The writer is a lonely hunter

gailaldwin

Standing room only

In a new bid to lead a less sedentary life, I’ve started visiting the local swimming baths three times a week. Currently, I can swim 1km in forty minutes but I’m fast improving on that time. Also, as I spend far too much time sitting at my desk, I decided to clear a workspace on a filing cabinet to create a new standing desk. Here I am at my new work station.

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It took me a whole day to clear a relatively small space (I didn’t realise quite how much stuff I had stashed in boxes and bags). Most of it relates to previous employment working in schools and as many of the resources are now available online, I was able to ditch quite a few folders. However, I want to be able to apply for a post in educational management with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) one day, so I’m not ready to relinquish everything. After a serious tidy up, my shelves now look like this:

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There remain one or two boxes I haven’t looked in and the top shelf is still a dumping ground but what an improvement. I’m so pleased with the result I just had to blog about it!

What does your working space look like?

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Writers’ Day in Bournemouth

This time last week I was busy preparing a presentation titled Tips and Techniques: the voices of children in adult fiction to deliver as part of the Dorset Writers’ Network Day at Bournemouth Library. I got up early on Saturday to have breakfast and there was time to read over my presentation but when I opened the front door to set off, I found the car was not on the drive. I have been sharing a car with my daughter for a few weeks now. The deal is, I let her know when I want to use it. The arrangements had been communicated but somehow she forgot. I guessed where the car was, about a mile away outside her boyfriend’s house. I began sprinting up the road, only to realise I hadn’t checked in the garage to see if by some miracle, it had been parked in there. Back again, only to find the garage empty. Realising I was in no fit state for an early morning jog, I called a taxi. Meanwhile, with my daughter still not answering her mobile, I tried to make contact with other members of the network to let them know of my predicament. Finally a call came from my daughter who was on her way home. I cancelled the taxi, waited at the top of the road to ensure a swift handover, then sped over to Bournemouth. I arrived with a few minutes to spare for the start of the day. When I recounted my morning’s misadventure, a fellow network member commented that it would make a good start to a story. I’ll keep that in mind for when I’m next short of an idea.

The Writers’ Day was well received by participants and we’re looking forward to another occasion to deliver further input in support of writers in Dorset.

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L-R me, Tracy Baines (DWN), Vickie Goldie (Bournemouth Library) and Helen Baggott (DWN)

 

 

 

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In the Highlands

Here is the short fiction story that came highly commended in the National Poetry Day Bournemouth flash fiction competition. It’s titled In the Highlands.

Scan 8Droplets fall in parallel lines and the rain plinks against the earth. Banana leaves fan the mist, and beneath the covered balcony of the lodge, there’s activity in the kitchen. I’m startled by shouts in Tok Pisin then I concentrate, trying to make sense of the words. Elias appears barefoot in the doorway and watches the downpour; his springy hair shows a scattering of flour. He lights a cigarette rolled in newsprint and takes a long drag. ‘Im bagarap.’

‘Bugger up, indeed.’ I assume he’s referring to the weather, but it could be a disaster in the kitchen, judging from the smell of burning that wafts. He disappears inside before I have a chance to practice my conversational skills, not that he really wants to talk to me. It’s easier being with the women in Papua New Guinea. They chatter and stroke my hair with fingers thin as vanilla pods.

When the sun splits the clouds, I walk to the edge of the gully. The land is covered in a lemon light and the river is a piece of twisted foil. In a clearing, little children emerge from kunai houses, squat wooden buildings with smoke seeping through the thatch. One boy is naked but for a belt of twine strung around his middle and his head’s been shaved. The hair is used to make ceremonial wigs which the tribesmen decorate with bird of paradise feathers. I have at least learnt something during my study tour.

‘An-i-ta’ The three syllables of my name bounce over the distance from the lodge. I return to find Elias with his hands cupped. Whatever he’s holding, I hope it isn’t alive. Last night a moth the size of a dinner plate had me cowering under the covers.

‘Lukim yu.’ He hands me a clump of moss and the roots of an orchid show. The flower hangs delicate between the leaves. I lean close to breathe the scent of honey.

Elias’s smile is broad and his brown eyes dance. ‘Nais.’

‘Very nice.’ The flower nods as I examine the structure and the dotted markings on the waxy petals. I find words of thanks in Tok Pisin, ‘Tenkyu.’

Elias shows me how to strap the orchid to a tree and each day I walk the garden to admire the plant. The gift is an entry into his world.

 

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Celebrate National Poetry Day 2016

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Myriam San Marco and me

National Poetry Day was founded by the Forward Arts Foundation to promote a love of reading and sharing poetry. Each year there is a different theme and in 2016 the focus is ‘messages’. A poetry and flash fiction competition was organised by Bournemouth Poet Laureate, Myriam San Marco, to celebrate this national event. I am delighted that my poem Starlings was awarded first prize in the poetry competition and my short fiction In the Highlands came runner-up in the flash fiction section.

