Saturday, 25 August 2012

On writing readably

Tufts University has a graduate blog called The Right Stuff, which recently posted on getting your thesis published as a book:-
I recently published a similar article myself for the PhD to Published blog :- 
When I read the Tufts posting, it dawned on me that I have never, to date, written about readable writing.  It stands to reason that your writing has to flow, and it needs to be both accessible and enjoyable to read.

I believe I do write accessibly - I'm a great believer in plain English, and in saying what you have to say without unneccessary complexity.  

(Critics would say, at this point, that I had no right to make that last paragraph just one sentence long.  Hadn't I?  What if I wanted to?!  When we musicians harmonise tunes, strict rules tell us not to write "parallel fifths", or to move in parallel motion to an open octave.  The rules worked well for Bach and Mozart.  But did they stop Vaughan Williams or Sibelius?  Indeed they did not.  They composed how they wanted, to achieve the effect they wanted!  I rest my case.)

But back to the topic in hand.  One of my doctoral examiners commented that I "really made the characters of those song-collectors come to life."  At the time, I gracefully accepted the compliment without explaining where that particular knack came from.  I have a wealth of experience in - shhh! fiction writing - some years behind me.  So I've decided to come out: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm also a storyteller.  I've published over 30 short stories and a serial in the popular magazine press.

If you want to write readably, write in other formats than just your normal scholarly style.  You don't have to publish your efforts.  But I suggest that if you can make your subject interesting for other audiences, then it will help you to make "the book" interesting, too.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Alexander Campbell, a particular friend of mine

Inspiration struck!  Someone is tweeting from Walter Scott's letters (@WalterScottNews).  It occurred to me that, in similar vein, I could tweet from song-collector Alexander Campbell's 1815 summer diary.  He spent 3 months wandering the Highlands and Western Isles (aka, The Hebrides).  Round about now, he was on the Isle of Ulva and also visiting Staffa and Fingal's Cave.

Watch my tweets @Karenmca #AlexanderCampbell

(Maybe I should have posted this on, my work blog, but I'm on holiday this week, and I do try not to blog there while I'm off!)

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Hebridean bluestockings

Image from, with thanks
Way back in 2009, before I submitted my thesis, I spent some time following up the song- and tradition-collecting activities of some early bluestockings on Mull.  They got a mention in the thesis, and subsequently got much more of a mention in an essay that I wrote, devoted to their lives and musical activities.  The essay was for a competition, but - well, our team didn't win.

Undeterred, I submitted it to a scholarly journal.  Again, our team didn't win.  Indeed, our team was somewhat savaged this week, and that hurt.  However, although I could see what some of the objections were, I remain convinced that there's a home for it somewhere.  Accordingly, I've revised it again, but I woke this morning with one of those convictions-that-happen-overnight:

I need more information.

I've taken steps to track it down, so now I must wait patiently to see if it's traceable.  The other thing I need to do is check out future destinations for these ladies.  I've come across a journal that looks potentially suitable, but there's no harm in checking with friends who've already published there.