Miscellaneous Memoranda

Random House has announced it will commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death by commissioning some “cover versions” of his plays, with Jeanette Winterson reinventing The Winter’s Tale, while Anne Tyler tackles The Taming of the Shrew. The publisher’s press release makes it all sound a bit gimmicky (does Shakespeare really need a project like this to bring him “alive for a contemporary readership”?), but I’d happily read an Anne Tyler version of anything, even the phone book, so I’ll await the results with interest.

Of course, ‘Random House’ doesn’t actually exist any more. This week, it announced its merger with Penguin, to form ‘Penguin Random House’ (sadly, they ignored my suggested names of ‘Random Penguins’, ‘Penguin House’ and ‘Random Penguin’s House’). I know all about this merger because they decided to send me not one, but three letters about it, telling me how highly they value their authors. (I guess this means they’ll be paying me lots of money soon. Oh, good.)

It has also been brought to my notice that top renowned best-selling author Dan Brown has a new book out. Okay, some critics say his writing is “clumsy, ungrammatical, repetitive and repetitive” and “full of unnecessary tautology”, but they’re just jealous because he sells millions of books and they don’t. Can those critics afford to buy “a specially commissioned landscape by acclaimed painter Vincent van Gogh and a signed first edition by revered scriptwriter William Shakespeare”? No, I didn’t think so! (For the record, I liked The Da Vinci Code. Come on, it was about the Holy Grail! It had ancient conspiracies and secret codes and high-speed chases through Europe! The only thing missing was Nazis. And homing pigeons. Wait, there may have been Nazis, it’s been a while since I read it.)

If you’re a young writer and you think you’re as talented as Dan Brown (or possibly, more talented), then you might like to enter the Young Writers Prize (entries close 22nd July) or the John Marsden Prize for Young Australian Writers (entries close 19th August).

I’ve also been perusing the blog of Stroppy Author, who has some useful advice for old writers (for example, Quit Whingeing And Write Something and Don’t Publish Crap). In addition, it was heartening (sort of) to see that even top renowned best-selling YA authors like Libba Bray get “Them Old, I-Can’t-Write-This-Novel Blues“. (Although I have news for Libba Bray – outlining does not help with this problem. I am a meticulous outliner, and I still spend more time stuck than writing. Coincidentally, I’ve just found out about the Snowflake Method, which I kind of worked out for myself during the process of writing my first couple of novels. If only I’d done a creative writing course and learned about all this stuff! I might have saved myself a lot of time, and maybe even become a top renowned best-selling author.)

That’s enough about writing for the moment. Here, have a picture of a giant squid:

Giant squid that washed ashore at Trinity Bay, Newfoundland in 1877. Published in 'Canadian Illustrated News', October 27, 1877.
Giant squid that washed ashore at Trinity Bay, Newfoundland in 1877. Published in ‘Canadian Illustrated News’, October 27, 1877.

3 thoughts on “Miscellaneous Memoranda”

  1. I actually think that cover versions of Shakespeare might come off with some interesting takes on the plays very possible. You can never guarantee such a “high concept” will work. In UK we have had a series of paperback originals that link in modern ghost/horror/fantasy fiction to the Hammer films (known really for low budget horror films from 50s/60s. The concept is that at least some of the stories might be filmed and good authors like Helen Dunmore and Jeanette Winterson involved although perhaps neither were fully successful in this format.

    Good luck with the fallout of the RH/Penguin merger.

    1. Yes, they’ve signed up some excellent writers to re-imagine the Shakespeare plays, so it should be interesting. And there have been others who’ve done it very successfully – Jane Smiley’s version of King Lear, A Thousand Acres, won the Pulitzer Prize.

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