Attempting to make it as a writer

Posts tagged ‘swanwick’

Back to School

The trunk needed packing, it lay open and waiting on the bed.  As normal a variety of new clothes had been bought and waited to go in the case. I knew for certain that I had not grown any taller this year but just possibly I had shed a few unnecessary pounds, hence the reason for so many new items.

The full case was loaded into the car and off we set.  I was going back to school and I was full of a variety of school girl emotion; trepidation, excitement, uncertainty and euphoria, which I now realise, will always accompany my return.  The journey was unbelievably long and hazardous with traffic and holdups at every turn.  Were they there just to frustrate me or to pour more anxiety on the tension in the car.  We shuffled laboriously up the M5 and tried in vain to move forward to the M6.

I knew one friend was not coming back this time so I would be on my own. It was she, who’s glow I usually basked in.  It was she who led us in, but far more importantly pulled us out of mischief.  It was her I was missing already and I had not even arrived.

With relief we approached the school.  The pressure in the car dissipating every inch we moved closer up the drive.  I collected my key and we made our way back to my old familiar room.  It was still the same, just as I had left it, ready and waiting for me to unpack and stamp my own character back onto it.  Having unloaded, I waved off the family.  A moment of sudden missing them as the car vanished round the corner and I was left alone.

Turning my back on the disappearing car, my stomach tightened as I wandered into the lounge. Suddenly I was surrounded by old friends and acquaintances, I had not seen for a year.   Hugs, laughs and memories of previous years as new people arrived and the magic began to embrace us.

I was back, back in my own world of fiction, non-fiction, romance, CSI and all things literary.  Surrounded again by friends and new friends I was at Swanwick Writers Summer School and ready to absorb the atmosphere, magic and material that will guide me through the coming year’s projects.Swanwick 2015

This year I had promised myself I was going to stretch myself and learn outside my comfort zone.  Thrown in at the deep end that first evening, I found myself stood up in front of a room of proper writers.  It was as my name was called I realised how hot the room actually was, the door was too far away to run and all these people were so much better than me.

A deep breath and I launched into a speedy resume of what I had already written, forgetting or withholding the additional information that it still needed to be published.  I stumbled my way through my current and future projects  focusing  on this year’s plans;  to learn research, historical plotting and characterisation for my next NANOWRIMO novel.   I then fell back into the welcoming arms of my chair and anonymity.

I’d got away with it. The welcome in the bar was still going on and I joined in with my own celebration at overcoming a personal fear.  Is it the magic that carried me through?  Most definitely!

The first night done already, but I was entrenched back into the enchanted ecosphere of the place I love most; Swanwick.


Parental Pick-up

changing timesIt is not often these days I do the school run but I had to this week and I now realise how far my life has changed.

For 13 years I had children in primary school and although there were many configurations of shared delivery and collection to the schools involved I spent many of those years meeting lively excitable children tumbling from the classroom.   I like most other parents chatted amiably to the others stood in the cold and wet or occasionally glorious sunshine.   The British weather was always a sure fire starting point of conversation.

The playground pick up was a propagating ground for the foundations of lifelong friendships.  Inevitably we grouped around a particular door, or pathway where the year group exploded from at the end of the day.    Also inevitably despite the teachers insisting on parent punctuality, this did not reach as far as the inside of the classroom.

Often, and I should know having been both on the receiving end of this hand of help and having covered for other mothers.   A parent would wait at a younger siblings exit point leaving another to gather an older child from their escape route.   These small gestures of help extended beyond the action itself and sowed the seeds of friendship which were to last long beyond primary school.

Gossip was rife amongst the gatherers who having exhausted the British weather needed other stimuli to satiate their craving for conversation and inclusion.   People were happy to voice their opinions loudly but were also the first to rally round in a crisis.    It was a real treat to be able to help out someone in trouble.  It gave kudos and invited the gossip mongers to clamour like moths around a flame to hear her latest updates.   The helper became the focus with their accessibility and calm remoteness to convey the drama rather than the ragged emotions.

