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Writing and reading and Quoscript

Every writer was first a reader – usually no casual reader, but a passionate, obsessed and visceral fan of the written word. In fact, writers are so keen on reading that it almost makes them schizophrenic: that itch that keeps them writing necessarily prevents them from spending all possible hours reading the work of others. It was a phenomenon recognised by W B Yeats, who once said that no writer would not rather be reading than writing.

Some writers are late developers, having come to reading late and writing still later, but most can barely remember a time when they couldn’t read. Once able to read, writers devour the written word wherever it shows up, however unpromising the form it takes. As children, we read the backs of cereal packets at breakfast (I still haven’t the remotest idea of the nutritional values of thiamine, niacin and riboflavin, but I note with approval that they still feature on the packs, decades after I, as a primary school child, first puzzled out how to pronounce them); as adults, we’re drawn in idle moments to advertising slogans, a rich source of fun for those with an ironical eye. For some years, I’ve used an old biscuit box for storing cakes. The following earnest message is printed on its side: “Jacob’s believe this tub is the ideal family biscuit container. It’s [sic] flexibility resists the dents and scratches of kitchen life. Jacob’s give the same thought to biscuit and tub selection because we wish you to enjoy your biscuits right through to the very last one.” Beat that when you need cheering up with a cuppa and a biscuit: nothing like a bit of commercial tosh written by someone with a tin ear (forgive the pun)!

Tone is a vital part of the author’s armoury and confident authors entertain by varying and contrasting the tones in what they write. The Irish playwright John Millington Synge, visiting the remote Blasket Islands for research, observed that the female servants in the house where he was staying used a strikingly different form of speech when talking among themselves than when they were speaking to him as their employer, and made use of this discovery in his work. (Rather ignominiously, he discovered this by spying on the women through a hole in the floor of his room – he’d probably be locked up for it today – but that doesn’t detract from its value to a writer. James Joyce trumped Synge’s use of double-speak in his usual virtuoso fashion by writing every chapter of Ulysses in a different voice, reaching his apogee in the ‘Nausicaa’ interlude, an ironic re-telling of a Greek myth using the pulp language of a contemporary women’s magazine.QuoScript is about words: words for discerning readers by writers who know how to write and who can make words work hard… and well. QuoScript is broad church. There are just two rules: the words have to work for the reader; the writers have to excel at their craft. We’re not interested in the snobberies and segregations that have grown up about writing since the written word became accessible to ‘ordinary’ people at about the time Charles Dickens started to write. We won’t pigeon-hole our books by organising them by genre or hierarchy. We can’t see the point of the so-called ‘mid list’. Every book we offer will have been published because we love it and we’ll bring it to the notice of as many potential readers as we possibly can; every author we work with will be someone whom we hold in awe and respect for her or his writing skills. On a par with each author will be every one of our readers: we’ll value and be grateful to every person who has chosen our books to devote precious time to reading them.

We hope this blog will become a vigorous and eloquent sounding board for your ideas, comments and enthusiasms, a continuing dialogue between us and you, our authors and readers, whoever you are and wherever you may be. Please contact us whenever you like: your comments will be appreciated, whether they come in the form of one-liners or fully-fledged articles. We’ll publish as many of them as we can.

Thank you for joining us as we set out.

Mary

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