I never said I was going away altogether, did I? So here are a few things left over from last week.
Emma Urquhart blogs
Long-term readers will remember Emma (Maree) Urquhart, the 13-year-old author of Dragon Tamers, a book which was published by Aultbea. I have written about Aultbea many a time here -- so much so that the firm's spokesperson told the Scotsman that I have a 'thing' about the company. Well, thing or not, I don't think I want, or need, to say any more about the firm today.
What I am going to say is that Emma Urquhart is growing up fast and now has a blog. She is not the world's most frequent poster (there was nothing in December 06 or January 07, apparently because of a lack of money), but she appears from time to time.
On 9 February she put up three posts. The first explains the publishing history of Dragon Tamers and her current view of Aultbea. It's worth reading if you've been following the subject, and if you have any views, as I have, about young writers being made into stars.
Not Born Yesterday
On 2 February I mentioned a satirical newsletter, Not Born Yesterday, which is regularly sent out (via email) by John Ward. I recommended it to UK readers. Actually it is not without interest to readers elsewhere, but the political and current affairs references are chiefly set in a UK context.
Well, shortly after I wrote that piece, John had computer problems. These were not solved by a repairman who was, shall we say, less than 100% reliable. Result: some of John's database went missing.
So, if you were one of the 20 or so readers who signed up to receive NBY after the GOB reference, you may or may not have been sent anything. If nothing has arrived, be so good as to drop a brief line to John again, and all will be well. His contact address: email@example.com.
The shortlist has been announced for the UK Romantic Novelists' Association award for the best romantic novel of the year. The list includes two romantic comedies, two sagas, and two twin-time-period dramas. One of the authors is a man. I am one of the three judges, so you will hear more in due course.
An anonymous editor from a small publishing company in New York has set up shop as an online critic for books published via POD methods. The guidelines on how to submit books for review were given on 30 January. Early posts suggest that this critic is not about to hand out praise lightly. But would you have it otherwise?
Yesterday's Sunday Times carried a remarkably silly story about a woman who has been blogging for six weeks and has just been offered a £70,000 contract by Viking Penguin.
I would like to tell you that this lady was a complete amateur, totally unknown, knew nobody influential, and had never previously written anything longer than a letter to her Auntie Jane. But that wouldn't be true.
It turns out that Judith O'Reilly, 42, is a former education correspondent of the Sunday Times.
How long, do you think, before she gets to sit on Richard and Judy's sofa? Two or three days should do it, surely.
A much more sensible ST story is the one about Jacqueline Wilson, the lady who writes books for children and teenagers: books which help them to cope with life as it is lived in the 21st century. Sales so far: 20 million, and as a result she is much loved and admired, and with good reason.
The Bloomsbury housekeeper
I have never been a fan of the Bloomsbury group myself, but there are plenty who are -- no doubt as a result of being force-fed the books as part of their Eng Lit course. If you're among those interested in Vanessa Bell and her friends, you need to read about the diaries of Grace Germany, the lady who served as housekeeper at Charleston, in Sussex. The ST yesterday carried a lengthy and well written article.
The farmhouse at Charleston is open for visitors, and if you're in the area it is certainly worth a visit.
Serene Ambition is a site for those who are getting along in years. There's a blog, and lots of links to other sites about 'fearless aging' and the like.
This site is very American. And it reminds me of a story I heard at a talk by Rabbi Julia Neuberger. Julia was once working in an American hospital, and a very old lady was brought in and put into bed. The doctors gathered round and had a long discussion about her. After they had gone, Julia wandered over to the patient's bed and had a look at her charts. The lady was 104 years old, and the diagnosis was 'failure to thrive'.
The greatest living
There are some people who derive a great deal of pleasure from debating 'the greatest'. Would Ali have beaten Marciano? Or Joe? In the all-time England cricket XI, would Len open the batting or Denis?
Those who enjoy this kind of thing (and I am certainly not one of them), can spend a happy hour or two worrying about who is the UK's greatest living writer. The discussion is hosted by the Arts Council.
Well, I really don't like to sound too grumpy, but occasionally I really am. And I have to say here and now that I have long regarded the Arts Council as a complete waste of space and public money, and if you want any further proof, here it is.
Thought for the day
As I waded through the n00 pages of the Sunday press, a thought came to me. As far as I am concerned, the government and the bigtime UK publishers have something in common. I no longer believe a word they say. Yes it has taken me a long time.