City Writes Mini Solstice Shorts


I will be reading The Midwinter Wife from Longest Night, at this term’s City Writes at Northampton Suite C, City University, Northampton Square EC1V 0HB on Thursday December 13th doors  6.30. the venue is quite a way from the entrance on Northampton square, so allow time to get up to it!

I will be joined by Katerina Watson, reading Threshold from Dusk, and singers Ian Kennedy & Sarah Lloyd who will be singing my only ever musical composition, Cold Time, also from Longest Night, in a miniature Solstice Shorts Festival. I may also be talking about my writing, and about running Arachne Press.

There will also be readings from the winner’s of this term’s City Writes short story contest.

Tickets can only be bought in advance and are £10

THIS year’s Solstice Shorts Festival, 21st December, is Noon, and will start at noon, in six venues in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Carlisle, Ynys Mon, London and Cork! We are crowd funding for the next 9 days, if you’d like to support it.

Singing dates coming up


Very soon, Vocal Chords choir are launching our third CD Songs of Protest, with a concert at Conway Hall. 24th May 7.30, with guest Julian Littman. Get your tickets here! (£10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then a little further away on Saturday 16th June, we are singing at Crystal Palace Festival at 16:15 at the village green bandstand in Crystal Palace Park.

 

Plotting the course of a novel – on a defunct railway


I recently put together a mind map for my writing students about world building. this is a phrase usually used in conjunction with fantasy and science fiction, but part way through, I realised it applied just as much to stories set in unfamiliar real worlds – whether they be unknown because of distance, or time.

I’m currently working on a novel (or it might be a long novella, we’ll see), set in the same house in two different historical years, 1926 and 1976.

Now, I’m old enough to remember 1976, I was 15 that blisteringly hot summer, but weirdly I am more confident about what was going on and how things were in 1926! But that’s a digression.

I have been in a quandary about where the house is, it started as an exercise at the magnificent WOOA writing group, and fell fully formed into my head, notionally part of a village, on the very edge with no immediate neighbour. Slightly isolated, it is low and white with a heavy-set roof, and set back and down hill from a lane with a stone wall. There is a bog at the back doorstep, a bit of a stream/river beyond that,  a wood the far side of the walled lane, and a mountain in view. It feels as though it should be near the sea but it isn’t. I feel like I have been there, but I know it is a construct.

I want a real landscape to fit it into, so as I was putting together my mind map, and listing out resources, I typed in maps (oh, I love a map, real or imaginary) and then off from maps – site visits/ field study.

The story(ies) that set this novel off are all true, and I have the permission of those who told me to make use and exaggerate to my heart’s content, but they both originate in Ireland, and I’m not planning to set the story there, although, possibly that might make my life simpler.

A lot of googly stuff later, I had a list of places which have the right kind of bog, and a narrower list of places where the story is geographically possible. I have no intention of naming the local town in the book and I won’t here, either. A railway was crucial to the plot, a Methodist chapel (which type to be determined) and, it turned out, a quarry, which narrowed it down more. And then I remembered year ago trespassing on a disused railway, that ran beside a river through the most exquisite woodland, and there had been a chapel the far end of the walk.

Maps came out, the railway was identified, and A. talked into a  holiday close enough to check out whether memory matched reality. I’m too old and prim these days for trespassing, so we weren’t going to walk the railway.

Oh look! Quarries – lots of them!

So one wet afternoon we drove from one station to the next by the closest possible route, A. driving, me taking pictures, videos and frantically trying to take in what was going on, and navigate when the satnav threw a wobbly. We approached places we had been many times but on roads we had never noticed, and trundled through now obscure villages that had once had thriving industries. In some places you’d not know the railway had ever been there, in others gates, that are clearly level crossings, give away the game. Only one station survives complete.

But it wasn’t anything like enough. Expensively printed to order period maps have arrived, while I chase the perfect combination of quarry/river/railway/chapel/mountain/bog… ordinarily this would be procrastination, but not this time, I keep writing, and each new map, or railway timetable (NO trains on Sunday, right, ok…) finesses the detail, and plots the course of the next wet Wednesday in a week away, following the ghost of the railway.