As children reached out to make new friends, they attended birthday parties or sports fixtures outside the protected environment of the school gate confine.   This led to the shared lift culture, giving friends of the children lifts to the said events.  It was reciprocal often one take, one collect but a coffee and cake or biscuits were always on the table at drop off.     Coffee led to longer stops and soon wine or beer as the events reached into evening.  Families got together until finally the children did their own things while the parents all mixed in little cliques of firm familiarity.   The children grew up and went onto top school but the foundations of the friendships formed by the parents flourished.

I went to pick Mini Son up from school this week queueing just to drive up the road even before finding a small space to park the car.   Remaining in the warm car as the hail hurtled earthwards outside dropping large boulders of iced sleet on the windscreen, the radio presenter entertained me with anecdotes, melodies and interviews.  Mini Son in true brotherly solidarity with the older two managed to be the last child to leave the school premises.

As I waited patiently in the cocoon of the car; my thoughts were drawn to the older children erupting from classes in a lava flow of dispersion, wearing nothing but tight skinnies, very mini mini- skirts which may have been large belts and flimsy t-shirts.  Gushing past me into the battered ghosts of once glorious cars which were revved and goaded in ear piercing gear screeching kangaroo jumps; I realised these were once the same children I stood waiting with their parents at the gates of the primary school.  They had shed their cute childish coyness, emerging as confident, self-assured, independent car driving teenagers.

Times they are a changing!


Although I struggle with finding time to write, I am still editing previous work.  I have two stories ready to send to a magazine, one is now as ready as I will ever get it, the other needs more editing – reads ok but way over the word limit so I need to get the knife and hash it about or maybe re-write.  I was challenged to write a piece for competition.  The challenge was not so much in the writing as in the short time I was given to complete it.   I managed it and sent off the piece,  I know it will not come anywhere as it will be up against some big names but to me the act of completing and sending off was the hurdle I successfully overcame.

Memories takes forever to edit as this has to go low down on the to-do pile but the edit is chugging along.  Some major re-writing will follow to hopfully bring it’s appeal to a much wider audiance.  Would love to have this with an agent before my annual inspirational pilgrimage to Swanwick this year, but no promises!

Enjoy the read and let me know how your lives are changing.


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.




Hold that Front Page!

I have always wanted to say that, in the same way I want to jump in a London Cab and yell “follow that cab”.    I have to say that I did achieve the cab one a few years ago, not quite in the dramatic action packed fever of a Bond film or spy thriller but a group of us stood in the rain waiting to go to some event or other.  As you can see it was most unmemorable and dull but the essence was it was pouring and we didn’t want to walk.  

We hailed two passing cabs, half got in the first and I led a smaller group to the second with of course the immortal words “follow that cab”.  The story maybe needs some spicing up and a little more drama than just a bit of rain.   More importantly, I seized the moment rather than later on realising the lost opportunity.  So often in life the right retort or repartee springs to mind only later whilst reliving the eloquent rhetoric of the ‘could have been’ conversation or moment; too late to do anything useful with it.

Dreams and ambition I have loads of, but how many are really achievable number far fewer.  Those dependent on my numbers coming up on the Euro Millions are very unlikely but are there in case I need the plan when it finally happens.   Imagine being caught out winning millions and not knowing what to do with it.  Ooh – just imagine.   The same plans will hold when I get my act together and Memories is published and goes global becoming a best seller with a commission for the next in the series.

Currently just getting through the mountain of work is ambitious enough with the printers baying for my magazine and my late delivery meaning I cannot get it back when I want it back.   Finally this month I had uploaded it,  with relief I settled to that aftermath of self-congratulatory down time I admit to relishing in.    It was late in the afternoon when a pang of unease hit me, an inability to settle made me re-open my mail box to read the mail.

We have a clearer picture now is it too late to do an editorial?

