Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The all-consuming write

Busy at it. Detailed notes in my spiral bound book.
All the talk is about NaNoWriMo. I have to say I've been tempted to join in this year but last week I started something new and am already almost at the 20,000 word mark! Yes, the writing has been obsessive.

I didn't intend to start another novel, especially when I've still not finished the last! On the train back from Winchester last Monday, watching the lovely trees and the sunshine a 'what if' moment came into my head. It is far from the beauty of the countryside and very different from anything I've written before. I feel it working on me when I'm writing. It's there in my head when I'm not working on it and it flicks through my dreams.

I began with only two names and no notes and was several chapters in (they are short chapters) before I decided I needed to do some chapter plotting - something I hardly ever do! So I sat and wrote outlines for about half the book - no further because I know I will change things! So far this is working well. I will need to do some research at some point but I will do it when I have to. I don't want to stop the flow. I feel I need to write this one and get it done. Maybe this is because of the content. I find it changes my mood and I even have a special music mix (you know me and my music mixes for writing!) which itself has become an obsession. It's on replay when I write. I need it because it creates the right atmosphere. Even the music haunts me when I'm not at my laptop and I find I'm humming bits of it.

I'm in need of a break away from this all consuming write. I'm averaging around 2,000 words a day and I get twitchy if it's getting late and I haven't written anything. I really need a day out. So I'm planning of getting up to London later in the week.

I am very unsure about what I'm writing for all sorts of reasons, but I read a great line from an article in Writing Magazine (by Steven Chapman - Does it have to be a box?) - Don't edit to satisfy your inner chicken. That's what I've been trying to avoid with this. I've even told myself that I can write it for me, that I don't have to try and get it published. Who am I trying to fool?

I have no idea where this novel will end up, not just whether it stays on my laptop, but where the story ends up. I've not worked that out yet. The whole thing is developing along with it's characters as I go. Unlike most of my other work there is very little humour in it. It's dark, suffocating and I'm trying my best to convey that in the atmosphere I'm building with it.

Just as I'd decided humour was going to be my genre for writing along comes this. Still, I've never been one to fit a mould.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Winchester Poetry Festival - a weekend of poetry

Have just returned from the Winchester Poetry Festival. I only attended three events but I thoroughly enjoyed them. I had thought about booking two others once I was there, but one was was already fully booked and the other was on the afternoon I'd hoped to go and visit Jane Austen's house in Chawton. I'm afraid Jane won! (details of that and a walk will be on my other blog soon)

The first event I had booked was In Full-Throated Ease with poets Kim Moore, Ian Duhig and Sophie Hannah. I'd come across Kim Moore before and enjoyed listening to her poetry very much. Ian Duhig's name comes up frequently, though I'd never read any of his poetry, so it was good to hear him read. I have a collection of Sophie Hannah's poetry and she is also the writer of psychological crime fiction, though I confess I haven't read any of them. Her poetry was very amusing and the three poets together made a great opening night's entertainment.

On Saturday morning I was at Stanza's In Stone where Simon Armitage and Pip Hall talked about their collaboration in the South Pennines (a commission they received from Ilkley Literature Festival to write poems in response to the landscape). Simon wrote the poems and Pip carved them into stones at various points along the route. I was fascinated by the whole thing which was illustrated with photos. The detail, thought and sheer hard work that went into this project sounded all consuming. Pip was out there in all weathers tap, tapping away on stone. Simon read some of the poems he had written and Pip explained how she went about carving and working with the stone as well as difficulties she encountered along the way. It appears as if the route has become a pilgrimage for some and the stones seem to have been looked after. There is one stone which is out there somewhere, a much smaller one which is one the move. No one knows where it is! So if you are walking in the Pennines look out for it. There was time for a few questions from the audience but all too soon it was over. There is something about installation landscape art that appeals to me, whether it is by Simon Armitage or the likes of Antony Gormley and Andy Goldsworthy. I guess it's the working with nature I like. Working with it rather than against it is always good in my book.

The final event I attended was also the Poetry Festival's final event - The Sensual Ear with Tim Dee producer of BBC 4's Poetry Please and Roger McGough, the programme's presenter. Tim spoke about the programme, popular poems, how requests come with personal stories, and he ended with a short series of poem written by Andrew Motion about war which was adapted into a play. The seven minute long end piece was accompanied by music  and was both moving and absorbing to listen to.

Roger began his poetry reading with some literary poems but soon had us laughing with his more hilarious renditions. He was, as always, brilliant to listen to and a fitting end to the poetry weekend. There were a great many other events taking place, including workshops. If you would like to read about others hop over to Josephine Corcoran's website. She also has better photos than me! But here are mine anyway.

Kim Moore

Ian Duhig

Sophie Hannah

The Emergency Poet Ambulance!

Simon Armitage (Pip Hall in the centre, sorry there was a head in the way!)

