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Words With Edge Fest

So, as my residency at Red Door Studios draws to a close, I have one BIG project left: Words With Edge Literary Festival. (See our excellent Poster designed by Lauren Stone at the bottom.)

So, what is Words With Edge? Simply, it’s a lit fest without the pretension. You don’t have to be a writer, you don’t have to be a reader, you just have to be open to experiencing new things! And we’ve got some brilliant stuff:

  • Dizraeli
  • Hollie Mcnish (workshop AND performance!)
  • Slambassadors
  • Clare Murphy
  • Workshops by Steven Sparling, Louise Davidson and myself, varying from how to market as an artist, scriptwriting, and writing for wellness. Plus Steven will be using his talents as a voice specialist to show you how to SPEAK UP! What’s a writer if they can’t read it out?!
  • Joz Norris’ excellent Edinburgh Fringe Show ‘Awkward Prophet’
  • Carmina Masoliver
  • The Roundhouse graduated Early Doors Collective
  • Myths of the Near Future
  • 4’33’ Magazine
  • Talks and stalls by Atlantic Books, Stairwell Books and many more!
  • A short play by The Woodhouse Players
  • A Literary Themed Red Doors Pub Quiz with Treehouse Quizzes
  • AND Story themed CAKE CLUB!

AND MANY MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED!

I’m really excited to  be running my first Writing for Wellness Workshop, following on from my studies in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes at the Metanoia Institute. It should be a thoroughly creative week of events, workshops, classes and talks, as well as first class performances!

 

GET EXCITED!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Litfest poster

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Wine Dark Sea Blue- A Look Back at the Book Launch

So, it’s been a while since the book launch for Wine Dark, Sea Blue, and life is still getting back into it’s own little rhythm.

I have been assured by everyone it was a wonderful night. (Am I reminding anyone of Mrs Elton in Austen’s Emma? Where she flatters herself by saying how much other people enjoy her company?) To be honest, I was buzzing around like a bumblebee on crack, so I’m kind of depending on everyone else’s opinions here.

So the UEA INTO Launch started earlier in the day, with a wonderful speech from Professor Sarah Churchwell (Who you can find out more about here). It was so great to hear a writer and lecturer who didn’t know me at all really get what I was trying to achieve with this novel. To have someone who knows good writing understand my themes and narratives, and the point of my writing just made the day for me. 

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Then we went down to Dirty Dicks Pub, where festivities were about to begin! Opening the show was Northern Irish writer Louise Davidson, who has also helped me with work on The DumbSaint Project. It was then followed by a ‘thrown voice’ poetry show by Joe McBride and Joe Shefer, exploring the voiceless poet. We had a spoken word/sound art collaboration with Victoria Karlsson (using Joe McBride’s work- you can listen here). Poetry from Stairwell Books’ Rose Drew. Songs from the excellent Emma Weston, accompanied by Sam Weston. And then onto partying with The Elisa Jeffery Collective!

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So, my advice for a launch?

  • Pre-sign ALL THE BOOKS. Sure, it’s nice to write specific messages, but it’ll take time and make your life difficult.
  • Get someone else to deal with ALL the OTHER SHIT. You will not have the time to greet people, sign books, sell, check the state of the nibbles and make sure the band have leads etc. Get HELP
  • Themed cupcakes are always a winner
  • Provide entertainment but maybe not too much entertainment
  • Maybe trust that when you invite your friends, and they invite their friends, you probably will have enough people!
  • It’s your night! Take the time to enjoy it!
  • Merchandise is fun!
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Finding your Writerly Processes

Finding Your Process

In our writing classes this week, the inevitable discussion concerning how you write came up. People have been wondering about the ‘right way to write’ since people started writing. Hundreds of books have been sold telling you the ‘right way’ to do it. And I suppose even weighing in on this process means I’m telling you what to do.

I think whatever works for you is the right way. The only downside is that there’s a line between establishing a process that gets you in the right mindset, and setting up unnecessary barriers that encourage procrastination and doubt.

 

Writing because you HAVE TO

This doesn’t mean working to a deadline (although that works for some) but writing because you absolutely can’t not write at this very moment. This poem ‘So you want to be a writer’ from Charles Bukowski sums up his way of thinking about it.

I agree to an extent, about not writing for fame or congratulation or love. But at a certain point, we have to work hard at it, correct it and edit it. There should be a level of work at creating something brilliant. Charles Bukowski also had ‘Don’t Try’ written on his gravestone, so to be honest, there are moments when we disagree.

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I’ve reached the point where I trust my own brain to know when it has to write. Sometimes, I’ll be sitting and just have to do it. But often if we don’t give ourselves the time or space to daydream and pick up a pen, we’ll miss the window.

