Poetry, Publishing, Writing

Sarah Cave and Ben Smith – Featuring Lost in Books!

Last night, I attended a book event in the cosy and intimate setting of Lostwithiel’s very own independent bookshop, Lost in Books. For the event, published poet, Sarah Cave, and debut novelist, Ben Smith, read aloud from their works, speaking about setting and place, how it’s used, and the tantalising consequence of how the absence of human life can have a deep effect on the confines of our minds when left alone out in the world.

Sarah Cave, who has published two poetry collections (with another on the way later this year!), tells the story of Slava, a Russian individual living in the Arctic inspired by the real-life Arctic weatherman in her striking collection An Arbitrary Line. The poignancy of her poetry, echoing themes of loneliness, humanity and the isolation within a huge and harsh climate, such as Northern Russia, is incredibly rich and evocative in its powerful use of language. While her poetry might be deep and wistful at times, there were definitely several shared laughs between her and the audience as she read her work aloud. Inspired by a reflection of the abstract and the effect the human mind can have once humanity has disappeared, this collection is a prize to keep close to your heart. Listening to her work and being drawn in by her rhythmic words was a pleasure.

SARAH CAVE READING FROM AN ARBITRARY LINE

Ben Smith, whose debut Doggerland, a dystopian exploration of family, fear and ever-prevalent climate change, also read at this event. Again, weaving in themes of loss, humanity and an isolated setting, hearing Ben’s prose being spoken aloud was mesmerising. Surviving in a world where the only two characters interact with each other and the sea, Ben’s debut has been described as a stylistic mixture between Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam and Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic prose. Needless to say, it was a treat to listen to his words and listen in on the details of how he wrote the book.

BEN SMITH READING FROM DOGGERLAND

And where would a fantastic author event be without its fabulous host? Lost in Books, situated along the idyllic riverbank of Lostwithiel, is a gem in itself – and a wonderful find if you happen to be walking that way in Cornwall.

Recently opened, it shares its space with rustic, home decor shop, Atticus & Willow, filled with natural plants, greenery and delicate trinkets and treasures you can just as easily get lost in. The whole feel of the space as you walk in is like stepping into another world. A world of art and books. Doesn’t that sound just like heaven?

The more I visit, the more I believe that this is such a perfect and unique setting for a landscape filled with books. They line the shelves, creep up the walls, and lay stacked in plucky little piles beneath the rustic table centred in the middle of the room. Those books in turn breathe words, and those words weave into much-loved stories. The only thing they need is for somebody to step in, pick one up, and start reading. Did I mention the shop has a cat who visits frequently too?

SARAH CAVE AND BEN SMITH HOLDING BOOKS

Last night was such a wonderful experience to be among the audience for this fabulous event. Lostwithiel is such an ancient town. To know its literary spirit is being kept alive and well is a gift to its community – I hope to be back for many more events to come!

Fancy visiting Lost in Books? You can visit their website here.

 

Cornwall, Writing

Discovering the #5amWritersClub

Today I had a deadline. That deadline was for a local anthology celebrating Cornwall, written by Cornish writers.

When I was first asked to be involved with the project a few months ago, three emotions ran in loud succession through my head.

First, was joy. I was so happy I just got to be included! I’m always so excited to be a part of anything writing related – and the fact that it’s all about Cornwall? That was just a bonus on top of everything else.

Second, was inspired. Living in Cornwall, it’s hard not to be inspired by the landscape and the stories all around me. You only have to take a wrong turn or visit one of our busy little seaside towns, or have a picnic on our cliff trails to be struck by a story idea.

Third, however, was fear. With all that being said, what the hell was I going to write about?!

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Falmouth, Cornwall, at dawn

So, what’s this got to do with the #5amWritersClub, I hear you ask? Well, this morning I was pleased to discover that over on Twitter there is such a thing as the #5amWritersClub – a wonderful community of hardworking writers – usually working full-time, who communicate via Twitter about their current writing projects and cheer each other on simultaneously. The only thing you need to be a part of it? You must write at #5am, in order to join. It’s a great morning wake-up call!

So I got up at 4am (I know, even earlier, right?), silenced my beeping alarm, and got down to it. And you know what? It was actually so beautiful to watch the dawn break across the sky and hear the morning birdsong of feathered friends so early while the rest of the world was asleep – all the while tapping along on my keyboard until my short story draft was finally finished at 6am.

