Monday, 14 October 2013

You, Me, & a Bit of We

Out very soon now, the latest anthology from Chuffed Buff Books. My copies have arrived,  and I'm already tucking into all the stories, which are starlingly good. It's a collection of mostly 2nd person writing, although my own contribution is in the 1st person POV. You can read a snippet of it on my PUBLISHED SHORT STORIES page, before, of course pre-ordering your own copy for less than seven quid. 

You, Me & a Bit of We

___YMEWEBcovPre-order now for £6.99
You, Me & a Bit of We
A Celebration of Writing in First and Second Person
List Price: £8.99
ISBN: 978-1-908858-02-3
Paperback, 216 x 140mm, 190 pages
Short stories and flash fiction (42 stories)
Published August 2013
You, Me & a Bit of We is a showcase of 42 stories written in either second, first or first person plural point-of-view. Through a selection of flash fiction and short stories, readers are invited to discover their favourite seat in a story. Is it front row centre, in the midst of a crowd, or from a more personal vantage point? Where second person thrusts the reader into an active role, first person offers experience through the eyes of an individual or group. Although the use of first person is common, second and first person plural perspectives are relatively rare. Written by an international cast of authors, this collection includes a broad range of themes. There are tales of transition, conviction, lost love, grief, conflict, domestic strife, tragedy, second chances, and stories about letting go and moving on. There are worlds where it is rare to be sighted, skin tells a story, past lives haunt, deadly viruses and parasites threaten humanity, and death is personified. From the poignant to the fantastical, dark, witty and uplifting, each story in this anthology is original, thought provoking, and reflective of the versatility of perspective as a literary device.You, Me & a Bit of We includes stories by Hettie Ashwin, Kim Bannerman, Cath Barton, Sharon Birch, Miki Byrne, Walter Campbell, Charlotte Comley, Annemaria Cooper, Meriah L Crawford, Stefanie Dao, Simone Davy, Laura Dunkeyson, Sarah Evans, Anne Fox, Robert Lee Frazier, Martin Gamble, Susan F Giles, Heidi Gilhooly, Anne Goodwin, Margaret Gracie, Cathryn Grant, E A M Harris, Dora L Harthen, Kati N Hendry, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, Julia Hones, Amy Hulsey, Alexis A Hunter, Michelle Ann King, Deborah Klée, Tanya Jacob Knox, Meg Laverick, Diane Lefer, Diandra Linnemann, Nina Milton, Monika Pant, Emma Phillips, Barry Pomeroy, Zena Shapter, Jay R Thurston, Abigail Wyatt, Zarina Zabrisky.

£6.99+ P & P (ships to UK and Europe only)

Friday, 11 October 2013

Top Ten Places to Write your Masterpiece

Do you write? A letter to a friend, a blog, a diary, secret poetry, course essays, the novel of your lifetime? I’m betting you do write something, sometime, somewhere. Whatever your writing is, there’s something special in have a ‘somewhere’ to write. Creating a special place will really help your writing experience and get you into a good routine, should you need one. Returning to that place, in the knowledge that this is the place you write can make you absolutely love whatever it is you want to…or have to…write.
A first priority is to sort out your basic needs as a writer. A flat surface with plenty of light and the possibility of fresh air and sufficient don’t want to be too cold to write. Quietude is essential too. It’s not a great idea to try to write with the family in front of the telly, but I spent the whole of one writing year writing in a TV chair. It was the only option, so I took it. I was able to ‘switch off’ from whatever antique was being sold at a boot sale, but there are always ear plugs to help this along. The downside to this option is your seating position; believe it or not, you shouldn’t balance a laptop on your lap. I ended up seeing an osteopath! But I got of lot of writing done.
If you don’t already have that special place to write, my top tip for today is to find one. Even if you’ve never written anything before, try it, and you’ll see how great it is. Even if all you do is boot up your iPad and write a long email to an old friend, I can guarantee it will make your day.
In reverse order, here are my top ten places to write:
The local cafe. Take a tip from JKR and finish your novel over a cold latte. It may end up a bit stained and damp, but you will be in exulted company. Which leads us to...