This was the breaking news I had been waiting for over the last three months – the papers had not got wind of it, my competitors had not heard about it and it was not even being bandied about on facebook.  I had the scoop of my editorial career but I had already gone to print.

Hold the front page! Hold the back page and hold everything in the middle –  The printers managed to stop the plating up process.  Frantic calls back and forth discussing if it could now be changed, how quickly could we get the story to the printers if it could.

I designed, the advertisers wrote, I edited, the printers waited.   The children arrived home tired and hungry wanting of all things tea.   Short on extra vocabulary they soon got the message they had to fend for themselves.

I changed the wording slightly, I viewed it from afar, I viewed it from close up.  I changed the font and tried differing fonts, I converted it to a jpeg image, back to publisher and then PDF format.  Finally I was happy it was good to go.  I uploaded; then I breathed.


A long slow breath filling my lungs which had been starved of regular oxygen intake as I realised my heart was racing and I had been holding my breath.  For how long I did not know; I would imagine I had taken various breaths in the last hour and half and just hung onto them.   I felt dizzy with the rush of oxygen to the lungs then the brain. I felt sick to the stomach with the sudden surge of dissipating adrenaline that left me weak and jittery.  I felt elated with emotion that we had managed to succeed with our breaking story.

A bucket of tea drunk with shaking hands concentrating hard on just raising the cup, sipping it slowly and then breathing deeply.

Another dream realised.  I had another first fulfilled and another never to be repeated heart stalling, adrenaline filled, total focus moment accomplished.   I take my hat off to all those newspaper editors whose lives must be filled with such moments.  Do they actually get used to it or does the regular lack of oxygen supply finally send them loopy?


True life is interwoven with so many threads stretching out before they knit themselves back into our life fabric.  I don’t believe in coincidences but I do believe in fate,  although…..   Imagine my delight half way through this blog when I again held up the publication this time of the post to the internet to read an e-mail just coming through.

I am delighted to tell you that your Take A Break World contribution has been chosen for publication in Take a Break and appears in TAB1344, which goes on sale 24/10/13.  Your £75 cheque will follow in approximately six weeks’ time.

Had I read that right:  ‘has been chosen for publication’,  ‘your contribution’.  Did they mean my contribution, something I had sent to them.   Was it something of mine they were going to publish in a magazine, a proper magazine, one that people pay money out to buy magazine.   It dawned on me that again I was holding my breath as read and re-read the email.  My hands were shaking as I took the laptop upstairs to show Sexy Sporty Dad.

Following my inspirational trip to Swanwick I had sent off various fillers to magazines in a bid to pay for next year’s trip.   This may not be quite the same as having my book accepted by a publisher but it was earning, earning from something I had sent out.   It was a filler,  the first to be accepted and the start of my 2014 Swanwick fund.  Sexy Sporty Dad slightly less amused to be woken up with the news suddenly commented “they are paying you how much?”

Maybe I can convince him there is money to be had in this writing lark after all and he will let me give up all my other jobs.



Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at





To Become or Not To Become!

I was tired.

Not just from lack of sleep but from the learning overload and insightful knowledge that I had gained over the week.   There was also a sadness tugging at the emotions and the tangible fear of returning to normality that greets the final days of any holiday.  Mine ran deeper than that; the fear that when I close the door on this week would I ever be able to recreate the feeling of inclusion, of being one with the world, of belonging.

The final night brought the week to a close.   A rousing and heartfelt round of Auld Lang Syne touched a nerve unlike any New Year’s Eve version had.  These people, the same ones that only a week ago, I had once been so apprehensive about were now my friends. Should they be forgot, should they never be brought to mind; I think not.  I suspect that these wonderful, welcoming, creative people will be on my mind and in my heart for a long time to come yet.

It was a very late night, I had stayed the course and now was not going to miss a moment of the final farewells.  The early start next morning was habitual rather than with any of the previous week’s eagerness. I joined friends for breakfast before waving off the bus full of new acquaintances headed for the station and home to their various lives.

