This time last year I was regularly travelling to Bournemouth to attend CPD training in workshop facilitation offered by Lit Up! Writing. (You can find a post about the programme here.) The latest Lit Up! initiative sees the publication of poetry and prose by writers living in Dorset and beyond. The Beacon, Issue 1 is an ingenious anthology compiled to reflect the theme of performance. Act 1 includes work by fellow Wimborne Writing Group members Mary Bevan and Richard Green. My flash fiction ‘Graft’ appears at the end of Act 2, while Kim West (who also attended the Lit Up CPD training) has a poem in Act 3. Biographies for the writers appear under ‘curtain call’. It’s a pleasure to have my work included in such an innovative anthology. Well done to Ben Johnson for putting it together. Copies of the anthology can be purchased here.
This is the view from the third floor office where I work at the University of South Wales, Treforest Campus. It’s been impossible to take a photograph until today, when it’s finally stopped raining. I’m enjoying my time on the campus. It’s great working with enthusiastic students and I’m finally able to make use of the library for my PhD research after relying on remote access as a distance learning student.
Most weeks I leave home for work at 6am, arriving around 3 hours later and begin teaching at 11am on Monday. I stay in Pontypridd most weeks from Monday until Thursday, when I deliver a session with third year students. This talented group are working towards a major project for submission later in the year. I’ve also been busy marking assignments which critically compare examples of historical and contemporary children’s literature.
I have started work as a lecturer with the University of South Wales delivering a module titled ‘Writing for Children’. The post is for 12 weeks to allow my PhD supervisor relief from his teaching schedule to undertake research. This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I’m thoroughly enjoying the chance to support students in the second and third year of their undergraduate studies in creative writing.
This being the third day of January, I’m celebrating the fact that I’ve booked three holidays for 2016! (I’ve ditched my Boxing Day blues and have begun to look forward.)
First up, I’ll be travelling with my husband to Sicily for 6 days at the end of April. A quick flick through the Rough Guide (a Christmas present from my mother) and I saw we could travel from Catania to Palermo by buses or trains and booked flights to and from these airports. Other destinations I’d like to cover are Taormina for the Teatro Greco and Siracusa.
In June, my friend Cathie is over from Australia and I’ve arranged a visit to Santiago de Compostela. I lived in the city for a year in 1986 and studied for my A levels while Brian Henry and others worked at El Centro Britanico teaching English as a foreign language. I took my family to the area last year and loved it so much that Cathie’s visit provided a good excuse for another trip. I’ve since been brushing up my Spanish and hope to engage in many more conversations that I was able to do last time. I love the old streets and plazas of the city.
Edinburgh is my third destination with a visit during the fringe (although I particularly like going to the book festival). I usually attend the ten at ten sessions where visiting writers share a short reading. It’s always a good way to start the morning.
What holiday plans do you have for 2016?
I’m always relieved when Christmas Day has past without any major falling-outs or disappointments. My children have got used to me being less than enthusiastic about the whole event so on Boxing Day we headed to the beach and had a blustery trudge along the shingle. With surprise, we found the Hive Cafe open and serving coffee and cakes. It was good to be amongst others who needed escape from the Christmas stir-crazy feeling. Perhaps my ambivalent attitude towards the holiday is not so unusual.
My name has finally reached the pages of a women’s magazine (check the small print at the bottom of the photo). In September, I entered the annual Elle magazine talent competition with a 500-word short story inspired by the hashtag #relationshipgoals. The story titled Five Days to Go imagines the hopes and aspirations of a teenage Muslim girl planning to become an Isis bride. With so much in the press about young girls and their misplaced dreams of supporting Islamic State, it seemed appropriate to explore this through fiction. Told through first person narration, readers gradually realise what this British Muslim girl is planning.
The competition judges included Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist and Kate Mosse, Novelist and Chair and co-founder of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction so I’m thrilled to think they’ve read my work. I am one of five runners-up and have won a monogrammed Smythson Notebook worth £135. Congratulations to the winner, Lia Louis.
Although I’ve given up working in primary education, I still think of the year as divided into academic terms. In the past, as the beginning of December approached, my last reserves of energy would see me through the carol concerts and nativity plays to the final day. More recently, I’ve held advisory posts working with senior leaders in schools to improve attainment for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils. While not actually working in a school, that same sense of being on my knees at the end of the term accompanied these roles. I’m currently working for a local authority, bringing together information on services to support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. Essentially, it’s a writing job and one that I’m really enjoying. I have colleagues, I work in an office and I have sufficient positive drive to enable me to continue my creative writing journey alongside paid employment.
Three days ago, I launched a new writing project. I’m beginning a story that investigates the teenage years of the protagonist from my novel How to be Brave. The adolescent years are very much off-stage in the novel and feedback from my viva suggested it would be well worth developing this storyline to compliment my work. I now understand why many of my friends are writing trilogies. It is a joy to discover another aspect of a character I know very well and see how she copes with the new challenges I have set. I’m hoping this piece of work will progress smoothly as I have developed a new approach to writing. This time I have plotted the entire story before attempting to write. I’ll let you know how I get on.
In the meantime, I have to think of a new title for my completed novel. The book had been through various working titles before I settled on How to be Brave. It was obviously a good one as Louise Beech has recently published her debut novel with this title. Her story is about a mother who connects with her seriously ill child through the medium of storytelling. Good luck, Louise.
You may remember back in January, I wrote a post about creative writing workshops which were held in rural locations around Dorset to promote creative writing. (You can read the post here.) The workshops were offered by steering group members of the Dorset Writers’ Network and encouraged participants to submit a 500 word story, based in Dorset, for inclusion in an anthology. This Little World is the result of hard work by all those involved.
The stories in this anthology are by writers from 11-70 years. Each story is a real gem of no more than 500 words in length which celebrates the diversity of the county. The anthology is available in paperback through Amazon, click here for details. An ebook of the anthology will follow.