Troubador A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity

Released: 28/03/2017

ISBN: 9781785899508

Format: Hardback

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A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity


An entertaining cultural history and a highly original take on the power of stories in societies past and present. Trish Nicholson brings us a unique interweaving of literature and history seen through the eyes of storytellers, making a fascinating journey for general readers and students alike. From tales of the Bedouin, to Homer, Aesop and Valmiki, and from Celtic bards and Icelandic skalds to Chaucer, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Scott and Chekhov, some of the many storytellers featured will be familiar to you; others from Africa, Asia and the Pacific may be fresh discoveries. Beginning with oral tales of our foraging ancestors, the emergence of writing, the great migrations, the age of exploration and the invention of printing through to the industrial revolution and the digital age, Nicholson brings us voices from all corners of the world. Combining this extraordinary breadth with telling myths, epics, fables, fairy tales and legends, she reveals their story-power in the comedy and tragedy of human affairs. And what of Story’s future..? A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity is our own human epic, thoroughly researched and referenced, and told with the imaginative flair of an accomplished storyteller. This is a book-lover’s book, illustrated and handsomely presented in hardback and paperback volumes designed ‘to have and to hold’.

Writing Your Non-Fiction Book – The Complete Guide To becoming An Author By Trish Nicholson

Reviewed by Anne Stormont, Words with JAM

An author who practises what she preaches.

Claiming to be the complete guide to anything is a bold claim indeed. The author promises in her introduction that she will lead you ‘a step at a time’ through the whole process of producing and selling your non-fiction book.

In my opinion, the author’s claim is valid and her promise holds true.

This guide book would work just as well for as fiction writing as it does for non-fiction. It is aimed at the complete beginner but there’s plenty that could be useful to the more experienced writer, most especially indie author-publishers.

The book is divided into three main sections – Planning, Writing and Editing, and Publishing and Marketing. At the end there is a comprehensive list of useful websites, books and a glossary.

The advice offered is both general and specific and, indeed, as you read the book you see the author putting her that into practice.

There is genre-specific guidance – for everything from travelogues to blogs. As Nicholson herself says there’s, ‘enough scope here whether you intend to write on particle physics or brewing parsnip wine’. And there is more general advice on editing, routes to publishing and how to sell and market your work.

The book takes you through planning, plotting, point of view – yes these three are just as important in non-fiction as in fiction. There’s advice on workspace and finding time to write. The author also covers how to carry out research, how to avoid plagiarism and explains about copyright. Again, all relevant to creators of fiction as well.

Personally speaking, I found the sections on blogging, having a website and the use of social media to be particularly useful, as was the section on routes to publishing. I also especially liked the sections on how to write blurbs of various lengths depending on their purpose, and on how to pitch your work both to publishers and readers.

Nicholson recommends that you read the book straight through and then re-read as you write. And she says that ‘If you have followed each step with me so far you have achieved by now a thoroughly prepared manuscript, a decision as to how you will pursue its publication and the beginnings of an author platform’.

As I said at the start of this review, whether you’re a novice or an old-hand, drawn to writing fact or made-up stuff, a prospective or actual traditionally or independently published author, you’re sure to find something of use here.

I hope to have shown that this book goes beyond the mission of its title. This is an essential ‘How To’ manual for writers of every sort.

Successful events in the UK and Netherlands in 2014:

Trish's tour of author talks and workshops - on creative writing, and starting a non-fiction book - held during September/October 2014 received an enthusiastic response from participants. She offered 8 presentations in bookshops and with writers' groups in Amsterdam, Nottingham, Manchester, Bolton, Bath and Worthing. You can read her blog posts about the workshops, and how to design your own, on her website.



Read this and more book Reviews at my book review blog It's Good To Read - Link:

This is a unique book, and in a good way. It is an enthralling look at us, humanity and how we tell each other stories, and takes as its main character Story itself, giving her a presence that has been with us since the dawn of our species.

Main Characters:
There are no characters as such, mainly milestones along the road of development of stories, and how deeply intertwined it is with our cultures.

The author starts naturally at the beginning. We are given a scene of an old woman, surrounded by her audience, telling us an Aboriginal story of how the buumbuul tree became such a source of food. We can imagine that this oral tradition was how vital survival knowledge and techniques were passed down throughout generations, by people who could detect regular patterns in their environment, and wanted to pass it on.

Evidence of use of controlled fire dates back 300,000 years, and we can imagine our forebears huddled around, seeking warmth shelter and a means of understanding the world.

