Welcome - The International Writers Magazine
- March 2009
writing from across the globe.
March 1st: New Editorial due next week as March
takes on definition. New edition of Hacks just posted - so have a look
around and a big thanks to all our contributors.
the world heads ever downward in an economic spin I've been doing
my duty and been to see a number of the Oscar nominees and winners.
Disappointment seems to be the central feeling I have come away
with. Sure Benjamin Button is technically amazing, but it
is hard to build a story around a cipher and whereas Forest Gump
was interesting, Button doesn't really have much to say - ever.
In particular we find him having an affair in Moscow at the time
of the Starlin purges. Do we see anything of Russia, death in the
streets, the paranoia, the real meat and potatoes of (ok just potatoes
as there wasn't much meat) of Soviet life? Not a trace. War World
Two gets a good look in as the war 'comes to him' but it's like
a demented moment from Das Boat and this whole movie feel
is like that - all surface and tricks but no real heart. But definitely
should win something - the soundtrack, hair and make-up perhaps.
Cate Blanchette for best support perhaps. *Seems I got it right
for the technicals and soundtrack and of course the cinematography.
to see Bolt but avoid the 3-D version if you want to save
your eyes and your money. Guys at Disney spend money on STORY not
3-D. Please. Too late I guess judging from all the 3-D films coming
down the spike. I might also say that the best part of Bolt
was the first bit when he really thought he was a superdog with
a super bark and wanted more. I probably enjoyed it more than my
pal but the hamster made her laugh and the cat, Mittens- stolen
from other Disney movies, was at least nice and cynical. I like
this film best of all this year so far.
to see Woody's Vicki, Christina Barcelona on the promise that
he was back in form. That's the funniest idea I heard in a long time.
Please someone take away his toys now before he destroys all goodwill.
It's singularly unfunny with a odd dry corporate voiceover that explains
everything you are seeing and that's like a Filmmaking 101 no-no right.
Sad, pathetic film with all the tourists shots of someone who couldn't
be bothered to find the real Spain. It only comes alive when Ms Cruz
arrives and all that did was make Scarlett look so ordinary and dull
you can't beleive anyone could find her interesting, let alone an artist.
I am kinda angry that anyone can compare this to the hilarious and well
crafted Annie Hall or wonders of Broadway Danny Rose days.
Retire Woody now whilst this film is making money. I am glad Penelope
Cruz won an Oscar for best supporting actress for in reality there would
be no film here without her.
dragged to 'He's Not that into you' as well. Smug, sad, strange,
with some laughs, but so desperate, why oh why are people going to it?
This is chick flick by numbers.
I also managed The Reader. It's depressing, Raph Feinnes is too
old for the role given the number of years passed but Kate Winslet is
technically brilliant. But you may want to snack on prozac during the
film. Perhaps we could have a rest on Nazi films in 2010? Kate Winslet
wins the Oscar and it was an astonishing performance.
least Nick and Nora's infinite playlist actually delivered
something. It was funny, affectionate, a treat and then disappeared
in a week. I am beginning to suspect that no one actually knows
a good movie anymore and just go to the crap because they are
told to. Michael Cera is a curious heart throb but this film had
heart and soul and funny support kids too.
least there was Slumdog Millionaire. The world's firlst feel
good torture movie. Beautifully shot, some rewarding performances, it
is the stand-out movie of the Oscar choices and worth seeing. But ask
anyone, it's sure as hell is no siren call for visiting India. Makes
us feel good about all our 'honest' cops here though and I guess that
makes it safe. I am glad it has swept the board and won eight
Oscars. It is a truly vibrate film and audiences love it. A popular
is only one film that really deserves an Oscar. That's Wall-E.
The best film of this decade and the most savvy about our future.
Visually stunning, often funny and very scary about our future.
I am so happy it won.
Finally a film that won't win Oscars is Push - out right
now starring Dakota Fanning. Have to say I enjoyed it despite the
bland leading man. I guess I needed a Heroes boost before the start
of the new series.
Happy Film going.
have reached February 2009 pretty much intact. Obama is in charge and
hitting the ground running. Its the Year of the Ox and hes
an Ox so expect a very steady hand, plain speaking and determination.
Hes a perfect match for our times and boy do we need a sensible
pair of hands. I'm impressed so far.
