Friday, 14 March 2008

Colonic irritation

I went to London yesterday for a dinner hosted by Bloomsbury at Kettners in Soho. It was Bond themed, so I wore my tux, but couldn't bring myself to wear a bow tie. I didn't look like James Bond; I looked like James Bond's weedy and slightly creepy uncle. So I changed into a flowery shirt and skull bootlace tie and ended up looking like a slightly camp hit man. And what could be more Bond than that?

After a quick wander round bookshops in Covent Garden and Charing Cross road I went to Kettners. I had a quick chat with Adrian Downie who did such a fantastic job of the Tales of Terror website (we talked martial arts and skateboarding injuries before being forcibly separated and sent to different tables) and met up with my editor Helen Szirtes. One of the questions I had at Harrow High School was 'Do you get any help when you write your books?' And of course writers get a lot of help: they get help (mostly uncredited) from editors.

I have been blessed with some really good editors on my books - Anne Clarke on my Hodder books comes to mind, as does Lisa Edwards on my Scholastic books - and I am very, very lucky to have Helen Szirtes looking after me at Bloomsbury. I have learnt a lot from editors, though clearly not so much that it stopped me giving a completely nonsensical definition for the function of a colon when talking to Helen before the meal.

It was like being back at school. I would know what the answer was in my head, but some weird answer would fall out of my mouth. It is probably a condition: stupidity maybe. What I meant to say, of course, was that a colon is used to indicate that what follows it is an explanation or elaboration of what proceeds it. That is, having introduced some topic in more general terms, you can use a colon and go on to explain that same topic in more specific terms.

And of course I'm not quoting this directly from the Penguin Guide to Punctuation. How sad would that be?

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