On Wednesday I learned that Sometimes a River Song is through to the final of The People’s Book Prize. This is entirely down to your votes, so a huge thank you for voting for me. And many thanks to my publisher Linen Press for all their supprt.

I love that it’s the PEOPLES book prize. I cannot think of a better accolade than to be voted into a final by readers. But the greatest surprise and the biggest gift came when I read the comments left by voters. Honestly, it was very emotional for me to see how much people had loved the book.

You can read the comments HERE. (You have to scroll down, past the Reviews to Readers’ Comments) Voting takes place again in May 2017

2016-05-12-19-41-57Now, back to preparing for the Comma Short Story course I will be running in Newcastle in 2017  – starting January. I’m currently working on my plan for our six sessions and I’m getting excited by how much there is to talk about and to learn together. And how many new stories might be born. Looking forward to it very much.

Writing What Scares Us

Two weeks ago I started a new novel and boy was I excited! I’d completed a couple of short stories, the way was clear and I was raring to go. This was a new idea. It was not the novel I’d been thinking of writing. It was very different but I discussed it with my writing buddy and my editor and was convinced and committed that this was the novel I would now write.

I began to think about it and to dwell in its possibilities, which I always find such a delicious place to be. I am all for a smorgasbord of appetisers. So, maybe it was the main course that derailed me, the thought of all that meat had me scared, because suddenly, inexplicably it seemed, I got cold feet.

So I have been asking myself why. And more generally,  how we choose what it is we will write next. Choosing is important because I don’t like to abandon anything. It’s too easy and besides I’ve found that stories that feel like orphans often turn out to be our best. Choice  matter, especially when a novel is involved because we’re talking a year or more of investment, not weeks or months as we might for a short story. We want to get it right and false starts are inevitable

So how could I be so enthused and then get cold feet? Quite simply, I discovered, I was scared. And I found myself admitting this today after coffee with a writing friend, just as I was leaving, I confessed.

I realised  then, walking up the hill home that my old idea which had been calling me back, had the safety net of research – history, a short story already written, characters already fleshed out – wrapped around it. My new idea offered no such comforts.

The new idea is contemporary and  involves heart and soul in a way the other does not. And I’ve no idea where it will lead. So a fear of the unknown surfaces, of being vulnerable, of not being good enough to pull it off, of it never being published and all those other fears that get in the way and stop us writing.

But there is an argument, of which I’m persuaded, that says we should write what scares us. It will open us up to the page. After all, what challenge is there in always dwelling in our comfort zone? To make progress we need to push our boundaries.  And what point is there in writing the same book over?

So I know what I’m going to write and the story begins on the day Leonard Cohen dies, but I’m scared, so wish me luck…

‘Go for the jugular. If something scary comes up, go for it. That’s where the energy is . Otherwise you’ll spend all your time writing around whatever makes you nervous. It will probably be abstract, bland writing because you’re avoiding the truth. Hemingway said, ‘Write hard and clear about what hurts.’ Don’t avoid it. It has all the energy. Don’t worry, no one ever died of it. You might cry or laugh, but not die.

Natalie Goldberg

For Books’ Sake-Weekend Read

If you’re looking for a story to read on your Friday commute, or with your Saturday morning coffee, a story for the weekend, or just an anytime story, then look no further than For Books’ Sake. If you subscribe to their Weekend Reads then a new story written by a woman  – they champion writing by women ( yeah! )  will drop into your mailbox, free, every Friday.

I checked out their Hall of Fame and it’s impressive, and so are they. So I’m chuffed that my story How the River Breaks Your Heart will be this weekend’s read. It has the same southern, river, setting as my novel, Sometimes a River Song and last year it was shortlisted for the Raymond Carver Short Story Prize.

If you’d like to read it, you can subscribe here…

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Why Do We Write?

I first published this post in January 2014. People often seem to come back to it and that includes me, so no apologies for re-publishing it now…with a slight update

A Manifesto

Whenever I have serious doubts about my work or about the world around me, like Brexit and Trump, and everything  despicable they stand for, when I am bogged down with feelings of inadequacy, of not being a good enough writer, of not being successful enough, when I’m between projects and wondering what to write next or where my writing is going, when I’m reluctant to get out my notebook or sit at the machine, when I ask myself what the point of all of this is, then it is inevitable that I ask the question why write at all?

Below is my answer, it’s what grounds me, and time and time again it has brought me back to what’s important, to a place where I can start again…

  • I write because I discovered I could, because after years of looking for ways to express my creativity, without ever feeling whole, I finally found what it was I could best do. What it was I wanted to do.
  • I write to connect with the world, to reflect the lives of people who live on the margins, who others might think unimportant.
  • I write to make myself whole, to disappear in the act of writing, to lose myself completely, so that time passes unnoticed.
  • I write to spend time in other worlds that fascinate me.
  • I write because I get my own room with books and flowers.
  • I write because I love reading and words and I love polishing my words over and over.
  • I write because then I am never lonely.
  • I write to give purpose to my life.
  • I write because now I have to, I must, it has become an essential part of who I am.
  • I write because it brings me great joy and takes me to many places.

Why do you write? Write your own manifesto. Copy it up, print it out and put it somewhere it cannot be ignored .

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Next year I will be writing here on Hydra!

So Long Leonard

Leonard is singing as I write, dancing us to the end of time, letting the light in. So hard leonardto believe he’s gone. Days of my youth, breaking away and out into a new world where we played Cohen endlessly and loud, as I am today, the soundtrack to our lives and loves. The man who’d seen and warned us of the future

This morning my husband gave me his poem, written for Leonard.

 

So Long

 

And what will lovers say?

Will he still be with them

when love withers in the winter frost?

Whose songs will help the loveless now he’s gone?

Will casualty departments fill with helpless cases

jostling with weekend drunks and self–piercings

gone horribly wrong?

Who will heal the broken hearted now that he’s gone?

Love sores may weep forever,

is there another voice to close an open wound?

Or songs to give hope to those that live without

Hallelujahs. Our greatest lover.

So long, possessor of women.

God is listening, wondering

if one day he will be in need of your healing.

 

John Lenton

 

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