January 2023

Hi there,

January is finally over so it’s a good time to take a look at how the year has started. I don’t do New Years Resolutions, I do habits and, looking back on the month, I’ve done pretty well. I’m still practicing my Welsh and flossing daily, averaging 6,500 steps a day (1,500 more than January 2022), writing at least 5 days a week, and doing physio for my dicky back. My habits feel firmly set, so I’m hoping for a productive year!

Read this: Why writing deadlines are good for writers

Over on Shore Scripts, Olivia Brennan extolls the virtue of deadlines. ‘Deadline’ is a bit of a dirty word for a lot of people, bringing up memories of school or university projects done hurriedly at the last minute. But deadlines, even self-imposed ones, are helpful and something to be embraced. They make you pace your work, keep you focused, and help you prioritise. If you’re not already using deadlines, take a look at Brennan’s article which is full of good tips.

You might at this point be wondering if I hit my own deadline for finishing the edit on Tag, my urban fantasy script, and I have to admit that no, I did not. But having that deadline at the end of January forced me to really knuckle down and sort out the plot and issues with my MacGuffin, which was what had been holding me up. All I need to do now is get on with it, although it’s clear that there’s a lot more it to be getting on with than I had previously thought. That’s fine. I’m in the groove, I’ll get it done.

Read this, too: Top 10 tips from Neil Gaiman on being a writer

Neil GaimanNeil Gaiman is one of my favourite writers and, indeed, one of my favourite people. He is a prolific writer across multiple formats and genres with far too many comics, books, films and TV shows to list (and anyway, Wikipedia has done a pretty comprehensive job of that).

Bang2Write has compiled ten of Neil’s tips for writers and, as you might imagine, every one of them is a gem.

I particularly like No. 3: ‘Emotional truth is everything’, though for reasons additional to those that Bang2Write gives. Emotions drive stories. Characters make decisions and take actions based on the emotions they are feeling. But if your characters’ emotions aren’t true, then the whole edifice falls over.

Thread of the week: Quenby Olson on self-promotion

Quenby Olson, author of the fabulously titled Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons (which I must now read!) wrote a short-ish thread on the fact that in publishing, the cream does not rise to the top without promotion.

One of the greatest lies in publishing is that if your work is good enough, people will discover it on their own. It makes self-published/lower trad-pubbed authors look bad when they have to promote their work, and implies that if readers don’t find you, you suck.

We all know that we have to become comfortable with self-promotion if we want people to find our work, but Olson points out the snobbery around self-promotion is predicated on the lie that people will naturally find good work. They won’t. So don’t judge yourself or others on the fact that you have to self-promote.

New project: Why Aren’t I Writing?

OK, OK, I know I probably shouldn’t be starting a new project right now because I have more than enough going on, but after spending some time chatting with a friend on Friday about Substack, I’ve decided to start one as an experiment.

Why Aren’t I Writing? will explore the different types of things that get in the way of our writing and what we can do to either remove or climb over these blocks. I’m hoping to post every couple of weeks, so head over there now to make sure you don’t miss out!

As a result, this newsletter might have to get a bit shorter or move to a fortnightly schedule, just so that I have time to fit everything in. But I’m excited to see whether Substack is as good as they say it is.

Obligatory cat picture

Back in 2009, when we first adopted Grabbity, our plan was to just have one kitten. She came from a litter of eight, but all the others were spoken for and we weren’t sure we could fit two cats in our flat.

A week after we picked her up, my friend called to say that they had a kitten going spare because he had a heart murmur and the adopters had said they didn’t want ‘a cat that wasn’t perfect’. I took 30 seconds to think about it and said yes. We went to pick Sir Izacat Mewton up the next weekend.

Cats do not have familial memory. Once separated, they don’t have the ability to recognise a littermate as related. So Grabbity, having had two weeks on her own, viewed Mewton with extreme suspicion. Mewton, having come straight from a home where he was still surrounded by siblings, did not care one jot what Grabbity thought.

The Introduction

Grabbity and Mewton cuddling on the sofaAfter a slightly rocky reintroduction, we shut them in the lounge together overnight and hoped for the best.