 

The Beauty of Process

There’s a reason that people associate writers will coffee. Mainly because it makes your brain work when it doesn’t want to, but also because there’s a process behind getting a cup of coffee. Whether it’s clearing your desk, making a caffetiere, walking to your local spot, or setting out your favourite cup and saucer for tea, there’s something to be said for creating a ‘ready to write’ process. If you do the same routine for weeks before writing, eventually your brain will see the pink floral tea cup and go ‘okay, better get writing then.’ You’re creating a precedent. Also, associating writing time with ‘you time’, making it enjoyable and comfortable means you’re more likely to actually do it, instead of writing blogs about how to do it for other people, like I’m doing now.

 

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Sacred Space

A lot of people are into this one. As above, if you associate a place with writing, that’s great and you’ll feel secure and comfortable. But what happens if you go on holiday? What if you do a residency or a writers’ retreat? What if you see something spectacular abroad and want to write, but don’t feel comfortable? Just as we must set up processes, we must also push ourselves to the edge of being awkward and unsure. We live in a digital age where everything is expected to be possible anywhere. The writer, with a pen and notebook always in bag, has had this advantage before anyone else.

Find your sacred space, but use is sparingly. Try writing in a coffee shop or a park, describe the people around you, absorb an atmosphere. Perhaps there’s a use for it.

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What are you writing when you’re writing?

The different processes will change if you are working on one specific project, or are still looking for inspiration or splitting your time between projects. In which case, if you’ve been working on a novel for a year, and all your notes and charts and character details are at your desk, stick with it. I completely understand after a long time setting up a process that it feels your characters live in that room and can’t explore outside until completion. But if you do find yourself lagging, changing it up is always a good option. If you’re working on smaller projects, there’s no reason you can’t carry your writer’s room in your head (or your pocket). Often working from home can be seen as ‘I’m available for you to talk to’ or as if you’ve got a day off. It’s worth escaping that environment when possible, putting yourself in a situation where you have to be up, dressed and out the house encourages productivity and energy. (I also find it’s better for my biscuit tin).

 

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Ignore Other People (Yes, me too)

If something works for you, then it’s working. Don’t fix it. If you want to work more regularly, then perhaps you can employ some of these ideas. If you enjoy waking up at midday to write until 6am, then go do it! If you enjoy setting aside an hour a day with a cup of tea to revisit your stories, then do so! Writers are naturally competitive people when put together, and as supportive as your fellow creatives can be, we try to believe that our way is the right way. I was convinced as a writing student that because I wasn’t writing all hours, listening to free jazz and wandering wide-eyed into the night looking for characters, that I was probably a fraud. Here is the truth of the matter: a writer writes. If you are writing and you are committed to it, then you are a writer.

 

More Scribble, less Drivel

 

I’m personally trying to adopt the theory that how much you talk about your work should be proportional to how much you actually do. There should only be ten percent ‘talking about it’ and ninety percent ‘doing it’. Mainly because no-one cares. I say this as someone who is extremely nosey and wants to help people with their creative endeavours. But if you’re talking about what your minor character-who-only-appears-in-chapter-forty ‘s family history and how it relates to nordic folklore…honestly, no-one cares about the book you haven’t written yet. Mainly because if you’ve got the energy to be explaining it to strangers, you’ve got the energy to be getting on with it. Keep your story yours, until it’s ready to be unveiled.  It’s like being friends with a pregnant woman. Are you excited for her? Yes, it’s amazing. But do you want to be inundated with ultrasound pictures and baby name possibilities and all this stuff for something that isn’t even here yet? People will invest in your story (or your baby) when they arrive to speak (or be cute) for themselves. You should be creating a story that people will love because it’s good, not just because it’s yours.

 

 

So, I hope that helped those of you searching for your writerly identities. You can put down that ancient ceremonial vase and jumping around on one foot in an anti-clockwise direction now. Put down the bongo drums and throw away the roll neck jumpers. You can be who you are, and do what you do, and as long as you actually write, you are a writer. Whether you write at a desk, on your bed, in a coffee shop. Whether you type or write in expensive moleskines or scrappy pieces of paper. As long as you write, it’s working. So get going.

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Writerly Resolutions for 2013

Hey there writers, readers and general people of the web-verse.

Happy 2013! I hope your resolutions are achievable and your will power is strong.

Here are a few of my writerly resolutions for the coming year. I’ve been looking at twitter, and everyone all over the place seems to intend to read more! Not a bad idea. There’s a strange level of disappointment in yourself when you haven’t read all the books everyone else has read, or whatever seems to be in vogue or is being made into a film. What books are you guys looking forward to reading this year?

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1. Learning to Love E-Books

This has been easier than anticipated. Since fighting violently against the e-book market, and denying that e-readers are at all a positive thing, I have got a kindle. And boy, I love it! I especially get very excited by scanning Amazon for books (as I did before) and then getting them automatically! Instantaneous reading excitement! It’s also very likely that when my book goes into publication, it will be as an e-book. So I want to convert as many people as possible. Plus, now I have more room in my bag when travelling!

