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The Variety of Voices

Posted by Simon on 22nd, April 2018 at 10:56:00

I've been playing with voices for my new book, and (1) enjoying it enormously, but also (2) reflecting how it's something we all do in life. 

I'm not sure if my narrator is going to be. Abrupt. And terse. Really uptight. And jagged. 

Or much more relaxed, flowing and gentle, florid and feeling, elegant and eloquent. 

But then, we all adapt our voices according to our needs. 

I was with Cambridge University this week, trying to encourage more state school students from my dear south west to apply. 

VVVVVoice blog.jpg

And I noticed how my voice changed throughout the session; from more formal with the teachers, to more relaxed and yoof speak with da kidz.

Just like it used to when I was a reporter, from "cor what a game" with a group of football fans to "a pleasure to welcome you to Devon..." with a captain of industry. 

It's about establishing a connection, and getting what we want from a situation. However unthinkingly, we all do it. 

We're all actors and authors, whether we realise it or not. Taking on our characters as the situation demands. 

Writers notice things like that. It's what we do, one of the joys of the job, being an observer of life.

After all, didn't a rather well known writerly type pen something about all the world being a stage, and all the men and women merely players?

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The Ideas Jail

Posted by Simon on 15th, April 2018 at 08:55:52

I like a metaphor as much as a duck likes bread (see what I did there? Oh, I'm on form today. Watch out!)

The reason for such chirpiness? Trumpet fanfare on standby...

I've had an idea. 

Now don't be unkind and say - is that it? Big deal. What's he on about now, etc?

Firstly, ideas are the most precious of commodities, for a writer and just about everyone else.

All creativity, innovation, exploration, discovery, understanding and so many other wonderful journeys start with the idea. 

Secondly, I rather like this idea. Actually, that's very British understatement.

I love it. 

I want to take it out for a meal, a few drinks, go to a club with it, dance the night away together, and then... 

Well, enough of that. Suffice to say I hope we'll be together a good, long time. 

Because it's an idea for a new book, and I've hunting it for ages. 

And just after it came, I was out taking a walk, and saw the most beautiful sign of spring. 


A metaphor, I thought. For my new idea.

But, as ever in life, there's a but. 

The first thing I wanted to do with my idea was to start writing it. Get those lovely words cascading out onto the paper. 

But that wouldn't be right, no matter how natural the instinct. Because I haven't explored the idea yet. Tested all its angles, its strengths and weaknesses, explored its true potential.

It might be a lovely idea, but it's raw. It needs refining, polishing, honing. 

It needs that annoying, but vital factor, which I've talked about so many times before.

The input of work. 

Which is where the metaphor of the ideas jail comes in.

It may feel cruel to lock up something so beautiful as a blossoming idea, even temporarily. 

But it's very necessary.

To make sure that when it does grace the world, that wonderful moment when it can be set free, it fulfills its glorious potential.

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Fortune and Fairness

Posted by Simon on 7th, April 2018 at 16:44:08

Why does the alarm always sound when you're in the middle of a really great dream? Why do footballers wear such bad suits? Why is that pair of shoes you like never available in your size? 

The world is full of questions. And the answers can make a real difference to a life. 


This is a question I came up with this week. (Yes, I know I'm weird, but bear with me.)

I'm doing an event for a bunch of a hundred highly talented state school youngsters at the end of the month. 

They're the future leaders, real achievers, and will go onto the best universities in the next couple of years. Or they should, anyway. 

Because there's a problem, a real issue they have to face first. 

They're state school kids.

Which means they won't be given hours of preparation for the admission interviews which the top universities use. Unilike many of their rivals in the private sector.

And they deserve a fair chance. Because they're great kids. And just as bright. Often brighter.

Believe me, I know. I've taught children from all sorts of schools.

So the session I'm running is to try to level the playing field a little. Just a bit. Do my own small part to make it a more even contest. 

It'll challenge the youngsters to think in ways outside of the confines of the subjects they learn at school.

Just like they'll face if they apply to the top universities, or beyond that, to some of the most prestigious employers. 

To deal with questions which don't have a right or wrong answer - like so many in life - but just require that crucial input of thought.

And the confidence to justify yourself. 

It's quite a task for the few hours the sessions will run over. 

But we can do it. We will do it.

Because I'm committed to it. And more importantly, because they're darned good. 

And most importantly... 

Because there are few crimes greater than not making the most of precious potential. 

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Second Time Around

Posted by Simon on 1st, April 2018 at 09:27:42

I've been asked the same question quite a few times this week - 

How does it feel?

It's a reference to my new old book, or my old new book, which even by my standards is a weird way of putting it. 

To explain - 

A new publisher, the excellent Fahrenheit Press, kindly came along and asked to republish my back list of novels.

And first up, the start of the series, out this week...


But not just a straightforward republication. Oh no. It's taken much more work than that. 

I've tightened up and twiddled with the story a little, but perhaps most importantly it's been modernised...

Which means faxes and pagers are out, and smart phones and Twitter etc. are in. 

(How fast the world turns.)

But back to the point. How does it feel, to be republished?

Is it different from the first time? Less exciting? 

Not a bit of it. Nowhere close. 

I've still been bouncing around like a kid at Xmas, grinning in the sort of way that makes people cross the street to avoid me, and generally annoying everyone I know by burbling at them about the book.

Being published isn't a feeling to get used to. I doubt it'll ever calm down, even if I somehow manage to write a hundred books. 

And I'm really, really glad about that.

Because it's testament to an enduring passion for innovation, and creativity, and exploration, and learning, and understanding, and all that wonderful stuff...

Which is what, for me, this whole life thing is about. 


Oh, and a cheeky ps, if you'd be so kind - 

I'm not into overt selling, the buy my book (please) type stuff, but since you've taken the time to read this, and I have to eat, just in case you're interested...


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A Horrified Reaction to an Unspeakable Suggestion

Posted by Simon on 25th, March 2018 at 09:29:36

There's a suggestion I often make when I'm teaching, and the reaction varies from stunned silence to sheer horror. 

Before I get to what it is (classic storytelling I know, but then I'm a writer; what do you expect?), a few words of build up. 

I was in London this week, at the excellent Civil Service College, talking about how to deal with pressure. 


As you may have guessed that's not the college, but a near neighbour, which is one of the pleasures of working in the capital - 

The chance to be a tourist and see some of Britain's magnificent heritage, like Buckingham Palace. 

Anyway, I was teaching some senior civil servants, and when I talk to people in important positions I have one matter I always like to mention.

It's a fundamental about what their job is, the essence of what they're paid for, which is this - 

Their judgment. 

Their positions don't come down to admin and paperwork, budgets and meetings, as can so often fill the working days. 

But instead their knowledge and experience, and the insights they can bring. 

One of the great values of a day out of the office, on a course, is to remember that. And here's the point - 

I always suggest - gently, as I've seen the shock it can cause - that people in important positions take some time out of the daily grind...

Turn off their phones and email, log out of social media, declare a no meeting, no interruptions few moments...

And just sit and think. 

Because thinking is where everything starts. And grows, and flourishes.

And sometimes - however hard it can be to achieve - we need to clear a few moments to do just that. 

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