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2019-03-16 09:07 pm

Random Musing: Gilmore Girls

I was reading Lauren Graham's book Talking as Fast as I Can: from Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between), which didn't have nearly as much Gilmore Girls as the title implies. She talks (a lot) about how much she loved the rebooted show Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which got me to thinking how much I really didn't and how that's affected my feelings about the main show. I tried to watch it again recently but just found it irritating.

I stumbled across the show on Netflix a couple of years ago, and for a while it was my go-to show when my partner was out. Then one day he caught the end of an episode and was interested enough to watch it with me. I'd binge it on weekends, loving the relationship between Lorelai and Rory, loving to hate the relationship between Lorelai and her parents, and rooting for Rory in her quest to get to Harvard.

When I got to A Year in the Life, I was never excited to get to the next episode and now I think I've figured out why. In the main series Rory was bright and energetic, and full of ambition to get to an Ivy League university. She fought for it, and Lorelai fought for it. In A Year in the Life she'd given up and was drifting, and it was like that whole "living in the pool house" thing except with no light at the end of the tunnel because the audience doesn't know what she wants any more.

Plus, I did not like who Rory turned into between the shows. She apparently didn't learn her lesson about cheating from her fling with now-married ex Dean in the original series, and was having an affair with Logan while both of them have other partners. I could maybe have accepted that had she not also had a boyfriend she kept literally forgetting about. Plus the way she behaved in the job interview. She'd basically turned into an arrogant piece of crap with no regard for other people.

And that ending. While I get that Gilmore Girls was a show about mother-daughter relationships, Rory getting pregnant was never going to be be a happy ending for me. Not on top of the complete failure to do anything with her life. She had all the opportunities in the world, and Lorelai sacrificed so much to give them to her, and she just threw them all away.

There were other issues, like Luke and Lorelai apparently having a completely static relationship for nearly a decade, but Rory's complete personality change was the biggest for me.

There are rumours of a second revival. No word yet on if it's another mini-series or a full show (which seems more likely with a baby on the way). Either way, I'm not actually sure I want to watch it. Stars Hollow no longer has its shine.
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2019-01-20 04:37 pm
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January Update

Not a lot to update, since we're not far into the year. I had two publications last year, both in October, and I'm waiting for the publication of another piece of flash that also happens to be the last thing in my inventory that's not published or trunked. I wrote a short thing last week I'm not particularly happy with (certainly not enough to go to the bother of revising and submitting), and something the week before I didn't finish and don't intend to. I'm supposedly working on a story right now but here I am blogging even though blogging is dead, so there you go. 

I have watched a lot of Netflix already this year. We started with Australian mini-series Tidelands, which I loved right up until the last episode when it didn't end so much as stop. This is something DC's Titans is also guilty of, but I read that they moved the final episode of series one to the beginning of series two so at least I know there's more of that. It did mean the first season ended with a particularly bad episode though, with no obvious link to the main plot right until the end, which wasn't particularly interesting. We caught the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery season two yesterday. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, what with the change of direction, but it was fun and I'm likely to stick around for Stamets, Tilly, and the new engineer anyway. We're also watching season 13 of Supernatural on DVD. That show has some issues (like their treatment of female characters, and some glaring plot holes) but it knows what it is and it's still fun. I was off work two days last week with a bad cold, and started Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, and have ordered the first of the books it's based on.

Winter is always tough. Once Christmas is out of the way it's just one long slog of cold days and dark nights until spring. The glums hit early this winter too, back in December. I ended up not leaving the house except to go to work for most of the month, because of the crowds, and suffering from a bad bout of depression. The one time I did get out to the shops I ended up abandoning my basket in the store because the queue was ridiculous. I'm mostly feeling better now, trying to keep busy with reading, Netflix, and sorting the house out. It's baby steps, but I'm hoping this year is better than the last, politics notwithstanding.
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2018-10-29 04:32 pm

October Update

I should probably update this since it's a two publication month. 

