Happy Easter/Short Story Competition

eggsHappy Easter! – I wish you sunshine and chocolates . If you’re writing over Easter then why not think of working towards our short story competition over at RoomTo Write

It opens May 1st and closes Aug 1st – so plenty of time to think and write. The final shortlist will be read by award winning authors Pat Barker and David Almond !

First prize:  £200.00 – publication in The Northern Echo and broadcast on listenupnorth

All the details you need are here

My latest book From Writing With Love (available on Kindle special price £1.87  and in paperback )- has top tips for short story writing and my thoughts on what judges are looking for

Flowers In Prison and From Writing With Love

Below is an extract from my latest book From Writing With Love – (available in paperback and on Kindle) it’s had some great REVIEWS. They are very generous and say much more than I could have hoped for.

From Writing With Love  is very close to my heart. I even read myself bits – in one way to remind myself what I’ve written, but mostly to remind myself of what it is to be a writer, why I love writing so much and what’s important in the grand scheme of things.

Here’s an extract – the book is written like this in bite sized pieces.

Flowers in Prison

Your Writing DeskWhen I was younger I didn’t think of myself as a woman who would ever have a study or a desk, and houses that had studies or – even more exotically – pianos, really fascinated me. Now I still  celebrate having a desk and a room of my own, as you can see here in the beginning of my poem

A Woman Must Have Money and a Room of Her Own

It comes late this room of her own,

that doesn’t have a bed

better than a trip to Africa or Alaska -

which are popular now -

the desk positioned just so, to catch

nothing but trees

black and leaning west, the sky fading

in layers of grey

waiting for the slow repair of light…

Your desk can be a desk proper, something new, something picked up second hand. It can be portable: a folding picnic table, an old pasting table, a tray with your notebooks and pens on. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy but for me the desk, in whatever form it comes, is where I celebrate my writing life.

When I approach my desk I see the things I love: a cornflower paperweight, my notebooks, my magnetic Zen calendar, a vase of flowers, a brass pot from India, pencils, pens… and above it, the hand sewn bunting my sister in law Jan made for me. I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t admit also to the half-drunk cups of coffee and the mess of scattered papers – it’s a big desk – often a sign that I’m working hard and far too busy to tidy up.

When I worked in Low Newton Women’s Prison I often took  a bunch of flowers into work with me for my classroom desk; later for my office. I bought a plastic vase to put them in as no glass was allowed. I know it was considered eccentric. I don’t know of another member of staff who ever brought in flowers but fortunately it was tolerated. I did this because I love flowers. I have flowers on my desk because I want to honour and celebrate what I do, because every time I see the flowers I’m looking at something beautiful, because it makes me want to sit at my desk and start writing.  Of course in the prison I also wanted to bring a breath of the outside world into what was a tough, closed institution. I hoped to give a reason however small for celebration.

As writers we should never forget to celebrate what we do or the love of writing, or our freedom to do it. It’s too easy to get bogged down in complaining about how hard it is.

fwwl

 

 

How Twitter Gets Me Down, Then Brings Me Right Back Up

I’ve been working hard and trying to stay away from social media, especially Twitter because there’s no denying it, sometimes Twitter gets me down. Sometimes when I read the Tweets on my home page I get caught up in all the chatter about the latest ‘great,’ books, the latest prizes, who’s doing what, more to the point, who’s achieving what. Then I find myself wondering what I’m doing and  thinking how I’m not really making it as a writer and all that goes with that wasteful, pointless soul searching.

I clearly need more of my own medicine – after all I bang on about this a lot in From Writing With Love – how I want to re-define success, how not to get caught up in things outside of the work itself… but like anyone else I sucumb.

However, sometimes Twitter comes up trumps. Just like it  did today during  my late coffee break.

Today I read this piece by the poet Anthony Wilson – Losing my ambition, On Jean Sprackland’s advice, Muji stationery and cancer

Really what more is there to say…..

Happy Monday!

From Writing With Love – My Box of Books

FWWL

 

 

I just can’t resist showing you my box of books which arrived yesterday!  There is nothing like the thrill of opening up a box of books – these feel particularly smooth and velvety and smell like all new books. I like the matte cover and my own collage design. I like the words too. I like everything about it – well almost – I found something I want to change – but the beauty of  Print On Demand means that’s more than possible..

From Writing With Love is available in both hard copy and as an ebook

Below is an extract on the question of Truth in Writing:

Being true to ourselves as writers is the only way to find success. I’ve learned this the hard way. It’s very easy to get seduced by the possibilities of success and the lure of agents and editors. It’s not difficult to find yourself losing your way and writing something that’s not true to who you are. I’ve done it. I’ve written more sex into a book to please an agent. I’ve written crime fiction, invented a serial killer, ditched one book and moved onto the next, and more…

I forfeited truth for the chance of what I believed might be success. It was not all bad of course, I learned a lot about my craft along the way, especially through writing crime fiction, but I ignored the good advice of one of my first editors who told me to stay true to myself. So while I learned things, I lost things too. I lost some of my original spark and it took me time to find it again….

