Word Count 20: Ri Fiction Lab, making ideas happen, BBC Writers’ Room Open Call

by Suw on October 18, 2022

Hi there,

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m slightly regretting saying that I’d be back to my normal weekly routine from this week. Ada Lovelace Day went very well last Tuesday and I got all my post-event admin done by lunchtime on Friday at which point I stuck the Out of Office on and kicked back.

Trouble is, I’m still knackered. Worse, I put together a little ‘to do’ list and it rapidly got out of hand and now has more stuff on it than I can feasibly get done in a week, even if I didn’t intend to spend at least a couple of days on the sofa with a good book. I think I might need to prioritise, which doesn’t feel very holiday-like, does it?

Events: Ri Fiction Lab

The Royal Institution has a book club! I’m not sure why this surprises me, but it does. It also looks awesome. November’s book is Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, which sounds like a fabulous read and is going right on my TBR list.

It’s the early 1960s and Chemist Elizabeth Zott is leading an all-male team at Hastings Research Institute who take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.

Like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show: Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

The Ri Fiction Lab is hosted by cell biologist Prof Jennifer Rohn of LabLit.com, a website curating lists of books, films, plays and TV shows that depict “realistic scientists as central characters” and portray “fairly realistic scientific practice or concepts, typically taking place in a realistic – as opposed to speculative or future – world”. I don’t think I’m ever going to need to ask friends for a book recommendation ever again.

You can join the Ri Fiction Lab discussion either in person or online at 19:00 on Monday 14 November.

Stop, look, listen: Nick Harkaway on making ideas happen

Ever had the germ of an idea but not quite known how to develop it into a Proper Story? In an extremely brief podcast episode, author Nick Harkawaytalks about The Origins Game, his way of starting to put flesh on the bones of an idea. Give it a listen – it will only take you three minutes.

Nick is one of my favourite authors, so if you like twisty books that rearrange the way you think, try Angelmaker, Tigerman, The Gone-Away World, and especially Gnomon (you’ll never look at sharks the same way again), plus the upcoming Titanium Noir. Honestly, it’s the most fun excerebration has ever been.

BBC Writers’ Room Open Call

The next BBC Writers’ Room submission window will open on Wednesday 9th November and close on Wednesday 7th December 2022 at noon.

I don’t have a new script to submit, so I’ll be skipping this one. I had thought about trying to whip something together, but I don’t think that would do me any good. Better to work on what I’m working on and submit when it’s ready than rushing things, especially as it’s not like I can devote much time over the next two months to a spec script.

Obligatory cat picture

Like, I suspect, many cat servants, I regularly wonder what on earth my cats are trying to tell me. Grabbity frequently yells at me and if I don’t give her what she wants, her Demanding Paw of Attention is deployed to smack me round the face or grab my hand to encourage me to pet her. I did start training her to use buttons to communicate when she wants brushing, but she found a shortcut and now just taps the brush with her paw. She knows what she wants and she’s learning how to get it.

Copurrnicus, on the other hand, is more enigmatic. For one, he doesn’t miaow and he doesn’t really use his voice to communicate with us humans – his various squeaks, meeps and prrps are mostly for Grabbity’s benefit (which is, btw, indicative of his feral background).

When he’s hungry, he doesn’t miaow, but resorts to what one might be tempted to call “naughty behaviour”. He’s not being naughty at all, he’s being very rational: He knows with absolutely certainty that scratching at the speaker fronts, the carpet, or the (very new) sofa will get our attention and attention is a requirement if he’s to then get food. I try not to reward those behaviours, and instead have been trying to work out what his precursors are, so that I can cut him off before he does things he shouldn’t.

It turns out that one of his key communications methods of an evening is to sit in front of the TV when he wants dinner. It’s quite smart when you think about it. He’s realised where the focus of our attention is and he’s worked out that if he positions himself between us and it, he can hijack that attention and let us know he’s peckish.

Hopefully, as he gets older and I get better at interpreting the signs, we’ll be able to entirely short-circuit his more damaging habits!

That’s it for this week.

All the best,


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