Slowly I returned to my room and packed.  No longer a white badger, no matter how many times I return I will never be that scared, timid, terrified person arriving so nervously again.    It had taken an age to unpack but a week ago, now everything was tossed carelessly, unloved into the case with little caution.   I checked and rechecked every drawer to make sure nothing was left.   I had yet another cup of instant hotel coffee using my last remaining miniscule pot of milk as I wandered backwards and forwards packing the car.  Finally it was time and with cries of “see you next year”, “keep writing” wringing in my ears I turned the engine on.

Warm in the cocooned chrysalis of my car I slowed as I said good-bye to the Swanwick lake, gardens, dreams and drove up, up over the hill to Carsington lake and back to reality.  The hill stretched up towards storm ridden skies of uncertainty until I reached the very precipice of the future.  One lake fading behind me as one emerged open and inviting before me.  Exorcising any lingering feelings of self-doubt, I drove over the abyss and back to my family, no longer a moth flittering towards the early morning light of the breaking dawn I emerged a beautiful multi-faceted ambitious writer.


Back in the hub-bub of normal life my thoughts often flit back to my week away.    Was it all just a dream?  Possibly, it all seems to have faded quickly like any holiday memory, but inside has changed.  I am a writer maybe more so than before.   Since my return I have written a lot, I have done a huge amount of editing of Memories already with lots more to go still, the new character is emerging very much in the background so the emphasis does not change.  I have even sent some stuff to a magazine as a filler; although there is no reply as yet.   I have a short story which needs a little more editing and another in mind to be sent off.  I need to write the new blog for the magazine, not many words but time critical.

And, I have a dream; a personal, special achievable dream.

I will return to the wonderful Swanwick and see all my friends again.  I will find some way of funding that from my writing.   When I return, I want Memories to be finished and in the hands of someone else; agent, publisher, readers.  My fading memory of the week I emerged as a writer will become an investment in my future not just another pie in the sky wish.


Have a look at what I am up to with my cooking blog at Tea Time Treats




What’s in a Name?

The journey went too quickly despite every procrastinating ploy to postpone the inevitable arrival.  Just to calm the hyperactive hefalumps practising their aerobic workout in the depth of my stomach I pulled off the road just before the entrance to the school.  Tucking myself well out of sight of any passing car, lest they offer to show me the way, or worse still remove all possibility of escape.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be here; and I never thought I would ever say that about going back to school.   It wasn’t even that I was missing my family as I had only said goodbye a few hours earlier.  It wasn’t even that I felt cheated that we were not spending our holiday abroad.

I was about to join the Swanwick School of Writers.

Here I was purporting to be a writer; struggling to even finish the eternal editing of my story let alone send it off to be published.  I was going to try and wing a whole week convincing the writing world I was as good as them.  What would happen when they found out I was not in the same league as them not even in a league?  How quickly would it take them to realise I could not really write?   Why did I ever send my work off to be scrutinised in a 1-to-1 with someone who actually knows what she is talking about.  I could still turn round and spend the week in a cold damp tent watching the family sail.

Tempting as the choice may have been, a warm bed, working showers and no cooking for a week was enough to win me over.   I put the car in to first and eased slowly up the winding drive.  Glimpses at first of the country house became bigger, longer as the house grew in stature and terror before my fear filled eyes.   Parking facing the lake I wished fervently for the water to rise up and overwhelm the car taking me with it.  Ignoring my wishes the lake stretched wide and calmly to both sides, ducks lurking in the distance, reeds blowing ever so gently in the balmy breeze.

It is funny how one of my favourite songs just happened to be played on the CD player at just the point I should have been leaping in excitement from the car.  I was delayed yet again to finish listening.   With no more justifiable tactics I got out of the car and took slow deliberate steps to the reception.   A well versed welcome greeted me as I was given a room key and a white badge indicating I had never attended this annual school before.

