Thursday, October 27, 2011


I was thinking about an idea for a short story, which was getting quite complicated and then I realised it is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November! So I thought, hey, why not? and signed up. So I'm currently plotting and planning my way to a novel, which will be about climate change in a future independent and fractured Scotland. The aim is to get a 50,000 word first draft completed by the end of November. As someone whose favourite literary forms are haiku and flash fiction this will be a fun challenge! Anyone else signed up for NaNo this year?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Foreign Flavours

I'm delighted to be part of the Foreign Flavours anthology, published today by Writers Abroad. This anthology includes fiction and non-fiction about food and cooking abroad (including my piece 'From My Malawian Cookbook'). Proceeeds from the sales of the anthology go to the excellent Bookbus charity, which supports literacy in Africa and Latin America and recently had a book drive for Malawi.

You can buy copies of the anthology from Lulu here.

As ever, coloured text includes hyperlinks which take you to other websites where you can find out more.

Friday, October 21, 2011


all night horror films -
the woman next to me knits
baby clothes

(this is a haiku / senryu from Crafty Green Boyfriend's perspective from a recent horror film festival he went to. I don't do horror films (nor do I knit!))

Friday, October 14, 2011

Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas

I was delighted to win a copy of this book as part of the LGBT Reading Challenge. I saw the film of Before Night Falls a few years back and was interested to read the book.

This is a memoir of a gay Cuban writer, who suffered badly under Castro's oppression of intellectuals and gays. Arenas describes in great detail the hardships he suffered in prison and the oppressive and invasive surveillance by the secret services. The conditions in the prisons were appalling, though the sense of community between some of the prisoners does shine through.

He also describes very well the community of writers in Cuba and how they met together to support each other, but how they never knew who would turn out to be a secret agent in disguise and suddenly denounce all his friends to the authorities.

He also describes his sex life in great detail, by half way through the book he claims to have at that age, slept with over 5 ooo men. The endless descriptions of sexual liasions actually becomes pretty tedious after a while.

This is only the third book I've read by a Cuban author, but they all have one thing in common. Everyone has sex. All the time. With as many people as they possibly can. And although gays have been badly oppressed in Cuba, it doesn't seem to stop a very vibrant underground gay scene from thriving.

Reinaldo Arenas left Cuba in 1980 and settled in New York, where he died of AIDS related illnesses in 1990.

Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas published by Serpent's Tail

Wikipedia entry on LGBT Rights in Cuba

Friday, October 07, 2011

Inspiration from Helen Keller

I've always been amazed by the achievements of Helen Keller, who lost her hearing and sight at 19 months and didn't start to learn to communicate properly until she was about 7 or 8. Her name has come up several times recently in things I've been reading and so I looked up more about her. You can read her life story and letters from her equally amazing teacher Anne Sullivan here. There's a lot of reading on that webpage but it is totally inspiring!

Not only is Helen Keller's story amazing in itself but her account and those of Anne Sullivan say so much about language acquisition, the importance of reading, natural approaches to education and joy for living - Keller seemed to always be enthralled by the world around her.

Helen Keller was entirely deaf and blind yet could speak English, French and German. She could communicate using a touch based sign language; by morse code or by touching people's lips as they spoke. She could read English, French and German in Braille and in text with embossed letters. Her writing was elegant and well constructed (which really gives the lie to those who say that deaf people can't learn to write properly, though of course some can't). She had a voice that some people found difficult to understand, but was well respected as a speechmaker and campaigner.

She became a renowned campaigner for disabled people's rights and for human rights in general. A totally inspirational woman!