Photo Evidence

It’s been another very busy few weeks here – one of the reasons there’s been such little activity on the blog for a little while. But things have been done. Oh yes they have. I’ve been doing plenty of teaching and workshop running, and prepping for ones coming up. The presentation and reading for my last group of Junior Writers is next week, and right after that the next group starts, which is all exiting stuff – especially as the local press are going to be there,

Also exciting has been receiving the books the juniors have written. Huge thanks to the magnificent Vicky for their superb design. They look every it as brilliant as the stories are in them.

Here are a couple of pics:

Junior 2 books 2 Junior 2 Books

It seems a fair old time ago that we were starting with this…

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So lots to look forward to (and writing, there’s always writing). I’m really, really happy to be working with younger people again after so many years only concentrating on grown-up things. For once, it seems I made a good decision.

And, here’s another picture. This is me, snapped while I was looking out for a taxi to take me to a workshop. (Again, thank you, Vicky.)

window

Skein Island – Lucky Number 7

I like Aliya Whiteley. I’ve said it beef and I’ll say it again. Hers, I think, was the first blog I subscribed to (way back in 2005, I think) and she even published one of my very early short stories (or one of the early ones I was happy with at least), when she was editor over at the brilliant, but now sadly no more, Serendipity Magazine. (It’s called Martha’s Dance if anyone wants to google it.)*

So it’s with an enormous amount of pleasure that I welcome her back to the blog (she’s been here many times before) to talk about her seventh book (seven! see how far we’ve come! and see! we’re still here, still doing this thing!) Skein Island, which I am very much looking forward to reading as soon as I get the chance – and about the joys of unpredictability (probably another reason why I like her). Of course I’ll let you all know what I think about it when I do. Until then, over to you, Aliya..

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Skein Island is the seventh book I’ve had published, and the fourth novel. But it’s the twelfth book I’ve written, and the seventeenth book I’ve started to write. There have been a lot of book corpses along the way.

If you were to look only at my published efforts you might struggle to find a common thread. It’s been a strange twenty year journey through comedy, mystery and science fiction that has led to fantasy-horror with my latest offering. I’m not even taking into account my first published effort under a pseudonym, which was a romance between a penniless artist and a movie star (so I suppose fantasy isn’t really a new direction at all). But the unseen books would probably fill in the gaps: the crime novel with mythological overtones; the romantic comedy set in space; the mystery solved by a 1950s RAF Officer. Well, perhaps all it really explains is why some of my books have been deemed unpublishable in the first place.

Here’s the thing; I hate predictability. I don’t ever manage to work out what somebody is going to do next in life, and so I rarely like that quality in literature. Having said that, the tension that readers’ thwarted predictions bring to a novel or a short story can be very useful. Think of the way we react to the memorable and yet not at all expected end of Gone With the Wind.

Skein Island has a quest, and a strong hero, and an evil villain. It has an ancient monster, and a wise man, and a comedy sidekick, and a feisty heroine, and everything a good quest narrative should have, but all of those characters don’t want to be what they are, just as Scarlett O’Hara didn’t really want to be, above all else, Rhett Butler’s wife. Still, they find that some personality traits are unavoidable simply because of the roles into which they have been forced. They are fascinated to discover they are types as well as people.

At the time of writing the book I was reminded of how many personality tests exist out there in the world, and how people love to take them, perhaps often with a tongue-in-cheek approach to whatever the results might proclaim them to be. Mostly B’s? Then you’re energetic, cheerful and keen on tapestry weaving. We don’t fit into boxes and we do. We hate to be thought of as a type. Well, the type of people who hate to be thought of as a type hate it. Marketing tells us we’re all unique and special snowflakes while categorising us according to spending habits. It’s a confusing business. The novel is about the tension that exists in a hero, or a villain, or even a monster, between being a personality type and an individual.

I’ve written in a lot of genres, and sometimes I worry that I’m not enough of a type for readers. Can I build a following? Will people read across horror, or fantasy, or even romance? The thing is, when I think about it, readers aren’t exactly types either. We don’t only pick up the same kind of books every time, no matter what the marketing department tells us. And it doesn’t really matter that I’m not one type of writer, because everything I write is still a part of me, and it bears my voice. You might not have any idea what I’m going to say next. I myself rarely have any idea of what I’m going to say, do, or write next. But one thing is for sure; I’m going to say it in the best way I know how. I can’t help it. That’s just part of my personality.

Skein Island. Dog Horn Publishing. 30th March 2015.

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* It is there. I just have.

Junior Writing Group Spaces

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, this year I’ve been running writing groups for younger people – and I’ve another on the horizon. It’s been an awful lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed it tremendously and I’m looking forward to working with the next group

And there are spaces available (we’ve had a couple of cancellations).

So, what is it? It’s an eight week course, starting 28th April, which runs from 4:30 – 5:30 every Tuesday at Bollington library. Everyone, aged 7 and up, is welcome. And if you come you’ll learn how to come up with ideas, the basics of good story telling, how to plot a story, how to turn what you’ve plotted into a great story, description and dialogue – amongst other things. By the end of the eight weeks each member of the group will have completed their story which, if you like, can be turned into an actual book (I’m just finishing the latest ones now and they look AMAZING).

It’s had a terrific response so far and I think everyone who’s come along has not only produced something excellent, but has had a lot of fun doing so too.

If anyone’s interested either drop the library a line or give me a shout by pasting your details into the box on this page. Do spread the word!

And The Work Goes On

If I seem to be saying the saying the same thing here, over and over again, it’s because that’s how it is. So I’ll say it again: I am still super busy and that’s mostly very good indeed.