Myriam is doing a great job in promoting the work of local poets and I’m indebted to her for providing this opportunity. I’d also like to thank poetry judge Louisa Adjoa Parker for selecting my poem and the feedback she provided. Thank you also to James Cole who acted as a judge for the flash fiction competition. Congratulations to Sally Lewis for taking first prize for her flash fiction piece about texting. At a celebration on 5 October in The Winchester, there was a chance to hear the winning and highly commended entries. I especially liked the superb performance by Kech Wo.

This success has given a huge boost to my confidence and I’m keen to develop further poetry. My aim is to create a series of connected poems and I’m looking forward to making progress towards this goal.

Here is the winning poem:

Starlings

Side-by-side we sit, watching the wipers swipe

pollution-stained raindrops.

You gnaw tags of skin beside your nails,

I grip the steering wheel like a life buoy.

Staring ahead, I pose the questions

you don’t want to answer.

Talking from the side of your mouth,

you dismiss the concerns that fill my head

like murmurating starlings.

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Fiction Retreat at Moniack Mhor

I’m spending this week at Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre. The house is a thirty-minute drive from Inverness and yesterday, there was a huge blue sky and enough sunshine to make me want to put on sunscreen. Today, as I sit in my single room, at a tiny square desk I look onto a blurry grey scene. It’s just the weather for settling down to the tasks in hand. Another rewrite of my novel, a bit of poetry and a three-minute film script for starters.

This is the second visit I’ve made to Moniack Mhor. I’m still in touch with a tutor from the first course I attended in 2010 and have to thank Ronald Frame for his continued support of my writing. This time the tutors are Elizabeth Reeder and Ian Stephen.

I was lucky enough to win a bursary to attend the course which you can read about here and here. The internet connection isn’t great so there are few distractions and as getting this post on-line is proving a bit of a challenge, I better end here.

Enjoy your week.

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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.

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

I hope to see some of you in October.

 

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Three go mad…

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With Deborah and Janet, I spent a few days in Edinburgh. As well as going to the Botanical Gardens (where this photo was taken), we also went to sessions at the festival, fringe and international book festival. So many great events to attend, but my absolute favourite was the free fringe show offered by Harry & Chris, a personable pair who have an upbeat take on life shared through a spoken word and acoustic set. Have a  listen to Whaddyawannado and Simple Times on soundcloud.

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Lyme Regis

After a busy day at work, Dave and I went to Lyme Regis. We walked along the Cobb.

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Enjoyed pretty views over the harbour towards the town.

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Bought locally caught scallops to eat with chips on the beach.

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A perfect end to the day.

 

 

 

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Flaming June

June was a turbulent month primarily due to the referendum. When the results came out I was in Spain and was woken by a text from Ryanair suggesting I celebrate remaining in the EU by reserving a £9.99 flight. All was well, I thought, and I tuned into BBC radio coverage to discover that things were far from expected. It was strange receiving this news in the place where I first began to think of myself as a European. In 1986, I lived in Santiago de Compostela, shared a tiny flat in Plaza San Agustin where  I was woken each morning by stall holders preparing for the daily market. I have to thank Brian Henry who encouraged me to study while living there and this set me on a route to gaining a university degree. I made friends, explored the cities and the countryside in my Mini Traveller and built a strong and enduring love of the place. I’m truly devastated that the referendum has robbed me of my European identity and feel that so many opportunities may be lost. It was certainly a flaming June, but not due to the weather.

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Gail and Cathie, Malpica, Galicia

For the last three weeks I’ve been travelling  with Cathie on one of her biannual trips from Australia. (We met in 1981 on a double-decker bus headed for Kathmandu). She has found my obsession with tapping into Brexit news on my iphone and seeking support from FB friends to be curious. She is of the opinion I should accept the majority decision and if this had been an election, I absolutely could. But, the referendum result has such huge implications and challenges what I know to be true: collaboration is of benefit to everyone. It pains me to think about a disconnect from Europe where I’ve found friendship, enjoyed learning and developed intercultural projects.

Thanks to the internet, I’ve signed petitions and emailed my MP. I joined a rally in London and have fallen out with my husband. (He voted leaIMG_0864ve but we don’t talk about it any more.) On the upside, I’ve seen several shows in London and spent a day at Wimbledon. After queuing from 6am, Cathie and I got tickets on court 2. It was the second day of the tournament and we watched Australians Kyrgios and Tomic win their matches. (The Fanatics were entertaining, too, with their timely chants.)

I guess it’s time to enjoy the summer and wait to see what autumn will bring.

 

 

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Travel (and writing)

I’ve had a recent success with travel writing – my submission about a journey to Enga Province in Papua New Guinea was highly commended in the Mairi Hedderwick Travel Writing Award. (Have a look on the link, where I have a short bio and a photo!) As a prize I’ve been given a £200 grant towards a course at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre. I’m looking forward to heading north later this year.

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Here’s a photo from Enga.

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