Category: Creativity

Resolutions revisited

Well, 2016 was quite a year, and many others have summed up its highs and lows better than I ever could. So rather than weep about the state of the world I thought I'd take this opportunity to review my New Year's Resolutions from January 2016 and set some new ones for the year ahead. My first two resolutions from last year were to work through the teetering pile of books beside my bed and buy books from independent bookshops or direct from the publishers I’ve certainly read a lot of books this year, although there’s still a pile by my bed and this is constantly refreshed with new books. I'm still in a book group, which nudges me to read books I might otherwise miss. At some point I should do a post about my favourite books of this year, but for now let’s just say I loved Laura Lipman's Wilde…

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…

The courage to go to dark places

Image: courtesy of Jessica Shirley A couple of years ago I wrote the first draft of a novel called He, She, It.  It's a dark book, touching on dangerous and complicated themes, but looking back at it now, I realise I didn't quite have the courage to let it be dark or dangerous enough. For example, there's one scene where my fifteen-year old protagonist encounters a predatory adult in a position of power.  Anna escapes unharmed, and tells her Mum, who acts impeccably: she immediately believes her daughter's account of events, and acts strongly to protect her. I found it very upsetting to write that scene: I was shaking as I typed, and I cried a lot afterwards. At the time, the only way I could cope with the feelings it triggered in me was by making the Mum swoop in immediately and save Anna.  I had to put an end to the…

Cycles of creativity

This week I was very lucky to be invited to take part in an experiment led by Generate, road-testing a model of creativity with a group of people working in a range of artforms: writers, visual artists, and dramatists, all at different stages in their creative projects. Generate Coaching Partnership is made up of professional coaches Emma Haughton and Lisa Westbury who work with teams and organisations in the creative and social sectors to realise their vision and potential. Drawing on thinking from Gestalt psychology, Emma and Lisa's model helps people understand their creative process as a cycle, which starts in 'the fertile void', and moves through distinct stages of idea generation, commitment and experimentation, into planning, doing and finally completing and letting go of the work.  Their contention is that the each stage of the process feels quite different when you're in it, and getting the most out of each stage of the…