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Wednesday, 24 October 2018

A double waste of time

I've come to the conclusion I mishandle time, due to faulty logic and a weird brain. When I don't want to do anything, I check my to-do list. I have a rule whereby I must do AT LEAST TWO things off the list daily. On idle days I'll choose something like: "Tell Rick about the work Christmas meal" and "Water house-plants"
And meet my criteria in under a minute.
Then I can think about painting... but I can't paint when I should be writing. I'm not writing because my sciatica is worse when I sit, (so I mostly write in bed.) I therefore take my to-do list into the summerhouse to decide what I should do next.
I sit in the sun and read the list (short and long-term) and stare out of the window, wanting to lie down and read my book or paint a brand new cow; but I can't do these things because they're weekend things, and not on the fucking list.
It's only Wednesday. Yawn.
I have no energy for gardening or other physically demanding tasks today. So I sit and drink my coffee, stare at the sheep in the field that I'd also like to paint, feel guilty about what I'm not doing and just do nothing at all.
Just me?

Monday, 8 October 2018

Penguin Random House #WriteNowLive event in Nottingham 2018

The third anniversary of my stroke is probably a good time to celebrate the fact that I might be getting closer to being published :)

This is a snapshot of the third and final Penguin WriteNow event for under-represented writers 2018. And I was one of the 150 writers/illustrators, shortlisted from 1780, to attend WriteNow events in London, Liverpool and up here in Nottingham.

This pictorial snifter gives a flavour of WriteNow's brilliance. We learnt about publishing and contracts; heard from authors and agents; received in depth guidance on querying and synopses. We all had a twenty-minute one-to-one with a Penguin editor - with the chance of being shortlisted, further, as a Penguin mentee.

(I didn't jump this last fence, btw, but received excellent feedback, made invaluable contacts, and was amongst the top 10% of WriteNow Talent, as calculated by my husband :) 


Okay, I have no picture of Roo Hocking but she's one of last year's WriteNow mentees. She told us about her year-long experience and showered us with inspiration.

"What you're making is good"

"There is something quite magical about being taken seriously"

"Today is for you and you deserve it"

And, actually, we were constantly being reminded that simply being here was a huge achievement in itself - proven by the quality of our writing/artwork. 

We were assured that this WriteNow accolade was a reputable badge that would be taken seriously by the publishing community. 

And, in fact, I spoke to someone who'd been getting full manuscript requests since she'd added WriteNow 2018 to her writing CV :)

So we'll see what happens next...

I jotted down some nutshell writing tips from author Rowan Coleman...

"Main thing is to write the best book you can"

"Ensure you're paid for what you do. Remember your work is valuable"

Rowan told us that her process of writing was, "mostly based on panic and despair" :)

"I write because I'm not qualified to do anything else. Believe in the importance of telling stories

This is the wonderful Molly Crawford - Penguin Random House editor, with whom I had my massively positive one-to-one :) 

Illustrator Dapo Adeola entertainingly spoke about his (familiar-sounding) approach to work:

"A long stressful process of trial and error"

I learnt stuff  while I was there too. But, here's another amusing snippet instead... 

The warm and hilarious Journalist Tom Rasmussen said:

"Sometimes I write naked in bed. If someone is in the house I write in cafes"

"I write because I could never afford therapy"

Picture book author Abie Longstaff had loads of advice, like:

"Don't get it right, get it written

(This was about getting bogged down with editing your first draft, if I remember rightly.)

Abie said, on writing, "A story that itches, I have to write or I start dreaming about it"

I really related to what writer Mahsuda Snaith said:

"I couldn't not write. I need to write, it's how I express myself"

The promise of goody bags stacked up in the foyer :)

Tasty lunch :) 

Laura Mahadevan (one of my table-mates) was chuffed to inadvertently end up with two cups of tea :)

And a sneaky Selfie in the pub afterwards, ensuring that the Penguin bag is IN ;)

Doggy bags were stuffed with BOOKS, would you believe?

On a final and more serious note, I've learned that there are deeper holes in publishing, where writers/artists from under-represented communities should be, than first I thought. And this has been the case for far too long.

I heard from Lgbtq+ groups who grew up not finding relatable material to read.

I learnt that these communities are under-represented, not just as published writers, but as employees within publishing too, which explains why less Lgbtq+ books are taken on in the first place.

