Giving Thanks for the Good Days

Digital image of snowdropsIt’s easy to let the doubts, the dark days and anxieties live in the front of your head.  Some days they seem so much stronger than the positive things in our lives.  The last three days have been really good and I’ve decided to celebrate them; to actively appreciate them in the hope that, by doing so, I will remember this feeling when the grim comes knocking again.

On Friday I worked two different jobs.  In the morning I led a workshop at a large local library.  The session was entitled Kickstart Your Creative Writing and I had a lovely group of seven learners.  It’s not intended to be a ‘how to’ course, more an opportunity to try different types of writing prompts and talk about creative writing as a process.  To share ideas, get a little inspiration and have fun with writing – something that so many people have had beaten out of them through their work or school lives.  The feedback at the end of the session as very positive and I felt that the learners enjoyed themselves as much as I did.  For me, though, there was an added bonus.  I realised that I actually know a lot about writing.

Now, maybe that shouldn’t have come as a surprise.  In the four or five years since I started to take my writing seriously I have undertaken a masters course in writing for children, attended dozens of talks by authors, illustrators, publishers, editors and agents, been part of several writing and critique groups and been involved with several writers festivals.  However, I still think of myself as someone who is a beginner on their writing journey – an enthusiastic amateur rather than a professional.  That changed on Friday morning.  Here were people who were at an earlier stage in their writing – most of them didn’t even know what sort of writing the were hoping to do – and they were asking me questions.  They trusted that not only would I give them answers and suggestions, but that they would be good and accurate.  And, for the most part, I found I could do that.  When I didn’t know for sure I was still able to signpost them to organisations, books, magazines and web sites where they could get the help the wanted.

Friday afternoon was the same – but very different.  This time I was working as a library assistant at a smaller library that plays an active role in the life of the local community.  They have run a Chatterbooks club for some time and, when children grew too old for that group, set up something similar for teenage readers.  I spent a very happy hour with some lively children; we talked about books for children and teenagers; I listened to them talk about the idiocy of some of the grownups in their lives; I lead them on some writing adventures using story dice.  In this group I was acknowledged (and tested) as the grownup in charge, but also welcomed as an equal when it came to creating stories and sharing book recommendations.  The time flew by and I can’t wait to work with them again next month.

Saturday was glorious for totally different reasons.  For a start, I woke early.  At the weekend this would normally mean a groggy trip to the loo before either going back to sleep or snuggling down under the duvet with my storybook of the moment.  Yesterday, however, I was wide awake and full of fizz.  The dogs were startled to find themselves in the park before 7:00 am, watching a scarlet sun rise above the trees and smelling the multitude of scents rising into the air as the frosty ground steamed in the early morning light.  We walked for over an hour then came home for our breakfasts.  The dogs and cats ate in the kitchen, but I brought my coffee and marmalade sandwich straight upstairs to the computer and got on with editing my current WIP.  By the time my OH was up I had polished and printed nine chapters and was ready for elevenses.  Having accomplished so much so early I felt justified in idling away the rest of the day, snuggling on the sofa with my family.  A sense of achievement and of contentment should never be underestimated.

The Song from Somewhere Else, Paperback BookSo now you are nearly up to date with my positive few days.  This morning has been just as good.  It started with three out of the four furry family cosying on the bed while I read a few pages of The Song From Somewhere Else by A F Harrold and stunningly illustrated by Levi Pinfold (I’ve not finished it yet, but so far can heartily recommend it).  Then another long, frosty walk with the dogs and straight to the computer on our return.  I have been falling behind my self-imposed writing/task schedule recently.  Today I have done enough to bring me almost up to date.  Just one task to do before I can get back to my WIP.

I have had a happy grin on my face for the past few days and can recommend a cheerful and positive outlook for promoting productivity and a sense of inner peace.  Grasp the good days and hug them close.  The light CAN drive the darkness away.

 

Ex-Machina

A while ago Judith Heneghan posted something on Twitter – I can’t remember exactly what it was now – but it made me really miss being at college and studying for my MA. It wasn’t just the brilliant friends I’d made or the totally supportive critiques they gave. It wasn’t even the lectures and speakers. It was all of those, plus the driving impetus of having to produce some words every week and doing so as part of a writing community. I sent a tweet back, suggesting she set up a group or forum where graduates of Winchester’s Writing for Children MA could get in touch and maybe even meet up every once in a while. We both thought it was a great idea but, between the University and the Writing Festival, she couldn’t contribute more than support, encouragement and a few email addresses.

That’s how it started.  I set up a closed Facebook group and called it Ex-Machina (EX-MA CHildren In Absentia) – probably not the best name, but it was all I could come up with at short notice.  There seem to be some quite unusual groups with the same name.  Oops!  I added all the people I knew on Facebook who had completed the course and emailed the people Judith had suggested.  A couple of posts later we are up to 16 members without really trying.

So – did you graduate from the University of Winchester with an MA in Writing for Children?  Would you like to be in touch with other people who did the same course?  If you are on Facebook, please ask to join us.  If you avoid social media, please contact me via this blog and I’ll add you to an irregular email update.

I hope to make contact with some more of you over the coming months.  Writing doesn’t need to be a solitary occupation.

