Category: Blog

Cold turkey – can I go a week without distractions?

I've recently joined Kamsin Kaneko's Artist's Way Facebook group, although I'm not doing planning on doing the whole course. I've done it a couple of times before, and although it was an amazing experience, I don't want to commit to the whole shebang again at the moment. My motivation for joining Kamsin was to make myself to commit to something quite specific - a media deprivation week. In week 4 of the Artist's Way, Julia Cameron prescribes for a week of 'reading deprivation'. Her theory is that for artists - in which she includes writers, film-makers, musicians, visual artists, makers - other people's words can function like 'tiny tranquilizers'. Without the distractions of telly, books, newspapers we are forced to be more fully in the world, and notice what's going on around us. We cannot hear our own inner voice, the voice of our artist's inspiration, above the static.... Reading deprivation can be a very powerful tool - and a…

The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2 – launch event

Last weekend I drove up to Nottingham to attend an event held at Nottingham Writers' Studio, to celebrate the launch of The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2, the second book of fairy-tales to be published by Mother's Milk Books. As well as an opportunity to meet Teika Bellamy, the founder of Mother's Milk Books (and also my editor on Baby X) who, after many long telephone calls and email exchanges, I felt I already knew, it was a chance to get together with the other writers with stories in the anthology, and hear them read their work in front of an audience. Ana Salote, author of the middle-grade fantasy novel Oy Yew, longlisted for the Times/Chickenhouse prize for children's fiction, and also published by Mother's Milk Books, read from her story Grimm Reality, about what happens when a little bit of the world of fairy-tales bleeds into our world, in this case,…

Interview with chart-topping author, Emily Organ

I'm very excited to interview Emily Organ, who talks here about researching historical fiction, the importance of pacing, and the inspiration behind her strong female characters. Emily’s other books, The Last Day and The Outsider, were downloaded over 46,000 times last year with both books hitting number 1 in the UK free download charts. Her third novel, Runaway Girl, is published today. Me: I’m loving Runaway Girl – it reminds me of historical mysteries by writers such as CJ Sansom, but from a woman’s point of view.  This is your first foray into historical fiction – what inspired you to switch genres? Emily: Thank you Becky! I’ve always been fascinated by the time periods throughout history and they provide writers with endless inspiration for stories. I have wanted to write historical fiction for a long time and it was a matter of convincing myself that I could do a good job…

The rules of speculative fiction

Photo: Taiyo FUJII I haven't written a blog post for the last couple of weeks - I've had my head down responding to line edits on the manuscript of Baby X. Overall it's been an affirming process - I like it when my editor says ‘Alex wouldn't say that’: it encourages me that the character's voices are real enough for her to hear when I slip up. I’m discovering that I use a lot of commas, more than are strictly necessary. It turns out that just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about punctuation there’s this whole other level (like working your way up to a black belt in karate, and suddenly discovering the Dan system.) And there's the (occasional) joy of seeing an entire page without any changes or comments, and breathing a sigh of relief. My editor is also asking questions about the text, reminding me that just because something seems obvious to me,…

5 things that got my attention this week

1. This week I read an article by David Cain on How to Become a Luckier Person Overnight. We've been hearing for a while now that consciously practising gratitude makes us not only nicer but happier too, and David suggests a radical approach - can we be grateful even for our misfortunes? And if we can, what does this mean for our happiness, and even our luck? I've been thinking about his approach this week, wondering about applying it to my own thinking. At times, I've felt a bit fraudulent - all my woes, it turns out, are so tiny, and insignificant - husband late home to take over with the children, a frustrating hold up on a project at work - and this leaves me realising how blessed I am. Which I suppose, after all, is the point.   2. Meanwhile, I'm continuing to follow E is for Erin's honest and gently thought-provoking blog. Erin is…

Guest post: Hannah Dixon, Sundogs and Diamond Dust

This week I'm really excited to share a guest post from super-creative and multi-talented tea-blender, lampshade designer and sing-songwriter Hannah Dixon. Hannah has been working on a project which is a departure from her usual song-writing genre, and shares her inspiration and process below. The track - which you can listen to below - is awesome: I've always loved Hannah's voice (Kate Bush, anyone?) Plus, any synth track using seal samples is alright by me. Here's what Hannah says:   "So, after your New Year's post about creative projects, I have got to an almost finished stage of this track, and wanted to share it with you.  I know you understand the creative process of writing as well how nerve racking it can be showing off your work... It's a move away from my folksy stuff, the result of an immersive project spanning the whole of last winter. I did this…

Resolutions (and a writing to-do list) for 2016

On top of all the usual resolutions about being more present, less judgemental, and meditating every day, here are some resolutions for my writing life in 2016.   1. Work through the teetering pile of books beside my bed, books people gave me or told me I absolutely must read in 2015 and I never managed to, plus those I got super-excited about reading, but didn't. Oh, plus the twenty or so books I got for Christmas and for my birthday... At the moment I'm reading 'Sweet Caress' by William Boyd. Up next, I'm very excited to read 'Starlings' by Erinna Mettler and 'My Brilliant Friend' by Elena Ferrante.   2. And in the likely event I acquire a whole load of new books this year, I'm committing to buying them from independent bookshops or direct from the publishers rather than from certain (ahem) online suppliers which squeeze the margins of independent publishers…

Podcast update – 5 recent discoveries

If you know me well you'll know one of my all time favourite things in the world is radio. I've long been a fan of broadcast, but in the last few years I've been getting into podcasts, those little gems of talk-based programming you can download onto your phone (or whatever device you use to interact with the world) then listen while running, or on the way to work, of fiddling about with images on Flickr. I love the intimacy of radio, the feeling of it being piped directly into my brain. I love being able to listen to voices from all over the globe, and connect with other listeners online (although it has to be said my listening is fairly US-centric, which I'd love to rectify - comment me your international recommendations, please!) Podcasts are great for dipping into - if you don't want to subscribe to a series you can…

Criticism as crime scene

Photo: Tony Webster Even when criticism comes from someone you trust and respect, someone who has your best interests as a writer at heart, and who's guided you well in the past, it's hard not to have an immediate, emotional reaction. You've worked hard on creating something, and now it's been trashed and trampled.  The dismay and 'Oh God, what now?!' is reminiscent of discovering a burglary. Of course, the critic is not a criminal. She's doing her job, she's helping you make the book better. But still. I've recently been reading The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin. Levitin, a neuroscientist, explains the human brain is hardwired to organise information - the world around us - into categories. By harnessing our innate powers of categorisation, and externalising the complex contents of our brains (into systems, lists, notebooks, spreadsheets) we free ourselves up to do the important work of creative thinking: making connections, generating…

10 things I learned at BritMums Live 2015

1.  The nice people at the tables in The Hub give you free stuff.  Salsa, jewellery, memory sticks, wine, children's books. Shed-loads of pens. All you have to do is ask nicely. 2. According to someone in the know, the word 'vart' is a portmanteau term combining the words 'vagina' and 'fart'.  Use it wisely.  Although I love learning new words, I still personally prefer the term 'queef'. (Which just goes to show how refined and ladylike I am.) 3. Not everyone here is blogging about nappies.  Sisters (and the occasional bro) are blogging about the NHS, body image, culture, maternity experiences, learning disabilities, food, book promotion, local politics, international development, crafting, and much, much more. 4. Not everyone here is under 30.  Post40bloggers.com is a magazine for the quality older blogger (or discerning reader of any age). 5. If you ignore a problem for long enough, sometimes it goes away all by itself.  Apparently I no…