Saturday, 29 October 2011

Music and action

Met up with a couple of people from The Firebird Trust on Tuesday at an exhibition.  They put on a half hour seminar on what they did.  Shame it was so poorly attended.

They work mostly in education but are now applying what they know to the business world.  Their director Simon Steptoe has worked with the Halle on educational projects and one of their current patrons is Matthew Barley cellist extraordinary.

Simon's colleague got us working by persuading us to play the penny whistle.  My fingers and thumbs went all over where they shouldn't but with a bit longer I'd have worked it out.  In the small group were three of us who worked on their own for much of the time; one textile designer and two writers.  Although their workshops are aimed at firms, we had a short discussion on how using music aids creativity. 

The small amount we did certainly broke down barriers very fast and made us laugh.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Nottingham Writers Studio course on playwriting

Theories of the Modern Stage (David Kershaw)
DATES: Every Monday for 10 weeks from 9 January 2012 to 19 March (apart from half-term 13 February), 6.30–8.30pm.
COST: £100 (£80 for NWS members).
VENUE: Nottingham Writers’ Studio, Broadway Business Centre, 3rd floor 32a Stoney Street, Nottingham, NG1 1LL.
TUTOR: David Kershaw

This course will explore the extent to which modern theories of the stage affect how a playwright works. It will investigate such things as the following:

· Whether the principles of naturalism or the theatre of alienation still have an influence on the modern theatre.
· The well-made play.
· Absurdism, political theatre and the theatre of cruelty.
· The impact of acting techniques and methods.
· The role of improvisation in script development.
· The script into performance: the role of the actor, director, designer, producer and audience.
· Audience expectations and demands.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Candlestick Press Christmas poems 2011

Introduced by Carol Ann Duffy..Ideal for a special card or stocking filler..Available from the Flying Goose cafe, Beeston,Waterstone's and Nottingham Contemporary.

Or from Check out the site for past editions on tea and bicycles.

Monday, 24 October 2011

This is my kind of person

"The main effort of arranging your life should be to progressively reduce the amount of time required to decently maintain yourself so that you can have all the time you want for reading." Norman Rush, American author of  'Whites', 'Mortals' and Mating.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Inspirational quotes for writers

Eugene O'Neill said: "Keep on writing, no matter what! That's the most important thing. As long as you have a job on hand that absorbs all your mental energy, you haven't much worry to spare over other things. It serves as a suit of armor."

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Going to hell in a handcart?

My client Sarah Dale asked this question last week in her news update.  I suppose one of the upsides of ageing is the longer perspective it gives you.  An even longer perspective comes from studying history.

What surprises me often these days is why people are surprised about things that happen in high places.  Money plus power leads to arrogance and exclusion of the majority.  Not inevitable maybe but more common than not.

One of my favourite writers is Dorothy Dunnett and the two series of books she wrote.  The Lymond series I know best having reread all six most years.  It's the period I studied in history at school so I know it on an intellectual level which she then gives me at a visceral level.  And there's very little difference between the behaviour of the Italian bankers in her books and what's going on around us.

The difference now is that we know more about it, faster.  Or think we do.  Back in Tudor times, the peasants assumed that their betters were not on their side.  We hope the people with the power are.

Hell in a handcart?  As Sarah points out there's a lot of good news out there.  Maybe our opportunity with all our wonderful technology is to join the positive together.  Like a dot to dot. 

Then who knows we may end up going to heaven in a comfortable bed.

To sign up for Sarah's update go to

Monday, 17 October 2011

George Mackay Brown

"I believe in dedicated work rather than in 'inspiration' [...] I believe writing to be a craft like carpentry, plumbing, or baking [...] In 'culture circles,' there is a tendency to look upon artists as the new priesthood of some esoteric religion. Nonsense -- and dangerous nonsense moreover -- we are all hewers of wood and drawers of water; only let us do it as thoroughly and joyously as we can."

Thanks to today's The Writer's Almanac for this quote

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


"Hosted in partnership with Writing East Midlands, the University of Lincoln and Threshold Studios, this is a powerful and provocative day of discovery, insight and debate: looking at the future of writing and publishing and arming you with the pervasive opportunities and challenges that ‘digital’ provides in this ever-changing world."
For more information check out the events page on

Monday, 10 October 2011

Why do you write?

It's the birthday of novelist R.K. Narayan, born in what is now Chennai, India (1906). He said: "Everyone thinks he's a writer with a mission. Myself, absolutely not. I write only because I'm interested in a type of character and I'm amused mostly by the seriousness with which each man takes himself."

I've decided I write because I get these people sitting in my head, asking me to tell their stories.  Whether they get published or not seems irrelevant. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

What authors have to do today

Enjoyed a searching discussion with Sarah Dale today about how to create interest and sales in self published books.  Thank goodness we're not as reliant on mainstream publishers these days for allowing our work to find a wider audience.  There are so many options and so many avenues to go down that might bring you the right kind of readers.

What concerns us though is the sheer effort needed to create successful social media campaigns.  I salute Sarah for her determination for the way she's tackled it and for the network she's steadily building.  But as with all activities it seems to her one step forward, several back.  In the thick of it she doesn't have the distance to observe just how much she's achieved since last year when she and I first sat together and talked about her beginning to write the book.

What's important as well is that she's now starting to think about the second, and maybe third books.  At times she doubts her ability, well don't we all.  But the experience of going out to promote the book has created conversations with individuals that she'd only dreamed of in the past.

All the tactics do work and the difference between success and failure is not initial talent but the determination to keep going.  And as I pointed out to her, she's now exactly the kind of author a mainstream publisher will like.  Effective, proactive and committed.

For more about Sarah's book Keeping Your Spirits Up, check out her website

Monday, 3 October 2011

The creative unconscious in writing

In my book on writing, The Writers Little Book with Big Ideas, I talk about the different stages of writing and the importance of the stage I label, Pause.

At the moment I'm taking my own advice, trying to let my unconscious sort out some snags in the plot of the crime book I'm writing.  I'm two drafts in and by and large I'm happy with the outline of the story but having finished the second draft just before I went to Scarborough it gave me a space to let ideas start to emerge.

Oddly something occurred to me as I was listening to one of the sets.  All the players were excellent, well regarded in the jazz field and the sound was beautiful; a flautist took centre stage.  But it didn't move me; I felt no connection and wondered why.  I was about to write it off as me with cloth ears and then... we had an encore.

A superb saxophonist was added to the mix, and that sharp, at times dissonant sound ignited the music.  Totally different dynamic in the group and I felt the emotional tug of the music.  Fascinating.

Returning to the novel draft last week, some thoughts surfaced and I started the What If questioning. 

What if that character didn't or did know this?
What if they missed something happening by a whisker - you know the kind of thing, going down one street rather than another.

And then the ideas for the 'dissonance' became more solid.  I had this image of a horse jumping competition where some deceptively simple obstacles were the most difficult?

I've still got to write the new bits but I can see the way now.  Thanks to the creative unconscious prodding me.

Last week at a networking event I met two people who had started books.  Without trying to put them off, I wanted to say, the start's the easy bit!  But both theirs were non-fiction and I do believe those are easier in creating a structure to follow.

Over the summer I've been to quite a few author events and the bottom line is, there is no perfect, one size fits all approach to writing fiction.  Depends on your temperament and your experience.  The more you do, the more you learn.

As with all activities, the only way to gain experience is to do it.  Build muscle, whether it's physiotherapy exercises(which I'm undergoing at present) or writing.

Not sure what is the writing equivalent of the squat but that's the one causing me aching legs at the moment.