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Far Beyond the Brlliant Sky: 1Stokeland.  It sits at fork between two roads: one a thick, commercial highway bedevilled by ice for ninety percent of the year; the other a stripped, frozen weave of a road, impassable for ten months out of twelve and huddled beneath wedges of brilliant white snow.   It is a wonder that Stokeland has any inhabitants at all; but it does, over a hundred souls.

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Forcing Yourself to Write to a DeadlineI have set myself the target of finishing the travelogue of my Mongol Rally Odyssey by September, however I have to say it’s not going so well.  Like most of my writing, the whole thing set off at a cracking place, the start was sharp, focused and I thought pretty gripping.  However, now that I’ve come to the meat of the thing I seem to have lost that focus and my faith in what I’m writing about.

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Writing CompetitionsI’ve been organising a writing competition for ten years on behalf of the writing group I belong to.  Our first competition was a “toe in the water” and I personally guaranteed the prize money which amounted to £350, should we not receive enough entries.  We made a small profit on the competition and since then have used any competition surplus to increase the following competition’s prize money.

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What to Write AboutDeciding to write, in principle, is straightforward enough, but the immediate hurdle to follow is deciding what to write about.

For many people, unfortunately, this is the one they stumble over so badly that they never get back up.  For others, the choice is obvious; with particular interests and experience in one

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Hay FestivalThere does seem to be a strong tendency in the British to dismiss an enjoyment in the discussion of the written word as pretentious, in this world intellectual is an insult.

It is very much linked to the view that science is either undertaken by otherworldly boffins or madman bent on creating something that the

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List of BooksThere seems to be list for everything these days, many of them designed to make us feel inadequate.  1000 must-do’s before you die, 50 craps towns in Britain, 100 albums you must have in your music collection, the top 10 best cafés you should visit in Paris, the 5 must have pair of shoes for your summer collection, the 10 tropical diseases you should experience before you die.

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StorytellerI once took a New York City cab whose driver grew up with my mother.

My father once gave a ride to an elderly woman while on business in Italy, only to discover that 60 years earlier, she’d been one of his father’s girlfriends.

People ask me, “Where does your family find these stories?  And how did you come up with the stories in your new book Eat Now; Talk Later: 52 True Tales of Family, Feasting and the American Dream?”
 
 

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Are You a Writer If You Don't WriteLast week I had the unfortunate experience of being lectured – sounds harsh and believe me she was, by a person who calls themselves a writer but who doesn’t actually write.

You know the sort, individuals who spout writing advice, give lots of opinions regarding what I should and shouldn’t do with my work and yet hasn’t committed a single creative

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Writing RetreatsIn four weeks’ time, I will be looking out over the sparkling waters of the Sound of Mull from a squishy sofa in the conservatory of a small Hebridean hotel.

I’ll have a notepad and pen in my hand and I’ll be lost in the colours and sounds of the sky wheeling with gulls and hopefully sunshine, or quite possibly rain.  I won’t care which.  This is time for me and for my writing.

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My Favourite AuthorIf you were to ask me who my favourite author was, I’d probably stall for time before attempting to change the subject.  I don’t do favourites.  Some people make up lists of their top books, films, music, actors or pencil sharpeners and rank them in order.  I’ve never been able to do that.  For me, I either like something or I don’t.  Trying to quantify them beyond that is hopeless.  What I choose to do

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