Tag Archives: feedback

“I am a #writer” – Keeping the Faith

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One of the best Christmas presents I ever received was a portable typewriter. Granted, we’re going back a bit. I was 13. My mum had watched me scribbling away in notebooks, or head buried in a kazillion novels over the previous months/years. She had listened when I told her I wanted to be a writer. And she wanted to help. Opening my present on Christmas Day was one of those rites of passage moments – not only was it something I really wanted (I appreciate this makes me a pretty nerdy teenager!), but it was a proper grown-up present. And most importantly, it meant that my parents didn’t think I was being silly. I said I wanted to be a writer: they believed me, and believed in me.

I now know how lucky I was. And I also now know that having people around you who believe in you is only half the battle – you also have to believe in yourself. There are so many hundreds, thousands, of great books out there, so many talented writers, it’s easy to become discouraged, to think there’s no place for you. Even literary success may not wholly dispel feelings of “imposter syndrome”.

After some initial (perhaps too easily won) success in short story writing when I was a teenager, my writing “career” took a nose dive. For many, many years I dabbled, but didn’t work at it. Only when I made the decision to do a Creative Writing MA did I truly start to take myself and my writing seriously. There were huge benefits – from writing regularly, from being exposed to other people’s writing processing and discussing each other’s work, and from learning about the wider publishing industry. Building my author identify online (instead of hiding way in anonymity) was a huge step for me (I kept waiting for the sky to fall in – just for reference, it didn’t). Achieving the MA gave me some kind of validation – as did publication and success in writing competitions. But hearing feedback from readers is the best thing. (This is the first year I’ve had “fan mail”! Thank you so much to the people who have emailed or contacted me via Twitter to tell me they’ve enjoyed my stories – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support.)

I know several would-be writers who are too nervous to show their work to the wider world, or even talk about their writing. But if you write, you are a writer, and if you want the wider world to believe in you as a writer, you must first believe in yourself. If you want the wider world to know about your writing, you have to talk about what you do.

Next week is National Short Story Week – a great opportunity to talk about all things writing and short story related. To coincide with this, I’m running two special offers on my eBooks:

The Camel in the Garden will be FREE from Monday 13th – Friday 17th November 2017

Beyond Words will be HALF PRICE from Monday 13th – Sunday 19th November 2017, so you will be able to pick up 12 stories for a mere 99p.

To find out more about either of these short story collections, click the relevant tab at the top of this page.

If you’ve struggled with self-belief or “imposter syndrome” and would like to tell us about something which made the difference for you, please comment below. Similarly, if you read any great short stories over the coming week, please let us know. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Special Offer for Storytelling Week

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Who doesn’t love hearing a story told to them? Whether you’re a child listening with rapt attention to a bedtime story made up for you by your parents, or you’re an adult listening to an audio book in the car on the daily commute, there’s something magical about being told a story. As someone who reads quite quickly, and not always very carefully (in fact, sometimes I skim read – a terrible admission for a writer!), listening to a story sometimes helps me pick up nuances and details I’d otherwise have missed.

Well, this great oral tradition is celebrated during National Storytelling Week which this year runs from 28th January to 4th February. You can find out all about it here:

http://www.sfs.org.uk/national-storytelling-week

I’m afraid I don’t yet have any audio versions of my stories, though there are lots of other out there, such as Patsy Collins’ story “Uncle Mick” available to listen to here:

Not to be outdone though, in honour of all things short-story related, my collection The Camel in the Garden is free to download from Amazon Kindle this weekend.

If you take the opportunity to download it, you could always read it to someone else! And if you like the stories, and had time to leave a brief Amazon review, I’d be ever so grateful.

Thank you – and happy reading!

 

Christmas Gifts for Writers

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So it’s Christmas time again
Black Friday deals are rife
And you’re wondering what to buy
For the writer in your life

In the past you’ve tried all sorts
‘How-to’ books, diaries, pens,
Fancy paper, post-it notes
A writer’s mug (again!)

