The Scribbler

the new writing blog for exciting contemporary writers

Archive for December 2008

French check out girl becomes bestselling author

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Anna Sam working her day job when shes not writing

Anna Sam working her day job when she's not writing (The Times)

A novel can be created from any subject as one French supermarket checkout girl has discovered after her everyday trials and tribulations have been documented and converted into paperback form.

Les Tribulations d’une Caissiere (The Tribulations of a Checkout Girl), has sold near on 100,000 copies and is set to be translated into English. There’s also talk of a film adaptation.

Starting a part-time English Literature diploma Anna Sam then went onto to start her own blog in January which quickly became a overnight literary sensation.

Ms Sam describes her job next to a conveyor belt as ‘one of the most desirable vantage points from which to enjoy the full panoply of human idiocy’. Her observations range from the ridiculous lengths some go to shoplift (‘thieves will think nothing of stuffing CDs into camembert cheese’) to the seedy attempts of flirting she faced on a regular basis. Predatory male customers are also a constant problem. The writer has a particular dislike of those who ask ambiguously “are you open?”, or “are you available?”

Ms Sam’s usual reply was: “I am not but my till is.”

Anna has created a secret hidden world which she has viewed from her checkout for the last eight years. Ms Sam writes: “You would be astonished by the number of kisses stolen in the aisles (even in the toilet paper department), the languorous looks exchanged between the charcuterie and fish counters, the bottoms and breasts felt in the frozen food department.”

Ms Sam is now hoping to put the checkout behind her and make it as a writer or try and get a part time job in a bookshop. Even if her efforts to become a writer do not come to fruition Anna Sam has proven that inspiration can be found in the most boring 9 to 5s.

Discussion:
What everyday events or occupations can you or have you taken inspiration from? How do you turn an ordinary tale into the extraordinary? Have you got any tips to do so?

Words: Seamus Swords

Booker Prize and Costa Awards judging panels announced

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Aravind Adiga with his Man Booker Prize winning novel White Tiger

Aravind Adiga with his Man Booker Prize winning novel White Tiger

The organisers behind two of the biggest book awards have announced the judging panels for their 2009 awards. The Man Booker Prize and The Costa Book Awards are some of the most respected in the literary world and anyone asked to judge these awards must see it as a great honour.

The judging panel for The Man Booker prize has been announced with the powers that be opting for a more ‘serious’ line-up. Heading up the critics is Today Program (BBC Radio 4) presenter Jim Naughtie providing some serious journalist clout and is definitely a more suited judge than last year’s choice Michael Portillo.

The remaining seats on the judging panel will be filled by literary editor of The Sunday Telegraph Michael Prodger, the writer Lucasta Miller, who has written a critically acclaimed book on the Bronte’s. Every literature judging panel has to include the token celebrity personality and this year that great honour has fallen to Sue Perkins of Mel and Sue fame. Check out the full panel right here.

The Costa Book Award has announced its judging panel (already touched on by The Scribbler) leaning towards a more broadcasting friendly collective. The judges include world renowned reporter Michael Buerk and comedian/actor Alexander Armstrong. The panel is headed up by columnist and broadcaster Matthew Parris. To see the full line-up and biographies of the judges click here.

Watch last year’s Man Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga talks about his award winning book White Tiger:

Discussion:
Are the personalities listed here qualified enough to decide which piece of writing should win over another? Who would you like to see on a book award judging panel?

Words: Seamus Swords

Writer to rescue Heroes

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Bryan Fuller - writer and producer of Heroes (Independent)

Bryan Fuller - writer and producer of Heroes (Independent)

We’ll be straight with you, The Scribbler is not a fan of the current craze of American television shows saturating our beloved Beeb and other channels.

Shows like Lost seem to ramble on endlessly purely for that fact, because an endless plot and a forever unraveling storyline means an ever engaged audience. These are commercial gravy trains would appear to be coming off the rails though.

Bryan Fuller, the former writer-producer of Heroes, has rejoined the show’s crew as a consultant. The move follows the cancellation of his Emmy-nominated show Pushing Daisies.

The superhero series has been hemorrhaging viewers since the start of the second season.

Talking to Entertainment Weekly Fuller said: “My job is to help facilitate the vision of the show, and the vision has been a little inconsistent.”

“But Fugitives (the next arc) is such a great sea change. I think people who have been critical of Heroes will come back.”

The drama’s original writer believes drastic measures are in order to attract fans back, though those measures are somewhat questionable in our book.

“People will die. And some will return. Matt’s wife (Janice) comes back. We’ll find out what happens when you have a superbaby.”

A superbaby? Don’t tell me Fuller didn’t hear the sighs of disappointment from cinema audiences when Clark Kent’s alter-ego found out he had a son in Superman Returns.

