Friday, 25 June 2010

90 year old poet's surprise win!

Eleanor Ross Taylor is hardly a well known poet. Yet she has been announced as the recipient of the American Poetry Foundation's Ruth Lilly award which attracts a winning prize of 100,000 US dollars. Pretty impressive hey!

Taylor debuted in 1960 with her work Wilderness of Ladies and her collection out last year was only the 6th collection of poems that she has written in 50 years.

Known for her dislike of poetry readings, slow output and 'unfashionable fidelity to narrative and clarity', haven't helped in the raising of her profile over the decades. But now, in her 90's, recognition of her work has been made.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Edinburgh International Book Festival

On Thursday 17th June the Edinburgh International Book Festival was officially launched, with an online programme now available to download from their website

The festival, running between 14th and 30th August 2010, will include talks and workshops from legendary writers and thinkers (including four Nobel laureates and four Booker winners and over forty debut authors). Hundreds of books will also be available to purchase, from a full range of genres.

The Official Festival website states that "Writers are fundamental to our understanding of the world: away from the barrage of instant news information, they give a more subtle perspective on everything from complex economic issues to hilariously wayward relationships. We aim to bring these perspectives into focus through our events and daily debates. Meanwhile our stellar RBS Children's Programme is an explosion of imagination and wonder designed to inspire readers of all ages. Writers and readers come together in seventeen days of entertainment, discussion and pure inspiration. Welcome to the world's greatest festival of ideas."

Sounds fab doesn't it?!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Oxford tops the University league tables again

Oxford remains at the top of the Guardian's University League tables for the 6th year running, with their primary rival, Cambridge, holding second place.

Warwick came third, St Andrews fourth; with University College London, Lancaster, Imperial College, London School of Economics, Loughborough and York in the top 10. Unfortunately for the capital, London Metropolitan has come last.

The tables provide vital information for the more than 600,000 university applicants who this year face the toughest ever competition for places.

Universities and Students to help the tax payer

"Until the deficit is brought under control, argues Mark Corney, there can be no rise in funding for universities. The taxpayer should contribute less and graduates should pay more". This is the opening line of today's news item by the guardian which suggests that the £200m cut in higher education spending during this financial year by the new government demonstrates that higher education is not immune from the fiscal crisis. So far, tuition funding does appear to have been spared. Nonetheless, David Willetts, the higher education minister, hinted last week that tuition fees would have to rise, as he warned that the cost of students' degree courses was a "burden on the taxpayer" and that the way students pay for universities needed to be thought about "more creatively".

It is an interesting take on a way forward for financial cuts. But is it sustainable or practical, targetting a group of individuals who are often already financially challenged at this point of their lives anyway? Can students really help the taxpayer?

Sunday, 13 June 2010

'Tell me about yourself'

Tell me about yourself is a frequent and favourite opener to a job interview. Steve Preston in HSJ advises that you should 'aim to intrigue not inform'.

PCTs depend on outside comissioning support

'Two thirds of PCT chief executives or directors depend of commissioning responding to a Kings Fund survey said that they did not feel able to attain the top level 4 score in the world class commissioning assurance process without using external support from providers such as management consultants or strategic health authorities'(HSJ April 2010). So why is their a perception that commissioning is weak and ineffective? PCTs do not have the internal resources and staff to work on the assurance process alone. Surely external support is the most practical option?

PCTs behind the times on Facebook and Twitter

The HSJ reported that PCTs are failing to capitalise on the power of the social media. Networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are a powerful tool for companies to communicate to their communities. If PCTs do not have a powerful online presence then they are cutting off vital links to reach people. The promotion of healthcare online is recognised as a significant aspect of communication and if the PCTs are unable to engage with people in this manner then they will be throwing away such a ready built audience.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Hay Festival

The Guardian’s Hay festival is renowned for being the Holy Grail of literary festivals. It certainly is swamped by media coverage and a wealth of people willing to descend upon the small town of Hay-on-Wye. Having never been before I thought I would go and see what all the fuss was about, so early last Saturday morning I went sauntering down the M4 for the Hay Festival’s last weekend.

From the outside it looks like some overblown marquees in a field with a few limp silk flags. However, once inside, I was quite astonished about the amount of people in such a small space. After wandering around the stalls and bookshops for an hour or so I was feeling a little disheartened. I wasn’t getting the excitement of literature that I expected to wash over me as soon as I entered. Speaking to a retired advertising and marketing manager I asked him if he thought this was all a bit contrived. After laughing (at what I presume was my naivety) He said that of course this was all contrived (we were sitting in deckchairs comparing free samples of ethically sourced coffee at the time) but what mattered was the quality of the speakers and their ideas.

