Saturday, March 31, 2012

Meet the author Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope is the author of seventeen highly acclaimed bestselling novels including A Village Affair, The Choir and The Rector's Wife. She has also written a study of women in the British Empire, Britannia's Daughters and several historical novels.
Me and a few of The Writers @ Lovedean went along to Chichester Writing Festival, West Dean College, on Saturday 31st March at 8pm.   It was set in beautiful grounds, but I was a bit surprised that we were immediately seated in uncomfortable chairs without the opportunity of getting a coffee first.

I did pick up a few useful pointers.  Joanna reccommends carefully planning the first four chapters and the last four chapters and letting the work develop organically while writing.  Although she says that she is very much a 'noticer' she did seem to stereotype people in her talk.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Past Repeating Itself

I thought I had accepted my past as part of what makes me - me.
Until, the universe decided to test to test my theory. Do you know what I mean? An event that is remarkably similar to a painful experience in the past.

My confidence took a bashing, darkness descended. Anxiety took over to the point of nausea. The feelings were so familiar.  Memories came back in flashback form, in full Technicolor.
To make matters worse, I started an internal dialogue—and a cruel one at that.

Instead of helping, the inner voice added to the anxiety.  I hit out at loves ones desperately wanting them to help me.  And I got angry when they failed to step up to the mark.

I wanted to be comforted, nurtured and told every thing would be alright.  I wanted someone to list the things I can do well; to be a leader, and to take charge.  It took me a while to remember everything I have been taught.  I own the voice inside my head.  It can be my friend or enemy.

Instead of sitting and spiraling downwards in depression, I decided to do something completely different. Instead of someone telling me that I have abilities I decided to prove something to myself.  I made the call and arranged the business meeting and got the outcome I wanted.

I refused to believe what was said about me. 

I’m still feeling overwhelmed.  But I have decided not to take anything else on for a while and slowly, step by step – or one day at a time as my friend is fond of saying – I will work through the back log and get back on track.

Friday, March 23, 2012

It’s been a funny old day at The Writers @ Lovedean

It was a strange work week this morning.  I provided the writing group with a choice of three writing starting points.  The most popular by far was writing a list of things we missed.  It is funny how a little suggestion can spark a huge discussion, and lots of old memories.  Jam in tins, junior aspirins bright orange with a little bit of cotton wool in the top and innocence. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I caught a bit of Rex Harrison in the 1945 film Blithe Spirit and immediately hit the record button on Sky.  It’s one of my favourite films, I remember once contriving a reason to stay off school to watch it. 

I think it’s one of Noel Coward's most enduring pieces of work from the war years and it was a hugely successful black comedy.  For those who haven’t seen it, it’s about a novelist who researches the occult and hires a medium. A séance brings back the ghost of his first wife, causing havoc for the novelist and his second wife.

It’s so amazingly well written.  I put it on for my girls to watch, they are aged 10 and 11 and I was convinced that they wouldn’t like it.  They didn’t make a sound and was completely absolved by the story and of course Margaret Rutherford’s acting.

The sheer amount that Noel Coward wrote and the standard of work he produced was amazing.  I just love the realistic dialogue and bickering George has with his wives. 

What an inspiration!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Things We Forget

For my big 4-0 birthday present I received a trip to Disneyland Paris from my lovely hubby and girls. I wisely decided to take the trip in March rather than December.  We had a brilliant time.

But the writer in me couldn't help but make some undisney like observations.  I grew up with a father who admitted to smoking 20 a day; his real number was a lot greater.  My sister and brother smoked.

So what jumped out at me at Disneyland Paris?

It was the smokers wandering around totally unaware and delightfully unashamed.  Rather like the beach holidays of my childhood, men sitting sweating in deck chairs, no sun lotion, blowing smoke circles.  The beaches used to be filled with fag ends.  But now we have marginalised cigarette smokers.  They aren’t allowed in public places and are suppose to huddle in shame face groups outside. 

To smoke in a theme park is shocking.  Yet there they were ignoring the signs threatening fines and lighting up in the queues for rides.

I began to think about the change in fiction.  The rows of ‘painful lives’ stories, I can’t remember them on the shelves 20 years ago.  Perhaps the odd book about a famous murderer, but not the victim’s stories.  And what about the ‘chick lit’?  When did that arrive, when will it go out?

So the question for us writing now is what will be wanted on the shelves in the next five or ten years?

