Interview on Wombwell Rainbow


Read my interview on Wombwell Rainbow, where I talk about early writing, inspirations , writing routine (pause for hollow laughter) and that sort of thing.

Paul is interviewing writers of poetry and flash, and is always happy to talk to new people. get in touch with him via the website.

Fish supper at Liars’ League


On 12th February, my story Fish-fish will be read by the lovely Math Jones at Liars’ League London at their Love & Lust evening.

Set in the 1920’s in a fish restaurant and the beach of a small coastal town, it was inspired by this picture

Mr. and Mrs. Chester Dale Dining Out. Guy Pene du Bois. 1924. Thanks to @78Derngate for tweeting it. I’d never have found it otherwise.

Mr and Mrs Chester Dale are not who they seem, and waiter, Joel, is on to them.

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!

 

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!

2018-05-06 12.53.15

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.

 

 

out and about with Carmen


I’ve not been on here much recently, there’s been too much happening.

The opera – of course the opera! Each year I’ve done more and written about it less. Barely managing a faint tweet now and then this year. Carmen, under the direction of Chris Rolls had us on stage almost all the time  even when not singing – so no time for gathering thoughts to get on the blog. IMG_4585I’m in the background here somewhere (photo © Lena Kern) foreground Don Jose, Adrian Dwyer and our amazing Carmen Hannah Pedley – so good we tended to get caught up and forget we should sing too. This run sold out weeks ahead of the performance so I know a lot of people were disappointed. You can read a (5 star) review here, and you can catch us singing the choruses between 3 and 5pm TOMORROW (Saturday 23rd July) at Greenwich Park bandstand, and stop to chat while we picnic between sets. (I may not actually be singing myself, as the company throat infection caught up with me as soon as we stopped performing.)

Between performances I hurtled up to Derby to be on a panel (Is high fantasy getting more literary?) and run a workshop (Writing with Your Ears) at EdgeLit5. I’m doing more of that at NineWorlds at the Hammersmith Novotel 12-14th August, with creative writing panels: The Feminine Voice and Writing Female Characters in 21st Century Fantasy Fiction and Writing Queer Characters. I’m not sure of the timings yet, but there’s loads on, workshops, panels, book launches and so on and the finalised timetable will be up soon.

So: writing! Sci Fi Novella turned down by Tor, flash fiction published on line by Spelk, if you like your literature short you might enjoy a free haiku walk (should that be a Haik?) round Horniman Gardens with friends The Museum of Walking on Thurs 4th Aug.

And finally, I got my first ever bit of fan mail – as in hand-written, from someone I don’t know, who loved The Dowry Blade! I think it’s such a fat book that it’s taking people time to read it, but there is now a very nice review on Goodreads too.

I think that’s me caught up for now.

Rebellion: Writing Fantasy


Arachne Press

 Rebellion: Writing Fantasy, author talk and workshop

Author Cherry Potts reads from her new novel The Dowry Blade, and discusses ways of writing fantasy with an opportunity for a short writing exercise for the audience.

World building, weird logic and rule breaking at

Brompton Library

210 Old Brompton Road

London SW5 0BS

Thursday 14 April 18:30-19:45

Attending the London Book Fair?  This event is on the final day and Brompton Library is one stop on the tube/overground away from Olympia, at West Brompton, then a short walk.

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