Tuesday, December 10, 2013

About my (bad) writing habits

I love writing and writing loves me, but sometimes our relationship can go through problematic moments. One of my advantages that turns to be my biggest disadvantages is that I can write fast. I edited and completed my last book - more about this soon - in around 2 weeks of intensive writing, when I was also doing some other small blogging jobs. The research was important and was almost done when I needed to give the final touch of my writing. As for the writing, it was flowing without problems and as I was approaching the final chapter, was feeling more and more happy to have such a wonderful gift.
But once the enthusiasm ended and the plans for the next book were launched, I am lost again in my procrastination. Those who know me will feel outraged to see me using the word 'procrastination' in relation with my humble person, but for me, it has the sense of keeping my mind away from writing. I know that I can write fast and furiously and I don't mind to have a day or two off. I love the inspiration of the first days and take my time for the rest of the week trying to find a serious reason to end up the writing.
And this is an aspect that does not make me happy, efficient and that should be changed soon. I need to reintroduce discipline in the field of writing, my main productive activity nowadays. I can see clearly the perfect schedule that I will be able to achieve in a couple of weeks from now, and with a little bit of strong will, even days: wake up early in the morning, maybe around 6am, write intensively till 9am or 10am - which given my writing speed will bring me thousands of words the week to my portfolio - take a break and get into the house mood, accomplish your social media duties, go to the library for more documentation, write one-two more hours in the afternoon. In such a pace, will be able for sure to achieve all my editorial projects that are for the moment just open, half- achieved or in process of editing. I will be happy and everyone around me will be happy because writing makes me happy. 
Perhaps the day I will really consider myself a writer, I will end up thinking about my writing and to all the necessary writing in real time. Till then, waiting only for good and optimistic news.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thriller review: One Day in Budapest, by J.F.Penn

I think more than twice before I decide to read a book introduced as political and even more, conspiracy, thriller. I love to read good books on the topic, but I also know how dangerous is the topic for the healthy brains of many writers and sooner or later they end up being taken imagination as reality and preaching various real political stupidities. 
The last Saturday evening I was looking for some challenging yet short enough book that I can read in a couple of hours. Written as a novella, this book by J.F.Penn, whose knowledgeable expertise in the field of book marketing I follow for a long time, looked as a very good choice.
In addition, I am very interested in Hungary, and Hungarian politics and especially the latest unhappy news and would always spend more than one day in the beautiful city of Budapest. 
The city is an extraordinary tour de force through the 24 hours necessary to find the old hand of King Istvan stolen by an extreme right party as part of their strategy to turn the Jewish community in town into scapegoats and get massive political support. 
For those not familiar with the politics in this part of the world it may sound completely crazy, but true is that the limits between reality and fiction is frequently by-passed. 
There are many good and excellent things I loved about this book. The characters have a strong voice an personality, especially the Israel-born Morgan Sierra. Each episodes end up in suspense, leaving something for the next chapter - including the last chapter of the book, so I want to read the follow up of this story! The actions are introduced with the precise touch of a painter and at least in the case of the explosion in the Gellert bath the images described were vividly visual that had them in my mind long time after I finished the book.  
I really felt that the author herself enjoyed writing and true or not, it gave me a lot of ideas and strength to pursue with more optimism and courage my own writing projects as well. Plus, time to read the other thrillers by J.F.Penn. 

Searching for the Golden Cheese



I can't have enough of reading children books but in the last time did not have enough time and inspiration for something new. The newly released children book by Maria Ellis, the Golden Cheese, woke me up from the post-summer lethargy.
Written in verses and targeting the 3-7 yo age group, it is the story of a brave mouse who dreams about being rich and enjoying the privileges of a king. His sometimes hilarious search for happiness take some comical turns, but he is also faced with the unlucky fate of being misunderstood by his other peers from the wild kingdom. This happened including when he finally found the precious piece of golden cheese. Isolated and deeply unhappy, he decided to stay away from the laughing crowds. But as in the human life, you cannot have only bad or good things happening to you. A cute mouse journalist lady heard about his successful capture of the much praised golden cheese and is looking for him to write his story. When she finally finds her, he refuses to acknowledge the happy reality: 'I don't have any friends! Never did! I'm a fool./Found yourself someone else who is smart...and more...cool'. 
However, it is a happy ending in the mice world too and the two of them will end up learning how to 'live full time as a king'.
The author also made the illustrations that sometimes are filling and completing the story, in a very harmonious and colourful way.
The story is told in a very creative way, entertaining from the beginning till the end. The poetic form, that she chose for another children book that I have read, liked and reviewed, the Bear's Slippers
After reading it, I can say that the Middle Age-sque quest for the Golden Cheese can be full of lessons for the parents of the children as well, without a specific age target. Somehow, it is always good to know that you don't need necessarily a castle to be happy, but rather people that can speak your language and understand you.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the author but the opinions are, as usual, only my own

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What's your next book about?

After your first book is finished, the next question shortly after you finished is: 'What will you write next about?'
At the first sight, it is an optimistic view of your potential. Somehow, writing can be compared with a gargantuan appetite: the more your write the more you want to continue writing. And your head is bubbling of subjects that hardly can be kept inside your crane. 
On the other hand, the question can be seen as an unpleasant intrusion into your life. Do the person asking it know exactly what does it mean writing a book, how much pain and sacrifice can be behind any single sentence? Very often, after such an effort that can also involve the members of your family, longing to spend a normal and relaxed evening with you, all you want is to relax as normal people do: sleep, drink a glass of wine and have a good meal. And sleep again. Not sure if reading can be included on the daily schedule, at least for a while. 
As someone who published at least one book and is regularly writing at least one academic article the month, I dare to say that the truth is in between the extremes. I love so much the feeling when the work is done and my book is out in the air - to be read, on Amazon.com - that I want to get the best momentum for continuing writing to more projects. When I am happy I can always write easily and good articles. But, because of other family and work obligations and some limits that I want to set myself- such as dedicating more time to documentation or eventually improving my English writing skills - I don't have any choice but delay some of them, even though in some cases the projects are more than 2 years old. I am not happy with that and I promise to behave better the next year, but I can't do anything. I need time between projects, while trying to respect my limit of one book the year. At least for this year I am done, but hope to finish another one in the next 60 days and thus, I also did some of the home works for the last year. 
To be even more honest, my love for writing is sometimes taken by my enormous love for reading. Especially when I am working to certain topics, writing almost everything available on the subject can be seen as a desire to tackle my work as serious as possible. But, to be honest, it also means that I am somehow delaying the moment when I will have enough courage to say the things in my own words. Call it denial, but it is not a wasted time, this time spent while reading other people's words. Very often, I can find a lot of inspiration to start new projects on my own and to move forward with other topics I am writing about.
The world of words is not a normal one; there are some rules - grammar rules especially - but as long as we depend of imagination and talent, there is not easy to keep a strict schedule. I am the very strict type of writer, that needs to have things done in time and taking the deadlines as serious as possible. But, on the other hand, I know that being too strict with my writing schedule can influence negatively my inspiration, and as long as I do not have a contract to respect for the delivery of my manuscripts, I try to keep my pace and do my writing when I really have something to say.
I hope that my time of inspiration has come and the next months will offer me the occasion to finish some of the projects already started. It is a good feeling that I am trying to consider as carefully as possible. It may sound as a very empty discourse, but it is how I feel right now. Full of energy, but careful to use it properly, for good and valuable things. Believe me or not, but moderation can be of good use, after all. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Salman Rushdie talking about Joseph Anton in Berlin

