Hello. At some point I will start a regular newsletter, I hope, but in the meantime I will do a few updates here. Let me know if you find any of it interesting. I am off twitter for the time being – with ‘The Team’ (my older sons) in charge of things there. Writing – mainly in terms of getting work out there and prepared to publication standard – relies partly on teamwork. I’d say most if not all things do. Now, we have had a lot of upheaval at home; difficult situations to navigate, some of them complex and some a bit triggering for me. I need to keep a clear head and some things that I have seen on twitter recently have done me no good at all. But we are working together as a family – including my youngest who’s 8. He very sweetly just told me that even if everyone in the world totally hated everything I ever wrote, he would probably still think it was all great. So there we are.
So this week…we have been doing a second round of edits on Famished, which is my first short story collection. This is published by Influx Press in September and is my second book of this year. Influx has a great subscription service for the 2020 titles and you can pre-order Famished there already. Some wonderful events coming up soon, including Adam Scovell with Deborah Levy next week. I am so hoping to get to this! All events are on the website.
OOOH I love my cover for Influx.
Here’s a subscription link: https://www.influxpress.com/subscriptions
In addition to the second round of edits, I have written a new story for the text this week. It’s about potatoes, sex and death. Here’s information on Famished:
Something else new and of which I am extremely proud is that, for 2020, I have given a bursary to Birkbeck at the University of London for a Creative Writing Student. This is to help someone flourish who might be struggling with financial constraints. I am told it’s most likely it would go to a postgraduate MA or MFA student, but otherwise an undergraduate. In time, I hope to fund someone completely. Information will be up soon! I did not do an MA or MFA in Creative Writing. It wasn’t the route for me. I am, however, highly aware of how much an excellent period of study has meant to people. It isn’t just the teaching and reading; it’s the community, discipline and encouragement. Also, someone really brilliant may not have had a great deal of formal education post-16. I am a secondary English teacher, tutor and mentor. Writing is not actually my day job. I know a little bit about this. I also know how I felt as a carer, managing multiple bereavement and mental health problems when I was at university. Looking back, I am not sure how I coped. I was mindful of this when working out if I could offer some money to make life a bit easier for someone else. OOH: look http://www.bbk.ac.uk/study/2020/postgraduate/programmes/TMFCWRIT_C here’s just one example.
Also this week, I have written and presented an interview to the wonderful Lin Webb, who has been my editor at Bluemoose for my forthcoming novel, Saving Lucia. When a book goes to the editor, I suppose I would think of it as about half-way there. You may have different ideas about how finished your work would be, but in all cases the work of an editor is vital. I have learned a lot from Lin about style and structure; things I thought I would be able to see but somehow could not. But also Lin’s warmth, kindness and sense of humour have been one of the best things to happen to me since I started writing a few years ago (I am still a newbie, you know). Publishing is, I have learned, a tough old business. But I tell you there are plenty of absolute diamonds around too – so fear not if you are moving in this direction. I asked Lin about editing generally and also to share a few thoughts on how we worked on Saving Lucia. This will be up after approval from the Head Moosefolk (teamwork thing again). I think the interview might be also be useful for those preparing their work for submission – but you can tell me later on, if you like.
Something else I am working on this week is for a collection edited by Dan Coxon. It’s for Mental Health UK and is a fund raiser; to be published in the autumn by Unsung Stories. http://www.unsungstories.co.uk/ (I am not sure if I am supposed to give the title yet so better not.) This is unusual and, I think, rather special. Because it is using spooky, eerie stories and employing Weird Fiction to explore mental health themes, with a sense of uplift and possible recovery. I know a lot about this because of my own mental health history. Largely as a result of extended and complex trauma, I have managed generalised anxiety, depression, OCD, flashbacks and dissociative episodes. I mean, I am still managing those things. All a bit colourful. But there’s something in Saving Lucia about…about how you need not be entirely fixed or better in order to go out into the world and flourish. If you are managing mental health problems, are reading this, and think that you cannot make things, please let me encourage you to know that this is not the case.
I am spending a little time on the only free read I will have time for this year. It is a full mansucript of a novel – and I do this for those who would not otherwise be able to stretch to editorial or a report from a literary consultancy before they submit. I hope I am able to provide help, clarity and encouragement.
I am keeping in touch with my agent this week about plans and then, between the end of February and September, I am going to rewrite the novel I have been working on for my literary agency. It’s called (I think I am allowed to say), The Zebra and Lord Jones. There’s expansion needed and I wanted to say that I have been incredibly lucky with Kate my agent, because she’s kind, ambitious for me (with me?) about my work, understands the constraints I work under and is really skilled at editorial. So this is great. I have a lot of work to do – but onward: I’ve got great notes.
In June, I have a piece out in a book by Dodo Ink. Here: blimey – look who’s on it. I feel properly shy. http://www.dodoink.com/blog It’s called Trauma: Art as a Response to Mental Health and I just learned my story, ‘In Order to Live’, which is a memoir piece about how I rebuilt my mind with reading, is being edited at the moment. So I wonder what I will need to do? It’s really interesting getting work back. I absolutely love editorial and, although this might be a bit sad, responding to comments and tracking changes really appeals to the nerdy, box ticking, fixing up and list making side of me.
AND FINALLY I understand that information will soon be up about the launch of Saving Lucia. Bluemoose has noted it for you already on twitter, but it is at Mr B’s Emporium in John Street, Bath and on Thursday the 30th of April. This is a wonderful independent bookshop which has recently expanded and the place is a joy. I will share information when I have it.