The streets are filling up with protesters right across Europe and by
all means there is a lot to protest but I don't really think anyone has
a solution out there - not one that will magic up prosperity and return
the Depression Genie back into the flask. Certainly not Gordon Brown.
In the UK in Lincolnshire men were protesting that Italians and Portugese
are filling jobs they could do - indeed it makes little sense to ship
men all the way from Italy to weld pipes in England but then, we can and
do work anywhere in Europe if we want to and that's a great right to have.
I'd hate for short term protectionism to scupper that. Protectionism was
the fatal flaw of the Great Depression in the 1930s and it is tempting
for politicians to go down that road. (Check US Steel for US projects
which is going to be more expensive than Indian or UK steel for example).
If we are going to turn our backs on global economics be prepared for
everything getting a lot worse and political solutions you may not savour.
Extreme Left or Right.
Meanwhile the bankers quaffed $1000 dollar wine in Davos and thanked their
lucky stars they bought the Villas, Aston Martins, Football clubs, and
paid the school fees before everything went tits up. Am I alone in not
giving creedence to this idea that we need bankers and their billion dollar
bonuses so the rest of us can enjoy trickle down prosperity. Can we burn
an effigy of Milton Freedman now and have done with him forever? Do you
feel trickle downed? I'm just asking. If it is so great that people can
pay $20,000,000 for a house why can't they pay say a ten percent property
tax on that so we can build fifty homes for rent to teachers or firemen
or whomever - - just an idea. They can even cut the ribbon when they open.
Right now you are
probably reeling as the daily toll of jobs lost and businesses going
bust seems pretty much endless. Its not going to stop either,
not for a while until this thing burns through. Lives will be ruined
and dreams broken, but Im old enough to have lived through this
before, the last time Labour was in power in the UK in fact. History
tells me its going to take a lot longer to recover than last time,
as the speed of the decline has been so rapid and the stakes so much
It was obvious last year when the oil price went berserk, reaching $147
a barrel, that this would break the back of the boom only few
people were really saying that at the time. Some were predicting oil
at $200. Crazy. No one seemed to reading history at all.
It happened in the seventies with the same effect, oil spiking at $80-90
bucks, Israel at war with its neighbours. As inflation soared wrecking
career options, no one could get mortgages or loans they could afford
to pay back- inflation was at 25%. For a while the future was cancelled
and there was loose talk of military coups, even in the UK.
So here we are again and with the recession will come other stresses
and strains too, social upheaval, transforming values. What can you
do to beat it? Thats a little harder.
Someone quite close to me is going through that now. Its not just
unemployment; its a loss of a way of life and self-validation.
With no job one can often lose confidence. Right now its possibly
time to make a whole life change, but to what? How do you know if that
is the right choice and that you wont end up on the scrap heap
ten years down the line all over again? Well you dont. There are
no certainties. I can guarantee that.
After film school I wrote. I was determined to make it as a writer.
Finally after much heartache and criticism from the family who desperately
wanted me to get a real job I finally broke through with
my first novel published in the UK, USA and Europe. Ten years later
Id had four novels published and a possible writing for TV career
looming. I was still earning some money from writing radio plays but
it was dying as a profession as series and drama slots got cancelled
(it still thrives in the UK but theres a firewall there
way too hard to break through without influence).
Suddenly it stopped- everything stopped. It took me a whole year to
realise that I wasnt going to be earning a living from writing
anymore at least not from books. It began to dawn on me that
money from royalties wasnt coming in. In fact I never even got
statements trusting people has been my major fault for years.
It was very painful realisation for me to realise that publishers look
after themselves and their penthouses first and I wasnt going
to get paid, or find out the truth. For one moment there was a glimmer
of hope. Id just sold a newly completed book. An historical novel
Id been researching and working on for over eighteen months. The
US publisher offered an advance of $15,000 but two months later at the
proof stage, when they finally paid up, the cheque bounced. The company
had folded just like that. The New York and London agents were unbelievably
unsympathetic and we parted company.
I had an accident in Vancouver that month and needed an urgent operation
and wow, the speed of my personal meltdown was swift as I realised I
had no money and everyone else was scaling back or going under too.
