Yesterday was the offical publication date for Sometimes A River Song. My publishers Linen Press, sent me these flowers. How lovely and how gracious – a wonderful surprise.
We Are Called to Rise is one of those books that demand to be read all in one go. Once I started there was no stopping. I barely came up for air. It was compelling and engaging from the very first page – I guess it helped that Avis, a woman of a certain age, rooting in her sexy underwear draw, comes up with a gun.
But this novel is about much more than Avis, her underwear or guns. It is about three lives, three families colliding, bound together by a mistake made in a just a split second. It is about the fate of a clever, sensitive child.
I need to walk more. Or so my oesteopath tells me. I know he’s right, too long spent in a chair reading, or at the machine writing has not helped my back. I’m thinking of having an imaginary dog to pull me up from my seat and force me out walking. Why don’t I go more? After all I know what an inspiration walking can be for a writer.
I Google walking and writing and see that I’m not alone in finding inspiration when I’m out walking. But what is it about walking that’s so creative?
‘Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move,” wrote Henry Thoreau, “my thoughts begin to flow.” So it is with me. The minute I begin walking a vein of creativity opens up and ideas come flooding in. I think this happens by sleight because I’m not really thinking and perhaps that’s the key. The mind is free to wander.
There is also the sheer physicality of it: ‘Poetry is written from the body as well as the mind, and the rhythm and pace of a walk can get you going and keep you grounded. It’s a kind of light meditation.’ The poet Edward Hirsch. Read more of his wonderful piece on walking and writing HERE
For me being alone is also a key factor. Being alone is a gift to a writer, there are so many possibilities in the space that aloneness creates.
There is also being outside and the inspiration of the natural world or of the city. It’s all too easy to get hemmed in by weather, illness, difficulty, whatever, but walking especially in sunshine can mend most things.
below – the Canal du Midi – one of my favourite places to walk when I’m in France
Available NOW for pre-order with Linen Press
An amazing, beautiful book with echoes of Eimear McBride. Avril Joy knows how to draw you into the story, right into the soul of the narrator… Kathleen Jones, author of A Passionate Sisterhood: The Sisters, Wives and Daughters of the Lake Poets
A tour de force…original and beautiful – Sharon Griffiths, author of The Accidental Time Traveller
OK, so I know it’s just not possible for me to flee the country and arrive in Arkansas in time for the opening on April 8th of A House of Light exhibition, in the Historic Arkansas Museum, Little Rock. But I can always dream.
The exhibition features the largest existing collection of Arkansas Delta photography. 80 original works from the archive of floating photographers Hugo and Gayne Preller, whose work spanned more than half a century, from 1895 to 1950. This unconventional couple sailed down the Mississippi River in their floating portrait studio, creating a visual history of the delta community, which has been preserved and curated by Chris Engholm and Gayne Preller. You can hear Chris talking about the journey from discovery to exhibition HERE.
I don’t quite remember how I first came across the ‘floating photographers,’ but when I did I knew they would have to be part of my novel – Sometimes a River Song. Their photographs inspired me, as did the idea of a photographic studio sailing down the river. My later correspondence with Chris proved generous and encouraging.
I hope very much I’ve done the Prellers justice. I wish the exhibition every success and a great opening night – read more about it HERE.
I call out, ‘Morning, I hope I ain’t disturbing you none.’
She stop washing pots, stand up tall and look out at me on the bank. The man act like he ain’t heard.
‘I am wondering if you might take my photograph? I got money with me.’
She nod, dry her hands on her apron, ‘Come aboard.’ I step up onto the long plank, from riverbank to boat. She lift a curtain at the door and show me the way through. Is a small room. Got a chair and the camera all set up, cotton sheet pinned on the wood, blue curtain across the window, sun shining at its back.
‘Sit there, child, and rest your hands in your lap.’
Is peaceful, boat shift in the tide, spill water rising. Specks of dust floating like silk in the air.
Sometimes a River Song – pub April 27th Linen Press
What a brilliant idea – our very own short story festival here in the North! And why not? So often short story festivals, celebrations or salons happen, further south, frequently in the capital. Yet we have great short story writers in the north – like winner of the Scott prize Carys Bray who will be reading from her work and answering your questions at the festival on Saturday June 4th at the Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds – not to be missed.
The programme is exciting and eclectic (see below) and places are filling up fast, so book now to avoid disappointment.