So it's a snarly vicious circle. 

But I've learned it's slowly getting better.

And publishers like Penguin - with their #WriteNowLive scheme - are one of the best examples, striving to redress this imbalance.

(They didn't tell me to say that, btw, I read it in an article beforehand, lol)

But thank you, WriteNow.

Disclaimer: lots of talented people said lots of clever things at this event. What I scribbled down in notes were mostly funny bits - I'm drawn to humour like a bat to a cave. So please know that this is an incomplete and undoubtedly unbalanced sketch, for entertainment purposes first and foremost. 

Monday, 27 August 2018

Juggling arts : /

I haven't posted for a while because I'm trying to juggle my arts

Not to be confused with juggling my arse, which I almost wrote in error

Like most writers, I struggle to keep my mind on the task. I procrastinate, get distracted. I don't like working for nothing. Life gets in the way. You know what I mean.

It took a long time for me to realise 'the arts' was the way for me, the pointlessness of me trying to understand statistical analysis

Being creative is hard because you have to motivate yourself, be creative in your 'spare' time. Creatives have a reputation for being self-destructive, self-absorbed, depressive hermits, who sometimes drink too much. (My interpretation)

All of this can interfere with the task in hand

I've failed to write my novel this year because I started painting again

Writing is hard. Writing and painting is harder. Writing is a time-gobbling, protracted habit that sucks at ones life like a leech 

Painting is different. It's not so intense. Your physicality is looser. I'm less crumpled-up and stiff when painting; I feel light and energetic, airy and free...

Even if I don't look it 😼

Painting is immediate compared to writing. Yielding tangible, visual results in seconds; which is highly seductive, especially after a lifetime of being holed-up in a chair, bleeding through the eyes to produce vaguely useful prose for nothing

  Don't get me wrong, I have a love-hate relationship with writing. We don't see eye-to-eye at times :)

So, to force myself to juggle arts, I started entering more literary things... 

Competitions, magazines, odd enterprises like De Montford Literature. I got a couple of snippets in Mslexia recently. I then applied to WriteNow - part of Penguin Random House 

And managed to jump their first hurdle

So I'll be attending a workshop in Nottingham in a month's time. I'm pretty chuffed :) :)

This made me write, as I had to polish 6,000 words from my novel-not-currently-in-progress

And this little success boosted my confidence because, apparently, I'm one of 150 writers to get through from over 1700 applicants :)

So maybe I'm doing something right?

Maybe I am juggling my arse after all...

Please keep in touch :)



Sunday, 4 March 2018

Writing East Midland's Writers’ Conference Nottingham 2018 :)

Yesterday was Writing East Midland's 5th Writers' Conference, held in the Newton and Arkwright building of Nottingham Trent University.

I've been to four of these events now and there's always something novel to learn, someone new to meet and fresh inspiration to be found. The shiny new venue made a difference too, and very pleasant it was.

This year, however, my writing buddy Cat Roberts-Young was unable to make it through the waves of snow. Perhaps the WEM team might be persuaded to push the event closer to summer next year :) 

But it was still good.
Writer, Richard House (Bruiser / Uninvited / The Kills) replaced snowed-in keynote speaker, Pat Barker, with a talk on his latest works MURMUR and CITIZEN. 

Richard's modus operandi is to engage with the world by "looking into something that I don't really get"...  in order to better understand / explore topics. He utilises written words, film and imagery.  

Quick, always embarrassing, selfie before the lecture theatre fills :)

The first session I attended was called Demystifying the Publishing Process, by The Society of Authors. 

Martin Reed from the Society of Authors talks to local author and SoA member Jonathan Emmett and the publisher Crystal Mahey-Morgan of the storytelling lifestyle brand OWN IT! about the modern publishing process and landscape, and about the relationships between the author, their books, and their ‘brand’.   

This was an interesting talk with lots of insights into publishing. I'll summarise (my) points of interest. Nowadays there are more (readily accessible) avenues open to writers, (think digital, self-publishing, small publishers, etc.) but consequently, more competition.

The market is therefore saturated. It's easy to get into print but harder to make a living, especially in children's writing, apparently. The quality of writing also suffers, nowadays, with high levels of self-publishing. Crystal (rightly) pointed out: "Just because you're able, doesn't mean you should." Everyone is keen to maintain quality in literature.

