Jon McGregor discussing Reservoir 13 at Waterstones Sheffield

I WENT to hear Jon McGregor read from his latest novel, Reservoir 13, on Wednesday night at Waterstones Sheffield.

In the year since the book launched, it’s won the 2017 Costa Novel Award, been longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize, and shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize. While the Costa award recognises some of the most enjoyable books of the year, the Goldsmiths Prize recognises experimental fiction (the kind of fiction that breaks the mould and is creatively daring). To have been on both lists certainly says something about McGregor’s engaging yet innovative writing and structure.

Jon talked about Continue reading

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18 FOR 2018

ADMITTEDLY, I’m a bit late to the party with this. The 18 For 2018 idea has been doing the rounds in the blogging community, and I’ve been so busy reading other people’s plans for the year, that I’ve not really thought about my own.

The 18 FOR 2018 idea started, so I am told, with Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, and basically it’s about putting yourself first so that you can achieve the things on your list. I liked the sound of it, so thought I’d give it a go. I’m not much of a planner, but I’ve really enjoyed making my list, mainly because it’s not just about work, it can be anything.

Here is my 18 For 2018 Continue reading

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New Year, New Blog

I’ve decided to revive this blog! It is the new year after all and everyone, myself included, is full of enthusiasm for their new year’s resolutions.

I’ve done this before, of course, back in January 2016, when I made the resolution to write a weekly update about my writing progress. I did this for a few weeks but then, like with most resolutions, life got in the way and I lost focus. With all the best intentions in the world, I just didn’t have the time needed to commit to another blog, especially as I was planning my wedding, and that was all-consuming.

This year, thankfully, there Continue reading

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Wedding planning and writing

Organising our wedding is taking up a lot of my time, but I am managing to snatch some writing time here and there, so I have to be grateful for that.

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I came home from work on Monday with the intention of spending the evening writing. The weather was absolutely appalling so I was looking forward to making a cup of tea, turning on the laptop and making progress with a couple of projects. But before I could begin, I had one or two things to sort for the wedding. It wouldn’t take long.

There was just the order of service to finish, a few suppliers to email, a couple of invoices to pay, a guest book and card box to order, then email the hotel with final guest numbers and sort the guest accommodation. Half an hour, I thought.

I clearly didn’t think it through, because three hours later I was texting people to see if they were coming, trying to transfer money on an internet connection that didn’t want to work, and trying to squeeze everyone into guest accommodation when there’s more guests than beds. I didn’t write a word. Not one.

Tuesday and Wednesday passed in a similar way, but by Thursday Continue reading

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My Open University journey

On Thursday I handed in my final project for my degree in English literature. It marks the end of six years of part-time study with the Open University. It began back in 2010, with a module called Approaching Literature. I was starting my English teacher training the year after and I wanted to have a refresher after finishing  my first degree in journalism in 2001.

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That first module was wonderful. We studied Shakespeare, Romantic writing, the Realist novel, and literature and gender. I loved it all, so much so that I knew I wanted to continue with another module. The only problem was that I had a busy year of teacher training ahead of me. I put my Open University studies on hold for a year. Between 2011 and 2012, I completed my teacher training at the University of Sheffield, and the minute I’d finished, I signed up to my next module.

This was in creative writing. After so many years of wanting to be a writer, I finally felt that I was doing something about achieving my dream. My tutor Anne Caldwell was amazing and really encouraged me to keep writing, saying that I had a talent, particularly for life writing. I’d never done any life writing before but I really enjoyed it. I gained a first class result for the module, which gave my confidence a real boost. After so many years of not daring to tell anyone of my dream to be a writer, I finally had the confidence to voice my ambitions.

Onto the next module, advanced writing. This included Continue reading

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Writing update

It’s been a long time since my last update, so there’s a lot to catch up on.

The most exciting thing is that I’m now being mentored by two novelists. Susan Elliot Wright and Russ Thomas are supporting me as I write my running book. I’m very excited about this opportunity. I’m even more excited that EnRich, a charity supporting artists in my local area has made the mentoring possible.

So far, I’ve written Continue reading

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My blogging journey

Blogging is a big part of my writing life. As well as writing and blogging for clients, I also write my own blogs. I love everything about blogging –  writing posts, reading other people’s blogs, and generally being part of the blogging community.

The first blog I launched was Cosy Corner Books, back in 2013 more as a record of my own reading. I didn’t know anything about blogging, but thought it sounded like fun. After a year I’d learned so much. I changed platform, re-launched the blog on WordPress, where I now blog about all things reading, writing and books.

my bookcase

Champion Running is my most successful blog, with readers locally, nationally and a few internationally. Created in July 2014, Champion Running is a blog about the wonderful sport of running, focusing on fun, friendship and achievement. I really believe that running is a sport that has the potential to change lives. As well as the physical benefits, it’s also great for the mind. And, the good thing about running is that anyone can do it, whatever your age or ability. Through this blog, my aim is to inspire people not only to run, but to feel better about themselves and their life.

British Athletics sign indoor champs 2016

I launched my latest blog, Bridesmaid to Bride, on Valentine’s Day this year. Having never given the whole wedding thing much thought, suddenly we were faced with organising one of our own. Bridesmaid to Bride follows our wedding planning journey as we get to grips with the good, the bad and the just plain expensive world of weddings.