And of course if anyone is writing historical fiction, (see competition link from a post few days ago.)  It isn’t what we remember about the past its what we forget.  So the reader could say, oh yes, I remember that, I forgot…

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Pint Pot of Fire

Here we go, here we go, here we go...

I've just completed the payment for The Writers @ Lovedean to enter in The Pint Pot of Fire Competition.  I’m so excited that so many members of the group have shown support this year, especially new members. 

Taken from web site:

The Pint Pot of Fire is an annual storytelling competition. It is unique because it brings together very different approaches to storytelling, from the short story read by the author to the oral tradition of storytelling where "no reading aloud allowed" is the watchword.

The stories must last as close as possible to 10 minutes. There are time penalties for finishing more than 15 seconds early or late. The quality of this year's stories was superb and intriguingly varied. The difference in approach to among writers, public speakers and oral tradition storytellers is profound. It was to explore precisely this cultural clash that the Pint Pot of Fire was established.

Since 2010, The Pint Pot of Fire has been part of Alton WordFest

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Disney, White Rabbits and Technology

I’m getting ready for a trip to Disneyland Paris.  We're late setting out. My husband is desperately packing which used to be my job but was never apprieciated.  So instead of helping I made sure I submitted my story, Love Bites which was read out by White Rabbit in Winchester before I go to Ether Books.

I still haven’t heard back from some of the stories I submitted earlier in the month but the guidelines say it takes up to 90 days. 

Also I’m pleased that I managed to create a ‘group’ on facebook for my writing group.  I suppose it’s not much of an achievement in the great scheme of things but if I want to be successful I need to know how to make the most of technology available. 

I was glad to read some of the writers comments from the writers about the workshop lead by authors Leslie Tate and Sue Hampton.  It was an interesting session, led by two very friendly approachable authors.  Leslie Tate has been nominated for the people’s book prize.  You can read an extract of his novel Frontliners and vote on the link: and click on the left hand side Fiction Titles

Friday, March 16, 2012

Historical Fiction Short Story Competition 2012

I enjoy reading historical fiction, Sharon Penman is my favourite.  And I desperately want to have a crack at this competition.  So despite a fellow writer arranging a visit for us to Singleton – I’m thinking of a little road trip of my own. 

The following is taken from this link:

Historical Fiction Short Story Competition 2012

Are you inspired by the Museum - its history, landscape, buildings, gardens and animals? This year we are holding a short story competition to capture this inspiration. Maybe you will win the top prize of £1,000!
The judges will be looking for high-quality stories which relate directly to an aspect of the collection of the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum. Deadline for entries (to be submitted with the entry form) is 5pm on Friday 22 June 2012. Winning entries will be announced at the Historical Fiction Day to be held at the Museum on Sunday 5 August.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dreaming Time

I felt under the weather today. So after the kids went to school, with the knowledge that our first appointment was 1.30 I curled up with a hot water bottle for an hour.  I felt too rough to read, or sleep but I did manage to have a little dreaming time.  I thought about an idea I had for a novel and never really started it.  Yet just lying quietly in the dark my mind wandered and managed to explore a few possibilities. 

One of the reasons I got a dog was because of the numbers of writers who say when they are out walking they get an opportunity to think.  They obviously don’t own my dog which needs constant supervision.  

Of course I didn’t have time to write my ideas down, we had an appointment plus we needed to try and get some clients to come to the CPD seminar we are running next week.

And of course time was taken up by the fact that the dog I bought to help me gain daily thinking time, had tunnelled under the girls play shed and wouldn’t come out.

But the point is, it's absolutely vital to have that time to let ideas flower in your mind.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Rubbery Book Award

The closing date for The Rubbery Book Award is approaching. This is a competition for an author published by an independent publisher, or by those who have self published. They do not accept unpublished manuscripts.

They accept fiction (all genres), young adult, children’s, biographies, non-fiction, self-help, cookery, poetry, photography etc. There are no limits on the type.  And the first prize is £800 and your work being reviewed by a London Literay Agent.  The cost of entering is a staggering £35.
It's not for me.  But it is making me think seriously of self publishing a self help book I wrote on spelling tips that was rejected by publishers because they think it is too small, but loved by friends who are parents.

The link to the home page of The Rubbery Book Award:

Monday, March 12, 2012

BBC Online Interview

I was pleased to get the call from Linda Serck to ask me my views on the new young poet laureate.  I was even more pleased when she promised to contact a young member of The Writers @ Lovedean. You can read the article on this link:

Sunday, March 11, 2012


It’s been very relaxing Sunday, for once. Instead of being up and out it was a morning of quiet reflection, a lovely lunch with friends and an afternoon with bits of paperwork needing to be completed but with time plenty of time to reflect. 

