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.

The Bras and The Bees book_launch_FA Notley and Lucy Smith

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.

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.

tumblr_inline_n9n20p54yM1rba57i

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.

tumblr_m7o7g6JPHU1qctz8ko1_r1_500

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.

59857035_10156496210318335_8096796033440284672_n

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.

Confidence

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?

 

 

981e600839452d1a6310858a9a1ec8d4--goal-quotes-you-got-this-quotes-motivation

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.

 

 

 

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.

download

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.

download (1)

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.

tumblr_nzehbhQ7q91tk6jjyo1_500.gif

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!

Writing

Camp NaNoWriMo: Virtual Write In!

Howdy, y’all.

I’ve spent the day being out and about and busy. So I never got the chance to write!

I totally wasn’t reading Atonement and falling asleep in the back of my car somewhere near the sea at all.

But there’s a virtual write in coming up in approximately 20 minutes and I’m so excited. It feels like years since I took part in my last one, which was only in November and I’m really looking forward to it.

For those of you who don’t know already, a virtual write in is where us campers get together and see how much we can write within an hour, using word prompts and story scenarios to get started – I find this especially helpful if I’ve got a nasty case of writer’s block! They’re also hosted by the lovely NaNoWriMo team and you can catch it here –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53TUk1JRMWs

The countdown has already started!

If you’re new to Camp NaNoWriMo, or you just want to pop in and say hello, then feel free to come and join us. We’re a friendly bunch, honest.

Let me know if you’ll be joining!