Poetry – A Misunderstood Medium.

Poetry – A Misunderstood Medium.

Last night I drove into Rome to go to the Keats Shelley Museum in Piazza de Spagna (Spanish Steps) to listen to a fellow Cinnamon Press author, Will Kemp, read from his new book, out in October 2016: ‘The Painters Who Studied Clouds’.

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I was not sure what to expect.  My love of Keats aside, I tend to view poetry as the pretentious intellectual’s realm, imagining reams of stuffy, patronizing academics with nicotine-stained teeth pontificating into straggly beards while adoring students gaze on in adoration.  Either that or I picture an elderly, bow-tied, cordoroy-clad gent with wandering hands and a love of plus fours and spotted dick (a throwback from his school days at Harrow or Rugby).

Will Kemp dispelled these stereotypes, appealing to his audience to embrace poetry (once again,) as part of popular culture.  ‘If it is not accessible, I don’t want to write it.’ he said.  ‘Poetry should not be hard work, either to write, nor to listen to.’  By this, of course, he is not demeaning the craft, nor the effort he makes to write his poems – by his own admission – with a full time job, he jots down notes but only manages to submerge himself on holiday, thus taking ten years to write a collection.  elvis-presleyNo, what he meant is that poetry should entertain, educate and inspire without alienating the audience, and for inspiration, he drew on popular culture itself – sport, Greek mythology, Elvis Presley.   His muses are Bill Collins and Carol Ann Duffy.

Before his arrival, I exchanged emails with him, offering to help garner support for his event with online reminders, posters, and gather the Rome Anglo-Expat community together as a fellow author at Cinnamon Press.  He kindly read my book, The Disobedient Wife, and to our mutual relief, enjoyed it, writing ;

“I find it difficult to lie or be nice when it comes to writing: so much of it is so plain dull or boring, and yet as writers we owe each other the truth. As with Aufidius watching Coriolanus (“O mother, mother? What have you done?” Viii) “I was mov’d withal” by your book which sustained my interest throughout. 

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“I loved the way you handled perspective: we start off with a type of limited omniscience, ie Nargis’s view plus Harriet’s journal, but then get selective views from others (most noticeably Poulod’s view of “That black-eyed bitch and her little bastards”)…  this seemed to me a bold move and masterfully handled, since such secondary perspectives cannot be introduced too early (lest they might/would throw the reader) or too late (lest the plot is weakened by the extra dimension they bring to bear on the final outcome)…”

And:
“It is impossible not to like the central character with her world weary view and plain realism, and to feel for her… (sic).  I loved the way you juxtaposed her (polite) words with her (contrary/ real) thoughts eg. to Poulod’s mother re: the latter’s business idea: “Alright, I will think about it”.  I would rather have a fat, red cockroach as a business partner than this idiot.”
So… back to the reading.  I certainly I did not expect this dapper, cheery man with a flowery shirt and a faint Yorkshire accent to begin with a “Man’s Poem” about James Bond.  I did not expect the wry humour in the prose, the phases spun together with deceptive simplicity, as though finished in a day.  His poems reminded me of abstract paintings, another misunderstood art form that is extremely hard to do well and nearly impossible to teach.  It takes years of dedicated practice, or as he said, an electric energy of spontaneous creation that rarely works so well as dedicated graft.
 romanticsAs his final reading came to a close, we all left the comfortable, chestnut and rosewood library used by the Western World’s most famous Romantics, to go to a bar for drinks and talk to midnight.
From now on, poetry will be my second best friend, the first being, of course, the wonderful novel.
Will’s anthology will be available in October to buy.  To pre-order ‘The Painters Who Studied Clouds’, click here

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Dead Babies and Seaside Towns

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead Babies and Seaside Towns is a fantastic, tragic, hopeful memoir by still-birth survivor Alice Jolly, who writes honestly and movingly about her grief for her ‘five dead babies’.

Jolly does not hold back in describing her experiences, first with her still-born baby daughter, and later, the other ‘dead babies’ that she miscarries. She describes how she becomes touched by death, feeling as the ‘Spectre at the Feast’. The silence of friends, ignoring and even avoiding the tragic couple. She is harshly critical of IVF, I was pleased to see, as a money making industry giving false hope to childless, desperate couples in their early forties.

Her self-deprecating sense of humour saves the book from slipping into the maudlin, with sentences that had me laughing through the tears. My favourite: ‘On death certificates it says – cancer, stroke, heart attack. It never says – she opened the fridge and, yet again when confronted with the task of turning four sausages and a lump of cheddar into a tasty family meal, she simply lay down and died’.

It helps that she is also a terrific writer, with near perfect prose and beautiful descriptive passages of coastal Britain.  I enjoyed her paragraphs on writing as craft (whether discussing the form of a novel or a memoir – her fears of writing memoir as Me, Me, Me, Moi, Moi, Moi). And her clever use of repetition – the book as an echo chamber – to describe the way life passes by ‘I put the washing machine on, load the dishwasher, hang clothes on the line, write a short story, wipe my son’s nose’).

