Monthly Archives: February 2016

My Crime & Publishment Experience.

Here I sit on Monday, 29th February 2016 reflecting on the whirlwind weekend I’ve just experienced: Crime and Publishment: what a bloody great weekend (pun intended).

In two days, I’ve been in workshops led by writers who I really admire, have met some wonderful people with whom I shared many laughs and pitched to a publisher.

I’ve known Graham Smith, one of the organisers of C&P, for several years now thanks to a number of events and social media. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Graham for the friendship he’s shown me over the years, particularly this weekend. Mr Smith isn’t just a great writer but he’s a nurturing force, helping others to realise their potential and encouraging them to follow their dreams. As an attendee of C&P, I got to witness first hand Graham’s innate ability to not only make people feel at ease but give them the confidence to speak up and contribute.

The people that led workshops during Crime and Publishment this year – Alexandra Sokoloff, Matt Hilton, Michael J. Malone, Graham Smith and Sara Hunt of Saraband Publishing – were engaging, approachable and encouraging. A sense of camaraderie pervaded the weekend, and that included the guest speakers. Everyone ate (and drank!) together and there was no sense that someone was better than anyone else. Even when we weren’t in a workshop environment, everyone was talking about writing, sharing their experiences and giving valuable advice.

Workshops ranged from networking to creating story arcs, writing a compelling synopsis to building a character as well as a very hands-on demonstration from Matt Hilton regarding compelling fight scenes. The announcement regarding next year’s speakers was enough to stun many into silence. I’m not allowed to say who has been booked yet but I can assure you, if you’re into crime fiction, you are going to want to be there!

C&P was a wonderful balance of learning and socialising with other writers. It was an utter joy to meet so many people who were friendly and interesting. Some members of the cohort had attended previous Crime & Publishments but, despite already having established friendships, they welcomed me like an old friend and made me feel really at ease.

As many of you know, I have been working on a crime novel on and off since 2009. I pitched that novel, which is currently sitting at 25,000 words, to Sara Hunt yesterday before making the trip home. The feedback I received was very positive and I hope to complete the novel by the end of this year. It’s incredible how much confidence I’ve gained over the last two days.

I can’t think of a better reason to go to Gretna.

Vic x

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Countdown to Crime and Publishment

I got an email this evening with the subject line: Homework from Alexandra Sokoloff. I initially thought it was spam but then read the preview pane where Alexandra introduced herself as the Story Structure instructor for next week’s Crime and Publishment.

‘Next week is Crime and Publishment? Next week is the end of February?!’ an alarmed voice shouted in my head. ‘What happened to January?!’ 

Once I’d got over the fact that the first two months of 2016 had almost disappeared, I began to get excited for my trip to Gretna. The weekend consists of a variety of workshops from brilliant writers like Alexandra, Michael J. Malone, Matt Hilton and C&P’s own Graham Smith. There is also an opportunity at next weekend’s course to pitch your novel to Sara Hunt from Saraband Publishing and I will be taking Fix Me Up to showcase.

I made a promise to myself at the beginning of the year that I’d quietly chip away at my novel, 500 words a day, until it was done. I lasted less than a week doing that. It’s not that I’m lazy, I’m really not, it’s just that I tend to prioritise everything else above my own writing. The only time I write consistently is when I have a genuine deadline, if it’s self-imposed, I disregard it. However, I do still have about 25,000 words written and that’s not an insubstantial amount.

The thing I love about going to workshops and residentials is that I can’t help but get fired up to write. You’re surrounded by people who love stories, who enjoy reading and writing, and want to talk about it. I know the enthusiasm is still there, just buried at the bottom of my to-do list. I love the feeling of coming away from a workshop and thinking ‘I can’t wait to get writing again.’

And, of course, the fact that you get to pitch is an excellent incentive to attend Crime & Publishment. Organiser Graham Smith  says Crime and Publishment’s success rate of attendees getting published “is unprecedented for such a short-lived venture and a source of immense pride for me.”

