the writer is a lonely hunter

gailaldwin

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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Waterloo Festival Launch

I was delighted to spend an evening last week at St John’s church in Waterloo where a splendid range of stories and poetry were shared. The Southwark Stanza provided a wonderful performance of poetry (for details of the group contact Helen Adie Hellieadie@yahoo.co.uk.) With other writers, I took to the podium to read my story “For Want of Connie” which is included in the Waterloo Festival ebook anthology titled To be…to Become.

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It was a pleasure to meet other Bridge House Publishing authors at the event and my publisher, Gill James, was also there. I got chatting with another Dorset writer, too. My Mum, who lives in south London, accompanied me and it was great to have her support.

The Waterloo Festival continues until 24 June with an impressive programme around the 2018 theme of transforming minds. You can find out more here.

If you are willing to offer a review on Amazon of To Be…to Become, please let get in touch though the contact me page and I will be happy to forward a pdf or mobi copy.

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Writing Residency at Short & Sweet

What could be better than spending a whole day talking about writing, sharing stories and getting on with some writing? On Wednesday 13 June, I was delighted to hold a creative café writing residency at Short & Sweet in Wimborne where I did just that. The idea originates with my publisher, Gill James, who provides information about the project here.

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I was joined by writers from Wimborne, Blandford and Poole who brought with them a range of fascinating writing. It is a privilege to read stories in development and be able to raise questions to help navigate a writer’s journey. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and came away with a few new story ideas myself. As an added bonus, I was asked to write a poem as part of a seaside garden project.

The next creative café writing residency takes place on Wednesday 20 June in the café at the Bridport Arts Centre. Several writers have already signed up to meet me there. Following that, I’ll be at the café in the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum on Wednesday 18 July from 11am — 3pm. Do get in touch by emailing gailaldwin@btinternet.com  if you’d like to:

  • get feedback on up to 1,000 words of writing
  • discuss a writing project
  • kick start a new piece of writing
  • purchase a copy of Paisley Shirt

Thank you to Jen and Dan for hosting the very first creative café writing residency in Dorset at Short & Sweet.

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Helen Pizzey: gathering your thoughts

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I am delighted to welcome Helen Pizzey to The Writer is a Lonely Hunter. She lives on heathland close to the sea near Corfe Castle where she has worked as Assistant Editor of a regional arts and features journal and been on the steering committee of the Dorset Writers’ Network.  Her poetry has appeared in anthologies, literary magazines and has also been set to music. Her debut short collection, Invisibility for Beginners, is published by Cinnamon Press.

Helen has kindly agreed to provide background information and advice on putting together a poetry collection.

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So.  You’ve begun to realise that you’ve a body of work that’s sufficiently polished and ‘finished’ to consider putting a collection together, ready for publication. Maybe it’s 50 or 60 poems that have been developed over a substantial period of time; maybe it’s a short series or a sequence on a specific topic or theme which you’ve moved fast on.

Don’t feel that numbers are necessarily restrictive if you feel each piece passes muster.  Templar Poetry, for example, have submission windows for collections of 10 page ‘portfolios’, 10-14 page ‘shots’, 18-24 page ‘pamphlets’ and, of course, for longer full collections. And Valley Press has published a book as short as 16 pages (although not necessarily a collection!) The quality of your work and some kind of overall cohesion are what count.  I’m talking, here, about poetry but the same general principles probably apply to other types of short form writing.  And to whether you’re submitting to small presses / larger publishers or going down the self-publishing route.

Publishers tend to look for some kind of track record. Keep a note of all the various writing successes and publications you’ve had along the way.  You can include as many as up to, perhaps, a third of previously published work in a single-author collection (depending on the publisher), but make sure you make it clear just how many and where individual pieces have been published before.  This is also vital as a selling point if you’re aiming to self-publish.

I’ve just had my debut short collection of 37 poems published by Cinnamon Press, presented in their house-style pamphlet form. I started the selection process from an initial 52 poems which I considered my best, then whittled these down by taking out those I thought weakest, or that seemed a bit off-kilter from the overall themes that were otherwise emerging.

Then the exciting part: printing off and laying each poem around me on the floor, colour-coded in sections according to themes. This very physical act of visualising really helped in terms of ‘seeing’ the collection take shape.  It turned out I had four distinct elements and a few ‘randoms’.  Within this broken-down framework of themes, I re-arranged individual poems as to how best they chimed off or led into each other according to ideas, subject, character, images.  I also took into account the visual aspect of each poem – so important with poetry, the form and the look of the white space on the page – and tried to ensure variance of poems abutting.

If I had been going for a collection arranged thematically, I guess that might have remained the overall shape of the book with just the order of themes to decide.  But I took it one step further and started to integrate the poems until the thematic ‘colours’ were fairly evenly merged – still retaining them in sections of manageable numbers so I could shuffle them about as previously.  That way, the job didn’t seem too unwieldy.  Once I was happy with the order of each section, it was just a question of fitting these together in as neat a way as possible.

