The Latest in Writers’ Rooms – Kathleen Jones

For a Christmas treat – take  a peek at biographer, novelist and poet Kathleen Jones’  ‘made to measure,’ writing room. Tucked away at the top of an old  converted mill it’s the perfect writer’s getaway. Kathleen is an acclaimed biographer best known for her life of Kathleen Mansfield. She is also a novelist and an award winning poet. She blogs regularly about life and writing at A Writer’s Life.

You can see her Writer’s Room HERE

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a great writing year ahead!




Debora Levy

Ever since reading Deborah Levy’s novella Swimming Home I’ve been interested in her writing which had somehow passed me by before.
Last week I read Things I Don’t Want to Know – her powerful mix of memoir and reflections on a writing life – touching, honest and entirely brilliant! And I’ve now just bought her short story collection Black Vodka as I’m quite sure I will both enjoy it as a reader but also find it inspirational in my own work.

If you have a spare half hour, or better still make a spare half hour, listen to Deborah Levy talking about writing short stories HERE: scroll down for episode 6
I’m  particularly interested in  the way she talks about the unfolding of fiction and the slow reveal – the unraveling of things, the way we can enjoy the enigma at the outset of a story where we ask: Where am I? Who are these people? What’s happening? Something to think about for the writers among us. In fact there’s a great deal of food for thought here as Levy unravels her own story Placing A Call
I notice too when she reads the story (approx. 600 words) how so much of what she does is simply the naming of things/objects – which is something I’ve heard children’s writer David Almond say about writing many times. I’ve posted about it before HERE

Listening to Debora Levy certainly made me think of a short story I’d written some long time ago and how I could make it so much better – inspirational or what? Enjoy.


The above appears as one item of my weekly newsletter for writers – if you would like to receive it free every Monday – e mail me at        – or scroll down on the right and fill in the form

Writers’ Rooms and Changes

Yes I know I’m always changing my blog!  This time I’ve gone back to my previous blog style. I  liked the new look (lots of people commented on it – they seemed to like it too)  but somehow  it didn’t call to me in the same way – it didn’t invite me to write. I liked the aesthetic but it didn’t feel like a writer’s blog and so I’ve returned to a style that makes me want to write.

Interesting what a profound effect design can have in our lives. Which brings me very neatly to writers’ rooms. All of the rooms I’ve featured so far have reflected the desire for a writer to make his or her own space – we all need a space that calls to us, whether it be a blog, a bedroom, a purpose built garden house or an ironing board in the spare room. The spaces featured in  Writers’ Rooms are entirely unique. I find them fascinating which is why I’ve decided to honour them with a permanent page.

I’d love to add you to the growing list – just email me your text and photo if you have one -(or text only if not) – and I will put you in my Writers’ Rooms

My 100th Newsletter and Free Offer

glassesTomorrow – Monday – my 100th newsletter will go out to all my subscribers!!  Thank you for staying with me on my writing journey and if the newsletter has given you good information and  occasional inspiration then I am happy

To celebrate I’m offering From Writing With Love free on Kindle from Monday to Friday – you can get your free copy HERE

Also I would like to feature my newsletter and blog readers – that’s YOU – here on my blog. If you’d like to appear then e mail me a photo of your writing room or desk or favourite place to write with a few lines of accompanying text and I will publish them here. (If you haven’t got  a photo then tell me about it, text alone will be fine ) Go on – don’t be shy. I’d love to hear from you.

My email address is,  and if you don’t currently subscribe to my newsletter but would like to receive it then just e mail me and I will add you to my list

Above  a virtual glass or two of pink champagne – cheers!

100th Newsletter

Next week I’ll be sending out my 100th free newsletter for writers! Quite a landmark and I’m still trying to think of a special way to celebrate with my readers. Any ideas?

If you would  like to receive the newsletter every Monday (free, no strings attached ) you can just email me at and I will add you to my list.

Below I’ve copied in the info from this week’s newsletter so you can see the kind of things I cover


Competitions and Submissions

The Benchmark Creative Writing Competition
‘Our latest competition is a fundraising collaboration between Willow Burn Hospice and writer Rachel Cochrane, inspired by Rachel’s latest drama, Benchmark. Available for everyone to listen as an online radio play, Benchmark takes its inspiration from the ‘In Loving Memory…’ plaques found on benches which are usually situated in a place of beauty or of special significance to those commemorated. This competition, however is to celebrate the living and reflect the ethos of Willow Burn Hospice – treasuring life.
Imagine you had a bench dedicated to you. What would it say on the plaque? ( 30 words max) Where would it be? Why have you chosen that particular place- 200 words ?’