With the autumn season only a couple of weeks away and a winter around the corner, I need to be more careful finding more indoors events for my next weeks spent in Berlin. Fortunately for me, there are too many events around to go when the time is limited. The Literature Festival is close to the end today, but the Berlin art week is about to start this Tuesday, with a lot of happenings and events that I hope to attend and write about soon. Add to this some new concerts and comedies and theatres that are daily taking place in different corners of the city and you can have the landscape of a very busy cultural schedule in the German capital city. As long as there it is nothing else to do than run from an event to another, there is fine, otherwise, one can feel the deep frustration of too little time for really being everywhere. For this Sunday, I was inspired enough to book in time a reservation to a discussion with Salman Rushdie, at the Berliner Festspiele. As a long time admirer and reader of Rushdie's books, I was grateful to be able to attend the discussion, focused on his last book, Joseph Anton, a autobiographical novel I was familiar with from a chat with the author on Goodreads
Even though I arrived 10 minutes before the start of the discussion, I did not have difficulties of going through the gates. After a couple of seconds check of my ticket, I was in the Festspiele hall, trying to find a place. At that level, there were only a couple of places left, but the first floor was offering a lot of options as well. I'd found a place finally. On my left, a lady was reading the German translation, while in the front of me, two ladies that met on the spot were worried about how difficult will be to understand the English discussion. Translation headphones were available free of charge as well. At 11.33, the doors closed and the participants arrived.
Held in a classical format, most of the discussion focused on reading excerpts from the English and German translation of Joseph Anton. There were no questions from the public, unfortunately, but during the marathon of book signing at the end, it was possible to ask one simple question, which I did, but more about that later.
Joseph Anton is the autobiographic novel of his years of hiding following the death sentence pronounced by ayatollah Khomeini shortly after the publication of the Satanic Verses, whose 25th anniversary is in 10 days time. He described the book as a 'non-fiction novel' that approaches real life events using fiction techniques to tell the story. Joseph Anton is the name hr used for his hidden identity: Joseph from Joseph Conrad, an artist of the hidden secret world, and Anton from Anton Chekhov, whose sadness and loneliness correspond to some of the stages Rushdie went through. His situation affected his family too, especially his son, around 9 years old at the time of the fatwa. 
The book ends on the third person as he recognized that did not like too much to overuse the 1rd person. During his years of hiding, he kept a journal recording the facts he was coping with. Several times he was told to use the experiences to write a book about those years, but it took him a lot of time to realize that after 12 years he wanted to use another 2 years to write about what happened and another year to talk about it. However, after reading 'a lot of nonsense' about his own cases, he wanted 'to tell the truth about what really happened'. Rushdie wanted to go back to his life as a novelist, but he 'realized it is a good story to tell and did not want someone else to write it'. Repetition, especially in the era of Internet, magnifies and make things true despite the reality and he wanted to tell the truth. A special part of the story is occupied by the police officers that took care of his security during that terrible decade. Some of those appearing in the book are composite characters. 
Although the official and political discussions around his case were often taken an accusatory note, as considering him the only responsible for that situation - 'you broke it, you fix it' kind of attitude, according to his words - and thus, not necessarily allowed to benefit of a full state support, despite being an UK citizen since the age of 14, his literary friends made 'a ring of steel around' him helping him to find new locations, among others. 
Reading intensively and writing with talent does not guarantee a high level of morality, but such reasons are not enough for giving up reading and books in general. A conclusion similar with my own regarding the intellectuals in general. Being anti-intellectual is not the 'right' attitude when faced with the moral failures of some representatives of this world. Books and education empower each of us to react to the daily reality in different ways, but it is up to us to make the right choices. 
Rushdie disclosed an interesting story about his family name. It was chosen by his father who praised the great Arab thinker Ibn Rashd, who in the 12th century faced a situation similar with his, being banned for years because his writing was considered subversive by the Arab Caliphate at the time.  
Now, he is more free to move and inspired by Joseph Conrad is living his life despite everything. The book signing went on automatic pilot, and in less than one hour he left his signature on more than 100 books - including mine. I asked him if he is planning to write another travel book, besides the Jaguar Smile, his early account of a trip to Nicaragua, but he reassured me with a 'maybe'. 
I have now a long list of his books to be read, so maybe till his next novel, I will be done already. 
Again, I am enormously grateful to be in a city where so many things are going on! The today discussion with Salman Rushdie was another reminder of how lucky I am. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ups and downs of the writer

Today, I am very happy with my writing and I'd spent more than 10 hours polishing my words and updating my blogs. What I happy day was it. Tomorrow is another day. Eventually, tomorrow I will be very unhappy with what I've done not only yesterday, but from the very first day when I decided to start a writing career. After 2 days, I will be offered more reasons to feel so, as a very rude contractor despised my work done and also forgot or refused to pay. The next days I start feeling better, but I work one day for a ridiculous pay. It is already Friday and I will go offline to relax for a while. And on Sunday, the marry-go-round starts again. To be continued...
How many times I've went through this schizophrenic unhappiness. For around one year I survived exclusively on writing, refusing obstinately to take any other non-writing assignments. I knew how good I can be doing PR and how much money I can get out of it, therefore any contact with that world will not bring anything good for my other side of my writing personality.
I improved a lot and as a non-English speaker, I find from time to time reasons to be at peace with my achievements. But it is enough to read an article written exactly as I would like to write one day that will make me fell low and completely unprepared for my full time writing career. Did I enter too late this fight for being able to get the professional path I think it is the best for me?
Where are my pitches? How many serious freelance articles I wrote in the last months? Where are my book plans? Maybe I should stop harassing myself. Maybe it is enough to do my best to improve my writing each day and give hope a chance. But to be honest, I am not too much used with waiting. I don't like the insecurity of it. And my mediocre career in the last 2 years. I did grow a lot spiritually and got a deep understanding of things. I did a lot of travels and met wonderful people, but I want to do more, to feel again the comfort of a glamorous job and of a daily schedule. 
Something is not settled yet, I continue to whisper myself every week. The next time perhaps will get better. I feel it goes better and I love more my stylish turnarounds and word juggling. I feel more at home with English and more rich to express feelings and describe situations. From time to time I even publish successfully. 
I will continue to read more and write even more and be more stubborn. And will find new fantastic jobs hoping that a full time project for the next 3-4 months is waiting for me. Can't wait for the next stage.    

