Oliver Goldsmith …

Oliver Goldsmith …

Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774) was an Irish novelist, playwright and poet, who is best known for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), his pastoral poem The Deserted Village (1770), and his plays The Good-Natur’d Man (1768) and She Stoops to Conquer (1771, first performed in 1773). He is also thought to have written the classic children’s tale The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (1765).

Portrait of Oliver Goldsmith by William Hogarth

Charles Darwin ….

Charles Darwin ….

The English scientist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was a naturalist, geologist and biologist best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. He published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. His five-year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author.

Darwin’s study at Down House in Kent

Comfortable, private, quiet: what more could a Victorian gentleman require? Charles Darwin’s life of the mind was almost entirely pursued in his study. The room was his refuge – and also an intellectual powerhouse. This was where he wrote On the Origin of Species, the controversial book that transformed the way scientists think about nature. It was here that he received the shocking news that Alfred Russel Wallace had independently arrived at the same theory of evolution by natural selection, and here that he encountered the storm of criticism when Origin of Species was published in 1859. Although it was the most private of places, hidden away in a village in Kent, Darwin’s activities made it the centre of a global movement for scientific reform.

Darwin researched and wrote 10 substantial books at Down House. He sat in the high-backed leather chair by the fireside, with a board balanced on his knees, his papers and notes close to hand in the alcove behind, surrounded by portraits of his wife and closest friends, the door ajar so that the children might run in. He was a warm-hearted husband and father, and let his children play on the round-topped stool, punting it around the room with his walking stick. At regular intervals he would pick up his hat for a brisk walk around the garden.

But he was also sick. He used the washroom corner, tucked away on the left, during regular bouts of nausea, their cause still undetermined. His study was also where he retreated when guests in the house began to tire him, where he went to read and be quiet. Only the most select visitors were invited inside. It was almost as if he recreated his life on board HMS Beagle, the ship that had earlier taken him around the world. His study was like another cabin, insulated from the world, his wife and household staff like well-ordered midshipmen. Only with this sense of stability, order and privacy did he feel able to put his ideas in front of the world.

Darwin’s cabin on HMS Beagle

 Text: The Guardian – Writers’ Rooms (2008).

Jacqueline Wilson …

Jacqueline Wilson …

The popular and prolific children’s author, Jacqueline Wilson was born in 1945. She has sold over ten million books, which have been translated into over thirty languages.

She is the author of the highly successful Tracey Beaker series which has also been adapted for television. Other works include The Suitcase Kid (1992), The Illustrated Mum (1999), Lizzy Zipmouth (2000), Kiss (2007) and Four Children and It (2012).

Jacqueline has won many awards including the Smarties Prize and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. In June 2002, she was given an OBE for services to literacy in schools and from 2005 to 2007 she served as the fourth Children’s Laureate. In the 2008 New Year Honours, Wilson was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).

In 2007 she was interviewed by the Guardian for their Writers’ Rooms series.

Children are always asking me if I have a special place to write. Well, yes, I have a lovely study – but if I’m honest, most of my writing gets done in other places. I might scribble a few lines in my notebook when I wake up, or scrawl a page while I’m having breakfast. I frequently take my notebook out with me. The train journey from Kingston to London takes exactly half an hour. If pI concentrate really hard, I can manage 500 words by the time the train draws into Waterloo.

Because I’m not necessarily working in my study every day, I always enjoy the times I’m there. The desk used to belong to my daughter, Emma. There are still little drawings she did as a child hidden away in the drawers. I like to have a few special things on my desk as well as my laptop. It’s the only computer I’ve ever owned and I’m still not totally sure how to use it. I write all my first drafts in gorgeous Italian leather notebooks.

She was interviewed again by the Guardian  in 2016 for their My Writing Day series.

