In Pursuit of the Strange and Curious…

Our next retreat focuses on settings and characters, drawing inspiration from some gothic writing of the past. Here’s a little teaser from Sandra to whet your appetites…

Source: In Pursuit of the Strange and Curious…

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Inaugural Retreat Success

Here’s our latest Chasing Time blog post following our first retreat last weekend, which went even better than we could have hoped for. We’ve already had three 5* reviews (which are included at the end of the post), and are looking forward to doing it all again in a few weeks time!

Source: Inaugural Retreat Success

Hello and Goodbye August! (And all the bookish things in between)

Well, August came and went pretty quickly, huh? But what a month it was. Between managing to get lots of writing done on my own YA novel, Sixteen Again, whilst on holiday, to coming home and launching straight into the fabulous Edinburgh Book Festival, then formalising lots of arrangements for our first Chasing Time Writing Retreat in Angus at the end of the month, it’s been all go.

The Edinburgh Book Festival has quickly become a highlight of my literary year, and this year I was lucky enough to include an overnight stay in Edinburgh and to attend lots of author events, as well as two SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) crit groups in the Spiegeltent. Special mention has also to be made of the Unbound evening on the 18th, where singer/songwriter Genevieve Dawson ( @gdawsonmusic ) and novelist Sarah Perry ( @_sarah_perry ) in particular were amazing. (Watch out for Sarah’s book coming out – the writing is beautiful and I was seriously holding back tears by the end).

It was also the first time that I had heard Matt Haig speak, and he had us all spellbound, even as it was touch and go at one point as to whether the Bosco Theatre venue would be blown away by the fierce winds outside. And of course, there was the sold out SCBWI event, The Great Gender Debate, with authors Jonathan Stroud, David Leviathan and Kathryn Evans, ably chaired by the South East Scotland SCBWI Coordinators, Sarah Broadley and Anita Gallo.

I even managed to squeeze in a visit to Blackwell’s Writers at the Fringe to support my lovely author friend, Sandra Ireland, who was one of five authors reading from their books. (Check out ‘Beneath the Skin’ by Sandra if you love a slice of gothic noir and fantastically well-written novels).

So that brings me smoothly on to the writing retreats that Sandra, Dawn Geddes and I are launching, with the first one being at the end of this month. It’s come round fast and we’re really looking forward to welcoming all our guests soon. The venue is superbly atmospheric and bound to inspire, and I might even be able to squeeze some more of my own writing in over the weekend too!

The Chasing Time team

For more information go to http://www.chasingtimescotland.wordpress.com/retreats

Hope your own writing/reading is going well too – bye for now.

Chasing Time Writing Retreats

rosely for banner twitter new

As per Sandra’s post on her own website, which I shared here earlier this month, I have more exciting news about the launch of our tutored residential writing retreats.  Two writing friends and I have set up Chasing Time Writing Retreats in a beautiful and quirky Scottish country house, and are excited to share our passion for writing with others. The programme is now up and running and we have taken our first bookings.

Having been lucky enough to go on various writing retreats myself, I know how valuable it can be to escape the everyday routines and commitments you may have at home, and be able to concentrate solely on developing your writing. In Rosely Country House Hotel, Arbroath, we have found the perfect place to host our retreats, with its uniquely atmospheric setting sure to provide writing motivation around every corner.

If this is the sort of thing that appeals, why not click on the link below and check out the rest of our website? We’d love to see you there. 🙂

Source: Retreats

Scottish Association of Writers Annual Conference 2017

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I’m just back from this year’s Scottish Association of Writers Conference at The Westerwood Hotel (@TheWesterwoodQ) in Cumbernauld. And what another fantastic weekend it has been! The SAW Council work hard to put on such a great event and this year we had the biggest turn out from our writing group, @AWCAngus since I started attending a few years ago. It’s so good to be able to spend more time with friends and get to know each other better, as well as just generally soak up the buzz of being in the company of like-minded people. The icing on the cake is that we again came away with some prizes and placings in the various competitions that are adjudicated over the weekend, including top prizes of The Dorothy Dunbar Rose Bowl for poetry for our Club Secretary, Sandra Ireland (author of ‘Beneath The Skin’), and The Constable Silver Stag for a General Novel to Pam Turner.

Last year I was lucky enough to win the beautiful T.C. Farries trophy for a Children’s Novel, and it was with a certain reluctance that I found myself packing it up in order to pass the baton. However the consolation was that this year it was awarded to fellow Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCWBI) member, Sheila Adamson, so it was a bit like keeping it in the family.

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Apart from the competitions and the social side, there are a number of fantastic SAW workshops to attend, and my favourite two of the weekend were run by YA authors Keith Gray and Victoria Gemmell (another fellow SCBWI). Thank you both for being so lovely and helping to turn it into such a special weekend once again. I was also able to attend an outside workshop run by editor and literary consultant, Claire Wingfield (www.clairewingfield.co.uk) and between the three of them, have left feeling inspired and keen to get back to my own work in progress.

Our keynote speaker was the very funny Helen Lederer who rounded off a brilliant conference.