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

If you want to write...

...just do it. And very important, try as much as possible to follow your inspiration, regardless of what they say.
Brenda Ueland wrote this inspirational book at the end of the 30s, but the 21st century reader in me did not find anything outdated. Good news: there were always people really interested to write and share their fears and writing tips. Self-trust is very important not only when it comes to writing, but at a great extent, without self-trust it is not easy to survive the complicated world of words. Nowadays, it is ridiculously easy to put on paper your thoughts especially if you do not have an academic literary training, have more time for your passion but also to publish your own works. It is very simple when you have enough of the big pile of rejection letters collected on your desk. 
Ueland published during her lifetime only 2 books - at the time, it sounded quite normal, not like today when the publishing competition is so tight that if you don't publish at least one title the year, you may be forgotten in the next days. But writing was Ueland's job, as for a long time she taught writing and also kept a diary with the most interesting experiences encountered. Those memories offered a lot of material for the book. In her own words: "Even if I knew for certain that I would never have anything published again, and would never make another cent from it, I will still keep on writing". Contrary to what many may thing, in her opinion, 'inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic stewing, but it comes into us slowly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing (...)". A couple of minutes of solitude each day may create the best environment for inspiration. 
A great advice that goes well for more or less experienced writers is to focus on present. Of course the writer should care about the reader, but by offering the best sample of his work each time - "As you write, never let a lot of 'oughts' block you". Otherwise, thinking with fear about the future - What will the reader say about it? Will he/she love me or hate me or rather consider my work a failure etc.? - will never encourage quality work. The opinion of other members of the family can be important but if they don't like it, it should not matter. I remember as once, as a 14 year old, I asked the opinion of my step father about some small poetry I've written. As he always saw my future in the world of high-tech and science in general, he dismissed my notebook telling me with a cynical smile on his face that I better go to prepare my math homework. Happily for the world of words, I did end up working with words, but for many years after I did not have enough courage to write poetry again. 
I do have some reserves about a generous perspective on the human writing nature, but I cannot stop sharing this optimistic quote: "(...) all people have in them the power to write greatly and well, when they express fully and carelessly what is true to THEM". I suppose that she addressed to people that already knpw they want to write and did some previous exercises at least once. As 'one's writing reflects one's personality' it is important to ponder your words and find your voice. 
Although managing good writing techniques are very important for every kind of writer, a good story is the one made by those who 'think of telling a story not of writing it". A big admirer of Russian literature - as I do I - Ueland recommend the classical works of Chekhov and Dostoevsky for the strong connection with life. For them, 'life is more important than literature' and for her, it is the best recipe for success. The characters must come fully ton life in your imagination. And if it does not happen after the next 100 words keep writing, and writing, and writing. Do you find a bigger pleasure in any other kind of work? 
  

Friday, August 2, 2013

Interview of the week: Jamie Baywood about her book: Getting Rooted in New Zealand


Jamie Baywood is very busy these days with various events on the occasion of the launch of her book, Getting Rooted in New Zealand. A good opportunity for me to ask her to answer a couple of question about travel writing, New Zealand and expat life. If you were looking for a good read for the summer, maybe now you have the answer. Image
How did you decide to start writing your travel book?
I started writing my book because I had funny experiences that I had trouble believing were true. I wrote the stories down to stay sane.
What is the limit between fiction and travel? How much memoir and how much fiction? Would you recommend the book to someone interested to document a trip to New Zealand?
My book is a true story. My life has been so strange it sounds like fiction, but it is really too weird to be made up. My truth is stranger than fiction. Some, but not all of the names of individuals and organizations have been changed to preserve privacy, but the stories are all true.
My book is in no way, shape, or form a travel guide to New Zealand. I lived in New Zealand for over a year; it is about relocating and uprooting one’s life more than travelling.
- What did you find interesting and different in New Zealand, compared to California - except the distances, of course?
 Whenever I go back to California, I am always shocked by how busy, crowded and loud it is. Everyone is rushing around, there is so much traffic, and it just feels chaotic all the time.  I was amazed with how quiet and unpopulated Auckland felt. People in Auckland would complain about traffic and I would laugh.
 California and New Zealand are roughly the same size. It wasn’t until I went to New Zealand that I understood how enormous America is.
New Zealand feels so safe. In California, I would carry pepper spray with me everywhere I went. I was always on edge living in California. It was amazing to me that in New Zealand the police didn’t have guns.  I felt much safer as a single female traveling alone in New Zealand than living in California.
The flip side of the feeling of being sheltered from the world in New Zealand was I felt isolated. There was a palpable feeling of being at the end of the world in New Zealand that at times I found overwhelming.
- I have New Zealand on my priority list for a long time. What should I see and do before I leave?
See everything. See the whole country. It is manageable to drive around both islands. The roads are pretty easy to navigate getting around the islands.
New Zealand is famous for its scenery, but I loved the creative scene in Auckland. Spend time in Auckland watch Steve Wrigley stand-up and watch a Thomas Sainsbury play.
I miss eating at chicken katsu at Renkon, the amazing French restaurant Le Garde-Manger on upper Queen Street, and Ponsonby Food Court in Auckland. Also be sure to go wine tasting on Waiheke Island.
- How much did it take to write the book? Any recommendations for a first time travel writer?
Most of the book was written as the events happened; it just took me a few years to work up the nerve to publish. I wrote situations down that were happening around me and shared them with friends. The stories made people laugh so I decided to organize the stories into a book and publish in the hopes to make others laugh too.
I recommend other travel writers write things down when they are fresh in your memory. Events that are unplanned or seemingly insignificant at the time maybe be entertaining or interesting down the line.
- What are your favourite travel writers?
 The Travelettes and the Young Adventuress have great travel blogs.
- What is the subject of your next book?
 My next book will be about traveling on the South Island of New Zealand, Australia, California and attempting to settle down in Scotland.
 You can find Jamie on Twitter: @JamieBaywood and on Facebook.com/jamiebaywood
 Find her book Getting Rooted in New Zealand in paperback and eBook on Amazon
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The Interview was published first on my travel blog: http://ilanaontheroad.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/interview-of-the-week-jamie-baywood-about-her-book-getting-rooted-in-new-zealand/

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book review: The Sharper the Knife, the Less you Cry

I must recognize that Kathleen Flinn's (first) book: The Sharper the Knife, the Less you Cry took me a long time to finish. It might be considered both as an advantage and disadvantage of the book. I started to read it in March, probably, and ended up a couple of hours ago. Why this big gap, somehow unusual for someone like me easily reading a good book a day, if the time allows me?

Nothing to complain against the book: it is well written, with many interesting recipes (even though I would not be able to prepare more than 75% of them) and a lot of insights about the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school. Le Cordon Bleu, made up of chefs with similar CVs: early age trainings in small or big restaurants, followed by intensive work at Michelin restaurants, eventually ending up in teaching school because of burn-out, was created in the 19th century in...of course, Paris. It started as a cooking magazine started by Marthe Distel offering free cooking classes for subscribers. Nowadays, even though the magazine is no more since the 1960s, it has a wide network of around 27 schools in 15 countries. 

