My blog has been quiet for months while I’ve been working on a manuscript for submission as part of MPhil studies with the University of South Wales. It’s one thing to be focused and quite another to be blinkered. I’m afraid I fall into the second category and so many activities have been cast aside while I’ve been busy. Coming up for air, I’d like to share with you the ‘elevator pitch’ from the synopsis I’ve been working on:
A ten-year-old girl is traumatised by the abduction and murder of her younger brother while on holiday in France. As an adult, Imogen is stricken with panic attacks following the untimely death of her father and memories of her brother surface. To get her life back on track, Imogen returns to France, determined to find out what really happened.
Any interest? Any takers? Please let me know what you think!
At the Wimborne Writing Group, maps have recently been used as a stimulus for creative writing and members have produced an interesting range of creative outcomes. This got me thinking back to a time when I was working in school and used a picture book by Sara Fanelli to develop ideas for writing. Here is the front cover of the picture book, and as you can see, it is intended for younger children but visually stimulating for all. Inside you can find a variety of maps from the map of my bedroom to the map of my stomach.
Drawing upon this idea while delivering a writing workshop with a class of eleven-year-olds (during that period of the summer term after year six SATs) I asked the children to draw a map of their heart. I still have a copy of one child’s work and it leaves me fraught whenever I look at it. The heart is dissected by scar lines and the two halves are held together with sticking plaster. It is speckled with question marks: concerns about the future, the suggestion of insecurity in relationships. The point of the heart has a tiny section for food and drink, where in other examples great sections were dedicated to chocolate bars or ice-creams. It leaves me with a worry that the pupil might have been expressing an eating disorder. Other sections show the usual preoccupations with make-up and shopping and there is an area dedicated to writing stories. Alongside the large outline of a heart there appears another smaller one, rather like a beat that resonates with wishes for a different future. I hope that any input I delivered enabled the pupil to work through some of these concerns, perhaps allowing creative writing to be catalyst for change. It still seems remarkable that an exercise around map making could enable a child to share concerns so readily and it reminds me of my responsibility as a practitioner to take care when tapping into the emotions of others. (At the time, I was able to share these with the child’s class teacher, who was aware of the family circumstances.)
On a lighter note, today I discovered another use for vintage maps, this time decorating a bangle. Included in the programme for Dorset Women’s Day was a workshop delivered by Cath Coffin on making a tree of life pendant and she also held a stall offering items for sale. I was delighted to purchase the piece of jewellery pictured below:
It shows the Dorset coastline, featuring Weymouth and I hope it will be an acceptable gift for someone who is not reading this blog! If you’re interested in purchasing similar items, Cath accepts commissions and can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is a photo of her stall with other items of jewellery.
For more information on International Women’s Day, click here.
Having seen the waves crashing over Porthleven on the television, we decided to make a visit to the fishing port near Helston during our weekend in Cornwall. The sun shone and everything was very calm when we arrived. Porthleven’s most recognisible building the Bickford-Smith Institute with its 70 foot tower had sustained only a few broken windows that were boarded.
Here’s another photo showing a very calm sea.
Now, at the end of the half term break and the weather is looking up again.
It feels like it’s been raining for months and I’ve been cooped inside for a lot of the time. The view from my window shows the extent of flooding in the water meadows. Fortunately, the water goes in the right direction, away from the town but I’ve never seen quite so much silver on what should be green fields.
Last weekend, we ventured to the coast where the wind blasted so strongly it was difficult to stand up straight. The waves at West Bay were amazing and here’s a photo to show the force of the water. (It didn’t look like this on the TV crime drama Broadchurch.)
We’re off to Falmouth, Cornwall for the Valentine weekend (the first occasion we’ve ever celebrated away from home). The forecast says rain. I’m going to pack a couple of books and my laptop in case it’s too awful to go out. Fortunately, the hotel has a terrace lounge with views over the sea so we’ll have something to look at, watching the waves.
With other postgraduate students, I spent a splendid day at the British Library, getting acquainted with the amazing resources that are available. I hadn’t been aware of the digital collections that are held and to handle some of the manuscripts was wonderful. While I was there I was issued with a reader’s pass (make sure you take the necessary ID when applying - proof of address and proof of signature is necessary). I also made a reader room request so that I could have access to a play script of What Maisie Knew which I hope to use in my MPhil research.
Some of the resources presented at the workshop include: Read the rest of this entry »
The email group for MPhil students at the University of South Wales has shared some helpful links recently. Here are a couple that might be of interest to you.
Locating London’s past is a new website that allows you to search a wide body of digital resources relating to early modern and eighteenth-century London. A great point of reference for historical fiction writers.
Submissions are sought for the Dundee International Book Prize 2014, with a £10,000 cash prize and a publishing contract with Cargo Publishing. Budding authors are invited to enter their debut novels by 3 March 2014.
More locally, the Wimborne Writing Group are holding a book launch on Thursday 6 February at 6:30pm in Gullivers Bookshop, Wimborne to celebrate the publication of the anthology Grapes on the Vine. Everyone welcome.
The Bridport Prize is offering a new category of novel award entry to its traditional annual competition for poems, short stories and flash fiction. £20 entry fee.
I should’ve known better than to set myself a ridiculous deadline. To meet it, I’m having very few days off from writing but yesterday was one of them. We stayed in London on Saturday night having spent the evening with my husband’s golfing mates. It’s an annual event where the men put on a serve the dinner. My husband’s pumpkin soup had a mixed reception owing to the 3 chillies he put in it (that was in the recipe, he claims). On Sunday we visited my primary school friend for lunch.
I did a lot of talking about my WIP with friends I only see once in a while. I’m hoping all the practice will help when I get to pitch the novel to an agent in the future. In the meantime, it’s back to the one thousand words a day routine. I can’t grumble too much, at least with this target it is possible to plough on through the story. I’m 40,000 into the second draft and I’m really pleased with the way it’s progressing. My deadline to finish is likely to be brought forward if I want my fellow students and tutors at USW to read the whole thing during the next MPhil residency in March. Ugh! I better get cracking.
Good luck with all your writing projects during 2014.
Grapes on the Vine is the latest anthology published by the Wimborne Writing Group. The group comprises new and established writers who meet once a month. Sessions are led by Sarah Barr who is an experienced teacher of creative writing. The anthology showcases the writing of the group which includes prose in a range of genres and some beautiful poetry. Please use the contact page of this blog to order your copy. It can also be purchased through good book shops using the ISBN 978–9559503-1-5. Click here to order through Amazon.
The Wimborne Writing Group’s first anthology, titled Crumbs on the Table, was published in 2008
I enjoyed a delightful lunch in Oxford this week with Carol McGrath and Sue Stephenson (click here and pop over to The Elstead Writers’ Group where Sue has posted fascinating real-time diary entries imaging a time when the lights went out). Our reservation was at the Ashmolean Dining Room, on the top floor of the museum with wonderful views over the Oxford skyline. Sue and I enjoyed a starter of Crispy pancetta, wild mushroom, watercress and balsamic mayonnaise. It was delicious with a lovely crackling crunch to the pancetta.
For the main course, Sue and I chose Guineafowl but Carol was more adventurous choosing pan fried hake, pancetta, moules mariniere sauce.
We chatted over our meal and ordered desserts and coffee. Unfortunately, I was too absorbed in eating my pannacotta, muscovado sugar poached pear that I forgot to take a photo.
Before catching the train home, I went with Carol to the Bodleian Library and registered for membership. When I go to Oxford in December (taking Jonathan for a college interview) I’ll be able to spend the day in the reading room. I am certainly looking forward to that.