I’m currently reading Mhairi McFarlane’s You Had Me At Hello, which has all the things I love, including sarcasm, snarkiness, nostalgia and a pretty boy. It’s also the closest thing I’ve found to my second novel The Last Word, so that’s comforting.

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2. Blogging the Crap out of Everything.

Whilst some people are probably sick to death of everything I say on this blog (please see comments on previous post for example, ha ha) blogging is how you get yourself known, and as countless SEO experts have said, it’s bloody important. I’ve been keeping up with my writing, reading and…no, not so much with the maths, but have been so busy doing it that I haven’t been blogging about it!

So 2013 will be the year of the blog…hopefully. And I’ll start uploading more samples of my work because when you let people know what you’re up to, you’re kind of obligated to keep going.

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3. Write, not just Type

I’m having a bit of a situation in figuring out physical mediums at the moment. Originally, I always used to write everything in a notebook, or write pages and pages of scraps, and then type once things already appeared to have a definitive form. With my latest project, I started typing from the get-go, and I’m not really sure about it. Also, I like pretty notebooks!

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4. Write Sober

Big fan of Hemmingway’s famous advice, and find it to be particularly useful, but seeing as I’ll be giving up alcohol for January, it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s easier to write when you’re not so foggy from a glass of red. I doubt it. I kind of believe that perception altering experiences are good, and that anything that brings your subconscious bleeting into the conscious in confused, pretty sentences is pretty damn awesome. But, maybe being sober will be a perception altering experience. Or I’ll drink twice the amount of tea.

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5. Believe

I will tell you the absolute truth, the same truth every person who calls themselves an artist and writes a blog, or gives out a business card or talks about their work thinks: I am a fraud. I’m only talking about what I know, and trying to make it sound as if I know exactly what I’m doing, or as if I have any control over who reads my books, who thinks I’m good, and who thinks I’m professional.

But that’s part of the game. I have to call myself a writer. If not, what am I? If I’m not, then how can I legitimately run workshops, give talks, feedback to other writers, edit other people’s work? We are all absolutely playing the part of the life we want, in the hopes that one day we’ll simply stop pretending and be. So I hope that you know that these musings are made delicately, hopefully and without ego. Or rather, just enough ego to appear confident.

And to all my other frauds out there- keep pretending. Most of them don’t know we’re faking it!

I’ll keep you posted about the novel publication, the latest project and all the wonderful things I’ve been reading on my magic electronic reading device!

Have a very happy new year, and keep writing! What are your resolutions this year, writerly, readerly or not? Stick them in the comments box!

 

 

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Submitting to Submissions

Hey, mothers, here’s a question: Do people come up to you and tell you how ugly your baby is? No. No, they don’t. Because generally, when you’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating something, the average person isn’t inclined to come up and shit all over your achievement.

So, why are writers so scared to put their work out there? A writer friend and I have been discussing this recently. He finished his book, and wincingly told me he was going to submit it. My response ‘That’s awesome, wahoo!’ Because I say things like that, obviously. It wasn’t until I had to gear myself up for that same process months later that I realise what he was getting at.

So far, if I’ve shown it to people, it’s trusted friends and advisors, people who know what they’re talking about. Or people who are too polite to tell me if it’s rubbish. And if I leave it like that, then I don’t have to deal with the possibility that I might not be any good at this. It’s writer’s denial. It’s stranding yourself on an island and knowing that, yes, you created something, but no-one’s going to come rescue you unless you start putting the flares up and screaming at the top of your lungs. That analogy needs some work.

 

So, I’ve been doing so gradually, working my way up. I started with the Mslexia Novel competition, in which the book was longlisted. I recall it being some crazy number, from 700 submissions down to 100. So that means something. Then I entered it into a competition run by Bookline and Thinker, which I’ve yet to hear back from. And now it’s doing pretty well on Authonomy. But as The Walrus said, the time has come. Because, okay, I write for pleasure. But if I was just writing for me, I wouldn’t bother entering competitions or putting it on websites, would I? Books are written, and they are made to be read. That is their function.

There’s also the fear of seeming like a crazy person when you submit. You know the ones:

‘Hi there, this is my AMAZING book about THINGS AND STUFF. My mum really likes it, and the dog pissed on the first draft, so I think it’s lucky! Get in touch when you realise how awesome I am, and how I will make you millions. Well done for choosing me!’

 

Having belief if your art is important. Realising that you are one tiny person, and that in whatever you do, there will always be someone better and worse than you, is also important. It might be a matter of timing, it might be conflicting interests. It might be nothing to do with you at all, because the publishing market is having a hissy fit right now. But…what if it is me? What if I suck? What if I’ve spent four years and two degrees and a good portion of my life trying to do something that I am incapable of? These are just some of the questions that arise when you decide to submit. It’s not just a case of paying for some stamped addressed envelopes. This is the psychological shit, right here.

