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.

 

Authors, Writing

Book Signings!

Last night I met Sarah Winman, author of bestselling novel When God Was a Rabbit and the recently published A Year of Marvellous Ways. The first time I read When God Was a Rabbit I was mesmerised and immeasurably hooked. I loved it so much I even cracked the spine a little bit (something I rarely ever do with books).

So I’m certain that A Year of Marvellous Ways will hold just as much magic for me as Rabbitdid, if not more.

To meet an author – published, famous, and successful – always washes a tidal wave of excitement over me. And, of course, last night was no different on the crowded shop floor of Waterstones, Truro, the tiny capital city of sunnyside Cornwall. There was an informal interview between Sarah and a lovely employee of the iconic bookstore which weaved the stories of Sarah’s childhood memories, the people she’s known in her life and, ultimately, how the book and its characters came about.

I was captivated.

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The evening went on and, as she was talking, I became hugely gratified to discover that, when she writes a novel, she usually writes roughly 1000 words a day. This, for me, was monumental, in that while I am currently writing my own novel I also tend to write 1000 words a day.

(In no way am I comparing myself to this bonafide successful writer, but hearing those words gave me hope: it said, ‘I can do this!’)

It was truly a comfort in itself; knowing that an author like this also simply writes 1000 words a day and still gets the novel finished on time.

Because, you know, when you aspire to be a full time writer yourself, you always imagine bestselling authors to be hammering out 5000 words a day or more, scribbling page after page after page.

She read clearly and calmly, with just the right emphasis on the right characters when speaking their own dialogue. Her words written on the page and then spoken from her own mouth were entrancing and not even for one second did I actually find myself bored.

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To my joy, she signed my copy of her book which is now sitting on my shelf. And, not only this, but I asked her if she would sign my own journal; a notepad I use to scribble all my thoughts and story ideas in whenever I’m on the move. She complied and asked if I was a writer too. I told her yes, I was, and she listened as I spoke about my own fiction writing and the novel I’m continuing to write over the summer.

She listened.

Of course, I was in a queue so had to hurry along, but she gave me the utmost hope for my writing (not to mention a truck load of inspiration) and told me good luck with my writing adventures and said that, if I stuck to it, I could publish a book too one day (with a lot of hard work and torturous rewrites. I know.)

Everything takes a little bit of time and a whole load of patience, and most importantly, a great deal of work. As a current participant of CampNaNoWriMo, I’m mostly keeping to my word count goal of 500 words a day, if not 1000. Watching my stats go up is like watching a plant grow; it can be really, painstakingly slow, but the progress is still there and visible!

By way of word count, my goal is to have 36,000 words of my novel by the end of the month in total. But, the way I’m going, I’m hoping I can totally beat that!!

So, ultimately, here’s to Sarah Winman – on a brilliant and captivating debut novel and what I already know to be a truly wonderful second novel in A Year of Marvellous Ways, even though I haven’t read it yet.

Here’s to inspiration.

Writing

Knickers

Eleanor had gotten her knickers in a twist. Her mother was always warning her about it, that one day if she wasn’t careful it would happen. Now Eleanor looked down shamefully at her knickers, tried turning them this way and that to untangle them. It was absolutely no use. She tried stepping into them and pulling them up past her thighs but it just wouldn’t do. To deal with that, lumbering around all day, would be far too uncomforable. She sought out another pair, then another, and another. But she was utterly dismayed to find that every single pair of knickers was in a twist, all joined together and conjoined in a long line of sad complex knicker twists.
Music, Personal, Writing

We keep this love in a photograph

I’m not a crazy manic ‘buy-all-the-albums’ fan of Ed Sheeran. I appreciate his music and some of it really does strike a chord with me when I want it to. When his new album ‘X’ came out I wasn’t too fussed and just let the music come to me naturally and accidentally rather than actually seek it out like so many other fans do.

I’m not one of those fans.

But, recently, it’s started to dawn on me that by the end of the summer my long-term boyfriend will have upped and gone away – that is, to university. Like me, he wants to write for a living.

I’m – actually – really proud that he’s going, so he can do what he wants to do instead of staying here for me and resenting me for it years later. I’m no fortune teller but there’s a strong chance that would’ve happened if he’d stayed.

I’ve seen flashes of it appear sometimes and I don’t want to be that person who holds him back while I do all the things we both want to do, like write.

Now, Ed Sheeran’s song ‘Photograph’ really causes all kinds of emotions to flutter precariously around my chest, to hover over my heart and, in turn, make my eyes glaze over whenever I listen to this song. Ed Sheeran’s ability to make you just stop and think – and really listen to the words he’s singing is, to me, incredible. Not many artists can do that lately for me.

I really miss the feeling of being so in-the-moment with a song that it’s special when it happens to me now.

