Thursday, March 31, 2011

Did you know that…?

…the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) passed a segregation bill last week. Palestinian Israelis are not allowed to live in Jewish localities built on land confiscated from them. Government policy also makes sure they cannot build on the little private land that was left in their ownership.

This recently arrived in my Inbox and I wanted to share it with you.

From Gaza to Jerusalem: JVP Statement on the Escalation of Violence, March 25, 2011
Any act of violence, especially one against civilians, marks a profound failure of human imagination and causes a deep and abiding trauma for all involved. In mourning the nine lives lost in Gaza and the one life lost in Jerusalem this week, we reject the pattern of condemning the deaths of Israelis while ignoring the deaths of Palestinians. We do not discriminate. One life lost is one life too many--whether Palestinian or Israeli.

Within the context of 44 years of the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, in the past two years (January 31, 2009 to January 31, 2011, starting just after Operation Cast Lead), over a thousand Palestinians have been made homeless by home demolitions, hundreds have been unlawfully detained, and over 150 men, women and children have been killed by the IDF and settlers, according to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem.(1) Many acres of Palestinian land have been taken and orchards uprooted by armed settlers. Countless hours have been lost at checkpoints, often fruitlessly, while Palestinians attempted to get medical care, jobs, and access to education. One and a half million Gazans have been living with a limited food supply, lack of electricity and dangerously toxic sewage.

This is occupation: daily, persistent acts of structural violence. All in the service of a government that constantly expands illegal Israeli settlements on land that rightfully belongs to Palestinians.

These acts don't reach our headlines because they are so habitual, so we learn not to see them. But Palestinians live them and their profound consequences everyday, and we must keep that in mind, even as we ponder the terrible events of the past few weeks:(2)

  • A person or persons, (we don't know who), bombed a bus stop in Jerusalem, injuring 30 and killing 1 Israeli civilian;
  • An Israeli bombing killed 3 children and an older man in Gaza;
  • A person or persons, (we don't know who), murdered 5 members of a family, including three children, in Itamar, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank;
  • The Israeli government suddenly tightened the siege of Gaza and escalated military attacks, killing a total of 11 Palestinians and injuring more than 40 since mid-March;(3)
  • Palestinians fired over 50 shells and rockets from Gaza into civilian areas in southern Israel.

These terrible acts of violence remind us that to end the Israeli occupation our best hope is supporting the inspiring nonviolent Palestinian movement for change, in the form of unarmed protests every Friday in places like Bil’in, Ni'lin, Sheikh Jarrah, and the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. This is a movement that respects life, that is part and parcel of the nonviolent democratic people's movements we have been inspired by throughout the Arab world, that welcomes the solidarity and support of Israeli and international believers in equality and universal human rights.
This is a movement that fundamentally subverts the logic of armies, revenge-fueled “price tags”, and armed struggle. And it is a movement that may well do what no other government to date has done-- pressure Israel to be accountable to international law and therefore help create conditions for truly meaningful negotiations.

Because it is so powerful, it is no surprise that the right to engage in nonviolent resistance, a foundational component of any functioning democracy, is under attack in Israel.
Human rights activists are being detained or imprisoned. Bills to criminalize the BDS movement, or harass human rights organizations, are working their way through the Knesset.

Just this week:

  • The very act of publicly commemorating the Nakba, a crucial nonviolent act of Palestinian remembrance, was essentially criminalized in Israel by the Knesset.(4)The Knesset also passed a law allowing small communities in the Galilee and Negev to discriminate against anyone wanting to reside there who does not fit in with the community’s “socio-cultural” character.(5)
  • The Knesset also held hearings to assess whether the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group J Street was sufficiently pro-Israel.(6)
  • The IDF announced a new military intelligence-gathering unit solely dedicated to monitoring international left-wing peace and human rights groups that the army sees as a threat to Israel. The department will work closely with government ministries.(7)
  • Dozens of Israeli soldiers raided the home of Bassem Tamimi, Head of the nonviolent Nabi Saleh Popular Committee , and beat his wife and daughter while arresting him presumably on charges of "incitement" and "organizing illegal demonstrations."(8)

As the Israeli government increasingly deploys anti-democratic measures and military repression, we at Jewish Voice for Peace are redoubling our efforts to support the best hope- a nonviolent Palestinian-led resistance movement in which we all work together to nurture life, justice and equality. We invite you to join the movement.

