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Thursday, March 17, 2016

That wonderfully flexible form

“The pleasure of writing fiction is that you are always spotting some new approach, an alternative way of telling a story and manipulating characters; the novel is such a wonderfully flexible form.  You learn a lot, writing fiction.” –  Penelope Lively

Writing has been of the utmost importance in the gregarious Lively’s life.  Author of both adult and children’s literature, she earned both a Booker Prize  (for the 1987 novel Moon Tiger) and the Carnegie Medal for British children's books (in 1973 for The Ghost of Thomas Kempe).   In recent years she has been honored as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and elected Vice-President of the Friends of the British Library, one of her main causes.

Beside novels and short stories, Lively has also written radio and television scripts, presented a radio program, and contributed reviews and articles to various newspapers and journals. Her latest work, Dancing Fish and Ammonites, A Memoir, was published in 2013.

She didn’t start writing until she was almost 40 but has been extremely prolific since, generating dozens of books in both of her main genres.  As for how she “sets” her novels, she said, “Every novel generates its own climate.         
You just have to get going with it.”

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned how author Alice Hoffman was “not much of a reader,” so I was intrigued to find that Lively, who was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1933, has just the opposite reaction.
“All I know for certain is that reading is of the most intense importance to me,” she said. “If I were not able to read, to revisit old favorites and experiment with names new to me, I would be starved - probably too starved to go on writing myself.”

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