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Too many writing workshops, and not enough writing

Too many writing workshops, and not enough writing. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

It’s exactly what happened to me last week. Workshop after workshop after workshop, but it wasn’t a waste of writing time at all. The workshops were all interesting, inspiring and useful.

There was a blogging workshop, which was absolutely amazing. Then a talk by a big literary agency, my usual monthly short story workshop, a master class with the writer Monique Roffey and  finally, a talk about getting into academic publishing. Actually, I didn’t make the academic publishing one. My car’s sprung an oil leak. There is oil everywhere. It’s on my drive. It’s on my friend’s drive. Wherever I went there was a trail of oil and destruction. It got to the point where I couldn’t drive anywhere, other than the garage. I could only do that on Friday, which is when the academic publishing workshop was taking place.

I digress.

Attending workshops is a good thing to do as a writer. You meet like-minded people. I’ve made a lot of friends through the workshops I’ve attended. Friends who share the same passion for writing and books. I’ve also met some great writers, learned about the publishing industry, and eaten quite a few biscuits and cake (always nice).

Most of the workshops I’ve been to have been useful, only on the odd occasion has the standard been poor. It’s on these workshops where I sit there wishing I was writing. There was a really bad one last year when I almost stood up and demanded my money back, but then realised it was free. The only cost had been the couple of quid for the car park, and the cost of losing precious writing time.

There’s a balance between gaining inspiration and listening to others, and actually getting your bum on a seat and writing. After so many workshops last week, I really need to get writing!

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Writing Life – Spring inspiration comes early

I can’t believe it’s March already. We’re already two months into 2016. Time seems to be speeding up. Not that I’m complaining, because I love this time of year. I love that the mornings and evenings are getting lighter. After months of darkness, suddenly spring doesn’t seem too far away. Although, that said, this morning has turned quite wintry.

But even though it’s still cold, it’s the daylight that makes a difference. I always find that this time of year is good for my writing and creativity. I’m not sure why. I always feel more energised, more focused on my writing projects, more hopeful of success. Spring always feels a hopeful and promising time. This year, my spring inspiration has come early.

In February, I finished a short story I’ve been working on. It’s the one based on the death of my grandmother, so it’s been an emotional story to write. I finished it and even sent it to a competition. It was all a bit last minute, as I didn’t actually know about the competition until my tutor mentioned it. I only had a few days to cut the story to the required word count, but I did it and pressed send. I’m new to competitions, but there is something very exciting about it all. Maybe it’s my competitive spirit!

On Valentine’s Day I launched my wedding blog Bridesmaid to Bride. I want to enjoy the wedding-planning process, which for me involves writing about it.

The most exciting thing about February was getting the results for my life writing module at university.  I am really proud of the work I submitted. I don’t say that lightly. As a writer, my inner critic often takes over, which means I’m my harshest critic. With this piece, I was pleased with what I’d produced, but I wasn’t prepared for the feedback I received. It actually made me cry (happy tears). The comments from the examiner and moderator were so positive. It gave me a huge boost.

On my blogs I asked how much time you should give a book and why the right mindset is important in sport.

In other news, I submitted a story for consideration in an anthology, passed my Coaching in Running Fitness qualification, and completed an essay on Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. I also spent a day on a workshop thinking about the characters in my novel.

I’m hoping I can keep up the momentum in March!

 

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Reading as a writer can improve your writing

Last week I made two people cry. Well not me personally, but my writing.

We had to submit a short story to the Comma Press writing group in Sheffield. As with all writing groups, the members scrutinise each other’s work, commenting on its strengths, weaknesses and areas to improve. Sharing your work with a new group is always daunting. I used to be a nervous wreck, but I’m getting better at it.

Anyway, last week I wrote my story and sent it to the group. When I arrived one of the ladies said it had made her cry. ‘Sorry,’ I said, thinking she was probably an emotional type (like me)  and cried at anything.

But then when it came to feeding back in the group, another lady said it had made her cry. ‘To get that kind of emotion is a sign of a good story,’ she said. I kid you not, those were her words.

‘Thank you,’ I said, almost bursting into tears myself.

The story was based on the death of my nan, who died in October last year. I cried when I wrote the story, and that emotion must, somehow, have come through onto the page.

Getting feedback on your writing is difficult, because it’s so personal. To improve, you have to detach yourself from the work, analyse every word, edit to perfection.

So, once the crying was out of the way, that’s what we did.

We looked at the pace and the structure and the themes and the imagery. We looked at the character development, felt something wasn’t quite right, and changed it for the better. That one little change made the story so much stronger.

I think it’s important when you’re giving feedback that you firstly read the story as a reader. Do you enjoy the story? Is it engaging? Did it make you cry? What did you like about it?

Then, I think you should read as a writer. How is it structured? What techniques have been used? How can it be made better?

There’s a distinction to be made. If we want to be better writers, we have to read as writers. We have to study the work of other writers, and try and understand what makes a piece of writing great. It’s about digging deeper to get to the root of the story.

When the group meets again next month, I’ve promised myself that I will respond as a reader and a writer. Honest, but constructive and helpful feedback will make us all better writers.

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