(1) B'tselem: Fatalities after operation "Cast Lead"
(2) The Guardian, March 23: Israeli-Palestinian tensions: a timeline
(3) Alternative Information Center, March 23: Israel's Military Escalation in Gaza
(4) Jerusalem Post, March 23: Nakba Bill passes Knesset in third reading
(5) +972 Magazine, March 22: Knesset passes segregation bill
(6) New York Times, March 24: U.S. Group Stirs Debate On Being "Pro-Israel"
(7) Ha'aretz, March 21: Military Intelligence monitoring foreign left-wing organizations 
and +972 Magazine, March 22: Military Intelligence monitors "de-legitimization"
(8) Popular Struggle, March 24, 2011: Israeli Soldiers arrest Bassem Tamimi, Coordinator of Nabi Saleh Popular Committee

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I have it and it’s perfect

I have the new approval copy in my hot little hands. It arrived yesterday. It is 99.999% perfect. I love it, love it, love it. But today I have to part with it.

I promised to send a pre-release copy to the local rep of one of the big book wholesalers, so she could read it and approve it. Getting the wholesaler to stock it would be a massive breakthrough, so I must sacrifice the baby.

Oh oh – how can I part with it? I shall have to wait another ten days for its 50 identical siblings to arrive at my door.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Simple pleasures

We drink a lot of milk at Hepworth Towers. Or rather, Dave drinks a lot of milk at Hepworth Towers. He drinks gallons of full cream milk. I drink gills of semi-skimmed. We don’t have a milkman but we do have a village dairy. The farm just off the main street has a tiny porch with a fridge where you can go and collect milk, and leave your money for it on the stone slab.

The dairy

Even though it is other people in the house who drink all the milk, it always seems to be me who sees we’ve run out. Why is that? It’s because my semi-skimmed begins to diminish at a mysterious and alarming rate. When the male members of the household can’t get their hard stuff they resort to using my “gnats' piss.” So then guess who it is who goes to the dairy, steaming and grumbling under her breath?

But as soon as I arrive, my bad temper lifts. The smells from the farm transport me back to my childhood. It’s like an aromatic magic potion and it works every time. I step inside the porch and put my coins on the slab, and open the fridge, and the farmer steps out of his kitchen or the bottling room and asks me how many I want, and finds me the old fashioned bottles with the fat necks, because he knows that’s the kind that we like. We exchange meaningless pleasantries about the weather and I step outside and sniff the air again – oh, those smells - and then I go home, a better woman.

sep 07 056

Thursday, March 24, 2011

“No Sue, you absolutely mustn’t email the printer!”

You remember I received my approval (pre-release) copy of the book last Saturday? And that it had a gloss cover when I had asked for a matt one? Well, I spent the weekend reading the text again and found a dozen mistakes, and on Monday sent a corrected PDF of the text to the printer along with some requests about the cover -  “matt, please, and a deeper turquoise”  and “please will you slot in that symbol on the title-verso page that shows the paper comes from managed forests?” Then I sat back thinking – Ooh, it’ll be perfect now. I can’t wait for the next approval copy to come next Saturday.

Then I woke up this morning and picked up this same imperfect copy from my bedside table to have a little gloat despite its imperfections (as one does), and I opened it and saw that the font size on the title-verso page was way too big. Oh God! Why hadn’t I noticed before? What was I going to do? Here was I trying to get the thing to look perfect with not a whiff of self-publishing about it ( e.g. there is nothing that shrieks THIS NOVEL IS SELF-PUBLISHED louder than a gloss cover) and the font size on the publisher details page was three sizes too big. There followed an agony of indecision. Should I tell the printer and send him a new page? Should I wait until the final copy is printed in May?

And then I thought of a conversation I had with Zoe, who said it was absolutely fine for me to be ridiculously picky about the book production: it was nice for me to have something to pour all my pickiness into. And then I thought about the cultures where craftsmen deliberately include a mistake in their work, because only God can create things perfect. And then I thought of that motto that Dave gave me years ago - “Perfection is our aim. We must learn to tolerate excellence.” And then I thought – No, I don’t want to get the printer’s back up. This correction can wait.

But if the printer happens to be reading this and wouldn’t mind, perhaps he could email me. Or if you, dear reader, are married to the printer, or are his best friend, or you once saved his life in a freak yachting accident, perhaps you could ask him a favour for me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I’m sorry, but I can’t NOT say it

This is largely a politics-free zone, but today I feel sick to my stomach about something and just have to ask:

Why are we bombing Libya when we let the Israelis pound Gaza for a whole month in January 2009, killing 1300 civilians, and injuring thousands of others and making thousands more homeless? Why do we turn a blind eye when Israel continually flouts international law and steals land and resources from Palestinians, to build settlements on Palestinian land ?

