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The Prize is Right?
Category: Writing

When the winner of this year’s Man Booker Prize was announced as Anna Burns’ novel Milkman, my curiosity was aroused, not so much by the book, but by the comments of chief judge Kwame Anthony Appiah. He said that the book was a challenge, “but in the way a walk up Snowdon is challenging”. He added that Milkman is “enormously rewarding if you persist with it”.

My curiosity was satisfied by Allison Pearson’s excellent and very balanced Daily Telegraph article, which not only laid bare the body of this strange work, but also buried it.

Experimental novel Milkman is set in Northern Ireland during the troubles and narrated by an 18-year-old girl who finds herself pursued by a sinister, much older paramilitary figure, the Milkman of the title. Anna Burns writes in long paragraphs and there are no names. Instead, the narrator is known as “middle sister”, while other characters are “third brother-in-law” or “first brother-in-law” and a chirpy, car-obsessed “maybe-boyfriend”. Even the book’s title is a dark joke: the IRA delivered petrol bombs in milk crates to doors at the corner of every street.

Allison considers herself a rather good and passionate reader, but judges the novel as “undeniably hard work” and not exactly the kind booksellers expect to fly off the shelves. She also takes issue with Appiah’s comment of “enormously rewarding if you persist with it”, being of the firm opinion that you shouldn’t need to persist with a great book, you shouldn’t be able to put it down. I echo the comments of the last speaker.

So why did what sounds like a real clunker win one of literature’s richest prizes? When Booker McConnell established the award in 1969, it was open to British, Commonwealth and South African writers. In 2002, the Man investment group took over sponsorship and increased the prize from £21,000 to £50,000. Most controversially, in 2013, eligibility was broadened to any English-language novel. To quote Allison once more: “it wasn’t hard to foresee what would happen when the juggernaut of US creative writing was allowed to bear down on a Morris Minor”. Since then two Americans have won, and the longlist and shortlist are packed with US novelists. There were two excellent US novels on the 2018 shortlist, one the bookies’ favourite, but with a prize now fending off accusations of American dominance, neither could be adjudged the winner.

Allison: “Not only is Milkman not the best book on the shortlist, it’s not even the best book on the longlist where Warlight cast its spectral magic and Normal People told a love story that had critics swooning”.

The Booker Prize seems to have been racked with controversy from the beginning. Winner of the 1994 award, James Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late provoked a storm of criticism. Judge Rabbi Julia Neuberger declared it “a disgrace” and “crap”. WH Smith’s marketing manager condemned it as “an embarrassment to the whole book trade”. It’s one of a long line.

Judges are not simply the same old faces. Each year, an advisory committee is formed which includes a writer, two publishers, a literary agent, a bookseller, a librarian, and a chairperson appointed by the Booker Prize Foundation. The committee selects the judges from amongst leading literary critics, writers, academics and important public figures. Rarely does any judge sit a second time. But many in the literary world cast serious doubts on the ability of a small number of insiders to choose a ‘best book’. The Guardian introduced the "Not the Booker Prize", voted for by readers, partly as a reaction to the system.

Literary prizes should be awarded to the best works. Period. We can do better.

November 2018 News
Category: Site News
Tags: writers abroad newsletter creative writing prompt flash fiction

Here is the link to our latest Newsletter if you haven't received it...and if you email us your story or poem in response to our Monthly Muse, you could see your work published in a future newsletter!

MUSE OF THE MONTH - NOVEMBER

Use this picture for inspiration to write a piece of flash fiction or short poem. Could be anything from 6-100 words or a maximum of 30 lines.

Or if you prefer a word prompt... Decision Making

Post your work to Writers Abroad and your story/poem could be published here in our next newsletter!

 

The Six Human Needs of Motivation Tags: writing motivation writers block inspiration

 

The paper sorting system!

Last May I began the search for a new career. Something that would allow me to wind down from the more than full time management work I’d done for so many years. I chose a job that would give me the same time off that students get and became a school health aide. 

I wanted the vacation and holiday time to get my body into shape, to write, and to sort the thirty-nine boxes of memorabilia I’ve been carrying around for more than twenty years.

Not small boxes, large bins really.  Full of photos, kid’s artwork, certificates and trophies, newspaper clippings, baby feet clay plates, sheet music and music books, cd’s, VHS’s, cassette tapes and, of course, short stories, novels and songs I’d written.

I left out my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother’s things because I want to get to the point of the story.

At the end of September I stopped. Motivation fled and for two weeks fifteen boxes of photos and papers stared at me from the corner of my bedroom.  My plan was to sort these into “story groups”, like the time we crash landed our plane and were written up in the Mexican newspaper, or when at sixteen I hitchhiked across Europe. But I’d lost my forward momentum and nothing could get me across the room for that last push.

Until my granddaughter came home from school and announced she’d joined a writing club that participated in NaNo WriMo each November. 

And there it was. My motivation to finish the sorting and write the book I’d planned to.  We would write together. She agreed, and at 6PM tonight (Sunday), I’ve finished the sorting. I have over forty short story candidates and all I need to do before November first is sign up.

But that’s not the reason I wrote the blog. I wrote this because I was astounded at how quickly I went from no motivation to fired up and raring to.  Astounded and curious. How did that happen?

I looked up motivation, but nothing resonated with me until I read Tony Robbins’ theory of the Six Human Needs of Motivation.  He says if you can pick your top two primary needs from the following list then it will become obvious how your decisions and behavior are influenced. 

To sum up what he teaches:

All humans have six basic needs that make us tick. Everyone is motivated; we’re just motivated by different needs.

All human behavior is motivated by meeting certain needs. This means we are always motivated to do what we do.

1. The need for certainty. The need for safety, stability, security, comfort, order, predictability, control and consistency.

2. The need for uncertainty. The need for variety, surprise, excitement, difference, chaos, adventure, change and novelty.

3. The need for significance.  The need to feel unique, important, special, worthy or needed. 

4. The need for love and connection. The need to feel connected with, and loved by other human beings.  To belong, to be seen, to be part of a community.

5. The need for growth. The need to challenge yourself and develop emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically.

6. The need for contribution. The need to give beyond ourselves, serve, protect and care for others. Create a legacy. Create something that surpasses your own needs and desires.

What are you driven by?  What are your two primary needs and how are they influencing your decisions and your behavior today?

Any guesses on what need motivated me to finish the sorting and preparation for National November Writing Month??

             

The resulting short story ideas

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