The writer is a lonely hunter

gailaldwin

Paisley Shirt

Paisley shirt

Examples of my short fiction have appeared in The Best of CaféLit 2012 and The Best of CaféLit 3. Now the publisher, Chapeltown Books, has agreed to publish a collection of my flash fiction. Paisley Shirt takes its title from a flash fiction story about a surprise relationship in middle age.  The Paisley Shirt collection will appear alongside other  flash fiction collections published by Chapeltown Books including January Stones 2013 by Gill James and From Dark to Light and Back Again by Allison Symes.

I will keep you updated as the work progresses.

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The academic year and writing

Although I’ve given up working in primary education, I still think of the year as divided into academic terms. In the past, as the beginning of December approached, my last reserves of energy would see me through the carol concerts and nativity plays to the final day.  More recently, I’ve held advisory posts working with senior leaders in schools to improve attainment for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils. While not actually working in a school, that same sense of being on my knees at the end of the term accompanied these roles. I’m currently working for a local authority, bringing together information on services to support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. Essentially, it’s a writing job and one that I’m really enjoying. I have colleagues, I work in an office and I have sufficient positive drive to enable me to continue my creative writing journey alongside paid employment.

Three days ago, I launched a new writing project. I’m beginning a story that investigates the teenage years of the protagonist from my novel How to be Brave. The adolescent years are very much off-stage in the novel and feedback from my viva suggested it would be well worth developing this storyline to compliment my work. I now understand why many of my friends are writing trilogies. It is a joy to discover another aspect of a character I know very well and see how she copes with the new challenges I have set. I’m hoping this piece of work will progress smoothly as I have developed a new approach to writing.  This time I have plotted the entire story before attempting to write. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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In the meantime, I have to think of a new title for my completed novel. The book had been through various working titles before I settled on How to be Brave.  It was obviously a good one as Louise Beech has recently published her debut novel with this title. Her story is about a mother who connects with her seriously ill child through the medium of storytelling. Good luck, Louise.

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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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Interview with Kate Kelly

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I  met Kate Kelly at the  recent Bridport Story Slam where we acted at judges along with Julie Musk. It is always great to meet a local person who has found success with writing.  Kate’s  debut novel for young people, a Cli-Fi (Climate Fiction) thriller, is published by Curious Fox. Thank you Kate, for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog.

  • Tell us about your writing journey

I have written all my life. My father was an author and so it felt natural that I should want to follow in his footsteps. But about ten years ago I decided I wanted to take it a bit more seriously. I decided I wanted to be published, and I set about achieving this goal.

I started out with short stories. Short stories are a great way to hone your skills and learn the craft. Before long I was starting to place them in magazines and anthologies. I was writing Science Fiction and for this, and some other genres, the short story market remains healthy.

I then turned my attention to longer fiction. My first attempt at a children’s novel was soundly rejected by everyone I sent it to, but, with my second effort things were very different. I booked myself onto a 1-2-1 with a literary agent at the Frome Festival and could barely believe it when she asked to see the rest of the manuscript. The result was that she signed me and, after some reworking, sent Red Rock out to publishers. And, as you can see, it was picked up by Curious Fox.

  • Where inspired you to write Red Rock?

The inspiration for Red Rock came when I was working on oceanographic survey ships in the Arctic. I stared out at the ice; at the seals and puffins and the occasional polar bear, and I started to think about the last ice age, about the advance and retreat of the ice sheets. I looked towards the coast of Greenland and I started to wonder what might be underneath the Greenland Ice Sheet. What secrets might it be hiding?

In Red Rock I answer those questions.

  • What is your next writing project?

It will be another adventure story for the same age group. Possibly also with a Cli-Fi element to it, but I’m not making any promises.

  • Which authors do you admire and why?

This is a hard one because there are some amazing authors out there. But the ones I admire the most aren’t afraid to be bold and to do something different. Authors such as Sarah Crossan for instance, or Colin Mulhern, or Rachel Ward.

But I’m going to name an author who doesn’t debut until next year, and that is Sara Crowe. Every time I read something she has written I find myself thinking ‘Wow, I wish I could write like that!’, so keep an eye out for Bone Jack, coming in April from Andersen Press.

  • Can you offer some tips for yet to be published writers?

Write the book you want to read. Don’t follow trends, write something fresh and new, and above all, listen to criticism and never stop trying to improve.

For further information, see Kate’s blog at: http://scribblingseaserpent.blogspot.co.uk

 

 

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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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A bit of luck

Just when I thought I had to return to the office for three more days of work after taking leave next week, I discovered that I’m actually owed some days. As a result, my last day of employment with the County Council will be Friday and I’m madly trying to get everything done ready for a holiday in Edinburgh starting on Saturday.  We’re flying from Southampton and taking hand luggage only, so decanting liquids has been the order of the day. Fortunately, the flat that we’re staying at in Stockbridge provides shampoo and shower gel, so it’s only face creams that I need to worry about.