After seeing Mark Kermode (the film critic, who was funny and more charming on stage than he is on the radio), I went to see Yann Martel (famed for writing The Life of Pi) who was speaking on the Guardian stage about his new novel Beatrice and Virgil and the nature of human cruelty. The essence of his argument was that the taboo surrounding the approach to the holocaust means that there are not enough artistic interpretations of it and this in turn limits our response. History needs different perspectives and conflicting views in order for the truth to emerge. You may not agree with one response but this does not render it invalid (‘Silence is not useful’ to anybody). Martel did not come across as warm or dynamic but I enjoyed and agreed with his ideas on the interpretation of history. His talked also worked in the marketing sense: I bought The Life of Pi.

The crime writer Val McDermid spoke to Marcel Berlins about her writing, morality and the crime novel. This wasn’t an event I had planned to go to and I haven’t even read one of her novels but I thought I would go along anyway. Her audience had a very noticeable demographic of ‘nice old ladies’ (as one audience member put it) which was curious given the violence contained within her novels. McDermid was both amiable and interesting- a nice way to start my Sunday morning.

I ended Sunday by going to see two art history talks. The first was an investigation on the drama of the self-portrait by the Observer art critic Laura Cumming. This was pleasant, mildly funny and quite instructive to someone like me who knows little about art history. The second was the Story of Graphic Design, a talk by Patrick Cramsie. Cramsie seemed a little nervous and although the talk was good, it wasn’t as revolutionary as I had hoped.

I will definitely attend Hay next year but I will go with a different attitude. You need to go to Hay festival for a longer period of time and see as varied a range of events as possible to try and dig out the ideas and immerse yourself. It will still be commercialised and most speakers will probably still be trying to plug their new book subtly but this facilitates the magnificence of learning something new and speaking to people who get as excited about books as you do. I suppose this is what the Hay festival really is all about: the ideas and the literature are the core, surrounded by the slightly woolly and commercialised presence. Pretention aside: books are books and I love them!

For more photos visit our facebook page here.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Mini writer retreats offered

A company in London has started to offer two hour mini retreats on weekday evenings; giving city workers the opportunity to 'get away from it all' after their working day has finished.

The retreats run on Mondays and Tuesdays at The Cube, Studio 5 (commercial street, London) and cost £10 or £50 for 6 retreats.

The company also offers weekend day retreats for individuals living in or near the capital.

Check out their website

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

New book release for job seekers

A newly released resource book for individual's looking to secure a job, Lorraine Mills' 2010 release covers everything from CV content and layout, interview preparation and how to handle interview feedback. With the contents of the book split into short, user-friendly chapters, it is easy to navigate around and makes it the perfect resource book for those of us who want something to 'dip into' from time to time and for those of us who like to read things from cover to cover.

My personal favourite element of the book is the acronym found at the very beginning of the book where Mills states "work hard to get the job by following the suggested rules and go to your interview with PURPOSE.

P: Punctual
U: Up to date
R: Reassured
P: Prepared
O: Organised
S: Smart
E: Enthusiastic"

This isn't an acronym I have heard before for job seekers and I think it cleverly sums up the approach a modern job seeker needs to take.

There cetainly isn't anything ground breaking in this book - the information provided on CVs and interviews can be found in almost all books of this genre and there is often repitition in the messages she gives which hinders the flow of the book if you do choose to read it from cover to cover. But Mills' tone is different to that found in other similar reads; she is direct and often blunt in her message, particularly in her chapters on personal hygiene and interview dress. The tone is refreshing and, as anyone who has carried out interviews before will second, often well placed.

You can purchase How to get that job! direct from the Matador website:

Usbourne launches 2nd Young Writer competition

The Young Writer's Award 2010 from the children's publisher Usbourne is aimed at children under the age of 14 years. It asks entrants to complete stories started by five of their top authors.

The winning story will be turned into an iphone application and will be available for others to download from the ITunes store. Furthermore, the winners will meet the 5 authors in London, they will have an author visit their school, receive £100 worth of Usbourne books and get a tear's subscription to

The finished entries must be 1000 words or fewer and must be emailed or sent by post by 22nd October 2010. Only one entry per person is allowed.

Digital Sales

A 27% rise in UK digital sales has been seen since 2007, a recent statement from the Publishers' Association reports. Some £150m worth of ebooks were sold in 2009 alone, which represents 5% of the total sales of UK publishers.

The bulk of this came from the academic and professional book sector, whilst general consumer titles generated £5m.

Simon Allen, president of the Publishers' Association told The Bookseller "Too few people read books - in any form - and any technological advance that shifts this behaviour is good not just for the publishing industry but for society."

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dickens Festival, Broadstairs in Kent

Whilst this isn't technically a literary festival, more of a mixed arts family festival, many literature highlights are included. The festival is focused around the works of Charles Dickens and there is a finale Festival Play "The Odd Curiosity Shop" as well as readings and talks that are suitably 'Dickens-orientated'.

There is a great range of other activities too to keep the family entertained, including a costume exhibition, cricket match and competitions.

Worth a little visit! Found in Broadstairs between 19th and 25th June 2010.