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.

 

 

Blog hopping the writing process with fellow writers


I don’t know where the idea originated, but here I am blog hopping, thanks to Michelle Shine, author of the extraordinary fictional biography of Dr Paul Gachet, Mesmerised, and of short story Skin Deep, which I published in Lovers’ Lies.

So here goes with the hopper’s questions:

What am I working on?

I’m always working on several things at once. I’ve just finished putting together my latest short story collection, fine tuning the order of the stories and such like, more admin than writing really. At the moment active progress is being made on a novella about wanting to be normal when you are born into a family of witches, which strays into some very strange territory – gingerbread, nuclear power, planning applications, genealogy, parrots… I’ve just finished a short story set in a fairground sideshow, which I wrote at the request of the actress who will read it, Carrie Cohen (well, she kept asking when I was going to write her something so I did) at Other Worlds for Brockley Max on 1st June. and I’ve promised myself a final, final edit on a fantasy epic as soon as I have a stretch of time to concentrate on it.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Oh, the G word. I err towards fantasy as my default – possibly because it means I don’t have to do much research, possibly because it amuses me to stretch outside the real and explore the might be. How does it differ from others? I take a very loose attitude to fantasy, (I’ve been reading it for forty years, and I get fed up with rigid sub-genres) so sometimes when I say fantasy I just mean rather unlikely, sometimes it’s a whole other world with different rules. Alix, my partner has a yardstick for fantasy – is there a sword that goes ‘ting‘ in it? If there is she won’t touch it. So no tinging swords for me. (But the space where it would go ting is very um, ting shaped.) I really dislike graphic violence that is there to make your stomach churn, so you won’t get any of that from me. Violence, yes, realistic and upsetting, possibly, but not stomach churning. Sometimes I’m funny, sometimes I’m deadly serious. I aim to make you care a LOT about my characters one way or another, so they aren’t ciphers or archetypes, they are real people doing strange things and coping, or not.

Why do I write what I do?

It’s fun. I couldn’t spend the amount of time I do at the computer if I didn’t enjoy it. I adore the what if of fiction, I’m passionate about inventing new rules for the universe and seeing what that does to my characters.

How does my writing process work?

I don’t have hard and fast rules, or techniques that I can be sure will always work. An idea will strike me (often on the bus, or in a cafe, overheard – especially mis-heard – conversations are fertile ground) or an exercise at my writers group will spark something off. Sometimes it just lies fallow in my ideas file until something else comes along and they create a crazy offspring, sometimes I’ll start writing straight away and not stop until I’m done, sometimes I write the key scene and put it away for months.

I’d hate not to have something cooking, as well as what I’m actively working on. I’m a great believer it write first check  facts later, and if the facts don’t fit, change the facts.

Once I’ve got to first draft, I’ll do any fact checking that’s necessary, then I put the piece away for a while – a few weeks for something short, a few months for a long piece. Then I read it onto a recording device and listen back, a great way to spot over used words, plot inconsistencies, awkward phrases and so on. The I take it to my writers group (or if it’s very long ask a couple of them to read it outside the group.) I get useful feedback, which I sometimes ignore! My final test is to read aloud to a live audience who don’t know me: preparing for that really makes me hone the story into the best it can possibly be.

Editing other people, as I do for Arachne Press, has been very good for me, I really analyse why something isn’t working these days, and beat it around the head until it does, rather than shrugging and shoving it to the back of the metaphorical bottom drawer.

Ok, that’s the last of the questions, time to hand over to Alex Smith for the next blog hop.

ALEX Smith-AT-BEAUTIES-LAUNCHAlex lives in Cape Town with her partner, their book-eating baby boy and their two dogs. She has had four novels published in South Africa (Random House/Umuzi Imprint), was shortlisted for the 2010
Caine Prize and won the 2011 Nielsens Bookseller’s Choice Award.

She has a story in Weird Lies, and her YA novel, Devilskein & Dearlove is forthcoming from Arachne Press in the UK and Random House Umuzi in South Africa, on July 24th 2014.

Playing at Spring


We know it isn’t really spring, right? A day lent, as A.’s Ma would have said; but it is doing a fair impression: washing drying on the line, bees in the Pulmonaria, first lunch in the garden (in jumper, but still!), but we are promised the bitter east wind back again, and rain too, so i ought to be out there really, making the most of it – I am being drawn away from the computer to inventory all the plants that have died in the snow and wet. It looks like we’ve lost a particularly lovely Cranesbill.

fourhorsemenSo multi-tasking as ever, I’m listening to a book on the Black Death by John Hatcher, thinking about the garden, updating Arachne’s website fixing links that have changed, and planning out a story that might make it to Liars’ League for their Kings & Queens theme.