I was somewhat nervous, come the morning, to see how they had acclimatised, but I was greeted by this slightly fuzzy heap. That’s Mewton on the left and Grabbity on the right. We knew then that they were going to be fine!

All the best,


PS Please don’t forget that if you want to find new newsletters to subscribe to, The Sample is for you. Every day, you’ll get a new sample newsletter delivered to your inbox and if you like it,  you can subscribe. And if you join using this link, then they’ll forward my newsletter on to more people. It’s a win-win!

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First, deal with The Fear

by Suw on January 30, 2023

Welcome to Why Aren’t I Writing?, my new Substack newsletter! Over the coming weeks and months, I’m going to explore all of the things that get in our way when we want to write, including, appositely, the fear of the blank page. Which is what I’ve got right now.

I shouldn’t. I’m an experienced blogger and journalist. I’m used to sitting down with a blank page and a deadline and having to fill one up before the other expires. And yet here I am, sitting at my desk, filled with The Fear.

What if no one is interested in what I’ve got to say? What if I run out of things to talk about? What if my writing is boring and no one reads to the end? What if I don’t have enough time to do this newsletter justice? What if people think I’m full of shit? What if no one subscribes and I end up talking to myself?

Right now, it feels much easier to stare out of my window and watch flight KL717 from Amsterdam to San Jose pass by at 29,000 ft. (According to FlightRadar24, it turned around just south of Cork and began heading back to Amsterdam. I wonder why. Google doesn’t know. Twitter hasn’t mentioned it. Probably a mechanical fault. I’ll check back on it later.)

The Fear is, fundamentally, a fear of public humiliation. It’s something I used to talk about extensively when I worked as a social technologist helping companies develop adoption strategies for social media. We are all terrified of looking like an idiot, of being judged and found wanting. Rather than take a risk we freeze, we procrastinate (KL717 is currently over Colchester), or we avoid the task completely.

In the context of software adoption, the key was to ensure everyone was properly trained, that they had trusted people they could ask for help, and that the company’s aims for using this new software aligned with their employee’s personal aims – help people do what they want to do anyway and the tools you use become irrelevant.

In the context of one person sitting down to start a new project, well, there’s very little between me and utter terror. Only my ego, which tells me that I’m an articulate person with useful things to say, but which I rarely believe, encourages me on. My self-doubt, on the other hand, is telling me to select all and delete.

(KL717 is in the middle of the North Sea.)

I shall persevere, not just because I think this is a topic that a fair number of people might be interested in, but because I want to know more myself. I have learnt how to get past my demons and write, and I’ve been particularly productive over the last few years. But it hasn’t got any easier. I still struggle when faced with a blank page. And I still feel like I need someone to give me the A-OK before I publish an edition of my newsletter or a blog post.

I have wanted to be an author since I was a child but, despite being told that I was good at writing from pretty much the moment I picked up a pen, I internalised the lesson that normal people can’t make a living from writing. Especially not women. Especially not women writing science fiction or fantasy. Especially not women from the arse end of nowhere, with no network and no contacts and no mentor.

It’s not easy to throw away this ‘head trash’ that I’ve been carrying round for the best part of 40 years. Indeed, it’s a process, a recovery that requires daily effort.

(KL717 is coming in to land, 2 hours 30 minutes after it first took off. I suspect there are going to be some very pissed off people alighting at Schiphol shortly. Maybe one of them will tweet about what happened.)

So if you want to write, but aren’t, I understand you. I understand the fear. I understand the self-doubt. I understand the procrastination. And, as this newsletter progresses, I hope to develop a better understanding of these problems and their solutions. I’m optimistic that I can help you get past them too.

(KL717 has landed. No one on Twitter has said a thing.)

I’ll be publishing a new issue of Why Aren’t I Writing? twice a month and asking questions such as, What is confidence and where can I get some? Can I get rid of my impostor syndrome? And, What’s the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and which one should I cultivate?

So if you want to conquer your writing gremlins, sign up now and don’t miss a thing!

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Hi there,

It was -7C when I woke up this morning and still hasn’t got up as far as 0 yet, so this week’s newsletter come to you from underneath a large pile of blankets, one of them electric.

