Wednesday, 24 April 2013

No Man is an Island

 And no writer should spend all their time alone. Every so often we should put down our laptops and enter out into the world in search of like minded people.
This is exactly what I did on Saturday when I headed off to the Verulam Writers Conference in St Albans with my lovely writerly friend Tania.

The Verulam Writers club is a long running writers club that holds a one day conference every year for the extremely reasonable price of £55 which includes lunch, refreshments AND a five minute pitch with a professional of your choice. For a further ten pounds you can also book a ten minute pitch where you can submit five pages in advance and then hear their feedback.

 The day offers a choice of workshops in a variety of genres but it focuses mainly on crime and childrens writing. (A strange combination but it seems to work!) and much like SCBWI it is organised entirely by volunteers. I had a workshop with the inspirational Beverley Birch on creating tension, one with Julie Mayhew (author of new YA book Red Ink) on finding your teen voice and another with Lesley Eames on beginnings. There was a very interesting panel on childrens writing with Beverley Birch, Julie Mayhew and Marianne Levy (author of the Ellie May books) with open question and answer time.

 The best part of the day was not the workshops or the pitches however but the sense of being surrounded by people just like me. And because of my recent epiphany (see my last post - Desperation Station) instead of being stressed and anxious and slightly desperate like I was at Winchester in November, this time I was relaxed and calm. I found it easy to talk to people, all the people, be it  author, agent or editor and I wasn't worried about networking and getting requests for my work. I just wanted to chat. The freedom was simply glorious and I left the day feeling positive and happy to be part of this great writing community.

Thanks to everyone who made the day so fabulous and to Tania who not only recommended the day but drove me there as well!!

 Come back next week where I will discuss what I learned from the marvelous Beverley Birch!


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Desperation Station

Everybody off!

Final stop, Desperation Station!

Let's face it, it's not a good place to be. Desperation gives off a certain whiff and makes you behave a certain way. It affects everything that you do and colours your life in shades of panic and anguish. No one wants to visit you there and there's nothing to do but obsess and worry in a pit of wretchedness and self pity.

I never thought I'd end up here. Not really. Maybe, it was possible I'd get off at this stop after many years of trying to get published but somehow, I seem to have got off at this stop far too early.
I'm not sure why. When I first began I had no delusions, in fact I never thought I'd get anywhere at all but  my first book did surprisingly well, with agents requesting it and reading it and liking it and almost taking it on. When it eventually failed to find a home it seemed to spark off something of a panic.

 I needed an agent.
 I needed a book deal.
And I needed them now!

 But everything took so long - the writing, the editing, the revising and then the submissions and the waiting and the rejections and all of that before you got anywhere near a publisher or a deal. Worrying about the time factor only exacerbated the desire to get things moving and to push as hard as I could.

 Convinced that my second novel would be the one I worked like a dervish trying to finish it but despite spending a long time revising and editing I failed to address one of the key problems. It was a problem I'd been aware of all along but I thought I could maybe ignore it and no one would notice...
They did.
And the second book is still sitting on my laptop, homeless and unloved.

But, I went away and started my third book and discovered something I'd forgotten.

The love of creation. 
The pure joy of writing.
The sheer pleasure of words.

And because I took what I learned from my last two books and used it to plan and structure this book it's been a pleasure to write. Because I considered themes and ideas and motivations before I even started I feel that the book is more well rounded even at this first draft stage. Yes, it needs editing and revising but I don't think it will need the huge rewrites that I've had to do before. (Could be entirely wrong about that of course but here's hoping!)

The most interesting thing about writing the third book however is that the sense of desperation has left me. I'm writing for me in my own time and in my own way. I'm not trying to write for the market or to please anyone else and it's remarkably freeing.
 I'd still like an agent and a publisher of course, but I don't NEED one. I have no idea if this project has that special ingredient that will make someone want to publish it and that's okay.
I made it and it's mine and I love it. Creating every day makes me happy.
That is what I'm going to focus on now.

