How to Write a Novel


I’ve unexpectedly been asked to step in for a colleague at City University London and teach the Novel Writing Course this term.

It’s for people starting out on a novel for the first time, or needing a bit of a boost/steer on an ongoing work, the first 5 weeks are nuts and bolts and the second half of term is workshoping your novel with me and the rest of the group. 10 weeks, Monday evenings 6.30-8.30. Starts 30th September.

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Some people already signed up have opted to delay until next term, because they want to be taught by the incumbent tutor.  This means we are now short of viable numbers and need at least 2 more people to sign up by tomorrow, or the course won’t run, which will be a shame for those who have already commited.

If this sounds like the course for you, get your skates on and REGISTER NOW, or by tomorrow, TUESDAY 24th September.

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.

Additional panel at LonCon3


I’ve been asked to step in last-minute to moderate another panel at LonCon3

Reimagining Families (Thursday 11:00)

In a 2013 column for Tor.com, Alex Dally MacFarlane called for a greater diversity in the way SF and fantasy represent families, pointing out that in the real world, “People of all sexualities and genders join together in twos, threes, or more. Family-strong friendships, auntie networks, global families… The ways we live together are endless.” Which stories centre non-normative family structures? What are the challenges of doing this in an SF context, and what are the advantages? How does representing a wider range of family types change the stories that are told?
Cherry Potts (moderator)
Jed Hartman
Laura Lam
David D Levine
Rosanne Rabinowitz

The other panels I am on are:

Liechester Square: Getting London Wrong

Thursday 19:00 – 20:00, Capital Suite 9 (ExCeL)

If there’s one thing you can guarantee about the reaction to any piece of SF set in London, it’s that British fans will delight in nit-picking the details: you can’t get there on the Piccadilly Line! So who are the worst offenders? Whose commodified Londons do we forgive for the sake of other virtues in their writing? Do we complain as much about cultural errors as geographic ones, and if not, why not? And given London’s status as a global city, is it even fair to claim ownership of its literary representation?
Alison Scott (Moderator)
Cherry Potts
Leah-Nani Alconcel
Mike Shevdon
Russell Smith

We Can Rebuild You

Sunday 10:00 – 11:00, London Suite 2 (ExCeL)

SF medicine regularly comes up with “cures” for disabled bodies — from Geordi LaForge’s visor to the transfer of Jake Sully’s consciousness in Avatar — but the implications of such interventions are not always thought through as fully as we might hope. How does a rhetoric of medical breakthroughs and scientific progress shape these stories, and shape SF’s representation of lived physical difference? In what ways can SF narratives address dis/ability without either minimising or exaggerating such difference?
Cherry Potts (Moderator)
Neil Clarke
Tore Høie
Helen McCarthy
Marieke Nijkamp

LonCon 3 – Suggestions?


So I’m on a couple of panels for LonCon 3, and I need to do some homework so that I’m properly on the ball. Suggested (re)reading (and viewing I suppose) please, from all you SF fans out there.

First one:

WE CAN REBUILD YOU. SF medicine regularly comes up with “cures” for disabled bodies — from Geordi LaForge’s visor to the transfer of Jake Sully’s consciousness in Avatar — but the implications of such interventions are not always thought through as fully as we might hope. How does a rhetoric of medical breakthroughs and scientific progress shape these stories, and shape SF’s representation of lived physical difference? In what ways can SF narratives address dis/ability without either minimising or exaggerating such difference?

My immediate thought is Anne McCaffery’s The Ship Who Sang and from the film world Gattaca, but can anyone suggest any other SF where future-science plays a major part in coping with, or celebrating disability? I can think of piles of fantasy, but not so much SF. Obscure short stories maybe? Oh, something just surfaced in the old brain there – Vonda McKintyre – must find… Suggestions (of things you have actually read or seen yourself, please) in the comments please!

Panel number 2:

Liechester Square: Getting London Wrong

If there’s one thing you can guarantee about the reaction to any piece of SF set in London, it’s that British fans will delight in nit-picking the details: you can’t get there on the Piccadilly Line! So who are the worst offenders? Whose commodified Londons do we forgive for the sake of other virtues in their writing? Do we complain as much about cultural errors as geographic ones, and if not, why not? And given London’s status as a global city, is it even fair to claim ownership of its literary representation?

Suggested reading /viewing on this one? (Cliff – any particular episodes of Dr Who?)

I’m thinking Day of the Triffids, Quatermass, Rivers of London, Un Lun Dun, Veronica Britton, the dreadful (but London set) Avengers movie. There’s something by Diana Wynne Jones (I think) tugging at my memory too.

I don’t want to read or watch the entire enormous oeuvre of London Sci Fi, but any suggestions for particularly well-handled London, or particularly badly imagined London? Anything that makes you cry out as Lyra does, of Oxford, in The Subtle Knife:
That’s not my London!

Comments invited!

Songs of the Sea


Well, for a writing blog there’s a heck of a lot about singing on here. This post is no exception.

vocal chords July 19th FlyerVocal Chords, my regular choir, are splashing out in Forest Hill on Saturday July 19th (The only day that week that I’m not rehearsing or performing in Count Ory at Blackheath.