Glamorous Patrick’s 90th Birthday.

I’m really supposed to be banned from the computer at present as I have very sore hands (poss RSI) so a rest is called for.

I’ll be resting from tonight  anyway as I’m off to London with the family to celebrate my father’s 90th Birthday! We’re celebrating not far from the East End where Patrick _48965513_blitz7sep40

 

was born and grew up and from where he joined the navy as a young man of nineteen. From here  he saw London alight in the Blitz , from here his family were bombed out twice and evacuated to Somerset where he eventually settled.

His father was a merchant seaman with many stories to tell. Patrick told stories too, every night when he could he told my brother and me a story at bedtime.. I guess that’s where I get my story telling gene from…

How lucky are we now, to still have an independent, life loving, cream suit and bow tie wearing, dancing (yes dancing- you heard me right),  glamorous as one of my dear friends described him, father and grandfather?

It’s a true blessing and long may it continue. Happy Birthday Glamorous Patrick – we’ll have a blast…

 

Three Good Things for Friday – including a Free Offer

Hey, it’s Friday – always a good feeling – here’s my three good things for Friday…

1. I’ll be sending out my free newsletter as usual on Monday and I have a special offer for anyone with an i-pad or i-phone. It’s  a three month subscription – free of charge – for a screen568x568Short Story Writer Magazine app  If you’re interested you can sign up for my newsletter on the right – guaranteed spam free – and you will find details of how to get the free offer in  the newsletter.

 

2. This morning I’ve been to Tai Chi for the very first time. I’ve always fancied going and it didn’t disappoint, in fact I think I could easily get hooked although I can see it will take  me a long time and a lot of practice before I really get the hang of it. Such a friendly group and  a great teacher, now I just need to start practising at home. Any tips?

 

3. My second proof of From Writing With Love arrived and it looks great – so as well as being available as an e book it will now be available next week in hard copy. Thanks so much to everyone  for all the lovely reviews. I was really hoping that it would be in some way, however small,  enabling and inspiring and it looks like maybe it is….

 

Have  a great weekend, just waiting for the snow to arrive here – stay warm and dry if at all possible.

 

 

Flood Relief for the Somerset Levels

I grew up on the edge of the Somerset Levels and like most people my heart goes out to those living with the floods and their dire consequences. I think we should be doing much more to help now and to prevent this happening in the future, and I get angry with people who fail to recognise the importance of continuing to manage this landscape through dredging and the other new and imaginative means available, like the Belford ‘Back to Nature’ Flood Defence Scheme.

The Somerset landscape has always been managed, including as far back as neolithic times when wooden trackways were built across the flooded land to make it accessible in winter.

Below are three extracts from my novel The Sweet Track  - named after one of the most well know of these tracks, the oldest track in Britain – 3800 BC, discovered in 1970 by a peat digger called Ray Sweet –  if only it were a best seller then I could have donated  profits to the Somerset Emergency Flood Relief Appeal, instead I’ve made a modest donation and perhaps you could do the same if you want to help the people and the animals of Somerset

GEP007SomersetLevels

Photo from 2020 VISION

‘Everywhere the mark of intense activity to drain and resist, keeping the sea out, helping the rivers to carry their upland load, rhynes and cuts, canals and embankments, pumping station and clyse, diverting, draining, defying gravity, reversing the flow of rivers and all the while a constant seeping, a resurgence of water in the hollows, rising up through the soft peat to fill the pits and ditches…’

‘For centuries those living on the land had both acquiesced and wrestled with its vagaries. The struggle to resist the shift of water and silt spilling from the low lying plain filled boots with water and buried spades in slime. Elsewhere farmers welcomed the thick water of  flood to replenish fields and guarantee the harvest.’

‘Questions posed were often without solution; sluices and weirs, sea walls and pumping stations were partial. Still the rivers flooded and the sea broke through the defences. A wild land of flooded marshes with myriad islands, secret places where kings might hide, was not easily tamed. A great basin spilling at its rim not easily discharged when its rivers were sluggish and their estuaries silted by the tides.’

 

 

Sunday Book Launch – Strawberries and Champagne

Had an absolutely top Sunday in my favourite  city – Durham –  with my writing buddy Wendy, celebrating our new books.

Here it is in pictures: Hope you enjoy it as much as we did…

saddler street

Saddler Street Durham on Sunday morning in between the rain and sun

saddlers cafe

Our chosen cafe – Sadlers which was full of people enjoying their Sunday brunch and newspapers

We brought our Kindle copies of From Writing With Love and The Romancer with us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

strawberry tarts

Been dreaming of these all week! They did not disappoint. Taste as delicious as they look

glasses

On to the Champagne Bar for a glass of Mercier Rose and a toast.

champagne

Book covers through the bubbles

chandelier champagne bar

Plenty of blue sky and bling – just what a book launch needs

 

Five Good Things for Thursday

 

 

 

FIVE GOOD THINGS FOR THURSDAY

 

It’s cold and wet, and grey and January, so we need something to cheer us up. Here’s what’s cheered me up so far this week:

1. Hooray for Nathan Filer who won the overall Costa Book of the Year  for his debut novel The Shock of the Fall – the most affecting novel I’ve read in a long time – it’s stunning, and everyone should read it. And for twice shortlisted Angela Readman who won the short story prize – another northern writer!!

