Saturday, 25 January 2014

The year that was

So.  It's been a while.

Someone pointed out to me the other day that the blog has been languishing a little.  This is because I've been engaging in a spot of gentle musing about its future.

It has occurred to me that Thomas is currently learning to read, and will therefore soon be in a position to track down my blogposts and object, vociferously, to my version of events.  Given the number of times that 'S'not faaaaaaair!' is currently echoing around our house, I can hazard a pretty good guess at the form his objections would take.

Ben is not learning to read.  Actually, he might well be able to read already.  He's got a certain sideways smirk that tends to suggest that there's a lot more going on inside his head than he lets slip.
 But he has mastered the iPad and is making some serious inroads into the complicated gestures needed to operate an Apple.  It is only a matter of time, therefore, before his opinions make an appearance in the comments section of this blog.  Okay, those opinions might be expressed in terms such as 'xhsjhjhjjjjjjjjjiwowssllm!@' or 'thhrhrhrhrhrhrpppppp0(((((pow!' but when accompanied by the sideways smirk, I'll know what he's thinking.

So, I think it's time that the blog stopped being a random series of rants - although I suspect that rantage will still feature fairly heavily.  After all, I have yet to work my way through my backlog of rage-inducing parking incidents and country lane stand-offs.  But I think the blog needs a bit more of a purpose.

I've been talking to my writing group about the possibility of using the blog as a resource for all of the useful bits and pieces that we share with one another, but never get down in any permanent form. There are many useful writing books out there, but a lot of these are aimed at beginners, or at a specific aspect of writing.  We would like to create a log of the things we learn, and the opportunities we come across, as well as all those lightbulb moments that come from talking around a particular issue or idea.

So things are going to change around here.  There's going to be a new focus.  The random ranting is going to take a back seat.  That's not to say it's not going to undo its seatbelt and attempt to climb into the driving seat once in a while.  And yes, that metaphor does come from somewhere specific - yes, I am looking at a certain smug-faced Houdini-wannabe who will find himself walking to nursery if he doesn't stop undoing his straps with a gleeful cry of "Done it!"

Sorry.  Old ranting habits die hard.

But time for a recap about the year that's gone.

In late 2012 I started looking for freelance writing work.  This was around the same time as I was offered representation for my first novel, Telemachus, by the very lovely Lisa Eveleigh of the Richford Becklow agency.  In December of that year, I decided to have a crack at short stories.  I'd tried my hand at these once before, with disastrous results, and had concluded that I was incapable of saying anything in less than 140,000.  Probably with appendices and footnotes.

But having read more short stories, and having looked at the judging comments in the Writing Magazine and Writers' Forum competitions, I thought I had an inkling as to how they might work.  I'm still not sure that it's more than an inkling, but I've been fortunate enough to have had an encouraging first year of short story writing:

Writing Magazine competitions - Dreams Come True - shortlisted, The Writer - shortlisted

Bath Short Story Award - The Man on the Platform - long listed (withdrawn after placing elsewhere)

Mslexia Short Story Competition - The Man on the Platform - runner-up and published in magazine

Bristol Short Story prize - Why I Waited - third place and published in anthology

H E Bates Short Story Competition - Last Tango in Space - first place and published online

Writers' Forum competition - The Girl who Walked on Walls - first place and to be published in March 2014

In 2013 I also completed my second novel, Fallen, and this is about to go out on submission.  At which point I will obviously check my email five million times a second, and come up with spurious reasons to email Lisa, just in case she has somehow forgotten to mention that someone has offered me a three trillion pound book deal.

I have also been lucky enough to meet a number of incredibly talented and interesting people, and have attended various events as a member of the audience, as well as being directly involved with some projects myself.  I started a writing group which, after some very lean times, has now grown to full capacity, with regular monthly meetings.  Members of The Beermat of Silence (don't ask - it's a long story and something will inevitably be lost in translation if I try to explain) should hopefully be popping up on this blog, as several of them have expressed interest in providing guest content, and sharing their own writing experiences.

I have also joined the long-established Company of Writers, and have benefitted hugely from the generosity and experience of members of both groups.

I've managed to overcome some of my spectacular nervous tics (see here for details - I'm not sure I can bear to repeat them) to read at three of the bi-monthly Story Friday events, and at a new event in Cheltenham, run by Philip Douch.

I went on an Arvon course in late 2013, and blogged about it here.  I would recommend it to anyone who wants an intensive course, and who doesn't mind drinking their own weight in wine in the process.  I also attended an extremely enlightening Royal Society of Literature masterclass, taken by Helen Dunmore, and various events at the Bath and Bristol festivals of literature.

I've been surprised at how many other writers there are in my local area.  They don't just pop up at events - they seem to lurk everywhere.  I've met fellow writers in a swimming pool and a playground and on a street corner in Bath.  I've discovered them lurking in my office, and hanging around my local magistrates' court*

*NB I am a lawyer.  I don't just hang out at court for kicks and giggles.  Nor am I regularly summonsed for misdemeanours.  Probably best to clarify that one!

I've discovered Topping & Company's incredible program of author events, and have hyperventilated at having an actual conversation with Margaret Atwood.  Although, I am prone to getting a little over-excited by things like that.  I nearly exploded when The Last Unicorn author, Peter Beagle favourited one of my tweets.....

So that was 2013.

I have no idea what 2014 holds, but I'm going to try to keep this blog updated, and to shape it into a useful resource.  If anyone has any writing-related hints or tips that they would like to share, please get in touch.  I'd be particularly interested to hear from people who are trying to make the most of very limited time, or who are juggling writing with a full-time job, or who have had a writing lightbulb moment on a course or workshop.  Local writing events and news would also be useful.

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