First up: "The Resurgence of Clowns" over at Daily Science Fiction.
We knew it was happening again when David started juggling.

I wrote the first draft of this in one sitting, just before bed, while listening to scary clown music. It came from a title prompt during a flash fiction contest, and the concept and first line came shortly after.

The second is "Totality", one of my rare science fiction stories which was published at Nature.
Two days ago it had been "we don't negotiate with terrorists", but it was difficult not to negotiate with people who'd stolen the sun.

This one required a bit more research - what would happen when the sun went out? It also came from a title, but not the one I used. It was the gloriously pulpy "The Spacemen who Devoured the Morning" from the Pulp Sci-Fi Title-O-Tron over at Thrilling Tales. That gave me the idea, although it was a far more serious story than the title warranted.

I also found (and spent a couple of hours binge-reading) an amazing creepypasta over on Reddit, called "The Left/Right Game". It 's got me wanting to read more. I also played a fun little text-based game called "You are Jeff Bezos", where you wake up as Jeff Bezos and have to spend all his money. It took a few tries, but I managed to get all three endings.

Finally, I spent this weekend binge-watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which is all kinds of hilarious. I love the changes they've made (Salem doesn't talk, the advice and sarcasm is provided by Sabrina's cousin Ambrose who's under house arrest for trying to blow up the Vatican), although some of the politics is a little on the nose. Perhaps it needs to be, these days, and it does add to the fun.
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2018-08-26 07:30 pm

The wisdom of Swanwick

At this year's Swanwick Writers' Summer School, crime writer AA Dhand gave some wise (and eminently quotable) advice: "Fail early, fail often, fail forward", and "Change the narrative". The latter accompanied a story about how his father changed the relationship with teenagers who smashed the windows of the family's shop, eventually hiring them as paper boys, simply by sitting down and having a drink with them. Eventually Dhand realised he, too, needed to change the narrative, and start writing the world he knew instead of the one he thought he should be writing - which led to his successful Harry Virdee series.

There are always a number of evening speakers at Swanwick, and they generally have something wise to say, so here's some sage advice from previous years.

- "Let the characters create the story." - Stephen Booth (2017)

- "The point of fiction is to enlarge what's possible." - Sophie Hannah (2017)

- "Know your antagonist as well as your protagonist. They are the hero of their own story." - Imogen Cooper (2017)

- "Don't be cautious, write what you want." - James Runcie (2016)

- "Not all stories will suit your tongue, and not all stories will flow from your pen." - Brendan Nolan (2016)

- "Sometimes it's better to accept a smaller advance rather than a large one that you then struggle to earn out." - Mario Reading (2015)

- "Short stories open small windows into large events." - Zoe Lambert (2013)

- "You should be the audience you writer for." - Curtis Jobling (2013)

- "If you know your voice it will help you stop wasting time writing things that aren't you." - Steve Hartley (2012)

- "Define your own level of success. Don't compare yourself to other writers." - Helen Cross (2011)

It's always interesting to hear what they have to say, and I often find the most enjoyable speakers those who write or work well outside my comfort zone, say in crime fiction or TV drama. It's also reassuring to hear that well established series writers like Stephen Booth are pantsers, that anything is possible. Of course they sometimes contradict each other - Booth was followed the following evening by Sophie Hannah, who tightly plots everything and finds it the best way to keep up with her multiple projects. But that's the nature of writing, nothing works for everyone. However in 2014 I heard the same advice three times, so it must be true: persistence is key; write for yourself; trust your instincts.

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2018-08-16 03:32 pm

Swanwick 70: Thursday

Today is the last day. As always the morning is busy, with the final part of the specialist courses and the last short courses. These were incredibly sensible today, with instruction on Scrivener, grammar, worldbuilding, and Succeeding on Purpose.

I took the latter, which was about setting goals and retraining the brain to look for opportunities instead of saying "I can't". The second half had about a third more people than the first, so word had obviously got around about how funny and engaging the first half was.

