Monday, 16 October 2017

Wimbledon Bookfest - Tracy Chevalier & Matt Haig

Matt Haig
Wimbledon Bookfest finished last night and I was there to hear the last guest - Matt Haig. I found him a most interesting and down to earth guy and I found myself agreeing with much that he said about the writing world, how we see ourselves in the world and depression.

The first book of his I ever read was The Humans and I loved it. I have also read The Radley's and Reasons To Stay Alive (his book about depression) is sitting on a shelf waiting to be read. He was an engaging speaker - I like the way music plays an important part in his writing (he cited Talking Heads as background to The Humans and Don Henley's Boys of Summer to 'get him out of a fug' - I love that song myself!). And that he isn't a planner - he likes the surprise, though admitted it got him into all sorts of bother at the editing stage.

Matt Haig's books are hard to pigeonhole. I remember the trouble Waterstones had tracking The Humans down for me. He doesn't fit a particular genre and I rather like that.

Matt Haig's partner and children were sitting in the front row and had been promised pizza for being so good and patient. I feared the wait would still be long as the queue for his book signing was back to the door. I haven't read his latest book How To Stop Time but it's on my list. I'll wait for it to come out in paperback or put it on my Christmas list! It sounds fascinating and I look forward to reading it quite soon.

I did have a ticket to see the Rev Richard Coles but he got a better offer and is currently on Strictly (I don't watch that) so his session was cancelled. I still think he made the wrong choice (ha, ha).

However, I did get to see Tracy Chevalier a week ago. She came to talk about her latest book New Boy and I have read that. I was lucky enough to find a copy at my local library by chance, so I grabbed it. I don't think it's Tracy's best book, but then I'm not keen on retelling of old stories. I had some reservations about how sexually aware 11 year olds were back in the 70's and this came up at her interview. She was basing it on her childhood in the USA in that period whilst manipulating the plot to fit that of Shakespeare's Othello. I'm a big fan of Tracy's, having read all her books. I love the way all her books are different and if I had to pick favourites, oh that's tough, I tend to be drawn to her early ones - Girl With a Pearl Earring, The Lady & The Unicorn, Burning Bright and Remarkable Creatures. I am interested in her next book which is set in Winchester (a place I love visiting) and she is already talking about the book after that!

I love hearing authors speak, to learn about how they got into writing, their process of writing, where their ideas come from and the research they do. It's so fascinating.  Apologies the photo isn't great - it's from my phone's camera with a zoom that is laughable!. When I went to a concert recently I borrowed my son's old mobile to take photos - much better - but I had problems loading the photos onto Facebook, yet they conformed to size etc. Blogger had no problem but I didn't want to risk not getting a shot.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Flashes, poems and a bookfest

Paragraph Planet (September)
My month with Kickstart Your Creative Heart is over and I ended up writing quite a lot in the end. I didn't use all the prompts. Some worked better than others but I did get back into a routine - my preferred early morning start. I found I was enjoying the process of writing again, so by taking this online course it achieved its purpose.

It's that time when I am waiting to hear about various submissions. In the meantime I have been published by Paragraph Planet again and Visual Verse have my poem Beached published on their website as part of this month's photo prompt (page 15, if you are interested).

I need to start thinking about submissions again and at some point looking at one of my novels. Knowing that will take a long time I'm tending to put that on a back burner and work with flash, short stories and poems. And I have rather a lot of distractions at present with a busy week or so coming up. The Wimbledon Bookfest has started and I have tickets to see Tracy Chevalier and Matt Haig. Looking forward to those evenings.

I have just finished reading a book about creative writing. Most of the 'how-to' parts is what I know but there was a another section about marketing yourself which I found most interesting and has made me think again about whether I should be doing more. Some things to mull over for sure.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Kickstarting my writing

I am well on the way to finishing the Kickstart Your Creative Heart month. This is what I have found so far:

* It has prompted me to write almost every day but I haven't always gone with their prompts. I don't think this matters because the aim is to get writing again. That seems to have been achieved!

* Some prompts fired off ideas straightaway and I started writing the moment I'd finished reading the email.

* I've written a lot by hand and my second notebook of the year is finished.

* I have written three short stories, though one is long (over 6,500 words)

* I have returned to poetry (yes, didn't I say never again?) and written three or four over the last week.

* I feel that buzz I used to get from writing and that excited feeling when I've written something I am proud of.

* My output has greatly increased as has the hours I am spending writing.

* Some days I actually get back to my first-thing-in-the-morning writing routine. My ideas seem better then.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Spider diagrams and mind maps - writing tools

Spider diagrams, mind maps, call them what you will, I've never been one for them so when I came across this idea again in a creative writing workbook I was tempted to ignore it. The idea is to start off with a circle in the middle of the page and a main subject written inside. From there you draw lines out from the main circle and add other bubbles with ideas for that subject to take then extending those to see what works. Today I took the plunge and tried it and it did sort of work, though my map looks nothing like those I see in books as my lines go all over the place and aren't easy to follow. It did help me decide on a short story idea - which one had the best chance of coming to something so that's the one I will go with. Will I use a mind map again? Maybe, if I'm stuck. What are your views on mind maps?

Right now I'm working on another short story. It's hand written, scruffy and unedited. I'm now typing it up amending as I go. I always find my writing skips between tenses. I started out this time in past tense and then slipped into present and back again! I had to make a decision and have gone with present. I think it works better for the story. I have loved writing this story. There was no real planning (life would be so much easier in I planned!). I had no idea how I was going to end it and then it came to me as the story unfolded. It's been good to get that creative spark going and nice to know I have another story in the pipeline.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Launch Night of What Was Left Anthology

On Thursday evening I attended the launch of the Anthology What Was Left in Waterstones in Reading. It features the winners and shortlisted stories and flash fiction pieces from Retreat West's 2016 competition and I am proud to be featured it (shortlisted).

