Displaying items by tag: women writers women books

Monday, 24 March 2014 16:46

24.3.1014 - #mywritingprocess Blog Tour

#mywritingprocess – Blog Tour

I was asked to participate in this blog tour by wonderful wordsmith Steph Pike

Its purpose is to share current activities, link writers to their wider community and to spend a little time considering our latest projects - which could be either to tantalize readers or to give me the opportunity to chew over what exactly I'm doing. Either way, we get four questions to structure the post around:

1) What am I working on?

I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me, not helped by being surrounded by folk who encouraged that belief. There were many reasons, but here's the relevant one: I've always worked on more than one creative project at a time. Singing, poetry, fiction, painting my hall with a frieze of Egyptian goddesses... Do I bore easily? Am I a creativity junkie? Answers on a postcard.

After worrying myself stupid that it's 'wrong' to be like this, I've accepted it's how I am (and naysayers can bugger off). Poetry nourishes fiction, fiction nurtures song writing, and all of it feeds the soul. Plus, if I was only working on one thing, it'd be easy to, well, do nothing...

Right now I'm writing poetry using prompts from Jo Bell's inspirational 52 blog

  I'm gearing up for The March Violets tour dates in UK / Europe / USA.

I'm also doing the final edits for my second novel, Vixen, which is out June 17th. I'm lurching from fear (that it's absolute rubbish) to excitement (It's finished! I've really done it!).

Click to visit HarperCollins 'Vixen' page

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don't know if it does differ, or if it needs to. What is different, anyway?

Philosophical meanderings aside, one of the 'rules' I picked up in novel-writing workshops was never to use first person when writing weird or unusual characters, because the reader won't be able to identify with them.

But I'm fed up with marginalized voices being further marginalized via the semantic distancing of third-person. So, in my debut novel 'The Palace of Curiosities', I created Eve, a woman completely covered in hair. I was determined she should speak for herself rather than have her story filtered through 'normal' eyes. One of the most striking features of the wonderful feedback I've received is how much readers have identified with Eve. Rules are there to be bent into the shape we desire.

3) Why do I write what I do?

My mother used to ask, 'why can't you write nice stories?'

I don't explore dark themes as some kind of pose, or to be difficult, or challenging for the sake of it. I write what I write because that's what comes knocking. I write what interests me about the world.

Sure, I can produce something that doesn't fire me up (I've tried), but my heart's not in it. There's the rub: I write where my passions reside. I've chased myself in circles trying to second-guess what a publisher 'might' want and it was a disaster. There's no point twisting yourself into shapes trying to please. That way lies madness, and not the interesting, creative sort. Maybe it's one of the reasons it took me so long for my novels to get published. But that's a different blog

4) How does your writing process work?

I am inspired and moved by the wealth of creative strategies we use to get ourselves writing. I reckon there are as many processes as there are writers. I don't think it matters one iota whether you're a morning / afternoon / nocturnal writer, whether you prefer a pencil, an iPad or grind your own ink from freshly-roasted acorns. It's more important to find the process that works for you. Then use it.

Let's face it, every day I'm plagued with a million reasons to avoid writing - shopping, housework, TV, social networking, let alone my inner critic screaming how useless I am. Click to read my 'dealing with the inner critic' blog

If I have a routine it's easier to get the hell over myself and write. My writing process gives me an anchor, a lifebelt to hang onto and weather those storms.

Next week the blog tour adventure features three wonderful writers – Susan Elliott Wright, Cathy Bryant and Anne Caldwell.

Susan Elliot Wright is a London-born novelist who now lives in Sheffield, where she teaches creative writing and tries hard to take her own advice. Click for Susan's website / Click for Susan's blog

Cathy Bryant's poems and short stories have been published on five continents (just Antarctica holding out), and she is a former blogger for the Huffington Post. She has won nine literary awards including the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Prize, and co-edited the anthologies Best of Manchester Poets vols. 1, 2 and 3. Her second poetry collection, Look at All the Women, will be launched later in 2014. See more at Cathy's website

Anne Caldwell is a poet and literature consultant. She works for NAWE, The University of Bolton, The Open University and runs workshops in schools and community settings. Contact Tel. 07818 052108 email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Her latest collection is Talking with the Dead, Cinnamon Press 2011.