Suw’s news: Ethics applications and editing

There can’t be many fiction projects that start off with an ethics proposal, but Fieldwork is being written under the auspices of the University of York and is funded by a National Environmental Research Council grant, so we have to get ethics clearance before we can start doing the background research. That means that last week I had to do some informed consent training, and I now have a little certificate to prove that I know what informed consent is! The ethics proposal is well underway, but I can’t start talking to ecologists until it’s approved, so finishing that up is this week’s task.

I’m also spending as much time as I can find editing Tag and filling plot holes so large you could drive a fleet of tanks through them. Episodes 1 and 2 are done, and I’m knee deep in 3. Unfortunately, 3, 4 and 5 are the most threadbare episodes and it’s taking me longer than anticipated, so I might not finish them up by the end of January as I’d hoped to. But I am making progress every day.

Blog post: Why ‘Just write!’ is terrible advice

I’ve been wanting for a long time to blog about why I think ‘Just write!’ is an awful thing to say to someone who wants to become a writer. It was once said it to me when I was deep in a painful lull in my writing, and it bit deep. I couldn’t ‘just write’ – if I could have, I would have been. So I’ve taken a look at this pernicious bit of advice and come up with a few more compassionate and constructive alternatives.

Stop, look, listen: The Dark Is Rising on BBC Sounds

Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series is one of my favourites. I was introduced to it when I was 19 and I reread it regularly. So I was very excited to hear that the BBC has adapted it into a 12 part audio series, and even more excited by the fact that they got some great names in the cast, including Toby Jones and Samuel West.

Perhaps because I know The Dark Is Rising – which is actually both the name of the series and the title of second book – so well, I came to it with expectations. But ultimately, I was disappointed. The adaptation felt a bit overwrought at times and the soundscape overwhelming.

Yet there’s still something to learn from listening to it, especially if you already know the books.

The problem with this adaptation is that, in order to stop it being dominated by narration, they had to have Will Stanton, the protagonist, describe some of the scenes and action. The result is lots of slightly odd interjections and a halting nature to some of Stanton’s dialogue. When you compare this functional dialogue, if you will, to the speech Susan Cooper actually wrote, it stands out a mile. So if you want a good study in natural vs artificial dialogue, you could do worse than listen to this closely and see if you can spot the new additions.

Read this: Eli’s coming

American Scriptwriter Ben Blacker predicts a difficult year for writers trying to break in to the TV and film industries in the US, but suggests that 2023 will be a good year to knuckle down and get as much writing done as possible.

If you start now, you can have a polished portfolio of sample scripts by December. If you’re looking to work in TV, I’d recommend having 3 original pilots, a spec of an existing show, and maybe one feature script too (as the lines are blurrier between media than they once were). If you want to write movies, write four feature scripts. That’s one per quarter! You can do that!

Frankly, it’s never a good time to try breaking in as a new writer, whether you’re trying to get into film or TV, or trying to find an agent and get your book sold. I think Ben’s goals are a little bit optimistic for early career writers who are still learning not just how writing works, but how they work too. So perhaps just pick a goal that is ambitious but doable (and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit it).

My goals for this year are: one short film script, a completed* TV series plus treatment and novelisation, plus an outline of a YA novel. That’s quite a lot, given how little time I get to devote to writing. And if I achieve it all, I shall be very proud of myself regardless of whether I get an agent or not.

* They say you shouldn’t write the whole of a TV series, just a pilot and a treatment, but at this stage in my development as a writer, I need to know that the whole story is robust and complete, and that means I have to write it all. And, despite all advice to the contrary, I want to convert it into a novel when I’m done, because I feel like I stand a higher chance of getting an agent and selling a novel than I do getting a TV production company to take a risk on a high-budget series from an unknown writer. So yeah. I’m writing it all. Bite me.

Copurrnicus sits on his cat tree with his chest up against the lip and his front legs dangling over the edge.Obligatory cat picture

Copurrnicus loves his cat tree and particularly loves to sit like this. How on earth can that be comfortable? How does he not end up cutting off the circulation to his little paws?

Cats. They’re beyond me.


That’s it for this week!


All the best,



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Why ‘Just write!’ is terrible advice

by Suw on January 20, 2023

‘Just write!’ is an incredibly popular piece of advice given frequently and in many different guises to people who want to write but, for whatever reason, are not.