Hubby and decided to make a bit of a holiday in Reading and arrived on Monday. We set out the first day to find Waterstones. What a lovely venue - my photo doesn't do it justice. The shop is a former chapel and there is a display about its history downstairs. During the days leading up to launch night we went walking along the Kennet and Avon Canal (there is also a river Kennet) and from Reading to Pangbourne on the Thames Path (about seven miles).

On launch night I put on my best bib and tucker and headed off with hubby to Waterstones. We were greeted by Amanda Saint (Retreat West) and her team and plied with drinks and nibbles. There was a chance to chat with other writers and those who came to support. We then took our places before we were invited to go up to collect our winning copies after which the winners of the flash fiction and short story prize stood up to read their winning pieces. Then it was more chatting and book signing. Oh yes! We signed each other's copy and some locals who came along for a night out also asked for for their books to be signed. One lady had three books she'd bought and asked me to sign each. My first book signing. I loved it. I could certainly get used to this!

And where can I buy this book I hear you say. On Amazon and in Waterstones, Reading.

Many thanks to Amanda Saint of Retreat West, the judges and Waterstones. This was a very proud moment for me and such a lovely night.

No time for a real pose on collecting my book

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Motivation...come to me!

To try and get myself writing properly again I have signed up for Kickstart Your Creative Heart with For Books Sake. It runs through the whole of September and we have our own Facebook group. In the last couple of days there have been the introductions and the first prompts. They have certainly got the group communicating. The first day I ended up with a flash fiction piece. I struggled with it and wasn't satisfied. Too depressing - maybe a reflection of how I've been feeling about my writing for rather loo long. Then that night after I was woken by my son finding a large spider near the loo as he was about to sit down (that's another story) I went back to bed and an idea popped into my head. I should have got up and written it then, but no, I wrote it in my head - the whole thing! It kept me awake for a very long time.

In the morning I was at the laptop almost as soon as I got downstairs and typed it out, and yes, I'd remembered nearly all of it. It ran to around 2,400 words! Based on the same prompt this was fun to do and I really like it. I shared one paragraph with the group (today it was about sharing something we had written in the last two days) and it has been well received. I am now editing it and hope to get it into shape for a submission somewhere sometime.

I don't think I'll get a story every time, though it would be great if I could. Let's see what happens over the month. I'll let you know how it's going.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Swanwick - a week of writing related indulges (Part 2)

I apologise that I don't have many pictures of my walk.
I've been unable to transfer them from my Tablet so far
and have only a couple taken on my old phone.
On the Tuesday of my week at Swanwick I had some time out. There were courses running including a procrastination free day, but I fancied a walk. The weather was superb and I set off after breakfast towards Butterley Railway (East Midlands), run mainly by volunteers. I went there last year but didn't look at the engine sheds. This time I did. It made a lovely morning out and the walk was wonderful. So much beautiful countryside around there and next time I hope to do more walking. There is a pathway you can follow along the track side which I'm keen to investigate.

On my return to Swanwick I had lunch and then headed up to where the labyrinth is and sat in the garden for a couple of hours undisturbed. No one seems to go up there much. Maybe it's the trudge up the hill people don't like. It's a great place to sit and read or write. In the evening there was an event, 'In conversation with....' Hosted by Simon Hall it was a chance to find out a little more about Sue Moorcroft (fiction writer) Jon Mayhew (writer of children's fiction) and  Steve Hartley (writer of children's fiction). Questions included 'where were you when you heard your first book had sold?' and 'whether being published had changed you.' One thing became evident writers never quite believe they have made it even when they have. Sue Moorcroft admitted she rang her agent the following day just to check she'd heard right. Lack of confidence seems to plague writers. As one person said 'you think someone will find you out.' A very enjoyable evening with lots of laughter.

I certainly seemed to be taking it easier this year as on Wednesday the only course I did (apart from the third session of Writing Popular Fiction) was in the afternoon with Hazel Prior, who not only writes but is a harpist (see website). With only an hour we skipped through some of the essentials looking at the order of editing - structure, beginnings and voice. All useful stuff.

Then came the last full day and my last Writing Popular Fiction session followed by a brilliant short course in Murder Investigation. I don't write crime/murder but I am fascinated by it and try to get to as many of these courses as possible. Our tutor Stuart Gibbon is an ex police officer and he ran through how an investigation runs from who attends, initial steps, the Golden Hour Principle,  Post Mortem and things like the Murder Investigation Team (Ranks), what the police need to know and how they go about it, various authorities they have to acquire, forensic evidence, the detention clock and custody procedures. Wow! a lot of information and I was scribbling away like mad. A wonderful informative course.

The last evening was a chance get-together in the hall, time for thanks and some fun - a few songs (popular songs with the lyrics changed to something suitably writerly) including S Club 7's Reach for the Stars. In the morning those not departing to the station by coach came and waved us off. All over for another year.

I didn't think I was that tired this time but yesterday I spent the day dozing and it took me a while to get going this morning. I even forgot to check on Paragraph Planet yesterday to see my latest flash fiction published there! It may take me a little longer to return to normal (or normal for me). If you have never been to Swanwick, I'd highly recommend it. You'll be with others who are passionate about writing. That alone is wonderful because writing is a lonely task and for a week it stops me boring my non-writing friends about what I'm doing!

A couple of photos taken on the walk

The view from my window at 6.30am on the morning I left to go home