As well as describing the world of surrogacy, she provides little insights on motherhood, female friendship, writing and faith that rang true. I loved this book, and literally could not put it down.

Proceeds from this book go to SANDS – Still Birth and Neo-natal Death Charity

5 stars
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/21327053-gardenia-plant

Lamentations on Book Promotion by a debut author… and #Bookreview #RBRT THE DISOBEDIENT WIFE by @MilisicStanley #Tajikistan #TuesdayBookBlog

Lamentations on Book Promotion by a debut author… and #Bookreview #RBRT THE DISOBEDIENT WIFE by @MilisicStanley #Tajikistan #TuesdayBookBlog

A fabulous review for my new novel!

This comes at a good time, when my writing is struggling. I published my debut in November 2015 after winning a literary competition for unpublished novelists with Cinnamon Press. I will be forever grateful to their judge, who picked my book out from thousands of others.

Since then, it has not been easy to find reviewers, or promote the book, even though the disobedient_cover draft 6 reviewers who do read it have all given me wonderful 4 and 5 star reviews, comparing the book to a bestseller, and doing their best to spread the word on social media.

It is a tough market out there though.  The book industry is heavily influenced by the big presses and their entourage of journalists, literary critics and media culture vultures.  It is heavily London-centric, a problem for someone writing in English but living in Italy. Having spent most of my adult life in developing countries, I have no contacts, and know no one.

Many yearly debut novel competitions require the publisher to pay a large fee – there are ‘book clubs’ and others placing books in prominent position in high street chains and supermarkets that ask upwards of £50,000 to submit books.  My publisher is a small, independent press, funded by the Arts Council and certainly has no spare funding for this.

The industry is biassed towards the marketable, the commercial genre fiction books, 2016-05-26-PHOTO-00000011especially crime and romance and chick lit, the funny, light reading stories written for women relaxing after a long day at work, or lying on a beach bed in Ibiza.  There is nothing wrong with that, I understand that everyone needs to make money – this is not about art, this is business. Still, it is a bitter pill to swallow when I realize I have spent the past 6 months using up my scarce, valuable writing time as a mother of three on the funny art of self-promotion when I should be writing my second, third and fourth books.  And barely  1000 books have sold since November.

Luckily I do not live on the income my writing, as after hosting 10 promotional events, I doubt I even broke even.  It was never about the money anyway. I do wish though, that little books like mine had greater prominence on book shop tables. I do wish that I could rely on more than word of mouth and well intentioned friends to promote my book.  I am writing my second novel, sick in the knowledge that soon, the merry-go-round of letter-rejection-letter-rejection is to begin again.

And so here we are.  One of my most generous reviewers, Rosie Amber and her Book Review Team have published a wonderful review of The Disobedient Wife, for which I am truly grateful.

Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs at Georgia has been reading The Disobedient Wife by Annika Milisic-Stanley #Bookreview for The Disobedient Wife by Annika Milisic-Stanley @Milis…

Source: #Bookreview #RBRT THE DISOBEDIENT WIFE by @MilisicStanley #Tajikistan #TuesdayBookBlog

Musings on another amazing book review…

Musings on another amazing book review…

…this time, because this reviewer, the author Georgia Rose, refers to my use of language, a true compliment for someone like me, someone who spends hours on every sentence, perfecting each passage in each chapter.  And then waking up to do it all again. Over and over and over.

Book reviews from the blogger world motivate, inspire and comfort in equal measure. They are given willingly, without prejudice or payment, like hand-wrapped parcels from perfect strangers, popping through the cyber letterbox.  This one tasted all the more sweet because it happened to arrive on my Birthday.

And what better compliment than to read, “I never wanted it to end…”?

http://www.georgiarosebooks.com/bookreview-for-the-disobedient-wife-by-annika-milisic-stanley-milisicstanley-rbrt-tajikistan/#comment-5407

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Literary Wives: The Disobedient Wife by Annika Milisic-Stanley

Literary Wives is an on-line book club that examines the meaning and role of wife in different books. Every other month, we post and discuss a book with this question in mind: What does this book s…

Source: Literary Wives: The Disobedient Wife by Annika Milisic-Stanley

Book Review: The Fine Times Recorder

Book Review: The Fine Times Recorder

This week I received a very fine review on ‘The Disobedient Wife’ by the editor of The Fine Times Recorder, an online website on Arts and Culture in the South West UK.

She starts the review as follows:

‘THE “Stans” are mysterious and unknowable, strange lands of ancient cities with slender minarets, vast windswept plains, snow-topped impregnable mountain ranges and people who trace their lineage back to Genghis Khan and his golden horde.

That’s the romantic image – Marco Polo, the Silk Road, dramatic looking people hunting with eagles across the steppes of central Asia.

The reality in the 21st century is, of course, very different. Decades of dominance by the USSR and the inexorable Soviet machine that sought to eradicate cultural differences, turned the “stans” into poor satellites, dumping grounds for all the things that Mother Russia wanted to forget about.’