Meanwhile I rack my brains for details of the mid 70s, the first stirrings of punk and it being so hot I didn’t leave the house after 10 in the morning for fear of melting, because those clichés of chopper bikes and tank tops? That’s not how I remember it!

 

Festival Season


It’s that time of year when the festivals come thick and fast.

Over the next couple of months I will be taking part in a number of SE London events, so I thought I’d just mention them, in case you felt like coming along.

Hither Green Festival

I will be talking, with Katy Darby (fellow editor and author at Arachne Press)
about Women, Science Fiction and Fantasy
at Manor House Library 34 Old Road SE13 5SY
Friday May 18th 19:00-21:00 FREE

 

 

 

Brockley Max Festival 

I will be reading alongside my WOOA mates at Strange Brew, on Saturday 3rd June at 4pm at the Talbot Tyrwhitt Road SE4 1QG

Join us for

Strange stories including (probably) spells potions and drinking. Bring your own (story!) to read, and join in the writing relay.

 

Bellingham Festival

I am judging the children’s poetry competition! Winners will be announced on 16th June.

On 20th June I will be presenting authors from Arachne Press’ Dusk anthology, reading their contributions – stories and poems inspired by the in-between of no sun but not dark – yet.

12:00-12:45

St John’s Church on Bromley Road, opposite Homebase.

 

 

Learn from me!


I don’t generally promote my teaching, because the course is usually oversubscribed (I take no credit for that, it was oversubscribed before I took it on!)

However, I have proposed an experiment to City, University of London, and they have agreed to try it out.

We are going to run An Approach to Creative Writing as a summer school, so instead of ten weeks of 2 hours in an evening, it will be one week of 2 x 2 hour sessions, during the day. This is aimed at people who like to concentrate their learning!

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So from Monday 23rd July for 5 days you can immerse yourself in everything to do with writing fiction at An Approach to Creative Writing Summer School .  Booking open now.

We will work mainly on short stories (including flash), exploring inspirations, characters, plots, themes, narrative voice, point of view, dialogue and so on, but with some exploration of how to approach longer work, including planning and structure and looking after yourself. Depending on the interests of the group we will cover writing for performance, specific genres and possibly life writing – You will get the course tailored to the people who attend, as far as humanly possible!

There is room for 20 people, and if the weather is good, the university, which is on Northampton Square, between Clerkenwell and Islington, has little gardens dotted about that we can sit out in for lunch.

I did some research with former students before putting this idea to the university, but it is still a bit of an unknown as to whether people will want to learn like this, but if evenings are not for you, this is a possible alternative.

We kick of at 10.15, take a lunch hour at 12:15 and finish at 15.15 to avoid the rush hour as far as possible, so that you arrive relaxed and go home energised to write something for your homework (entirely optional).

If you have been thinking about doing a creative writing course, and you like your learning in focussed bursts, this might be right up your alley.

 

 

Stories out loud


I’ve been so busy over at Arachne Press that I’ve been neglecting my own blog.

SO a few things have happened, and will be happening.

TONIGHT (Friday 8/12/17)

I am reading part of The Midwinter Wife (from Shortest Day Longest Night at London Writers’ Eclective at Tottenham Court Road Waterstones. It’s in the cafe basement, 6.30-8.30

Hope to see some familiar faces!

Solstice Shorts is coming up, 21st December, 52 authors on 12 sites across the UK at DUSK That’s why I’ve been so busy! That, and launching Spellbinder, the second book in my mum’s trilogy of YA fantasy, The Naming of Brook Storyteller.

Recently I was interviewed on podcasting site Time for Cakes and Ale – have a listen.

Back in October, we were in Shoreham for their Word Fest, with Liberty Tales and Songs of Protest, which meant I was hosting, reading and singing alongside a sliver of Vocal Chords Choir.

And also in October, at Archway  With Words, I read Mirror. (from Lovers’ Lies) It’s the first time I’ve read it myself, usually I get an actor to read it for me.

 

Rising Dawn at Story Fridays


Although I couldn’t be there, Kirsty Cox did a grand job reading my story Rising Dawn at Story Fridays in Bath last week for their Speed of Light evening.

You can listen to her reading it, and other stories read by the authors and Kirsty here.