Authors, Travel

The Home of Mark Twain

Last year, I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit Mark Twain’s boyhood home way out in Missouri.

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It was one of the highlights of our trip and I felt so humble to be standing outside his fence and looking around his home near the Mississippi River, room by room. I absolutely love Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn – one of which I read while I was out there to keep me going throughout the trip.

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There was so much to see and so many places to go I actually didn’t end up reading very much, but it was a trip of a lifetime and I’m so glad I could take a copy with me to occupy me on my travels!

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Later on, we went for a walk near the Mississippi River, where a large statue of Mark Twain stood. The heat was so dense (it was August) and the water looked so cool, it took a lot for me not to just jump right in.

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We spent a long while there, just wandering around and sitting by the grass, trying not to get faint from the sun.

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We even got to see a freight train carrying loads of cargo as it passed through the stop sign barriers just before the crossing to get to the river. The railroad looked so atmospheric, so damn Southern, I almost wanted to cry. I love the Deep South and have always been fascinated by it, so to visit this place was such an incredible experience.

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I waited a long time to read Huckleberry Finn and saved it until I could finally go on this trip.

Do you have a favourite classic?

Authors, Publishing

Book Launch: The Bras and the Bees

This week, I attended the launch of a very special book, hosted by Falmouth Booksellers in Cornwall. I’ve been patiently waiting for The Bras and the Bees by FA Notley to come out ever since I heard about it, partly because it sounds like such a wonderful reflection of true life events about a beekeeper-turned-global-business-entrepeneur, and partly because the cover artwork for this book is simply so beautiful.

FA Notley (co-editor for Cornish Short Stories) is the author of this stunning book. It tells the true life events of Brian Sherriff, now 91, who was at one time a beekeeper and factory director manufacturing women’s bras, before he went on to establish his own business selling beekeeping suits around the world. As a leading brand that’s still recognised today, The Bras and the Bees tells a fascinating and inspiring story of how you can go from one life path to the next with one simple idea. Namely, Why aren’t there any safety measures in place when working with bees?

The Bras and The Bees book_launch.jpgThe Bras and the Bees

As a lover of all things literary, I’m always a sucker for any type of author event, so to meet the author, the man the book is written about, and the illustrator, all in one night was particularly exciting for me. How often do you really walk into an author event and leave with not just one, but three signatures within the first few pages of the book?

This night was full of sparkle and I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the evening at this wonderful independent bookshop.

The Bras and The Bees book_launch_BrianBrian signing my copy at Falmouth Bookseller

At the launch, Brian jokingly admitted he never realised his life was so interesting to a smiling audience. He suggested that, to anybody who wants to write their life story, all they have to do is write little anecdotes down about what happens to them, collate them in date order, and then put them all together to create a book. Of course, it’s a little more technical than that, which is where FA Notley steps in and brings Brian’s wonderful story to life with her words.

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Author FA Notley and illustrator Lucy H. Smith

Lucy H. Smith, the illustrator, even signed my copy with a unique drawing of a tiny buzzing bee. As a massive fan of her artwork, I loved that she included this; I’ll be holding this book close for a very long time. The detail on the page is exquisite and I particularly love the wings.

Illustrator Lucy H. Smith signing my copy

The exhibition space for this event was also beautiful. It included one of the corsets made from Brian’s factory on a mannequin so gorgeous I wanted to take it straight home with me. There was also an amusing graphic showing how Brian used to wear his own miniature ‘bra-kerchiefs’ in the front pocket of his shirts, a story which is all detailed further within the pages of the book.

The Bras and The Bees book_launch_exhibitionExhibition space

I’ve never seen anything quite like it – and it definitely added characterful charm to the event, as well as to the entire book.

The Bras and The Bees book_launch_exhibition_brasThe Bra-kerchief

Feeling happy with my evening, I left Falmouth Booksellers the way you always should: with a book in hand. My TBR pile might be teetering over the edge right now, and I definitely have a lot of my own writing I also need to get to, but I seriously can’t wait to start reading this delightful tale.

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.

university, Writing

Writing About The South

 

Right now I’m writing at university because it’s warmer than being in my house. This is a legitimate reason. I am not kidding. But writing on campus can be fun because:

  1. There are no distractions
  2. It’s a working environment (so I actually feel like I should be doing something instead of tweeting.)
  3. It’s really quiet here right now because it’s evening!

So I’ve set myself a deadline. By the end of tonight, as in midnight, I will have written 1000 words to the opening of my new novel-in-progress which is – ta dah! – all about the Deep South … as in Texas.

Because I love it.

This new novel is a project of mine which I have been striving towards since the very first year of my degree. I’ve been holding off until now to write about it and now it’s here it’s kind of terrifying. The novel project is a part of my dissertation, which is all about the Deep South and the ideology of the cowboy as a romance figure in literature.

So my novel is a cowboy romance set in Texas. *unbelievably happy about this*

I’m writing different beginnings to the novel so far and I’m going to keep writing until I hit the one which I know is right. So far, I have four different openings. I think I know which one I love best, but I know it’s not quite there yet. More work needs to be done!

But, like Hemingway famously said, “the first draft of anything is shit.”

I think I always come back to that piece of advice when I’m writing a first draft and finding it hard. Because if you can’t have faith in Hemingway as a writer, then who else are you going to believe in?

For research, I’ve been reading snippets of DEEP SOUTH by the wonderful travel writer Paul Theroux which came out late last year. (I don’t know how many times I stroked it in bookshops before actually buying it. Sorry Waterstones.)