2. The pictures of my daughter Katie’s wedding dress – it was bought in December and we’d almost forgotten what it looked like – the shop kindly took photos for Katie. I’d forgotten how beautiful it was and I can’t wait to see her in it on the day.

3. Making it to number 4 in the Amazon charts with my new book on writing  From Writing With Love -  slipping now but it was good while it lasted.

4. Some lovely messages of support about the book from my newsletter readers, like these:  thank you for the newsletter you send every week -it has encouraged a ‘new’ writer to keep on writing…. I always look forward to your weekly letter of support and signposts to further reading and writing…I find your blog writing encouraging, practical and inspiring.

The thing is, we mostly don’t know what people think until they tell us  and when they do it can be really heartening.

5. Looking forward to a glass of champagne with my writing buddy Wendy to properly launch our new books. Read about her writer’s memoir   HERE

So January’s not all bad – just February to go now and we should get a glimpse of spring.  And I forgot to say – also cheering me up this week, the hyacinths on the table and the snowdrops in the garden.

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My Writing Process – Blog Tour

Today is ‘My Writing Process,‘ blog tour day, when writers post about their writing process. Last week, the inspired Wendy Robertson, posted hers.  Thank you Wendy for inviting me on your Writing Process blog tour. Click here for Wendy’s Post

 

Q. What am I working on?

From writing with love final cover smallI’m currently in the final stages of completing and publishing my book on writing, From Writing With Love. This is a book I’ve been wanting to write for some time now, so I’m delighted to already have published it on Kindle, just this weekend,  and I’m now continuing with the Create Space process of producing the hard copy. From Writing With Love is a book that’s really close to my heart. I suppose it’s the teacher in me that won’t go away, still wanting  the buzz I get from helping and inspiring others.

What I’ve tried to do within it’s pages are chart my own writing journey in ways which I hope will resonate with both would- be writers and  more experienced writers. It’s the story of how I fell in love with writing, how a writer can find her voice and how I came dangerously close to falling out of love after rejections and disappointments. In it I offer new ways of defining and achieving success in our writing and of believing in ourselves. I talk about going Indie. I’ve also included everything I’ve learned along the way: all the craft, all the things I wish I’d known better at the outset, everything I’ve learned about writing short stories and novels.

This coming week I will finally get back to some fresh writing. I’ve recently written one or two darker stories and they seem to have led me to begin exploring connections with fairy tales. I’m very excited by this and by the prospect of new creative work.

Q. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not very comfortable with the idea of putting writing into boxes. I don’t think of myself as writing in any particular genre. I write what I want to write, whatever project most appeals, this includes poetry which is on the back burner just now but which I know I want to explore much more fully in the future. The good thing about working in this way is that each thing I do influences the next, across genre boundaries. So for instance when I wrote my crime novel Blood Tide I learned so much about pace and constructing plot that I can take into  a new novel with me.

Q. Why do I write what I do? 

I write what I do because of who I am. I’m drawn to writing about the lives of people living on the margins and I think this reflects my long years of working in a women’s prison. As do the darker elements in my work

My writing is often inspired by place. I am always excited by new a landscape and when I was growing up my happiest times were out of doors, in the countryside or by the sea. I spent my childhood in a very watery place and I find when I’m writing, water often flows onto the page, as does  a love of the natural world, especially birds, and gardens too.

Q How does your writing process work?

I’m not strict about writing every day but I write most days, mostly because I can’t resist it. I write the majority of my first drafts in notebooks and I like to get out to cafes or bars to do this. I often do the really creative stuff out of the house and then come back to transcribe onto the machine. When I’m writing short stories I try to stay loose with ideas and not over think them in the early stages. I try to live with characters for a while, let them settle into my head and I try not to anticipate the story ahead. So when I come to write the story it’s a journey of discovery for me as I have no idea where it will end.

I also draft  my novels in a notebook first. For me once you get onto a machine it’s too tempting to start editing too early. The same with poetry. I keep this in the notebook for as long as possible and do even more drafting in the notebook before I risk the screen.

I spend a lot of time editing, what writer doesn’t? I enjoy it. I always think at this stage the hard work’s been done and now is the time to hone and polish and then leave it (for as long as possible) and then come back to it, and hone and polish again each time making it better. After all I think our goal must always be to produce the best writing we can. If we do this then I think we  have achieved  a measure of success.

 

judith

Next week, on the 3rd February, the blog-baton passes to Judith Marshall. Judith is a poet and creative writing coach from Richmond, North Yorkshire. Judith alternates between fantasy and poetry, and is currently experimenting with a fusion of the two genres. You can find her blog HERE

Also on Feb 3rd I hope to share with you pictures of my real/virtual (it’s a bit of both) launch of From Writing With Love