The problem with running a publishing enterprise is that I have no more time for writing than I ever did when I was employed. My brain is at least in the right groove, so there are plans afoot for when I do have enough time: turning Mirror into a play, putting together the next collection, fine tuning The Dowry Blade in the light of feedback from fellow author Jack Murphy, and I’ve found my material for the opera I’ve been promising myself for two years. Oh and keeping this blog up to date!

Writing from a Lesbian Perspective


Its LGBT History Month. Whether you know this may depend on whether you or any of your friends is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender. It certainly doesn’t get the kind of coverage Black History month gets. With my Arachne Press hat on, I’m doing a reading tonight at Ealing and on Monday at Deptford, with others, and will be reading one of the first stories I ever wrote – Leaving, which is about leaving a job, not a lover, in case you are wondering. I wrote it around 1986 so it’s practically an historical document itself.

There has been some concern voiced by the Judges of the Polari prize about the dearth of new UK Lesbian writers. I do wonder – is it that lesbians are no longer identifying themselves? No longer writing about Lesbian experience? And do we have to write about lesbian experience to bring that experience to bear? I don’t think so – I remember a long conversation with Rosemary Manning  (a dear friend and a magnificent Lesbian) about how one of her (straight, male) characters were written as  if he were a lesbian, not from the perspective of sexuality, but from the perspective of outsider-ness.

An aside, will being able to get married – if it gets all the way through the legislative process – intrinsically change that outsider status? Time will tell, and frankly there are still places it’s illegal and/ or dangerous to be a Lesbian, so unless we all sit smugly feeling we’re all right where we are, – I bet Weimar Republic Lesbians thought that, briefly – it’s kind of hard to shake.

I use this perspective when I rewrite myths. I’ve never been a fan of Freud’s use of myth to explain his own neuroses but he did keep the (Greek) myths in the forefront of the western mind.

If we lose the assumption that love between the hero and heroine is automatic, inevitable, ordained, there is room to take a look at what other motivation there is for their (re)actions.

So for example, if Helen does not love her husband (a dynastic match, so why should she?), and if she doesn’t love Paris (and how could she?) we can remember that Homeric women are parcelled out like a loaf of bread (or an apple) between hungry feasters, and ask:

What did she think, who, if anyone, did she love? What might it be like to be the catalyst of a ten-year war and the destruction of a dynasty?  And why didn’t Priam chuck her off the walls of Troy at first sight of the black ships?

Once you remove the most basic presumption of sexuality and stop being snared and beguiled by the obvious story of girl meets boy etc, etc, you are free to turn your head away from the glitzy main text and explore the why behind many other ‘obvious’ becauses and champion the minor character, the underdog, or perhaps the slave in the corner: seeing, thinking, feeling, but unseen.

One Grey Eye


I’ve just had a story accepted for One Grey Eye, an electronic ‘Penny Dreadful’ available on  Kindle. My story, Eye of the Beholder will be available around Halloween in Stories From Another London along with other excellent stories to unsettle you good and proper!

Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite:

Eye of the Beholder

A wedding picture – mum sitting, holding Dad’s hand by the fingertips, a gooey look on her face that seemed completely implausible, given what he knew of their relationship.  Carefully posed that, to hide the bump under the short, plain, white cotton dress.  They got married in early November, and Bill’s birthday, today, he reflected grimly, casting a glance at a silent mobile phone, was in early February.  She must have been freezing, he thought, not for the first time, and marvelling at the back-combed glory of his mother’s hair.  Which once more reminded him of the girl by the cemetery.

He frowned and pulled out two almost identical baby pictures, himself a few days old, cradled in his father’s astonished arms.  A cigarette dangled from dad’s fingers inches from his infant head: amazing he hadn’t set light to the blanket.

© Cherry Potts 2012

Tall Tales at the Tavern


Tall Tales at the Tavern

three women reading a book togetherJoin WOOA Brockley Writers’ Group for an evening of stories by local writers:

Bartle Sawbridge, Cherry Potts, Clare Sandling,

David Bausor, Joan Taylor Rowan, Rosalind Stopps

Read by Gill Stoker and Mike Burnside

Followed by a flash fiction open mic session for any other writers who want to join in, around 200 words: bring something along, or write in the interval.

Misty Moon Gallery, Ladywell Tavern, 80 Ladywell Road, SE13 7HS

Thursday 7th June 2012 7.00pm

No booking required, just turn up and grab a seat