I will still go to events and workshops. I will read and work and do my best to improve but I'm going to do that for me,  I want the satisfaction of knowing I'm improving and growing as a writer. I want to have writing in my life but I don't NEED publication to make me happy and I refuse to let it define me. Published or unpublished I am a writer because I write. That is the lesson I've learned.

 So I'm leaving Desperation Station. I'm going somewhere new, somewhere that I can relax and create and enjoy my life. Hopefully others will come and visit me there...everyone's welcome!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Harry Potter in a pot!

All seven Harry Potter books in one show?
All seven Harry Potter books in just 70 minutes?
It's not possible surely?
Well, actually it is because I saw the very thing just last night. My son and I went to the Garrick Theatre in the West End to watch Potted Potter and neither of us expected to enjoy it quite as much as we did. 

The whole show contains just two actors - Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner and a handful of props and silly hats. During the anarchic and extremely funny hour and ten minutes they weave in the Harry Potter stories with jokes, games, rants, dressing up, cuddly toys, more jokes, silliness, parody, fighting, dancing, even more jokes, audience participation, madness, mistakes, wigs, accents, sarcasm and song!

It was a true Tour de Force, the two actors were amazing at improvising and managed to enchant both children and adults with their non stop madness. I can't remember laughing so much at another show before and it was made even more enjoyable because I shared the whole thing with my son. He loved the whole madcap nature of the show and nearly fell off his seat several times he was laughing so hard!

Highlights included the interactive Quidditch game, the magic duel between Harry and Voldemort and the remarkable duet of "I will survive" which included the line - "as long as I have seven souls I know I'll stay alive!" but to be honest there is not a dull moment in the whole thing.

Out of all my Harry Potter experiences ( I've also been to the theme park in Florida and the UK Studio Tour) I have to say this one was actually my favourite. (Florida was amazing but with the queues and the crowds it was hard work too!)
 I think that's because the show felt as if real affection and fun had been used to create it rather than being just a moneymaking experience designed by marketing types. I really do recommend it whether you're a Potter fan or not, take your kids or go on your own, it's a super feel good show and might just remind you why you loved Harry in the first place!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Beanstalk is back!

 Yes, it is true, Jack and the Beanstalk has had a face lift and been re-imagined as "Jack the Giantslayer" for the big screen. One of many Fairy tales now being used as fodder for movie makers - last year it was the turn of Snow White in "Snow White and the Huntsman, earlier this year it was Hansel and Gretel in "Hansel and Gretel - Witch Hunters". Still to come we have "Meleficent" next year with Angelina Jolie in the title role plus there's talk of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast still to come.

 So, how did they do with Jack? Well, overall I quite enjoyed it. Ewan Magregor, Nicholas Hoult and Ian Macshane do a reasonable job of being charming and believable. The script is cohesive and amusing at times. The special effects Giants are suitable disgusting and monstrous although not very frightening.
 Some of the aspects have remained the same, a boy (well, he's eighteen), some beans and a land of Giants but they have deepened the backstory and added in a magic crown that can control the Giants. They've also padded out the story with a cliched "Princess who really wants adventure" who provides some love interest for Jack. Also added to the mix is an obvious villain who steals the magic crown so he can use the Giants to take over the Kingdom.

 I'd say it was aimed squarely at younger children,( unlike Snow White and Hansel and Gretel) and is a decent enough way to spend a couple of hours in the Easter Holidays but then again, you wouldn't miss much if you waited for the DVD version.

 So far I haven't been hugely impressed with the films produced from fairy tales (although I did love "Tangled" by Disney) despite the CGI that allows filmmakers to bring these stories to life, they tend to fall a little flat. Perhaps it's because Fairy tales are so deeply ingrained in our culture, in our childhood that they somehow lose their charm once taken off the page?
 Or is it because the film makers are trying to update and change what should remain a classic and this niggles at me?
  I'm not sure exactly but so far I haven't found a fairy tale film that compares to a fairy tale book. Not yet anyway...