Indie publishers are on the rise. Crystal is a thinking-out-the-box publisher who seeks diversification (in its fullest sense.) It seems Indie publishers have acquired a (good) reputation for being flexible, risk-taking, more likely and able to promote their authors than bigger publishers.

"Don't assume that bigger is better" says architect-turned-prolific-children's writer Jonathan Emmett.    

Trying to look enquiring selfie :)

The panel also discussed how important it's become for writers to create solid digital platforms. The Industry demands we do but, whilst big publishers often shirk publicising duties, Indies are more supportive and likely to promote their authors.

A good piece of advice was therefore: writers need a sympathetic publisher to help promote their work. So do your homework, if you're on the look-out, and find the right one!

Speaking of diversification, and using different mediums to express yourself, something - I think Crystal said - helped me limp closer to modernity: Writers must view their books as the stories they simply are, and any method we employ to share them widely will serve us well. (i.e. think film, imagery and skype, alongside traditional/digital book forms). Be inventive, be innovative.

The second talk I heard was on Novellas, from author Nicola Monaghan: finding a fit in the shifting landscape of publishing.

Apparently, novellas are making a comeback because digitisation (e-formats, Kindle singles, etc.) removes production and pricing issues associated with paper books. I also think appetites for shorter reads, in these hectic times, gives aggrieved novellas a leg-up:)

In her session, Nicola set us an exercise (to the sound of writers falling off their chairs in shock.) We devised, and interrogated, a new character, before writing a short scene about them. This threw up some useful background ideas, interesting settings, and helped some of us with our works-in-progress too, lol. :)

Lunch :)

Pudding :)

The third slot was a Synopsis Surgery, where WEM's Alex Davis replaced A.M. Heath Literary Agent Oliver Munson. This talk covered the thing all sane writers despise. The surprising thing I learned here is that agents don't always bother reading the detested documents we've killed ourselves over. The reason for this, though irritating, is somewhat logical. They consider sample chapters more important, so will read these plus the query letter first. If they like what they read they'll turn to the nuts and bolts of the story.

Oliver Munson likens synopsis-writing to the first gym trip after Christmas, which sounds about right to me.

We also heard that, despite the torture of creating them, synopses can help writers reach the core of their books. Distilling the story crystallises ideas; and the hateful result can then be used for pitching and selling work. Yippee.

Summary: Synopses show the shape of the novel - like the Taj Mahal viewed from a distance.

The final slot was Literary Question Time. The panel consisted of Award Winning, Young Adult Fiction author Kim Slater,  crime writer Stephen Booth, WEM co-coordinator and Big White Shed publisher Anne Holloway, WEM's Alex Davis, the highly regarded literary agent Kate Barker and WEM's Henderson Mullin (as chair).   

This was an enjoyable session, so I failed to make any notes! But I did ask a question I've been harbouring for a while. Writers are constantly advised, when seeking a Literary Agent, to find one that is right for them. But how in hell do we novices know who is right for us?

It would appear the answer is pretty much what I expected. Go on gut instinct, to an extent. You need to like the person, (for it could be a long relationship.) Personally, I'd want my agent to be warm and human and supportive; to know their job whilst having my best interests at heart. Does such a person exist, lol?

There is only so far you can research this sort of thing. Personability might be (partially) gleaned from a first meet; but I suppose the chunky remainder will be down to luck... 

The lovely Kirsty Fox of NWS manning the stall all by her lonesome

Performance poet, Georgina Wilding, reciting a brilliantly inventive poem about writers rising up and taking full control of their careers. 

Finally, gorgeous, British-Caribbean poet, keynote speaker Malika Booker inspired us with her, sometimes difficult, writing journey. She focussed on how vital peer support is, as you develop your craft. She spoke of community, and how many millions of courses she attended whilst gaining confidence to rise to the top of her game. 

A swift, toilet-cubicle selfie. Well, it was a plainer background. Don't judge me ;)

I'm mainly writing this for the snow-scathed absentees. A fair few writers, speakers and panellists were gutted to miss this year's conference due to weather conditions. :(

Thanks to the friendly people I met yesterday. Cali Bird for supportive chatter, the lovely Eve Makis for sharing a panicked, lost, ten minutes whilst trying to find the venue, first thing in the morning :)

Now. Shit, I suppose I better start writing again...