Attempting to make it as a writer

Posts tagged ‘workshops’

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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Commercial Potential

It had taken a long time to get to this point.  Many years wasted,  wishing on the ‘never going to happen’ star.   Followed by many years of gentle hints that I might possibly wish to forgo the annual cold wet camping/sailing holiday with the family and pop over the hill to Swanwick.   Now the family were older, Sexy Sporty Dad in a moment of madness suggested I book my holiday  and the family could fend for themselves for a week.

Booked.

Irrevocably in to my dream week before he had the chance to think about what he had said; let alone change his mind.

So here I was all alone in an alien world not knowing anyone.  I had to leave my room sometime. Bravely shutting the door on my haven I followed the noise of a few chatty people outside.   Delaying any moment of verbal contact I held the door for a lady a few steps behind.

“Oh you’re a white badger”

“Yes” I replied surprised at the childlike reticence in my voice; wondering what initiation I would trigger.

“How is your room?  Do you know anyone?”  my terrified shake of the head gave me away.  “Come with me and we will get some tea.”  Suddenly I had a friend.  With our tea we met other members of her lovely writing circle who had come as a group for years.  I was embraced like an old friend by others eager to meet past friends and develop new ones.  I was no longer the frightened imposter who had arrived but an hour ago.   I was part of the crowd, part of the magic, I was a writer.

That is Swanwick all over; always a friendly face to guide you, a supportive word to encourage you and interested contemporaries to inspire you.

The welcome reception for white badgers gave me the opportunity to mingle with committee members, fellow white badgers and a few regulars on hand to guide and include.   A glass of wine softened any remaining doubt that I was gate crashing a private party.   More relaxed I was able to answer questions about my lack of published work.   I explained I was editing a novel which I hoped to get published and found I was not the only person in that position. I summoned the courage to tell of my blogging and early tweeting experiences to people interested in my attempts,  not only my successes.

The program I had been sent would be my bible for the forthcoming week.   I would refer to it countless times a day.  I wanted to do everything, I wanted to experience everything, I didn’t want to miss a moment.    I can see why people come back time and time again, there is so much on offer all crammed into just one week. Many workshops clashed, I couldn’t possibly do everything. I wasn’t even sure I could cope with the pace to do all that didn’t clash.   Days would be filled with workshops; learning, interacting, discovering in my own special world.

 

Swanwick-programme

 

 

One special event took place when I met with my 1 to 1 specialist.  I had agonised and anguished for many hours before anxiously sending the first 3000 words of “Memories”.    Would she like it, would she be the first to realise I am not meant to be a writer, would she critique it so much there is none of my beloved story left?   Self-doubt and regret at signing up for such close scrutiny both clouded and dulled my passion for my story.  I went to meet her all the same.

The most positive 20 minutes of my life.

She encouraged me, she advised me and she loved the story.  As the moments passed I became bolder asking questions about publishing and e-books.  I wanted to know where to go next.   Two simple words will ring in my ears for the rest of my life. “Comercial Potential”!  Her suggestion was that I should finish writing in the extra character and then get it professionally looked at and in the meantime think about getting an agent.

An agent.   Never in a million years had I imagined being in a position to get an agent.  What does an agent do, why are they more effective than just sending it off to any publisher?  I was now on the threshold of that next scary, exciting, wonderful step of the journey.  I attended the course on “Editing your Manuscript” given by an Agent, who answered my questions before I even asked them.  She answered many I had not got round to thinking about and left me with even more to explore.

From that point on, nothing was going to detract from the pure magic of my stay in Derbyshire.  Although to be fair the culmination of so many heightened emotions the enchanted atmosphere was going to be hard for me to dent.

Inspiration,  I got not just from the workshops and fantastically diverse but talented speakers but also from the supportive and understanding Swanwick family.   We all write, in such distinct and different genres but we all use words.  We all have aspirations and goals within our writing world and with my new friends I will take away the courage to follow my dreams.

The end of the week draws close and I must remember the love, the joy and the passion these people gave me as I must return to the outside world.

Tiggy 

 

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