To be honest, I completely dislike the military-style of that famous and expensive school. As a chef by choice, I decided that I should discover how to cook - and this book showed me how far far away from the objective of being a decent chef - completely by pleasure. I don't want to be lectured, penalized and criticized - officially, as at home I am coping almost daily with various inappropriate observations in this respect - and even humiliated for my lack of achievement. Again, I do it completely for fun and if I would have to pay a lot of money for a fantastic cooking class where I am regularly ridiculed I would react in a very unpleasant way. Cooking is an art and not everyone has the qualities of a chef-from-birth, but I prefer to be treated respectfully and taught with love and attention. The logical conclusion is that in any case I will not want to be part of such a top notch project, preferring rather small cooking class of specific meals. Kathleen Flinn is more disciplined in this respect: "Cooking is a physical job; it requires strength, endurance, and the ability to do what you're told without complaint, even if you disagree". Not my piece of cake. 

I must confess though that I need to learn more about cutting the veggies correctly and being more dedicated in terms of following the directions of the recipes: "To be good food soldiers in the kitchen, we must be trained to follow orders, to produce consistent results. That's why we are drilled to cut our vegetables with the same military precision, to hit the same basic notes of flavor". As for me, I am rather the kind of person that strongly belief that 'sometimes, life doesn't follow the recipe, either'. Everyone with its own cooking style, isn't it?

The big advantage of the book that helped me not to feel guilty for keeping it half-read for month was the good writing style: honest, simple even when it has to do with complicated recipes, somehow impossible to translate from French. 

Beyond the stylistic challenges and considerations, I also appreciated as well the optimism that it is never late to start cooking. Especially this Julia Child's quote made me feel better about my previous failures: 'I didn't start cooking until I was 32. Until then, I just ate'. (It is also available for me, except the part with eating, as until 32 at least, I was not eating too much either). What awaits me and the late cooker in general, is a long journey of discovering which knife is the best, how to cut the meat and to have good sources at the meat market, or how to prepare the almost perfect pastry. 

The similar career patterns of the chefs is mirrored by the similar careers of the attendees: most of them, including Kathleen Flinn herself, left or are looking for a subterfuge of their corporate life and follow an old dream. The book is also an exploration of the local expat life, of coping with the difficulties of my beloved French language, as well as of life and love. As I am heading soon to Paris, I also found some interesting good travel tips and ideas to visit specific markets and corners. 

If you were looking for the inspiration for your next career steps this summer, you should read this book and carefully take notes of the recipes generously included at the end of each chapter.

The initial post was published on my foodie blog: http://boiledwords.blogspot.de/2013/06/book-review-sharper-knife-less-you-cry.html

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On the neverending importance of the dialogues

I did not dare to write fiction for over 5 years, and when I think about it, the most complicated problem I have to cope with is the way in which my characters should speak. No, it is not about their accent or vocabulary, but about how the dialogue is such should be built up in order to be relevant for the story. Once, while editing someone else's draft, I noticed without pleasure pages after pages of discussions between the main characters exchanging dozens of 'yeah', 'oh', 'ah's and other non-informational words. I always admired the capacity of many French writers, especially Simone de Beauvoir, to create complicated dialogues and a coherent exchange of ideas. 

Those days, I am reading - especially when walking, a recent addiction of mine - Melissa Bank's The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing. The story as such is not exactly my style but the dialogues, oy, the dialogues, are as good as a fine champaign worth 300 Euro the glass. Spontaneous, smart, funny and alive, very much alive. I don't know what class of creative writing I should follow, but at the end of the learning I want to write dialogues at least as good as Bank's. 

Till then, I will continue my cold and serious plans of nonfiction writing, with more and more unfinished projects laying open on my desktop. Each month the same mantra: at the end of the month I am done, promise, all I need is to do some small corrections and check what is the format requested for Kindle, eBooks etc. You know what? This kind of dialogue with myself is extremely boring. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Laziness in the time of 2.0

Believe me or not, but my relative quiet presence on this blog does not mean that I read less or do not write at all. I read at least once the day something useful for my writing and I put my skills on trial on a daily basis. True is that in the last months I wanted to focus the best of my free time - meaning when I am not busy freelancing for a living  - on my travel writing projects that involve a lot of pitching, reading, documenting and, last but not least, traveling. 
On the other hand, I want to be as honest as possible and make a terrible confession: if I do not need to write right now a very hot fresh news or feature report or even an interview, I put my other blogs on hold for a classical reason: laziness. When I read Oblomov and participated to long discussions about what does it mean to be an Oblomov, blogs did not exist, but I cannot stop thinking about one of my favorite characters from the Russian literature. A lovely gal with a lust for doing nothing. 
In my case, laziness is probably the last word that someone will use to describe me, but me, the humble me feels like being far away from my brilliant writing career that I always waited ahead of me. Take, for instance, my numerous book projects that are sleeping in files on my computer. With a little bit of formatting and probably some basic editing I can be up on Amazon in a matter of days. But simply because I know quite well how easy is to have all this, I don't find it exciting enough and instead, I start new projects that at least at the beginning are much more exciting. 
Another secret of mine is that I currently fluent in a couple of languages, but I did not tried my writing hand in more, as I prefer to have a high proficiency in English and use the other languages for daily work, translation and social networking. However, at least in one case, I should improve considerably a language that will help me to translate some of my blog posts and thus increase the SEO level of my travel writing. I am still hesitant because I am not quite happy to wake up too early in the morning for such mental exercises. Isn't that laziness, ladies and gents?
The most ridiculous reason by far for my lack of blogging activity here is that besides the writing, in our 2.0 world I need to spend a lot of time searching and adding photography, as well as working out various links of the literary references I want to talk about - for example, book reviews of the literature I am using for my daily preparation of the writing skills. Yes, I am lazy enough to do this. 
As I grew up in a world of written word, once I was ready with my article, I did not need to do anything else than go out for the next piece of work. Nowadays, I need to be careful with links and SEO-related issued and many other aspects that do not belong to the act of writing as such. 
However, I consider this post as an incentive to continue my split my attention between different blogs and writing 'avenues' and, I promise that I will not only be back with fresh book reviews and interviews and observations about the literary world, but I will also work out my eBooks and improve my writing portfolio with more than blog posts! 
Write to you soon! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's only a matter of words

When you move from a country to another, you may always be carry with you the most precious belongings and to be sure that your account has enough money to survive till you will get a job in the new place. But when your job deals with words and your life cannot exist without words, acquiring a new language that will allow you to say everything you want to say in a fast, and clear and comprehensive way is the most pressing task. It may take years till you can be back on the track. During this time, you may forget completely that once you used to write faster than you were thinking. 

