Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Flesh and bone chats

I've had a busier-than-usual six weeks. It's been amazing and I have been stretched and challenged as well as inspired and enthused creatively.

Birds sunrise photo by AllyNewcomer on Etsy

I've written so many flashes - for me it feels like I'm writing reams, although in reality I'm not of course. I've been blocked in my creative writing for so long I hadn't really written anything much. I started and stopped and became discouraged.

This time I've tried to have what the late Paul Sussman (and my Ty Newydd tutor in 2009) called 'flesh and bone' chats. I've never written anywhere online about Paul but as anyone who has been on a writing residential will know, you sometimes have very intense chats and you really do have so many conversations with the tutor-writers - it's the equivalent of a semester at university. I was very upset when he died in 2012 and still have his obituary pinned to my noticeboard by my desk and it really does feel like he wants me to write. He tried hard to encourage me to get out and meet people but at the time I lacked money and was disheartened.

So after my recent Arvon course it's been really nice to feel as if I have enough money to get out the front door and try and make things happen a little bit. I'm very introverted and quiet most of the time but I do have a chatty side which I have attempted to kickstart in terms of literary outings. Hopefully I should be out and about a lot more as well as writing, editing and submitting. I so want to continue to have this as a blog about craft but I hope my regular audiences won't mind a bit of creative writing sometimes and the odd fiction review as well as the latest crochet book!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

From Exmouth to the London Short Story Festival

I went for a lovely day out in Exmouth yesterday. The sky was clear in the morning and we sat looking out to the beach watching the jet skiers, boats, and children swimming. Unfortunately I forgot my iPod at the last minute so there are no pictures!

We had fish and chips along the seafront (I eat eggs and fish now - so I'm not a vegan or a proper veggie, just dairy and meat free), then we got on a very hot train back to Exeter for some shopping. I went to Inspirations next to Exeter Central station which has now become my closest Rowan stockist. It was so nice to feel the yarn and I fell in love with the hank above. It's Rowan Fine Art Aran and it has all my favourite colours together in one place.

I felt like going somewhere quiet this weekend as next weekend I will be in London for 24 hours for the London Short Story Festival. It takes place in a very large bookshop in Piccadilly. I'm really looking forward to meeting up with someone I met at Arvon a few weeks ago for a coffee and chat, and being around creative enthusiasts. The heady combination of books and writers will be hugely exciting. Tania Hershman and my Arvon tutor from a few weeks ago, Adam Marek will be there too. Jackie Kay will be around as well as the people from Litro Magazine - I'm actually thinking about cancelling my Mollie Makes subscription to subscribe to their magazine and book club (shock horror!).

I'm sure I will remember the iPod this time so I will have lots of photos of the event this time next week.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

My week on a creative residential

I got back from my creative writing residential at Totleigh Barton* ten days ago and haven't stopped thinking about it since.

It was an amazing five days. I got used to meeting people sprawled on sofas with notebooks or laptops looking thoughtful around the house and felt at home alongside the incredibly well-stocked bookcases. It was like sleeping in the best library in the world where the authors had come to life and were speaking to you about how to improve your writing. It was quite a buzz and it's taken me a while to come down!

I managed to get up the drive for a good 90 minute walk. The drive takes a while to travel along in a car and it takes about 30 minutes to walk to the nearest little town, Sheepwash. I was struck by the isolation of the house and how you could easily forget about the internet, television, or even that anyone else in the world existed. The manor house is surrounded by farmland which isn't all owned by the Arvon Foundation so I was very careful to stick to the road. I went for this walk on a whim to get rid of a claustrophobic mood which had descended so I hadn't asked at the office for a map. I'm sure there were many walks to explore and I would be so excited to walk through the lush countryside if I ever go again.

I didn't do an enormous amount of writing during the week but there were four three-hour workshops in the mornings which were extremely entertaining so I wrote in those. I think I over-compensated by reading about five collections of stories and 'on writing' by A.L. Kennedy which was amazingly funny and suited my mood perfectly. I was lucky in that there were seven other students instead of the usual 15, so we all got twice as many one-to-one tutorials. I had taken a few stories with me which have benefited hugely from having an expert edit them and guide me into how to finish the piece and 'sew in the ends'.

Overall it was a hugely beneficial experience but I think it lessens the effect if you go on too many so I will aim to do another one in a few years' time. Hopefully things will have moved on quite a bit by then. Fingers crossed.

*Bursaries are available.
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