Two years ago today, on May Day, suitably – having got a top notch agent to represent it but no deal – I self-published my novel about the women in the 1984 miners’ strike, The Gritties.

A couple of nice friends wrote reviews, but then nothing…. I looked at authors’ twitter streams where the content was endless pleas to ‘buy my book’ and thought that was not for me. I would have to be more inventive. Having a grandmother a market trader meant I loved selling when customers were interested, but just to hassle people endlessly and mindlessly? Well, life felt too short…or maybe I was just too chicken.

I read Rachael Abbot, David Gaughran and the indispensable

Dylan Thomas writing shed
In case you missed it, there was a wonderful championing of Dylan Thomas by Owen Sheers on BBC 2 over the weekend.

And for writers, it reached the core of the poet’s genius, his obsession with language, the most apposite word and making the words do exactly what he wanted them to.

We heard poetry professor Paul Muldoon say there was much ‘banging and sawing’ in how Dylan made poetry, his results being ‘clinker-built marvels’ of

American Scholar recently published its 11 best sentences… do you agree?

And Roy Peter Clark ‘with respect and gratitude’ has offered interpretations of why they work, which, we – also with respect and gratitude – have summarized below each sentence:

1.Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

An abstract sentence, but starting with something we can see – the trees – and driving towards ace phrase ‘his capacity for wonder’

2. I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

—James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

A ‘feel of anthem or secular credo’, with ‘forge’ meaning the blacksmith’s activity and ‘to fake’

pampetWe love this essay on hiraeth from the Paris Review.

Here’s an extract to whet you:

‘So hiraeth is a protest. If it must be called homesickness, it’s a sickness come on—in Welsh ailments come onto you, as if hopping aboard ship—because home isn’t the place it should have been. It’s an unattainable longing for a place, a person, a figure, even a national history that may never have actually existed. To feel hiraeth is to feel a deep incompleteness and recognize it as familiar.

Mae hiraeth arna amdanot ti. There’s a homesickness on me for you. Or, if we’re mincing words, I miss you. That’s fair, too. But the deeper, national hiraeth is something you don’t have to go away to experience. You can feel it at home in Wales. In fact, that’s where you feel it most.

I’m American, but I have a hiraeth on me for Wales.