Friday, 30 March 2012

It's about cake and book barns in the end

It seemed like I had ages to start thinking about the blogs for the April Challenge, to make a head start and get plenty written in advance. Yet here we are with just one day left in March and I haven't done anything.

Well, I say that but I have got a plan.

From Sunday 1st April, for 6 days in a row, the blogs posts will be:

  • A - An extract from a piece I'm working on based on the experiences of Alexandrine Tinne, the first European woman to cross the Sahara in 1869
  • B - A flash fiction from my guest, Michelle Scorziello, entitled: Beatrice is introduced to Becky Sharp at Berkelouw Berrima Book Barn (she got very excited about the B theme)
  • C - A look at the lovely world of cake and baking it in books, and occasionally in my kitchen
  • D - Dreams
  • E - Endings
  • F - Flash Fictions
So, as you can see by the tapering off into just one word titles there, I have only really thought about A and C. So I better get on with some serious thinking. Oh, and I will try to keep them short and sweet as I know that 26 blogs in 30 days is a lot of me to put up with! I promise I will revert back to one every week or so after that and give us all a well deserved break.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

You're the second person today to...

I've always loved books and food. So imagine my excitement yesterday when I discovered the world's first edible cookbook, which turns into Lasagne, something I enjoy eating very much. Food in literature, something we have been looking at in my writing classes, never got more literal.

For last week's class we had to read Moshin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a book that takes place almost entirely at one cafe table over the course of a couple of meals but spans years of the narrator's history and visits three continents. It's written in the second person, which is not a point of view I've read much and it did give me a sense of being very distant from the story. But writing it was really fun. Everyone in the workshop found it was easier to give a character really annoying, and sometimes outright rude, ways when that distance had been created, as if we were no longer responsible for this person's actions.

I can see the characters and the setting that appeared in my writing as part of these exercises definitely going somewhere, but its whether I can keep up the second person thing without ending up disliking my narrator or turning her into a parody. I'm going to post up some of it as part of the April challenge (Y for You), by which time I should either of got into the swing of things or will have canned it and rewritten it in first person, and proably the third. You've got to try these things.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Could you write a novel in 10 minutes flat?

Of course you couldn't - nobody could. But just like quick fix diets there are a plethora of quick fix novel guides designed to make would be writers believe they can bash out a novel in no time and achieve JK Rowling levels of success with them. As the latest sign-up to be one of my A-Z blog guests, the lovely Cathy Dreyer, knows - it takes a lot more hard work than that; and fame and fortune do not neccesarily go hand-in-hand with publication. But who wants that anyway? I'd hate to be famous, I just want people to read the stories I write and to like them, a lot. But I will be honest, I wouldn't mind the fortune.

Cathy's funny and inspiring blog, which funnily enough is called 'writeanovelintenminutesflat', always brings a smile to my day and I'm really chuffed that I have managed to tempt her into guesting on here as part of the A-Z challenge. She has bagged the letter W so quite a long while to wait for her words of wisdom. Did you see what I did there? Loads of words starting with W! But be here she will on April 26th and just like Shaun Levin's blog, I have no idea what Cathy's will be about yet.

Oh, and did I mention that she is also an award-winning story writer? No? Well, find out more about that here. So it's a good job I've got her to agree to this now, before she starts jetting off around the world to launch her latest best-selling novel and attend the star-studded premieres of the films based on them. Because that's what happens to everyone who writes books, honest.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

More guests, less optimism

I'm still busy recruiting guest bloggers for the A-Z Challenge and am very excited to have Shaun Levin - author and creative writing teacher extraordinaire - signed up for the letter S, which will be appearing on Saturday 21st April. I have no idea what he will be writing so we will all just have to wait and see.

Shaun's work (all of which you can buy here on Amazon) includes novels, short story collections and his latest book, Trees at a Sanatorium, is a look at the life of the artist Mark Gertler, particularly his relationship with Dora Carrington and his struggle to create and survive as a painter. He also founded an indie publishing company last year, Treehouse Press, which has published three collections of short stories so far from its 2011 competition winners.

So my thanks go to Shaun, both for his inspirational writing classes and for his impending visit to my blog in April.

After last night's class with Shaun the piece that I will be posting for A is no longer going to have quite such an optimistic slant as I first thought - less dreams come true, more dreams end badly. I'm not sure if its me, or if its something about Shaun, but since going to his class quite a few dead people are turning up in my writing...