Instead of a one-hour course, Thursday always sees the AGM and appointment of next year's committee. The officers were standing unopposed, but there was a vote for the remaining committee positions. The following block on the timetable is labelled Time for You but might as well say Pack Now. After this short break, during which I pack and have a cup of tea, there's the Dregs Party where people unload the last of drinks and snacks they don't want to take home. This is officially held on the lawn but as I type looks in danger of being moved indoors.

Dinner is a three-course affair this evening, to celebrate the seventieth year, and after that is the farewell which includes drawing the raffle and possibly the committee humiliating themselves in the name of entertainment. They never reveal the entertainment in advance but i'm sure some old favorites will make an appearance.

The last night disco is back this year, although my disco buddy isn't here so I'll skip it. Although the programme officially ends around eleven, the bar shuts at twelve and no doubt there will be some who keep the Swanwick spirit going until the early hours.
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2018-08-16 09:10 am

Swanwick 70: Wednesday

I'm posting this a day late as I didn't get a chance yesterday - a Swanwick friend was visiting for one day only so I took the opportunity to spend time with her instead.

Tuesday's speaker Simon nelson was excellent. He went over five-act structure, and how turning points happen at the mid-point of the story. We also looked at the beginnings of TV shows Happy Valley and The 4 O'clock Club to illustrate pacy, grabby openings. I took more notes than for any other evening speaker, more than for some courses!

Wednesday saw the return of the regular run of courses, with our crime investigation turning from preservation of the scene and forensics, to the actual investigation. We took a closer look at the crime scene in the corner, and ran a mock press conference.

The short courses included a look at "wild words", song writing, and editing, and I took the final parts of the Writing as a Business course, which was unusually running as two short courses instead of as a specialist course. We looked at project and time management, something I desperately need to do better at.

In the usual one hour course slot we had a birthday celebration for the school, with a "school photo" (the first since 1956) and birthday cake. 

The evening speaker was Sophie Snell, storyteller, singer, and folkorist. She also has a psychological thriller out in November, based on fairy tales. Something else to add to my wishlist!

I stayed up late in the bar for the first time this week, chatting to my friend. Thursday is the final day, featuring the last of the four part courses, and a mystery instead of a speaker since they never reveal what's going into the farewell.
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2018-08-14 05:10 pm

Swanwick 70: Tuesday

I skipped the speakers last night in favour of an early night, although those who went say it was excellent. Tuesday is generally a lighter day, although there was a change to the usual format this year as most of the one hour sessions have been moved to Tuesday slots to allow for celebratory events (Swanwick at 70 and a birthday party) during the 4pm slots on Monday and Wednesday.

First up this morning were Acting for Writers, Dear Della (a session with writing agony aunt Della Galton), Niche Publishing, Writing for the Under Eights, and the course I took, Promoting Your Work with resident crime writer Val Penny. While I knew about Twitter and Facebook pages, I came away with a list of Facebook groups to check out, and a list of dos and don'ts which included DO write more, and DO be proud of your work, two things I always struggle with.

The second session offered courses on Erotica, Mind Mapping, being a Writer in Residence, Reviewing, and an excellent course on New Fairy Tales. Tutor Elizabeth Hopkinson is an enthusiast and I left not only with websites and Facebook groups to check out, but also a huge list of books to add to my wishlist.

I went for a nap at this point as I was feeling unwell, but emerged for the tea dance (although to watch, not participate).

This evening's speaker is Simon Nelson of the BBC's Writersroom, to speak about TV drama. I may go if I feel up to it.
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2018-08-13 05:46 pm

Swanwick 70: Monday

Yesterday's speaker AA Dhand was one of the best speakers I've seen at Swanwick, and told us of his journey from childhood cornershop to published author with a TV series in the works - via over a million words of failed drafts. It's always a mark of a successful speaker when you can hear their words repeated around the school the following day, and today was full of people telling each other to "change the narrative" or "fail early, fail often, fail forward".

