Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Quick as a flash I'm on Paragraph Planet

This post is rather late in the day but if you catch it before Wednesday is over you could go over to Paragraph Planet to read my 75 piece flash fiction which is published today. I posted it one evening and got a reply the next day. What a quick turnaround. The piece was actually written at Swanwick Writer's Summer School as a 100 word piece of flash fiction which I entered into their competition and it was shortlisted. Never one to miss out on another opportunity, I re-wrote it without looking at the original. I know I kept some of the lines but I honed it to 75 words to fit the bill and was really pleased with the result. Thankfully, Paragraph Planet was too!

I took a lot from the Flash Fiction course at Swanwick with Veronica Bright, and today I've had a good session of writing. Yesterday I entered a 500 word flash into a competition. This one has been sitting in my computer for at least a year and has been tweaked any amount of times but I couldn't find that killer ending. Then I had a light bulb moment. Let's hope it lights up the judge, if you see what I mean!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Swanwick 2016 - the friendly writer's conference

So, I'm back from Swanwick Summer School with a notebook full and ideas. As a 'white badger' (first timer or newbie) we got the special treatment. A reception in the main lounge was laid on during late afternoon on the day we arrived. It was a chance to get to know other newbies. Straight away we had something in common as well as writing in common. That evening at dinner we also had our own tables with a Swanwick Ambassador to answer any questions we might have. After that meal we mingled at mealtimes with those who were back for a second or fourteenth time!

Before I get on to the courses I attended, I just like to say that if you have ever thought about going be prepared to:

be amazed
have fun
learn lots
pace yourself
be locked into great conversations with friendly and helpful people
make new friends
take a large notebook
be exhausted
encounter slide splitting laughter during evening entertainment (speakers, Page to Stage and Panto)
dance (if you want to (disco's))
dress up or dress down
admire the beauty of the surroundings
enjoy everything Swanwick has to offer within reason - watch for burnout!

I have to say that at Swanwick I met the friendliest group of people ever encountered at a writer's conference. Everyone is happy to chat. Everyone mucks in. You feel part of it whether you are a published writer or still trying to find you feet. New friends are made and there is lots and lots of laughter. I met up with some 'twitter' people I follow and made new friends. From the opening night speaker to the Panto on the last evening it was wonderful. Such a variety of the courses and options to daily immerse oneself into.

I chose Writing Original Poetry with Alison Chisholm as my special course. This ran for an hour over four mornings. There was homework, a chance to share your work and one group activity. I came away with new ideas for finding new ways into poetry. There was a choice of one-off daily short course and afternoon workshops. The courses I chose were Self Publishing (with the excellent Helen Barbour)  and Hybrid Publishing (Chris Browne) (I wanted to see what the difference was), Flash Fiction (Veronica Bright),The Trickier Side of Fiction,(Sue Moorcroft), Ending and Agents (Erin Kelly) and a course entitled How to Eat an Elephant (Bridget Holding), which dealt with splitting the writing process into chunks as well as offering some writing exercises on how to get rid of negative thoughts and look at the positive feeling of writing.

There were other courses I had considered but one has to make a choice in the end. I heard from others how excellent the other choices were and maybe some of them will be repeated another year.

Tuesday was described as a free day. However, there was always something to do. You could have attended the Procrastination Free Day - a chance to get writing or go along to the Crime Special, which is what I did. I have to sat this was my favourite day. If I never write a crime thriller this day will never be considered a waste. It was informative and fun. In the first session Michael O'Byrne (retired chief constable and writer of Police Practice and Procedure (which I have!)), Simon Hall (BBC crime reporter and writer of the TV Detective Series) and Kate Bendelow (forensics expert with Greater Manchester Police) informed us about fingerprinting, guns (there were replica guns and we were told to go into a shop that sells them and ask to feel the weight!) and much else. In the second session they were joined by Ian Martin (retired detective sergeant) for a Q&A panel. The questions came thick and fast.

Evenings always began with a speaker after the meal and then there were other things going on - a fancy dress disco, a writer's quiz night, Page to Stage (mini sketches written by delegates - drama and comedy), general knowledge quiz, open mic night, buskers night and on the last night the panto, farewell and disco.

