the writer is a lonely hunter

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Facing the Chudleigh Dragons

Joining this event was a bit like going to the dentist: not something to look forward to but it was worthwhile. I prepared for the five-minute pitch of my novel The String Games by thinking about presentations by successful participants on the show. Of course the Chudleigh Dragons were not a fearsome bunch like their TV counterparts but comprised novelist Sophie Duffy, publisher Dr Tarja Moles and Ian Hobbs, founder of the Devon Book Club.

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I organised my presentation by starting with my elevator pitch:

The String Games is a story about the abduction and murder of a four-year-old boy told from the viewpoint of his older sister. Rather than a crime novel, the story draws upon psychological drama to focus on the legacy of loss for the protagonist. String is the controlling metaphor for the novel which includes characters who are puppets on strings, others who are strung along and some who need to cut the apron strings.

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The following three minutes focused on:

The structure of the novel

Organised into three parts, The String Games uses a different string figure to name each of the sections.  With the visual aid of a rainbow string, I was able to talk and manipulate the string to make a cat’s-cradle and a worm but showing how to make Jacob’s Ladder was beyond me. Instead,  I illustrated how my protagonist is able to draw her life into an ordered pattern of threads by showing a picture of the string figure.

USP

There are many novels that alternate the experiences of the protagonist as a child and an adult or as a teenager and an adult but there are few which include the three stages of development. This is the USP for my novel. The structure works like a triptych with panels showing the experiences of the child, the teenager and the adult in the three parts of the novel. In this way, it’s possible for the adult to look back on the child she used to be and hardly recognise herself. But, it is by reconnecting with the experiences of the child that my protagonist is able to integrate feelings of unresolved grief for her brother and move forward as an adult.

Theme

The thread that runs through The String Games relates to the resilience of my protagonist. Readers vicariously enjoy her ability to overcome the obstacles I set. She became my protagonist-daughter and as an author-mother I was able to champion her so that by the end of the novel, my protagonist is equipped with the skills and confidence to live her life beyond the pages of my book. I let her go to continue her own story so that I am free to produce new fiction.

At the end of my pitch, the Chudleigh Dragons posed a couple of questions relating to the readership of my novel. Although I’d like The String Games to reach a wide audience, its appeal lies with those who enjoy literary fiction. As a reminder of my pitch, I gave each of the Dragons a mini book of The String Games. 

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Thank you to Elizabeth Ducie and the Chudleigh Writers’ Circle for organising this event. Well done to the winner Jean Burnett.

If you can’t wait until my novel finds a publisher, try reading my short fiction collection Paisley Shirt instead. It is available with free delivery from The Book Depository or online from Amazon UK  and Amazon USA.  It is stocked in Gullivers Wimborne, The Bookshop Bridport, Serendip Lyme Regis, The Swanage Bookshop and branches of Watersones.

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Writing Residency in the café at the Bridport Arts Centre

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Thank you to everyone who visited me during the creative writing residency at BAC on Wednesday 20 June 2018. It is an absolute privilege to have other writers share their work with me. There was a range of genres presented: women’s fiction, YA, autobiography, non fiction, flash fiction and poetry. I am delighted that the writers  found my feedback useful and I hope they will stay in touch. Many kindly bought copies of Paisley Shirt. I suggested they made the purchase through The Bookshop as it’s always good to support an independent book sellers. At the end of the session, I popped into The Bookshop to see Antonia Squire (owner of the shop since 2015) to find that Paisley Shirt was the best-selling title of the day!

Paisley Shirt is available with free delivery from The Book Depository and is stocked in Gullivers Wimborne, The Bookshop Bridport, Serendip Lyme Regis, The Swanage Bookshop and branches of Watersones.

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Are you ready for part 2?

I’m on Chandler’s Ford Today with Allisons Symes chatting about characters, writing goals and the Dorset Writers’ Network.

Allison is a fellow Chapeltown Books author.

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Don’t the collections look splendid displayed together?

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Gorgeous covers

Here are all the current titles in the short fiction series published by Chapeltown Books. A group of good looking covers with enticing stories inside.

My collection Paisley Shirt is available as a Kindle Edition through Amazon and paperback copies can now be purchased from all good bookshops. Recommended bookshops in Dorset include Serendip, Lyme Regis; The Book Shop, Bridport; Winstone’s, Sherborne; Gullivers, Wimborne Minster; Westbourne Book Shop, Bournemouth; and Waterstones, Dorchester.

4* and 5* reviews of Paisley Shirt can be found on goodreads. If you do decide to purchase a copy of Paisley Shirt, further reviews are very welcome.

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Triumphs and Challenges of 2017

Click on the pictures to find out what I’ve been up to!

 

 

 

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Good things come in threes, too!

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I’ve had three anthologies drop through my letterbox this week. It’s always a thrill to see my creative writing appear in print and this time I have two pieces of short fiction and one poem to celebrate.