First this morning was part two of the specialist courses. For those of us on the Making Crime Pay course this meant a not particularly after-breakfast-safe discussion of post mortems, and why you should never ask a pathologist how to kill someone and get away with it. 

Today's short courses were The Business of Writing, Creating Characters, Writing for Children, and Self Publishing. I did the business course, since it seemed like a useful thing to take (which it was). Unusually, this is actually a four-part course over two days instead of two hours over a single day. Parts three and four deal with setting up as a freelancer so I'm not sure whether or not I'll take those since I need to keep the day job.

This afternoon was Swanwick at 70, a celebration of how the school has changed over the years. The first ever programme, which includes a reminder to bring ration cards, can be seen on the website. It's changed immensely just over the eight years I've been attending, and some of the older delegates can be heard chatting about the long-gone swimming pool and Garden House, or the days when delegates shared rooms with each other - sometimes complete strangers.

This evening has a panel instead of a speaker, of Writing Magazine editor Jonathan Telfer, and prolific short story and novel writer Della Galton, hosted by frequent visitor and tutor Simon Hall. I may give this one a miss as I'm already flagging from classes and so much socialising, as well as waking up at 6am without the aid of either an alarm or my cats.
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2018-08-12 05:32 pm

Swanwick 70: Sunday

It's that time of year again, and I'm back at Swanwick Writers' Summer School for its seventieth year. It's the longest running writing school in the UK. Getting here was surprisingly stress-free considering it involved a rail-replacement bus service, but still tiring.

Given the travel and full-on socialising that started while we waited at Derby station for our coach (which was late), I got to the end of dinner feeling tired and cranky. The evening speaker was Sue Moorcock, but I decided to spend the evening on a phone call home, and streaming Netflix in my pyjamas. Possibly the most important thing Swanwick's taught me over the years is the importance of self-care - which includes time to myself. Getting overtired can ruin my enjoyment of the rest of the week.

Today saw the start of specialist courses on poetry, crime writing, novel writing, short stories, and memoir. I opted for crime writing (even though I don't write crime), the first two sessions of which are looking at forensics and scene preservation. There's a mock crime scene in the corner, which I haven't had a chance to look at properly yet, so I hope to take some pictures tomorrow.

The short courses on offer today were a mini-film making course, sitcom, more poetry, and writing for competitions. I went to Secrets of Sitcom - something else I don't write. Well, I am here to learn! We went into the building blocks of what makes a sitcom, and in groups discussed our own concepts. It hasn't made me want to start writing sitcoms, but it did occur to me that if you take out the comedy you're basically left with a soap. I also thought about how well the format would - or wouldn't - translate into prose.

The hour long courses today were readings of the prize-winning competition stories, or preparation for the Page to Stage (drama) and Swanwick Standard (journalism) projects that run later in the week. I took the opportunity to have some me-time, something I try to build into every day as otherwise it gets a bit full on.

Tonight's speaker is Amit Dhand, who writes novels while working full time as a pharmacist. I'm looking forward to seeing how he gets it all done,
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2018-07-01 05:27 pm

Still alive, still kicking

It's been a long time since I last posted (a loooong time). That's life. I'd recently started a new job and joined the gym on last update, and they kind of took over. Between training, building up experience, more training, more building up experience, new job ate up most of my processing power. The gym, it turned out, ate the only hour in my (working) day that wasn't taken up by work or being mentally tired. It also ate up the only hour until I got home where I wasn't in company, which turned out to matter more than I thought.

Long story short, I've been mentally and physically knackered for most of the last nine months. I've written one thing, a piece of flash which I hope I'll be able to give a publication date for soon (yay!), and that's it.

The thing is, I assumed it was all the job, but when I got comfortable after the second round of training my stress levels and general crankiness didn't change - except on the days I didn't go to the gym. I'd dropped back from five days to three and it didn't help, except that on the days off I didn't get out of bed hating the world.