There are only a few spaces left but if you’re quick, you might still be able to bag one!

Vic x

Review: ‘Chasing the Sunset’ by Harry Gallagher

Black Light Engine Room Press launched Harry Gallagher’s third collection, Chasing the Sunset, in January this year.

Until I met Harry Gallagher, I often thought that poetry was inaccessible and boring. Having attempted to read Keats, Shakespeare et al, I feared I was too much of a philistine to appreciate this particular craft. Now, that’s not to say that Harry’s poetry isn’t special – it is. What I love about Harry Gallagher’s poetry, though, is that it is for everyone to enjoy. There’s no pretension in his poetry, and he writes about a wide range of subjects including nature, love, politics and his home town of Middlesbrough. However, please don’t misunderstand me and surmise that Harry doesn’t appreciate the form – he does. He writes in a variety of poetic styles and voices and is never afraid to try something new.

Chasing the Sunset is a collection which takes the reader from Summer through the seasons to Spring. The intelligent way in which the poems are organised adds a narrative thread to the collection. We are taken from June in an open top car to autumn and bleakest winter. Finally, spring comes, and the butterfly awakens through love and friendship.

The beauty of much of the poetry in this pamphlet is that it packs a real emotional punch in just a few words. Harry’s economy of language is quite astounding.  The way he plays with language, bending it and shaping it to his will is testament to Harry’s writing ability. His evocative poems, full of vivid imagery, are imaginative yet familiar and I found that comforting.

Stand out poems, for me, were: Old Flame – there’s that economy of language I was talking about; Christmas Haiku – I love a haiku and this one really packs a punch; Butterfly – made me cry; Chasing the Sunset – a happy ending.

This collection is full of heart.

Vic x

An intriguing day out…

This morning, I took myself for a visit of the Old Low Light in North Shields. I’m ashamed to say I’d never been before today but I’m 100% sure today won’t be my last visit.

As I explored this wonderful building, filled with history, I mused on what an exceptional catch it is for a writer. You cannot help but be inspired by the artefacts, maps and artwork in the building. No wonder Old Low Light won VODA’s 2015 Organisation of the Year.

Originally built in the first half of the C16th to guide boats through the treacherous mouth of the Tyne, Old Low Light has been reinvented several times but most recently in 2010 by two retiring teachers, Nina Brown and Jan Taylor, who wanted to educate local schoolchildren about North Shields, in particular the Fish Quay.

What has been created in this building is an incredible feat. Old Low Light now has a visitor’s centre, a lovely cafe and regular events like yoga, basket weaving and talks. Some of the pictures below include artwork by the students at Flow, where they make furniture (and more!) out of driftwood. The volunteers are incredibly knowledgeable and welcoming.

The views from the top of the Old Low Light are incredible and it just so happened that, on this blustery day, it was bright too. I could see as far as the TVLB and the Collingwood Monument. I can imagine that, no matter the weather, that viewing platform would give a writer some excellent inspiration.

I encourage everyone to visit this hidden gem, whether you are a writer, historian, photographer or coffee drinker – the Old Low Light has something for everyone!

Vic x

Birthday realisation

Today, I turn 32. Wow, 32. If you’d have asked me in my teens, 32 was ancient. Teen-me would say 32 year old Vic should have all of her ducks in a row – and then some.

The reality is, I don’t have all my ducks in a row but 32 doesn’t seem so old any more (is this just denial?).

My ducks may not be in a straight line but they are definitely there, I love my writing groups – they’ve developed far beyond I could have imagined and the feedback I get from group members and people who’ve read their work / seen them perform brings me such joy.

I have a tremendously supportive family and friends, I live with a man who knows me better than I know myself (sometimes). I get to write, not as much as I’d like, but I also get to read and travel.

I am trying new things and discovering beauty all around me.

That sounds pretty good to me.

Vic x