The writer is a lonely hunter

gailaldwin

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?

Advertisements
6 Comments »

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.

IMG_1013

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!

Leave a comment »

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.

4 Comments »

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.

dwn_writers_dayoct_22_poster

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

I hope to see some of you in October.

 

Leave a comment »

Going it alone

You may remember I won a prize in 2012 to have a collection of my short fiction titled Four Buses printed. While it was lovely to win a competition, I didn’t realise what was involved in producing a print-ready pdf of the collection. I was fortunate to have the help of Julie Musk with the process but how do others approach the task of self-publishing?

The Dorset Writers’ Network drew upon the support of Helen Baggott to help in the production of a wonderful anthology of short stories titled This Little World. It occurred to me that others might be interested to know how Helen can support writers wishing to self-publish.

Helen Baggott

Helen Baggott, Copy-editor and Proofreader. Partner Member of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and an Associate of The Society of Authors.

Helen edits and proofreads manuscripts, she also works with authors preparing their documents for self-publishing – as e-books and paperbacks. A lack of confidence in computer skills shouldn’t be the reason a writer can’t experience the thrill of seeing their work published.

She’s passionate about supporting indie authors and as a member of ALLi, she is able to pass on tips and hints that might not be easily accessible to anyone embarking on a self-publishing journey. ALLi is committed to raising the standard of self-published books.

She often half-jokes that no-one will come knocking on an author’s door, asking if they have a book to sell. Marketing is also part of the self-publishing journey and she is able to help with advice on that too. You can find Helen at www.helenbaggott.co.uk

Helen has done some work for me in proofreading a manuscript and she’s recently supported Sue Stephenson in putting together an e-book. Sue has seen a massive increase in the traffic to her blog where readers have been searching the archive to find posts of a story called Powerless – The Year The Lights Went Out. The story has proved so popular that Sue’s taken the step of self-publishing Powerless as an e-book. You can find out more about it here, or visit amazon to purchase a copy. It’s a wonderful story that imagines what it would be like to suddenly have to live without power. The characters show such resilience and resourcefulness – it’s a fresh and absorbing read.

6 Comments »

Using sayings from around the world as a prompt for public speaking

mag59Previously on this blog, I have written about my membership of a local public speaking group (you can read about the Casterbridge Speakers here). Last week, it was my turn to lead the table topics section of the agenda. Here members of the group are asked to give an impromptu talk on a non-specialist theme or topic for up to two-minutes. Some people love the challenge – others hate it. My role is to select topics in advance of the meeting which  allow speakers to share stories or offer opinions. According to Toastmasters International,  this role will  help to improve my organisational, time management and facilitation skills.

In order to offer a non-threatening subject for a two-minute talk, I looked to issue 65 of Writing in Education  for ideas. There, an article by Robert Paul Weston used Japanese sayings as guidance for writers. This got me thinking about using sayings from around the world as a prompt for a two-minute talk. After a little internet searching, I came up with these prompts:

Read the rest of this entry »

1 Comment »

First 3 pages of a novel: adjudication

It’s the Winchester Writers’ Conference on Friday and I submitted How to be Brave into the first 3 pages of a novel competition. Shortlisted entries will be posted at the conference on Saturday morning and winners announced in the evening. So, it was with some surprise that I received the adjudication to my entry yesterday. Actually, the feedback is quite handy as I can work it into my pitch when I meet publishers and agents during the one-to-one sessions I’ve booked.

Here is my elevator pitch for the story:

How to be Brave uses an alternating narrative style to show how misplaced childhood guilt impacts on adult life.

Here is an extract from the feedback:

This story has a unique premise which feels quite current and commercial and the two timelines is always a clever way to show backstory and help your readers really understand your characters.

There were also comments on things I need to address, so it’s giving me more direction on moving forwards.

I’ll let you know how I get on at the conference in my next post.

 

 

2 Comments »

Back again!

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!

10 Comments »

Trying to be Brave

The title of this post not only sums up how I’m feeling, but it is also the title of my new work in progress.  As I continue writing the first draft of the novel with support from my supervisor Stephen Knight and other students on the MPhil at University of South Wales, I am amazed at how different the process is, when working alongside others facing similar challenges.

There are eight students on the course, two poets and six writing novels. We were asked to submit work for circulation this week and I will set aside time when it arrives to read through and comment on the submissions of others. The other big difference in writing for this course, is the research element. I’ve read so many splendid novels written from the viewpoint of a child that something of skill seems to have lodged within me. I’ve been making notes for the research and am beginning to understand why these novels are successful.

Read the rest of this entry »

6 Comments »

Things are looking brighter…

University of South WalesI received an email this week confirming that I’ve been accepted onto the Masters in Creative Writing at the University of South Wales. This is a part-time, distance learning, research degree which includes a creative writing project. Although my proposal still has to be passed by the Research Panel, I’m cracking on with ideas for the novel that will accompany the research. I’ll be investigating the child’s voice in adult fiction and putting together a manuscript written from a child’s viewpoint about the abduction of a sibling. I have to say a massive thank you to Carol McGrath who has offered considerable advice and support that has kept me focused and positive throughout the application process.

I am really excited about returning to study. The university only accepts eight students onto the course each year so I am fortunate to be one of them. Previous students include Emma Darwin (click here for Emma’s blog which is well worth a read) and Maria McCann.

Other good news is that I was successful in getting through the interview with an educational charity which will offer me the chance to work with schools on a part-time basis during 2013-14. I’m also building up my contacts with schools to deliver consultancy work and I’ve had some interest in a project that I wish to seek funding from the Arts Council to deliver.  All this activity means I’ve been incredibly busy and writing has taken something of a backseat. Now that I have a little free time, I will work on a piece of flash fiction to submit to the Bridport prize at the end of the month.  Other opportunities you might like to consider include:

What keeps you busy at the minute?

24 Comments »