So last week I didn't go to the gym at all. I spent the hour reading, checking emails, and generally chilling out instead.You know what? I felt better. I didn't ache all week, my knees didn't hurt, I wasn't tired and stressed, and I didn't wake up wanting to set the world on fire. Apparently a busy gym, where I'm never sure which equipment I'll actually be able to get to, a packed and too hot changing room, queuing for grubby showers, and rushing to get to my desk, was exactly what I didn't need.

The next step is to reclaim that hour for writing, but it's hard to get going again from a dead stop. I've bought a Reckless Deck and the book Tarot for Writers in an attempt to generate prompts and ideas. At the moment the only thing standing in the way is me. Let's hope it's not another nine months before I  have something to post.
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2017-09-16 06:48 pm
Entry tags:

The Paying Market Hippogriff - Part Two

Since last posting about where you can find paying markets, I've come across some more sites.

These are all blogs or list sites, so more for those who don't mind sifting through rather than having a searchable database:
Angie's Desk is the blog of writer Angela Penrose. Every month she posts up anthology deadlines - it's also her all purpose blog so filter by using the tags "anthology market listings" or "open submissions".
Publishing ...and Other Forms of Insanity is the blog of Erica Verrillo, who posts publishing news, open submissions, and contests.
Cathy's Comps and Calls specialises in free to enter calls that can be entered online.

Some websites that have a section of contest and competitions are:
Trish Hopkinson's website
Christopher Fielden's website
Almond Press
Creative Writing Ink
Writers Reign
Writing Magazine (this only their own competitions)

Obviously as these aren't searchable they may also list markets that don't pay or charge fees. As always, read the guidelines before submission. Happy hunting!

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2017-08-24 07:34 pm

Swanwick Writers' Summer School: Day Six

Thursday is the final day of courses. We finished up the poetry course by looking at summer and collage poems, and hearing some of the previous day's homework. Some interesting things hatched from those eggs!

I hadn't been planning to take a short course, but remembered the slightly deflated feeling from last year when I missed out so on a whim picked Murder Investigation over Flash Fiction, Advanced Characterisation, and Self Publishing. It turned out to be one of the best courses of the week. Retired police detective Stuart Gibbon took us through the steps of what happens in an investigation after a body is found, and gave some real life cases as examples. It appeared to be the perfect complement to the CSI course earlier in the week which did the same thing from a forensics perspective, and I slightly regret not taking them both (although my Monkey Mind is chattering a little less so it may be worth the loss). I also took the opportunity to get my copy of The Real CSI: A Forensic Handbook for Crime Writers signed by author Kate Bendelow. Crime Writing and Forensics are always popular at Swanwick, and Kate's book had caused quite a stir when it turned up unexpectedly on Tuesday - people were queuing to get into the book room to get one!

As always, the AGM took up the workshop slot. A new committee was elected, including the co-option of a new secretary with the relevant experience and replacement of both the Chairman and Vice Chairman. Then it was off to pack and/or attend the dregs party before dinner.

The evening event was a rather more low key affair this year, as the committee had decided there wasn't the time to do a pantomime justice this year. Instead there was a brief "award ceremony" where prizes were handed out for the chairman's puzzle competition and Ingrid's writing contest from earlier in the week. The latter had received over seventy entries, possibly more people than had attended the course! I honestly don't know how she managed to read all the entries, since her secret appears to be not to sleep!

After this there was a brief singalong, with John Lamont singing Swanwick favourite "500 Words" and the committee regailing us with a rendition of S Club 7's "Reach" that was stuck in delegates heads for at least four days if the comments on Facebook were anything to go by.
 then finally, a last trip to the bar before the final night's sleep.