From this point, the author uses Story to detail the unfolding of modern humanity, showing major points of interest such as when stories were first recorded, in cuneiform on the clay tablets of Sumer, notably the great Epic of Gilgamesh (which the author does a neat job of summarising), then to the development of the fable, where animals have much knowledge and wisdom to impart to their equal partners in the world, humans.

The pace of Story picks up in tandem with the growing modernisation of the world. In Story’s company, we cross deserts and icy North seas. We hear Bedouin love stories, find out how Scheherazade saved her life and gave us 1001 Nights, and set out the foundation for Marvel comics as Snorri Sturluson gathers up the old Norse sagas and breathes life into the old gods.

How Story was used for political and religious gain is clearly shown, as we see Irish Celtic monks converting Celtic gods and heroes into Christian saints – to be fair, they were not the only culprits.

The author skilfully leads us through the emergence of printing, with interesting anecdotes and references, and the explosion as printers such as Caxton begin to print in the vernacular, and broadsheets are used to make political points.

It is not just Western developments that are covered. We are given an excellent summary of the Ramayana, written by Valmiki in around 400 BC. We jump continents from the woodcut block printing of China, to the emergence of Islam (initially open-minded and science-orientated, then succumbing to a more narrow view of the Prophet’s teachings), and eventually to the Crusades, where two cultures collided.

Story is not just told by the men. The formidable Marguerite of Navarre is profiled, and a mention is made of Aphra Behn, reputedly the first Englishwoman to earn a living from writing in the 1670’s.

However, we are now in the age of exploration and conquest, giving rise to the novel and the historical novel, epitomised by the writings of men such as Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper.

Finally, although Story won’t ever end, we sweep through the industrial and other revolutions, to catch up with the present, digitalised day.

What I Liked:
- This meticulously-researched book read very easily. The narrative just flowed, and the author did an excellent job making it seamless.
- It is structured along a timeline, but also allows you to dip in for referencing (well-compiled index!), which I think will be the long-term appeal of the book.
- Brings life to some of the historic figures (e.g. Rabelais, Gutenberg).

What I Didn’t Like:
- Nothing. Well-written, interesting approach, and thoroughly researched - can't complain!

I found this book to be a joy to read. It is historical, and a lot of it will be familiar to anyone who is interested in history, but it gives a unique perspective, doesn’t drown the reader in dry or superfluous facts, and reinforces how important telling each other stories is, how much a part of our DNA it is, and why books are so important. There are many, many familiar names, but also some new ones, and hopefully you will find out things that you may not have known before. Isn’t that the point of a story??

by Sam Law

Trish Nicholson

About the author:

Trish Nicholson is a writer of narrative (creative) non-fiction and prize-winning short stories. Her writing career spans thirty years as columnist, feature writer for national media in the UK and Australia, and author. She is also a social anthropologist and keen photographer who has worked or travelled in over 20 countries, including extensive treks in Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. She achieved an MA degree in anthropology at Durham University in the UK, and in 1991, while working in Papua New Guinea, she gained an MSc in rural development through the University of London. In 1997 she was awarded a PhD from the University of the Philippines for her research on culture and tourism.

Writing has always been an important part of her life. Her published work includes books on management, applied anthropology, responsible tourism, travelogues, popular science, and writing craft. Trish also has a passion for storytelling. Several of her short stories have won prizes in international competitions and been published in anthologies.

Starting with a career in regional government in the UK and Europe, where she was also a tutor for the Open University and, later, the Open Business School, Trish moved into management development and consultancy before taking her skills overseas. After 5 years working in the West Sepik province of Papua New Guinea on a World Bank Development project, she spent 3 years as the Director of Voluntary Service Overseas in the Philippines. For a further 4 years she researched indigenous communities in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Australia with a grant from the UK Department for International Development.

Now settled in New Zealand and writing full-time, Trish combines her passions for anthropology, stories, travel and photography by writing creative non-fiction. What she describes as: “professional research and experience narrated by a storyteller, whispering in the reader’s ear as they walk beside me.”

She enjoys encouraging others to write their stories and share their experience and skills, which is the reason she wrote Writing Your Nonfiction Book. Her motto is: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.’ (Attributed to Goethe).

You can follow her on Twitter as @trishanicholson and visit her website – and her Treehouse – at Trish Nicholson’s Words in the Treehouse:

Dr Trish Nicholson
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