I have spent almost every day, so far, this year working on
A Month of Writing Adventure for children. It has been a mammoth task, creating the book, structuring a schools programme around it: working with an artist, and compiling words and images into a book which is a combination of a teaching guide and creative notebook. It is beautifully illustrated by Charlotte Cleveland who has brought my ideas and story to life. I am sure A Month of Writing Adventure will excite even the most reluctant writer.
By combining story structure with creative skills, A Month of Writing Adventure is a roller-coaster ride with The Story Moles. Full of interesting tasks and challenges, with space in the book for children to explore their own stories though words and pictures.
Mole has been my constant companion for 2021 so far, and I have, this week, sent him off to the printer!
I must confess, I was reluctant to let him go, which has never happened to me before. Usually, after all the time it takes to plan, write, re-write, edit, proof and prepare a book for publication, I am glad to see the back of it.
But A Month of Writing Adventure is different, although I console myself with the fact that
waving him off to the printer is only the end of phase one and there is much more to come.
Read more here
But how do you access this precious resource?
Does it sit in our head or heart?
How do you keep it refreshed?
And how do you apply it to your creative process?
I find Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, from her book The Artists Way, is a great process for accessing the creative thoughts and ideas which lurk, just out of sight, in that liminal time between sleeping and waking.
First thing, when I get out of bed, I make tea and sit at my desk and write. It is something I have done for a couple of decades. Even before I knew about Morning Pages, I would sit, in the morning and write my thoughts. It is the best writing warm up I have ever used and I have learned to value this as an important part of my process.
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'Why are people so against children being taught how our language works?’
This was a question I was asked when I shared a meme on Face Book against teaching 10 & 11 year-olds about Fronted Adverbials.
It is a good question and I really had to think about it, drawing on my experience of developing creative writing programmes in schools in one of the most deprived areas of England.
Even as an author, I had no idea what a fronted adverbial was until my teacher daughter explained it to me. Apparently, fronted adverbials are simply words or phrases which are placed at the start of a sentence, before the verb. So, I use them all the time without being able to name then. Before breakfast, I could use a dozen and not even know it. Once Upon a Time, is a fronted adverbial well used by writers since stories began. (By the way, a fronted adverbial is always followed by a comma.)
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Memory, Truth and Lies were the themes in my first book, the Art Forger’s Daughter.
Like many first novels, it dealt with my preoccupations at that time. The book began with my love of Art and History and my belief that art has the power to change the world.
This was something I was thinking about a lot at the time.
Memory, truth and lies has become an important theme again in my work, since I developed my workshop programme - Write Your Life.
I have been asked many times when am I going to write my own life story. Yes, there are challenging aspects to my childhood; and yes, I have had an interesting career path and done some exciting things in my life. But to me, the events matter less than the impact they have had on creating the person I have become. And that is always the starting point of my writing: the character.
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It is not uncommon for me to have multiple projects going on at the same time. I am often writing one novel whilst planning or editing a second. Or writing a non-fiction book alongside the novel to accompany my workshop programme. But 2021 seems to be about breaking new ground.
I am currently writing the second book in a series about a well-loved character – Ruby Sixpence. Last time around, she Whistled up a Storm; this time she is Stitching Time. This is the first time I have written a series character and I am finding it challenging to make this a standalone story so that readers don't have to have read Book 1 before they read this one.
I am also writing a creative writing workbook for a school’s project which combines online prompts, real life workshops and the book. It is the first time I have written a book for children, and also the first time I have worked with an Illustrator. I am delighted be working with illustrator, Charlotte Cleveland. It is a great experience to have such a creative partnership even though we haven’t been able to meet up in real life. Through zoom calls and email, we have a clear idea of where the story is going, and what our character, The Story Mole looks like.
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I am doing a stocktake of the year so far. Some may say that 2020 has been rubbish and in some ways it has. The stress of getting ill, staying indoors and dealing with life under lockdown.
For me, the thing I missed most was hugging my children and grandchildren. Distanced, mimed hugs from the roadside are no substitute.
But because I am a self-employed author and creative writing tutor, my work is a portfolio of creative activity, some of which I have been able to continue, whilst exploring new skills and new audiences for my work.
I feel as though I am juggling whilst spinning plates and riding a unicycle.
As my workshop programme was cancelled during lockdown, I took the time to learn how to develop workshops on line. It has been a steep learning curve, but well worth the effort. You can see the beginnings of my work here at my online school; more programmes will be following very soon:
I have also set up a new blog post which tells the stories behind the stories of my novels and am surprising myself by how much there is to say!
The Stories Behind the Stories is where I will explore the themes and ideas behind my novels. The backstories of the characters and how they came about.
Where the ideas come from and how they grow into a story.
And how my own life experiences feed the constant, fast flowing stream of stories and ideas
And … drum roll please …. For the first time ever, I am participating in a Vodcast with the amazing Gerald Hornsby in which we talk about writerly things. Afternoon Tea from Bookends will be published weekly and we would love to hear from you if there are topics you would like us to talk about.
