The writer is a lonely hunter

gailaldwin

Brisons Veor, a writing residency

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I am enjoying the last couple of days of a two-week writing residency at the wonderful Brisons Veor, in St Just in Cornwall. This is made possible by the trust which accepts applications from anyone working in the arts to enjoy a period of respite from the distractions of daily life to focus on creative projects. The house is part of the brick building beyond the white houses. Constructed as a boiler house for the Cape Cornwall Tin Mine, it was converted by an architect in 1978 and purchased by Tracy O’Kates, the benefactor of Brisons Veor. It is believed to be the westernmost dwelling on the English mainland. You can also see the 138 year-old chimney stack of the mine which forms the highest point of the Cape.

Brisons Veor is situated at a point where Atlantic currents divide, moving south to the English Channel and north to the Irish Sea. In 1987 the Cape was purchased for the nation by Heinz, and given into the care of the National Trust. This unique location provides a rich environment for ideas and creativity to flourish.

 

It has been a wonderful fortnight of solitude, isolation and the elements. The wind is fabulous: it turns the sea into a rucked white apron that spreads over the blue. When the sun is out, warmth floods through an open doorway into the first floor workshop. The sound of the Ocean sucking, clawing and whooshing is a constant accompaniment. Inside at night when the wind blasts the walls, Brisons Veor embraces the occupant, safe and warm.

What a privilege to spend time at Brisons Veor, such a remarkable location. During the fortnight I have written poetry and started my next novel, this time using a six-year-old boy as the narrator of ‘That’s What I Know’.

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Writers’ Day at Salisbury Literary Festival, 29 October 2017

I had a splendid time at the Writers’ Day in Salisbury. The programme was packed and started with a warm-up session using improvisation as a tool for writing by Alison Jean Lester. The ‘yes, and…’ task was a great way to generate and overcome problems in story telling by working in partnership to produce alternating lines of a story.

Further workshops followed including an excellent session delivered by Rupert Wallis which provided a rule of thumb for generating a 25-word summary. Rupert suggested starting the summary with the  word ‘when’ and introducing the problem to be overcome with the word ‘must’. For my novel The String Games, a summary might be: when Nim’s brother is abducted and murdered as a child, she must overcome unresolved grief as an adult to integrate the loss.

Susanna Dunn offered a workshop on ‘finding your voice’ which suggested that close attention to detail brings authenticity to writing. She advises writers to ‘listen with the ear of your heart’. Helen Corner-Bryant followed with suggestions for ‘unleashing your inner editor’ where she described ways to approach ‘instinctive’ and ‘structural’ editing.

After lunch there were two panels: one with a focus on publishing and the next with advice from agents. The last session was offered by Mark Dawson which gave remarkable insights into the world of a hybrid author (one that has been traditionally published and self-published). Interestingly, he felt it was vanity to seek a traditional route to publishing when the options for self-publishing can be more lucrative and offer better engagement with readers.

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Mark Dawson (right) in conversation about the secrets of self-publishing

Food for thought.

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Writers’ Open House

Do come along to this event if you’re a published writer or just beginning your writing journey.

Flyer for 7 October

About the Dorset Writers Network

Run by a voluntary steering group, the Dorset Writers Network offers support to writers across the county including isolated writers in rural areas. Their last funded project resulted in the publication of an anthology by Dorset writers titled This Little World.

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Edinburgh International Book Festival 2017, best bits

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Photograph by Jim Barton

I was fortunate to attend many different events at the book festival this year but these are my highlights:

Ian Stephen and Philip Hoare shared their passion for sailing and the sea. Ian read from his brilliant new book Waypoints (I bought a copy and am looking forward to diving in) and Philip talked about his wonderful obsession with whales.

A ten minute reading at 10am by Yrsa Sigurdardottir had me enthralled by her new novel The Legacy.

The Bosco Theatre on George Street was venue for a remarkable poetry performance by Scottish poets Jenny Lindsay and Michael Pedersen who were joined by poets from Australia Luka Lesson and Omar Musa.