It’s a terrible thing to say and not just because if it was that simple, we’d all be extremely productive and procrastination wouldn’t exist. Instead, the world is littered with people who desperately want to write, who have maybe written in the past and stopped, or who’ve tried and haven’t got anywhere, or who have yet to put pen to paper, who are being told that the failing is their lack of willpower. In my experience, that’s rarely the case.

I have a lot of experience of failing to write. I’ve had periods where I’ve just had no ideas, or I’ve had ideas but been unable to work on them, or have started a project but then it’s fallen by the wayside… plus any other permutation of not writing you can think of. I’ve had writers block. I’ve got so deep in the research weeds I couldn’t start writing. I have had periods of clinical depression where I couldn’t even think, let alone write. I’ve been too stressed, too tired, too busy, too poor and too scared to write.

Where others are experts in writing, I am an expert in not writing. And it was never once down to a lack of willpower.

Fundamental to ‘Just write!’ is the idea that there are no barriers between an author and the words they need to put down on to the paper (or screen) except their own willingness to sit their bum on a chair and get on with it. Any failure to write is a failure of character. You just must not want it enough. You’re not dedicated enough. You’re not persistent enough. You’re not committed enough. You’re not willing enough to make the sacrifices.

That is, however, bullshit. Every time I have had a problem writing, it’s been because there were other things going on in my life that got in the way. I didn’t have the tools – or sometimes the self-awareness – to fully understand what was going on and how to fix it. I’m better at it now, primarily because I hit 50 nearly two years ago and, not to put too fine a point on it, that milestone scared the living shit out of me as I realised that the idea that I had time to spare was demonstrably, cruelly wrong. I am closer to my death than my birth and I have no time to waste. I knew I had to find the tools, and fast. And I have.

But the impact of ‘Just write!’ on the nascent author’s confidence can be devastating. There’s nothing worse than feeling that you ought to be doing something, something that you want to do, and then someone tells you that your failure is all your fault and only your fault. It’s a double helping of shame and humiliation – emotions that you probably already feel in spades without additional help.

So, instead of suggesting that people ‘Just write!’ – whether that’s said outright or disguised as ‘Well, you just need to find the time’ or ‘You just need to sit in front of the computer’ – I suggest that it’s healthier to be encouraging and to point people to resources that might help them get over or past whatever is blocking them. Don’t assume that you know what’s in their way.  They may not even know themselves what’s wrong, so your chances of diagnosing it are slim.

Instead, here are some useful, universal, words of advice to offer up instead:

  • Suggest that they read whatever your favourite writing advice book is. For complete beginners, I would suggest Gareth L Powell’s About Writing, which is a lovely introduction to becoming an author that’s pitched specifically at people who’ve never or rarely put pen to paper. For someone who has written before but is struggling with understanding the mechanics of stories, I’d recommend The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr.
  • Tell them that writing is as much about creating a habit as creativity, and James Clear’s Atomic Habits will help them understand how to do that effectively.
  • For some people, treating writing as a project can help them make progress, and Charlie Gilkey’s Start Finishing is great for understanding how to structure and successfully complete a project.
  • For others, life just gets in the damn way. For these people, let them know that it’s OK to spend some time not writing. Getting through life is always good prep for a novel and at some point they might look back and see it as a useful experience. Maybe suggest they buy themselves a nice notebook and jot down their experiences as and when they can, so that they’ll having something to draw from in future.

But whenever someone talks about wanting to be a writer, even if you fear that they aren’t being earnest, there’s always a way to be encouraging and supportive that doesn’t involve telling them to ‘Just write!’. If they don’t take your advice and end their days having never fulfilled their dreams, that’s not on you. But at least you didn’t pile on the guilt. You did no harm. And by being compassionate, sympathetic and supportive, you might do some good.

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Hello there,

Last week I mentioned Discoveries 2023, the Women’s Prize Trust/Curtis Brown Creative/Audible literary competition for women. Despite having absolutely no faith at all that they’ll be interested in a pandemic novel, I have submitted anyway. It’s my first submission of 2023, but it definitely won’t be my last as I aim for 100 rejections in the next twelve months. (See below for more on that!)

