Monday, 29 November 2010

this week

Hello, wowsers - the weather outside is frightful...

So this week I've been busy with the work I do for money and the writing I do for eventual international acclaim. I've been productive and disciplined. Most of the time.

I also caught up with an old friend, someone I haven't seen for 5 years, and had a day full of laughter. This was great, good for the soul. It's heartening to meet up with someone from your long-ago past and still find you can make each other laugh.

I read 'The Road' very quickly, too quickly perhaps - have never been more tempted to read the last page of any book as much I was with this one. I waited, and I thought it was brilliant.

I'm working every spare minute I have on a story to send to the Fish Short Story Prize - I have very little time in my schedule today and tomorrow but I'm doing it anyway.

It's snowing - a lot - a whole lot - where I live. I learned that my walking boots aren't that good at gripping or treading in sludge and ice. I'm walking very slowly. Shuffling, you might say.

Now, I'm off to meet a friend for coffee before work (I might have lied when I said I'm writing 'every spare minute'. But it is essential to have breaks.)

I have to shuffle to get there, best set off early. Here's a view of the snow from my window, when it first started falling a few nights ago

Friday, 19 November 2010

Writing Weekend

So, I'm back from the writing weekend - which was both productive and fun. I stayed in a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales with 6 other writers, none of whom I'd met before. I've been in contact with a few online, including Dan Purdue, for about 3 or 4 years. We've been in a closed (as in not public) writing forum for that time, reading and critiquing each other's work and having as closer to banter as you can get in a virtual world. I was, naturally, nervous about going along and meeting everyone, but it was fantastic - a challenge, yes - but rewarding, and confidence boosting in many ways.

Aside people being as normal as I hoped (yes! didn't get killed!) they were as interesting, funny and useful as they are online too. 'Useful' - couldn't think of another way to put it, but I mean it in relation to the feedback I got during the review circle. (I think it's called a review circle?) We each took a piece of work, finished or in progress, and took it in turns to read it aloud. As the person read their work out, everyone else followed on a hard copy of the work, noting bits they liked, bits they thought needed work. The writer then had to sit and receive the feedback without saying anything - just listening, until each person had given their thoughts. This is good - the writer isn't jumping in going 'Oh well I did that because...' It's useful to just listen, take in the feedback, then respond.

We also generated new work by doing some writing exercises, including a few 'creative visualisations' - a process I'm new to, but got a lot out of. The idea is that one person leads the group, asking everyone to close their eyes and relax. They then read out something a little like a guided meditation - it only lasts for a few minutes, but the idea is that you are invited to use your senses as much as possible, to imagine seeing certain things, being in a certain environment. You then have 30 minutes to just write whatever comes into your head - without worrying about how good it is - just write, just see what comes out.

I had a really interesting but fairly emotional experience with the first one - which can happen (actually happened to everyone taking part) - and I had been warned that it could go that way, so I was semi prepared. Because I was free-writing, I wasn't considering the words before I wrote them, but I knew I was writing on a theme - one of loss, of death, of losing someone. I stopped writing, pulled myself back a little. I didn't want to go too far in.

From each free-write I have several lines that work, that jump out and have a rhythm and maybe in the future a life and legs of their own to walk into, or inspire, a new piece of writing.

We ate together every night, and drank wine and chatted into the early hours. And we ventured out of the cottage just once all weekend. Here's what we saw.

So, a successful experience that we will no doubt repeat in the future. It was so nice to be 'cut off' - no internet, no phone, no TV. Though I loved coming back to all that, of course. And I have a lot to be thankful to the internet for - I wouldn't have met those writers if I hadn't started posting my work in an online writing group.

Also, the agent who contacted me last week wouldn't have found me without this blog. Embrace the internet! (Not that much...)

Thursday, 11 November 2010

relief, excitement

Ah. This is a sound of relief.

EE! This is a sound of excitement.

I'm relieved because after a difficult month things have picked up and taken on a new life, almost out of the blue. 'Out of the blue' - appropriate. I've had a tough month or so, all part of the grieving process I'm told, but I have regained my strength and feel more in control of how I feel now.

And a few things have happened this week that make you look upwards, downwards or outwards (whatever you believe) and say 'Thank you'.

I've been very focused and able to write which is the best feeling ever. Well, one of. I'm going on a writing holiday this weekend, staying in a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales with 6 people I've never met in real life. I feel like I know a few of them though, we've been part of the same online writing group for about 4 years so I'm really looking forward to actually meeting them. We're taking stories for workshopping and after an initial panic at the start of the week where I hated all my WIPs, I have since calmed and reworked a short story I've been stuck on for a while. This feels good.

And a few days ago a really lovely and exciting and unexpected thing happened. An agent who read one of my stories in an anthology emailed me and said that if or when I'm in a position where I'd like agent feedback she'd be pleased to read more of my work.

After going through an excited-suspicious-reassured (through Google) cycle I rested with a positive feeling, not expecting anything, thrilled to have been 'sought out' and to be able to have a dialogue with an agent, and even more boosted up about writing.

Out of the bad comes good.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Dear Friend

Only when you have nothing, can you become something.

At least that's what I've come to believe. Just one short year ago I thought I had it all - well paid job, organised wife, sabbatical coming up, Paul Weller concert tickets for the O2 Arena.

November 5th 2009: The day I lost it all, but gained so much more.

Looking back, I accept fully that it had to happen. I had to sink so I could realize I could swim. It was a wake up call.

But from whom? you ask.

Well, the universe.

Looking back, I can't believe the man I was.

But now I know I just wasn't ready to ride the path to enlightment just yet.

But, how do you know when you're ready?

Well, the truth is, most people will never be lucky enough to learn the things I've learnt, because they'll never truly be ready to receive the gifts of the universe.

I mean, how often does a man (or woman) lose EVERYTHING in the space of an hour?

I did.


(It is most likely that the universe will be annoyed at you if you do.)

SO, here's the deal:

For just $49, you can download my free e-book RIGHT NOW and read all about my journey to the bottom of the barrel of existence, including:

- how my wife hitched a ride home from the 02 Arena with another man and left me there, moving in with him shortly after

- how I lost my job THAT SAME NIGHT

- how my children seem to have lost all respect for me BUT how I'm planning on getting it back

- all the secrets of existence

ORDER NOW and receive 2 free special supplementary e-books:

- foraging for food in East Anglia
- home haircutting tips

Thank you and best wishes.