Considering the collection’s narrative arc was made easier by having one short series of prose poems in the middle which was both a visual and thematic ‘plank’ to move towards and away from.  Then, of course, slotting in the ‘randoms’ in the best possible places – or, in fact, perhaps deciding ‘no, these just don’t fit’. Hard choices but good ones.

This may all sound a bit long-winded and taxing but, quite honestly, it was a fun and thoroughly satisfying couple of hours, seeing something come together and take on a life of its own (I must get out more!). What I think I was aiming for is a collection that would stand like a poetic ‘edifice’ with each ‘brick’ in its right place – and without any discernible evidence of the process’s ‘scaffolding’!

This has been my first experience and I’d love to hear if others have similar or very different ways of compiling their work. Poetry is, perhaps, quite complicated to assemble as each poem is usually a short, stand-alone piece in the first instance.  And you need quite a few of them to gel in order to form even a short collection. I’m learning, though, not to wait for perfection; yes, work has to be of a publishable quality and something you feel is ‘necessary’ writing (after all, if you’re not that bothered about it, who else will be?), but even after achieving publication there may still be elements of the same poems that you later think could be improved on.  Writers are continually growing and changing as they practice their art.

I hope this encourages you to consider assembling your own work, ready to launch into a waiting world in its own bound format. I recommend the Mslexia Indie Press Guide, now into its second edition, which lists nearly 600 publication opportunities for all genres of writing. It’s well-worth the £14.99 investment to become armed with all its tips and useful, necessary information. Some publishers are becoming increasingly comfortable with putting out mixed-genre publications – encouraging for those of us who write in more than one short form.

And once you’ve gathered all your glittering pieces into one coherent order, sit back and enjoy!  Be proud.  Celebrate. Award yourself a high-five, a box of chocolates, a new hair style.

So.  Time to get going… And good luck.

Thank you for this really helpful advice, Helen.

If you’d like to find out more about Helen and her poetry, click  here.

 

 

 

 

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‘Picnic’ on The Five-Two

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National Poetry Month has been celebrated in American during April since 1996. I am delighted to contribute to this literary event with the publication of my poem ‘Picnic’ on The Five-Two website. Edited by Gerald So, The Five-Two posts a daily crime fiction poem during April. By clicking here, you can read the poem and hear an audio recording  by Paula Messina.

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What’s a heron got to do with the poem? Find out here.

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

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Paisley Shirt recognised in best short story collection category of the Saboteur Awards

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I’m thrilled to find that Paisley Shirt has been long listed in the Saboteur Awards 2018. Organised annually by Sabotage Reviews, the Saboteur Awards highlight the achievements of small-scale literature and live spoken word shows that might not otherwise achieve critical and public attention. Nominations are entirely from the public and over five thousand votes were cast in the first round. To be long listed in these awards means that Paisley Shirt has come in the top fifteen nominations nationally for the best short story collection. The competition continues for those who have been short listed and you can cast a vote here: saboteurawards.org

 

Another Dorset success comes with the long listing of Apothecary in the Best Spoken Word Regular Night. Apothecary is held on the second Tuesday of every month from 7pm at the Beach & Barnicott in Bridport. It provides an opportunity to share a variety of spoken word forms including stories and flash fiction, poetry, rap, comedy and musical contributions from singer-songwriters. Delivered in an open mic format, contributors are offered a five-minute slot to share their work with an enthusiastic and receptive audience. The organisers are now delighted to be officially amongst the top fifteen regular spoken word nights in the country.

 

 

 

 

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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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Words for the Wild

I am delighted to have a poem published on Words for the Wild. This platform for new writing has been organised by Amanda Oosthuizen and Louise Taylor in response to the threat of development on the remaining pockets of countryside in urban Eastleigh. Amanda and Louise urge all writers to celebrate the countryside through stories and poetry thereby demonstrating the value of green spaces in order to help protect them for future generations.

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My poem “Glimpses” is beautifully presented on the website – it’s thrilling to see my work mounted so evocatively. And I’m chuffed to find my poem alongside the work of other writers I respect such as Claire Fuller, Calum Kerr and Amanda Saint.

Do pop over to Words for the Wild and take a look. I hope you enjoy “Glimpses”.

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National Trust: Lacock Abbey

David has held life membership of the National Trust since a maiden aunt left him £100 when he was eleven. Here is his membership card complete with boyhood signature.

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The membership allows an accompanying guest to enter free of charge, so we tend to gravitate towards National Trust properties when out and about. Recently we visited Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire. Both the Abbey and properties in the town are administered by the National Trust and this makes for an interesting visit. The Abbey is situated within extensive grounds where you can see the approach of spring.

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The building benefits from a variety of architectural styles owing to its history. First as an Augustinian abbey, then the home to a Tudor rogue, and finally as a family home and the birthplace of photography. In more recent times it has acted as a film location to a variety of productions including Harry Potter.

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Cloister that appears in Harry Potter

I usually come away from these visit with ideas for creative writing. Word prompts include stone feathers and stone blindfolds. Watch this space for creative outputs!

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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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