The Wave - the Indian ocean tsunami ten years on

26th, Dec 2014

The daily retreat and advance of the tides is an inescapable part of life on any coast. I have always had a fascination for tides, in part from having grown up in Nova Scotia, whose Bay of Fundy is the scene of the highest tides in the world.

‘Wordsight’ – WG Sebald and the image as text

24th, Nov 2014

We have become used to illustrating our lives. If we want to buy a new digital camera, we take a photo of it in the shop with our smartphone and send it to our friend the digital camera whizz to advise.

The Expatriate Novel in Africa

21st, Sep 2014

Does ‘the African expatriate novel’ exist? Living and working in Africa – as well as reading and writing there – has led me to reflect on novels which share this basic premise.

The Edge of Extinction - a Sokoke Scops-Owl safari

15th, Aug 2014

Sokoke Scops-Owl pair by Andrew McNaughton

We walk single file in silence, threading our way through the wispy trees that line the perimeter of the forest, David, our guide, leading the way. He comes to a sudden halt in a small clearing and looks at us expectantly.

Them and Us: animal consciousness in fiction

09th, Jul 2014

What can we know about the lives of animals? Not much, it seems, although we are trying – to parse the diction in the high-frequency calls of Orcas, to decode the complex physical language of Bonobos.

First make them laugh

13th, Jun 2014

How to be funny, as writers - or funnier, at least? This was a surprise topic of discussion on a recent week-long residential fiction writing course I co-tutored at Ty Newydd, the National Writers' Centre of Wales.

Everything is happening now – the present tense in fiction

16th, May 2014

I have always had trouble fully locating the present moment. This is worrying, given that we are supposed to live in the present. If the present moment is our only home but I can’t grasp it, then what’s left to inhabit – a continual reminiscence or an anticipation of the future?

Precocious talents - Lessing, Galgut, Catton

06th, Apr 2014

There are few professions that reward youth less than being a writer. Prodigies abound in music, mathematics, even painting, but writing a literary novel of depth, perception, intelligence and ambition is usually seen as a product of experience. And, as we know, experience takes time.