I read this book in the sunshine today and it was bliss. I’ll probably write a raving reveiw of this book once I’ve finished it but I’ll tell you right now that this book is amazing. It really gets you into the mindset of the South and opens up a world perhaps not so explored in travel writing. It’s a world of vivid colour and backroads and thrift stores located on old highways, where “the past is never dead” and where “poverty is well dressed in churches, and everyone is approachable”.

It’s a world I can’t wait to get into and one which I find hugely inspiring (hence the idea for the novel). I’ve always loved the South ever since I was first pulled into country music.

So today I pored over its pages, ready with a bright pink marker pen to highlight certain passages, and fell a little bit in love with it all. So tonight, I aim to write about it. Or at least develop some ideas about it which I can one day turn into fiction.

I’ll try and keep you updated on how it goes along as I try and figure it out.

In the meantime, it’s back to writing!

Authors, education, Writing

Writing Monday!

Today I got to do something amazing. I got to sit in writing workshops with bestselling (and famous) novelist Emily Barr.

Quickly upon meeting her, I found out she was lovely. Like a ‘I’m really interested in who you are and what you do’ kind of lovely and this made her workshop so engaging and effortless the entire way through. (It was three hours long).

First we did some writing exercises, like trying to write a short story with every consecutive word of the alphabet – in order. I won’t lie, it was tough. And mine was a load of nonsense compared to everybody else’s.

Currently, there are twelve of us who are participating in the writing workshops which are running for a few weeks! Do I even need to tell you I’m excited?? Being in a room with so many sophisticated and talented writers is really humbling and kind of like magic once you’re in the room with them. They make you want to be better. They want to make you try harder. I’m really lucky to not only be with Emily Barr – an actual novelist – but also everyone else too, because they’re all talented.

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I’m so incredibly looking forward to seeing how these few weeks pan out. It’s the last year of my degree, the last chance for me to do something like this. I’m going to count every second because I don’t want it to be over. Next week we’re looking at setting and how it matters in fiction/writing!

Excited!!

In other news, my friend got me a new vintage night gown today (she knows I love them and already have like three already). It has ruffles and IT’S PINK! I’ll even leave you a picture of it.

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Anyway, until next time! I have to pop out to get some washing up liquid …

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Personal, Publishing

Goodbye London!

It’s officially my last day in London! Tomorrow I’ll pack up and leave early in the morning to drive back down to Cornwall,  where there’s an abundance of tractors, pasties and wide open spaces. Yay!

But I won’t lie – London has been an amazing experience I won’t forget and I can’t believe that, before now, I spent most of my life absolutely terrified of it! I was shocked when everybody (well, most people) were so friendly towards me and you don’t get mugged in the streets every two seconds like I thought.

Okay, yes, I was a little naive.

But, now I’ve done it, it feels incredible to have stood in a crowd amongst London streets, seeing sights that people have seen a million times over THROUGHOUT HISTORY and to miraculously be less than a few minutes away from Oxford Street.

Now, sadly, I haven’t been able to take many photographs, 1) because I have zero memory left in my phone (stupid me) and 2) I haven’t really had the chance as I’ve been inside a building most of the time!

But that building is Penguin Random House. So, of course, this makes it all okay!

(*Credit to Carrie WishWishWish)

I still can’t really wrap my head around the fact that I got to do work experience at Penguin for two weeks. It’s incredible and I learnt so much.

I dreamed for so long of walking through those doors of Penguin HQ – either to work there or as signed author and, now, one of those things has come true! Even if it was only temporarily.

Maybe the next one will come true at some point in the future. *Fingers crossed.*

It’s been amazing.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching London go from a pitch black canvas of darkness in the sky at the end of every day to slowly lightening up into shades of inky blue and lighter indigo’s as time hurried on by. As I was heading towards Charing Cross station I could never help but smile at this! Because it meant – tah-da! – that spring is actually – finally -on its way!

And when I think of spring, I think of beach. And when I think of beach, I think of home. I honestly can’t wait to roll around in the sand, even if it’s freezing when I get there.

Yes, I’ve missed home.

So, my last day in London will mark perusing book shop shelves and darting into fancy shops I wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to go in. Also eating sushi for lunch, just because I can.

I’ve enjoyed my time here an insane amount – and read roughly four books since I’ve been here (thank you train journeys) – but now it’s time to go home and snuggle with my cats. I’ve missed them loads.

*Happy smiles.

 

 

Publishing

I’m in London!

That’s right. I’m in London, fellow humans.

(Cue a giant double decker red bus and a pretty image of Big Ben next to the River Thames if I had one.)

Credit goes to whoever took this photo.

Because I like to update my blog on writerly news and how my current lifestyle around books is going (with a few updates on my cat) I’m thrilled to announce that the reason I’m staying in London is because *drum roll please* I managed to get work experience with Penguin Random House!!

I still can’t really believe it.

Honestly, I am beyond pleased and so, so happy. I have been working towards getting work experience with any of the top publishing houses for so long! I truly never thought it would happen. Being surrounded by books everyday and top publishers is like a dream and, even though I’m not getting a permanent full-time job in publishing right away, I kind of feel like I’ve made it somehow. Already. I know. Don’t hold your breath, right?

*please let me get somewhere in publishing one day in the foreseeable future.

London is very different from Cornwall. For one thing, there’s no sunsets amid a huge blue wavering line of sea and countryside to close the day. For another thing, everybody walks at about a gazillion miles an hour and, also, people don’t care if they shove you at a station during rush hour. I found this out just today.

I’m here for another week or so and I’ll definitely be updating you by the time we roll on into next week. I’ve missed blogging. And I’m going to start afresh with a little more publishing knowledge in tow.

In the meantime, check out the publication I semi-run all about Cornwall. It has pretty pictures, I swear! You can click on it here: www.cornishstory.com

Have a nice night wherever you are in the world.