It was scary. I had to sell everything to stay afloat and make some
I went into teaching, been there ever since. What Im saying it,
I thought I had a career, struggled to get it, paid my dues, but it
didnt work out. I did try to keep going the Ox trait of
keeping on keeping on but fortunately I met someone who basically
made me face up to the need to earn a living and move on.
That was the hardest part. Moving on.
Sure I didnt give up writing entirely, but once youre out
of the game it gets harder. Sold a few articles got published
in Elle and whatever as I got my book rights back after many
years republished a couple of titles with Lulu to keep them alive, adding
two more new ones because, in the end, if your a writer, you write and
you have to polish your skills or lose them.
Teaching is time-sucking however and then theres marking and if
you take it all seriously, as I do, you want to be a good teacher, not
one of those you may have had who just didnt seem to care. I vowed
Id always care because I remembered my own teachers and their
stunning indifference; extreme pettiness and I never wanted to be one
of those. (Those kind of teachers still exist sadly but you dont
have to speak to them and the students are much more savvy now and know
to limit their exposure).
Teaching has other rewards. You gain friends, good friends. Even though
it ages you real fast, you meet young people with talent and optimism
and you can help, make a difference sometimes, and be supportive.
I love spotting some young writers potential and nurturing that development.
Few go further with it, possibly sensing it is hard road filled with
brutal rejection, but I always live in hope. Theres a great deal
of pleasure in watching someone succeed I discovered. Thats pretty
much all you have to be (aside from knowing what the hell you are talking
about). At first, when I began, I resented giving up my chosen path,
but quickly realised that in actual fact teaching is more rewarding,
less isolating and hey, you get paid. Every month in fact. Unlike six
months or annually or never as a writer.
Just to punish myself even further, I run Hackwriters. Ten bloody
years no less now, getting a new edition out every month for nothing
zero financial return. Yes, truly dear reader I must be certifiable.
Am certifiable in fact.
But we have had successes. Students have built a platform and gone on
to careers in publishing or advertising or as writers, random individuals
I have never met had gotten travel books deals or sold the odd story
from it and it serves a purpose I guess. We even now publish an annual
print version in Borderlines.
So heres the message. Yes there is a recession, things
are bad, you may have lost your job, your way, your savings, but you
can only live in denial for so long. Sooner, rather than later, you
need to pick up the pieces, pack you and your shadow into a new bag
and discover what it is you should be doing. The teaching course could
be a good idea if you are good with people, or doing an MA (in something
that arouses passion in you) you might travel to find yourself but remember
it is still you coming back with baggage. It may be you decide to become
a plumber, a carpenter, police-officer, painter, teach English in Vietnam
it doesnt matter what, as long as you can find a way to
believe in it, enjoy it and not resent it. Change is forced upon us
sometimes, but often, if you learn to go with the flow you learn to
be a totally new person and even get to like that version of you a whole
But heed this its never too late to change turn
things around we live a very long time now. If you are under
35 reading this and live in the West you could statistically live until
you are 95 and the career you had at 35 will be a dim memory by then.
We can live three maybe four lives and have several careers in that
time. It is times like these that make us think of changes and ultimately
makes you take charge of your future rather than leaving it to fate.
And in doing so fate will take care of you.
A very Happy Chinese New Year to you all may the Ox plough a
want to help Hackwriters keep going, buy my new book Mean
Tide. A young adult ghost
story set in Greenwhich, London.
All profits go into the magazine.
Mean Tide by Sam North
'Extraordinary novel about a child's psychic
Lulu Press - ISBN: 978-1-4092-0354-4
Review: 'An engaging, unusual and
completely engrossing read'
- Beverly Birch author of 'Rift'
to live with his spooky Grandma by the river in Greenwich, Oliver
(12) discovers a whole world of disturbed people who are probably
even crazier than the ones he left behind. When he finds a dog with
its throat cut on the beach, everything changes.
range 12-16 and adult
are you worried about your health? Read my book 'Another
. If you have the slightest worry about how to survive the coming flu
pandemic, you need this book and all the proceeds go to keep Hackwriters
the review from Calvin
Curse of the Nibelung - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
by Sam North
Retail - 300 pages - Lulu Press USA
will never be the same again' - Sunday Express
Buy from your favourite on-line retailer
and Noble &
Diamonds - The Rush of '72
now from Amazon.com
terrific piece of storytelling' Historical Novel Society Review
Also printed in the UK and available from
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