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Friday, 15 March 2013

One book completed merely makes room for the next

Gosh. The Ides of March. How time flies. We'll soon be seeing the buds swelling....
This week has, for me, been blighted by the weather. Both my planned trips – to Sedgefield and Hexham – fell foul of the frost and snow. Both meetings were cancelled. However, there have been satisfying moments. On Monday – I think it was Monday – I reached the end-point of the memoir now entitled Working Progress. 78,000 words, give or take a few. I can’t remember whether or not I raised a glass to celebrate. I know that I slept like a dead man, until a nasty tickly cough woke me up.

When I say I reached the end, I should of course correct myself: in fact, what I did was to beat a path to an end-point. And, now that I know whereabouts my point of arrival is located I can go back over the 13 chapters and make sure that all the sign-posts are pointing that way. That may be quite a task. I have sent a copy of the manuscript as it stands to A. who will read it and, as she usually does, find useful things to say. I trust her: she manages to make observations, even suggestions, and useful ones at that, in such a way that they never cause me any pain. That is quite a gift, because well-meant advice, delivered in the wrong way, can be very hurtful.  I have a few ideas about what may be missing, what else can be fitted in, what may not be working, but for the moment I am shelving them.

I suppose the trick right now is to avoid thinking ahead to my next project. I don’t mean the business of turning out a hard-copy version of The Red House On The Niobrara, which is very much on my mind right now. Rather I mean the series of short stories which will, when complete, touch on all seventeen western states. Mind, I shan’t have much time to chew that over: in about three weeks I should receive the outline of the photo book, Mike Pannett’s Yorkshire, for which I am to write the text by the beginning of May. And it’s starting to look as though I shall spend the summer months writing up a book based on his childhood. Busy busy busy.

But before all of that, we have the weekend. Tomorrow I take off for York to meet Jules Smith, poet, and watch York City continue their struggle for survival against the Valiants. Port Vale, if you must. And then on Sunday A and I are going to visit a friend, a potter who is having an drop-in ‘let’s make a mosaic day’ as a thank-you to friends who helped her out last year when she was ill.

More anon, I dare say.


  1. Anonymous2:13 am

    I'm hoping that yor book The Red House On The Niobrara does become available in hard copy of some sort as I would very much like to read it. I visited the Red House last summer during a family reunion. The last time I had been there was probably 45 years ago when my family visited the Sandhills nearly every summer with my grandmother who grew up on the homestead. What struck me most apron revisiting after all those years is how little it has changed.
    Warren Gammel, Becker Minnesota

    1. Good to hear that you went to see the red house. No, I suppose it won't have changed a great deal - although we did put a new roof on it. Listen, I really do want to get a hard copy of the book out there. Realistically, it won't be until early in June. The woman who is down to design me a new cover isn't available until late May. But of course I'll make an announcement on here. Alan

    2. Warren, I don't know whether you're still keeping an eye on the blog, but this is to tell you that a hard copy of The Red House book will be available within a month or two. Details will appear on the blog. I've just received a proof copy and sent it out to a copy editor to iron out any glitches. Soon as that's done I intend to market it.

  2. Anonymous2:52 pm

    Lots of childhood memories from all those summer visits long ago. They were quite the adventure for a city boy like me. What I remember and cherish most was my bachelor uncle Otto Arent who took a special liking to me and would take me along for rides in his pickup truck to go check cattle, inspect windmills and repair fences and so on. Otto collected fossils and petrified bones from the bluffs surrounding the Red House and gave many specimens to me which I recently passed along to my niece who was also at the reunion last summer. He also gave me a thunder rock which is not much to look at, it looks similar to cement, that are formed when lightning strikes the ground and fuses the sand together. Otto had a wonderful sense of humor and was always telling entertaining stories. The Red House and the Sandhills region in general will always hold a special place in my heart.


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