3pm St Saviour’s Church, Brockley Rise, SE23.

£5. Proceeds to Seaman’s Mission and St Saviour’s.

I will also be selling books, though not at the same time as I’m singing (as far as I know!)

There’s a bit of everything, from passionate (Ready for the Storm, Crossing the Bar) to bonkers (Sailor with the Navy Blue Eyes, Under the Sea), by way of traditional (Sea Coal, Haul Away Joe) and lots more.

A fun afternoon out, pretty much guaranteed.

Awards and Mermaids


PrintIt’s been an exciting week. First I won an award for one of the anthologies I edited for Arachne Press – Weird LiesThe Saboteur2014 Best Anthology Award!

It’s one of very few independent awards, voted for by the book-reading public, and it was thrilling to win. They don’t tell you beforehand and being a bit superstitious I refused to believe there was a chance, so it was only when they were reading out comments from voters I was thinking, ooh, that sounds like our book, that really sounds like… oh crikey, it is! In fact we netted about 35% of the over 1000 votes – you can read more of all the lovely things people said here, though I will quote just one particularly juicy one:

one of the most original writers herself Cherry Potts provides opportunities for unusual and thought-provoking writing.

Good eh?

Then, Liars’ League London chose my story The Real McCoy, (featuring a naive but indignant mermaid) to read at next Tuesday’s Weird & Wonderful event,  and will  be read at The Literary Kitchen Festival in Peckham on Tuesday 17th June 7pm

AND THEN Liars’ League Hong Kong chose Portrait of the Artist’s Model as A Young Woman for their Truth & Lies event on 30th June.

So that makes me not just “award-winning”, but “internationally renowned”, right? (She says with unrepentant cheek).

If you can make any of those events it would be brilliant – I won’t be at the Hong Kong one, but I will be at the other two, so you could come and say hello.

Finally, a heads-up: The title of this blog is a nod to Mary Hamer, author of Rudyard & Trix, a novel about Rudyard Kipling and his sister. (Awards and Mermaids, Rewards and Fairies, yes?) I’ve read this novel, after inviting Mary to The Story Sessions, and it is brilliant – upsetting in many ways, but very perceptive, and manages without doing that annoying thing some people do of making it SO clear that they did lots and lots of research and you aren’t going to escape an iota of it. Mary has belatedly joined the blog hop and will be blogging about her writing process just as soon as she finishes unpacking from the trip which meant she didn’t see the email I sent her about this sooner.

The Singing Season


Not that the singing season ever went away, it’s a bit like football, the break gets shorter all the time; but we didn’t do Sing for Water this year because of A’s broken leg, so larynx and lungs feeling a bit under used.

So the good news is that Raise the Roof is back next week, and we’ve already started Summer All Year Long back into a regular schedule (although it may be disrupted by Arachne Press activities – or not, actually as some of the repertoire is London songs with the thought that we might have a musical interlude at some of the readings.) And we’ve signed up to sing the Vivaldi Gloria for the annual Christmas spectacular at Blackheath Halls, where rumour has it Wendy Dawn Thompson will be joining us as one of the soloists.  We love Wendy, she is great fun to sing with. I’ve already bumped into two people we sing with whilst doing the rounds of bookshops and venues for readings of London Lies, and anticipation is running high!

Plans are also afoot for another workshop with Lester Simpson of Coope, Boyes & Simpson for 1st December, and on a consumption front we are booked to go to the ‘Last Night of the Mini Proms’ where the lovely and talented Messrs Grant Doyle and Nick Sharratt with whom we have sung on numerous occassions, are singing (amongst other things) the Pearl Fishers Duet, which will be distinctly lush.

© Cherry Potts 2012

Brittle Bright Young Things


Last night we fought freezing temperatures, planned engineering works closing off three possible routes, and failed signals on the DLR to get to the wonderfully named St-Sepulchre-without-Newgate, for an evening of Ivor Novello songs with the Oxbridge Opera Company.

I wouldn’t have gone if it hadn’t been brought to my attention by Simon Dyer (Bass-Baritone), who isn’t generally associated with rubbish in my experience, and nor was he this time. Like (I suspect) many people, my knowledge of Ivor Novello starts with Keep the Home Fires Burning and ends with We’ll Gather Lilacs. I had him in the same bracket as Noel Coward, as frivolous, lightweight and sentimental, and not particularly complex musically.

Well, yes and no.  Noel Coward is acres better, his lyrics have some thought behind them. Melodically I kept hearing echoes of other songs, but too distant to be sure which came first. Predictability in melody line and rhyme (he really is the original moon-and-june-er) could have made for a tedious evening, particularly since the acoustic was hard work, setting up an echo that swallowed the less emphatic voices and all but did for the ensemble pieces.  It was not a venue to encourage vibrato or rolled ‘r’s. I felt I was having to work unreasonably hard to catch the words, and that the effort was not repaid by the weakness of the songs.