During lockdown, we have also been supporting other authors to publish their books and are delighted to announce that are are now able to make a new offer, through
Hard Pressed Books to Publish your book.
Meanwhile, the stalled programme of work in schools re-started in 7 schools! I worked with Tending District Council on the Junior Ambassadors Programme; to deliver 21 creative writing workshops across seven schools in Tendring before Christmas. For this Cultural awareness programme, I worked with African, Indian and Chinese practitioners to enrich the children's lives and understanding of other cultures, through creative writing.
And I haven't forgotten to be a writer!
On the 29th February this year, I published
Ruby Sixpence Whistles up a Storm
What older woman would not like to feel empowered, to feel as though she can make things happen and influence events? To be the Fairy Godmother her younger self would have loved?
Meet Ruby Sixpence, born on a leap day; a spare day in which magic happens. Born in that enchanted crack in time where opportunities, and people like her, slip through. Over the centuries she has nurtured the uncommon art of bringing lovers together, a gift which comes in the same package as ageing one year in four. But these gifts come with a price ...
I am currently getting up early to work on my new work in progress (WIP) which is the next book in the Ruby Sixpence Series - Ruby Sixpence and the Mother of The Bride
And in the summer, I published my homage to the years I spent working in theatre, and tribute to my current theatre friends.
Divas, Dogs and Dreamers
When Sophie Wilde is knocked off her bicycle by Producer Alex Brooke, she becomes entangled in his world of Royal Gala's, Divas and dogs. She doesn't mean to fall in love with him; her life is complicated enough with her alcoholic boomerang ex, her chaotic family and busy life in the wardrobe departments of London’s West End Theatre. But Sophie is a serial daydreamer and makes lists to put off doing what needs to be done. When the singing Diva from hell, Callandra Jewell, throws a mega tantrum on tour, all the lists in the world cannot control the powerful mesh of emotions generated in the ensuing confusion.
So my new strap line will now read;
Author, Creative Writing Tutor, Mentor, Publisher, Blogger, Vlogger….
And the juggling and plate spinning is another new skill I didn’t know I had.
(I’m still not great on the unicycle.)
As we reach the bridge between 2020 and 2021 we can look both ways, like Janus. We look back over the distance we have travelled and we can see just how much the landscape has changed around us. And we can look forward into 2021, into the mist of uncertainty.
We have learned the hard way in 2020, that our plans and resolutions could turn to dust in an instant. The world changed around us and some recovery time is essential if we are to stay well and continue to be creative. Some of us have lost our livelihoods; others lost their lives in this time of extremes and we are desperate to return to normal.
Except that no one is clear what ‘normal’ is anymore. In many ways, everything has changed; we have been forced to embrace new technology which allows us to do things we didn’t know we wanted to do. Some have learned how to work from home, whilst others are having to retrain and look for other ways to earn a living.
Saturday Morning. I slept too much. Finally woke up feeling rubbish after being stuck in a very confusing dream which I couldn't escape.
I was obviously in the place #RubySixpence would describe as:
These are the creative habits which make us all creative beings.
How Creativity Can Save the World
Woohoo! It's arrived:
Divas, Dogs and Dreamers
A heartwarming and uplifting tale of backstage love and drama
When Sophie Wilde is knocked off her bicycle by Producer Alex Brooke, she becomes entangled in his world of Royal Gala's, Divas and dogs. She doesn't mean to fall in love with him; her life is complicated enough with her alcoholic, boomerang ex, her chaotic family and busy life in the wardrobe departments of London’s West End Theatre.
But Sophie is a serial daydreamer and makes lists to put off doing what needs to be done. When the singing Diva from hell, Callandra Jewell, throws a mega tantrum on tour, all the lists in the world cannot control the powerful mesh of emotions generated in the confusion.which follows.
Available now on Amazon
If Bridget Jones had a Fairy Godmother, she would want her to be Ruby Sixpence.
A long, long time ago, Ruby’s father bet a silver sixpence that his child would be born on a leap day; a spare day in which magic happens. Born in that enchanted crack in time where opportunities, and people like her, slip through.
Over the centuries Ruby Sixpence has nurtured the uncommon art of bringing lovers together, a gift which comes in the same package as aging one year in four.
But these gifts come with a price and make her duty bound to play cupid in the lives of reluctant lovers.
Take the unusual case of Katie Hope and Joe Lawrence who are so far from a perfect match that only drastic action from Ruby will bring them together. Her unorthodox methods are surprising, however, and she doesn’t always get it right.
With the stage set, Ruby Sixpence Whistles up a Storm and stands back to stir the pot.
Meanwhile, here is what Janet said about
UNLOCK THE BLOCK
Tell your own story?
Document your family history?
Write about a family member?
Create a blog about your life for family and friends?
Write an autobiography?
Write about your ancestors?
Write about other family members?
An incident in your past?
A world event which has changed your life?
Or a personal journey to fulfilment?
Make 2020 the year you
WRITE YOUR LIFE
Writer and Creative Writing Tutor
How much do you want to know about me?
I am a compulsive writer and I want to share some of my writing with you as well as thoughts and ideas about writing and some useful techniques. Welcome and please leave a message.