Thursday, 29 August 2013

NAWG Festival of Writing

but will still get a chance to attend another couple of workshops run by other people. It’s so hard to know what to take. John’s giving me a lift down, then  continuing to Exeter to see his family so I will be getting the train back. That means I can’t throw everything into the case as I need to be able to lift it.
Today’s been a bit frustrating. I wanted to get on with a couple of stories, but ended up doing other things, like going back to Cartridge world because the cartridge they sold me was broken then having to deal with a Writers Bureau bag (I only have 48 hours to turn them round). Luckily there were only two pieces of work inside but it was still distracting. No crossword class of course.
I find packing hard. I need to be comfortable when I’m teaching which means having to try everything on, to make sure, plus I need a decent frock for Saturday as it’s the big Gala Dinner and we’ve been told to dress up.  
I come home on Monday, have a couple of hours there, then have to go to Leeds Writers, the first meeting of the new session. Then Tuesday I’ll have to spend on Writers Bureau work, Wednesday is Jack’s funeral, then on Thursday I’m going to Newark for the results evening of the competition I’ve been judging. It looks as though those stories are going to have to wait a little while longer.
On the filler front (I don’t do many these days), I have one in Amateur gardening this week under my maiden name of Gaunt. A very easy way to earn a £10 garden token!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Missing Swanwick

It’s been more than a week since I came back from the wonder that is Swanwick ( I miss it so much. For me, it’s being with people all the time that’s so amazing (plus the fact that I have a nice room to retreat to when things get too much). The real world is so much harder. I hate not having anyone to talk to. Phoen calls are fine, but they really aren’t the same. Neither is facebook, or twitter… 
The evenings are the worst. There’s only so much work a person can do. If I carry on too late, I can’t sleep and there’s b***** all on TV.
What I really really really want is a nice relaxing holiday. Swanwick was great but it was hardly relaxing because I was teaching. Next year, I’m not running any courses or workshops. Then I can take part in other people’s courses!
On Friday I’m off to Coventry for the NAWG Festival of Writing at Warwick University. I’m looking forward to it. The classes are much smaller so there’s a totally different feel to Swanwick where you can have fifty people in a group. One of my writing heroes, Simon Brett, who I met when I first started writing fiction, will be there so I hope to get the chance to chat to him. I can’t attend his class because, you’ve guessed it, it clashes with one I’m teaching.
I’m currently typing up some stories. I waited until I had a few so that I could work on more than one at a time. I hope to get them all onto the computer before I leave for NAWG so that when I come back, I should be able to edit and improve them. I’m a firm believer in letting stories mature in the mind. After a few days all kinds of different ways to take the story, develop the characters and so on can occur.
I emailed an agent yesterday too about the next books I want to write . They’re non-fiction, aimed at writers.  I can get them published easily enough, either via Byker Books, or Filament who published my Treasury of Ideas, but I’d love to find a bigger publisher as I think they deserve it.
If anyone knows any agents who might consider this kind of project, I’d be delighted if you give them my details. My email address is

I’ve got into a bit of a stew about the crossword class.
I stupidly assumed they weren’t going to meet as Jack who led the group has died but I found out yesterday that they met last Thursday as normal. Nobody told me even though I’d called into the office as well as phoning, asking to be kept up to date. I’d said I was willing to take over rather than let the group fade away. Now I don’t know what to do or think. In  a way it would be nice to clear the decks so that I can start a whole new raft of activities.  Living in Leeds, there are plenty of opportunities. I haven’t even scratched the surface yet. I’m thinking of going back to Heydays ( classes on all kinds of subjects including singing, art and creative writing held at West Yorkshire Playhouse and open to anyone over 55) on Wednesdays when the new term starts. If I spend the whole day there, it will break the week up nicely.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Swanwick writers summer school was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!!!