Winchester Writers’ Festival 2015 Writeup

Damon has written a really great write-up of the Winchester Writer’s Festival. I was there as a student host again this year, so only get a restricted view of the activities. Hopefully I will be able to attend next year as a fully-fledged delegate. I’ll have to save up as, unlike Damon, I won’t be able to apply for the scholarship scheme. I’m far too old for that! Thank you for a fabulous insight into the three days, Damon.

Damon L. Wakes

Last weekend wasn’t my first time at the Winchester Writers’ Festival, but thanks to a scholarship from the University of Winchester, it was the first year I managed to attend the entire event. That really made quite a difference, since the full range of day courses, talks and workshops offered far more variety than I could have got from any individual day. It was particularly useful to be able to get advice on both writing and publishing. Here’s how the weekend went:

Friday:

Each day of the festival starts (if you get up early enough!) with coffee and an opportunity to chat to other delegates. For the first two days, this was also an opportunity to wander around the Book Fair. I was really keen to make the absolute most of the weekend, though most people didn’t turn up until a little later.

P1000755 EDITED Unless stated otherwise, these photos…

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Where are our manners?

It’s now nearly two weeks since we launched Litmus 2015 and I am still bubbly with happiness at seeing my name in print. Celebrating our achievements with colleagues, family and friends and strutting our stuff in front of guests from the publishing industry was thrilling – and the cake tasted as delicious as it was beautiful.

It may be time to shove the rainbows and glitter out of my head and get back to the black and white business of writing. I have three works in process, two with deadlines attached and I’m looking forward to finally finishing a full book of story rather than just an assignment’s worth. Happy, happy!

Litmus 2015

A copy of Litmus 2015 next to the celebration cakeThe Litmus 2015 launch party was on Tuesday night.  Today is Sunday and we have yet to tell you anything about it.  Please accept our apologies.  It’s not that we didn’t want to share, we’ve just been a bit busy.  We’ve been feeding the hungry Twitter bird, sending thank you emails and continuing with the business of obtaining our masters degrees.  OK, most of the time we’ve been sat rocking in a corner, gently stroking the shiny cover of our very own copies of Litmus 2015; turning the pages to make sure our names are still in the table of contents, our stories in the body of the book and our bios on the back pages.

A group shot of people at the Litmus 2015 launch partySorry, we’re still not telling you anything about the launch, and we should.  It was a wonderful evening.  The room was full of students (aka, Litmus 2015 authors), literary agents, editors, lecturers, journalists, bloggers, family, friends and…

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The end is nigh

Rebecca has done such a great job of summing up all the hard work that has gone into preparing Litmus 2015 for publication and of the doubt so many of us carry about our own abilities as writers. The launch on Tuesday evening marks not just the end of another module but also our own personal successes. Hopefully seeing our names in print will give us all that boost to our confidence we all need. Good luck, everyone

Litmus 2015

Book CoverIf you have been following this blog for a while, or can see the counter on the right of this page, you will know that it is only a few short days until our publication is released to the wide world on May 12th. This has been a long time coming for all involved but, I can personally say, I’m delighted it’s finally here.

We have been planning the Litmus 2015 anthology since January, carefully selecting which piece of writing we think best represents us as writers, refining the details, editing and reading in class, and finally pressing that send button a few short weeks ago. Four months to achieve that doesn’t seem like a long time, but the planning and blogging and scheduling will all be over in a matter of days.

And then what are each of us left with? A publication which we have individually contributed to…

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Litmus Launch and why Writers are like Hummingbirds

It is so lovely to see that I am not the only person to be getting excited about the Litmus launch. Thanks for the lovely article, Kath.

Litmus 2015

Book Cover
As well as promoting our book, the Litmus launch is a celebration of the end of the taught component of our MAs in Creative & Critical Writing and Writing for Children at the University of Winchester. It is the end of a very intense creative experience. A time for goodbyes and good lucks and thank yous. Of course, there will be graduation but that won’t be until next October, or even 2017 for some part-time students, so the 12 May will be our last communal hurrah.

I’m really looking forward to reading Litmus 2015; it promises to be an eclectic mix from a talented group of writers. People have worked really hard on this project; promoting, editing, organising and galvanising.

The hummingbird cover is beautiful and appropriate. Hummingbirds are relentless, tireless and always seeking nectar. We’ve learnt on our final module, in order to be successful, to find agents or to…

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What’s So Special About 12 May?

This is SO exciting. I can hardly wait to see my first published piece of writing. An actual print version to hold in my hand and show my mum. If you are an agent or publisher who hasn’t received an invitation to the Litmus 2015 launch and would like to come, please let me know – I have contacts!

Litmus 2015

save-the-date-calendar-may-12-2012If you checked Wikipedia to find your answer you might say that it is the 132nd day of the year (except in a leap year when it becomes the 133rd day) or Edward Lear’s birthday.  You might tell me that it is International Nurses’ Day or, raising a lace hankie to your eye, inform me that it is the date on which Perry Como died.  If Wikipedia is to be believed, you would be correct on every point.

There is a small group of people in Hampshire who would not need to go to the internet to check the significance of 12 May.  It is emblazoned across our minds in a fiery, fifty foot high font.  We are students on the MA Writing for Children and MA Creative & Critical Writing courses at the University of Winchester and 12 May is the day we launch Litmus 2015, an anthology of our writing, into the world.

The last…

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