Here is a report I just found on the net -

Richard Falk, the special rapporteur of the United Nations on the Palestinians, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that Israel is committing ethnic cleansing in eastern Jerusalem.

Falk called the council's attention to what he said was the intensifying deterioration of human rights in eastern Jerusalem, pointing to the increasing number of Jews moving into homes in the area and Palestinians being expelled from their homes by courts after challenges to their property ownership.

This situation "can only be described in its cumulative impact as a form of ethnic cleansing," Falk said, according to Reuters.

No, I don’t want us to bomb Israel. I don’t want us to bomb anyone. I am a pacifist. But what will it take to make the world deal with Israel, to impose sanctions, to cut off all financial and moral support, to shame them for their treatment of Arabs as second class citizens?

And yes, I have strong views on the bombing of Libya, too. But as I said, this is largely a politics-free zone.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

As Tom Waits says, ‘You can never hold back…’

I woke up at half past five this morning to the sound of the birds – the first time this year. Yesterday I lounged on my steamer chair in the sun. I feel as if I’ve been walking for months and months through a long grey tunnel, freezing cold at times, and I’ve suddenly stepped through a door into another dimension.

It gets better every year.

Don’t you think so, Tom?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Huge excitement!

My book arrived on Saturday. That is, the first approval copy of the pre-release books arrived on Saturday. What can I say? It was magic.

Yes, there are some problems: the printer forgot that I wanted a matt cover, and sent me gloss. And – mea culpa - since I last looked at the typescript, a gremlin appears to have been at work and omitted a couple of words, left in a sentence I didn’t want, shifted a line or two away from the margin. Isn’t it odd that you can go through something three zillion times, and mistakes will still elude your eye?

Oh well, it is an approval copy. And even with a shiny cover, the design is FAB. So I am not dismayed. Onward and upward. Maybe this time next week I will have the perfect version in my hot little hands.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Still waiting

I’m still getting over the virus I had, and can only manage half a day on normal activities before I get tired. That’s OK. I have a safe warm house, and nothing pressing that I must do. Yesterday I was lying on the sofa by the fire looking out at the bare branches of the mock orange against the cold sky, and missing my mother. I'd spoken to one sister on the phone in the morning, had an email from the other, and I’d emailed both my brothers. We keep in touch. I love them all. I’m very lucky. Sometimes, though, I feel as if we’re chatting amongst ourselves and keeping each other company while we wait for Ma to come back.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ooh, people are bidding for me

Get over to Authors for Japan – I am on there now and people are bidding.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Authors for Japan

I feel awkward about carrying on with my blog as if nothing had happened. It doesn’t seem appropriate, in view of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear situation, especially when an already dire situation is becoming worse by the minute.

If things were normal, I’d be moaning on about how this is the second time I have had a 7 day flu-like bug this winter – and I’d be regaling you in purple prose about my symptoms. But when a mammoth disaster happens, it doesn’t seem right to complain about anything at all. That’s not altogether rational: there will always be someone somewhere in the world who is having an awful awful time, full scale disaster or no. Think of poor Bradley Manning, for example.

Today I want to tell you about:

1/ Save the Children, who need support to help the traumatised children of Japan.

2/ Authors for Japan, an appeal set up by writer Keris Stainton. On this site you can bid for signed copies of novels, to be a named character in someone’s next novel, to have a book dedicated to you, to have your pet mentioned in a novel, to have your writing – both fiction and non-fiction - critiqued, to have a book cover designed, a website designed and constructed, and many, many more things.

I am donating signed copies of my first two novels, and a signed PRE-RELEASE copy of BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU. So if you can’t wait until June to read it, get yourself over to Authors for Japan, and bid for it. It may be a couple of days before you see it on the site. I don’t know how fast Keris can deal with the offers she’s had.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Earthquakes destroy lives: Israelis do it with bulldozers

If you would like to donate money to help the people affected by the earthquake and tsunami, you can do so through the Red Cross. If you are a writer you can contribute books and critiquing services to an online auction organised by Keris Stainton here. Once it’s all set up, if you’re a would-be writer you can bid for critiquing services, and if you’re a reader you can bid for signed copies of books.
While the eyes of the world are understandably turned on the disaster in Japan, Israel has chosen this weekend to announce their approval of the building of hundreds of homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank. This is illegal under international law.
Building new settlements sounds rather cosy, doesn’t it? What it MEANS is stealing the land from Palestinians, bulldozing their homes, destroying their livelihoods, chopping down their olive trees, and stealing their water supplies.
Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
And it bears saying it again: these Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Two unconnected events

Yesterday was a day of high adrenalin, and if I hadn’t been laid low with a bug I might have exploded.