Tim Dee
Roger McGough

Thursday, 6 October 2016

National Poetry Day - A prose poem to celebrate the autumn of life


Enjoy your poetry whether you are reading it, writing it or performing it. Here's one of mine. Rather apt for the time of year.

Autumn Years

These are the autumn days, shorter, yet more colourful than the sum total of spring and summer with their languid headiness of new love and hopeless romance. Love now runs deep, an earthiness beyond the ache of wanting. It is solid, freeing, wise with experience, yet not without its adventures!

My days come in flames of reds and orange when all my fruits are multiplied and come into season. Their juicy sweetness runs in my veins. I look back at those growing years. Am I wiser? I’m certainly older. So I grab the sunny days by the scruff, bathing in vibrant yellows, greens, browns and gold, and there is the scent guiding me home – wood smoke trailing to the sky. But I’m not ready yet.

I love the misty mornings, the mellow tones clouded in white. Then the sun bursts through and the trees are glory crowned. I waste no time; daylight hours are shorter, there’s a nip in the air. I walk through fallen leaves; gather shiny conkers, fir cones. The shedding will soon be over and I am not done yet. There will be dark, sunless days, cold winds through old bones, but I have no time for teary regrets. While there is colour in my days you’ll find me walking under the sun, the juice of autumn fruits staining my lips.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Two acceptances in as many days!

I have a couple of things to brag about today....oh do let me brag! Actually, I'm thrilled because it's been a super week. A short story of mine has been accepted by a magazine which is available digitally and in print (details later in the year), and a poem I submitted at the weekend is available to view on Visual Verse. Do go over and have a look. You will need to scroll down a fair way.

These are new outlets for my work and it's all down to the Mslexia Small Press Guide. That's where I found these presses, along with many more. I had to wait for their submission windows to open and now they are. Over the last three or four days I've gone submission crazy and I've had two acceptances in that time. Mad! The poem is the first one I think I've actually had accepted this year. I've had much better luck with my fiction - flash and short stories. I'm feeling a little crazy right now. It's such a good feeling!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Wimbledon Bookfest Event - Carol Ann Duffy

Last evening I went along to another event at Wimbledon Bookfest. This time I was in the Big Tent on Wimbledon Common to see Carol Ann Duffy. She had brought along her Court Musician, John Sampson who played a range of wind instruments through the ages. He also accompanied Carol Ann Duffy on a couple of poems.

Carol Ann Duffy read from The World's Wife, Rapture and The Bees as well as a poignant poem about her mother. She spoke about how one of her poems was banned from the school curriculum and then went on to write a poem about that with her usual wit! It was a lovely evening. My photos I'm afraid are pretty dismal unlike the poetry which was captivating and amusing.

Sunset over Wimbledon Common

Friday, 30 September 2016

Author event - Jessie Burton

Jessie Burton reading from The Muse
The Wimbledon Bookfest has just started. There are lots of great writers you can go and see in conversation and reading from their latest books. Have a look at their website for the line up.

Last night I was Wimbledon Library to see Jessie Burton, the author of The Miniaturist. Her latest book The Muse was published recently and there was huge pile of them waiting to be bought ready for the book signing afterwards.

I bumped into a friend from my book group and she nudged me as we sat there. She said 'One day this will be you.' I wish! But yes, I do have that dream. In fact at a speakers event at Swanwick Writers' Summer School this year we were encouraged to visualise such things - the feeling you will have on seeing your book on the shelf at Waterstones etc. I do this. I have a whole scenario of pictures in my head!

Anyway, back to last night. Jessie was so interesting to listen to. She is a local girl from Wimbledon (didn't know that) - one of her ex-teachers was in the line for the book signing! She spoke about her first book, how it took off so unexpectedly and her world was rocked, how hard the second book was, especially after the success of The Miniaturist. She talked about themes, how different it was to write both books. She touched on research and methods. I was comforted to hear that her planning was much as mine, confused! Jessie then read from the first chapter of The Muse and spoke about one of the characters. I'm not putting out any spoilers here but her mum was in the audience and basically Jessie used a story her mum told her to start the book because she couldn't get started! Her mum then proceeded to remind her that the scene wasn't quite like that! Mum's we do so enjoying embarrassing our offspring. It was so funny.

There was a period of Q&A and the interviewer insisted one question come from one of the few men who were there (I think they were dragged along by wives on the whole). Coming out of this Jessie told us that she has been commissioned to write a children's book and that the BBC have plans for a drama of The Miniaturist. It's in the very early stages. What Jessie wants now is a year off. It's been a world wind  time and she'd just finishing a long book tour and has a holiday to look forward to, Jessie came across as very genuine. Her answers were informative and often funny.

I was soon off to purchase my copy of The Muse and to queue up to get the book signed. What a lovely evening.

Monday, 26 September 2016