Click to visit Anne's website

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Someone out there loves your work. Maybe they just haven't seen it yet.

Here's my blog on Women Writers, Women Books. Get submitting. Then the person who loves your work might actually get to see it.

Click for Books By Women website

This month, three judges decide the winner of the 2nd Mslexia Unpublished Novel Competition. Someone is about to receive a life-changing phone call. Two years ago, I was that woman.

I never imagined I would be. Fairytales are for other folk. I'd lost faith in my writing 'getting anywhere': indeed, I'd lost faith in my ability to write. But my winning novel, The Palace of Curiosities, was published in March 2013 by HarperCollins UK, one of the world's largest publishing companies. It's still a shock.

Like many writers, I've been writing for as long as I remember (I have a cough-sweet tin filled with miniature books I wrote for my dolls). By the end of the 90s I'd had poetry and short stories published, and I'd built up a following on the performance poetry circuit. I got an idea for a novel and was buoyed up by a run of early success: commendations in two fiction competitions and interest from a small publisher.

The crowning event of 2000 was a letter from a major London literary agency. They'd seen my competition entry, were impressed, and wanted to represent me. I danced around the room! I showed them my first novel, expecting wild enthusiasm. The agent advised waiting for a mainstream deal, so I turned down the small press. Naively, I waited for lucrative deals to come flying in. They didn't.

Over the next twelve years, I wrote four-and-a-half novels. Not one was 'good enough', however hard I tried – and I tried very hard. Then I was passed to a different agent who regaled me with stories of the terrible state of the publishing industry. No-one showed interest in what I was writing.

I stopped telling friends about my novels, humiliated by rejection after rejection. I regretted turning down the small publisher. It was a tough job to keep going during those long, slow, arid years. Then I got throat cancer and everything stopped while I put my life-energy into recovery. But there's nothing like a peek at your sell-by date to give you a boot up the backside. So, after I got the all-clear I emailed my agent and said, Let's Do This Thing. He didn't even reply.

His final rejection was my lowest point. I needed to move on. I could not continue putting my life into something that was giving me no nourishment. I didn't regret those twelve years, because no writing is ever wasted. But it was time to stop banging my head against a brick wall.

In 2011 Mslexia announced their Inaugural Novel Competition. As a last-ditch-last-fling, I dusted off novels #3 and #4 and sent them in, figuring I had nothing to lose except the entry fee. Both made the shortlist of ten. I was astounded: perhaps I could write fiction, after all. And one of the judges was Sarah Waters. A writing heroine. Liked. My. Work.

Novel #4, 'The Palace of Curiosities' won outright. Within a week I had an enthusiastic new agent. Within a fortnight she sent it to fifteen UK publishers and I was at the heart of a bidding war. The result was a 2-book deal with HarperCollins UK. It was bizarre – the same words in the same order, yet a year before I couldn't get it through the door of one publisher, let alone fifteen. I spent a long time pinching myself.

To say winning the Mslexia Novel Competition boosted my confidence is a vast understatement. I've proved to myself that I can write fiction: it was just a case of finding the right people to read it. The competition was judged anonymously and that makes me particularly proud. I am not This Year's Bright Young Thing, have not attended a fashionable Creative Writing Masters program, nor do I have industry connections. I won because of the quality of the writing.

It was the best £25 I spent in my entire life. I strongly encourage writers to enter as many competitions as possible. Someone out there loves your work – but they need to see it. So get it out there. Do it now.

Yes, I still have crises of self-doubt. But I've discovered a sense of validation, a punching-the-air 'I did it!' The win - and the resulting two-book deal – have given financial choices I never thought to have. I've given up my day job to focus full-time on writing. I've received writing commissions, invitations to lecture on University courses, been nominated for and won awards, toured book festivals...

I still subscribe to Mslexia. I still get up every morning and write. I take nothing for granted. I'm not a rest-on-my-laurels gal. I've built resilience, learned humility and discovered the extent of my determination to keep going in the face of rejection and failure. And I have regained a belief in my writing.

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