Two things happened. The first thing – which in the light of the second thing is trivial - was the arrival of the ISBN for my book. My book is now OFFICIAL. This is the number (yay!):


I never thought a string of mere digits could make me feel so excited and so happy.

The second thing was the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Oh, those poor people. It is too awful to comprehend, too awful to comment on.

I don’t have anyone in Japan, but I was hopping up and down all day with agitation. I have a family who lives on the San Andreas fault, and I deal with it by denial – a useful psychological ploy in all kinds of intractable situations. But then when that family choose to go to Hawaii for their holidays, and a tsunami is making it’s way inexorably towards the island they are staying on, a mother does tend to worry – just a smidge, you understand.

Tweets, emails and phone calls were flying about all day. Thank God for modern technology. Thank God they are safe.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Writer? Grandmother? Writer?

I’ve been waiting excitedly for the hard copy of my book cover to arrive from San Francisco. I’ve seen it on screen, but I was dying to see it for real. Today it arrived. Fedex banged on the door and I rushed to answer. As I tore open the packet I saw there was something else in there - some A4-size photographs of Lux (aka @thebeean).  I forgot the book cover, pounced on the photos and oohed and aahed. “Isn’t she lovely? Look at this one! look at this one! Oh, look at this one!”

Then I looked at the book cover and drooled over that.

Perhaps I’m a grandmother before I’m a writer. Who would have thought it? Certainly not the me of 7 years ago.

Feb 19 2011

The cover is beautiful and I am delighted. But just look at my granddaughter! Isn’t she gorgeous?

Character sketching through shopping lists, now with part 2

When I started writing novels I read a book called The Weekend Novelist by Robert Ray. I found it useful as a guide to plotting, and also for tips on how to build characters, through various different exercises.
I came up with one of my own exercises, when I went shopping for a couple of people who were snowed in during the winter.

First list:
2 small tins vegetable soup
2 small jars of fish paste
1 packet sugar
1 tub of Flora lite
1 bottle of High Juice – apple
1 packet of catfood - salmon “temptations”
A list made up for someone I know:
conference pears
“Nice” soup
Cup a Soup in a jar (better value than in packets)
Stilton cheese
Wensleydale cheese
Loo rolls
Bacon – sliced thin
Small wholemeal loaf
Washing powder
4 packets of butter
Yorkshire teabags
So now, what do these people have in common?
And if you can’t guess, here is a clue – on a different occasion, they might both have had Horlicks and Muller fruit corners on their list – which is what I bought for another person who has things in common with both of these two people.
I have been lying in bed (I am under par today) worrying about this post, because i didn’t explain myself well in it (probably because I am under par.)
What I meant to say was there are all kinds of ways of fleshing out your characters before you start to write a novel, and one of the ways could be by making a shopping list for them. And obviously, this doesn’t have to be just a grocery list. OK, I’m putting my head back on the pillow now.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Never mind books, I’m giving away pork scratchings

Do you recall how happy I was when  my village shop sourced me a dozen packets of pork scratchings?

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter @suehepworth,  here are my tweets, with the rest of the story -

I cracked my tooth on some pork scratchings. Instant karma, said my veggie son.

Dentist: What broke your tooth? Me: A pork scratching. Dentist: and you want sympathy?

Packet of pork scratchings: 36 pence. Dentist's bill: £40. There's no such thing as a cheap snack.

So – I have five packets left. If you leave your name and address in my comments box I will post you one. First come first served, don’t get killed in the crush.

Friday, March 04, 2011

I need your help - guys and gals

Ooh, publishing has started to get exciting again. Isaac has finished the cover layout and it’s all ready to go to the printers. His good friend Matt helped with the finishing touches…
production evening
…and I am preparing - what we in the trade call (woop-de-do) - an AI sheet. It’s an Advance Information sheet to give to bookshops and to the wholesalers who supply them.
This is where I need your help. I have to say on this sheet who the likely readers of the book will be, and one of the ways book people tie this down is to say who I write like. e.g. would readers of Joanna Trollope like my novels?
So all you people out there who have read my books – please will you let me know (in the comments box below) who would be the likely readers of my books? What other authors do you read? And secondly, who writes similar books?
When I get some replies, I will tell you who I thought of, but at this stage I don’t want to lead the witnesses.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Not such a tweetie-pie

I have tried.