But the best gift is often simple
You might not even have to buy it
Arrange to give them space and time
To write in peace and quiet

Nag them when they’re lazy
Cheer them up when they’re dejected
Give them wine and cuddles
When their stories get rejected

And when their book is published
Spread the word of their debut,
Buy a copy for yourself
Leave an honest, fair review

Tell all your friends who care to hear
And then tell all the rest
And I guarantee your writer
Will think you are the best!

 

 

PS: Socks are also good! :0) xx

Issue #70 of Scribble – Out Now

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The latest issue of Scribble was waiting for me when I got in this evening – and it feels like quite a bumper issue, with seventeen short stories, and two articles.  (And a very attractive cover design.)

One of the best aspects of this magazine is the feedback from readers – and in this issue, editor David Howarth, mentions that he’s had to allocate an extra page to accommodate all the reader comments submitted.

I’m a big fan of Scribble – not only because it’s a great platform for short story writers (both those new to writing, and the more experienced), but because David takes the time to give feedback on unsuccessful submissions.  It’s also very good value at £15 for an annual subscription (which includes free story submissions and competition entries).

You can find out more about Scribble and subscribe here. The annual short story competition is this year on the theme of “fear”.  Max 3,000 words.  Closing date 1st November 2016 – so plenty of time to plan your entry! ;0)

 

 

 

 

 

The author isn’t dead – just listening to your comments intently!

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I’m aware that there are people who only write privately, for themselves, and are quite content for their scribbling never to see the light of day. For the rest of us though, I suspect one of the most rewarding aspects of writing is feedback from readers. Praise is good for the ego, and well-founded, well-articulated criticism is always welcome – proving at least someone has felt it worth taking the trouble to comment on your work – kind of a compliment in itself.

When I first embarked on my MA, I would sit in workshops listening to my fellow students discuss my work, stifling my giggles, simply because I couldn’t believe that intelligent, knowledgeable people were analysing my writing in the same way I’d done with the work of “proper writers” all the way through GCSE, A-level and degree. It was one of the things which helped me to take my writing seriously – after all, these people were prepared to take it seriously. Their opinions helped validate my writing. Sometimes they would voice ideas about what the story meant, or a character’s motivation, which had never occurred to me during the writing process. And it would take me back to my A-level days.

Back then, I often thought how handy it would be to resurrect some (often long-dead) author and bring them to class and get them to tell us what they meant when they wrote so-and-so. Then we’d know once and for all and would be able to stop all this speculative pondering about the meaning of the text.

When I got to university, I discovered that actually this wouldn’t have helped. According to some bloke called Roland Barthes, the author was dead. What he or she had set out to do in their novel/play/short story was of no consequence – the text was everything. The meaning had to come from the words on the page, irrespective of what the original writer had set out to do. I sat in lectures chewing my lip and feeling faintly put out about this.

I recognise that interpretation is subjective. Everyone brings their own background and experiences to a text, their own obsessions and prejudices, and this can influence what they believe to be the meaning. You only have to re-read something as a grown-up which you read in your younger days to be made aware of this. Maybe that ending you once thought perfect, years later becomes trite or unbelievable. That character you used to closely identify with seems irritating, or acts in a way which just doesn’t ring true. You suddenly realise that the unsympathetic mother has a point! Even differing periods of adulthood engender differing reading joys (I used to admire Graham Greene, now if I read his stuff I can’t help thinking, ‘Cheer up, mate – might never happen!’).

But I hope we don’t completely discount author intention when reading. It’s fascinating when someone brings a new interpretation to a story you’ve written or ascribes a parallel you’d not intended to illustrate. It’s fantastically rewarding when someone draws from your writing something moving and personal to them.

But sometimes I’d like to reserve the right to say, ‘Ummm, interesting, but I didn’t actually mean that!’