The song ‘Photograph’ is so much about being in love. I find that the musical arrangement along with the lyrical quality is something extremely difficult to define because it’s so good. But, for me, right now, being in love is all I know and all I want to be in, so I feel confident in defining it as perfect.

I think music has the ability to make you become part of another world and, for me, that largely gives me the ability to write and just to feel something when I write. Writing teen fiction deals with a lot of feelings and, almost always, with love. Heartbreak, lust, loss, and all that kind of emotional stuff that nobody wants to deal with after they’re a teenager – because it just hurts too much.

So I’m grateful that ‘Photograph’ can enable me to feel something like that; the way it can help define the idea of love for me. It enables me to really see what’s important and that, whenever I listen to it, I will stop and think and those thoughts will lead me to my long-term boyfriend, because he’s really just so special to me.

 

And if you hurt me
That’s okay baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go
Wait for me to come home

You can fit me
Inside the necklace you got when you were sixteen
Next to your heartbeat where I should be
Keep it deep within your soul

As well as that, I love that by writing teen fiction I get to second-handedly experience these emotions that my characters will go through and I’ll get to grow with them, passing on to them my own experiences and they’ll let me be a part of theirs too.

I think this line in the song really defines teen fiction for me, both as a reader and a writer and I love that I’ve been able to find it:

‘Only words bleed inside these pages’

This song is really special because it enables me to see life in so many different ways, from potentially varying perspectives. I love it and for it to be so rich in meaning and emotions I know I’ll hold it dear to me for a very, very long time.

‘Photograph’ by Ed Sheeran. Go and listen to it.

education, Writing

Grammar Rules

Did you know there are certain rules regarding the ways you can write speech as to whether you are American or British? I know, I was shocked too! It turns out I’ve been writing the speech of my characters’ lines in my stories wrong for years because I’ve been writing in the American way! To be honest, I much prefer the American way. Maybe because I read a lot of American books, or just because it comes a lot more naturally to me.

Basically, if you are British (like me) and want to write dialogue you must use inverted single commas like this:

‘To write is to capture something beautiful’

as this is the proper way!

However if you are writing in American English then you must use the double quotation marks like this:

“To write is to capture something beautiful”

I mean, how crazy is that? I always thought it was a matter of preference. But when it came up casually in conversation at a fiction workshop I was in it made me stop and think. Had I really been writing incorrectly all this time? The answer was yes after I researched it. (Always to Google!)

I’m sure it’s never that important anyway. I have had things published with American speech marks in it for dialogue when I am technically supposed to be writing in British English. It’s not like you’re going to get dismissed from a writing competition or, even worse, a novel manuscript you’ve submitted to a publishing house, because you’ve included the wrong speech marks in your work. If you can’t make up your mind and use both frequently all over the place then that might lead to something different! But ultimately, it is up to you whatever you choose to do.

Since I am technical in all my writing and like to correct anybody’s grammar given the opportunity, I will be writing in the formally correct way constantly now and try to keep it up as long as I can. If you are like me, and like everything to be perfect in your writing, from the style down the spelling, you too will probably reflect and check your errors! This is exactly what I did.

Unfortunately, I hate editing my own fiction writing so it took me a mighty long time to correct everything! I hope, if you didn’t already know this little scrap of knowledge, I have enlightened your day.

Good luck with your writing!

Baking, Hobbies, Writing

Good Morning!

It’s Sunday, and as much as everybody else really rather hates Sundays, I have grown to love them. I have no classes to go to, I have usually done all my readings for university week, I have no part time job to attend, and basically I can do whatever the swive I want! Technically I don’t even have to leave my bed (apart from dietary & toilet necessities). So it’s great having Sundays! I really actually love them.

I can get more writing done (which I definitely plan to do!) I am writing a short story submission on the theme of flowers/light inspired by Eva Figes beautiful poetic novella Light which is a fictional take on the life of the great painter Monet who lived in France. It has been struggling these last few weeks or so, but I feel today’s the right day to do it. I have it all thought out! First draft: hello!

I can bake a cake! Now, this one probably won’t happen today because I already made triple chocolate muffins last night. Despite the fact they didn’t rise very well, we still all ate them whilst sitting round watching Flight of the Conchords. I’m sorry I didn’t watch Eurovision, but … FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS!

I can make a soup without time constraints! Today I will be making potato and leek soup. I’m so excited. I love making soups. They just taste so yum.

I can read more of The Selection by Kiera Cass. YES! Aspen is so far my favourite, but that might be because I am just imagining him to be William Moseley.

I can watch Father of the Bride! I have been wanting to watch this film for about a week and a half now, just haven’t had the time or the company. But now with it being an empty Sunday I might just get round to it!

On the plus side, I am also feeling better from being ill this weekend too! Bonus! And all it took was two cartons of orange juice, five bowls of chicken/mushroom/homemade butternut squash soup, three bowls of strawberries and plenty of time in bed reading. Great way to get better!