If you could drag yourself from your bed in the mornings there were chances to some meditating or a quick writing session and there were 'unwind your mind' sessions in the late afternoons. The grounds offered secluded places to sit and contemplate, write or read, pathways to walk, a chapel and garden with labyrinth, where I spent half an hour or so unwinding and even threw a badly written poem together!

There was a whole afternoon I had free on Tuesday and I took myself off for a walk, firstly into Swanwick village and then explored a public footpath close to the Conference Centre entrance which took me to Butterly Railway (Preserved line) across beautiful fields.

If you did everything you would be shattered very quickly. As a first timer I felt overwhelmed at first and I dropped one session I'd intended to do so I could have some time out. Some people came to write in solitude. Basically, you do what you want and if nothing is what you want then no one is going to tell you off. You don't have to chose what to do until the morning and if what you chose wasn't quite what you expected or it didn't work for you you didn't have to go back. I met people who did one session of one short course and switched to another for the second session because they didn't want to miss out! That's the beauty of Swanwick. It's there for you. You do as much or as little as you want.

By the way, the rooms are nice, everything is included in the price, full board as well as biscuits at morning break and cake at afternoon break. There are even machines that produce hot chocolate and latte etc. You won't go hungry and you won't ever get bored!
The view from my window

My bedroom, a place to write (tea & coffee making facilities included)

I nearly forgot the Book Room. Open twice a day there was a nice selection of books written by delegates and course leaders for you to buy as well as an information room with lots of freebies. Thankfully, I left room in my luggage for books!

I procrastinated over whether to read at the open mic night and was egged on by others to have a go. So, nervously I put my name down and wore a long skirt so no one could see my legs shake as I stood up to read! I'm proud I did it because I know I'd have regretted not having a go otherwise. I even entered the flash fiction competition (100 words) and was shortlisted! That took me by surprise and gave me encouragement in my future writing.

So, have I convinced you? Go and have a look at the programme on the website if you want to know more.
Busker's Night in the Main Lounge (packed to the door)

Page to Stage comedy sketch

On my walk

Butterly Railway

Sometimes a writer just has to chill!
The grounds

Panto night - the chorus and musicians
The Lake
Simon Hall - Panto -  'The Battle of Writer's Block'

Some freebies

The Vinery - a favourite quiet space of mine

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Half-yearly review

I have just been looking back at my goals for this year. Well, we are over half way through the year. Though success rate has been poor, in other respects I have achieved a great deal.

Number one on my list was to submit a novel to an Agent. I've achieved that one. No, I don't have a contract or even a near miss, just rejections, but at least I've started the process.

Second on the list was to write short stories. I thought this would be hard as I've written two extremes....75 words at one end and 80,000 at the other plus the odd 500 worder. However, I have ended up already writing more short stories than poems this year. I'm beginning to enjoy the process and I've started entering them into competitions and magazines.

Find new outlets for my flash fiction. While I have been successful getting published on Paragraph Planet, I wanted to widen my horizons. Again, I have entered a couple of competitions, but there is still much to do here.

The last on the list was about being tough on my poetry editing. While I have done very little in this area I have edited some poetry and written a few new ones. I've even begun submitting again.

I have a lot of work out there, stuff I'm waiting on, but there have been lots of rejections this year so far. However, I'm not going to be despondent because there is another half year to come, well almost.

Next month I am going to Swanwick Summer School for a week. I love the fact that you don't have to commit to workshops when you sign up and can make up your mind on the day! It looks terrific. The programme arrived at the weekend and I've been highlighting things I'd like to do. I'm particularly looking forward to the Crime Special on the Tuesday. I enjoy reading the genre these days, now I've found authors I really like, but to write it I think is the most difficult. I've dabbled in writing a few crime stories, never murder though, I feel I need to learn a lot more about it to make it sound authentic.  The Chairman of Swanwick Writers will be involved in the Crime Special. I bought his book a couple of years ago. Absolutely fascinating to read.

Anyway, I thought I'd mention Swanwick in case there is anyone reading this who is also going. If you are let me know. This will be a first for me and I'm really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Ashington....back online! A story in 104 episodes, set in an English village.