The #5amWritersClub is a great way to meet new people and communicate globally across the world with writers just like you – either with a deadline to catch, or an ongoing project they’re committed to. It’s friendly, it’s fun, and it’s free! What’s not to like?

Later on, (after I got sent home from work for being too poorly and grabbed some sleep), I snatched a chance to write out in the garden with the sunshine burning down on my back. It was blissful, aside from being full of flu and gross, gunky eyes.

Writing Space

I had my writing plants to spur me along and actually had a pretty productive afternoon, writing blog posts, editing manuscripts and writing an article piece for a local newspaper.

Who says you can’t write when you’re ill?

So if you’re an early riser, or want to dip your toe into a pool of new writer friends, why not try out the #5amWritersClub? They’re a happy bunch, I promise!

articles, How To, Writing

5 Ways to Improve Your Writing Mood

Down in the dumps about your writing? Need to edit that novel? Write that journalism article? Commit to that short story idea? This blog might just be able to help you with that.

Here are five ways to get those creative juices flow back into your writing life.

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1) Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People’s Success.

I know. It’s hard. You’re down in the dumps about your own writing and, to make it worse, you keep watching everybody else’s success climb higher than yours. That green-eyed monster in your head is getting meaner, and uglier, and you start to wonder what it is you’re doing wrong. Writing in the face of everybody else’s success can be hard. It can make you feel like you don’t belong here, or you’re not a ‘real writer’. Pretty soon, you’re scared you’ll burn out from watching everybody else soar.

You might be thinking, ‘When is it my turn?’ or ‘Why can’t I be celebrated like that?’, or even, ‘When is it my turn to be a real writer?’  You might even be considering deleting your social media account.

But hold that thought – take a breath – and push that green-eyed devil monster away.

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Don’t compare your own journey to somebody else’s. You are unique. You don’t know how many dips and falls another writer has had to take in order to get themselves where they are today.

Ask yourself this: Where were you at the start of your writer’s journey? How much have you improved since then? What skills do you have now that you didn’t when you started out? With every short story, or article, or chapter you write, you become a better writer. Your words get sharper, cleaner, and your mind gets that much smarter. You still might not be Ernest Hemingway, or even J.K. Rowling, but you are already on your writer’s journey and it’s fantastic.

What’s not to celebrate about that?

2) Be Daring!

STEVEMARTIN

Daily life routines can be suffocating for creative writing, no matter what field you work in. Fed up with working in an office job? Exhausted at the end of the day from all that manual labour? Can your brain just not tune out that annoying customer you almost had a fight with today?

Try something new.

Most of us think we don’t have time, but trying new things doesn’t have to strip away hours of your life. Time is precious – I get that. A break in routine can be as simple as creating a new meal you would never usually choose, or choosing a different route to go down while you’re taking the dog out for a walk. Why not watch a documentary instead of the same old, repetetive show you watch out of habit? Buy a plant and watch it grow along with your writing.

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However, if you’ve got more time on your hands and want to be more adventurous, why not take up an exercise class, volunteer for a local charity, or join a local book club? Meet new people. After all, aren’t people key to creating new stories? Or if you’re feeling really out there, try your hand at hiking up a mountain, skydiving, or even swim with sharks!

Jump into new experiences. With that, you’ll have a whole new breadth of story ideas. You just need to brave enough. And I know you can do it.

3) Take a Breaktumblr_ml7vv56i7D1r0chkzo1_500

Not all of us can crack out 5,000 words a day (and those that can are either extremely dedicated or – dare I say it – superheroes!) – some of us have full time jobs to work, children to care for, the house to run, and bills to pay! Oh, and take the dog for a walk. We can’t do everything at once.

But if your writing is getting you down, just remember it’s okay to take a break. Sometimes, it’s what our body – not to mention our mind – needs. So what if you didn’t make that final wordcount? So what if you haven’t written a good scene or tight piece of dialogue in forever? We are only human. We all need to take a break every once in a while. Since we’re not mindless machines, sometimes it’s good to kick back and relax and spend some time with our family, live a little, and laugh. It’s been scientifically proven that we all need to take some time out regularly to maintain a good, healthy working lifestyle – which helps kick our brains back into gear when the time comes to sit down at our desk.

A healthy balance between your writing life and your real life can really work wonders. Otherwise, we might all just turn into robots. I don’t want to live in that world, do you?