If you would like to know more about Angus Writers’ Circle you can follow us on Twitter @AWCAngus, and I hope your own writing is going well.

 

 

 

 

Pitching Your Stories

This comes to you a little later than hoped as, like many it seems, we have been a little laid up with colds and flu over December and then we hit the madness of Christmas and the New Year.  Speaking of which, Happy New Year and hope 2017 will be a happy, healthy and productive year for all of you.

Anyway, I had earlier promised to post some highlights of my recent Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference so I thought I would start with pitching, especially as this also ties in nicely with recent Twitter pitches that I have taken part in over the past few weeks.

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At the conference I attended a pitching session with Benjamin Scott who said that ‘our goal in pitching is simply to excite another person about our story… whether an agent, editor, parent or reader’.  Simple, huh?  Why is it then that as soon as somebody asks what our book/story is about, many of us struggle to summarise it, or can turn into gibbering idiots?  (I find the latter tends to happen to me, especially when you throw an agent into the mix!)  He continued that ‘the expectation should be that sounds like an interesting idea, tell me more’ notthis is going to get me an agent, publisher, make me the next JK Rowling.  These lower expectations immediately lessen the pressure.’

Pitching is therefore just presenting your work in the best possible light for maximum excitement, but you should bear the following in mind;

  • You can choose to pitch – it’s never compulsory
  • Relax – having a prepared pitch makes it easier to relax
  • Versatility – a good pitch is useful for many things
  • Creative aid – when constructing one it can act as a great developmental tool as it helps identify what’s at the heart of your book
  • What is the peril, the conflict, and the consequences?

Conflict is the beating heart of the story and what happens is an expression of the conflict.  So avoid listing what happens, e.g. ‘Steph goes to her brother, then her mother, and then the bank to borrow money.  Lastly she goes to a drug dealer,’ and focus on the conflicts at the core of the story instead.  Avoid using bespoke and confusing story language, distill the best bits, ignore the subplots and try to focus on the heart of the story.

A good pitch should introduce the main protagonist, give an indication of target audience and genre, lay out the core conflict and leave people wanting more, i.e. what is happening, to who, and why?  What is at stake?

Also perhaps, is it similar in style to any other books on the market?  Or can the writing style be likened to other authors (this can be particularly helpful if it is similar to another author you know the person likes, or perhaps already represents).  One technique can be to use XXX meets XXX, something which is also apparently quite popular when pitching scripts to Hollywood.

You have probably heard of the ‘elevator pitch’ concept, where you should be able to summarise your book in the short space of time it would take to ride in a lift between floors (in the unlikely event that the agent/publisher of your dreams just happens to get in the lift with you).  This is similar to a paragraph synopsis, which I’ve also seen some writing competitions ask for alongside your writing sample.

To challenge yourself even more, it seems that Twitter pitches are becoming more common as well.  These are organised events with a designated hashtag where you have to tweet your pitch in around 136 characters (to leave sufficient room for the appropriate hashtag), and where agents and publishers are able to dip in and out and favourite any tweets that grab their attention.  This is in effect an invitation to submit directly to them and skip the dreaded slush pile.  A recent example was organised by Emergents CIC Ltd and XPO North in Scotland, with the hashtag #xpo (followed by the appropriate letter for your genre of book).  Or look out for #PitchMAS, which takes place each December and was set up by two US authors.  It’s a long-shot, but if you don’t put yourself out there then you never know!

Now, back to the conference.   I’m not holding myself up as an expert by any means, but thought you may be interested in seeing what I came up with during the breakout session.  In general it seemed to do the job, with both Benjamin and our surprise guest, Imogen Cooper of the fantastic Golden Egg, giving me decent feedback and encouragement.

The Maze Runner meets Alex Rider in a contemporary upper MG thriller featuring a sinkhole, a sinister cult and a secret bunker of trapped children.  When disillusioned 15-year-old Will sees a sinkhole appear in their living room and swallow his twin brother and sister, this is no simple freak of nature.  Sunk! is a story of siblings, where one is being hunted above ground and the others are trapped below the earth.  Where can you turn when you’ve been betrayed by those you trust the most?

I’ll leave things here for now but will lay out some valuable words of wisdom from one of our keynote speakers, Sarah Davies of the Greenhouse Literary Agency, in my next post.

My first time at Dundee Literary Festival

Last week, on the 19th-23rd October 2016, my home town welcomed back the Dundee Literary Festival.  This year it was special for three reasons:

  1. It was the festival’s tenth year in operation;
  2. It was the first time I had managed to attend as it falls during the October school holidays and we are normally away;
  3. My friend, Sandra Ireland, was featured talking about her debut novel, ‘Beneath the Skin’, alongside Shelley Day and her debut, ‘The Confession of Stella Moon’.

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sandra-shelley-and-zoebeneath-the-skin-cover

The Literary Dundee website says the following:

Literary Dundee is a cultural organisation, part of the University of Dundee, which celebrates readers and writers, and brings the best writers in the world to Dundee.

We support the literary community in Dundee through the Dundee Literary Festival (October), publications such as New Writing Dundee, projects such as the Dundee International Book Prize, and a series of year round events, including our Literary Lock-Ins, produced in partnership with bright sparks within the University and outside it.