Under the stairs...or any bit of space you can cleverly transform. Once you are thinking of  this area as your writing place, you will have somewhere where all your things can be stored together (rather than scattered around) and where, as soon as you sit to write, that little ‘tap’ is turned on in the writing part of your brain, as it thinks...ah, here I am, in the place where words spill effortlessly from my pen...

The park. Fair-weather writers can find all the stories they ever need in a park. It is full of people interacting and reacting with each other. There’s the couple whose dogs fell in love before they did...the father who brings his son here on his access day...the woman who pushes her elderly aunt out in a wheelchair...what are their stories? Or rather, what are the stories you might write for them?

The garden shed. Obviously, I’m not suggesting you share it with the lawn mower. But if you’re lacking a ‘room of your own’, to quote Virginia Wolfe, a little wooden shack at the bottom of the garden might be the answer.

A friend’s home. Having just suggested you need to keep your mates at arm length if you really want to write, finding a sympathetic ally with a bit of spare room is a bright idea. Other people won’t know where to find you, and whereas your own back bedroom will have all the wrong reminders for you (or give you an urge to fetch the hoover), your friend’s home is a connotation-free-zone. If the friend is a writer too, you can write in tranquil tandem, or offer your home in reciprocation.

Railway carriages. Long journeys over rattling rails helps my mind to become contemplative, almost trance-like. The constant movement of the scene outside encourages your imagination to invent plots, link themes, see outcomes, visualize landscapes. If you regularly travel by rail or bus, take a notepad with you and follow your mind where it wants to lead.

The beach. Holidays tell great tales. Toss the sunblock to one side, prop up the beach chair and spill the beans onto paper.

Bed. It’s the place diary lovers love to write diaries. And while you’re waiting for blessed sleep to descend, you might start to daydream about the characters in your latest story. Don't worry if you drop off to sleep in the middle of this; you're bound to recall snippets of it later. And if you can't sleep - if your mind is buzzing with ideas - don't fight it. Keep a notepad by the bed so that all those good ideas can be jotted down. Never mind the morning grind. Matchsticks are the sign of a writer!

The library. If your major writing problem is that people insist on ‘dropping in for coffee’ as if you're a person of leisure rather than a would-be writer, then the library is an ideal office. With Internet access, and an in-house ‘shush policy’, it’s the idea place. When inspiration dries, you can wander round the shelves, browsing the research facilities or noting down interesting titles, to get yourself going again.

The kitchen table...of course! My writing blog is named after the place I started writing, many years ago. I’d wash up the breakfast things (well, sometimes, anyway) and put out my Acorn computer, then wait for the software to boot up as I made a coffee (could have made cupcakes, the length of time it took). How about storing your writing equipment in a nice strong box and leaving it under the table? Then you everything is at hand, and the space is quickly transformed. And you won't have to move far to make a coffee!

It was still not much after ten am as I drove clear of Bridgwater. Mini Ha Ha was soon navigating the narrow bridges that crisscrossed the waterlands of Somerset. Everywhere, water shone like mercury, from rivers, canals and rhynes, reflecting the light covering of clouds above. Reeds and withies bent in the breeze as if to acknowledge my presence. From In the Moors

Friday, 4 October 2013

Malorie Blackman's Making Waves; The Poet Laureate 2013 - 2015

If you’ve ever read any of the Noughts and Crosses series, you will know what a compelling children’s author Malorie Blackman is. She’s also an abundant writer with 60 books behind her. She is now making waves as Children’s Laureate.This role was created after Ted Hughes (The Iron Man) and Michael Morpurgo (War Horse, etc) had a conversation about the Laureateship. Since then, there has always been a Children’s Laureate; Quentin Blake Anne Fine, Morpurgo himself, Jacqueline Wilson Michael Rosen, Anthony Browne and Julia Donaldson all took a turn prior to Blackman taking the laurel wreath for the two years from 2013 until 2015.  