Last night was a very special evening and I think I have thought of a useful exercise for The Writers @ Lovedean to do.  Suppose we write a story and then give it to someone else to read out loud.  It would be a way of seeing how someone else interprets it.

Yesterday I and a few members of the writing group went to a workshop by Courttia Newland.  He’s a playwright and published author of novels and short stories, Courttia is also a highly experienced writing tutor.
It was an interesting session and we got an opportunity to do lots of writing exercises, but unfortunately very little time to read out our work.  One interesting exercise was to give information about our character to a partner and then get them to write part of the story from there perspective. 
I was shocked and a little bemused to see that when I gave a scenario of a marriage in turmoil to my partner, she decided that my character would leave her husband.  I had not even considered that possibility.  I just think it was a pity that the course was just a few hours long when it would have made a great day course.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Oh What A Night

What a wonderful evening at ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ at Winchester Discovery Centre, cloth covered tables, china tea cups filled with sweets, and flickering of electric candle light.  Add great company and a professional magician wandering around doing magic tricks.

It was a strange experience, hearing your writing performed by a professional actor, very exciting.  I had heard a fellow writer’s story at Rosie’s Wine and it sounded completely different when White Rabbit performed it.  They emphasise different parts of the story, pause in different areas.  It’s definitely the closest way to understanding how someone else interprets your work.

Each writer had their story presented to them in a lovely folder.  It was a really special evening, which I will remember for a long time.

Friday, March 9, 2012

An Unexpected Bonus

Tomorrow night my story is going to be performed by White Rabbit, I'm excited but I don’t know what to expect.  I've also found out that all White Rabbit writers have the opportunity to be published by Ether books, in the White Rabbit “Are You Sitting Comfortably?”category.   Definitely an unexpected bonus.

Here’s some information about Ether:

Ether Books is a new and exciting mobile publisher which specialises in short fiction, essays, poetry and serials on mobile phones! We are very excited by the wealth of contemporary talent for writing short content and the opportunities which mobile brings for new ways of reading ‘on-the-go’, and for writers to reach a global audience. Ether publishes new and emerging talent alongside bestselling writers including Hilary Mantel, Lionel Shriver, Louis de Bernieres and Sir Paul McCartney, and we are developing a unique community of writers who connect to discuss not only their own writing, but also mutually promote each other’s work. The Ether Community is innovating new ways of connecting writers to each other and their readers, which is producing some very creatively exciting results!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Pleasant Surprise

I was pleasantly surprised to see my film review of The Woman in Black on The Motion Online. I’ve always loved the cinema and it’s were I’m drawn to in time of trouble.  I find it comforting, the lights going down, sipping my coke and escaping into some one else’s story for a few hours.
The Woman in Black

Part of the joy of writing for myself is stepping into someone else’s shoes and exploring their life, in fact when you are in the zone there is nothing better.  Unfortunately the fiction I’ve written today as fallen short, of what I have wanted to say. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


One very proactive member (Natalie Bowers) has come up with a marvellous idea, inspired by National Flash Fiction Day 1000words, is looking for flash fictions of between 100 and 1000 words that have been written in response to a picture. Details can be found at the deadline for submissions is the 30th April 2012.
Successful flash fictions will be published on this website, blog-style, throughout the month of May. If your story is included you will receive a 1000words virtual badge to proudly display on your own website.
It is a beautiful idea, on a beautiful web page, thought up by a beautiful person – well worth everyone’s support.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Third Place Rosie's

When Rob sent an email asking for writers to come to Write Invite because of lack of numbers, I definitely did not feel in the mood.  But I’m a people pleaser so I immediately emailed back saying I would read, even though I didn’t have anything ready and it was less than 24 hours away.  I then started to panic.  It’s nerve racking going to an event like this on your own.  But once I was there I had a really good evening. 

Robs fears were for nought, he had lots of writers, many who had won before.  Luckily, there was someone there I knew who I could sit with and they were great company.  I was pleased to come in third and that another member of The Writers @ Lovedean came second.  But somehow during the drive home I went from happy to filled with self doubt, or is it the low after the high of the performance?  Why do people find it difficult to accept positive reinforcement of our abilities?  I always remember when I worked in the Ukraine, I was told 'if you want to be happy, you should just be happy.'  The guy then poured me a large vodka.  Maybe we in the West just think about stuff too much!

