Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for August, 2014

Stirred and Shaken

swanwick 2014I cannot believe how quickly a year has gone by.  As the weekend neared, the excitement laced with large drops of trepidation intoxicated my every movement.  It was never about not holidaying with the family, but rather more joining my other family; my very special Swanwick family.

A year on and I was still a fraudster in some eyes particularly those of my  children, who cannot understand how I could legitimately join a writers school,having not had my novel published.   The few magazine articles I had sold were at most luck; at least an embarrassment so they could not count towards my job title WRITER.  Let’s face it, my children had not seen sight of any profits from my articles. Why would they?  My promise to myself was to put them towards my next Swanwick trip and so I had.

It was my eyes and my feelings that counted.  I was returning to Swanwick School of Writers, and I could not wait.

The journey proved longer this year, being held up in a traffic jam and on my own for the whole trip.   Excitement escalating with each excruciatingly slow mile. Was I nearly there yet?

Again (2013 Swanwick) I paused at the entrance, savouring the cocktail of emotions that coursed through my being.  I admit a certain fear and apprehension as I drove up the drive; would they remember me, would it be the same if I was not a white badger, nobody was going to offer guidance or assistance.   Maybe my followers and friends from last year will have realised in the intervening months just how flimsy my writing career is.

It was strangely reassuring to arrive at my room and realise I had stayed in this one last time.  A small task of individualising my name card reminded me that I was back in the world of writers, authors and poets with learning and fun to be had for a whole six days.   Taking a large gulp of self-assurance I made my way to the bar where I found welcoming arms and hugs from old and soon to be new friends.

So began my very special week of workshops, speakers, competition, laughter and welcome. (Swanwick 2013 part 2)

I began with David Hough’s Novel Editing.  He poured out sound advice, breaking it down into bite size re-edits.  In a nutshell; read it for me – is it what I wanted to read.  Read it from my main characters point of view – does she see things she shouldn’t or know things she hasn’t been party to yet?  Read it from my reader’s point of view – does it entertain them?

Then comes the grammar and spelling edits; this could be where I might fall down.  Back to the drawing board with Memories I realise now that  I am further back than I thought –  I may get away with missing step 1 as I am pretty sure it has all the bits in I wanted to add.

Short stories with Della Galton proved entertaining, challenging as she set the task of writing our opening paragraph and insightful with her simple plan; A character has a problem, which is resolved in an unexpected but in a satisfactory way.  The character is changed along the way.   With lots of tips and advice available to help craft my stories and make them marketable; we ended the week looking at short story markets.

Joining a workshop with Shirley Blair, the very lady who has the power to reject/ accept my stories, telling me to keep sending and her rejections are not personal.  With her mix of stringent guidelines spiked with pushing the boundaries she has thrown down the gauntlet to get a published story in People’s Friend.

Then the TV Detective himself arrived into my week.   The man who made me cry with laughter with his after dinner speaking- I will never think of otters again in the same light.  Simon Hall was dispensing in his first workshop about the media.  How to sell myself to become an item of newsworthiness even before the book has been published.

He drizzled into conversation facts like; agents check out web sites and look at tweets to gain insight into my personality and writing styles. He added to the brew suggestions like offer to write the article for the local paper and how to impassion that interview.

A short workshop earlier in the week on the luck and skill involved in forensics had left me wanting more.  Simon Hall again stirred the emotions of anticipation, fear and excitement with his rapid crime writing workshops. Mystery, suspense and keep your reader wanting was how he kept me enthralled.  Introducing the five Ps of writing a good novel: Premièring, place, people, plots and persistence.  Blending these five ingredients together should give me the recipe for a successful novel be it crime related or other genre.

There were other workshops, other inspirational speakers, the emotive and sometimes harrowing pictures that accompanied music, poems and letters in Remembering WW1.  The writer’s quiz that proved to me how wide and diverse this writing subject is and how little I know.   The poignancy of singing the final rendition of Auld Lang Syne as we promised not to forget each other amid tears and hugs of laughter.   No matter how many sessions I managed to attend there were many many others I could not make.

Before I knew it the week was over and I was waving off good friends and promising to keep in touch and see you next year.  Alone I gathered my belongings and packed the car.  Procrastinating long enough to take in the quiet and the gentle ripple of the lake I said my farewell vowing to return again.

So the magic of Swanwick (Swanwick 2013 part 3) lives on; as I drove down the long drive  the sudden strong sense of my own identity overwhelmed me.  I knew who I was and I knew where I was going.  The journey would be longer than I hoped but I had all the elements to quench the thirst to advance my writing career.  Icy trepidation diluted the fiery fervour as I realise  returning to real life will get in the way, work will inhibit both time and creativity as I head back to a world of people who do not understand but, I know I  am on the path and heading in the direction I want to be going.

 

Tiggy

 

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All Inclusive

DSC_0347From the moment we touched down and probably before;  we were under the emphatic but subtle officialdom of the holiday company.  We stepped off the Magaluf Express straight into the pre-prescribed formulaic world of many a TV sitcom.

A final tussle with my controlling streak, do I follow the crowd or do I take command.  The battle was already fought and lost as I realised I had come on holiday to let others take the hassle from me.  Meekly I fell into line and sheep like followed; retaining only some small semblance of rebelliousness as I herded my family to fall in.

The doors of the airport opened onto an array of about 30 coaches mainly in groups of same colours relating to which tour operator you happened to be travelling with.  Which hotel we were booked into dictated which coach we were directed to.  The island was not really that big was it?  Added to the fact it was 2o’clock in the morning; local time, we were at the mercy of the tour company.