Monday, 5 March 2012

Guests, dreams and adventures

In an effort not to bore you all with too many blogs from me as part of the A-Z Challenge in April, I have signed up two guest bloggers. First up is Michelle Scorziello, whose memoir recently made the long-list in the 2012 Fish Publishing competition, and she will be writing a flash fiction for the letter B. This will be posted on April 2nd hot on the heels of my first post, which in a burst of super efficiency I have written already. Well, I’ve written it as my homework for Shaun Levin’s ‘Reading to Write’ class but as my character’s name starts with an A and she is going on an adventure, I decided I couldn’t really have anything else for the opening blog.

My second guest is Jen Squire, a poet who has recently turned her hand to short story writing and has even made mention of the ‘novel’ word once or twice in my hearing. She has kindly agreed to fill in for me on April 18th – P is for Poetry day – with her poem entitled, Feeding Need. I shall be ensconced in Deborah Dooley’s writing retreat in the wilds of North Devon that week so I look forward to reading Jen’s poem to distract me from my own novel writing, which should be at the completion stage by then.

The rest of the letters are not completely decided upon yet, although I have made a plan. See, I’m not completely unorganised. The only one I think is definite at this stage is 'D is for Dreams', as I recently read Isobel Ashdown’s Hurry Up and Wait (which is a must read for everyone that went to secondary school in the UK in the 1980s) and was struck by her use of dreams in that. That’s all I’ll say on that now though, as I will save it for the D blog.

So, thanks to Michelle and Jen for agreeing to take part, and to Isobel for inspiring me with her use of dreams.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

I've just discovered this website: Six Sentence Sunday - and if the name hasn't already given it away, its about posting up six sentences from a work in progress on a Sunday. So, here's six sentences from the novel I'm working on. You know, the one that the publisher liked and the agent wants to read...

Another ten minutes passed, I started to feel really panicky and that’s when I knew that I’d have to go and look for him, so I grabbed my coat from the hook in the hallway and stuffed my keys and phone in the pocket. The wind blew the front door out of my hand as I opened it and flung stinging needles of rain in my face. Apart from a lone fox walking away from me in the middle of the road, his fur glowing orange in the streetlights, the street was deserted. Have you seen him, I wanted to ask it. I liked the foxes, always felt a sense of wonder when I came across one. Jimmy said that was one of the things he loved about me – my love of the animal world, which saw me rescuing baby birds that had fallen out of their nests and even a duck once when we were walking by the river.

So, that's from the night that Jimmy goes missing. Where has he gone? All will be revealed...

Friday, 2 March 2012

Do dreams come true?

Well, its been a while since my poor little blog got any attention but in my defence I have been very busy writing articles and the such like for paying customers, as well as recovering from the flu bug from hell that has lingered around for weeks. But enough of the health talk.

So, where was I? Preparation for Get Writing 2012 was going full steam ahead last time I was here, and now it is weeks in the past. It was the first time I had been to this event, and it won't be the last. The workshops and presentations were all very helpful and informative, and the presence of agents and publishers for authors such as Stephen King and JK Rowling had me suitably star struck. But the best bit of it all was the feedback I got from Simon Taylor, Editorial Director at Transworld, who said he really liked my writing and thought my character's voice had a simplicity and elegance. Followed by the fact that a literary agent, Kate Nash, who I did my 3 minute pitch to, wants me to send her 3 chapters - do stop me if you've heard all this already!

So I came home over excited and wondering if dreams do come true, and if mine of being a published author really is within my reach. This theme has followed through in the class I have been doing with Shaun Levin, which has really inspired me and generated many new ideas. This week's homework is to write a piece about an explorer or adventurer that is a fictionalised account of a real life story. In my research for this I have come across the tale of Alexandrine Tinne, a Dutch woman who travelled across Africa in the 1860s and was the first European woman to try and cross the Sahara. Despite the fact that she met a bit of a grisly end, my piece for Shaun is going to take the optimistic 'dream come true' slant at the beginning of her adventure.

In a very small way, in more ways than one, my dream of getting some fiction published will be coming true next month anyway. As part of his MA, John's working with a team to create a magazine and have it printed and they have very kindly asked me to write a flash fiction for it. So, a small story in a small magazine - but it's definitely a start.