However, not to carp on too long, what did work was when the women sang together, or the men sang together.  And in terms of harmony there was some quite interesting things going on, ably supported by some very good piano playing from (I assume) Chris Milton (as no-one introduced themselves, and not everyone mentions which voice type they are in the write-up, and they don’t say who sings which song, I can’t credit those I felt did a particularly good job.)

Oxbridge Opera Company had wisely decided to give a dramatised storyline to the proceedings, and a series of brittle bright-young-things wisted and yearned and had their hearts broken like a silent screen version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while mother played poker in a corner.  The youngest, not too used to alcohol got the worse for wear and made a spectacle of herself (an execrable song Prim-rose) much to the discomfort of her mother’s guests, one of whom  had her fur tippet on and was heading out the door before being persuaded to stay.  This gave focus and spurious poignancy to the really very hackneyed sentiment of the songs, and I was grateful for it.

High spots were the mash-up of a solo Soldier Lad and male chorus of Keep the Home Fires Burning; and another solo And Her Mother Came Too, a witty ditty of frustrated passion well executed.

St Sepulchre is a bit of a mash-up too, allegedly a musician’s church (presumably there are things that the acoustic is kinder to) it is gothic without and classical within, so panelling and doric columns, but not to classical proportions: too narrow and tall.  There are a few good monuments, in particular a Jacobean one.  So it was sufficiently interesting to walk round in the interval and have to rush back to our seats; and warm, which is a triumph – I could  list churches I have frozen in during concerts, but why?

So if we could have got home without what ended up being three changes and a long walk on the way back, it would have been a more enjoyable evening, however I shall restrain myself from a rant about planned engineering works and the other sort!

© Cherry Potts 2012

Welcome Yule


The to do list is getting smaller.

Presents bought and wrapped. √
First batch of mince pies cooked and eaten.√
Cards written and posted or delivered.√
Christmas concert sung√
Carols sung and money raised for Crisis√
Someone else’s carol singing event attended.√
Family visits lined up.√
Christmas tree bought.√
Decorate tree√
Gather winter fuel.√

Still to do:

Shop for food, cook, attend poetry reading and possibly read… one more days at work…

So the Blackheath Halls Concert on Friday went better than we expected; we didn’t make too many mistakes in Navidad Nuestra, and The Lamb sounded very good. Despite not being well, Nick Sharratt sang beautifully.
The children’s choir were brilliant.
Raise the Roof were enthusiastically received and had the audience clapping along in no time… and Mel won the raffle!
A woman passing me in the corridor said that Navidad gave her tingles.  Just think what it could have been with another three rehearsals.

SAYL at our first pitch, Crofton Park Library

Saturday Summer all Year Long went carol singing in aid of Crisis, with me muttering as we headed off that I wasn’t in favour of us performing ever again too much hassle, just meant to be a bit of fun, etc. etc. Apart from completely losing the low harmonies in Wassail, we sounded very good; I think our voices blend well and we make a nice warm noise – we even had someone tweet positively about the Crofton Park Library gig. However, a learning process: while the Library has a lovely acoustic, it’s not a great venue. The nice men selling Christmas trees outside gave us a substantial amount of their float, but most people in the library were plugged into computers and waiting for us to go away; everyone contributed something though.

The mulled Wine does its work

A more positive reception at Hills and Parkes, where we were fed mulled wine, and Emma joined in on Wassail.  One customer was thrilled and stayed right to the end of the set. We stopped on the way to sing to a housebound neighbour, much to the amusement of the people up the scaffolding a couple of doors down.

We were early at the Broca so had a cup of tea and waited to see if any audience were going to turn up, and when they didn’t, we went and sang outside the station instead (with their permission), which worked very well, people emptied their pockets and gave us handfuls of money.

final stop the station

I think with H&P’s mulled wine sales we’ll have raised a reasonable amount, but you can make it MORE by donating on our fundraising page. (Thank you).

we are now considering becoming the Overground Choir for a day next year, and travelling up and down the line singing on station forecourts.

What was that about not performing again?  The others talked me round in about a nanosecond, and we’re wondering about a set of shanties and other sea related songs at the National Maritime Museum at some point (if they’ll let us), perhaps in aid of RNLI.  Anyway, the new year will bring new songs with possibly a spring theme, we’ll see.

Voice Lab getting carried away

Sunday to Welcome Yule! Voicelab’s bash at the Southbank.  A most enjoyable collection of drinking songs and warnings (you don’t want to know what happens to people who plough on Christmas day).  These were carols after my own liking, steeped in ancient beliefs and passions, sung with gusto, accompanied by a bit of piano, fiddle and brass, and Morris dancing. The excellent Morris Offspring, a very young side wearing black and denim, with just a token sheaf of ribbons and no bells:  I don’t know whether Morris is getting better, but each time I see it I like it more. It seems to be less and less about men getting into their beer and then thrashing about with a staff or a hankie, and more and more about some magnificently  pagan ritual.  This was some seriously beautiful dancing, a real highlight of the season so far; so good I forgot to take any photos…!

© Cherry Potts 2011