Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Writing retreats, social ventures and Exmoor Ponies

In my 3rd guest blog for Exmoor Magazine I've been busy - there's writing retreats, mentoring and volunteering on the cards. Read the blog to find out more and expect to hear a lot more about them all in the coming months. I bet you can't wait! 

My latest OU module has just started as well and over the next 9 months I will be writing fiction (no change there then), poetry (feeling daunted) and memoir (watch out relatives!) and I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in.

I started a short story course as well earlier this month and the first story that I sent in came back with the feedback that it's not a short story but an extract from a longer piece. This is the reason I signed up for this class as I know that I turn everything I write into a novel - I just cannot seem to contain myself!

So, before I really get going today I'm off. Just one more thing - my new retreat website will be live later this week but if you are in the West Country and want some info now then email me at and I'll send it over.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Festival of Writing - intense, emotional, drunken

University of York: View from beneath the Cent...
University of York: View from beneath the Central Hall building across the lake. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I'm just about getting over my first ever Festival of Writing, which took place at the University of York's beautiful campus last weekend. I originally booked to go when I was still living in London so thought the journey would be a mere two hour train trip and very simple. But as most of you know, I moved to Exmoor at the start of August and the trip was a bit longer than anticipated. Four and a half hours longer to be precise. It was great reading and writing time though and I was very lucky to have friendly and interesting seat partners in both directions. But it’s not the journey that I need to recover from - I had no idea that the event would be so intense, emotional and drunken. 

The meetings that I had with the agent, Jane Judd, and book doctor, Shelley Harris, left me with mixed emotions. Daunted by how far I still have to go and slightly annoyed by the fact that I changed the POV and tense from what I started it in and completed the whole first draft, only to be told that it would have been better in its original format. But mainly I was inspired and motivated to continue by the comments that said some of my writing was really strong, and because neither of them told me to give up but instead to up my game.

What I learnt in the workshops means I feel much better equipped to up my game; and I can also now see how my first draft really is the bare bones that I have to build on rather than the nearly completed product I was wrongly assuming it to be. The Psychic Distance presentation from Debi Alper (aka the Flame-Haired Demi-God) was making complete sense and I was having an “A-ha” moment when I had to leave for my 1-1 but she has kindly sent me the slides so I can at least have some idea of what I missed. But nothing beats the enthusiasm and passion of the live delivery.

This was what most impressed me about all of the speakers I was lucky enough to see over the weekend – their generosity in sharing what they know, their willingness to talk about their own rocky routes to publication and their strategies for dealing with the self-doubt and rejection that goes hand-in-hand with being a writer. What really surprised me though was my complete re-think about self-publishing as I have always been such a traditional girl at heart. Changed my mind was though by the professionalism of two self-publishers: David Gaughran and Talli Roland – who made me realise that it doesn’t have to be the poor relation I'd always assumed it to be.

As well as buying books by everyone whose workshops I went to (any excuse), I learnt a lot, made lovely new friends, got tipsy, met several virtual friends in the flesh for the first time, and came home very tired but more inspired and determined than ever to make my writing work; and to finding both the time and the money to make the Festival of Writing an annual fixture in my calendar.

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