...and a dread.
Oh dear. I'm dreading the change in the law about data protection. On May 25th, nobody will be able to keep any information about another person without their permission. And that permission has to be expressly given, an unsubscribe option (which is on all the emails I send via MailChimp) is not longer good enough.
I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to deal with this issue, but everyone who is currently on my mailing list will shortly be hearing from me. I sincerely hope that most people will want to stay subscribed. I'm a very infrequent blogger and emailer, but it is a very useful way of letting people know about everything we do here at CreativeWritingMatters.
Three nice things!
Sophie's debut novel is being re-issued with a fabulous new cover. The Generation Game won both the Yeovil Novel Prize and the Luke Bitmead Award. If you haven't read it, now is the time, especially as the programme is back on the telly.
The Exeter Novel Prize award ceremony went very well, and it was lovely to have such appreciative thanks from everyone that came.
Spring is supposed to be here and we should be basking in daffodils right now, but here are some jolly umbrellas instead. They're adorning Exeter High St which has had several drenchings lately. We can still imagine the daffodils though, and this poem will help. Listen to this beautiful reading of Wordsworth's masterpiece. When I heard it, it was as if for the first time, although I know it very well.
Hurrah! I'm over the flu at last. It's meant rather a slow start to the year, but I'm cracking on now and I know that Margaret and Sophie are too.
We are deep in reading and writing reports for the Novel Prize, and are once again amazed at the variety of subject matter and the high standard of writing. The long list will be posted in mid-February and we are hoping to send out the reports then too. There may be a short delay though, as we have had more requests for reports this year. We'll do our best.
After a lot of deliberation, we have decided to move the closing date for our short story competitions until later in the year. There is, however, the other Exeter short story competition that is often muddled with ours. It's an excellent competition with good prize money, run by Exeter Writers, one of the oldest writing groups in the country. Their competition closes on 28th February and all the information about entry etc is HERE
A quartet of Exeter Writers took the train to Honiton last week, where we received a very hearty welcome at Honiton Library. Unfortunately for local residents, the weather was terrible, and the street entertainments, dancing and vintage car rallies were all cancelled. We were warm and dry, however, and enjoyed an afternoon of chat, excellent cake and lashings of tea. Here we are, from left to right Richard Handy, Yours truly, Margaret James and Su Bristow.
The lovely Caro and Rick are doing great things at Tiverton Community Radio, including running a literary festival from June 23rd to 25th. The CWMatters team will be there on Friday 23rd, at the author meet and greet, and also running a workshop in the afternoon. On Sunday 25th, I will be part of a women's writing panel with Su Bristow. I'll post more about that nearer the time, but here the link to theFestival's Fb page.
I was delighted to be a guest on Tiverton Community Radio last week, and they podcast their shows so it's still available. It's roughly in three chunks. In the first I talk about researching and writing Secret of the Song. Then I talk about the Exeter Novel Prize and our competitions, and finally how Margaret James and I wrote The Creative Writing Student's Handbook. Thank you for listening!
A little while ago, I was stopped in the street by an ex-creative writing student. I hadn't seen her for years.
'I want to thank you for running that flash competition,' she said.
That surprised me, because I didn't remember her story getting through the first round. I began to say I was sorry she hadn't done well, when she put her hand on my arm.
'No, you don't understand. Just entering was giant leap for me.'
She went on to tell me about her long listing in another competition and what a boost it was to both her writing and more importantly, her self-esteem. Not only that, she'd now got her own email address, her own Paypal account and she was joining a writing group. There was no stopping her, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see her name pop up on competition listings in the future.
I was reminded me of my own, now rather distant, past experience as a novice writer. Strangely, I don't remember writing the story all that clearly, but I do remember printing it out, filling in the entry form (I could hardly hold the pen, I felt so sure I'd make a mistake), then taking it to the postbox at the end of my road, and wishing it good luck. A great deal has happened since I received a call - on my land line - to say I was a finalist. I didn't win outright, but it was a win all the same. It gave me the confidence to keep trying.
There are competitions out there for every kind of story, and fortunately they don't all have the same closing date. Deadlines may come all too soon, but they are marvellous for focusing for the mind. It's very easy to let the days slip by if there's nothing to work towards.
Competitions are a great way of learning how to deal with rejection. Okay, I didn't win that one, but I might win the next. All writers need to learn that lesson and very quickly, especially if they have a novel they'd like published.
Not winning doesn't necessarily mean your story is bad. We don't stipulate a theme for our competitions, but if you enter a competition that does, don't ignore it. If you leave your name on the copy, exceed the word count, or send in late - all these will result in disqualification. That's a shame.
The first competition I organised was at the end of a term of creative writing. The class was quite small - eight, I think - but there were the usual rules, anonymous reading and then we had a blind vote for the winner. It was fun. Everyone enjoyed the challenge and the main thing that I discovered, to my surprise, was that everyone had seriously raised their game.
Margaret, Sophie and I have all had considerable judging experience, not only of our own competitions, but as guest judges for other organisations. It's always a privilege, and we have a keen eye for winners these days, but that doesn't mean we always agree. As anyone in a book group will know, opinions vary and can be surprising.
Can you surprise us? Check out the Exeter Story Prize and Trisha Ashley Award page HERE
So much for not blogging! Now, not only do I have news, I am in the news! A little while ago I was asked to write an article for the magazine supplement of the Western Morning News. Oh yes, I thought, what a fantastic opportunity! But what happened next was way beyond my expectations.
I was to meet with Kilian Hall aka The Smart Photographer, here in Exeter for a two hour photo shoot. First stop the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, then into Cathedral Yard and the Devon and Exeter Institution, which is where I wrote Secret of the Song. Anyone who has read my novel will know that there are many scenes that take place in the museum, and the pink foyer is an iconic feature of the Victorian building.