The Live Short Story Evenings are held on the 1st Monday of every month, meeting in the conservatory of Rosie’s Wine Bar, an attractive location to be found at 87 Elm Grove Southsea Hampshire PO5 1JF. The doors open at 7.30pm and the fun starts at 8pm!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

So I had a better day!

Today I opened my emails to find out that White Rabbit are going to perform my story at Winchester Discovery Centre, in the next "Are You Sitting Comfortably?" which is on Saturday 10th March at 7:30 pm.  A delightful surprise.

Hooray.  To think I was so down yesterday because of the rejection email.  An invitation to a fun evening of stories, cakes and possibly chip butties is definately the balm I need.  Having work performed by professionals, what more can a writer ask for?

The venue is :

Winchester Discovery Centre

Jewry Street
SO23 8SB
Tickets £5

Box office 01962 873603 or book online at

Who are White Rabbit?
White Rabbit is committed to providing a platform for short stories and short story writers.The first show was in the Arts Bar and Café at Toynbee Studios in October 2008. Since then we have performed new writing by over 80 new writers, and have regular sell out shows at Toynbee Studios, London and The Basement in Brighton. We have also created bespoke storytelling nights for Norden Farm in Maidenhead.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

So I had a bad day...

I opened the email and got the dreaded rejection from Re Authoring South East.  I suppose I should be grateful that they even bothered to contact me back – so often you don’t even get a definite answer.  Unfortunately, I haven’t slept in a week, my anxiety is back with force and I’ve had the unpleasant task of grounding my youngest daughter.  I often think it would be so much better if I was the sort of person who could have a quick blub, but that is something I find incredibly difficult.

I’ve had many rejection letters over the years. Plus the tantalising hopeful requests to see the full manuscript, being asked to rewrite and then - rejection. 

One of the hardest parts of being a writer is that you have to put your heart into your work and accept that it will probably be stamped on again and again.  My work is like me, imperfect and flawed.  Some people like it, some don’t.   I don’t think successful writers have some special power.  It’s my belief that real success is having the strength to carry on. 

I’ve never had a life where things have just fallen into place – but I am a worker.

Success depends more on persistence, determination, movement than talent.  I also have the ability to learn from mistakes, to figure out what I’m doing wrong, and then to change it.   In my small writing group I know I’m not the most talented person there, but I also know so many people who never have the confidence to send things away or get angry and give up after one rejection.

Being a business woman I know that when you are selling anything lots of unknown weird factors can influence that sale.

So, despite the disappointment I returned the email to Re Authoring South East and asked for feedback to find out why I wasn’t selected this time.  When it comes it will probably make me feel worst in the short term, but hopefully will help me towards my ultimate goal.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Connecting with your reader

Whether or not you are selling a product in a non fiction article or writing fiction, you need to be able to connect with your reader. But it is a competitive market out there, and you know you there are many others who are competing with you.

I believe that to a certain extent a good story feels like a testimonial, without actually sounding fake.
The writing exercise my group did today centered on ‘fear.’  We were a mixed group of eleven, of different age groups and background.  Yet when asked to make a list of our fears there were striking similarities. Each writer was asked to read out their personal lists of fears which included; losing a loved one, serious injury and dependency, concerns for our children as well as personal fears such as mice and memories of black and white Dr Who episodes.  We understand fear, anger and loneliness and it may just be the universal truth that will cause a bond between you and your reader.

Ultimately, connecting with your reader is a combination of telling the truth about your own experiences and highlighting points that will draw your reader in.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oh what a find!

I’m a shameless anal list maker who usually puts things into order of priorities and continues to try to complete the work mountain until I fall over.  But today I spent an hour messing around trying to make a badge or widget for my web page.  It is beginning to have some sort of mysterious hold on me.  I have started to have the irrational belief that if I could just make a widget all by myself, all of my endeavours will magically work out and I will also win the lottery and wake up four stone lighter. 

Suddenly it’s nine and I haven’t set a task for tomorrows writing exercise.  The result is I have a surf and stumble on an amazing blog full of writing prompts.  Definitely a life saver and well worth checking out.

And in this copyright mad world the blogger made the following disclaimer:
Everything here has been uniquely created by published author Mike Sellars and can be used however you see fit, even as a component of, or inspiration for, a work you hope to publish.

God bless his generous spirit!