As for why Heroes found itself out of favour with fans, Fuller has his own theories: “It became too dense and fell into certain sci-fi trappings.

“For instance, in the Villains arc, when you talk about formulas and catalysts, it takes the face off the drama.

“You have to save something with a face, otherwise you don’t understand what you’re caring about. We’re also altering the structure so that there’s a very clear A story.”

So basically Heroes is in line for a spot of dumbing down then?

“But it is a big ship, it’s going to take a little while to turn it.”

Part of the reason The Scribbler isn’t a fan of shows like Lost and Heroes is their lazy use of the English language. Scriptwriting 101: Use as few words as possible to say as much as possible, this is how people really talk. People don’t describe every single thing they are doing, even if there have got a few subplots going on elsewhere. The below clip from the incredible police drama The Wire proves our point exactly.

Discussion:
What are your favourite examples of screenplay writing? Are you a fan of any the American television-cum-Hollywood shows and why? Are you penning your own ‘high production value’ television drama? Care to share?

Words: Dean Samways

Pulp Fiction writer in the dock

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Pulp Fictio writer Tarantino (left) and Avery (right)

Pulp Fiction writers Tarantino (left) and Avery (right)

The Oscar-winning screenwriter behind Pulp Fiction has been charged with manslaughter in connection with a fatal traffic collision earlier this year.

Roger Avary, 42, who teamed up with Quentin Tarantino for the 1994 cult gangster movie, the pinnacle of Tarantino’s work so far, was in court on Friday.

Avary was involved in a horrific car smash in January for which he faces charges of gross vehicular mansluaghter. The incident killed his passenger Andreas Zini and injured the writer’s wife who went on to make a full recovery.

Pleading not gulity to the manslaughter charge Avary also faces two felony counts of casuing bodily injury while intoxicated, the maximum custodial sentence for which is 11 years.

A pre-trial conference has been set for 20 February next year in Ventura.

As well as co-writing Pulp Fiction, Avary recently worked on last year’s animated epic Beowulf, which was based on an Old English epic hero poem of unknown authorship. Avary also adapted many of Bret Easton-Ellis‘ pieces for the big screen and even directed a handful of them.

For some the most down-right greatest dialogue in Hollywood history have a look below:

Discussion:
Are there any screenwriters out there ambitious enough, who believe they have the talent, to pen the next Pulp Fiction? Has anyone got any examples of their work? The Scribbler is always look to showcase new and exciting writers of all disciplines. Mail the editor on samwaysdean@hotmail.com for more information.

Words: Dean Samways

On The Road editor comments on Kerouac’s scroll

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Jack Kerouac holding the scroll manuscript of On The Road

Jack Kerouac holding the scroll manuscript of On The Road

The Scribbler has been keeping an eye on the news surrounding the original On The Road scroll manuscript by Jack Kerouac.

In response to the scroll’s exhibition in Birmingham (3 December), Howard Cunnell, editor of the novel’s 50th anniversary edition, has written to guardian.co.uk offering a deeper insight into Kerouac’s thought process as he wrote the manuscript.

The letter reads:

“It’s been widely known for a long while that On the Road is not an example of ‘spontaneous composition’. Kerouac made and wrote the scroll in the spring of 1951, as a response to his inability to finish a novel he had been working on for over two years. Many Kerouac scholars, including Ann Charters, Tim Hunt, Douglas Brinkley, Isaac Gewirtz, and myself, have demonstrated that Kerouac began writing On the Road as early as November 1948. He wrote a number of proto-versions in which he developed the themes of the novel, while in his journals he kept a detailed account of all the trips he made, with and without Neal Cassady, that became the story of the book. It was with these journals and notebooks by his side, and a ‘self-instruction list’ acting as a chapter guide, that Kerouac wrote the first full-length version of the novel in April 1951.”

As Louis Menand wrote in The New Yorker review of On the Road: The Original Scroll:

“Kerouac did not create the published book in a single burst of inspiration. It was the deliberate and arduous labor of years. Spontaneous composition is a technique Kerouac began developing in the late summer of 1951, after his friend, the painter Ed White, advised him to go out in the street like a painter and sketch, but with words. Kerouac used the sketching idea in his finest novel, Visions of Cody, written out of the revisions of the scroll manuscript and not published until after Kerouac’s death. Arguably the most noteworthy example of the technique is Kerouac’s fine novel The Subterraneans, written in three days and nights in 1953.”

It seems that Kerouac’s enigmatic writing style still has us intrigued 50 years on. A new debate has now risen; just how would Kerouac cope with modern day writing methods? Could anyone type for weeks on end using Microsoft Word or is it just the fact that Kerouac’s unique gift was that he could use a typewriter like an instrument, like the great composers could create magnificent seamless flowing movements.

