Writers who inspire me with their unstinting effort. T. E. Lawrence, who lost the only copy of his massive The Seven Pillars of Wisdom on a train and immediately began to write another version. Shirley Hazzard, who wrote thirty drafts of her masterpiece The Transit of Venus.
When Penny Hancock switched the beds in her home she didn’t expect it to cause writers’ block. Here she examines how her habit of writing under the covers has proved essential to her process and how this simple piece of furniture can be symbolic, both on and off the page.
'Keats describes his position as he is writing, with his back to the fire, one foot on the rug and the other dangling over it. He considered it would be a great delight to know the exact bodily position in which Shakespeare began ‘To be or not to be’. '
Penny Hancock describes how losing her sense of smell had an unexpected impact on her writing and considers the importance of scent in building both real and fictional worlds.
Ros Schwartz speaks with Ann Morgan about translating classic literature, learning to ventriloquise other writers, the importance of leaving some words untranslated and the linguistic challenges of the front-loading washing machine.
'It seems I share the writing fetishes of several people. I conclude, that I'm unusually neurotic and pervy, which may be why I'm vulnerable to writer's block. Perhaps, if you have lots of rituals you make yourself vulnerable?'
Lizzie Collingham describes some of her research into the history of food, and the way she uses this to evoke a powerful sense of the past.
Penny Hancock considers some famous examples of writers who have chosen, for various reasons, to remain anonymous, and why this, paradoxically, often increases the public’s interest in them.
'My default reading is old thrillers, specially the novels of Simenon, of which there are a lot. I particularly like thrillers dating from the seventies.'
'I wanted access to people, places, cultures, different from my own; and reading, especially fiction, seemed to give me that.'
'I had to throw off the shadows of Samuel Johnson's perfection before I could write. But they have not left me. Often I feel their tug as I struggle to craft a sentence.'
'I can't imagine that anyone has conveyed the feeling of nostalgia better than Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead; nostalgia for youth and happier times, but also for the great country houses of England.'