I’m not one for doing New Year’s resolutions, but this year I did and I resolved to write more. Yep, that one again. Usually, by this time of the year, I would be still building up to this happening. With the usual excuses of writer’s block or that I didn’t have the time due to work. The work situation is still as busy as it has ever been, with the usual bundles of prep and marking to get through.
As we enter weeks of lockdown, I have been taking stock of what I have written this last year. I have racked up 28,764 words so far. This is from various projects new or that needed editing.
This has been done by signing up for the BXP Writing Challenge that sees writers producing 200 words per day. Before the lockdown, I did this by writing on the train and which was often delayed on the way to work – it made a frustrating regular occurrence all the more productive.
Sometimes it was easier to write more, sometimes it was a struggle to get to 200 words, sometimes the words flowed freely, sometimes it was an effort to drag the words out.
It was worth signing up to and I realise that I am not that focused unless I have some sort of goal. I would recommend it any writer out there.
I don’t normally set resolutions. Well, I don’t write them down that’s for sure. but the last few years I have had a few ideas in mind and I have let things slip. In fact, in the list that follows, there are a few recurring ambitions. The novel one definitely.
So, with eyes on being more focussed in the forthcoming year here goes:
Send out Difficult First Album to publishers. One final edit required (January) Look at self-publishing this in the summer if there are no takers with the submissions.
Record songs that are part of the project in demo form
Finish The Twitchers
Learn songs on the piano (January)
Keep a journal
More travel – home and abroad
I think these should be manageable the main one is certain to have something that is published or on the way to being published.
There was me thinking that I would blog and tweet my way all the way through the final project of my MA. The best-laid plans and all that…Who knew that the whole business of writing a novel would get in the way.
Well, it’s finished. There were times that it felt like I would never get to this point, but thanks to the support of friends and family I have managed to get over the novel completed and submitted.
I’m happy with how the novel has turned out. It could possibly do with another read through, but time was against me to do that. I will edit it once more when I receive my feedback in the New Year. Then I will contemplate sending it to agents and publishers.
So with the submission of my final project, I have come to the end of my MA (that’s presuming that my novel has not failed). Looking back, I have no regrets signing up for the MA, the three years have been eventful and have gone so quick. I have met some great people along the way. The tutors have all helped in getting me to this point in my writing career. A number of my fellow students have now become really good friends.
There are plans for us all to work together and support each other when we get around to writing our next novels. That’s to come, but for now its nice not to worry about edits, deadlines and all that. Well the writing ones, there are plenty of deadlines with the day job.
I was introduced to Thomas Llywarch, a filmmaker by my partner early in the year who was looking for a writer to help get involved with a project that he was trying to put together for the Tales We Tell Festival hosted by Glyndŵr University in February.
I was given an outline of the story based on the Welsh folk tale of Gelert, but it was to be given a modern-day spin with a Great British Bake of Theme.
There was a tight turn around from page to screen, I worked on an initial script and Thomas edited and extended it to fit in with the filming. I even managed to make a cameo as a paparazzi photographer. Somehow it all came together and the film can be seen below.
Tonight was the launch of PulpIdol Firsts 2015, which included my chapter ‘Difficult First Album’. It was organised by the excellent Writing on the Wall organisation and hosted by Siren. Liverpool.
There was a similar format to the final in May, and included six of the people who took part that night.
It was good to meet up with the other writers and see how they were progressing with their novels. It was also good to hear and read the other chapters on the night also.
The physical copies were available, I had already downloaded the Kindle version earlier on in the week, and I was given a couple of free copies. I also picked up a number of others that will make good Christmas presents for friends and family.
It is great to see my creative work published for the first time, especially in printed form. As I’m in the process of editing the novel, things like this are inspiring in attempting to get my novel finished.
November is a time when writers around the world around take part in the annual NaNoWriMo challenge. It is something that I have taken part in over the last few years and I was tentatively thinking of taking part again this year. Instead of writing another novel, the idea was to write a number of short stories instead.
I have previously completed the NaNoWriMo challenge twice. My first successful attempt at writing a novel from 2012 is lying in a drawer waiting to be edited. My novel from 2013 is currently being edited and discussed during my MA workshops. The first two chapters written last year has been edited down to one and is my PulpIdol chapter.
Given how busy I am with work and my MA, I have decided to sit NaNoWriMo out this year, as much as I would love to get involved, I just don’t have the time. For those considering doing it, my advice is to do so.
