle between purely academic
focused work, on the one hand, and a non-fiction or fiction book for
the general reader on the other. My book was aimed at a particular
audience and even within the field of education mature students
represent a small percentage. Self-publishing, therefore, was an
obvious option, apart altogether from the financial costs involved in
producing a book as well as any financial rewards.

“I certainly did on-line research but in the end opted for a company
near where I live. From my previous experience of working with
publishers and printers being able to visit the site and get to know
the staff personally helps considerably. Lettertec in Cork ticked all
the boxes for me. I got very helpful advice, practical support and a
professional published finished product.

“It worked for me. I was able to get assistance in editing, graphic
design and production quality. This meant that I could bring a
finished product to the university and to work in partnership with
them in bring it to the target audience.”

What’s next for Dr Staunton?

“Right now I am taking time out to reflect and relax before I
decide my next project.”

And we can’t wait!

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Don’t judge The Bell Jar by its cover

Faber’s new cover for The Bell Jar may be garish, but if it finds a new audience for Sylvia Plath’s novel then who cares?


This post is reblogged in full from The Guardian website and is written by Sam Jordison.

It may have first come out 50 years ago, but The Bell Jar still causes controversy. The anniversary has seen all the old arguments and enmities boiling over again, but this book strikes such a nerve that even a new cover can start a row.

Writing on the LRB blog, Fatema Ahmed pours scorn on Faber’s “silly” 50th anniversary edition, calling it a woefully inappropriate attempt to rebrand the book as chick lit. She quotes the always reliable Twitter feed from Melville House asking: “How is this cover anything but a ‘fuck you’ to women everywhere?” and Andy Pressman, a graphic designer, who derided the new cover as “awesomelycomicallyhistorically inapprop” and said: “And by ‘historically’ I mean ‘incorrect on a scale of which we have few historical precedents’, not ‘That typeface didn’t exist in that era’.”

There is a strong argument against the new design. Ahmed says:

 

“The anniversary edition fits into the depressing trend for treating fiction by women as a genre, which no man could be expected to read and which women will only know is meant for them if they can see a woman on the cover.”

 

I can see where she’s coming from. That is indeed a depressing trend. And the cover does indeed look a bit like those other garish covers that supposedly only appeal to women. While I’m notching up the negatives, there’s also the simple fact that the original cover by Shirley Tucker is a thing of great beauty: a timeless classic that is to the new cover as a single-malt is to tar water.

But, here’s the thing. This latest edition has sold truckloads. The official figures aren’t out yet, but Faber have assured me it’s doing the business. There’s no evidence that this cover has ostracised a potential part of its audience, but there is already some that it has helped the book reach a new generation of readers.

Okay, this is an inexact science, and perhaps those sales should be attributed as much to the 50th anniversary publicity and renewed interest in the author as they are to that garish red cover. But the fact remains that the book is selling – and quite possibly reaching a new audience, as Faber claim is their exact intention. Hannah Griffiths, publisher of paperbacks at Faber, says they were aiming for a more “welcoming package” in the belief that “there is a reader for this novel who could enjoy its brilliance without knowing anything about the poetry, or the broader context of Plath’s work”.

Of course, as soon as anyone picks it up, breaks the spine and reads that first sentence they’ll know they’re in for something different. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” Hardly Sophie Kinsella, is it? I even quite like the idea of someone mistaking the book for a sexy summer beach read and falling headlong into Esther Greenwood’s cruel world.

What’s more, those actually reading the novel – rather than judging the cover – may even see something in that blood red, in the queasy glamour of the 50s model checking her makeup, in the serious face in the mirror. It certainly conjures up a time and place, a sense of nausea and introspection. The novel’s Esther Greenwood would probably mock the new design mercilessly, but that too seems appropriate. Perhaps it’s right that she is at odds with the world in which she finds herself and the way she is presented? Perhaps this new cover isn’t quite so silly after all?

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