You may have luck to have enough time and money and a perfect brain to get back on the track in less than 12 months. But it is not always easy and the downs may be the overall rule of your daily life. The more advanced you are in age, the higher the risk to fight with never ending frustrations and sadness and loneliness. When on your own, you may lock the door to the present and avoid the future, while enjoying the maniacal pleasures of the glorious past. 

It is not one and only conclusion. Is the daily life. Mine, yours, maybe yours too.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book review: A Tiger in the kitchen


Did you ever have the feeling that someone did or write something you always wanted to do or write? this happened when I was reading this interesting food memoir, by Cheryl Tan. Is hard for me to include A Tiger in the Kitchen into any specific literary style - not that I ever wished to be a literary critic. 

It is about good writing for sure, but also about old memories and trying to define your history through smell and taste. Cheryl spent one sabbatical in the middle of his family learning how to cook the dishes of her childhood. She goes even far away from Singapore, in China, where the roots of her family are. Each recipe is a new door to the family intimacy, hidden stories and long trials, with successes and errors. 

The book presents two parallel cooking projects: one is directly related to recomposing her Singaporean home through food, the other is more related to improving the cooking skills, but also with a flavor of search of definitions of home: baking different types of bread, answering a challenge launchded to bakers on social media. 

A journalist, covering especially fashion event, Cheryl did not seem to dream too much about being a chef or a food writing at all. But as usual, you never know what it is in the box for you. All you need is to use the writing skills for putting on paper the story of your life. 

As a memoir, this books succeeded to bring a lot of good challenges and interesting stories. Do not expect too much first personal stories. The reader will not find too many passions and drama: even when it may be some tension - as in the case of her father taking a second wife - the tensions are melting as the butter in the pan. You need time to be a good cook - or writer - and time heals all the wounds or disappointments. 

A wandering soul myself, I can recognize myself in many episodes described in the book. My passion for cooking started out of nowhere once I decided to dedicate more time to my family. My daily cooking challenges are the result of following certain food restrictions and returning to the home that I had to leave at least once. I wish that I will be able soon to dedicate more time to learn to cook from chefs and improve my skills other than by making my own improvisations - not failures after all. Cooking may be a therapy as well, with the same effect as in Cheryl's case: 'In this cloud of cinnamon--scented zen, the pressures of New York would melt away'. 

Last but not least, what I've learned at the end of this book are many details about the history of the Singaporean cuisine and society. Each cuisine tells a story about culture and history and this memoir brought be closer to understanding a place that I am curios to visit once. 

It was a very pleasant reading that I regret having finished. The pages of the book brought me through my latest writer's block and helped me to see some literary light around. As I carried the book for at least three weeks, I often re-read some of the pages and felt the same pleasure of getting immersed into those sweet Singaporean stories. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rediscovering London


'When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life' said Samuel Johnson. My life friendship with London started a couple of years ago, when I started to discover the city. Since then, I tried to refresh our friendship, by discovering new corners and meeting new people. Although I considered myself quite experienced in mapping and knowing more than the basics about London, after reading this very challenging guide, I discovered how far I am from this basic standpoint. 
Heather Reyes collected the most important and interesting literary fragments dedicated to the city, from an array of authors - among them Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, Karel Kapek, Julian Barnes, Joseph Conrad, Xialo Guo, Peter Ackroyd - and styles. The reader can have a wide perspective of the historical stages the city went through. However, the book is not aimed to top-notch doctors in literature, but to anyone interested to find out more about the places and people that you should not only see in London, but also understand. The tour starts with love declarations to London, continues with a general tour that will be detailed by descriptions of various issues - 'pomp and circumstances', transportation and, of course, the weather - and geographical journeys - East End, West End. One of my favorite sections is that dedicated to the 'Londoners - old and new', because what is a city without its brave citizens? 
What you will not have in this books are: information about shopping and discounts and the museums and their schedule. Plus, it is not a guide to have in your pocket while you try to find out which tube line will bring you to the next tourist destination. But you have instead the most important guidance for understanding the city regardless of the time spent within its - symbolical - walls. For me, nothing what I've read was known and the guide brought me to the real world of London. Four hours of intensive reading later, I see this interesting city with completely different eyes. 
As I returned from there less than 24 hours ago, I might say that I will never get tired of life in London. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Coping with the pressure of words

When once asked about how do I cope with the famous and overrated writers' block I was proud to announce that no, I am not one of those people facing such dangers. I am writing for a living for years and I cannot see myself doing something else. I write fast and I love to write and my creativity is an infinite reservoir of topics for blogs, articles and any other writing-related projects.

However, from time to time, and very often lately, I cope with a different kind of problem: the question if I really should write about something unless I will waste my words only for satisfying my hunger for words. It is something really important I want to say in a way that no one else said before?

Especially when I have to deal with a lot of commercial information for different blogs that I write for, such a feeling occurs at least once the week. Indeed, the product reviews or food descriptions are easy to do; I can write at least 5 posts of minimum 300-word the day and still counting. But, at the end of this writing tour-de-force, the question is if I really cared about quality and my perspective is enough original. Plus, after reading so many such easy posts, I do not feel inspired enough for more elaborated posts, such as book reviews. I have more than 10 books that I must review and each time I want to turn the page to some serious topics, I find more tempting to take care of my commercial interests. 

At a certain point, it can be a normal temptation, as my income is generated but exactly this type of activities, while literary reading and writing is something I try to do when the account is feeling good enough to support one day when I am offline trying to find a way to build my stories or to find my literary voice. The best advice I will give to someone fighting such problems will be: wake up as early as possible in the morning, finish your complicated writing first and dedicate the rest of the day to your for-profit activities. But, I am not sure that I can always follow this advice as my schedule may differ from a day to another and some of my meetings can be schedule as early as at 8am.

There is more than one solution in sight, and the relative block I need to deal with regularly can be a good source of inspiration as well. Today, for instance, after 24 hours of literary procrastination and delay in finishing many of my projects, I feel a lot of energy and I already finished over half of the priorities in the agenda. My formative years as a journalist for a very busy daily newspapers brought me the burden of a curse: as long as I have tight deadlines, I am the most efficient person in the world. When there it is no deadline, I can spent days with my books without feeling the need to do anything else but reading - and cooking, but then it is already a push forward to write about my cooking experiences. Apparently, the natural feeling of hunger can help me counter the unpleasant feeling of not writing at all.

Travel books from Oxygen Books

My fine selection of books from Oxygen books is here! Getting ready for new reviews very very soon!


Friday, January 18, 2013

Jerusalem International Book Fair

If you love books and reading and you are in Israel in February, you must not miss the Jerusalem International Book Fair. Held every two years, the 26th edition is scheduled between 10 and 15 February.  As usual, the book lovers will be welcomed with over 100,000 books from over 30 countries and many special editorial events, workshops and conferences.

Thanks to the Editorial and Agent Fellowship Program, young editors and agents will have the possibility, through business sponsorship and other special arrangements, to meet their senior counter parts and learn how to improve their daily work. 