Sara Park Memorial Short Story Competition (Red Squirrel Press) -CLOSING DATE: 31st December 2014
Prize: Publication of pamphlet collection. The winner receives 50 complimentary copies and 50% discount on further copies.
Judges: Kathleen Kenny, Ellen Phethean. Entries should be of 2 short stories of a maximum of 2000 words each. MORE HERE
Thoughts on Writing

I really enjoy running workshops for writers; for one things writers are attentive, thoughtful people and the writers in the Stanhope writers’ group I met last week were no exception.
I love to feel I might have interested or inspired a writer or given someone permission to write something new or different. I love the intense quiet and the powerful, tangible energy created when everyone is writing freely and all you can hear is the sound of pen on paper.

If I’m leading a workshop I always try to write myself and I invariably find something that surprises me. This time I found a minor character from my work in progress stepped up and announced herself as a serious contender for a bigger role. Her voice sang off my page in an unexpected way as she staked her claim in my drama.
I’d been toying with the idea of using two voices – now perhaps I will!

This was part of the workshop I ran, which you might like to try for yourself or with a group. For a group you need a collection of objects; I took stamps, a train ticket, a small brass pot, a pair of sunglasses, a penknife, some sea glass, a shell, scrap of cloth, a cup etc. etc.– really anything will do. Put them on the table then ask writers choose an object.
If you’re doing this alone then try to find something in your home that isn’t full of personal associations, try to choose something at random, maybe something quite mundane.
Now answer the following questions: (quickly and without too much thinking – first thoughts are best)
Who owns this? What is his/her name – give first name and surname.
Where are they? And what are they doing?
What time of year is it? How does the air around them smell, taste?
What are they afraid of?
What have they lost?
What do they wish for?
Who or what stands in their way?
Where are they going next?

Now write for 10 -20 mins without stopping and without editing yourself. Begin with the name and then a verb – e.g. Eileen Fisher stepped….
If you can begin with an image, something the reader can see, e.g. Eileen Fisher stepped into the sunlight that slanted through the willows…
Do not edit yourself, write freely, you can do the editing later, let the character and the story take you where it will, let it surprise you.

Inspiration and Quotes

It’ still autumn, in my garden at least – here are some lovely autumn images and quotes

Free for Wednesday

It’s FREE and it’s probably the best advice you’re ever going to get -at

Authors Share Their Best Writing Tips with NYPL -


 So make yourself a cup of coffee click the link,  scroll down, and  listen HERE to Toni Morrison  on writing what you don’t know

“I tell my students; I tell everybody this. When I begin a creative writing class I say, ‘I know you’ve heard all your life, “Write what you know.” Well I am here to tell you, “You don’t know nothing. So do not write what you know. Think up something else. Write about a young Mexican woman working in a restaurant and can’t speak English. Or write about a famous mistress in Paris who’s down on her luck.”

Tuesday for Free

cropped-botanic-journal-may-4-002.jpgThe classic writing style guide The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. is now freely available online. Hooray. John Clare, in The Telegraph, called it   “…a marvellous and timeless little book… Here, succinctly, elegantly and without fuss are the essentials of writing clear, correct English.”

All the answers to those tricky grammar and punctuation questions at the click of a button FIND IT HERE



Writing Short Fiction

workThis is the table in my study where I’m working on my new novella/short novel. I don’t always, or often, cut things up or stick post-it notes everywhere but on this occasion I needed a strategy to help me think what next and enable me to move forward. Cutting things up, moving them around, highlighting new things to be written or connections between things on blue post-its, proved a good creative solution.

I had two things to work with: Eating Words, my  Manchester Fiction Prize shortlisted story - long before Manchester I’d made the decision to continue writing Alice’s story – and 6,000 words which I’d written in France.

There were a number of things to think about – how could I move away from the short story or at least not be hidebound by it? How would I manage time? What would the structure be? What about the repetition in the fragmented pieces in my notebook?  I had lots of ideas but before I could write it was time to make some decisions – that’s the novella for you – it makes early demands on the writer in particular in terms of  ‘how.’  You can write on as I did in France but before long choices will have to be made. Short fiction is a fascinating form and tomorrow at our Teikyo workshop myself and writer Wendy Robertson will be sharing with those who’ve signed up, everything we’ve learned about it  so far. Can’t wait! Looking forward to it very much. Workshops are always – or at least always should be – as inspirational for the tutors as the participants. See you there…

If you’re interested in writing short fiction of novella length (approx anywhere between 10-50,000 words), both Wendy and I will be posting more about this on our blogs in the coming weeks