Suw’s News: Introducing Fieldwork

Back in October, I mentioned a new short film project that was on the verge of being greenlit, and I’m excited to report that we’ve now confirmed the budget for the first phase of work, which starts this week.

Fieldwork, which I’ll be working on with Prof Thorunn Helgason and Dr Pen Holland, will explore the real life experiences of ecologists in the field. It has grown out of an existing scientific project, the International Collaboration on Mycorrhizal Ecological Traits, which I’ve been working on with Thorunn, Pen and Prof Bala Chaudhary since 2019. Our international group has already produced a paper on mycorrhizal trait classification and supported women and minorities in science via the Finding Ada mentoring program. 

Based on interviews with field scientists, Fieldwork will put ecology in front of a general audience to raise awareness of the subject and, hopefully, encourage young people to study and pursue an ecological career. It will also provide a unique opportunity for scientists to become a part of a very different kind of public engagement activity. 

Our aim is to create a conversation about people’s experiences in the field, normalising the presence and experiences of underrepresented people – to each other and to the wider community – and breaking down stereotypes.

It is really exciting for these two sides of my life, the creative writing and the scientific, to come together in one project. That hasn’t happened since the report on the media response to the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull that I wrote for Chatham House. I really can’t wait to get my teeth into it, though we do need to complete the ethics approval process first!

Review: About Writing by Gareth L Powell

Cover of Gareth Powell's About WritingThere are two reasons why I love Gareth L Powell‘s new book, About Writing. The first is that he is very clear about who the book is for – people who know little to nothing of the writing process or the publishing industry – and he says so up front. Lots of the books about writing that I’ve read assume some level of existing knowledge or experience upon which the author wishes to build. They also quite often focus on what the author knows, rather than what the reader needs to know.

Powell doesn’t make that mistake. Instead, he’s thought about what questions aspiring authors might have and sets out to answer them. He assumes nothing, and approaches the subject of how to become a writer with the gentle compassion that anyone who follows him on Twitter will immediately recognise.

The second reason I love this book is how personal it is. Powell frequently shares his own experiences, which makes writing feel possible (even if making a living from it is hard). There’s a reason that the book’s subtitle describes it as a “field guide”, because it really does feel like you’re being taken on a journey, a pleasant and companionable walk through the landscape of authorhood.

Although I’m not in About Writing’s target audience, I really enjoyed reading it. It just felt like I was sitting in a nice country pub having a lovely chat about the realities of life as a writer.

If you are yourself an aspiring author, if you’re at the very beginning of your authorial journey and especially if you’ve not really read any books about writing before, I would highly recommend About Writing as your first step. All the story theory stuff can come later, once you’ve got your feet firmly on your own writing path.

Read this: Aiming for 100 rejections

This week, I read a great piece from 2016 about how you should aim for 100 rejections a year.

I like the logic of it: Collecting rejections is a way not just of measuring the work you’ve put in to getting your work in front of agents, editors and others, it’s also a nice way to reframe rejection as something positive.

Getting rejected sucks. No matter how often you tell yourself that it’s just part of the creative life, and how you shouldn’t take it seriously, it can still hurt, if you put too much stock in it. I noticed a significant difference between how I felt about my novel rejections last year compared to my script rejections, and that was entirely down to how I felt about the submissions. The novel, being about a global pandemic, has an air of impossibility about it, rejection feels inevitable. So when the rejections came, they bounced right off. My script, on the other hand, felt much more saleable and I thought it was good work, so the rejections stung.

This year, though, I’m going to treat each rejection as a trophy. I cannot control the outcomes of my submissions, but I can control how many I make and how I respond to them. And seeing a rejection as a triumph – I did, after all, have the courage to put my work in front of people to be judged, and that’s a triumph – helps make submitting easier.

Stop, look, listen: Lingthusiasm, ep 75, and Scriptnotes, ep 576

An emotion wheelAn emotion wheelIn episode 75 of Lingthusiasm, Love and fury at the linguistics of emotions, Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne look at how we categorise and name emotions, and how that changes from language to language. They also talk about emotion wheels, which group emotions into major categories and are, essentially, a visual thesaurus for emotions names.