I think, over this past few months, I’ve probably taken more train journeys than I previously had in my whole life. (I was strangely amused earlier today when the lady on the platform was convinced I was heading to London – I must have had the look. Or something.) But that’s good. I’m enjoying myself and I’m doing an awful lot of teaching and all that kind of thing, and I’ve been working with, and for, some really great people who are doing some really great things.

Today, I had a very useful conversation with my publisher, which is always a lovely thing. Stay tuned for info on the next in the Beautiful Series, Beautiful Trees. All, on that front, is looking very well indeed. Then, this evening, I taught grown-ups and that was fun and, again, great stuff was produced. Now I’m back at a desk approving the proofs for the children I had on my junior writers’ course. They look absolutely stunning. Thank you, clever, lovely, Vicky. [Added, a little later: finished! See picture.]

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Tomorrow I’m teaching again over in Sheffield (details here). And then there’ll be more editing and more teaching and even some writing. The writing, I should add, has started again. It had been a while and I guess that’s fine. Often, other things can get in the way and I think the trick is to allow that, to a certain degree. It’ll always come back. It’ll always be there.

So, lots done, lots achieved, lots to be happy with. And lots to look forward to too. And walking. I have promised someone there will be walking soon. So walking, there shall be and I can’t wait.

More soon.

Lots of Writing Stuff

I have been very busy recently with a whole bunch of stuff, mostly writing stuff – and lots of it –  which is great. I’m sitting at my laptop now, at twenty past ten on a Tuesday evening, after having spent the morning editing short stories as well as a travel memoire (the page is here in case anyone would like my help with any of their stuff) and the afternoon was spent teaching at the brilliant Bollington library.

First, before the adult group, it was the last session of the junior writers’ group I’ve been running for the past eight weeks. And it was, as things like this always are, both a very happy and very sad time. I was happy –  thrilled, in fact – to see the members finishing their stories, and covers, and illustrations. We’ve had a lot of fun along the way, but we’ve worked very hard too, and to see the results of that is a brilliant thing. I think one of the best things about teaching, in my book at least, is seeing how great ideas have been turned (with fun and hard work) into brilliant stories. And today’s certainly were that. And a whole lot more. Next step is to turn the stories into books. There will even be a launch. This is exciting.

But, as I said, it’s a little sad too. I’ve enjoyed working with all of the writers and it’s a sad thing to be waving them goodbye. I just hope they all keep writing. They’re all very, very good.

We’ll be starting the course again on April 21st (as far as I know). If you’d like your child to enrol then either drop me a line (pop it in the box here) or give the library a shout. Places are limited (as far as I know there are only two left) so you’re probably best off acting quickly to avoid disappointment, as they say.

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Tomorrow I’ll be, courtesy of the brilliant Writing Yorkshire (who do all sorts of brilliant things, including free groups like this), be at Sheffield Children’s Central Library, 5:30-7:30 (still covering for the usual group leader, the very wonderful Vicky Morris, and loving it very much). If you’re a 14 – 19 year old writer, do pop along. We’re very welcoming and supportive and it’s a really top group. There are even snacks. And if you know of anyone who might be interested, do send them that way. I’ll be at Rotherham Young Writers next Monday – if you’ve any questions or would like any further details, do let me know (just pop your question inside the box here).

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And that’s about it for now, I think. I’ve still stacks of work to finish and tabs to close and everything so it’s back to that for me. And writing. I really should do some writing soon.

More soon.

14-19 Year Old Writers

For the next few weeks I’ll be running some workshops for young writers in Yorkshire. I’ve been helping out with them already for the past few weeks and it’s been something I’ve enjoyed an awful lot – I’ve been working with some brilliant writers and we’ve produced some excellent work.

So, if you’re a young writer who’s close to either Rotherham or Sheffield, or you know anyone who might be interested, you can get in touch with me here (just pop your email inside the box) for the details of when and where, or if you have any questions. Everyone’s welcome – it doesn’t matter if you’ve been writing for ages or whether you’re only just starting. Do spread the word. It’s a good thing. And it’s free, which is a good thing too, in my book.

Interviews and Biscuits

Yesterday the great Steve Murphy dropped by (with his glamorous assistant, Mark). Steve’s a great photographer and also the founder of the exciting new publication Downtown & Driftwood – a delightful mixture of short fictions, poems, and photography, whose last issue featured my short story Cupid and Me. Steve and I chatted for an interview, which was lovely, we ate biscuits and drank tea, which was also lovely, and Steve took a few pictures. It was fun. Of course, I’ll post the results once I have them.

And that capped off a pretty long and hectic week. There’s been much editing and writing work, as ever. On Monday I got on a train and taught. And on Tuesday I ran two further workshops locally. It’s fun, but I am definitely being kept busy.

And all that’s been amongst some not so great news. Nothing I’m really going to go into here (and don’t worry, I’m okay) but I do think it’s important to say that it’s at times like these that the good people make themselves known, and I’d like to say a massive thank you to those people who, very much should, know who they are.

Next week’s going to be similar to this so, really, I should go and prep. Ta ta.

Cupid And Me

Very happy indeed to have my brand new, never seen before, short story ‘Cupid and Me’ in this beautiful new publication. It’s a story about someone meeting Cupid, which is rather fitting given what day it is on Saturday. There are arrows and there is a fight, and it’s a story I’m really proud of.

Downtown and Driftwood is available as both a PDF (click here) and a beautiful coffee table edition (click here). I’ve looked through it and it’s lovely – some wonderful photography, poems, and stories. It’s the kind of thing I’d like to have on my own coffee table (once I’d cleared everything else off it, of course).

And that’s it for now. I’m  busy, being here, there, and everywhere, and teaching and writing and generally doing what I do. More soon…

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