I also attended a workshop offered by Elizabeth Reeder which discussed the novel Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski. Another one for my reading list.

 

 

 

 

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Digital Story Project

 

Reading on Screen Group, Bournemouth

You may remember a recent post about a three-day workshop offered at Bournemouth University. Attendance enabled me to create a digital story about my reading journey. It was a fun experience where I learnt a great deal about editing audio and video. To read more about the workshop, click here. The end product, a two-minute digital story titled Journey is now available. Although there are plenty of things I would like to change if I got to work on this digital story again, you can have a look at the story by clicking here.

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Poetry and Prose Performance Workshop

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Rob Casey

On Saturday 10 June, I joined sixteen other writers attending Rob Casey’s workshop at The White Room, in the Chapel in the Garden, Bridport. The building is set back from East Street and provides a delightful oasis on a busy market morning. We had such fun trying out ways of how-not-to perform and of course, there were plenty of tips and advice to get the delivery right. Rob had us working in small groups to share ideas and generate writing for development. It was great to hear other people’s work and learn from an experienced performance poet.

Rob is one of the founders of the Apothecary Open Mic, poetry and spoken word event that is held regularly at the Beach and Barnicott in Bridport. For more information see the Apothecary Facebook page.

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Reading on Screen

IMG_1085Last week I attended a three-day workshop at Bournemouth University to create a story told by means of digital video. The first day focused on using images and anecdotes to generate stories with a focus on the experience of reading, especially using kindles. However, as I don’t have a kindle the ‘Reading on Screen’ workshop allowed me to tell the story of my reading history, from a non-reading child to an adult reader with a passion for writing.

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Using iMovie to develop my digital story titled ‘Journey’.

Much of the following two days were spent in the computer suite, recording audio and video footage to develop and shape the material into a story. Using iMovie, I was able to intersect shots of still and moving images with speech and sound effects. The final product is far from perfect, but I learnt and enormous amount by being involved with the process. I have to thank the organisers for the professional support they offered in  bringing my story to the screen. When ‘Journey’ goes online, I’ll post a link to YouTube so that you can see the end result.

Further workshops will be held later in the year in Sheffield and Brighton. I look forward to attending the final dissemination of learning which will take place in Brighton in December. For further information about the project see the Reading on Screen Facebook group or the Reading on Screen project website.

 

 

 

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Apothecary, open mic in Bridport, Dorset

Apothecary is a monthly spoken word open mic session held at the Beach and Barnicott in Bridport. Run by Rob Casey, Ged Duncan, Tom Rogers and Sophia Moseley, it offers the opportunity for  a range of writers to share their work in five-minute slots.  Click on the link below to hear me reading my short fiction titled Burnt Toast.

The next Apothecary night will be held on Wednesday 10 May 2017. Get there by 7pm for a 7:30pm start to secure your place to read. Enjoy other Apothecarian readings by watching Apothecary Cure on YouTube.

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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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Writers in the Alley, open mic

There is a friendly and talented group of writers who meet in Dorchester on the first Wednesday of each month. They are known as Writers in the Alley due to the venue, a room sometimes used for playing skittles at Goldie’s Bar, 36 High East Street. Regular meetings are held at 7pm for a 7:30 start. Members support each other by showing a positive interest in the writing shared. On Wednesday 5 April, the group is hosting a second open mic session, so if you’re in Dorchester this is well worth attending. Go along to hear some wonderful poetry and prose presented in a variety of forms or bring your own writing to read or perform. I attended an open mic held in the autumn and it was great to find a receptive audience for my poetry. You can find Writers in the Alley on Facebook or contact the organiser on suzie.suze1@gmail.com.

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I’m really disappointed  I won’t be able to attend this open mic as I’m away from home at the beginning of April. Luckily Writers in the Alley are planning to make the open mic session a regular event so I hope to be there next time.

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