Having unloaded the car, lugged my heavy case up the stairs along the corridor, up another two flights of stairs and round the last corner into my corridor.  I walked all the way to the end before finding my room.  Slowly and deliberately I put away everything at least twice before I considered myself unpacked and ready.  For what?

My first job that I had been charged with was to write my name on the badge so that I could wear it wherever I went over the week.  A simple task!  But which name should I choose?   I had booked in under my own name but was not sure that here at the writing school I really wanted to be known as that.

Here I was a writer, and here I wanted to be known as Tiggy, after all that is what will be on my as yet unpublished books if I survived the week and was not uncovered for the fraud I am.   Nobody knew who Tiggy was; she had no room allotted to her and no 1-to-1 meeting to discuss her work.  Another dallying technique took a few attempts batting backwards and forwards the merits of who I am or who I was going to be.

Finally I wrote my name clearly and boldly with pink trim and clipped it proudly to my chest.   An extra splash of perfume and a new fresh layer of makeup and the transformation was complete.  I could now face the welcoming white badges reception; I could immerse myself in the magical world and join enthusiastically in with fellow writers safe in the persona of my penname.   Tiggy stepped into the unknown welcome of likeminded, published and unpublished, struggling and successful, beautiful world of Swanwick.


Tiggy white badger


Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

New Chapter

Like many mothers at this time of year I watched my child close not only a page of his life story but a whole chapter. Mini Son has just left primary and is about to launch himself into all the new and exciting adventures Secondary School will throw his way.  Having spent the last 15 years involved in the primary system it will seem strange next September to have no children in the closeted cocoon of primary education.  The silent salty tears I shed at his leavers performance were for the loss of a way of life as well as the harsh reality of losing a little more of my youngest child to the wider world.

As Mini Son transforms from baby to young man he will flourish as he embarks on the new events, activities and opportunities he will be offered.   He has pages of his own life to fill with stories, memories and photos. He has adventures and dangers to explore and conquer learning not only the lessons from education but the more important lessons in life.  In truth his story will take him further and further from my own as he grows with stature and confidence.

Watching my youngest stand with his classmates and say their emotional farewells to the place they arrived scared, shy students only 7 short years ago, my tears tumbled in memory of those scary September mornings leaving him with his new teacher.  I remembered trips, competitions and the friends that have come and gone and those who are moving up with him to new adventures.  Remembered too, the committees and fundraising that swallowed so many of my evenings. Finally the tears fell freely with the fear of the future and how the next chapter will write itself.

My own life has been woven inextricably with that of my children in a trilogy that can never be separated.  Now my children are marking their own independent pages should I too turn the page, start my own adventure, return to the tantalising inviting sheets of my life story to create and continue my own journey.

ending the chapter

Ending a Chapter

With the closing of one chapter a new one begins, quests and exploits bring opportunities that may have been passed up before. I can now grasp them with both hands and fuse them onto the pages of my life.  Shedding tears are as cathartic as shedding the chrysalis of motherhood and re-emerging as a person with my own story to write.

Moving on may be enhanced by my holiday.  I am attending this summer for a week of writing, inspiration and independence.    I will listen intently to those who have been where I am now and taken their writing further.  I hope to attend workshops to fine tune my creativity and direct me to the next phase in my journey to publishing.  I will network amid fellow writers, editors and publishers to find out how, where and what the next step will be.

My family will be not many miles away sailing and camping as I take my first foray into my future.


On that very note, I have had feedback from my friendly barrister and at the beginning of her comments she says  “I read your novel really quickly, and thoroughly enjoyed it”.

There were a couple of major legal inaccuracies but she has guided me on how those would happen in a real family court, which now leaves lots of work to do over the summer to create a new character and weave them into the story.

She also picked up on a line of story I was unhappy about and wondered like me if it lost some credibility.   I feel comfortable now that my instinct had basis and am changing and developing the storyline without it.    Was  she the catalyst to galvanise me back into edit mode?



Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy


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