One of my resolutions for the year was to take part in a writing retreat. I looked at a few possibilities, one of which was abroad in sunnier climes. In the end, I plumped for an Arvon Foundation course. I had heard nothing but good things about them from people who attended previous retreats.
There was a good choice of potential other courses in the brochure, some I couldn’t do because of timing and work. In the end I settled on the Starting to Write Short Stories course. It looked like an interesting one, with a wonderful setting and tutors with impressive backgrounds. It was also a good chance to develop my short story writing this is an area that I dip-in and out of when I am not writing my novel.
The course was at Lumb Bank, not far from Hebden Bridge and it’s the former home of Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. It is a beautiful and inspiring setting. Along with 15 other participants we had a number of workshops with our excellent tutors Tania Hershman and Robert Shearman throughout the week. We even had the chance to have one-to-one tutorials with them too.
As well as the formal opportunities to write there were a number of opportunities to go away and write or to socialise with the other writers. One of the good things about the week was the lack of Internet access. For someone that is distracted by constant access to the web, this was a welcome novelty. It also highlighted what can be done without being constantly tied to the web.
Also, I don’t think I have ever eaten as healthily as I did during the week. We took it in turns to work in the kitchen to prepare the evening meals for everyone, using locally sourced fresh produce. My stint was on the last night Friday. I was tasked with making two fruit trifles from scratch. This was a first for me and surprisingly they went down well.
Each evening there were a number of themed events. On Tuesday Tania and Rob read from their work, I didn’t need a second invitation to buy their books. Wednesday’s event saw Manchester writer Zoe Lambert come along to read from her work. Friday was the participants turn and we all had the chance to read a piece of work that we had produced over the course of the week.
I read my short story ‘100 Million Light Years From Where I Want to Be’. This was something I had written in one of the workshops. This was a serious piece but I don’t think that I set the right tone for reading it by tripping over my own feet as I advance towards the spotlight. I think my piece went down reasonably well despite the comedy interlude. It was great to hear what everyone else had been working on over the course of the week.
It was such a brilliant and rewarding week and one that I didn’t want to end. There’s talk of us all meeting up socially in the future, which would be nice. For now, I feel very inspired and I hope to put into action all that I learnt during the week. I may even have a go at making another trifle.
Here’s something on the Arvon blog that eloquently sums up the week from Colette, one of the other participants.
Saturday morning was the time that we all left and headed off home. Feeling inspired by all things literary during the week, I decided to stop off in Haworth to visit the Bronte House and the surrounding village as it wasn’t that far from Lumb Bank. It was also somewhere I had never been before. While there, I wasn’t expecting to be drawn attention to works of another Haworth-based writer especially one that was working on the car park. In return for free parking I bought the author’s book. His name is Edward Evans.
I recently took part in a great event organised by my MA colleague David Llewellyn and his friend Stanley O Ayodeji. The night at the International Anthony Burgess Centre, in Manchester, was a book launch for David’s Jack Par(r) and Damage Limitation by Stanley. This was part of the first (and hopefully not the last) We4Poets event.
A number of colleagues from the MA took part in reading short stories, poems and some performed live music. My involvement was not a literary one, but a musical one. I was ‘coaxed’ out of retirement to perform two (self-penned) songs. When I was asked by David if I would like to get involved, I said I would love to. When he mentioned that he was looking for some variation in the line-up. I mentioned that I had written and performed my own songs a few years back. I thought this would be the last that I would hear of this, but when I saw David for our regular MA get together it was obvious that he was serious about me performing. So without a convincing enough excuse to get out of it, I was down to play.
So a couple of weeks of hasty rehearsals was called for to get myself up to speed. When I was rooting through the songs that I had previously performed and deciding which ones I would perform I realised actually how long ago it had been since I had last performed solo. It was nearly 12 years ago. I wasn’t too sure why I had left it so long, I had every intention of getting back into it at some point, but I always found an excuse not to do so. In the time that I hadn’t written or performed, though I had enjoyed being a part of the Resound Community Choir, where I could hide behind a number of other talented performers. This time it would be just me and a guitar.
The atmosphere of the night was welcoming and friendly. I knew most of the performers from my MA. It was good to meet Stanley and a songwriter called Tez Scatchill, who headlined the event brilliantly. I joined him to accompany singer Laura Sinclair on a cover of an Eryka Badu song. I say join in, I had to improvise by ‘miming’ as I realised that my guitar was so badly out of tune, but the song had already started and I didn’t want to delay the proceedings. I nodded to Tez to carry on without me. Which he did magnificently. This was not a great way of settling my nerves.