The Disobedient Wife is a compelling read, and a masterful first novel – as well as the first novel about modern post-Soviet Tajikistan.’

To read further, please go to the link below:

The Disobedient Wife – a window on an unknown land

The Disobedient Wife was published in November 2015 by The Cinnamon Press, UK. It won their First Book Award 2014.

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Book Cover

 

This Week in Writing: Gatecrashing Book Clubbers, #BookConnectors, Literary Critters Get Even, and a ‘Surprising’ Review by an Irish Aussie

This Week in Writing: Gatecrashing Book Clubbers, #BookConnectors, Literary Critters Get Even, and a ‘Surprising’ Review by an Irish Aussie

A Writer’s Diary of the Week…

So, firstly, I had a very good lunch (avocado salad, fish pie, pudding and far too much bubbly Prosecco) with a lovely book club made up of expatriate women living here, in Rome. They hailed from Iceland, Switzerland, Holland, South Africa, the UK, Egypt and Australia.  They read the book in their December holidays, some while skiing, others on the beaches of the South, one in her car, hiding from the family duties of Christmas.

All enjoyed it, luckily, and I experienced a very hazy, surreal, out-of-body experience of eight women all talking at once about the characters in the book as though they lived and breathed.  An argument over who was the most evil; a discussion as to whether a character killed herself or was murdered – it is true – I left it open, though in fact, that was no deliberate act of subterfuge.  I realized, I knew what happened and that was all that mattered when I was writing it.  I was humbled, blushing when they asked,

“So, Annika, do you have any questions for your readers?”

In my fog of egocentricity and gatecrasher’s nerves, it never occurred to me that they might want to be interviewed as to their opinion.  I rummaged through my prosecco-addled brain, searching for a decent question.  Nothing.

“Well, not really,” I blurted.

Oh, the arrogance of the debut author.  I apologize; put it down to naivete.

***

This week, I managed to join a very useful facebook page called Book Connectors, recommended to me by Pam Reader, a prolific book blogger. Authors ask good questions and can post information about upcoming events, bloggers post reviews, and the community seems to be a friendly and helpful one, especially for British writers.

***

I joined an online literary critique forum.  I was not expecting much to be honest, as it is free and very basic in terms of the web design (an uninspiring grey with white font), and format (‘cheap as chips’).  In the absence of my fantastic Editor-on-Tap (she is fighting a valiant battle with cancer), it turned out to be surprisingly useful.  ‘Credits’ are earned by critiquing other writers, which you can then ‘spend’ by uploading your own offerings.  I uploaded the prologue and half the first chapter of my new novel (draft 2, at least, with much fiddling and rewording).

Then I waited, biting my nails.

The ‘critters’, as they call themselves, did not hold back:

“I don’t like starting critiques on the negative, but there’s no way to avoid this: your opening sentence is tell—tell that is flat, written in passive voice, and unimaginative.”

Oh dear.  I laughed out loud, he was right.  He was getting even too – I recognized his ‘name’ –  I’d ‘critted’ a chapter of his book the day before, asking him to work harder on characterization.  I don’t think that writers should make it their religion not to use passive to be verbs, sometimes you need to… but…  I conceded the point.  I got praise for my pretty use of language.  Within an afternoon, I spring-cleaned the upload, replacing passive she/he had/ was into fresh, immediate dialogue.  Much improved, I look forward to the critter’s responses to the next two uploads.  I expect a serious dressing down, though I tried hard this time .  As the author, it is hard to catch mistakes – hence the need for great editing.

Lastly, I received a review from Writerful Books, an Australian publishing house based in Melbourne.  It can be found here: Writerful Books Review

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I loved that the reviewer was honest enough to open the review with:

“This was a surprisingly good read.”

I don’t know what initially put him off – the pinkish lettering of the title font, perhaps?  The little Tajik woman in the corner of the cover?  I grinned, imagining his sighs as he opened it and settled down to read.  Did he start the book in trepidation, thinking himself sentenced to review a new sub-genre of Central-Asian Chick Lit?

It was a lovely review, take a look! 🙂

All in all, a very good start to Writing in 2016.

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Book Review: An Armchair By The Sea

Book Review: An Armchair By The Sea

Bex Hughes, a book review blogger, kindly posted her thoughts on ‘The Disobedient Wife’ on her book blog ‘An Armchair By The Sea‘ on 9th December, 2015.

I was tickled at the thought that she was late to work last Monday because she was unable to put down my book, but I hope she didn’t get into trouble with anyone as a result!

Check out her ‘Classics Club’ reading list, ‘Make Mine An Indie’ – a list of Independent Publishers and their books, including my Publisher, Cinnamon Press, and her ‘Five Star Books’ – Lists of best books for 2015 and 2014, to which Bex says she will add ‘The Disobedient Wife’.  She also organizes biannual book swaps through her ‘Ninja Book Swap’. It is a lively and interesting sites on all things book and I am grateful to Bex, because it is people like her who keep the art of reading alive.

Long live book bloggers!

Happy reading…

Annika