4) Ignore Your Inner Editor

When I’m feeling burned out about my writing, I find it helps to set myself a timer and write as much as possible until that timer bleeps – without editing or looking back. I used to think this was impossible. Now, I do it all the time. Usually, one hour works best for me. It’s not too short; not too long. And it’s usually really surprising – and satisfying – to see the results.

Sometimes, turning your editing brain off while you’re writing can be all you really need to get back into that flow. But I understand. It’s hard. What you’re splurging out onto the page might well be utter rubbish, but what’s amazing about it is that you can keep the gold nuggets that trickle out and edit later. Sometimes, your creative brain can write out golden rainbows. Your editing brain just doesn’t always let you see it.

Try this out. You might be surprised what happens!

5) Write Something New!

Lastly, write something fresh. So your writing might be getting a little stale? Have you tried writing something else? Maybe you’ve been working on the same scene in a novel for weeks, possibly months, and it’s still just not feeling right. You never feel like you’re going to get it done. But take a step back for a moment and focus on something else. Instead of obsessing over what’s not working, try out something new.

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Why not write a poem, or write freeverse about anything you like; keep a diary, or dabble in that short story idea you’ve been putting off until after your current project is well and truly done. When a project starts getting stale, it’s usually a sign that your creativity is being stifled and you need to let your mind wander elsewhere. You can always come back to that novel scene – just with a fresher, less cluttered mind. Give your brain some room to breathe and be flexible with your creativity.

Don’t write yourself into a box.

Feeling Fancy Free?

So how do you feel now about your writing? Do you feel empowered and ready to push on with that article, that pitch, that story idea, or tricky poem that’s been bugging you for weeks? Sometimes, a fresh take on things is all we need to get tapping away at that keyboard again – or scribbling away in that journal. So go ahead and get out there. Write whatever you need to in order to get that tricky project done.

Just remember one thing: only you can write your story.

Who else in the world has the same past experiences and lessons learned as you do? That’s right: no one. You can use that. The whole world is full of endless material.

So, are you ready to write about it?

 

 

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Let me know how your writing is going in the comments! I’d love to hear about your projects.

Personal, Writing

Merry Christmas

I’ve been away from blogging for a long time. It’s been a bit of a mad year, and a fairly rough one too. Looking back, the year 2016 seems very far away now.

I’ll be truly relieved when 2017 is over, but I know the new year won’t come without its own demons. I’m hoping that, when they come, I’ll be ready to face them head on.

But, for now, enough. Here’s to looking forward. I’m not much one for New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I would love to achieve just one or two things and, maybe, stick to them.

1) Complete my novel.

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First and foremost, I want to complete my YA novel by May 2018. This deadline is significant because I’m going to the Torchlight Anthology launch in London during this month, held as part of Bath Spa’s Masters course in Writing for Young People. There, it’ll be a wonderful (and rather daunting) opportunity to meet agents and publishers alike and get to talk about my novel. I know. Scary, much? In the meantime, I’ll be panicking amid writing the end of my novel, all frantic, and praying to God that it works out okay.

2) Read more, and keep a journal.Related imageWorking full-time is something I routinely love. As much as other people will think I’m crazy, I adore working in retail. Saying hello to people, and just being a small part of a stranger’s day counts, I think. I love the fact that they get to make an imprint on my life, and in turn that I get to make an imprint upon theirs. It just makes me feel all warm and cosy inside, even if it can be a little tiring by the time the hands on the clock hit 5 o’ clock.

But, saying all that, it does leave very little time to write. I’ve started writing in my lunch breaks just to get something – ANYTHING – done. I also take forever to finish a book recently. It makes me particularly irritable.

I also find that keeping a journal helps maintain creativity. I don’t do that as much anymore, I think, purely out of dropping the habit. I used to write in a journal everyday. This is something, I think, integral to keeping happy.

So those are my fragile New Year Resolutions. What are yours? I hope they’re a little more cemented in the ground than mine.

So smile, be happy, and, above all, I hope you are merry and loved this Christmas.

 

x

 

Authors, Writing

Telling Myself: A Break is Okay

I promised myself I would do Camp NaNoWriMo this month and, although I’ve almost reached my personal word count goal, it hasn’t really felt like enough. I haven’t been writing every day. I haven’t been pouring coffee down my throat in order to JUST WRITE. I haven’t been locking myself in my room and writing for hours on end.

In short, it feels like I haven’t been focused enough.

But I have been thinking about my characters all the time. And this, I’m telling myself, is okay.