As for me, I will be very interested in exploring the children books, another domain where the Hebrew literature offers quality writing. Some of the guests expected this year are Antonio Munoz Molina and Lidia Jorge. At the end of each edition a special prize will be offered. The recipients of the two last editions are: Haruki Murakami (2009) and Ian McEwan (2011). The first laureate of the Jerusalem Prize was Bertrand Russell, in 1963.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Children books with unexpected endings

Children books represent at least 25% of my Kindle books. I do not have any preference for the age, as I come along very well any for an audience between 4 to 100. Thanks to this passion I succeeded to improve many of the languages that I need to use on a regular basis and very often I take half of the day off to spend some good hours at the closest bookstore for reading some new books, together with the little toddlers and school children. Of course that I plan to write my own children books, but I feel that I am still too far away from the moment when I will start putting on my virtual paper the plans of my first one. It means that I have more opportunities to discover more books and I am (again) in a win-win situation.


In the last days, I finally started and finished reading a book that I wanted to discover for a long time: How to speak dragonese, by Cressida Cowell. This is one of the many books included in the successful series of How to train your dragon. Two different impressions are fighting in my mind when thinking about this book. The first category deals with the admiration for the smart and simple story line, the funny characters and the creation of the that personalized ambiance that makes any children book a great achievement. The story is self sufficient, the characters have their personality, strength and weaknesses and even though at the end of there are some moral and ethical lessons to be considered - Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III wins respect because the way he uses his mind - you do not feel it as a boring lecture. What I did not like - at all - is the language who is too aggressive and dirty sometimes. I did not expect from such a rough world of the vikings a Roman politness, but I tried to overcome too much vulgarity. 

As for the second choice of children books this week, The Bear's Slippers by Maria Ellis, all I can say is that it is an adorable story. This story aimed for 4 to 7 yo is a versified story about a bear whose slippers are lost when entering the water. Poor bear, after being hurt before in the forest, hence his unusual and laughable - for some of his fellow forest chaps - decision to wear slippers, would he be forced to stay at home for the rest of his life? The power of imagination can challenge any bad mood: the bear follows with the eyes of his mind the journey of the dancing slippers. Wish it is a continuation and I can read more stories about this bear and his adventurous slippers. Maria Ellis is the author of both the story and the illustrations. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book review: In Conversation with Exceptional Women, by Monica Bhide

The interview is one of my favorite journalistic style. Through the exchange of questions and answers one may reveal his or her personality and can spontaneously open the doors to his or her real self. In addition, for the reader is more challenging and less boring to read what people really think instead of reading about what some other people assume they are thinking.

I love to read interviews as well, especially on topics that interest me lately, such as food writing or travel or simply inspirational snapshots from people more advanced on the professional writing path. Monica Bhide's book: In Conversation with Exceptional Women: Seeds of Inspiration to Help You Bloom where You Are Planted was exactly what I needed for a good start of the next 12 months. I have the book since the last May, but till a couple of days ago did not feel the need to seriously read it, even though I had the book on my priority reading list for months. My decision to delay the pleasure of lecture was correct, as only now I really feel balanced enough professionally and emotionally to consider seriously the next options in my career and offer myself new challenges.

It does not matter if you are a professional or beginner writer, a woman or a man, and does not matter either if you are a writer or not. The simple and sometimes humble answers offered by the women interviewed by Monica Bhide, an inspirational person and amazing writer herself, will change your perspective at least once during the lecture of the 200 pages of the book. 

The questions are mostly about the background of the authors, the personal recipes about finding motivation and juggling with the personal and professional sides of their life, the message for their 16 yo former self, but also about their favorite foods and the content of their fridge (I found it amazing that the over 50 persons inteviewed rarely shared the same ingredient, except maybe milk). Some were also requested to give a couple of advice for the writers-in-process. 

The definition of success gave by most of them coincides: the freedom to do what you love to do and being your own boss and time manager, and this is my definition too. However, behind any successful story, especially when it comes to writing, there should be a lot of persistence, but also a bit of luck (Andrea Nguyen). Meanwhile, I love the bold line by Ruth Reichl: 'I don't think anyone ever feels really successful. Or at least nobody with a conscience'. 

I have learn something from each of the interview, but I particularly loved: Carla Hall's interview and candid professional mission 'I want to make people happy'; Heidi Swanson's visual perception of the cake; Grace Young's approach according to which when cooking 'you are not only learning a recipe or a culinary secret, but equally observing the unique way each home cook aproaches a recipe'; Jaden Hair's wise advice that embracing failure is a necessary part of a step to success. I completely agree with Lynne Rosetto Kasper's answer when asked what inspires her to cook: 'possibilities, curiosity, new techniques, hunger, sensuality, pleasure, escape, focus, release, and many meals for people I care about'. Do you cope with permanent rejections? 'It does not matter how many rejections you get', said Virginia Willis, 'it only takes one yes'. Nothing helps better the food writer than travel and I am in full resonance with Pam Krauss' advice to writers: 'Travel as often as you can and as widely as you can and keep a journal of your food experiences'.

When I finished the book last night, I felt that I needed more and more such interviews. Maybe Monica will continue with this inspirational adventures, or maybe the readers themselves need to start writing their own stories of success. 

As for me, I have a long long lists of books to read and many recipes to try in the next months and enough inspiration for coping with any rejection. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writing habits

As writing plays an important part of my personal and professional life, I spend over 50% of the my active time juggling with words.

I do write mostly on my computer. When I am out and I should document some blog posts or articles, I usually take notes, but the ideas will be later put together on my computer. I do the same when I read books that I want to review later. In all cases, the notes will disappear later in the recycle bin, as I do not need the information any more. In the old times, I had a lot of files and written notes for my academic papers, but nowadays, either I know already many things or I have a more structured memory, or I have less academic curiosities. If the latter, I better go back to the scholarly habits.

The first words in the morning are written for the usual electronic correspondance. In 89% of the cases, there are not too many intellectual challenges at this time of the day. Usually, I go to sleep quite late and when I am back online many are just starting the day so not too much time to have an inbox full of emergencies.

If no emergencies with my consultant job, I spent at least 3 hours early in the morning writing blog posts or reviews or getting ready with some articles. But as my writing contribution is mostly for free, I should stop and around 10am I am doing the basic paid work, which may involve writing as well or translating, but also social media networking or meetings outside my home office. If everything is fine and I am done with the regular hours assigned for the day and month, I will continue the day with a library hopping. While on the road I do read a lot, especially the easy travel books or easy literature. Back home, I should do another 1 hour of work and continue with the home chores - cooking, finding and trying a new recipe. Such activities are usually inspiring for my blogging life and I take a lot of notes about the directions and many more pictures. The next hour or so is dedicated to school discussions and a good eating, with some sporadic e-mail checking in between. The best is to come: one two hours of reading, when I usually take notes or brain storm with ideas for further posts or articles. 