Look alive, people. It’s Sunday! What will you be doing with yours?

Hobbies, university, Writing

4,000 Words

Following my blog post about the author workshop I’m thrilled to be participating in, I received an email yesterday outlining the work we’re going to be doing to work with Lionel Shriver. Basically, the most pressing thing to do is come up with a piece of writing that is 4000 words long and submit it to her so it can be evaluated and critiqued.

I know, it sounds simple enough really, doesn’t it? It sounds like this is the most work we actively have to do within these workshops, aside from critiquing others’ work and really buckling down with all the fiction writing activities. It’s exciting and I already have loads of pieces that amount to either just below 4000 words or over. All I’d have to do is tweak it up a little and then submit, let her read it, and go!

But that’s just a little way too terrifying.

Writing 4000 words within two weeks is pretty simple and easy. That’s plenty of time. I have no issue with that. But coming up with 4000 words to submit to a real live – award winning author – FROM AMERICA is scary, to say the least. It’s incredibly daunting and I don’t even know where to start.

Giving her the first 4000 words of my novel is slightly embarrassing, as the protagonist is a womanizing jerk and in the second chapter there is a drunken bathroom scene in which two teenagers get a little too excited with each other (to put it that way). But it’s the most recent writing I’ve done and I have to admit I’m a little  bit in love with it. I am proud of it. But to give her something else feels odd, as I don’t feel my other writing is as good as the novel I’m writing right now. The piece we submit can be anything, on any theme, and can be complete, or a work in progress or something entirely different. Just as long as it’s fiction.

I think I am struggling. Being intimidated by author power-status is a little bit unnerving! Especially when you get to meet them!

education, Hobbies, university, Writing

Writer News!

I have some fantastic news! As a writer, I am always looking for ways to get my writing ‘out there’, so to speak. Even this blog has a way of doing that – which is obviously why a lot of people do it. So I was rather ecstatic (and still am!) over an email which delivered me with the information that I am now an official weekly features writer to an online magazine! Now, of course it is university based and it will not get me a paid contract however I am just so excited!!

I submitted the application a little while ago and every question I was answering I just kept thinking, ‘I want this, I want this, I really really want this. It sounds perfect!’ Despite me desperately wanting the position, I hardly dared to believe I would actually, really get it. Imagine my surprise when I read the words ‘I would be happy to have you as part of the team’ that got sent to me. I was overjoyed. I was so happy that my boyfriend and I started dancing in all kinds of circles across our bedroom floor.

As a weekly features writer, I am SO excited to write about all kinds of new things, from university campus news to fashion critiques. I even plan to write a feature on the campus cat (because, yes, our university does indeed have a cat). Woe betide me if I cannot write about cats on this magazine. That’s just unthinkable. I’ve hopped, I’ve skipped and I’ve ran hot with glee all over little places in my mind. My first plan is to write about our Harry Potter society at the university – because it’s a brilliant society and deserves some devoted recognition! With a brilliant photographer for the events at hand, I hope it will look stunning when I write it up in full. Our society really is just … the best. If you’ll excuse my saying so.

I probably ought to reflect on what the magazine is actually about. Basically you can find it at http://www.hercampus.com/ and it is an online worldwide magazine targeted towards women at university, written by students all over the world on different campuses. In my mind, it’s basically a kind of University version of Cosmopolitan magazine – which I always love reading. Heat magazine and all those other gossipy ones rub me up the wrong way. It’s like, who cares if a pregnant celebrity hasn’t gotten rid of her babyfat? THIS IS LIFE. GET OVER IT. Her Campus is basically the way to go for trendy campus news, or reviews, or anything relatively girly, or campus related. It’s actually really good. You should check it out.

Now, I had probably ought to go and write up something for the magazine. Hopefully writer’s block won’t catch me out too soon.

TTFN. x

education, Hobbies, Music, university, Writing

‘Safe’

As a uni student, we are told to undertake several writing challenges a week which I find incredibly stimulating and love doing it. I feel it lets my creativity out more, as a writer. One task this week was to take three different texts and muddle them together somehow. So, I took the lyrics of one of my favourite songs (Eric Church: Springsteen), a transcript of the diaologue from the new Haribo Starmix advert, and of course a line from one of the best TV shows, Firefly, which I then expanded on and just used the content.