I know that everyone bangs on about “show, don’t tell”, and that instead of saying “Ms Primrose felt angry” you should say something more along the lines of “Ms Primrose’s chest tightened and she clenched her fists as the truth of Mr Asparagus’s duplicity finally hit her”, sometimes, you really do just want to say “Ms Primrose felt angry, so angry that she picked up the length of lead pipe and beat Mr Asparagus to death right there and then, in the middle of the school library”.

It’s all stylistic choice.

What I like about this idea of emotional wheels is that it lets you more easily ask, “What kind of angry was Ms Primrose?”. According to this particular wheel, which I randomly selected from Google search, Ms Primrose is probably feeling let down and, more specifically, betrayed. Though she might also have ben feeling mad (poor choice of words there, AllTheFeelz), which would lead her to feeling furious and/or jealous.

So do we want to plough through all the physical sensations Ms Primrose is feeling, or do we want to take a shortcut and say that “Ms Primrose felt betrayed, her temper flashed to furious and she picked up the length of lead pipe…”? You get the drift.

After listening to this episode of Lingthusiasm, I listened to Scriptnotes, episode 576, What you’re looking at, which made exactly the same point. At 19:50, John August and Craig Mazin begin  talking about how word choice affects what we see in our mind’s eye, inspired by a thread by writer David Wappel and taking in examples from Jane Austen and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Wappel’s example compares “Sally reaches in to her back pocket” with “Her hand slips into her back pocket” – functionally, these are the same, but in the first you picture Sally and then think about her hand, and in the second you’re picturing a hand slipping into a pocket. In screenwriting, this specificity changes the shot type from wide angle to a close up. In novel writing, the first is neutral, but the second suggests some sort of emotional component, some furtiveness.

August and Mazin also talk about the problem with very general words, like ’smile’, which is vague to the point of meaninglessness. There are a gazillion types of smile, so which kind of smile are you really talking about? At this point, you need specificity, so how best do you achieve that?

Grabbity sitting in a boxIt’s always a matter of thinking about word choice. It feels nigh on impossible to think that deeply about every word in your screenplay or novel, so the trick really is getting your subconscious to think about it for you. And that comes only with practice.

Obligatory cat picture

There’s no such thing as an empty box.

That’s it for this week!

All the best,


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Hi there {$name},

Happy New Year!

I hope that you had a lovely festive season and are feeling refreshed and renewed, and ready to tackle 2023 head on*!

I have three goals for this year:

  1. Secure a stable income, which means finalising the writing commission that’s in the works and, hopefully, finding a way to save Ada Lovelace Day.
  2. Continue my speculative writing, both TV scripts and novels, and keep submitting to agents and competitions.
  3. Read all the writing advice books that are on my shelf! Some I have read more than once, some I’ve had for years and never opened. It’s going to be a fun journey, and one I’ll keep you up-to-date with via regular reviews.

The first if obviously a biggie, so please keep your fingers crossed for me!

* Or at least feeling not too knackered.

Suw’s News: Huge progress on Tag

I’m delighted to say that I’vA blank grid drawn on a whiteboarde made a lot of progress on Tag, my six part urban fantasy TV series. Ancient artefacts play an important part in the story, but when I was writing the first draft, I glossed over exactly how they looked. And it turns out that when you say to yourself, “Oh, I’ll fix that later”, ‘later’ does in fact one day arrive.

Between Christmas and New Year, I did some reading around Celtic and Hindu symbology and came up with my artefact designs. That then helped clarify a plot point and gave me a couple of extra scenes to add in. And it really got me excited about this story again.

Then I spent quite a lot of time with a large chart stuck to the wall, with a row for every main character and a column for each episode. Using three colours for the A, B and C stories, I wrote out the plot as it currently stands. It was mostly A story – one of the most important things I learnt from the script editing for TV course that I did last year was how to think about the structure of a series and the importance of having distinct storylines. So I’ve been applying that to Tag.

At the end of the week, I started my rewrite. I had been worrying that the Jan 31 deadline I had set myself to get this rewrite done was unattainable, but if I’m disciplined about writing every evening, then I absolutely can finish in time!