Flash Fiction Festival One is an anthology of stories inspired by input at the first Flash Fiction Festival held in Bath during the summer 2017. Thank you to Jude Higgins as the director of this wonderful event and her team who have brought together flash fiction stories written by workshop presenters and participants. My story “Where There’s a Rick” draws upon a clash of events and memories and is told in just over 200 words.

Glit-er-ary is the annual anthology published by Bridge House. It is a glittery collection of glit-er-ary tales that will add some sparkle to your reading. My story titled “Brighter Than Jewels” is set in Australia and draws upon the relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter.

Under is a collection of poetry published by Miriam Dokotliver and David Ross Linklater. Within the enigmatic cover are poems in a range of forms and styles which make for great reading.

So, good things come in threes, too!

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Mother’s Milk Books

I am delighted that my poem ‘After’ has been commended in the 2016 Mother’s Milk Writing Prize. In an email from the publisher, Dr Teika Bellamy, the following feedback from the  judge, Becky Cherriman, was shared:

After: a short poem that centres around one unexpected image of a new mother sucking her thumb. I like the ambiguity conjured by the poem’s title and the question in the penultimate line.

I’ve pasted the poem below. Do you agree with the judge?

After

Rolling on my side, the mattress gives.

With my chin against my knees,

I knot my ankles:

try holding myself together.

A trolley rattling with cups echoes

through air thick with disinfectant.

Unclenching my jaw, my parted lips

ache: they’re a target for my thumb.

With the pad, I trace the roof-ridges

of my mouth, make a vacuum

with my tongue and wonder:

where is the babe?

who is the mum?

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Retreats for You with Debbie Flint

I met Debbie Flint in 2011 when we both attended a retreat at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre.  (I returned there last year – you can read about my second visit here.) Debbie works as a presenter on QVC shopping channel, has a number of books published, and she’s recently taken over a writing retreat in Devon. It was great to touch base with Debbie again and draw upon her experience as a TV presenter to produce a couple of YouTube clips where I talk about my writing journey. Debbie’s help was invaluable in introducing me to interview techniques, accessing handy tips and supporting me through the process. I’d never done anything like this before so her coaching allowed me to feel confident throughout filming and I’m delighted with the results. You can watch the interviews here.

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Debbie has made Retreats for You into a homely and relaxing place to write and reflect. My window overlooks the square with views onto the fields beyond. There’s no excuse for not getting on with your work as a delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided. It’s  also good to be in the company of other writers and tap into the positive energy this creates. A few days away makes all the difference to my word count, I find!

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A good start

img_0963The first snow drops appeared in our garden at the weekend and it’s always something to celebrate. More are pushing their way through the earth and soon there will be a shock of white on the bank. Other good news this morning came in an email from Nina Killham. She offered to provide feedback on a synopsis and the first fifty pages of a novel  as part of the Authors for Refugees fundraising scheme. I was lucky enough to place the winning bid and now have some positive ways forward to hone the opening pages of my latest manuscript The String Games. (It’s worth looking out for the Authors for Refugees scheme next autumn as there are some fabulous writers, agents and publishers who offer their services to raise money to support refugees.) Nina has three published novels and another one in draft. Due to my interest in children’s voices in adult fiction, I read Nina’s novel Believe Me which is narrated by thirteen-year-old Nic, who is brought up in an atheist household but turns to Christianity. It’s an assured study of the relationship between a boy and his mother and is well worth reading.

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Writers’ Day in Bournemouth

Join me at a Writers’ Day where you’ll be able to network with other writers, find out more about writing in different genres and become part of a new Dorset Writers’ Network project to be launched in 2017.

Venue: Bournemouth Library, 22 The Triangle, Bournemouth, BH2 5RQ

Time:  10am – 4pm

Date:   Saturday 22 October 2016

I have enjoyed working alongside all the workshop leaders and can thoroughly recommend their input.

Finding your character’s voice in Young Adult fiction

Chantelle Atkins is a prolific writer of YA fiction who has extensive knowledge of the genre. If you’re interested in finding out how to develop the voice of teenage characters, this is the workshop for you.

Researching your historical fiction

For an erudite workshop, you can’t do better than this. The team combination of Frances Colville and Tom Colville brings together the best approaches in research and provides ideas for how to apply this knowledge in developing your writing.

The art of self publishing

If you’re looking for sound advice from someone with substantial experience in helping writers reach their audience through self publishing, look no further than joining this workshop delivered by Helen Baggott. Have all your questions about the journey to become an indie author answered.

Child characters in fiction

Extend your repertoire of techniques in writing about children in adult fiction. Child narrators, child protagonists and child characters, when framed creatively, can add new dimensions to your writing. Join this workshop delivered by me and learn about the strategies published authors use to achieve authentic child characters.

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Also available are one-to-one surgeries for feedback and advice on improving your writing.

I hope to see some of you in October.

 

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