I’m proud to be a part of the festival. My session – Workshop Success in Short Story Competitions, is just an hour long. This won’t give us the luxury of getting to know each other well or workshopping individual stories. I’m thinking of it as more of an interactive talk. I talk and you interrupt and ask me all the questions you’ve always wanted to ask, whatever they are. Having only an hour in which to help you find success in competitions leaves me with the dilemma of what to put in and what to leave out. But that is, or should be, a familiar dilemma for the short story writer. Less is often more, as I explain in this previous post
So without giving too much away what will I be offering? I hope to give you the best possible advice about the competitions out there, where to find them, the process of entering etc but mostly I want to talk about the story that makes it through to the judges ‘likepile’ (I’ve been a judge too) and hopefully beyond. Why does this story shine through? What are the elements of a great short story? And how can you make your story the best it can be?
I will share with you everything I know and have learned along my way and because time is short I will definitely be around after to answer any further questions or just for a cuppa and a chat. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned campaigner you are welcome.
Really looking forward to meeting you on 4th. In the meantime keep writing and if you need weekly inpsiration and competition details then do sign for my free weekly newsletter, where I go on endlessly about writing and the writing life!
I’m looking forward very much to celebrating International Women’s Day next Tues, March 8th in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, at a dinner organised by independent bookstore Word Power Books and Sister Acts, in the
‘lovely Spoon restaurant. There will be a chance to meet other women, catch up and enjoy a dinner with songs, poetry and performance. Our Sister Acts is an open mic slot so come prepared!’
If you’re around then why not join us? I’ll be with Liz Rao assistant editor at Linen Press. I’ll be reading from my new novel, Sometimes a River Song, due for publication in April and Liz will be taking pre-orders.
Me and the river and no one else seeing or listening. I catch its song at the edge of the day, rose light of dawn, blue light of dusk . I walk without rest. Blood and blisters on my feet… Sometimes a River Song
I’m still buzzing and full of inspiration after Saturday’s, Contemporary Small Press, event for readers and writers at The British Library. So much to say and commend so where to begin? With Linen Press of course, after all they’re publishing my latest novel and I couldn’t be happier about being published by the only Indie Press for Women in the UK!
Lynn Michell, founder of the press and my kind but astute editor, spoke eloquently about setting the press up, about kitchen tables, and gas fires, about the big five and crowd pleasers, and about taking risks. Because that’s what small presses do – they take risks. They take risks on writers like me and books like mine.
provided some of the day’s best quotes, seen here. Galley Beggar’s questions are much like those of Linen Press and they’re music to the writer’s ears – they ask, ‘not who someone is, or whether something is going to make it into the supermarkets. Rather, … whether this is an author we want, a novel we love.’
In the afternoon we were presented with unique handmade books from Westminster students including my personal favourite from the inspirational bookartist and poet Sandhya.
‘Piece of Paper Press is an artists’ book project that I started in 1994 as a lo-tech, sustainable imprint that could be used to occasionally publish new writings and visual or graphic works by artists and writers and distribute them free.’ Yes you heard it – Free!
And so it was books, books of all kinds, books for readers who do not want to be dictated to by the big five, books for women, books by people who believe in their beauty, who believe that writers need nurturing and editing, books that celebrate a low-tec, sustainable model without sacrificing the quality of the writing, books that take risks – and book people of course and wine after – a perfect Saturday.
When we’re between projects, or not writing for whatever reason, there’s nothing like trying, what I like to call, writing out of the blue.
Writing out of the blue is often what we find ourselves doing if we sign up for a workshop. It’s fresh writing, writing we weren’t expecting to do and which involves no planning and no intended outcomes. Outcomes are forgotten, we are liberated to just write, write anything, write something which, in the first instance, we have no thought of carrying on with.
This kind of writing exercises our writing muscle, but it may also light the touch paper for something new and exciting. Now this may or may not happen. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we write because in the act of writing new ideas and connections begin to form in our minds. Writing out of the blue can get the writing ball rolling again especially if it’s been stuck in the mud.
Here are 4 different writing out of the blue prompts. Choose one and don’t think about it, just start writing.
1.Write for 5 mins about your mother’s (or grandmother, aunt, sister or friend’s ) kitchen, include the sink and the oven, something green and something dead.
Now have someone walk into the kitchen and write for another 5 mins – if there was already someone there then include dialogue.
2. Write for 5 mins about a garden in winter, include something red, something buried and a hot water bottle.
Now have an animal enter the garden and write for another five minutes.
3. Write for 5 mins about the coast or the city, include a red coat, a window and a swimmer.
Now have a busker arrive on the scene and write for another 5 mins.
4. Write for 5 mins about a derelict place, include something orange, a roll of wallpaper and a drum.
Now have a child or young person enter this place and write for 5 more minutes.
Now you have some writing! What if anything do you like about what you’ve written? Where if anywhere could it go?