Sunday, 30 October 2011


Had a fantastic time watching Sent/Received's first performance as part of Skype Me! at Showroom 5 last night.  As well as hearing works from local poets and writers, I had the chance to enjoy the company of performers from three other continents - something the generation before me couldn't dream of making happen without a lot of time and money.  True, there were glitches along the way (ably resolved by the unflappable Robin Vaughan-Williams), but it only seemed to add to the experience - I was really glad to play a part in it.

It's still sinking in that the words I began to write in June are now being performed just a few months later.  The audience laughed in the right places (and some unexpected ones), then became very quiet as my text-message tale unfolded before them.  Looking forward to seeing our next performance at Broadway Nottingham as part of the Mayhem Festival on Monday night, along with ghostly archive recordings and live readings from Niki Valentine, Pete Davis, Megan Taylor, Charlotte Thompson and graphic novellist Brick.

Still very nervous, still very excited - I'll be the one hiding behind the sofa.

Friday, 28 October 2011


Good with haddock
Been away from the internet for the last few days.  I said goodbye to Andrea, Jonathan, Rachel and Robin at the Monday rehearsal for Sent/Received, started the car, and wound up in the Lake District.  It’s been a good few days off- as well as the obligatory fish & chips & local beer in Keswick, I managed to find my way up the side of a fell.
When we set off for Skiddaw, it was one of those Autumn mornings full of promise and sunshine; good enough to keep you going in the cold as you tramped along the path.  Then we hit the cloud cover - thicker and thicker, wetter and wetter.
It’s been a terrific experience watching the rehearsals for Sent/Received, but now the cloud has come down around me as I make my way to its premiere in Sheffield on Saturday night, before a second night in Nottingham on Halloween.

Probably the summit,
with view across to
Bassenthwaite.  Probably.
Standing in a cloud is a strange thing.  The water vapour drifts past your eyes, and the lack of distance vision creeps up on you until you realise you can't see beyond ten paces ahead.  Or ten paces behind.  And although the path up the fell is well laid out, and the cairns solid and frequent, you get an eerie feeling the herdwick sheep were on to something when they stayed put as you climbed past them.  All you can rely on are your ancient instincts, like your ancestors did before satnav. 

That you will find your way.

At the last rehearsal, there was an incredible moment where I forgot I’d written the script, and got lost in the performance; I’m trusting my instincts that the audience will get lost in the same cloud and enjoy Sent/Received the same way.  If you’re coming along to either night, say hello; it’ll be good to share the journey off the peak before I set off for the next one.

Monday, 17 October 2011


One of the things we talked about at October's Writing at Rosy's meet-up was rewriting; I commented it's hard to know when to stop once you start.

For instance, I've been reworking the current draft of Hidden Daughter while rewriting the first draft of Coalface, my YA novel.  They're really different, but the experience gained from writing one is helping me see how to get the best in the other.  But as I switch between projects, there's a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I'll be back there again.

So how do you stop?  Have someone take it off you.

I had the privilege of sitting in on rehearsals for Sent/Received this weekend; a brilliant and terrifying experience.  Characters I had only heard in my head before were now walking and talking in front of me.
Even so, I couldn't stop myself editing the fifth draft copy of the script in my lap - then I realised it didn't matter one bit.  Because it's no longer being performed by me, to me.  Sent/Received has a new voice and a new audience beyond the safety of my laptop.  I did what I do best in these uncharted situations- stayed quiet, put the kettle on, and listened.  
Theatre director Andrea Milde has her own vision of how to tell the story with the cast, and it's been fantastic to watch their experience bring Sent/Received to life, so I can learn how a story unfolds outside of my imagination.

It's something I'm looking forward to doing with my novels in the future; right now, I'm looking forward to rediscovering Sent/Received with an audience at the end of this month in Sheffield and Nottingham.  Hope you can join us - I'll be the one looking for a kettle.

Monday, 10 October 2011


Running was hard yesterday.  Really hard. 
I felt good setting off, then had a classic 'why am I doing this' moment, then got past that, then bumpfh.  There's no other way to describe it; bumpfh.  I just didn't feel like I had a run inside me.
It can be the same with writing.  All of a sudden, the clatter of the keyboard stops, and I realise the cursor hasn't done anything but blink at me for five minutes, like a patient dog.
Everything inside me told me to turn back.  Not your day.  Give up on a bad job.  Bumpfh is a comfy thing; cosy, reassuring as it helps you take off the running shoes, or switch windows from your WIP to your browser.  Or switch off.