Even though I may not have been writing, it’s all still been there, just bubbling under the surface, working itself into something more tangible and detailed so when I come back to it I’m ready.

So I’ve been doing other things.

In my spare time, I’ve been going to literary festivals, doing fun writing workshops with other people I’ve never met before, meeting amazing authors like Liz Kessler, Anna McKerrow, Lu Hersey and Lisa Glass and even picking their brains about their own writing process when they write their novels.

Meeting Lu Hersey, Anna McKerrow and Lisa Glass

I’ve been taking long walks and sitting in the sunshine reading books and laughing with friends. I’ve also driven up and down the countryside in a couple of days so I could have an interview for a masters degree in writing.

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So I haven’t been writing my own novel per se, but I’ve been doing other things that count towards it. I know this might sound lazy, like I’m even making excuses, but in my eyes it’s not.

Because I’m realising it’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to step away from your project for a little while, if only so you can see it a little clearer when you do get back to it again. It’s okay not to achieve ridiculous word count goals you might set yourself for the month, as long as you’ve written something.

Breaks are important. Just make sure you get back to your project.

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Because you might find something truly amazing by procrastinating.

Writing

Camp NaNoWriMo: Figuring it Out

So I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo and it’s all going fairly well. But as I kept going and going, writing and writing, I  realised I didn’t feel comfortable writing about characters who I didn’t actually know that much about.

Normally, I tend to start writing and my characters develop more and more as I write them. I love doing that, mostly because it means minimal work, also because I can just get right into the story without having to do loads of background research.

But, unfortunately, that just wasn’t going to cut it this time and, as my word count got further and further towards reaching my ultimate goal, I became less and less confident with this project and these characters.

Now, I love my premise and I love my idea. But I needed more than that. I turned to the Writing Resources on the Camp NaNoWriMo wesite and – tah-dah! – I found everything I needed. It has all sorts of tips and advice on how to implement your characters and get to know them better before you start writing.

You can see it here.

Now, usually, I hate this kind of stuff but, right now, I am actually loving it. As lame as this sounds, I’ve conducted interviews with my characters, written and planned out their entire back story and where they will all go in life even after the novel has finished (yes, some of them die). I’ve discovered things about them I didn’t even realise and, more than anything, I feel like I know their place in this novel a lot better than I did before.

What surprised me most is that I’ve developed new plot points.

I still need to keep going with this. I am in no way done. I’m writing the actual project alongside the planning stuff, so it is all still a bit wobbly.

But, hey, at least I’m getting things done – which is more than I was before. Reading all the inspiring blog posts about what people are doing this month – and how they’re managing it – is really prompting me to kick my ass into gear.

It’s a Monday, it’s 8am, and I’ve already written almost 1,000 words today. I definitely think this is progress. I know I just have to keep going, which is the hard part.

Laters.

Writing

Camp NaNoWriMo: Word Count Goals

Howdy, everyone.

Last night marked the first night of Camp NaNoWriMo this April and I stayed up well past 4am. This wasn’t even because I was stressing about the word count – I’ve successfully made it to just over 4,000 words (don’t fret, I didn’t do this all in one night!). It was because the excitement was too much.

I didn’t want to go to sleep. Not when there were writers all over social media spurring us all on – Twitter, Facebook, cabins – we were practically everywhere! And of course not forgetting that last night’s Virtual Write In was awesome, I think we’re off to a great start. I cannot wait to see how this April goes.

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Turns out that when you shut your brain OFF during editing mode and just concentrate on writing (amen to word sprints!) then writing comes to you a lot easier. A LOT easier. Even if half of what I’ve written so far is fairly awful and I eventually end up scrapping it, at least I have the foundations of something to grab onto, something to build on. I’m telling myself this is okay.

I pan to *hopefully* double my word count from last night today. Because how amazing would that be?

Unfortunately, my cabin is a little quiet and not as active as some folks’ in the last 24 hours, but I’m hoping that will pick up as we get going!

Right now, I’m going to have a shower, brew a cup of tea and eat some writing fuel for the day (most likely porridge). Then I’ll sit down and crack on with a bit more writing in between other bits like working from home and feeding my cats.

So if you’re doing Camp NaNo too, then good luck and please do let me know what you’re working on! I’d love to hear what everyone’s writing, whether it’s short stories, novel, poetry or scriptwriting, etc. Or if you’ve just stumbled across this blog post and have absolutely zero knowledge of what I’m talking about then, also, let me know. I’ll try and explain.

Happy writing!