My 'online soap' is back online! I have been thinking long and hard about what to do with it since I took it down from WordPress while it was still in its infancy. It was always meant to be a free read so I have taken the plunge and signed up to WattPad. Everything that was on WordPress is still there but in a condensed way, though the full list of characters is there with added info on who is related to who in the series.

This is the first full length piece of writing I ever wrote and it took me years and lots of hard work to get it here. I have set up a link on the side bar so you can find it. Please, please....I need feedback and I need followers. Please go over there and take a look. I will be posting regularly on WattPad and if you really like it please share it around to your friends anywhere on social media!

Have a great day!

Friday, 15 July 2016

What have I been doing in the last month?

I haven't posted here in a few weeks and I've been trying to remember what I've been doing all this time in the writing world!

Well, I've been drawn back to poetry. I can't even remember what sparked it off now. All I know is that I've written a few poems. Ah, I know. After purchasing the most excellent book How (Not) to get you Poetry Published by Helena Nelson from the most excellent HappenStance Press I decided to sign up as a subscriber. I chose my free poetry booklet and received a bundle of free goodies which arrived on a day when I was feeling a bit off colour. That perked me up!

While working through the book (why have I never read this before?) I did some of the poetry exercises and there you go! Before I knew it I was looking at my better poems and sending them off to small press magazines and entering some competitions. I haven't yet finished reading the book but I am learning a whole lot about the poetry business.

I received a second rejection for my novel and my current novel writing has ground to a bit of halt. It's not that I don't know where it's going. I have scenes ready to write and I still like it. It's just that the momentum has ceased for the present. It will get written, that I know.

Also in the post recently came the new issues of Brittle Star and Popshot Magazine. I've already devoured Popshot. I adore it - the stories, the poems and the wonderful artwork. If you like a mixture of stories and poetry both these magazines are worth checking out.

At the end of last month I also went along to a small writer's group which meets in the library of the town next to mine. There are about four members. It's been going about two years and was started by someone at the library, I think. They meet for one hour once a month. All ladies. All doing various courses (Literature or writing courses). They were very welcoming. I took along a poem and part of the first chapter from the novel I am currently writing. We shared what we had brought and gave feedback. It was certainly nice to have others to talk to about writing and I shall go again, though I might not make the next one as I may be away.

A lady who I play sport with on a Friday goes to a writing class run by Adult Education. She complained that the group was now so big that sharing pieces was difficult. I jokingly said perhaps I should start my own group and she was quite enthusiastic. It got me thinking and I'm still thinking.

I have been buying some poetry too but I will come back to those books another day as I am either still reading them or, in the case of two, waiting for them to arrive in the post!

Finally, I have been writing short stories and a 500 word flash fiction piece. All are or will be submitted in the next few days.

So there we are. While I thought I had been doing nothing much in the last month I have in fact been quite busy. So, what are you reading? What are you writing?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

A stand alone story - a free read

This is one of two stand alone stories I've written, spin offs from the novel about Austin Stapley. Hope you enjoy it. If you do, please comment. Or even if you don't!