The sheer numbers involved were mind blowing.  We had travelled with one particular holiday company, although at the airport it was evident other companies were also collecting their parties.  Other planes full of holiday makers came in from Cardiff, Amsterdam and Manchester there may have been others.

The coaches filled with factory line precision; although left to our own devices, once aboard meant people sat wherever they could.  The family was split up, but conversation was the last thing on people’s minds at that time in the morning.  When the final flights had arrived and spat out their passengers and luggage, the coaches were full.  A convoy of them left the airport in an explosion of engine noise, skidding and screeching tyres; amid the back drop of a spectacular lightening show.

The young lads from  Majorca become coach drivers for the vast array of holiday companies taking over the island.  Their thrills comprise an unspoken competition and joy racing each other along the rudimentary roads they call motorway, with a coach filled with unsuspecting invaders.

Our destination hotel determined which coach we travelled on; but as the journey continued having driven for an hour or so (I didn’t think the island that big) the coach began dropping at different resorts pointing further and further from our destination, alternate hotels seemingly run by other well-known holiday conglomerates.  Doubt crept in; had we been directed to the wrong coach, was my Spanish that rusty that I had given misleading information; how many hotels can this island actually have.

We reached our final destination at 5 in the morning where a lone Spanish speaking hotel receptionist struggled to explain in broken English and mucho Spanish hand waving what had to be filled in on the form and where our rooms were amid the three hotel complex.   We were all tagged as our details were taken in a scene reminiscent of the futuristic dominance of many a sci fi film.   A feeling of big brother pervaded as the security guard secured the band around our willingly volunteered wrists.

We finally tumbled into bed just managing to take note of breakfast times and the time and place of our welcome meeting.

The well-orchestrated organisation of the hotel and its inhabitants now finely tuned to such a fine art that any one daring to step outside the pre-determined formula would be either ignored or I imagine removed before any calamitous consequences could arise.

All inclusive; we had decided this was the best way of travelling with three continually hungry growing boys.   We entered the dining room to a cacophony of noise and smells and colours.   The room was heaving with people, only one of three hotel dining rooms offering a huge assortment of differing foods.

Without time constraints and without anywhere to be it surely would have been rude not to try and sample a little of everything.   Buffet style stations dotted all around the room offering cereals, toast, yoghurt, fruit, bacon, English sausage and frankfurter.   Scrambled, fried or boiled along with pancake eggs.  Tables, laden with cheeses, cold hams and continental sausages offered a genuine smorgasbord in recognition to the many Scandinavian visitors.   Croissants, pain au chocolate and a vast plateau of pastries challenged the skill of any patisserie French chef.

Lunch was served just two hours later and dinner two hours after lunch was cleared away.   There were of course as many different themes as there were breakfast displays combining the adventurous with the fussy eater.  Tea and coffee was on tap for breakfast with fruit juices leading to beer, sangria and wine later on in the day.  So many choices proved too great, creating the need to test each and every dish.

There were moments of the day and late into the evening when maybe the restaurants were not open but drinks flowed freely.  All inclusive was just that, beer, sangria, cocktails, fanta and coke were available from mid morning through midnight with coffee and tea machines dotted round the complex where ever you might have need of yet more sustenance.  Snack bars served burger and chips and continual supplies of ice cream just in case you could not last till the next cornucopia of meals was served.

No holiday would be complete without a few excursions and to give you an opportunity to part with that well-earned holiday spending money you had taken with you.  We chose the boat trip aboard Costa’s Catamaran to a quiet bay where other boat excursions met us and we dived blissfully into the deep warm waters of the Mediterranean, kyacking and clambering and falling from the air filled lilo that floated behind the boat.   The crew turned their talents to cooking the BBQ served with the now habitual wine and beer.  The remnants of which, chicken, pork , sausage and pasta salad, when we could manage no more was thrown overboard to the suddenly shoaling fish, who had surrounded the boats.

We took the opportunity to join the beautiful Captain Scarlet in her fishnets and high heels in her quest along with Francis Drake, Barbosa and Blackbeard for their swashbuckling adventure to save their boat from the evil pirate Lafitte.  Food and drink supplied and consumed the lights went down and we were treated to a spectacular show of fire, gymnastics and high flying acrobatics.

Off course all holidays need an opportunity to spend any remaining money you may have taken and the opportunity to pass a cash point to withdraw a little bit more.  We joined the trip to the Inca market to barter for goods you would not look twice at home but had an allure that drew you in to spend spend and spend.

Keeping the holiday running to plan and all the holiday makers smiling are the cheery recognizable reps who assured us they were there to make our holiday as enjoyable as possible and they certainly were always available with a smile and and pre prescribed answer to any little niggle that may cross your mind.   They join in and deliver shows and performances to keep us entertained through the late evening with their almost in tune singing, dubious acting skills and hilarious comedy routines.

Behind the very visible reps was an army of locals who kept their heads down and made the whole place function.   Rarely did they stop, or even look up from their tasks but when you took the time to stop and say “gracias” they would greet you with a broad smile and even engage in pidgin discussion, my Spanish as rusty as their English.

With any good thing all too soon it has to end and with heavy heart we waved farewell to the hotel, to the dining room, to the on tap Sangria and the swimming pools and retraced our journey of only a week before.  Waking up in my own bed, my own things around me I pause to consider was it all just a wonderful dream.  My bank balance and the cases of washing proved otherwise and if I just close my eyes for a moment I can almost hear the noise, smell the sun tan lotion and feel the fullness of yet another meal.  Just for that moment I am still on holiday; I can still relax enough to forget the washing, the cooking, the shopping and enjoy for a moment longer letting someone else take control.

Wherever you are holidaying this summer enjoy the moment, too soon it is all over and just a memory.

Tiggy

 

 

 

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