I muddled all these together and came up with taking the form/layout of lyrics, a title ‘Gold Bears’ which the head business woman with a child’s voice squeaks out to her colleague in the Haribo advert, and the content and setting of that particular Firefly episode. I thought I’d put it up on here for other people to read, critique and leave their thoughts on, whether silently or type it away on your keyboard to me. If it’s any matter, here it is:

The character with strong stature and rustic thick brown hair
Wears a maroon shirt covered with lightly coloured braces
His boots say something of menace in his walk
Like a man who knows how to reason with evil folk
When it comes to it

The other, a tall muscular man with ashen, wire-like hair
Stands apart from him, the gloves he wears ones of
Good wear and tear, designed to protect the fleshy hand
From wary destruction of what he’s handling
In this instance: cattle

The cattle roam and they rumble
About the hovercraft that these men of goodwill have captivated them inside
Like shipmen, they boast and they banter about the rickety
Structure that is the first man’s dream and home:
Its name holds up like a beaconed torch of light: Serenity

One wise, and one a mercenary type, they unite as space tradesman
Prattling around the orbits of space with their crew
Both happy, both unhappy
Their lives are located on this ship
And nowhere else

Having landed on a distant rural planet
They get set and ready for the makers they’re about to meet
That is, the makers of their privy fortune
Having not eaten actual food for weeks, they were rather peckish
‘Alas’, they thought, ‘finally some hands on a bit of wealth?!’

The first, with his bare and brawny hands, pulled the lever
And warned the second to keep clear of the cattle,
Not to get sorely trampled
The reverse door mechanically opened
Like an old time earth bound garage

The cattle stampeded out of the large gateway
Their clackaty hooves banging down hard on the floor
Out onto the dusty sandpath and into the fenced pen
Ready for them to eat and graze
And eat and graze

The mercenary type, the burly one, held a whip in his strong arms
And smacked each cattle, one by one
Eager to get them off the ship
The stench was by far enough for him

‘Y’know they walk just as easy if you lead ‘em’ the first told him
A sense of quirked amusement in his voice
The second, merely looked back at him, a gleam in his eye
‘I like smackin’ ‘em’ he protested
Whilst the first only rolled his eyes

Finally done, and with the loading deck squandered in cowpat
The two stretched their legs onto unfamiliar planet soil
The braces around the first hung tight
And the heat made him sweat through his shirt
Everything on this planet was burning

With the trade’s cash in mind
The first rotated the field
Looking for the men he desperately wanted to see
So they could give him his money
And get the hell off this planet so he could eat

You may say it falls flat at the end. I know this, but I only had 300-450 words to use up but, hey, if you’re intrigued why not watch the actual episode? This particular one is called ‘SAFE’ – it’s brilliant. You should watch it.
And, if anybody’s slightly confused over the sources I’ve used, I’ve taken the liberty of posting them up here for you just in case. All you have to do is follow the link.

TTFN.x

education, university, Writing

Constructive?? Criticism

Yesterday was my first day of getting a uni coursework back date. I admit I wasn’t fussed as I knew that the grade I would get would be the grade I would get. I wasn’t looking to fail, like a lot of people were. People were so nervous, their hands were shaking and they kept feigning a ‘not bothered’ attitude towards the grade they were getting.

“Wheey for getting a fail!”

“It’s only first year. It doesn’t matter at all.”

“If we fail – PUB!”

These are the loud mutterings I heard from across the room, in the long line for the queue.

When I finally received mine I will admit my heart did a nervous tremor, as if gearing up to do a somersault – but then deciding not to. Upon reading my results, I was pleased! I got a 2:1 in a cultural theory module essay and another 2:1 for my creative writing piece – which was the one I was looking most forward to hearing back from.
My face flushed with modest excitement. But what I saw on the comments page made me falter and, yes, get a little bit sad.

That very morning, I had yabbered on to my friend in a shower cubicle at the local swimming pool how I simply loved our Creative Writing lecturer. I yabbered on for some while, eventually telling her how I wished I could wrap him and just cuddle him, cook him eggs or something. He’s like a teddy bear, I told her. She only laughed back at me.

I take it back.

Like Mike, I was desperately unhappy.

Instead of being constructive, how he is supposed to be, he bluntly told me in the first sentence on the page that my work was:

  • strange
  • self-obsessed
  • almost claustrophobic
  • cliche
  • predictable

I peeked across at my friends’ papers, and he was at least a little constructive towards their stories; however he did refer to my friend’s discourse as ‘mopey’. I know this is being what a writer is, and you have to take criticism. This is what people are like towards your work after college and school; there is no cushioning.

I know that. It was just a little disconcerting.

This is what happened in my mind.

But I know I can write better. I wasn’t sure of the story myself. I shaped it into something I didn’t know, and didn’t want. I recognise that myself. But I know lots of good things can come of this incredibly negative, disheartening feedback. After 24 dull hours of contemplating, I have come through with an energetic mind and so many ideas for new stories and projects, I was even buzzing in work, so when it was quiet, I pulled up a few blank receipts and scribbled story ideas on that.

My supervisor asked what I was doing, and I mumbled something unintelligible about story writing, embarrassed.

And so, I rise triumphant, defiantly writing vague ideas for new stories and new beginnings.
WHEY.