I work a lot with lists of priorities, but also with my own mental notes. I try to avoid associating my writing with the usual stress of the deadlines and thus, I know how many posts I have in my boxes for one blog and I try to finish with the writing within a given period of time. Now, for instance, I have more than five blogs in the making for my Berlin blog and I plan to finish till Friday, until I will be overwhelmed by other newly added posts. When I participate to an event or I have fresh posts that I need to write for SEO or other branding purposes, I set up the deadline and follow it. 

At the beginning of my blogging life, it was quite difficult to find the right balance between writing and reading. When I was reading too much, the blogs were not updated for weeks, while too much writing leave me with the feeling that I waste my time without learning something new. Now, I am much better, trying to plan my articles in time and avoid wasting too much time with procrastination.

The evening may continue either with a social event - the rule of the last 2 month was almost 3 events the week, plus a very busy cultural week-end - or with more reading. When the spontaneous inspiration haunts me, I take a break of 15 minutes, write a new post and continue the lectures. 

The supper could be another occasion to expand the list of scheduled posts for blogging at the end of which I will prefer some glossy reviews, a chat with friends and maybe another coffee and a new book done for the day. If I loved or hated the book, will take some time for some short reviews on Goodreads and Shelfari and if it is a book I received for review, a couple of sentences on Amazon. 

Late in the night, a new checking of the latest e-mails, the preparation of the next day agenda and everything is switched off before a good sleep.

It is nothing I would like to change from my writing life, except that I have only 24 hours to organize my writing and reading life.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Publications for writers: Writers Forum

As a writer to be, I am frustrated for not having enough time to read all the publications I would like to read for improving my style, grammar and marketing strategy. Unexpectedly lost for a couple of hours in Stansted airport, I discovered Writers' Forum and enjoyed all the minutes thereafter. 
The last issue of Writers' Forum

The main feature, in my opinion: it is a very useful publication. You will learn how to pitch a military history, to research a cookbook or how to make your daily reporting a quality work of fiction. More than 10 pages have reader stories and samples of poetry. You can also have some good advice about how to improve your writing in 2013 and some insights into the world of children writing. Are you unhappy about the pace of your words? You can either do some daily exercises for improving your style and your grammar and/or to use specialized charts that will evaluate your progress regularly.  

Everything is written with the simplicity of those who know very well that writing is not for everyone but if you feel your vocation, you need a good piece of advice not sophisticated lectures. Last but not least, you have a lot of competitions and incoming classes where you can check how far you are on the road to success. 

Those, as me, who cannot find the publication regularly in the drugstore two blocks away, can use the dedicated apps, available for iOS and Android. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Interview of the week: Heather Reyes, from Oxygen Books


When I read for the first time about Oxygen Books, I was so excited that could not resist the temptation to write them an e-mail asking for an interview. Heather Reyes, the mind and inspired hand behind this interesting edition house took her time and answered my curiosities about the brilliant idea of a different type of travel guides with full literary flavors.
'Yes. Let's do it.' So we did!
How did you have the idea for such guides?
We were in Athens for the first time. We had all the standard guide books and were doing the usual touristy things but we still had the feeling of not quite being able to 'get under the skin' of the city. Some things about it that were different from what we'd expected.
We were literally on the slopes of the Acropolis when Malcolm said to me, 'What we need is a really good anthology of writing about the city - and not just "old stuff" ... a book that takes you around the city with the best writers beside you, pointing things out, illuminating things ...Novelists, travel writers, historians, whatever ...'  'Mmm, that would be nice,' I replied, vaguely. By this time we were wandering along the hundreds of stalls of an outdoor book fair, astounded by just how many publishers were represented. But no visible anthologies. A visit to the city's bookshops were equally fruitless.
Malcolm was suspiciously quiet and thoughtful, and eventually came out with it: 'If we are looking for something like that, the chances are other people are too. We'll do a bit more research back in London but if there isn't anything ... what do you say to the idea of us setting up a little publishing company and doing it ourselves? I've been in book publicity and marketing, you've been an editor ...' Now whether it was the climate or the effect of finally being in a city I'd always longed to visit, I don't know, but I said 'Yes. Let's do it.' So we did!
 A guide for those who take short city breaks
What is your expected target?
Mainly people who take short city breaks. So we started with some of the most popular destinations - Paris, London, Berlin, Venice, Dublin and Amsterdam. We then ventured as far as New York as there is so much good writing about the city and people often do take a short break there, too. Our most recent book is on St Petersburg, often visited by cruise ships, so perhaps a slightly different readership. 
 Paris, Berlin and New York all sell consistently well
What was the reaction of the readers so far? Which guides are more in demand right now? 
Well, we've had excellent reviews in lots of different places, including major national newspapers, and readers often contact us to say how much they've enjoyed the books and had their visits to the cities enriched by them. So I guess you could say the reactions have been good.
Paris, Berlin and New York all sell consistently well, and St Petersburg, as our most recent book, is in demand at the moment.
Do you intend to publish the guides in other languages? If yes, what would be your main choices?
Publishing in other languages would only be viable if we sold the rights to do so to a publisher in that language. The rights and translations situation for the many, many texts we use would not make it viable for us to take on. And unfortunately we don't have the necessary expertise in languages other than French.
Next publishing stop: Istanbul 
What are your publishing projects for 2013? What will be the next cities to be featured?
Our next city is Istanbul, which will be published in April 2013, to tie in with Turkey being the Market Focus of the London Book Fair. This has been quite a big undertaking as it contains a lot of material translated from Turkish for the first time - there are an amazing number of brilliant Turkish writers whose work is scarcely available in English, if at all, and we wanted to show Anglophone readers just what a wealth of literature there is in Turkey. So, this will be our only book in 2013 - also because both Malcolm and I have personal writing projects to complete before the end of the year.
Rio for 2016
Do you want to extend your geographical area covered by the guides by including other continents, such as Asia, Africa, Latin and North America?
We have already ventured into North America with our New York book. And I suppose an obvious choice would be Rio for 2016, because of the Olympics. There are many possibilities - we are often contacted by readers suggesting certain cities - but before deciding on a city, we have to be convinced that enough people of the kind who would buy our books actually go there ... or are sufficiently interested in the city: we do sell to quite a number of 'armchair travellers'. We also have to know there is enough really brilliant modern writing on the city for us to use in a meaningful way. So at the moment we are still considering where we go after Istanbul.
 The selection starts with the personal library
How do you select the writers?
It's quite a 'messy' process, actually. We start with our personal library, which is quite large. Then, of course, we scour the web and keep an eye on the book reviews in newspapers and magazines for what is most recent on the city. Once our various contacts know we are 'doing' a city, they start to send in ideas or the names of people we might consult. We also simply browse in good bookshops and libraries. We buy some books, but our local library service has been very helpful in ordering books for us. We also belong to a library at the Barbican Centre (a big arts and performance complex in London) which is also very, very good. Then every evening for quite a few weeks is spent on the sofa surrounded by tottering piles of books, speed-reading and marking possible passages to include. (Lots of them don't make it into the final selection: we always start with a lot more material than we can use.)
Variety is important and we aim to include as many different genres as we can - we use fiction, history, memoirs, biography, journalism, travel writing, diaries, letters ... We would even use graffiti if it were useful! The rule for final acceptance of an extract is, 'Does this piece help me get under the skin of the city in some valuable way? Is it something I, personally, would want to read?'
We like to put the famous alongside the less well-known and try to keep one or two slots for young or 'emerging' writers whenever possible, and to use writing translated from as many different languages as possible, including some material translated into English for the first time. It's part of our 'mission' to get Anglophone readers to try more translated writing. The UK publishes relatively few translated books - though it is improving. We want to show people what they're missing and persuade them to enter other cultures by reading the writing that comes from them.  
How would you define a nearly perfectly written travel guide? 
One that doesn't overload you with 'information' but helps you to understand the 'soul' of the place and maybe helps you to fall in love with it - warts and all! One that truly enhances your visit  - or enables you to make a meaningful visit to the city from your own armchair.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What are you ready to do for promoting your book?

