The Odd Disappearance of Violet D’Ath and New Zealand’s First Gothic Novel

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I’m currently working on a top secret, wonderful project and was deep into some research when something quite odd happened… I stumbled upon an obscure article referencing New Zealand’s first Gothic Novel ‘The Ice Station’, written in 1912 by Violet D’Ath.

The storyline sounded so good I immediately decided to find a copy and read it. But it wasn’t that easy, as you can probably tell by my title. Continue reading

Odd Writers #7: Sitwell’s Spooky Habit

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Writers are funny things. When the dreaded writer’s block rears it’s ugly head, they often think back to when they were writing really well. What were they doing then? Had they had three cups of coffee instead of just one? Were they using a red pen or a blue one? Had they gobbled down cornflakes for breakfast, or Cocopops? Was their computer exactly 23.5cm away from the edge of the desk?

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of: ‘If I do this, this and this, in that order, I’ll be able to write some good stuff today.’ But some writers can go a little too far… Continue reading

Odd Writers #6: Writing a Book with One Eyelid

With what has to be one of the most inspired titles ever, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ is truly a book with a difference.

The author did not use his hands or feet to write it.

He didn’t use his mouth and tongue to dictate the words.

He used the only thing he could move in his entire body – his left eyelid! (Okay, I know I gave that away in the title, but it’s been a long day 😀 )

Jean-Dominique Bauby was editor-in-chief for French fashion mag ‘Elle’. He had everything a man could want. And he lost it all after suffering a severe stroke, including the use of his whole body. After waking from a 20-day coma, Jean-Dominique found that he couldn’t move but he could hear and understand everything going on around him. As you can imagine, it took a long time to communicate that he was still very much awake and functioning. And then it took a very long time for someone to realise he had an awful lot to say.

So, how on earth did he do it? Continue reading

Odd Writers #5: Schiller’s Rotten Writing

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German poet (later called ‘the pop-star of his time’), Schiller believed in the magical power of apples. AND, after he died, his mate kept his skull on his desk. Beat that!

Goethe popped round to Schiller’s one day while he was out and decided to wait in his office for him to return. A strange smell pervaded the room, and Goethe prowled, his nose in the air, looking for the source. It was stronger as he approached Schiller’s desk. He neared, sniffing, but could see nothing to cause the smell. He frowned and sniffed again, tentatively pulling open the desk drawer. Continue reading

Odd Writers #4 : Robert Shields & His Enormous Diary

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Diaries are supposed to be full of secrets and intrigue. They are a place to store our wildest dreams, and crazy thoughts we would never let out of our confused little heads in a million years. The idea of someone discovering your diary should be an unthinkable thought, filled with icy horror.

Rev. Robert Shields’ diary was absolutely not one of those diaries. It was a whopping 37.5 million words long and filled 94 boxes – the equivalent of 500 good-sized novels. How did it get so big? He simply documented his life every five minutes of every day for a quarter of a century.

There may well be secrets and intrigue hidden within those pages, but the six pages available to the public contain treasures like these:

“7 a.m.: I cleaned out the tub and scraped my feet with my fingernails to remove layers of dead skin.”

“7:05 a.m.: Passed a large, firm stool, and a pint of urine. Used five sheets of paper.”

“6:30-6:35 p.m.: I put in the oven two Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese at 350 degrees.”

“6:50-7:30 p.m.: I ate the Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese and Cornelia ate the other one. Grace decided she didn’t want one.”

Out of all my ‘Odd Writers’ so far, Robert Shields has to be the oddest!

Odd Writers #3: Demosthenes

Could the humble razor be a major secret weapon for writers?

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Demosthenes, the great Athenian Speech Writer and Orator, thought so.

To keep himself holed up in his purpose-built underground chamber, working away like a demon, Demosthenes would often shave half the hair from his head. He would be so ashamed of how odd he looked that he wouldn’t leave the chamber until it grew back.

But, then, he lived a very long time ago.

Fast forward to nowadays and nobody would bat an eyelid at a half-shaved head. So we have to declare the razor defunct in the modern writer’s toolbox. Back to the drawing board 😉

(Photo Credit: Unsplash | David Sedrakyan)

Odd Writers #2. Victor Hugo

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Charged with just a few scant months to write ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, Monsieur Hugo apparently prepared by buying himself a large grey shawl, reaching to his feet. He then locked away all of his other clothes so that he was not tempted to leave his house.

Dressed for six months clad only in a grey shawl, he met his deadline.

Image from Wikipedia Commons

Myth or Fact? More here.

Odd Writers #1. Truman Capote

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“I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I’ve got to be puffing and sipping.”

PARIS REVIEW Article, 1957

Image from Wikipedia Commons: Moscot