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2017-08-23 07:16 pm

Swanwick Writers' Summer School: Day Five

I had a surprisingly lazy day on Wednesday. After reading my poem out in the poetry specialist course - and really not enjoying it - I decided to skip the Performance Poetry short course. I didn't feel like taking any of the others (Heroes, Life Writing, Comedy Sketch Writing). In hindsight I wish I'd taken the life writing course, as this isn't something I've ever looked at before (which was also the reason I didn't take it), but by this time I was feeling a little ragged so glad of the extra down time.

I also skipped the workshops on journalism and editing. I probably could have spent the day working on a poem from my new prompt, a glittery purple egg, but spent it chatting, reading, and walking around the lake instead - all time-honoured Swanwick traditions in their own right.

The evening speaker was Imogen Cooper of the Golden Egg Academy and formerly of Chicken House, who gave an informative talk about the academy's services for writers. After were the Page to Stage performances, and another early night for me.

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2017-08-22 05:59 pm

Swanwick Writers' Summer School: Day Four

Tuesday is traditionally the day off, with a minimum of activities and lots of potential for free time. This year there was a short course in the morning, instead of the usual panels and speakers, with a choice of pitching, research, grammar, and mindfulness. I went for mindfulness, as this is something I'd like to bring more into my life. There were several exercises, and the tutor Zana Lamont emphasised the importance of kindness, to ourselves as well as others. The session ended late, with the class engrossed in a video that had half of the delegates in tears by the end.

Alongside the courses ran the Procrastination Free Day, which as in previous years locked two groups of writers in a room to challenge themselves to meet wordcount goals. Several of the other delegates also achieved this by locking themselves in their bedrooms to write, and as a result the bar was surprisingly quiet.

After lunch, overlapping with the end of PFD, were the rehearsals for Page to Stage. I opted to spend most of the rest of the day in my room, binge-reading and also writing a poem for the following day's poetry session. After travel and some heavy socialising it was nice to have some quiet time to myself.

In the evening there was a "chat show" hosted by Simon Hall and interviewing several of the course tutors, followed in the evening by the buskers' night. I skipped both of these as I'd already decided that, this time, it was going to be a true day off.

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2017-08-21 07:59 pm

Swanwick Writers' Summer School: Day Three

Monday is when I start to get the days confused at Swanwick - after all, it's the second day of classes. I spent the whole day convinced it was Tuesday, a trend which continued all week.

The day started with the specialist course. This year, again, I took the poetry course run by Alison Chisholm. We were following the course of the year with poems following the seasons, and today was Winter so Alison gave each of us a glittery snowflake as a prompt, with instructions on how to use the spaces and spokes to generate a poem. We also discussed diary poems, and how these can cover different time periods (hours, days, months).

I had been planning to take the Marketing and Promotion short course, but decided against it in the end. Also on offer were Writing Intimate Scenes, Poetry from Dreams, and Illustrated Picture Books. None of these appealed so I gave them a miss and parked by the coffee machine instead and chatted to other delegates for a while.

Later in the afternoon I took my only workshop of the week Writing for Competitions, run by Ingrid Jendrzejewski. She's won a prodigious amount of competitions since she started entering in 2014, including winning a free trip to Swanwick last year, but she's a nice as she is prolific so it's difficult to hold it against her! She hadn't expected many people to come, but the hall was packed. She rattled through a lot of useful information in the hour, and could really have done with being given a short course slot. At the end of the session she gave us a writing prompt and instructions to write a story or poem, taking into account the guidelines she'd given us, for a competition with a deadline of Wednesday.

Our evening speaker was children's author Cathy Cassidy. I've enjoyed my time at Swanwick a lot more since I stopped feeling like every speaker was compulsory, so I gave her a miss in favour of curling up in bed with a book, and another early night.

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2017-08-20 04:43 pm

Swanwick Writers' Summer School: Day Two

The first full day of Swanwick means choosing a specialist course, one of the long courses that runs throughout the week.
On offer this year were Writing Popular Fiction, Fiction for Children and Young People, Scriptwriting, Non Fiction, and A Year in Poetry.

