Sabbatical Update and Poetry Reading at Puzzle Hall on 5th November

I emerge from literature festival season and an Arvon five day novel writing retreat with Patrick Neate and Diana Evans shattered, but with new direction.

I’ve been busier than expected, running thirteen workshops or so in the last month despite the week away and I’ve been to so many literary events I’ve barely had time to, well…write.

These were my aims for 8th September-14th October

  • Answer important questions about Candyfloss
  • Complete draft number 2 of the novel
  • Proof-read and send pamphlet to first publisher
  • Submit at least one more piece of work to a magazine
  • Perform at Ilkley Festival Fringe
  • Write up completed poems into new process book

And this is what I have done

  • Written and edited six poems, some bits and pieces and a full draft of a short story.
  • Written up a couple of my completed poems into the new process book but have yet to write up those I have written in the last six weeks.
  • Sent nine poems to six poetry competitions.
  • Sent a pamphlet of poems off to one publisher.
  • Received a rejection from Poetry Review.
  • Attended three fab workshops – Poetry Business, Daljit Nagra, Stephen May – and one Arvon five day novel writing retreat with Patrick Neate and Diana Evans.
  • Performed at Ilkley Fringe with 7 Wanders.
  • And just to reiterate because I’m still excited by it, three of my poems ‘Building Castles’, ‘Wolves’ and ‘Every Bone’ were placed in 7 Wanders ebook ‘7 Wanders and Beyond’, published by Circa on 30th September.  I’m not sure how many we’ve sold to date but thanks to some of you and others we made it to number 11 in the Amazon ebook poetry charts at one point!  It’s only 77p for some great stories and poems so if you haven’t bought one yet and would like to buy one go to Seven Wanders E Book and please tell us what you think – we need reviews so if anyone fancies writing one for the Amazon site or elsewhere, we’d be very grateful.
  • Come up with an idea for the next novel and written a polished crucial scene.
  • Finally – on to Candyfloss.  As most of us know, the trouble with asking important questions is that sometimes you don’t get the answers you want.   The beginning of the month saw me restructuring the novel and answering the questions I had identified at home.  I was happily plodding on and had managed to get a third of the way through the rewrite when I headed off to The Hurst for the writers’ retreat.  It changed everything.

Based on conversations with my tutors and my own internal dialogue, I realised that the voice I am trying to excavate is still under the surface.  (This is very timely as I am currently undertaking voice classes again with Maggi Stratford to deepen my connection with my voice.  If anyone is interested, let me know and I’ll put you in touch!)

I had a lot of fun with the other writers staying on the retreat – some lovely people and fantastic writers.  I found the tutors very encouraging and they gave me a lot to think about with regards to voice but also to viewpoint.   When it comes to viewpoint, I instinctively stay close to my protagonist and primary characters but with this book I have become aware that, at times, I need more distance.   I mentioned in a previous blog that I didn’t like researching the way other authors approach similar ideas while I’m writing, except to check that my way is different enough, but in this case it has been useful to look critically at how authors use voice.  Knowing my background in poetry, Patrick suggested that I make the voice more poetic.  I’m currently experimenting with this.  I also think I may need to shrink the story quite a lot.

I can’t pretend that realising the finish line was much further away than I thought (I’m estimating 6+ months rather than 1) didn’t make me despondent but I want this novel to be as good as it has the potential to be and I now have a fresh way in.  I’ve started, aptly, I hope, with a new beginning and I’m going to take the rewrite from there.

Aims for 26th October-30th November

  • Take a research trip to London art galleries to write poetry with the view to eventually publishing a collection inspired by art.
  • Attend poetry workshop with Ian Parks in London.  Other than this, which I am looking forward to, I plan to have a break from attending workshops and literary events.  I’ll miss the input and supporting local writers.  But, once you have an idea where you’re going with a project, there is a time for locking yourself in your garret and getting on with the bloody thing!  I intend to do this until I have completed a full rewrite, which may be sometime…
  • Apart from the week of the research trip, work on my novel for a minimum of six hours a day three days a week (I work and plan on two and want to keep weekends free for family and reading).  Say no as much as necessary to ensure this happens!
  • Perform at Puzzle Hall in Halifax on Bonfire Night at 8 pm.  Come along – I promise I’ll be explosive (boom boom).   I may have space in the car for a couple of you if you’re coming from Leeds so give me a shout if you’re interested.

Info from Gaia Holmes about the venue:
The Puzzle Hall is Sowerby Bridge’s best kept secret. The A58 runs through the centre of the town, just look for the railway bridge that passes overhead: Hollins Mill Lane is nearby. The Firehouse cafe bar marks the entrance of the lane. Walk 100 yards passed the Works, we’re on the left. We’re between the canal and the river.
  If you’re using a sat nav, the exact address is: 21 Hollins Mill Lane, Sowerby Bridge, HX6 2RF. This should at least bring you nearby. We’ve been here for 400 years – but our post code is brand new!

I’ll finish with a big thank you.  I’ve heard from several of you individually over the last few months and  you can’t imagine how much I appreciate the support, especially when it’s as hard a few weeks writing wise as these have been.

Enjoy the colours!

Forthcoming Performance Dates

Puzzle Hall poetry night, Sowerby (near Halifax) on 5th November


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