I once wrote in a Lett’s School-Girl’s Diary “It would be so wonderful to be a proper writer when I’m grown up. Imagine what bliss it would be to stay at home all day and just write!” Well, I’m a writer now, proper or improper, but sadly I don’t often get to stay at home all day and write. I meet journalists, I go to endless meetings, I do charity work, I talk at festivals, I take part in conferences, I lecture at universities, I visit ill children, I open libraries, I talk on panels, I give interviews on radio and television, and I judge all kinds of competitions. It’s all very interesting and enjoyable, if a bit nerve-racking at times, but it’s ultra time-consuming. It’s difficult managing to produce two full-length books each year. I cope by writing early every morning – even Christmas morning.

I don’t get up that early. I feel exhausted simply thinking about a writer like Anthony Trollope, starting to write at 5.30 am every day, completing 3,000 words in three hours before marching off to do a full day’s work at the Post Office. I don’t even set my alarm, but my cat and my dog are very good at waking me up. I sort them out, make a cup of coffee, go back to bed, prop myself on my pillows and start typing on my laptop.

I don’t reread yesterday’s work, I just get stuck into the story straight away. The first couple of sentences are a struggle. I’m still tense when I’ve done a paragraph. But then somehow my imagination takes over and I’m in a different world. I become my main character, scarcely aware that my own fingers are tapping away as I experience everything through her

 If I’ve got a lot on during the day I let myself off after a mere 500 words, roughly half an hour’s work. If I’ve got time or there’s a deadline looming I write for an hour and am happy with a thousand words. It’s a very modest amount. When I was in my 20s I’d then go on to write at least another couple of thousand words of a magazine story, simply to pay the bills. (They paid by the word in those long-ago days, so my stories were always very long.) However, come to think of it, I probably write that much answering emails and letters in the evenings nowadays, before the magic time when I relax with a good box set and a glass of wine.

I might not write much during the day, but I’m always thinking about my current book while walking the dog, sitting on trains, trailing round shops, and waiting to perform. I always go to sleep thinking about my characters – and they’re there in my head when I wake up, ready to write again.

And here is a Youtube clip in which Jacqueline talks more about her routine.




Way back in April 2015, Bic Biro (Codename: BIROO7), that stalwart of MI6’s Stationery Department, made his WordPress debut. Since then he has had two further adventures and another is currently in the making.

Click on the links below to read Bic’s first outing.




Good writers borrow …

Good writers borrow …

There is a space on everyone’s bookshelves …

There is a space on everyone’s bookshelves …

Markus Zusak … The Book Thief

Markus Zusak … The Book Thief

Markus Zusak (born 23 June 1975) is an Australian writer. He is best known for The Book Thief and The Messenger, two novels for young adults which have been international best-sellers.

The Book Thief was published in 2005 and has since been translated into more than 30 languages. It was adapted as a film of the same name in 2013.

He spoke about his writing routine in an interview for the Guardian in 2008.

I find writing extremely difficult. I usually have to drag myself to my desk, mainly because I doubt myself. And it’s getting harder because I want to improve with every book. Sometimes I guess it’s best just to forget there’s an audience and just write like no one will ever read it at all.

I procrastinate in spades. In my defence, I also try to have all other distractions solved before I can concentrate on writing. My small theory is that to write for three hours, you need to feel like you have three days. To write for three days, you need to feel like you’ve got three weeks, and so on. Ultimately, though, it’s the feeling in my stomach that’s similar to the night before the school assignment is due…and you haven’t started yet. That’s my preparation.

I try to write in slabs. I aim for five hours in the morning, and a shorter period of time in the afternoon, early evening.

I think to be writer you have to enjoy being alone. I was a loner as a teenager and was always drawn to characters in books and films who were at the fringes. It comes down to the difference between loneliness and aloneness. I guess we form relationships with the characters in the books. Again, it’s that strange idea of believing it while you’re writing it.

Don’t be afraid to fail. I fail every day. I failed thousands of times writing The Book Thief, and that book now means everything to me. Of course, I have many doubts and fears about that book, too, but some of what I feel are the best ideas in it came to me when I was working away for apparently no result. Failure has been my best friend as a writer. It tests you, to see if you have what it takes to see it through.

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