Thursday, 21 November 2013

Performance! Word of Mouth, 7.30pm 3rd December

After finding out it's going to be published in the NWS Crime Sampler Journal, I'll be performing 'Didn't See Nothing' as part of Word of Mouth at Antenna next month.

I've already had some brilliant comments about the story before I knew it was going to be included in the journal, but reading it and hearing it are two very different things - It's going to be really interesting to see how the audience will react to my performance of the story.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Inspiration, collaboration, publication

I’ve started this week with a team meeting, which is easy when you’re a team of one.  Sorting the diaries is a doddle, as is remembering who ordered the coffee (even remembered the cinnamon this time).  The challenge of being a team of one is that no-one else asks you what you’re doing about the Good Ideas you had the week before – so this is a meeting to look at what went well last week, and what I'm doing about it this week.  I guess these are the minutes of the meeting…

I started last week wearing my scriptwriting hat, with a fantastic meeting to discuss ways to support the participants of the new Shine a Light project at Quad in Derby – it’s a fantastic opportunity for people aged over sixty to get involved with filmmaking, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the project on the big screen.

Wednesday brought another great meeting with a new writer contact I met through Derbyshire Scriptwriters – we shared an interest in developing a story which was outlined at a recent meeting, so we caught up for a coffee to discuss it (I can see a pattern emerging…)  After writing alone, it’s nervewracking to work your way through a story with someone else, but the experience is invaluable, as are the results – even at the first treatment stage, I think we’ve got a cracking story to show you.

Thursday took me to Creative Brews at Nottingham Writers Studio, where I finished my short film treatment in between talking about the mythology of animals, followed by a great email – my short story, ‘Didn’t See Nothing’ will be featured in the next Nottingham Writers Studio journal (I ordered another coffee to celebrate).  It’s a piece I’m really proud of, and really pleased I submitted it after discussing it with the Young Adult and Children writing group at NWS.  Some of the work will be showcased at a Word of Mouth in December, fingers crossed one of them will be mine…

So that was last week, what about this week?

All of a sudden, after sharing work and ideas with other inspirational writers, I’m working on multiple projects.   As well as my Middle Grade WIP, Red – I’ve a couple of short stories to prepare for submission, a short film to develop, a tricky synopsis to wrangle into submission, and copy edits on ‘Didn’t See Nothing’ following it’s successful submission.  And I’ll be updating the Writing at Rosys team with my progress on a short story they helped to inspire, along with a creative workshop with the YAC group this Friday.
And, of course, writing, writing, writing.

Any other business?  How about another coffee…?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Epic steps at Lady Bay

Words are pretty amazing things- whether they're blobs on paper, or lights on a screen, or vibrations in the air, they can mean different things to different people all at once (especially in the brilliant, confounding, inspiring craziness that is English), and stand out for all sorts of brilliant reasons…

I’ve just read a lovely group email from Mary Small and the team behind the Nottingham Children’s Book Festival to say a big thank you to everyone who played a part in their very first festival on Saturday – hundreds of families joined us in the rain to get stuck into stories, poems, illustrations – and Epics!
Epic preparation!
The young (and not quite so young) writers who joined us for 'Your Epic Starts Here!' on the day were superb as always – and I was amazed again just how creative we can all be – all it takes is a little inspiration and encouragement.  I saw princes in swamps (a bad place for a prince to be, so a good place to start a story!), soldiers resting between battles, and worlds you could only reach in a way that was simple and amazing all at once.  Even the volunteers joined in (to the lady who shared her epic hero – write that epic, or I will!)

Your Epic Starts Here! But once the pens are collected in and the room goes quiet before the next workshop, you wonder what will happen next to those stories… then I read Mary’s email and saw one word from the great feedback the festival had collected on that day-


Something tells me that for at least one of those Epics, it's only just the beginning – and I’m honoured to play a part in inspiring people to create their own Epic tales. 

If you'd like to know a bit more about what 'Your Epic Starts Here!' is all about, take a look here.

Monday, 17 June 2013


A great week last week, where one of my short stories, The Middle Room, was commended as part of Derby Museum’s 1001 objects writing competition.
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It was great to hear the winning entries, and get another chance to look around the exhibit again (with added tea and cake – felt a bit weird, but the mugs were nice so I went with it).
The items are arranged in collections of what they’re made of, rather than their historical or social setting which means you get an interesting mix of momentous and everyday items rubbing shoulders with one another.
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The contest was to write 1001 words based on one of the items – choosing from this amount of inspirational material was not easy (I’d started writing something about the bottles for Derby businesses in my head before I got halfway around the exhibit), but after a long time of looking back at my snapshots, this was the item that stuck.
It’s a Congolese antelope horn, highly valued, and given as a gift.  I wondered about who would normally get such a stunning thing, and who would be least likely to receive it, to get it almost by accident.  About two hours later, The Middle Room was there on the page.
I’m really pleased I took up the challenge, and I’m really pleased Derby Museums has taken such an interesting approach to showing us the things we collect in the ongoing story of who we are.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


This week, Appletree Writers are getting ready to publish an anthology to raise funds for the Dunbar RNLI, with stories based around the theme of ‘The Harbour’ – and one of them is mine. 

‘Captain’ began life as SAM_1580a family story (one of the legends re-told and re-argued at Christmas), which began to change as I began to retell it.  I don’t know how – the true story is vivid, and funny, but the story I had to tell took another direction.