In the wind and dark, I switched playlists on my mp3 player, and kept going.

Some of it was walking; my body was part of the bumpfh conspiracy, pulling a stitch out of the 'can't run' bag to block my way.  Some of it felt like spectacularly poor running; the kind where you think you're not making any more progress than you would with a swift walk.

But I moved forwards.

At the end, I did a sprint finish in the dark; I outran the security light at the end of my street, passing it before it could cast it's glare over me.  I felt that sensation I must have had when I ran downhill as a kid; when your body places your feet with a precision you couldn't dream of actively replicating.  It felt amazing.
That's what this blog post is about; just the process of writing, putting words in order on screen or on paper is important to me.  It should be rewrites for Coalface, but this is a good alternative.  All I have to do is keep the words moving, and the internal power of Freddy's story will do the rest.

I ran yesterday.  And I'm writing today.  Because that's what I do to move forward.  I hope you move forward today, too.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Challenges Pt2

A novel? In 25 words? 
Yes!  Well, sort of.

My second brain diversion this week was the 25 word pitch challenge in Nicola Morgan's excellent blog, Help! I need a Publisher.  Watching other writers work their way through versions of their pitch has been fascinating and inspiring.  And more than a little daunting.  But if they can roll up their sleeves and whittle thousands and thousands of words away to leave twenty five that excite, intrigue and engage, so can I.

So... as Coalface is still a work in progress, so I'm pitching my first novel, Hidden Daughter.  So far, I've got to this:

She'll risk anything to secure her child's future; even history itself. Now they want to know how she time travels without a trillion dollar machine.

If I had an extra word, I'd be able to do more; but rules are rules, right?  What do you think?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Challenges Pt1

I'm a problem solver.  It's a bad habit, especially when the problems you want to solve aren't the ones you should be solving.

And although I'm loving the rewrites on my YA Victorian adventure Coalface, I couldn't resist solving a couple of other things on the way.  Especially when the going gets muddy as we follow Freddy's quest to get his name back.  The big difference is, I've not alphabetized my sock drawer (for a change); I've got stuck into some writing challenges.

There is no I in 'team'- but there is 'Tea; m.'
Writing at Rosy's is a new writing group in Nottingham; they meet at Lee Rosy's Tea on Broadway, and each month there's a challenge set for the next meeting.  The October challenge is to start a story that already has an ending.  Just the same as writing the end of a story from a starting line, right?  Wrong.
It's worth mulling it over a cuppa for five minutes, just to see how just one word in your previous draft can constrain and your storytelling if you're not careful.  It's reminded me to question everything in the stories I'm rewriting - I've already had to dump one of my 'darlings' this week.

So I've stuck with it, and finished the first draft this afternoon.  I'm looking forward to giving it a good edit after it's mashed in the pot for a couple of days, then seeing what everyone else has come up with on the night.  If you're busy working on your brilliant version, see you there.

Monday, 3 October 2011


Had a busy weekend of writing and toasting - I caught up with Jo, a writing buddy who I hadn't seen for ages, to celebrate the launch of her new book (puts down tasty canape, holds up book).  I'm really pleased for her, and hope she does well as she begins to share it with the rest of the world.

And now I'm back to finishing Coalface; the pressure's on, after making a rash promise I'd have it done by the end of this month.  There's a choice to make at this point - ignore the party-fuelled bravado, or take it on and make it happen.  So that night, out came the laptop, and by the end of a long day, another chapter was done.

And I'd written something new.

Coalface is set in an alternate Victorian England - familiar, possible, but very different in many ways, including the songs people sing.  Possibly under the influence of the excellent Laura Marling on the CD in the car, I wrote a folk song for Freddy, our brave young hero, as he strives to discover the truth behind his father's fatal accident.

'My Brother's Shovel' would be sung to keep you motivated as you work, to bring your mates together as you celebrate, or to remember those who have gone before you.  It's that kind of song.  When I'm done, I'll post it.

Time for the next chapter - got a deadline to meet.