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Showing posts from July, 2016

What happens at the John Hewitt Summer School....

...stays at the John Hewitt Summer School. Mostly.

Rarely do I feel daunted when tackling a blog post but for this one I want to both capture the experience - warts (however few) and all - for others thinking of such an experience, and also try to put into words how the week has got me thinking about my writing and reflecting on lots of things. But anyway, nothing ventured etc etc, here goes.

Firstly, why on Earth did this little sff writer pop off to a literary festival for a week - apart from the small matter of the generosity of the John Hewitt Society in granting me a bursary. I could cite lots of things, like that I have a degree in humanties (I do - theatre and english), or that I do, actually, read the odd poem (MacNeice, Longley and Years are favourites as well as, added this week, Jane Yeh), or even that I've written a fairly literary fantasy book ( I have - coming in 2017.) But that's all just part of why I wanted to go. I also struggle to see why genre writing shoul…

On Finding Time

This wasn't supposed to be this week's blog - but Nathan Hystad invited me along to his blog next week to talk about the same thing (writing myriad things). So, instead, I'm going to muse on the importance of finding time not just to write, but to reflect and grow.

It's a timely day to do this - I'm wrapping up after finishing an edit for a publisher, before spending a week at the John Hewitt Summer School next week. I will be abandoning my husband and kids for five whole nights in order to go off and do some writerly things. (I'll blog about the week afterwards.) I will be attending lectures and reading and also a workshop on writing for young people, in the hope of addressing my incurable habit of writing books that are almost YA but not quite (I bet all I do is come up with something crossover in mind. Hey-ho.)

Believe it or not, I haven't even been published for 18 months. During that time I've had a load of amazing things: first readings, first pan…

Where the ideas come from

A few months ago I was invited to submit to an anthology, with a pretty simple brief - a science fiction story with a military feel, if possible working in a reference to the number ten.

Easy-peasy, said I. No problems. And then I wrote a story called 'The Story of the Ten' which appears in Newcon Press's 10th anniversary collection, Crises and Conflicts (

The story is between a mother and her son, and is almost fairytale in its telling. The setting is a military one, but neither character interacts closely with it. And yet, that's where my mind took that brief to.

I wish I could say this was a solitary event. I was then given a remit for Woodbridge's Press anthology, Expolorations (coming at the end of August.) I did manage the central theme of a wormhole (yay, go me!) but the deviation into Roman mythology, an obscure Irish stone figure and the central tenets of belief not science was unexpected.


On knowing the business - part one: Bookstores

It's so easy to not bother getting to know the ins and outs of the business end of writing. Probably, like most writers, you want to write, not run a business. The easy answer to that is to get a traditional publishing deal and let someone else run the business side for you. Or, even better, get an agent and let them do the hard yards.

I think that's a mistake. My other job (ie the one that feed and clothes me) is as a management consultant. I tell anyone, anywhere, in every business in the land, that it's important to know their operating environment. I get care assistants to do PESTLE analysis (I won't bore you with the details), just as much as I get CEOs to. Why?

You are at risk if you don't know the environment you operate in. You're also weak when it comes to taking opportunities, or knowing what to ask of whom, when. I might not especially like researching funding and networks and what-not - but if I don't do it, I'll lose out to those with that …

Inspiration and Originality - Toby Frost

This week I'm joined by the fabulous Toby Frost, author of the Space Captain Smith books, some of the funniest scifi on the market at the moment. He's also written for the Warhammer 40K universe. 

Inspiration and Originality.

Apparently, authors often get asked where they find their inspiration. I’ve never been asked this, but it’s an interesting question: where does the inspiration to write about going to another planet, or casting magic on dragons, actually come from?
Part of it can’t be explained at all. There are just some things that appeal more than others. You probably won’t want to write about a space battle, or a magical duel with a monster, unless it appeals on some immediate, visceral level. For all that we talk about SFF being able to impart complex ideas and moral lessons, some subliminal part of your brain just has to think that this will be more cool than writing, say, a romance or a western.
That’s fine, and I’m sure it’s how I ended up choosing SFF as a genre in …