What’s not to like?

I feel lucky to live in a place that is so supportive of literary pursuits and am embarrassed that it has taken so long to be able to attend some of the fantastic and varied talks and events over the period of the festival, some with fellow writers and some with my young children.

As well as Sandra’s event I also managed to attend a lecture on The Fall of the Tay Bridge with David Swinfen; a Memoir and the Art of Life Writing showcase with writers from the University of Dundee’s Continuing Life Writing course and their course tutor, Josie Jules Andrews; a talk by Scotland’s Booker Prize winner James Kelman about his new novel, ‘Dirt Road’; a fascinating discussion about Shirley Jackson (of ‘The Lottery’ fame) and Josephine Tey; and two events for younger people – a ‘Rock and Roald Dahl party’ with Matthew Fitt, who has translated some of Dahl’s books into Scots, and a ‘Create a Comic workshop with Jim Glen.  My two eight year olds had a blast.  Here’s a picture of Georgia with a certain recognisable DC Thomson character…

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I can’t sign off without mention of the Ex Libris Book Fair on the last day, which was a treasure trove for anyone with a love of the arts.  As an added bonus I met a fellow SCBWI member, Elizabeth Wein, who I only previously knew through the Society’s Facebook page, and it was lovely, as always, to put a face to a name.

All in all it was a fantastic few days and a new highlight of my year.  I think I have a bit of reading to do judging by my literary haul!

books-from-literary-festival

hello again!

waving frog

Hi everyone, I hope all is well with you and that you have been very productive in your writing endeavours.  I realise it’s been a little while since I posted on here and apologies for the absence.  Sometimes I guess life just takes over and then, before you know it, the summer has gone and you’re sitting inside whilst it’s already pitch black outside and the rain has been falling all day!

I would love to catch up and hear any news from my fellow online writers.  For my part the summer has been a good one and I have been lucky enough to participate in a number of writing events, the highlight being a week’s Novel Writing course at Moniack Mohr near Inverness with Jess Richards and Rachel Seiffert as tutors.  What a luxury just to have the time and space to write, and what a fantastic venue and setting.  (I’m already planning a return visit next year!)

It’s here that I was able to spend more time on Sunk!, which is an upper MG novel that I started in the Spring, and which I am quite excited by.  It has taken me on a fantastic journey so far and, even though I think I know what’s coming next, I fully expect to hit a few surprises along the way.  I’m afraid that this has also been the main reason for my absence on the blog as, when I get a spare second to write, it seems to demand my attention.  I do plan to try and check in a little more often though and share/discuss all matters writing with people who I know similarly love the whole process.

I have now become a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and am looking forward to finding out more about the world of children’s books and meeting fellow children’s writers.  One such opportunity was a Book Bound Seminar run by Karen Ball, Sara Grant, Sara O’Connor and Jasmine Richards which a number of the SCBWIs attended and which was a really useful and fun day.

The next big push however is to write some entries for the Scottish Association of Writers annual conference in March, so I don’t see things slowing down any time soon.  But then, where would the fun be in that? 😉

So that’s me.  Hello again and hopefully it won’t be so long till the next time!

Update

creative writing

Well there’s good news and then there’s not so good news I suppose.

On the plus side I have a number of creative writing projects on the go and a very busy writing month ahead. At the end of this month there is the annual Scottish Association of Writers Conference and this will be my third time attending. I come away with a huge buzz and buckets of inspiration, and it’s just fantastic to be in a room full of people that share the same interest. I have entered a couple of the competitions again so fingers crossed that I can repeat last year’s success……

Then the following week I have booked a place up at Moniack Mohr near Inverness for ‘Writing Practice: with the team from the University of Dundee’. I can’t wait! A whole week to devote to writing without any distractions – a bit of an indulgence I know, but I think I deserve it! 🙂  This is billed as an ‘intensive package of practical workshops, discussion, seminars and one on one tutorials’. Think I may need a lie down with a cold cloth when I get back! I am lucky enough to have met Eddie Small and Lindsay Macgregor when they have adjudicated at our writing group in the past, so I already know that it’s going to be very worthwhile.

Speaking of adjudications, my own adjudication of the flash fiction went well last week and it was definitely a valuable exercise on my part. The feedback was positive and, after hours of deliberation, I am pretty confident that I got the placings right in the end.

On the not so plus side however, this is the first month since starting the blog where there have been no entries for the mini writing competition. As such I feel it is time to take stock and re-evaluate this side of the blog as, sadly, things do seem to have stalled a little recently. I will therefore be taking a break from the official monthly writing prompts, although I would still be happy to post on behalf of other writers and to share work from all the lovely contacts I have made through this process, as I still strongly believe in the spirit of co-operation and mutual support between the online writing community. I will also continue to post any useful writing tips I come across and any other valuable advice.

In the meantime I would like to say a big thank you to all those contributors to my monthly writing prompts over the past (almost) two years and I look forward to continuing our on-going online relationships through other avenues for the time being. Wishing you all the very best in your own writing/creative exploits and I will enjoy reading your blogs as usual.