Did you miss our Pushkin Pop Up hosted by Liz Hyder and her editor Sarah Odedina? The two had a wonderful discussion about reading and writing in self isolation, how to lift the lockdown blues and what they’re excited about in the world of children’s publishing right.
In case you missed it, we asked Liz to give us a bumper book list of recommendations, as well as some top tunes to get you through. Enjoy!
I’m missing reading whatever I want at the moment. I’m working on a new novel so I have to be careful about what I’m reading for fun otherwise it can ‘bleed’ into my own writing. If I was free to read whatever I wanted right now, I’d be devouring Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, Joe Abercrombie’s latest A Little Hatred, and Stacey Halls’s The Foundling, all of which are sitting by the side of my bed, waiting for me as a reward for finishing this bout of writing and editing.
Just today, the postman has delivered Hello Now by Jenny Valentine which I can’t wait to read and I’m hoping to read Melinda Salisbury’s latest too. I managed to snaffle an early proof of Elizabeth Acevedo’s new book too and am really looking forward to it, she’s an extraordinary writer.
I love reading books that have a strong sense of place so I’m always drawn to the likes of Alan Garner and George Mackay Brown, both of whom are also in the pile next to my bed (it’s a big pile!). Mackay Brown spent almost all of his life on the Orkney mainland and his words never fail to take me back to those beautiful, low-lying islands. He was a fantastic poet as well as a novelist and short story writer and it baffles me as to why he’s not better known.
For sheer comfort though, I almost always return to children’s books – The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, The Dark is Rising, Narnia, His Dark Materials, The Old Kingdom, The Chronicles of Prydain, Flossie Teacake, and Mortal Engines, whole series of books that I can both devour and lose myself in but that are also like revisiting old friends, something that unfortunately I can’t do in person for now. Having said that, my current read is The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier. It’s a strange, beautiful little book that plays with perception and narrative voice and I’ve read it many times before. Each time I revisit it, it offers something new, something that I’ve previously missed.
A few years ago, I decided I was going to embark on a year of kindness to myself. Of not being hard on myself for not doing this, that or the other. Obviously I’d forgotten by the end of January and only remembered again in the autumn. I’m trying to remember it a lot at the moment. Sure, some people are learning how to make sourdough starters and making three course gourmet meals every night. Some people are learning Japanese or Greek or embarking on intense yoga sessions for hours at a time each day. That’s great for them but it might not be right for you. Just getting through the day is enough. Don’t be hard on yourself. If you want to re-watch old episodes of Only Fools and Horses in your pyjamas and eat crisps, go for it. No-one’s watching, no-one’s judging you. Do what you need to do to get through this.
At the moment I find it comforting to work (or try to work!) to the sounds of sparrows and blackbirds, of blue tits and pigeons but in the evening, when the birdsong has quietened and the chill of the evening settles in, I’m listening to music a lot. Mimi Goese & Ben Neill recently released some new tracks. She’s one of the most interesting performers around and I’m baffled as to why she’s not better known as her voice is just extraordinary. Ocean Rain, a cover of the Echo and the Bunnymen song, is exquisite. I love anything by Ezra Furman but he’s just released demo tracks from his cracking album Transangelic Exodus so I’ve been playing that a lot, particularly God Lifts Up the Lowly. I’ve also been listening to Nick Drake, Cate le Bon, Nina Simone, Bowie, Dark Dark Dark and my friend Bruford has just tipped me off about Richard Swift’s back catalogue so I’m glad to have someone new (to me) to explore. I’ve got 6 Music on a lot at the moment too, it’s where I often discover new music or finally track down a band or song that I really like but have no idea what it’s called.
One other recent discovery, thanks to Marc Riley on 6 Music, is Jeffrey Lewis. His lockdown song, Keep it Chill in the East Vill is a lovely, catchy earworm of hope and humour. I’ll leave you with some of the lyrics: “Giant good things come from change. And we all know this will pass… And when this phase is behind us, we’ll catch a worldwide case of kindness…”
Be kind to yourself.
Liz’s debut novel, Bearmouth, is available now. Shortlisted for the Brandford Boase Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, it is a must read for anyone feeling like they want to break free!