The art of manipulation

He looked across at Natalie Garman with the innocence of a child, though in Austin’s case innocence wasn’t something he’d had for a very long time. Even at five he knew how to lie well. However, the second part was right. Being a child was very much Austin’s forte.
               ‘You see how it looks on the books, Mr Stapley,’ Natalie was saying.
               ‘But of course,’ Austin added suitably demurely. ‘But then how was I to know my mother would be rushed into hospital.’
               ‘You could have phoned to let us know.’
               ‘In advance?’
               Natalie swallowed. ‘No, after it happened. Or at least as soon as possible. Not turning up for an interview…well, that…’
               ‘Yes, yes.’ Austin was getting fed up with this. He’d already been sent away once because he turned up too early for his damned Job Centre appointment. Too early, for goodness sake. They wouldn’t let him wait. In fact they were quite rude about it. There was no pleasing this bunch of half-wits. Now because he’d bailed on an interview with some logistics company (moving things from one place to another, let’s not get fancy about it), he was being threatened with withdrawal of his Jobseeker’s Allowance. Okay, his mother hadn’t really been rushed into hospital. He’d actually been having a lie with the magazine with the brown paper cover marked ‘maths’, at the page of Anthea. He’d had a heavy night at the King’s Head wallowing in self-pity and he needed comfort not another grilling about his previous track record with jobs by some toffee-nosed prospective employer.
               Austin’s mother had her uses. She cooked his meals from a limited menu (nothing foreign, though the dishes themselves often looked alien), and washed his clothes. She was easy to wind up, which could be tremendous fun as long as she didn’t have hold of an offensive weapon. And she came in useful as a reason for non-attendance at interviews. However, Austin was running out of legs she could break, arms she could fracture or fires in the kitchen. He needed to do something because it wasn’t only the Job Centre on his back. Stella Stapley was demanding money with menaces, namely housekeeping, or she would stop cooking.
               Austin hadn’t the guts to admit to his mother that he’d lost another job and was currently unemployed. There were only so many nights he could stay out (he’d been a night watchman). It was time to have a new job, to make something up. He’d have to back it up somehow, but Austin was used to winging it. Now what did he fancy doing? A fishmonger? No, his mother would expect cheap fish. A car salesman? No, he’d never managed to pass his driving test. She’d suss that one, though it might make her worry about the Austin A30 malingering in the garage. His father’s pride and joy which only saw the light of day at weekends, and then only on the driveway, despite it being bequeathed to him after his father died. He couldn’t go there right now. Besides, Natalie was trying to get his attention. She’d been in the process of calling over the security guard because Austin hadn’t moved in several minutes and she thought he was having a mini stroke. When his head shot up she cried out in shock, or was it relief?
               Austin assured her he was alright. ‘Worried about mother,’ he said.
               ‘Of course.’ The sympathy was back in her voice. Austin revelled in that for it wouldn’t be seen again in a long time, if at all.
‘I thought I was going to have to write an obituary to my poor dear mother,’ Austin went on.
‘Well, she’s making a recovery surely?’ asked Natalie in concern.

‘You can never tell with mother.’ One true sentence in a whole lot of lies. But it was at this point that Austin had a brain wave. He would be a reporter to the local rag. He’d always fancied himself as a writer, and this held a certain prestige that his mother would like to brag about, and unsociable hours he could play with. As Austin eased himself out of the chair and out of another tight situation he caught his smile in the window of the Job Centre. It wouldn’t solve his money problems, this non-job, but he’d work on that while he worked on his mother. He passed Greg, the obnoxious security guard, on his way out and he gave him the finger.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Book heaven!

Came across a neat idea today from Traverse poetry. It's a crowdfunding venture into poetry trading cards. Do go and have a look. It sounds like fun and got my attention.

I've finally got round to ordering How Not to Get Your Poetry Published from Happenstance Press. Maybe I can find out what I've been doing wrong all these years!

Right now I am in book heaven as not only did my youngest son give me a £30 Amazon gift card for my birthday last week but on Friday night I was presented with another for £45 (plus a five pound note) as a thank you for the six years I have lead our church branch of Mother's Union. I stepped down from this position in January and Friday night was our annual Summer Supper. The weather just about held for us to eat out of doors. It was a wonderful evening. Hubby won a raffle prize (Thornton's chocolates) and I was over the moon with my vouchers.

I loaded all my gift cards this morning and began buying! My wish list has been there for some time and I felt guilty about buying some of the books as I had already read them (library borrows) but I wanted them for keeps. So the first two were ones I'd read - 52 Ways to Read a Poem by Ruth Padel (partly read) and Forensics: The Anatomy  of Crime by Val McDermid. The third book was also on my list but I've not read it but always meant to - The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine. I seem to come across him rather a lot. He follows me around. There is a statue to him in Thetford, Norfolk (where he lived) where my grandmother was born and grew up (my mother seemed to have a grievance with him but as she always voted Labour I don't know why!)  and I learned more about him at the local Thetford Museum. I came across him again in Lewes in Sussex and then his name came up when I was studying Humanities with the OU. I feel Tom and I would have got on well! Still, I've yet to read the book and I may change my mind.

The final book I've purchased (for now) is the first novel by Mark Haysom called Love, Love Me Do. I love Mark's short stories (which you can view for free if you 'like' his Facebook page). They are heartwarming and nostalgic. So, I thought it was about time I bought one of his novels.

That's enough to keep me busy for a while.