I’ve packed a couple of paperbacks including The Coward’s Tale by Vanessa Gebbie and The Polish Boxer (which was recommended by Sarah Bower) and you can read a review here. I’ve downloaded two audiobooks to my ipod: Catch 22 and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. So when I’m not attending sessions at the Book Festival or the Fringe I’ll have plenty to keep my busy.

Have a good week.

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Anniveraries – who’d have them?

This time last year I was offered the post of Service Manager for a teaching team working with Dorset County Council. Now my colleagues, who are all on teachers’ pay and conditions have finished and I’m left  with no-one to manage. It’s not too bad – I am allowed to work from home during the summer and the end is in sight. I’ll receive my final salary and redundancy package on 30 August.  With the end to a new position only one year after starting, it makes the anniversary something of a bitter-sweet event. Bitter owing to the end of a career in local government that I’ve loved  and sweet due to the new beginnings it provides. I’ve secured part-time work with an educational charity to start in September and I’ve the MPhil in Writing to begin in October, so things are looking positive. A new start and studies that may lead to a new career.

My wedding anniversary falls in August but we’re long past the point of celebrating with cards and gifts. Indeed, this year we’ll be travelling to Edinburgh for a family holiday with our teenage children. I’ve visited the Edinburgh Fringe and the Edinburgh International Book Festival previously and enjoyed my time so much, I decided to return again with my family. I have tickets for a couple of events at the Book Festival including a session offered by Ronald Frame. He was a tutor at an Arvon course I attended in 2011 and he’s been wonderfully supportive of my writing. So it’ll be a pleasure to see him again, especially as he’ll be talking about his most recent book, Havisham (read a review here) which imagines the life of Catherine before she appears in Great Expectations. It’s well worth reading.

The anniversary that I’ve most enjoyed of late came at the weekend. We we unexpectedly offered tickets to attend the Anniversary Paralympics where Hannah Cockroft and David Weir won their races and Richard Whitehead amazed the crowds on his golden blades.  The wonderful achievements of the athletes from 2012 was certainly an event worth celebrating.

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Which anniversaries do you celebrate?

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Black Pug Books, Wimborne

Victoria Sturgess, in the bookshop

Victoria Sturgess, in the bookshop

Black Pug Books has been open in Wimborne every Thursday, Friday and Saturday since October 2012. As a newcomer to the town, Victoria Sturgess has made her mark on the popular thoroughfare by opening a bookshop full of ‘loved and used books’ at 24 West Borough. Sitting in Victoria’s front room, it is a pleasure to be surrounded by a hand chosen collection of out-of-print books. The shelves groan at the sheer weight of choice and I was delighted to purchase ‘An Outpost in Papua’ by Arthur Kent Chignell an account of missionary work in the early 1900s.  Anything written about Papua New Guinea interests me, owing to my experience of living in Wabag, Enga Province during the 1980s.

wimborne 002Victoria has always wanted to run a book shop and began purchasing books that would form the stock three years ago.  Paperbacks are a sideline (along with LPs, cigarette cards and magazines) and these are displayed in a wheelbarrow that is set outside the front door whenever the shop is open.  Victoria encourages customers to knock on the door to gain access outside normal opening hours or you can telephone ahead for special visiting arrangements.

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A visit to Winstone Books of Sherborne

Winstone’s is situated at 8 Cheap Street, towards the top of the town in Sherborne.  The shop is double fronted and light streams into the space that contains a huge range of books. As well as shelves along the walls, there are central displays and stands for book-themed gift cards.  A quarter of the floor space is dedicated to children’s books and the owner, Wayne Winstone has worked hard to establish links with schools to promote reading as an important life experience for children of all ages.

The children’s area is inviting with a couch, a rocking horse and a standard lamp to entice families to stay and browse.  Children are invited to review books and as part of the Sherborne Literary Festival, a short story competition for children was held.

Wayne has been successful in attracting authors to deliver talks and book signings at the shop and recent events included a book launch by Sarah Challis. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Book Shop, Bridport

Close to Bridport’s Bucky Doo Square, where open air performances frequently take place, you can find The Book Shop, an independent bookseller.

The shop has been in Bridport for 30 years and has been run by Ross Hendry for the last thirteen.  Unlike other book shops, Ross is committed to maintaining a shop dedicated to book sales rather than diversifying into other products.  As a result, the  walls are lined with shelves and central displays offer further titles. Amongst the stock is a large collection of books written about Dorset and books written by Dorset residents, a huge boon to local writers. The Book Shop also has a tradition of inviting authors into the shop to sign copies of their books.

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