After the morning session I took myself off to the Book Room, and was glad to see the secondhand table was a hit this year. This is where delegates can donate books about writing they no longer want, and can take some of the offerings in return for a donation to the school. I picked up a copy of The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman, and from the delegates' books a copy of A Route Map to Novel Writing Success: How to Write a Novel Using the Waypoint Method by David Hough.

The short courses for the day were Short Stories, Forensics and CSI, My Voice Will Go With You (about finding your writer's voice) and The Inner Game. The latter was about silencing the monkey mind, the inner critic, and challenging the things it comes up with. Easier said than done, but I learned a useful technique which came in useful later in the week.

As always there was a Facebook and Twitter reception in the main lounge during the afternoon tea break. I intended to go, but got distracted on the way by coffee and chatting, and only remembered an hour later when I saw the pictures on Facebook.

There were three workshops on offer, on running a creative writers' group, journalism, and a briefing for Page to Stage for casting the performances that would take place later in the week. This is the slot I usually sacrifice for quiet time, so I headed back to my room to read before dinner.

Dinner started with a small group of us in the bar celebrating the sale of Val Penny's novel Hunter's Chase to Crooked Cat Books. Then dinner, and our evening speaker Sophie Hannah. She was hilarious and informative, with anecdotes on the inspiration behind her first book and how she came to be writing Poirot continuation novels. Unlike the previous speaker, she's a plotter and outlines her books to within an inch of their life. It works for her - she's nothing if not prolific - but it's not a method of writing I get on with.

After the speaker I took in the start of the poetry open mic, but didn't have the stamina to stick out the whole thing so headed off to bed.

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2017-08-19 04:55 pm

Swanwick Writers' Summer School: Day One

I am, once again, blogging a week late. I took my tablet and some good intentions, but didn't switch it on all week.

The trip up was mercifully uneventful, and we found ourselves outside Derby station waiting for the coach. And waiting. When it eventually arrived it turned out to have been designed for children, in rows of five tiny and uncomfortable seats. I wonder in hindsight if the coach company saw the booking and assumed school meant children, but they've provided coach services often enough in the past to know better.

We arrived late, but there was still enough time to unpack before the Chairman's Welcome. After that was dinner, and our first experience of the new buffet-style dining. I loved it. There was a choice of main (generally two meat, one fish, one veggie), two choices of carbohydrates (potato and rice or pasta) and two vegetable choices. Despite having to queue, everyone was served quickly which left us with plenty of free time before the speaker. This was something that often came up in conversation during the week - how much extra time we found ourselves with, because of that one simple change. It also meant there was a choice of desserts, which usually alternated between multiple cakes, or a choice of cold desserts (including fruit), and one hot option. The down side of this was I ate more puddings than at previous Swanwicks, the up side that several of these were fruit rather than cake.

After dinner was the evening speaker, crime writer Stephen Booth, who was excellent. I don't read a lot of crime (although I'm starting to) but it's always nice to hear other writers' processes - and he's most definitely a pantser. I went along to the book signing and picked up a copy of Dancing with the Virgins, the second in his Cooper and Fry series, which I then spent the rest of the week reading instead of writing.

As always, I headed to bed early as even uneventful travel is tiring and there was a busy week ahead.

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2017-07-29 11:37 am

Swanwick Writers' Summer School: Ten Tips To Make Your Week Better

Further to last year's First Timer's Guide, here's a few more hints and tips to make the week easier for even seasoned Swanwickers. Because let's face it, we all forget this stuff.

