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FOUR OF THE BEST NON-FICTIONThe Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-fiction (formerly The Samuel Johnson Prize) is billed as ‘the most prestigious non- fiction prize in the UK’. With a £30,000 winning pot, it’s also one of the most lucrative.WINNER► East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, by Philippe Sands (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) A uniquely personal exploration of the origins of international law, centring on the Nuremberg Trials.FINALISTS► Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson (Granta Books) Life among the US black elite. ► The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar (Viking) Decades after the fall of Gaddafi, a son searches for his father in Libya. ► Second-hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Bela Shayevich (Fitzcarraldo Editions) 2015 Nobel Prize- winning polyphonic rendition of voices from post-Soviet Russia.TRY THIS► Brainstorm a list of unusual topics you are interested in. Buttons? The evolution of ears? The loss of woodland? ► How is your life connected to your niche topic? Did you inherit a jar of buttons from your grandmother? Are you studying for a PhD in aural morphology? Are you part of a protest movement tryingto prevent the felling of a particularly beautiful tree? ► Now allow yourself to freefall down the rabbit hole of research on your topic, being sure to keep a record of the order in which you discover each new pieceof information. Use this detective-like record to shape your book and maintain your readers’ interest.Story Genius: How To Use Brain Science To Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron (Ten Speed Press)still find inspiration in step- by-step chapters that make you re-evaluate your characters; so much so you’ll be giddy for the next rewrite.The Magic Words byCheryl B Klein also offersadvice on developing rich characters (‘Emotion is achieved authenticallythrough immersing us in the protagonist’s real experience’), but she delves more deeply into the craft of writing than Cron. Plot, momentum, narrative voice and more are examined in a structured manner, with rules and guidelines: ‘they’re all about anatomising, classifying, mapping, designing’.The Magic Words doesn’t offer as much in-depth focus on character as Story Genius, but Klein’s all-round examinationis more worthwhile if you, like me, need to dip into a guide for help with different elements of writing. And although it is aimed at children’s and YA writers, as Klein says, ‘Take what’s useful, ignore the rest, write the story you need to tell, and enjoy the process’. ❐ KAY HADDENright now.’ She sounds relaxed. ‘I just want to get this out there for now.’ ❐‘one of the buses hit by the 7/7 bombers was on a route I regularly took. It stopped me in my tracks’DANUTA KEAN is a journalist, editor and media analyst. Last year she produced Writing the Future, a report into diversity in publishing and among novelists.She is currently researching diversity in theatre for the AndrewLloyd WebberFoundation.She is @Danoosha on Twitter.BOOKS ABOUT WRITINGSTORYTELLINGSurely we’ve all had an idea for a story that has us rummaging for a piece of paper so we can jotmistake story for the things we see on the page’. And while she agrees that plot, structure and setting are important, ‘story is about how things that happen in the plot affect the protagonist... story is an internal struggle’.Story Genius urges you toget into the mind-set of your characters and understand their needs and desires before plot, setting and structure come into play. Though this may appeal primarily to beginners who have yet to put their characters through any trials and tribulations, writers witha draft already on the go willHandsworth, she wanted to use one of his images: of a street close to where the Agarwal home is set. Bluemoose was accommodating and the resulting cover resonates with the period atmosphere in the book.Duggal feels privilegedto have had such a positive experience. It has taught her the value of small presses. ‘A friend of mine is with a big publisher, but her book came out the same week as one of their big stars and she didn’t get a single call from the publicity department,’ she tells me. ‘Bluemoose has done lots and is working on more.’Duggal has yet to start her next novel. ‘I have an idea and plan to get down to it after Christmas,’ she tells me. Andshe still doesn’t have an agent, though the rich period detail of The Handsworth Times should spark a television deal. ‘People have said that I should get one, but I’m in the middle of everythingdown the beginnings of our next great novel – 0nly to look back days, months, years later and realise that, while the idea was good, the story didn’t actually go anywhere. No? Just me then?Story Genius by Lisa Cron aims to help those of us who struggle with the storytelling aspect of writing by using ‘Brain Science’ (stay with me). Cron claims that ‘story is the language of the brain... [it’s] how we make sense of the world’, but ‘most writers.... Début Interview continuedIt was the best extract we received, and indie publisher Bluemoose Books agreed. They asked to see more. ‘I hadn’t finished the first draft, so Isent them three chapters and explained the situation.’ Duggal seems amazed at how that brief impulse can have taken her so far. ‘They told me to come back to them in six months. I did, and they took me on.’The manuscript was ‘very rough’, she admits, but the publisher guided her gently through the editorial process. ‘They steered me on characters and balancing the action inside the family with what happens outside,’ Duggal recalls. ‘It took five or six months of rewriting to get it finished.’Mindful of reports from published friends, Duggal expected a fight over the cover design. ‘I had strong visual ideas,’ she explains. A fan of the photographer Kevin Duffy, known for documentingThe Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B Klein (W W Norton & Company)66 Dec/Jan/Feb 2016/17 mslexia

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