By the time I’d edited it, I was somewhere else entirely.  Off the map, in open water.  I had no idea whether anyone else would connect with it, but I knew the only way to find out was to submit it – and I’m really pleased they did. 

I’ve learned a valuable lesson from writing this little story – begin writing what you know, and when your story begins to have other plans, follow them.  Leave the harbour, and see where the story takes you. 

If you'd like to read it for yourself, The Harbour is available to order from the Appletree Writers website.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

5k, 29’ and change

I’ve been running on and off for over three years now, and I finally got organised enough to enter my first race last weekend - a five kilometer race around the park - and I feel great for finally making it happen!

WP_20130511_002The distance is pretty much what I run when I manage to get out and hit the road, but the real achievement was to stand alongside fellow runners and say ‘I can do this.’  I had no idea how long it would take me to run the route, and I underestimated my finish time by about five minutes.  I crossed the finish line just after the average time for the race – should have fired up the Van Halen soundtrack a little earlier…

But that’s the point of standing up and showing the world what you’ve got –  on Friday, I had no idea how good a runner I was.  Now I do, with a benchmark time that shows I can run competitively, and a goal to beat.

And a medal.  Don’t forget the medal.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

In Pursuit of Inspiration

Ideas come from everywhere.  Some good, some bad, some only worth a shrug before they go in the bin, some worth pursuing.

The trick is to work out which are the ones worth pursuing.  And then, pursue them.

After a week on a mountain in Wales, this was the last stop before home: Penrhyn Castle, a 19th century palace with all mod cons, paid for with the vast income from coal and sugar sales (the equivalent of investing in Microsoft and Apple way back when).  Wealth like that and land like that means you can build what you want (it's enormous!) and keep what you want, like steam engines: 

The railway museum lets you get up close to the engines, some narrow gauge from the Welsh highland railways that cross the country, some standard gauge that could still feasibly run on the rail network we inherited from the Victorians.

Our classic idea of steam comes from the 'Golden Age' between the wars; Agatha Christie, Brief Encounter, even the Hogwart's Express tips its hat to the Golden Age.  There's a couple of engines at Penrhyn that reflect that era.

There's a utilitarian beauty to those engines - dependable and sturdy, tastefully painted, a respectable machine for a more genteel age of travel.

But I'm more interested in this one.

She's called Fire Queen (great name), built in 1848 to work in a quarry in Llanberis.  In comparison to the kind of engines you see on heritage railways in the UK, she's old school.  She'll have been replaced because she won't pull as much as the 'newer' engines.  And she probably won't forgive a driver who isn't watching what they are doing.

But the in-your-face boldness of the colours, the bling of polished brass sticking out anywhere and everywhere, the oversized wheels and smokestack, Fire Queen looks thrilling.
Glamourous.  Primal.  And fast. 

That's the idea I've pursued in Cole: King of the Rails, behind a story which follows my young hero's friendships, secrets and quest for revenge. 

Where the glamour and thrill of those brightly coloured engines takes on a life of it's own... and changes history as we know it.

I'm hoping to share more of my world with you in the near future.  Until then, enjoy the pics.

Epic update

I had the chance to take a quick look at some of the epic stories created by the young writers I worked with during 'Your Epic Starts Here' last week, and was really impressed by their creativity and effort.

It's been a while since we talked about what we wanted to put into our epic stories, and there they were - a whole wall of words.  I scanned across the neatly written pages (their writing's a lot neater than mine) and saw words and phrases I remembered from the workshop - not my words, theirs.

It's great to see words you've created appear on a page, but it's something else when the words exist because you've told someone their story is worth telling.  Great day.

ps. They asked me what I was writing at the moment, so I told them.  Unwise move.  I have to write the rest of Red now, or they'll be asking me where my words are...

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Epics starting here!

I had an Epic time at Nottingham Festival of Words this month, especially when I hosted my workshop, 'Your Epic Starts Here!' on Saturday.  The idea for a workshop came from a discussion at the YA and Children's writers group at Nottingham Writers Studio - how can you encourage creativity in younger writers?  Being inspiring during the workshop is just the start - the challenge is to keep it going afterwards...
Epics in waiting before 'Your Epic Starts Here!' begins.

Here's what I came up with - an Epic you can take away with you at the end of the workshop- well, the start of one, anyway...

After I talked for a short while about what I thought made an epic story, the writers in the group got on with creating their own ideas. 

Then it was time for the sharing bit...

...and here's the result! 
Note the change from 'In' to 'On' - love it!
Even with advance warning at the beginning (I didn't want anyone to give something away that was super-precious), the sharing part was a tricky bit - how many times have we guarded a character or a storyline like it was the crown jewels?  There was a very nervous two minutes where I thought it wouldn't happen - then one young writer shared (thank you!), and told us what the results were.  It was a lightbulb moment for everyone, which was fantastic to see - everyone wanted to share to make their Epic even more Epic! 

In one short hour, we'd made a clutch of Epics that simply did not exist anywhere before the workshop started - story magic!  The young writers seemed to really enjoy being able to take ownership of their own Epics, and change them to make them something that was theirs to take away, keep safe and develop into a bigger, longer story.

Will I see these Epics on the shelves in Waterstones Nottingham and beyond?  I hope so.  I saw whales being saved over lunchtime, disco kingdoms and exploding ice-cream - imagine what will appear in draft two...