Friday, 17 July 2009

Apprentice in Fiction

Well, it`s official. I`m going to be on an Apprenticeship in Fiction from September. Here`s the link announcing the 5 winners:

Monday, 13 July 2009

Winchester Writer`s Conference

I may have mentioned this already, but I love competitions. For the writer, competitions are a way to set mini-targets throughout the year, to give some deadlines and (hopefully!) build something of a writing cv.

I have a soft spot for Winchester, since it was winning the RPM prize in 2002 that marked my decision to write seriously, so I`m delighted that Family Snap got second place in the Slim Volum/Small Edition comp this year. I`ve won this twice before, and Winchester has some great prizes: 5o copies of your bound novel. How`s that for an incentive?

Every year Barbara Large organises the conference, and 15 competitions. You don`t have to attend to enter, although you do have to pay for each entry (£9, if memory serves.) But you do get a critique and all winners are published in an anthology.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The kids are alright...

Just like Kylie & Robbie said, the kids really are alright.

I just got back from another day of writing workshops with year 6/7 & 8s, and what a great bunch they were. I`m not saying there wasn`t a bit of crowd control needed, but they had spirit and ideas, and I really enjoyed their stories.

The thing with writing is that it is is democratic. I mean, this was a school on an estate (the school I used to attend, as it happens) and maybe some hobbies are too expensive for these kids, (you know, the cost of musical instruments or golf lessons or whatever) but all you need to write is an imagination. I was telling them how I used to work in a prison with children inmates, and they discovered how to `escape` with writing.

And don`t we all need to escape once in a while?

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

School Trip

School`s out for summer. Well, nearly. So today I visited my old school and ran workshops with the year 7 & 8s. The theme: Suddenly this summer...

Lots of books for children are set in the summer hols, so I read from selected texts then got the kids to write their own summer story. We looked at different genres, settings, creating a character and plot.

What strikes me is how children have fantastic imaginations, but can sometimes be afraid to put their ideas on paper. A few asked if they could use a pc - as if writing on the computer is easier. I tried to encourage them to just go with the story they were building. One lad said he was going to finish his story when he got home instead of playing a computer game like he usually did.

I had a great day. The highlight for me was that the kids were enthusiastic about my novel-in-progress, Family Snap, and wanted to know when it would be published. Funny, that. It`s what I`d like to know too!

Monday, 6 July 2009


Here`s the way I see it - writing is a craft. Just like any craft, leaning from a master (mistress!?) is valuable.
I was lucky to be picked for the Escalator scheme in 2006. It`s run by New Writing East, and part of the scheme was to work with a mentor. My mentor, crime writer Michelle Spring, was an inspiration. She worked with me through my manuscript of The Sacrificial Man, and we had debates about what worked and didn`t. I ended up with a stronger novel, but also the confidence to say "I am a writer." So many of us feel we should whisper it, don`t we? As if we are admitting to something shameful... maybe it is the egotistical premise that we think we have something to say that others will be interested in. Hmmm...

I have just found out that I have won an Apprenticeship in Fiction, which will mean working with another mentor, this time on Family Snap. I have heard good things about Adventures in Fiction, and look forward to starting in September.

Writing is an isolated, lonely job - most of the time we live in our own imaginations. If we can access these brilliant schemes we can improve our skill, and also touch base with others in the business.

Also, there are ways to find funding for these schemes. I was lucky; I got Arts Council funding for Escalator. But there are other bursaries and grants available. Check out the section in Writers & Artists Yearbook. And good luck!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Why I write.

We are all just one event away from the loss of love, of the status quo, of the illusory balance of our lives. And this is terrifying and liberating.
The characters in my novels are ordainary people made extraordainary by an unusual situation or choice. I am interested in extremities, situational and emotional, which includes crime and madness, sexual deviance, religious devotion, obsessive love...
Happiness is a fragile, transitory thing. Conversely, only when it is gone can we truly discover what we are made of, the very essence of our self: integrity; courage. Or the opposite.
Whether or not we are survivors. I am compelled to explore human emotion and the tentative grip any of us have on our lives.