Where have you been?

Where have you been?

A friend asked me recently why I wasn’t doing any writing and it surprised me because I’ve been writing regularly, just not here.

I assumed (wrongly) that regular readers would subscribe to my newsletter (Book Chat) even though I only ever mentioned it once, possibly in passing. It was foolish of me to think that people would rush to sign up for something new when I hadn’t taken the time to explain what it was all about, so I thought I would do that today.

Let’s start with the first question I usually get asked:

Why do you have a blog and a newsletter and are they the same?

The answer is no, not really.

Book Chat (my newsletter) is very short and contains reading recommendations and simple recipes. I started writing it about two years ago (during lockdown) and since then I’ve sent it out every two weeks without fail. The newsletter focuses on helping people find something good to read because, despite the plethora of books being published every year, it can be challenging to find a really great read. I’m mindful that we all have different tastes, but people often ask me what I’m reading and I love sharing recommendations, so this feels like a useful thing to do.

There’s an archive of past newsletters if you’d like to check out some of my recent recommendations.

I also launched an online book club this year, and it’s turning out to be a fun activity, despite me being quite nervous about hosting an online session. I don’t know why I was nervous because I love talking about books and everyone was lovely. The Book Chat book club meets four times a year and the next book is Matt Haig’s, The Midnight Library. You are very welcome to join in and it’s free for subscribers.

The newsletter has recipes because I also like food! I think that good books and good food go together naturally and people seem to love recipes, if only to remind them to make an old favourite they’ve forgotten about.

It’s been satisfying to see a steady growth in subscribers over the past two years, but in the meantime, I’ve neglected this blog. I haven’t posted anything new here since last October and that seems like eons ago.

This blog remains a space where I can explore topics in more depth. The posts are short essays that are often (but not always) book-related. I like to use my reading as a springboard for articles about issues that interest me. Some of my favourite posts in this vein include The Man Who Didn’t Wash His Dishes and Sunshine on My Shoulders.

I also write personal essays. Plenty is about growing up in the Salvation Army and absorbing ideas about self-denial and Family Secrets is about trying to find out whether my grandfather was a bigamist. There’s a lot more variety here because I have the freedom to write about whatever I like, so I’d encourage you to explore the website. I’ve been blogging here for ten years, so hopefully you’ll find something that resonates with you.

This year I planned to send some articles out for publication, but the thought of that often seems overwhelming, so I plan to post here more regularly, whilst I figure when and where to send my work.

Whether you subscribe to this blog, or my newsletter or both, I appreciate you all. Thanks for being here and reading my words.

Book Chat!

Book Chat!

Hello friends!

I’m thrilled to announce the launch of BOOK CHAT: a newsletter for readers and writers. If you are a reader or a writer (or both), I’d be really pleased if you signed up. You can do that here. If you’d rather just receive these weekly blog posts, that’s fine as well. I’ll still keep posting here.

People often ask me what I’m reading and how my writing is going, and I thought it would be fun to send out some regular updates on both these topics, along with some of my favourite recipes.

To be honest, it feels rather bold to be launching a newsletter of my own. It seems like something a mildly famous person might do and I’m certainly not that, but I have the time to experiment and I love reading other people’s newsletters, so I thought why not give it a go? I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes along the way, but that’s okay. I heard someone say recently that the only way you can learn is by actually doing something, so I thought it was probably time to stop researching and start taking some action.

I’ve been thinking about failure a lot lately, and especially about why we fear it so much. I’m not sure if it results from toxic work cultures, or whether it’s a by-product of capitalism and rampant individualism (whereby we have to be better than the next person all the time) but I know that an aversion to failure is not conducive to learning. If we don’t fail, we don’t learn.

People say this all the time, but no-one wants to be the person who fails. I know I don’t want to fail, even though I espouse the idea of learning by trying new things.

I’ve spent at least a year thinking about launching a newsletter, and I can honestly say that fear of making a fool of myself has been the main thing holding me back. So here it is – a new experiment. Join me!


Marg xxx