So what can you do? You can be prepared to respond badly. You can convince yourself you don’t care. You can bitch about the current titles offered by such a publisher. You can drink an entire bottle of whisky and tell yourself it didn’t do Hemmingway any harm. Or you can shrug, try and take on any criticism, and move on with your life. Maybe it’s just not your time right now. But be prepared.

If we’re going back to your manuscript being your baby, then would you send it on a plane ride by itself without knowing it’s being taken care of? Wouldn’t you wrap it up warm, and pack an extra bottle and do all that mother-type stuff that means you care about this little package of trouble more than anything else? What am I saying? Don’t send off half-finished, unedited bullshit. That is the opposite of being a good mother. Or writer. Be prepared, have a go, and if all else fails, I’m sure the whisky helps.

 

Happy Writing, and even happier submitting!

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Book Snobs, and the Acceptable Limits of Teen Paranormal Fiction.

You know the number one cited reason for buying an e-reader? ‘No-one can see what I’m reading.’

Yep, it’s true, thanks to e-books, you can now read whatever z-list celebrity biography or trashy romance novel you want, free from sniggering and judgement on public transport.

What is it with feeling guilty? Why do we need to define books as ‘guilty pleasures’ when really, if you’re truly enjoying it, you shouldn’t feel guilty at all? If you enjoy eating Marmite, and the people around you do not, (because they’re sane) do you define that piece of toast with the spread of your choice as a ‘guilty pleasure’? No, you assume they have terrible tastebuds, and enjoy your food.

 

We all take part in this world of literary snobbery, whether it’s hiding our paperback by breaking the spine (you people SUCK, seriously, why do you do that?) to bend the cover over, or by judging others when they tell you they’ve just finished the latest Twilight.

 

You can find this t-shirt at Fright Rags

I’m a big fan of ‘it’s what you are like, not what you like’ as a concept. But I’m probably still going to make a subconscious judgement if you’ve read (and enjoyed) Twilight. Why? Why on earth do I care if you want to read teen vamp literature written by a Mormon? Surely I should just be a good human being and be pleased that you found joy in the written word, that you found a means of escape from your dreary normal life, into a paranormal adventure.

 

But clearly, I’m not a good human being. Because I DO judge you. Just as you judge me. Which is why I only read Kafka on the tube.

 

Is it maybe that we’re looking to connect with others? Would a Twilight fan see you reading on the bus and think ‘you know, we’re connected, we are intertwined by our ability to get sucked into this world, and I consider you a friend, dear stranger’? (Well, no, because in their head they’re probably trying to figure out which ‘Team’ you’re on, and which is the best way to stab you if you say ‘Jacob’, but still). We see people with Harry Potter tattoos and we know they understand us.

 

Speaking of embarrassing reading...

There is something definitive about series, particularly children/teen book series that binds people together. Perhaps it’s that teenagers are prone to melodrama, and so the books seem more important, or maybe it’s because these series ultimately get turned into films and have a wider reach, again, making them seem more important. Either way, I’m going to make a bold statement: I think everybody should read teen fiction.

 

I think the themes that relate to teenagers can be understood by us all: fitting in, being outcast, wanting to be special, wanting to be loved and understood. And I think that teen fiction can be truly excellent, whether it’s standard or supernatural. The tone of writing makes it easy reading, but the subject matter makes us connect. Or it should, if you were ever a teenager. Maybe you were the high school quarter back cliche and you sailed through school without a second thought: Good for you, you’re boring and I’m sure your advanced years will only continue to be so.

 

This picture was taken using Instagram, and therefore everyone looks cooler. EXCEPT FOR THE BENT SPINE OF THE BOOK! MURDERER

Why did I write this? Because I was explaining to a friend about how much I was enjoying the second book in The Hunger Games series, and looking forward to the film. And I was embarrassed by this. Now, I get embarrassed by pretty much everything, from my ability to accidentally insult people then awkwardly backtrack, to my inability to talk to pretty men. But I am never embarrassed by what I read, because if I enjoy it, then to me, it has served its purpose.

So feeling guilty about reading something that was well written, excellently conceived and has left me wanting more made me feel…well, guilty for bowing to social convention, I guess.

 

So, let us rise up against a tide of injustice, and for now and forever let us say: ‘I shall not be ashamed!’*

 

I hope you’re enjoying whatever you’re reading right now, and if you haven’t already, check out The Hunger Games. It’s more than just your average teen fiction, it’s a comment on society! Honestly, even The Guardian says so!

*This does not apply to Twilight fans. You should be ashamed. Unless you’re reading it ironically, in which case, you’re supercool, obvs.