Monday, 29 September 2014

Audio Book Giveaway

A Song for Issy Bradley | [Carys Bray]I'm giving away one copy of the unabridged audio book of A Song for Issy Bradley. It's a box of 9 CDs (a total of 11 hours) read beautifully by Emma Gregory. If you'd like to be in the draw, just click on this link and

a). "Like" my Facebook page (if you haven't already) 
b). Make a comment on the post about the giveaway. 

The draw will take place on Sunday 5th October. 

You can click on this link to listen to a small excerpt of the novel.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Lovely Stuff

On Wednesday I read at Bad Language at The Castle Hotel in Manchester. It's a great literature night. The performance space is lovely and the crowd is enthusiastic and friendly. I really enjoyed the open mic readings by Stephen James, Jasmine Chatfield, Alex Webb, Brandon Bissell, Bissell, Roger Fenton, Stephen Quinlan, Anna Percy, Ros Ballinger, John Lean and Dave Hartley.  If you fancy an open mic slot at Bad Language, check out their website (see link above). 

On Thursday I read at Urmston Bookshop. Frances and Peter who own the shop are absolutely fabulous. Not only was there a special, Issy Bradley window, they'd also asked the lovely Cath Martin to bake an Issy Bradley cake.

I got to meet Naomi Frisby, book blogger extraordinaire, for the second time (Naomi was one of the first people to read my novel). And afterwards, Peter drove me to a more distant station so I could get an earlier train home than planned. I waited on a bench on the platform surrounded by presents: a cake box, a lovely notebook and a copy of The Miniaturist - it felt like my birthday.

On the train home I finished Ali Smith's How to be Both. I don't know whether I've ever written about the first time I came across Ali Smith (if I have, I'm about to repeat myself) but it was while I was doing my BA. She was featured in an Open University DVD about Sunset Song and she was so genuine and enthusiastic that I went down to my local library (which was knocked down a couple of months ago - ugh) and borrowed her short story collections. She's such an extraordinary writer - playful, clever and original. How to be Both is all those things, but it also deals with bigger themes - grief, mortality, love - in a really thought-provoking way. The novel is divided into 2 sections. Some editions begin with one section and some begin with the other. My edition began with Francesco and concluded with George. I'm glad it did. I *think* it's the way I would have preferred it to be. But I'm not 100% certain - how could I be certain, having read Francesco and George's musings about the different ways of seeing and looking, and whether the first thing we see can really be described as 'first'? - I'll never really know for sure. And I like that. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

School Shoes - Follow Up

A few weeks ago I wrote this post about school shoes

While I was away last week someone from Clarks replied to my daughter's letter.  

I asked my daughter what she thought of the letter and this is what she had to say.

I don't know why they called me Ms Bray when I told them I'm 10 years old.  They didn't read my letter properly because they said thank you for your email - I didn't send an email. They didn't answer any of my questions and they made pointless excuses. The boys get durability and the girls get style - it makes me angry! I don't want to buy shoes there any more. 

I'd like to add that it was also disappointing for me to read the letter from Clarks. I was particularly irritated by the mention of 'gender equality and individuality'. Let's think for a moment about what gender equality might look like - would it mean identical boys' and girls' shoes? No, of course not. It would mean shoes that are equally fit for purpose. Different children like different things, and so you'd expect a wide range of styles. BUT, the following features:

whether the shoes are suitable for physical activity (can you climb trees, play footie?)
whether the shoes are waterproof (when it rains are your socks guaranteed to get soaked?) 

should NOT depend on the gender of the child. This is not equality. And attempts to fudge things by referencing 'individuality' won't wash with this generation of Mighty Girls.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Imaginary Writer

At some point during the 2014 New Year celebrations - on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, if I remember correctly - I bought a subscription to The New Yorker. It was an optimistic purchase, made during a moment when I was visualising myself as the writer who exists in my imagination. This writer has a strict routine and an organised desk. She reads The New Yorker over coffee, before beginning work and, by a process of literary osmosis, goes on to write her second novel in spare, elegant prose. She dashes off a thousand words a day and never eats a sharing bag of Maltesers for lunch. Etc. 

A few weeks later, copies of The New Yorker started arriving in the mail. I read the first couple and then they started to build up. Small, unopened piles of magazines sprouted around the house - on the dining room table, on my treadmill desk, beside the microwave. 

Last week I went on a writing retreat. As I left for the station I stuffed a pile of plastic-wrapped magazines into my laptop bag. 

Along with the imaginary writer, there are other, better versions of myself; the imaginary mother, the imaginary runner, the imaginary meal-planner etc. Unlike the imaginary mother, who doesn't really exist (apart from fleetingly in photographs, and perhaps in the carefully edited highlights of the annual family Come Dine With Me competition) the imaginary writer has just enjoyed a blissful, five day existence. 

A massive thank you to Deb and Bob at RetreatsForYou for allowing me to spend a few days being the writer of my imagination. The one who writes at a tidy desk and reads The New Yorker every morning before she starts work.  

Monday, 15 September 2014


I've just arrived in Sheepwash in North Devon (here) where I'll be spending the next few days. I'm so excited to get a chance to write without interruption and to (hopefully) get the first bit of novel 2 into a state where I'm comfortable showing it to people.

Of course, most writing has to be done in a workman-like way, in between and around other things, but it's lovely to get away once in a while and not have to cook or clean or run anyone to the orthodontist - just write.

Here's the room where I'll be writing.

Here's the view from the window.

There are my desk options - standing or sitting, which is great for me because I *love* to work standing as much as possible.

Me, as I type this blog (standing).

I've got my favourite red, writing/book t-shirt at the ready, off I go...

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Nearly there

I handed in my PhD thesis this week. I still have to prepare for (and endure) the viva, and there may be corrections to make, but I'm pretty much *almost* finished. Hooray!

To celebrate, I went to my favourite restaurant (Master McGraths), had my favourite meal (lamb, followed by Eton mess), with my favourite person, and then came home and watched The Painted Veil.

Next week I'm going on a writing retreat with my lovely friend Sarah Franklin. I can't wait to get properly stuck into book 2. Happy days.