The Freewheelin’ Jack Kerouac interviewed below:

Discussion:
What do you make of the retorts to the public displaying of On The Road? Is Kerouac not the groundbreaking author we thought he was? Would you ever consider writing a novel in one burst of inspiration? What are the pros and cons of that technique?

Words: Seamus Swords

‘How To Talk To Girls’ – The Film

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Alec Greven talking to Ellen DeGeneres on her chat show

Alec Greven talking to Ellen DeGeneres on her chat show

Little Alec Greven rise to super stardom goes from strength to strength as it was revealed earlier this week that his best selling book is to be turned into a film.

Twentieth Century Fox has picked up the film rights to How to Talk to Girls an advice guide penned by the nine-year-old.

According to the magazine Variety ‘How To Talk To Girls’ is the first of a four-part series. It was published on 25 November by HarperCollins, conveniently a sister company of Fox. The film deal covers all four publications.

Fox is still to appoint a writer or announce a producer for the film. Production co-president Alex Young is said to have liked Greven’s book.

‘How To Talk To Girls’ was originally a third-grade project, which resulted in a pamphlet that he went on to sell at his school’s book fair.

The advice in the book ranges from facts of life to how to get a girl’s attention, all from the unique perspective of a nine-year-old. Greven also offers advice on how to talk to girls, crushes, and how you should never act desperate. A given really.

To read the original news piece about Alec Greven’s surprise best-selling book click here.

Have a look below for a video featuring the writing boy wonder:

Discussion:
Is this a fad? It’s got to be a fad right?

Words: Dean Samways

Literature, Interrupted

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Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

The offending article: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

A school in America has committed a cardinal sin of the literary world by tearing out pages of a classic piece of modern literature because it contained sexually explicit material.

Susanna Kaysen’s bestselling memoir Girl, Interrupted, which was made into a major motion picture starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, was judged inappropriate for students by the senior staff at New Rochelle High School, New York.

The story tells of the writer’s time in a psychiatric hospital. The incriminating scene is believed to be one in which a girl is encouraged to engage in oral sex, thus acting against hospital policy regarding sexual intercourse.

The pages were initially removed from the set texts in 2001. A member of staff teaching a 10th grade course in mental health and conformity decided the sexual content was not appropriate for pupils between 15 and 16 years of age.

The term ‘censorship’ was only used this year when the bowdlerised versions were used to teach 12th grade film students. When the amendments to the literature were made public there was widespread criticism from organisations, which promote and protect the freedom of expression and local residents alike.

Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression said: “This is a very glaring instance of censorship.”

“No kid reading that book is going to not notice that pages have been pulled out,” said Rebecca Zeidel, programme director of the Kids’ Right to Read project, a joint initiative between the ABFFE and the National Coalition Against Censorship. Zeidel is currently working on a formal response to the school on the issue.

Angry residents of New Rochelle have voiced their concerns on a local message board, describing the school’s actions as ‘a blatant attempt to keep US teenagers in the dark, something US schools appear to be notorious for’, and an act, which ‘takes us back to the Dark Ages’.

The local education board said it had not been told about the alteration and it has since instructed the school to replace the vandalised books.

Cindy Babcock Deutsch, president of the board, told guardian.co.uk: “Censorship is wrong and will not be allowed by the school district.”

In a statement Richard Organisciak, superintendent of schools, said the district would carry out a review of policy and practices on book selection following the upset.

“I certainly understand that the word ‘censorship’ can arouse strong public feelings, and is an issue to which public schools must be sensitive.

“At the same time, I think many people will agree that some material should not be endorsed, or made mandatory, in school curricula. I hope we can all recognise the context, namely, how do we expose students to a wide range of ideas, often provocative or disturbing, without exposing them to materials for which they may not be ready, or which their parents may find highly objectionable?”

The more alarming thing about this story is that it is not a unique occurrence.

“While this is a very glaring instance of censorship, we have hundreds of censorship challenges in schools every year,” said Finan.

Zeidel said the majority of censorship cases were on a local level rather than national: “It’s in red states and blue states [Republican and Democrat] – all over the country. To date there have been 45 titles in 15 states challenged this year, not including Girl, Interrupted… In most cases most books are challenged by a parent or student who will complain about a book.”

But she pointed out that a ban or the distribution of altered texts may have the opposite effect. “Booksellers will frequently see a rise in sales when a book is banned because people want to read it – they want to know why it’s banned.”

A sign of Middle American fear or actual concern for child wealth?

Watch the trailer to the Girl, Interrupted film below:

Discussion:
Should this kind of censorship be accepted? Can you think of any instances where this sort of thing is justified? No? Neither do we.

Words: Dean Samways