1. Bring any writing-related books you no longer need - You can donate them to the school for sale in the Book Room, to raise funds for the school. Bringing them with you automatically frees up the space in your luggage and on your bookshelves for all the books you'll buy at Swanwick.
2. The Hayes gift shop is generally open during the tea and coffee breaks on the programme - You may rarely catch it outside these hours, but generally the tea and coffee breaks are the time to visit. I mention it because I spoke to a Swanwick regular last year who, not realising the opening hours, kept missing it.
3. There is a games room - There's also a giant outdoor chess set in the Quad. It you find yourself with nothing to do (it could happen!), you could play a game.
4. All floors in Lakeside are accessible from ground level - It just depends on which floor you're on and where in the building. As a general rule: rooms on the ground floor are accessible from the far right entrance; rooms on the first floor are accessible from the middle entrance (for the Alan Booth Centre); and rooms on the second floor are accessible from the lefthand entrance (past the Main Conference Hall). Of course, if your room is on the opposite side of the building it may be quicker to take the stairs.
5. The Hayes has at least two bookcases of books for sale - For the price of a donation in the charity tin, you can help yourself. One is opposite the shop, the other in the Lakeside foyer.
6. If you leave dinner at the last minute, you won't have time to get to the loo before the speaker - Seriously, if you're likely to need the toilet in the next hour and a half, leave dinner early. The queues are pretty much what you'd expect from a convention of writers who've been drinking coffee all day and have just started on the wine.
7. Pack layers - Typically for British summers it may or may not be sunny/rainy/stormy/snowing. Plus the Main Conference Hall and some of the other teaching rooms are freezing in the morning, but quickly heat up once they get full of people. You will ultimately be more comfortable if your wear layers so you can take some clothes off without scandalising anyone.
8. The coffee in the bar is better than the coffee in the rooms - If you plan on heading back to your room to get some writing done, take the coffee with you. If you want to get decent coffee in the mornings, leave a little early.
9. If you don't like coffee there are about eight different types of tea - So there's no need to bring teabags with you unless you're particularly fussy. They're in the bar area by the coffee machines and include decaff options (the rooms only have regular). If you're more of a tea drinker, think about taking some tea bags back to your room.
10. The noticeboard in the Vinery is a good place to plan extracurricular events - Last year, we had matchmaking for people who wanted to go on excursions, and an impromptu class on mindfulness. You can also speak to the committee about making an announcement.

clhollandwriter: (Default)
2017-07-22 10:59 am

Bullet Journal - Six Month Update

Six (nearly seven) months in and my Bullet Journal is still going strong.

I've made a couple of changes to the format. Instead of writing a daily log every day I do a weekly spread. It allows me to park weekend tasks on those days, from the beginning of the week, instead of having to either remember them or carry them through every day until I get to the point I can actually do them. It also means less disruption of my routine on the days when I can't check the journal over breakfast (early starts where I have to eat at my desk, for example), since I don't have to prep the log every day.

I've started putting in a deadline calendar each month, but only for the current month. Future deadlines are still going in my diary, along with appointments. It's a little clunky having two books, but the way I look at it is the diary is for the future (and I can leave it at home) and the journal is for now. I don't think I'm quite ready to abandon the traditional diary yet.

I'm still scrapbooking in the back (and a note for future journals is that pritt stick might be better for this than staples!). My Beadhaul comes with a leaflet showing all the beads included, so I've added that as well. So far I've only made a pair of earrings. I've got ideas for a couple of other things but I'm not sure I can translate the ideas out of my head at this point.

It hasn't helped much with my writing, but I think there's a larger issue of balance there, rather than being disorganised. Overall I'm getting more of the day to day things done that used to slip under the radar, so it's definitely working. The only problem is I'm bored with the notebook now and ready for a new one!
clhollandwriter: (Default)
2017-07-02 01:42 pm

Hello #Beadhaul!

Back in April I signed up for a two-monthly bead subscription box called #Beadhaul. I'd just missed the April box, so I've been waiting a while. My first box arrived on Friday, and I was so tired after work I didn't even open it straight away. But when I did I was glad I'd signed up.

There's some stuff in there I wouldn't buy myself (like the acrylic fishes) which is kind of the point, to break out of my comfort zone and keep me interested. The only question is what to do with it all! I'll keep you posted.