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.

Publishing

It’s a New Day

Last year was fantastic. I got to work at Penguin Random House for several weeks, visited London a fair few times (I saw Les Miserables on stage! It was amazing!) and even got offered a place on the Writing for Young People course at Bath Spa University. Needless to say, I accepted, and it’s brilliant.

It feels so good to be writing again.

I may be a little late on this, but 2016 wasn’t without its downfalls. It was a really hard year. really hard year. Because, yes, I hit snags, made mistakes, did some ridiculous things and, by the end of the year, 2016 came tumbling down on me hard. I really struggled to get back up.

And I’m still paying for my mistakes.

But now, I’m writing again, and – look! – I’m actually blogging again! It feels amazing. I finally feel like I’m back up where I need to be. I had a bath earlier and spent the entire time doodling in my notebook about novel structures and fresh scenes for my manuscript in progress.

Because all 2017 boils down to is this:

I really want this year to be good. I really want this year to be successful. I am willing to work hard.

If we believe life can be good, then surely it will be. Right?

Well, here’s to living in hope. Keep chasing your dreams.