By the time I was due to play the first song I realised that I would have to improvise and tune my guitar while introducing my first song. Given my nerves, I was all fingers and thumbs at this point. That’ll teach me to buy a new guitar and re-string it the week before. In the wait to get on stage, it had somehow detuned itself. Thankfully Tez was on hand to lend me his guitar for both numbers.
Given the issues and the need to borrow a guitar. I felt it went ok, though I was very rusty. I ended up doing two of mine ‘A Place in the Sun’ and ‘Betrayed’. I was reliant on my lyrics which I had propped on a stand. Next time I do this (or any other gig, which I hope will be sooner than 12 years) I will be fully conversant with my lyrics. This will help with the performance aspect, which I scraped by somehow, only just.
It was nice to get positive comments afterwards, one guy who I didn’t know, said that I sounded a bit like early REM. A band I like, but had I had not directly tried to emulate.
I really enjoyed being part of a great night and I think all that attended (and performed on) the night got something from it. It was good that David and Stanley also did well at the event. Their books seemed to be selling well, as too was Tez’s cd which I bought a copy of. It has certainly inspired me to get out and perform more often in the future. As well as finish of my novel which had indirectly led me to this moment.
It’s hard to believe that the first year of my MA in Creative Writing is now over. Apart from one or two meetings with an assigned tutor, the assignments and classes have finished for year one. My usual Tuesday nights have been something of a highlight given everything else that was going on in my life.
It is two modules down (Contemporary Novels I and The Workshop), with four more to go – one which will include the final major project of the novel in the final year. In the meantime, the downtime in class gives me a chance to build up a portfolio of work in readiness for the workshops of next year. The aim over the summer is to try and send some work out to be published somewhere.
The second module has been really good, it was led by the writer AJ Dalton who has worked us all hard in the allocated sessions, though they have been enjoyable too. The homework that was set has seen the group pull together a portfolio of work that includes elements that will help with the marketing of our work and ourselves as writers. There have also been numerous opportunities to get feedback on our developing novels. So much so, I feel the first two chapters of my novel are beginning to take shape. Though there are still a few teething problems with the narrator/POV, which are slowly being ironed out with each draft.
As well during these sessions we have looked at many aspects of the writing craft as well as discussed aspects of the publishing industry. These sessions have been both inspiring and informative.
Not only have the sessions been productive, but Adam has joined us in the pub afterwards to
further discuss our work and that of the industry. I have to say it’s been one of the best modules that I have done during any of my studies.
Although I am sad that it’s over, here’s to the summer, and preparation for the next academic year.
Last year, I entered the PulpIdol first chapter competition, held each year as part of the Liverpool Writing on the Wall Literature Festival. It is something that I have circled in the diary, but it was the first time I had something substantial to submit and I was selected for the heats. I didn’t make it through, but the experience was a good one, especially the chance to meet other writers and to get feedback from the judges who are al published authors. I would say that the experience kick-started my desire to take the more creative writing side a bit more seriously and led to me signing up for my MA.
Fast forward twelve months, the Writing on the Wall Festival and in particular PulpIdol is back, and yet again I submitted a chapter of a novel for the competition. It is one that I had been working on this term during the workshops as part of my MA. It had been polished, restructured and generally bashed about to make it worth listening to (or reading). Again I was successful in making it to the heats.
The heat that I was selected for took place in the wonderful setting of the Liverpool Central Library. There were a number of heats over two nights, as well as an online one. From these they would select ten writers for the final, who would all have the prize of being published in the yearly Firsts anthology.
Having been given my heat, and dodged the bullet of going first (I ended up reading fifth). I sat through a number of really good and interesting first chapters. In my mind I was trying to place mine alongside the others. Once all the chapters had been read the judges sent everyone outside while they had their deliberations as to the three that would go through. Milling around outside gave us the chance to chat to our fellow contestants and a wonderfully supportive bunch they were. I was even chatting to someone who had travelled down from Newcastle to take part, there’s commitment for you. After what was only a short delay, but with the nerves kicking in, it seemed longer. They called us in to hear who had made it through to the final
They called out the first winner, who was sat next to me and while I was congratulating her, they read out my title, and then my name. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I was still taking it in, when they called out the third name, I nearly forgot to applaud him given that I was still processing what was going on.
So I have made it through to the final. Delighted, doesn’t quite cover how I feel after this. The final will select a winner, but knowing that I will be published in the anthology next year, is enough of a reward. Just to be in the final is a great achievement.