Monday, 30 July 2018

Meeting new writers

I've been very happy and very impressed to spend the last couple of months enjoying other people's writing. I met someone in Penzance whose poetry is lyrically beautiful, a fellow writer in Barnstaple has just self published her first book which is well worth a read (when she goes public).  I've heard first draft writing in workshops that show so much promise, I feel drunk on good words. 

I'm looking forward to running a workshop in Taunton (21st September at the Brewhouse) and after that settling into a year's course at Barnstaple Library (Write a Better Book). I meet so many authors who write a book (kudos to them, it's quite a slog!) but then rush to self publish before they consider traditional routes. I hear a lot of 'Oh, the agent turned me down' but not many stay the course, take a professional approach to it. Your book has to attract an agent, it has to be so engaging they fall in love with it enough to work with you (unpaid) and then put it into the world to earn some money for you.

If you can't get an agent or publisher, I would ask:
  • Is the book as brilliant and polished as you can make it?
  • Is it right for the genre/audience?
  • Are you really trying every avenue i.e. all relevant agents, all publishers who take submissions?
  • Is your work of prize-worthy quality? (Even getting on a longlist says it's getting there).
  • Primarily, though, is it actually good enough?
I'm not dissing self publishing, sometimes it's the best option, especially if you have a professional approach to selling your own work and are prepared to do the promotion yourself. I presently have a novella that I think will need to be self published just because of the length. But getting commercially published confirms that you're on the right track.

Of course, that doesn't guarantee the elusive best seller... Back to those intoxicating words. There's some bloody brilliant writers in the West Country...  

Saturday, 21 July 2018

All over the place

That's where I've been. Last year we bought a tatty little caravan for a few hundred to, as much as anything, help salvage our relationship (cancer is a bitch, don't let anyone tell you it isn't). In a way, fighting the thing was easier (for my husband) than dealing with the uncertainty, the consequences of treatment, the whole 'I'm going to die/I'm going to be widowed' thing. So, we bought this elderly caravan (1985 Rapido). 

As you can see it's not glamorous and is a fraction of the size of the tent in front of it. You either sort your issues out or one of you sleeps on the grass. We sorted a lot of stuff out, including accepting that he might die/I might be widowed (again) but what the hell? Hasn't happened yet and the best research suggests if it comes back there are treatment options to give us some time to deal with it. If we have to. 

An unexpected bonus was that we reconnected with our inner campers and loved living in a field, just the two of us. We used to take half a dozen assorted kids (and often camped with other families) but there's something very companionable about stretching out on our bunks and reading our books while the sun goes down.

We've been exploring our own backyard: St. Ives, Marazion and Penzance, Totnes, Paignton, Goodrington, and Torquay. We're off to South Devon again in September - getting a week's accommodation for little more than a night in a  B&B. In the meantime, we're going to the Green Gathering with two daughters, one boyfriend (Rosie's) and the grandchild, who is now eighteen months. Being away from home has focused my mind on plots and characters, my head is buzzing. I've visited National Trust and English Heritage properties from my era (sixteenth century) and wandered around museums (I recommend the one in Totnes, an Elizabethan merchant's house). 

We spent last week having a proper holiday rather than snatching a weekend around a book event - it was heaven. Swimming in glassy turquoise water on hot days, wandering around cool walls and along beaches to catch the wind and (fortunately) the caravan was at the top of the hill, got loads of breezes coming through. We also indulged my passion for public transport, with a river cruise to Dartmouth, an open topped bus and a steam train. We saw spoonbills on the river, new to me but apparently they are occasionally breeding here after going extinct around 1650. There's a theme here, as I research the Elizabethan era.