Kilian was charming and took many fab photos that weren't used in the magazine, so I'm including some here. I'd really recommend him to all my author friends locally, and anyone else who wants a good photograph taken for that matter.
It's an odd business being a writer, as everyone reading this probably already knows. You spend a lot of time with imaginary friends, often at the expense of seeing real ones. Then once a book is written, there's the worry whether anyone will read it. Having such an affirmation as a this newspaper feature is thrilling but the editorial gave me a lump in my throat. A big thank you to Becky, the editor.
In celebration, Secret of the Song is at special offer price of 99p for the next few days.
Here's a pdf of the article.
I am joining the ranks of Hopeless Bloggers. Clearly, once every three or four months is woeful. I had in my mind to delete the entire blog from the top menu bar, but who knows? One day, when life isn't quite so busy, I might resume writing here more often.
I know there are writers who are amazing and write two books a year
a, with large families
b, with whizzy fingers that type 5k words a day
c, by getting up with lark (that could be my problem - no actual larks nearby)
d, by not running exciting litererary competitions
e, by having no other life
but I am not one of those, although I sometimes wish I was.
This year will see the completion of my next novel. New Year's Resolutions aren't my thing as a rule but there, I've said it. So if this blog slips even futher down the Hopeless Blogger rankings, that'll be why.
I'll keep you posted.
Happy Birthday, Secret of the Song! I can hardly believe it! I know that time speeds up the older you get but I am still shocked that it's a whole year. I've posted the front cover often enough so here are the other two images that Amazon kindly generates for its page. I like the headless ghost demonstrating that the book is the size of a book. The back cover is legible if you click on it and bring up the lightbox.
It's been an amazing year. A lovely launch with Sophie, a fantastic response from readers who posted over fifty reviews so far, being chosen as one of Anne Williams books of the year and of course, the affirmation of being promoted by Amazon in June. Reaching No 35 in the UK Kindle Store and No 1 in Historical Mystery was a huge thrill.
It's also been brilliant to get out from behind the screen at last and meet actual readers. Hello, hello! There's more of that to come and is one of the reasons why my next book will be a while. But I am writing it!
Secret of the Song is now the special birthday price of £1.99 on Kindle.
I've sometimes heard authors describing the process of writing and publishing a book as being like having a baby. There's a long period of gestation, then the big day. After that, however much you read and listen to other's, nothing quite prepares you for what happens next.
Fortunately books don't cry in the night or need changing (let's hope not), but there is a great deal of energy required to give your book the best possible start.
Every author has to promote their book. It doesn't matter if you're with a major publisher or your go down the indie route like I did. A lot of effort is put into social media, which means hours in front of the screen again, but there are also the events and trips out. I've been fortunate enough to be invited to several really enjoyable events.
Devon Book Club is run by the indefatigable Ian Hobbs. It's aim is to bring together readers online, and he is also very keen to connect readers with authors. Lucky for us! Here I am talking about Secret of the Song at the fantastic picnic he organised at the National Trust's Killerton House. It wasn't a blue day, but it was warm, beautiful and the Eton Mess was very yummy indeed.
There are many stopping points for writers on their journey to publication: cups of tea, coffee, glasses of wine, cake to eat, and social media demands happy tweets, five star reviews and lots of likes, hugs and grinning emojis.
But of course, there are also mountains to climb and crevasses to avoid. My friend and fellow member of Exeter Writers, Elizabeth Ducie, writes here about the fear that isn't so often talked about:
Fighting the Fear
They say that even the best actors, with the longest experience, suffer from stage fright. I think it’s the same for authors. We spend months, or even years, writing, editing, and polishing our work. We know it’s the best we can make it (or at least we should) and then, when it’s time to get it ‘out there’ for the readers to enjoy, we start panicking, as our confidence drains away. Or is that only me?
My new novel, Counterfeit! took me only eighteen months from start to finish; a relative sprint by previous standards. Yet once I finalised the manuscript, it took me nearly a month to press the button to launch it on Create Space. At a recent literary festival, just before the official launch date, two people asked if they could buy advance copies and my response was “are you sure?” At the launch party, a couple of ebook fans had already finished it and were full of praise. I tried hard to keep the note of surprise out of my voice, but am not sure I succeeded.
Maybe it’s because we spend too much time with our work before we let it go. We write, read, edit, reread, re-edit and so on, until we become bored and can no longer see any value in it. I guess that’s why we are advised to put it away from some weeks between stages, so we can come to it with fresh eyes.
I published my first fiction back in the summer of 2011, a collection of short stories written with a friend, Sharon Cook. We launched it during the first Chudleigh Literary Festival; as the organisers, we were able to highjack the proceedings somewhat. We spent the following months selling copies to friends and family. But it was not until the following spring that we were confident enough to approach local craft shops, asking if they would stock our book. And when they said yes, we were not only delighted, but amazed!
I started writing my first novel, Gorgito’s Ice Rink in 2007. I finally published it in October 2014. As a novice to fiction, it’s not surprising that the writing and editing took years, but if I look back at the calendar, there are great patches of time where I simply did nothing because I had lost confidence in myself.
Counterfeit! is the first in a series of three thrillers. I had scheduled books 2 and 3 for 2017 and 2018. But I’ve decided to push myself, and bring them both out during 2017. It will take some hard work and good time management; I have already written the project plan. But I’ve not scheduled any time in there for lack of confidence. This time, I’m going to face the fear head-on!
Find out more about Elizabeth on her website HERE
Her Facebook author page is HERE
She is on Twitter as @ElizabethDucie HERE
Read Margaret's Blog