In an article in the Sunday Times, she set out her goals, starting with the comments…I bit their hands off…and…I’m stepping into some fairly big shoes - I have some big plans. 

She does think that children’s literature is in good shape at the moment, and I’d agree; books for young adults are also an area that offers hope for those interested in creating literate school-leavers. Blackman cites Philip Pullman, Catherine Johnson and Michael Rosen as being a strong part of that trend, but actually there are 100s of good writers out there, producing great books for young readers.

The Children’s Laureate receives a specially designed and inscribed silver medal and – more importantly – a bursary of £15,000 so that the ‘big plans’ Blackman has can be put into action. She wants to make sure every child at primary school has a library card, which might indeed help to revive the failing state of some of our libraries - if the kids want to go, someone has to take them. 

Blackman recently became the first black woman in the UK to sell over 1 million books and she hopes to highlight cultural diversity in fiction, having set her Noughts and Crosses series in a dystopian future where colour affects everyone’s lives. I was delighted to hear that, having just published a novel for  9-13 year olds recently which features two friends of different ethic origins and themes of slavery and racial attacks. (Tough Luck is now in paperback, by the way). 

Also, important is her wish that books for older children and young adults to move with the times. Her own novels can be gritty but she has a point when she says that children now need stories that are …grittier and meatier than girls in Switzerland at finishing school. I agree. Adults who think children don’t swear or think about sex live in cloud-cuckoo land. Blackman believes that teenaged sex should not ignored as a subject, or hidden behind a veil, but treated with respect and a natural part of fiction where it is called for within the story. She argues that books are a better way to learn about sex than online pornography. I also believe that writing openly (and realistically) about sex is important for teenagers. Philip Pullman agrees. He’s quoted as saying that this is one of the ways we can…challenge the pernicious influence of internet porn

Malorie Blackman has been in the news ever since her Laureateship, with headlines like those above, and with comments on education and learning to read especially. She’s now leading 200 writers and academics who call for Gove’s proposed school reforms to be suspended, asking for less incessant testing of children. 

Rather than testing their socks off, what Blackman would like is for kids to enjoy their reading. Being read to as a kid (even after you can read yourself),  is a way to help a love of books to grow. I can remember reading to my kids before bedtime every night, until they were not there to be read to (out on the town, in other words) and even then, they’d have to listen to me read aloud from the books I was writing.

Blackman wants every young child to be read to in school for at least 10 minutes each day; I was shocked to think that this doesn’t happen already.  And she wants reading technology to act as a springboard to kids using IT creatively. She supports e-readers, and points out that technology...can make reading cool...

Even so I was surprised to find out that Blackman gave up her place at Goldsmiths College to become an English teacher because she’d got hooked on computers and worked for nine years in computing. Finally, she started writing stories. Reassuringly, she says it took...eight or nine books before a publisher said yes, but I’m glad I hung in there...

I don’t think it’s quite that simple - moving from computer manager to Children’s Laureate isn’t just a matter of hanging in there, but Malorie Blackman’s success and the way she’s now passing her love and enthusiasm  of books back to young people is heartening and I do hope that all her aims are realized before she hands the laurel wreath on.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Short stories (1) – learning to love them

Today, you can read my first post on the new website from Bristol Woment Writers - WritersUnchained.
It's the first of an occasional series about one of my first loves; short stories.

Nina MiltonToday novelist and short story writer Nina Milton gives us the first in a series of posts on the fictional form that is the backbone of the Unchained anthology. 
“During the hour of perusal the soul of the reader is at the writer’s control.”
Edgar Allan Poe, writing in the 1830’s in his usual, Gothic style, had possibly given us our first definition of a short story. That is, something that can be ‘read at one sitting’.  For me, Poe’s definition is spot on…