Deadlines: Discoveries 2023 and The Pat Llewellyn Bursary

The deadline for the Women’s Prize Trust Discoveries writing development program is coming up on 15 January. The scheme, which is run in partnership with Audible, Curtis Brown literary agency and Curtis Brown Creative, is searching for “the most talented and original new female writing voices in the UK and Ireland”. All you need to do is submit the first 10,000 words of your novel, which doesn’t even need to be finished, and a synopsis.

The deadline for the The Pat Llewellyn Bursary is coming up on 16 January. This Women in Film & TV (UK) program is searching for the next compelling “talent led documentary” maker along the lines of Stacey Dooley, Yinka Bokinni or Louis Theroux. The winning 250 word pitch will get £10,000 and a mentor to help you make your idea happen.

Read this: Name hidden in medieval manuscript read for first time

Eadburg's name highlighted in the top left corner of a medieval manuscript page1,200 years ago, a woman named Eadburg marked her name in a Latin version of the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles in such a way that it couldn’t be seen by the casual observer. Eadburg used a technique called drypoint, which is rather like engraving, to inscribe her name several times in the pages of her manuscript.

The discovery was made by Jessica Hodgkinson, a PhD student at the University of Leicester, working with John Barratt at the Bodleian Library and using new imaging technology to make the marks visible.

Eadburg would have been a very educated and high-status woman to own a religious text, let alone score her name in it several times.

Netflix cutting its own nose off, again

Netflix has been axing shows after just one season again and lots of people are cross about it. Twitter user Casey Explosion points out that it’s really damaging Netflix’s brand, and a lot of people in the replies say that they don’t bother watching new Netflix shows now because they don’t want to invest emotionally if it’s going to get cut off with an unresolved end-of-season cliffhanger.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Netflix have done irreparable damage to their brand by constantly cancelling things, they have effectively trained their own audience never to get invested in any of their shows. It’s short term cost-cutting, long-term harm.

As to why Netflix does this, Peter Clines theorises that it’s a way for them to reduce the cost of ‘residuals’, which are payments made to cast and crew from the airing of the shows they worked on. Those payments don’t kick in immediately, instead, there’s a period where the streamer gets to show a series for free.

The window? Twenty-four days for new shows, seventeen for established shows.

Networks can stream a brand new show for three and a half weeks and pocket every single cent of revenue they earn from it.

Does this timeframe sound a bit familiar?

This is why it makes cost-cutting sense for Netflix to cull shows – the smaller their back catalogue, the lower their residuals bill. But it’s also why they will release entire seasons at once and then put it about that you have to binge-watch to prove that there’s enough love for the show for it to get renewed. Read his whole thread.

One has to wonder if this is a good long term strategy.

A couple of things I read over the holidays

Andy Miller, author, book editor and podcaster, wrote in 2019 about how keeping track of his reading stats in public made people angry. I honestly can’t fathom why people would become cross about someone else reading lots, and it says a lot more about them than him.

The Japanese call the owning of more books than you can read ‘tsundoku’, and it might be good for you. Its certainly good for your children. Do we need any more of an excuse than that to buy more books?

Obligatory cat picture

Copurrnicus standing proudly next to a mouse that he caught.Having been predominantly an indoors cat, Copurrnicus hasn’t had much mousing experience. Back in Shaker Heights, the summer before we moved was a bumper year for mice. The whole neighbourhood had them in their basements, so Grabbity and Copurrnicus spent a lot of time keeping watch near the mice’s favourite nooks and crannies.

We ended up seeing four mice – two brought to us dead and two more released alive in front of us.

Cats do that with their kittens as part of teaching them to hunt: They first bring dead prey, then prey that’s been incapacitated, and then fit healthy prey. Cats do this to humans too, because they assume that we also need to hunt for our dinner.

It was fairly clear in Shaker Heights that Grabbity was the one doing all the hunting, as Copurrnicus didn’t seem to know what he was doing when she released a mouse in front of him.

That all changed last week, when Copurrnicus, who’s allowed in the garden on his own now, brought back a mouse. He was very proud of himself for a nanosecond, then lost interest.

We put the mouse on top of our garage roof, in case one of the local red kites fancied a snack. Turned out, they did, and it wasn’t up there long! Red kites are a protected species, so Copurrnicus has done his bit to help ensure their survival!

Right, that’s it for this week!

All the best,


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