I have tweeted.

I have tweeted 39 times in three weeks. And some of them were OK: -

a bad idea to have a sofa in my study. managed to oust one member of the family, and then another came in and sat down.

I asked D if I had any verbal tics. D: “You say 'How very odd,' in situations when you’ve just been proved wrong.” Me? Wrong? How very odd.

in Paris: I have all the French words, I just keep bringing out the wrong one

OH in my kitchen: "TWITTER? It's hard to step into this particular paternoster"

playing the sax with hiccoughs makes for interesting rhythms

OH in my kitchen:"I got no sleep and am feeling irritable. It's got nothing to do with you." "Ah-ha. I thought you might be." "What?What?”

And I have been following a list of people. But apart from @isaach and @wendyverse and @thebeean, (the only family members who tweet) and @jonsnow, @dianeshipley and someone called @greenberg, no-one else’s tweets have held any allure or spark of interest. I have tried different tweeters, but when I scroll down the list of tweets, I feel as though I am stumbling through an undergrowth of verbal brambles.

The majority of tweets I see are either meaningless, or trivial, or linking to items I have no interest in. So where are the people I would be interested in? And how the hell do I find them?

I can see that if all your friends are on Twitter, it must be fun – you can tweet asides about your day, or photos, or interesting links on the net, and you can joke and engage in tweeting banter. But NONE of my friends are on Twitter, so what am I supposed to do?

No. There is no way I can persuade any of them to join. So now I know what you’re going to say – make some new friends who ARE on Twitter – make them THROUGH Twitter – but how?

I have tried to think of famous people I would like to follow – Victoria Wood, Anne Tyler, Helen Dunmore, Garrison Keillor, and a host of others. It appears that they do not use Twitter – at least not publicly.

I do have a tweeting kind of brain – I do think of brief funny things I want to say – but I don’t think there is any future in building up a large following and getting the satisfaction from that. I have 8 followers (3 of these are 3 whom I follow.) Another is someone who tweets in Arabic, which I can’t understand. Why is this person following me? Is it because I tweeted once about Gaza? Another is someone called @dailychekhov, who I assume is following me because I once tweeted a Chekhov quote. If this last guy is waiting for more, he may have to wait for a very long time.

And another thing – why does Twitter want to show the world how many people I am following and how many people are following me? It is so shaming for the world to see that a writer has only 8 followers. The people who might see this have no idea I have only been tweeting for three weeks and have no real-life non-cyber friends on Twitter. They will just think – “God, she’s pathetic.” So play fair, Twitter – don’t show the number of followers for the first year. You should just say “Beginner.”

I will continue to try. I am not an easy quitter. But Twitter at present is offering surprisingly slim pickings for this blogging, slacklining, saxophone-playing 61 year old writer living in the English countryside, away from the hubs of techie and media life, who is utterly uninterested in celebrity gossip and mindless trivia, but who is interested in comedy, wit, reflective insights, writing, books, film, photography, social justice, a just settlement for the Palestinians, current affairs, new developments, flowers, countryside, family and friends. And who is a woman who has an overflowing life away from the internet.

p.s. It isn’t true that I am not interested in mindless trivia – I am interested in mindless trivia I share with friends and family.

p.p.s. ooh, ooh, ooh! I just got another follower and there are 200,000 people following him, so I must be doing something right!

© Sue Hepworth 2011

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

PR, pyjamas and wellies

(Hmm, the title of this post reminds me of the original title of Plotting for Beginners, which was  Red clover, rural chic and fairy lights.)

I am sitting here in bed with my laptop, reading through my “manuscript” one last time before it goes to press. You have no idea how tedious it is when it gets to this stage. How many times have I read this thing?

Oops! Bad PR!

What I should be saying is

Gosh, it doesn’t matter how many times I read this book it still seems fresh -  such riveting prose, such wonderful characters, such sparkling dialogue! It makes me laugh, it makes me cry! I love it! and what did that agent say about it? “…the novel is lovely - clever, funny, subtle, wry, sad and uplifting all at once.”  And who wrote the novel? Oh yes – me!

feb 11 075

This photo has nothing to do with the above. It is just an illustration of one reason I like living in the country. You can waltz out into the garden in your pyjamas and wellies any time you like and there is no-one to bat an eyelid. Except, perhaps, a bat.