Writers Wearing Costumes, Baking Cookies, & Other Mad Men Trick

I am far away of the wonderful moment of thinking about the launch of my book and I am not sure that I am bold enough to try most of the tips presented here. However, there it is an encouragement that if you have inspiration, a lot of chutzpah and a good book, you can sell your book!


Writing objectives for 2013

Looking around my blogs and other writing activities, the last 12 months were pretty challenging, with a lot of ups and downs, both in terms of writing and reading. 

The most important achievement was that I was able to get real money out of writing in English. It was hard, sometimes frustrating and unpleasant - mainly when I had to do with nasty and rude employers or with people that disappeared without paying - but all those small unpleasant details do not matter at all. The news is that I was able to survive for a good couple of months out of my writing job(s). Now, two months after I finally found a good, normal job, doing what I usually do for money - PR and communications consulting - I miss a bit the long writing hours, but I know that I can focus better on specific writing assignments and more focused tasks. Thanks to this new job I do more blogging and I spend more time reading interesting books and trying to find out the best ways for advancing my own writing projects.

Another good news of the last year - that I wanted to write about but got lost into the rush of the last busy weeks of 2012 - was that I was able to use my first $100 out of the sales of a tourist guide I wrote in 2011. It seems as a lot of time since and not too much money - it is an app sold on Apple store at a very low price, that I need to share with the owner of the edition house anyway - but I can hardly describe my happiness when I was announced that there is some cash waiting for me. 

Overall, there were modest results, with big perspectives for the coming months, that I see in terms of writing in the following way:

- I will need to continue improving my English skills and most probably will be tempted from time to time to get another writing project that will help me to keep the standards high. Plus, I can thus save money for the next objective. I have a dear academic project of mine ongoing meaning that at least once the month will continue to share my ideas on academic work, but I will need to have a specific contribution at least once the week. 

- Continuing to read and watch tutorials about writing. I am looking to enrol in some free classes for creative writing or try to have some savings for 1-2 attending some paid ones. If I want to write a novel - (yes) - I will need more than the basic experience of the reader and book critic.

- More blogging! I contribute with content - and completely for free - to at least six blogs, on different topics: travel, foreign affairs, cooking etc. I already have a long list of topics - from book reviews to daily news - that I should finish writing about in the next days, and this will help me to start anew with my usual schedule of writing, with at least once the day one blog post for one of the blogs. I do not plan to open a new blog this year, just focus better on the branding and quality content of the current consortium! I hope that at the end of the next 6 months to be closer to the dream of getting money out of my blogs. This involves another objective of the year: getting more sponsorships! On a sidenote, I will also need to take a serious photography class as I am not always happy with the quality of my pictures used for the blogs.

- Having a blog, or two, allows to the writer the opportunity of attending various interesting events - online and in real life - and write about it. The last year, I started to use this chance, and went to some professional events, and I have at least one another event scheduled for the beginning of February. My priority will be to set up a schedule of events of interest in the next months and try to get the chance to go there, network and get to know interesting people.

- For my cooking blog, I must take a specific class of food writing. I need to read a lot of similar blogs and try to see the main patterns, as well, and I can do it for free. I write completely by inspiration, with the hunger of sharing a couple of words and ideas. I do not pretend to be a food writer, but I love to write about my food and thus, I should be able to do it professionally. The same should be done for my travel blogs, whose style was improved a lot, but still I need to do more before being considered at least at the bottom of the top writers. 

- I plan to have at least one article the month pitched for another blog or media outlet. I do not have nothing in mind for the moment, and I know how difficult pitching may be for me - as a good PR consultant, I am perfect for my customers, but a disaster for me...I need to use more the niche of travel writing and my experiences as an expat.

- I want to launch a new category of writing products: the interviews - with writers, editors, beginner writers, academics, artists. For each blog, I will establish a category of topics and priotities and will try contacting the persons already. I don't dare to try the video option - yet - as I am a terrible camera shy person, but I will try to do it in writing. 

- More reviews to be published on Amazon.com or Goodreads or Shelfari, that will allow me to have a certain visibility but also to get in touch with writers.

- Tons of books to be read and reviewed! I gathered over 300 books on my Kindle, another 100 on my wish list and another that I will be tempted to read at the library!

- What's next in terms of writing, though?

There are two big files on my desk: the projects in waiting - for over 12 months, and the fresh new projects.

The projects in waiting are books on various stages of execution that I plan to finish till March - the latest:

1. My PhD book that should be edited, formated for Kindle and EPub, and launched.
2. A children book that is ready but without illustrations. 
3. A small book on customer relations, that it is 25% done and can be finished as a draft till the end of the next week.
4. A book on foreign affairs, that I have in my mind for over 2 years, is 15% written but not finished because never thought that I am good enough to do it. I should finish the first draft till the end of February, according to my plan.
5. 2 projects of travel books that clear as projects but need to be started somehow. 
6. The most pressing project is a book that should be ready at least by 5th of February, on foreign affairs topics!

For all the current projects I am thinking about self publishing, as I see them not as an opportunity to get money, but as a good promotion for my coming projects. 

What I want to start writing once those projects are done is:

1. An academic book in English, with topics related to my PhD
2. A couple of short stories
3. Gathering the material and thinking about a novel with a historical topic
4. A history project for whom I need funding and thus, I should launch it before as an Indiegogo project. Most probably, I can have enough material for another travel book as well.
5. A project about freelancing, that is only an idea for the moment
6. A new travel writing book, gathering my experiences over the years as a dedicated backpacker. 
7. Launching series of children book, eventually with the proper illustration.
8. A photo book project is hidden somewhere on the back of my head and I need to get some time one day to think more about it.
9. I want also to write a booklet about foreign affairs, essays on different political evolutions that will be nice to be launched the next December. 

 Wish I can finish with at least 70% of the projects in one year time. Anyway, will promise to write as many updates as possible and to keep the track of all my projects at least once the week.

Happy writing year, everyone!