4 ways that Spark London is good for writers

SPARK LONDON AT THE HACKNEY ATTICIf you listen to blues songs, you will discover that amongst the angst, the stories of “my baby done packed her suitcase and caught the midnight train” (they must have amazing rail services in the USA because all the trains seem to depart at midnight), and being down and out, there are some real glimpses of a deeper Truth, with a capital “T”.
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Discovering Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie at Skylight Books.I always try to follow my intuition. Thus it was that a couple of weeks ago, with deadlines pressing on me, and pressure from all sides, I decided to ignore my intellectual protestations and listen to my inner voice.

That voice whispered to me:

You haven’t looked at The Atlantic for a while, have you? Go check it out.”

So I did, and I came across an interview with a writer I’d never heard of, Sherman Alexie.

Alexie is a Native American writer, which is why I suppose I’d never come across his work. Interestingly, he refers to himself as “Indian”, which we are told is politically incorrect. I think I’d rather take Alexie’s word for that. But anyway….

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The biggest bookshop in England

bookshop-bagginsHeaven for me is being ensconced in a bookshop, later followed by my supping a latté while exploring my new-found gems. Second-hand bookshops are by far the best kind, because you never know what you might come across that you would almost certainly not happen upon in a new bookshop or on Amazon. After all, it was in a second-hand bookshop that I came across a copy of a writers’ magazine published in 1937 – and it didn’t cost me the earth either!
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A brief review of Word Hippo

word hippoI recently heard about Word Hippo, from a school pupil at Victoria Park Academy in the West Midlands, England. It’s an online dictionary, thesaurus and general all-round word helper.

I’m used to using the Oxford English dictionary and similar reference works, to which I have access through my library membership, so I wasn't feeling tremendously optimistic when I approached

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Blogging software

Catching up on e-mail...I've recently been having a few problems with Windows Live Writer and Squarespace. Well, one problem actually: they refused to work together any longer. Each time I clicked on "Send to blog", an error message popped up saying "We can't find it", or words to that effect.

That's all fixed now, thanks to the good folk at Squarespace, but in the meantime I thought I'd check out some of the alternatives.

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From Paper to Computer

Notes being taken feverishlyIt’s confession time again. When I said that I like to work on paper, for instance when drafting an outline for an article, I omitted to mention one important fact. Apart from when I jot things down in a notebook I carry around in my inside jacket pocket, all the notes I write the old-fashioned way are converted into a digital form as soon as possible afterwards.

There are two main reasons for this, both of them pragmatic.

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Review of FocusWriter

FocusWriter timerJust before starting this article I thought I ought to check my email. Then I checked the FocusWriter website to see if there was an update, or a UK English dictionary. Then I had a quick look at my TwitterFeed when something popped up in the corner of my eye. Then...

Well, anyway, when I finally got round to actually putting FocusWriter through its paces, I could see it was designed for people just like me

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Keeping track of time

2146They say that time is money, and this is certainly true for the professional writer. If you’re billing a client according to the amount of time spent on the project, you’ll need to keep an accurate record of that. You could use a spreadsheet, which certainly has its advantages, but the beauty of Taskcoach is that it will actually record the precise amount of time you clock up – as long as you remember to set it going when you start work!

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Review of 30 Day Blogging Challenge, written by Nikki Pilkington

If you're looking for a handy, no frills book of suggestions for blogging, this book should meet your requirements. Having been designed as an email course, 30 Day Blogging Challenge consists mainly of 30 very short articles on different aspects of blogging. Being able to buy the whole lot in the form of a book is excellent for those of us for whom deferred gratification is an alien concept.

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Review of Problogger’s Guide To Blogging For Your Business

Before looking at the book in detail, it’s worth pointing out what the book is, and is not. It is, as the title implies, concerned with blogging in order to promote your business. It is not about blogging as a business in itself. It’s an important distinction, not least because once we take money out of the equation then “business” can be used as shorthand for any type of enterprise, including a charity, a cause, or a school.

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Some of my reference books

writers reference booksJust because I love technology and spend a lot of time on the web, and writing for the web, doesn’t mean I’ve eschewed books. I still use books extensively (and intensively) for my writing. Not any books either, but ones written or contributed to by experts.

I think if you’re serious about writing you don’t want to be messing about with so-called “crowd-sourced” information, which may or may not be correct.

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Review of the Kodak Zx1 Pocket Camcorder

The Kodak Zi8 pocket camcorder has a range of options for video, a still photo facility, and a really easy-to-use programme for importing your efforts into your computer and uploading to YouTube, Vimeo and other sites. However, if you’re looking for something a little more rugged, an alternative is the Kodak Zx1. It’s not as pretty, but boy, is it robust!
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Making Notes On Websites

Sometimes I come across a website and think it would be quite useful to bookmark for future reference. However, I sometimes find that on returning to it, I can’t remember exactly why! Or I am looking around a website with the intention of reviewing it, get interrupted, come back to it a week later
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