Swanwick (I came back on Friday) was WONDERFUL.   
If you couldn’t get there this year, do see if you can make it in 2014. It’s worth every penny. So the food isn’t brilliant. The atmosphere, the setting, the friendship, that’s what’s important. Free places can be won in competitions publicised by Writers News/Writing Magazine (October issue I think), so do have a go – there are three categories - poetry, short story, short story for children. The theme will be announced then too.
Last year, I was in a bad place, plus I was teaching on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. It was too much. This time I ran a short course  on women’s magazine fiction and a workshop on short story competitions. By Monday evening, my teaching role was finished. That meant I had energy left over to take part in Write camera Action. My tiny playlet came nowhere which wasn’t surprising as my leading man turned out to be a prima donna who wanted to change nearly ALL of his lines. How we didn’t come to blows, I have no idea, BUT it was a good experience and not nearly as scary as I’d expected. I learned a lot too.
I confess that once that evening was over, I felt like partying and drank rather a lot (champagne on Wednesday, courtesy of the Chairman of Leeds Writers – Dennis Clarkson who is now on the Swanwick committee and rose wine on the last night). I probably overdid it a bit so if I did or said anything daft, please forgive me.
Almost all  the books I took with me sold which was great and also annoying (I should have taken more!).  
I was lucky enough to get a lift, there and back, from a lovely man called Dan. Compared to my ex, he drives likes an angel. It was great to arrive feeling relaxed!
Quite a few people weren’t there this year, for health and financial reasons. I missed Mary most of all. We met last year when I was deeply depressed and she helped me with her warmth and wicked sense of humour. I hope she recovers from her op and that she’s back next year. The same applies to Lol, Valerie, Ann and Peter, and John from Watford. Come back, I miss you!
I spent a lot of time catching up with old friends, two who stand out are Rae from Milton Keynes, and Stella Whitelaw. 
I made some b#new friends too - Beryl, Tiggy, Sue, veronica et al. Swanwick is such an oasis, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that it’s over for another year.
I came home to very bad news.
My friend Jack who has been running the cryptic crossword class for several years, died on the Wednesday I was away. He’d been in hospital for an operation to repair a wound that hadn’t healed (long story, not that nice so I’ll gloss over it). The last I’d heard he’d had the operation and was doing well. What went wrong, I have no idea. I expect I’ll find out more at the funeral but there’s no date for that as yet. Losing Jack hit me hard. It brought me back down to earth with a terrible bump. It’s making me realise, even more clearly than before, that it’s what we do NOW that counts. We can never know what tomorrow may bring.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Home to sad news

Back from a wonderful week at Swanwick to the terrible news that Jack, the man who leads my cryptic crossword class, has died.
I’d intended to write an overview of the summer school but  it will have to wait.
I’m  grateful  I didn’t find out until I got home. Jack meant a lot to me, for all kinds of reasons. He went into hospital for a long awaited operation which seemed to go well,  I’ve no idea yet what happened, I just wish I’d been able to see him  before I left for Swanwick.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


This will probably be my last blog before Swanwick, and as I’m not taking a computer with me, it’s au revoir until at least 17th August.  So what’s been going on?
Quite a lot actually.  I’ve decide on a couple of things. One, to take my own advice. And two, to try practising mindfulness.
My own advice includes starting the day with writing, as that’s when I‘m better at it. To take it slowly and not expect to be writing as well as I used to. Writing takes practice. F I was an athlete I wouldn’t expect to  win the first race I entered after a long absence through injury. Writing is the same. It takes time to get back up to speed.
Yesterday morning and today, I got up early, made tea, then went back to pad with my pad and pen and wrote stories. One yesterday, two today.  I want to have a selection to work on when I return from my week away. Regular readers will also know that I like to leave stories for a while before typing them so that I’ve had time to mull them over in my subconscious.
Now mindfulness. Simply put this means concentrating on NOW,. Not fretting about what’s gone before, or regretting things. The past is over. It’s up to me whether I dwell on it or not. Mindfulness also means not looking forward to all the possible bad things that might happen. Not being scared to take a risk in case it goes badly. It means enjoying this moment. Not that one just gone. This one. Now.
It’s not easy. It’s such a big change for me, but it works so I’m going to persevere with it.
I’m also going to start doing things that worked for me before.  Both of these come from HOW TO EVERYTHING AND BE HAPPY (Peter Jones)  When faced with a long list of all the things I need to do (right now that reads finish judging a competition and write a report, pack for Swanwick, get the course notes and handouts sorted and printed off, work on a couple of stories, get another story or two ready for The People’s Friend, do some work for the Writers Bureau, and that’s not including the boring stuff – housework et al. ). 
The book says make a list then mark just three things and do one of those first, THEN you can mark another but not until. SO my list reads – blog, Swanwick notes, read competition stories again. I should get those all done today then I can think what to do next. It’s so much better, only having three things to think about. Maybe try it sometime. The other thing that comes from the book are Boxing days. These are days when you plan nothing and simply do whatever comes to mind on the day itself.
I used to have one a month and found them very useful, but let the habit slip when I felt depressed.
So now I’ve blogged, I can cross that off the list and add a new item – allocate Boxing Days to the diary.
PS did I mention that, just at the right time for Swanwick, I have a story in Take a Break’s Fiction Feast?
Enjoy the summer. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.  Meanwhile, I might manage a few tweets   #writingiseasy