Down House

Yesterday I drove down to Down House, in Kent, to give a talk about the creative lives of my Darwin and Wedgwood ancestors, and how I came to write This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin. And although I am doing lots of events in and around the publication of the book (for more of those, click here), this, of course, was a particularly special one.

If you’ve never been to Down House, it’s easy to get to from London, and it’s a lovely day out. It’s now in the care of English Heritage, and they’ve done a very good job of recreating the life of the household downstairs. Upstairs, in what would have been not-very-exciting bedrooms, is a series of displays about Darwin’s ideas and discoveries. There are things for children to do, and the nursery displays some lovely examples of the childrens’ creative lives, including my great-grandfather George’s amazingly detailed and careful paper knights, and heraldic drawings: as his oldest daughter, Gwen Raverat, describes in her memoir Period Piece, although he was a physicist by profession, history and heraldry were his lifelong private passions.

And when I looked down from the second floor, where I was giving the talk, it was wonderful to see the next generation of scientists, scholars and storytellers running around the garden, exploring Darwin’s ideas and discoveries, where he own children once played.

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How Agents and Writers Work Together with Jenny Savill

We had an excellent Salon last Monday with agent Jenny Savill, who’s a director at Andrew Nurnberg Associates; we were specifically talking about how writers and agents work together over the long term, rather than just the whole “how to get an agent” thing. As ever, Kellie took notes as we went, and has blogged about it, over at Words Away, so do click through to get the low-down.

And there must be something in the air here in South East London - Kellie and I only live ten minutes apart - because after all the business of Christmas, and the run-up to This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin being published, I’ve finally got round to feeding the poor, hungry Itch.

Even so, I might not have got round to it, if I hadn’t stumbled on a wonderful Tumblr post by a librarian, which has inspired me to riff off it, with a post called As a Mentor and Teacher and Writer and Reader, There’s Something I Want to Say to You.

(p.s. - this isn’t a pic of Jenny’s Salon, as I can’t find one. But it does give the feel of the Salons as a whole.

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Salon Events

If you weren’t able to make it to our December Salon with Zoë Gilbert, whose wonderful debut novel Folk I enjoyed enormously, my co-chair Kellie Jackson has just blogged in detail about it. She also adds all sorts of useful links, so do click through to get a flavour of an excellent evening.

Talking of events, and Words Away, on 25th March I’ll be moving into the guest seat myself - my chair will be filled by an old friend of Words Away, thriller writer Caroline Green. We’ll be talking about The Art of Failure, and how to cope withe ups and downs and bumps and cracks in this strang road. Click through to find out more, and book a ticket.

Looking for This Itch of Writing?

This is the blog associated with my writing life as an author. My other blog, This Itch of Writing, is about creative writing, from the first idea for your first-ever story to the last comma on the second proof, and beyond. 

It's read by writers at all levels, linked to by many MA, MFA and undergraduate creative writing courses around the world, and is the only author's blog recommended by name in the Society of Editors and Proofreaders' Guide Editing Fiction


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Welcome to a new blog on my new website!

So my new website’s up and running. It’s been fun to work on - although as ever I’ve had to sneak the time to do it out of everything else that’s been going on - and I hope you’re finding what you want here.

Mind you, I nearly didn’t put a blog into the new site, because of course my Creative Writing blog, This Itch of Writing, has been out and about for a decade. I can’t move it over here because it would break the links for the dozens of MAs and other creative writing courses who send their students to the Itch.

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