The writer is a lonely hunter

gailaldwin

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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In Vienna

We spent five days in Vienna in early September. It is a great city to walk around and when we got tired it was easy to catch a tram or tube back to our hotel. (I can recommend the Kugel Hotel in a good location with outstandingly helpful staff and an excellent breakfast). We were based in the museum quarter and went to loads of galleries with exhibitions of Klimt and Schiele (the Upper Belvedere was particularly stunning with displays that showed connections between the two artists). Hotel staff recommended a visit to the opera and after an hour long wait (those wearing shorts were turned away) we got standing tickets to Il Trovatore for three euros each.

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with my very tall family members

The food was another highlight:

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melon cocktail with a rasher of streaky bacon as a garnish

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cake and tea for me

 

 

 

 

 

But the highlight was eating beside the Danube canal at Meierei at Stadtpark  (hotel staff made the reservation) where we enjoyed a delicious meal and I ordered venison goulash.

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venison goulash with curd cheese toast, broccoli and black walnut

 

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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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The Beacon, Issue 1

s245645246236175034_p1_i1_w320 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.

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Launch of The Swan-Daughter in Bicester

61247Last week, Dave and I travelled to Oxfordshire for the launch of Carol McGrath‘s novel The Swan-Daughter.  This is the second book in the Daughters of Hastings trilogy and it’s great to be back in the company of an accomplished story-teller. Carol’s style of writing is charming, allowing readers to enter the life of Gunnhild, the daughter of King Harold and Edith Swanneck. Based on research, the novel provides a lasting impression of the lives and struggles during the early Norman period. Essentially it’s a love story, starting with Gunnhild’s escape the nunnery at Wilton Abbey and her elopement with Count Alan of Richmond. 

The book launch was held at Cole’s Books in the delightful market town of Bicester. We stayed overnight in the Pentewan B&B  a lovely place tucked away from the main thoroughfare – we even had a dip in the hot tub in the garden!

St Catherine's College

St Catherine’s College

The following day, we stopped in Oxford and Dave and I wandered through the grounds of his old college then spent the afternoon in the Ashmolean Museum. It was great! Now that I have membership at the Bodleian Library, I look forward to returning, research for my studies makes a good excuse.

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Another story published by CafeLit

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I was delighted to have a story included in ‘The Best of CafeLit 2012’.  The Shallows is a short story based on the experience of losing my son on a beach in France when he was three-years-old. Although the story ends well the ‘what if’ became the starting point for work on my novel Trying to be Brave. I’m so very pleased The Shallows found a safe home in an excellent print anthology. It is available for purchase from Amazon, click here for details.

 

While I’ve been hard at work on my novel, I haven’t made any submissions for publication so it was a total surprise when I found I had a piece of flash fiction included in the latest CafeLit publication. (A submission during 2013 was accepted, this time a piece of short fiction about a plumber and a baby.)

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You can find purchase details for The Best of CafeLit 3 here.

 

 

 

Happy reading!

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Open Day at the British Library

With other postgraduate students, I spent a splendid day at the British Library, getting acquainted with the amazing resources that are available. I hadn’t been aware of the digital collections that are held and to handle some of the manuscripts was wonderful. While I was there I was issued with a reader’s pass (make sure you take the necessary ID when applying –  proof of address and proof of signature is necessary). I also made a reader room request so that I could have access to a play script of What Maisie Knew which I hope to use in my MPhil research.

Some of the resources presented at the workshop include: Read the rest of this entry »

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Mere Literary Festival

The small town of Mere, positioned at the western edge of Salisbury Plain, hosts a literary festival each year. It is organised by volunteers and includes a range of events for adults and children, those living nearby and visitors. The highlights for the seventeenth Mere Literary Festival include:

PAUL KERENSA – So a Comedian walks into a Church

The popular comedian discusses his recently published diary revealing the true and hilarious ‘Confessions of a Kneel-Down Stand-Up’.

Monday 14 October Grove Building 7.30pm. £5 in advance £6 on the door.

TARQUIN OLIVIER – So Who’s Your Mother?

What’s it like growing up the son of a great actor? More off-stage stories from his published memoir by the son of Laurence Olivier.

Tuesday 15 October Grove Building 7.30pm. £5 in advance £6 on the door.

CHRIS McCULLY – Poetry Masterclass

A must for all with poetry in their hearts as acclaimed poet, Chris McCully, analyses poems submitted by local writers

Wednesday 16 October, Grove Building 2.30pm. Retiring donations.

AN EVENING WITH DAMIEN LEWIS

One of Britain’s ‘20 Favourite Authors’, Damien Lewis has topped best-seller lists worldwide and has 29 books listed on ‘Good Reads’. He discusses his work including his latest book, ‘Zero Six Bravo’.

Friday 17 October, Grove Buildings 7.30pm. £5 in advance £6 on the door

CHILDREN’S EVENT with award-winning author GILLIAN CROSS

A free event at the library, tickets required

Saturday 18 October, 2.15pm

For the full programme, click here. Tickets available from Mere Library 01747 860546 or the Festival Organiser 01747 860475

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Back from Edinburgh

Having enjoyed the Edinburgh Fringe and International Book Festival last year, I booked again for a return visit in 2013. Had I known in advance what would be in store for me during the intervening period, I would have reserved a week under a sunshade. However, having galvanised a bit of energy, I made it to Charlotte Square most mornings for the 10 at 10 session which featured a short reading from a visiting author. One of the treats included the opening pages from the The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extense. This is a debut novel that is included in Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club. The story is told in the distinctive voice of seventeen year old Alex and revolves around an unusual friendship with Mr Peterson, an American, pot-smoking widower. You can read more about the book in a Guardian review here.

Further highlights included another debut novelist, Courtney Collins talking about her book The Burial, a story inspired by the life of Jessie Hickman a twentieth century Australian horse rustler.  I also got to touch base with Ronald Frame talking about his latest novel Havisham.

In terms of the Fringe, we caught a few comedy shows including Rachel Parrish whose singing/comedy act had me in stitches (the performer is tagged as the Glee-Club chick gone wrong).

When we returned to Dorset, the plants in the garden decided to put on a welcome home display

Begonia

Begonia

Dahlias

Dahlias

Yucca

Yucca

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