Thursday 31 January 2013

Vienna Writers

Welcome to my interview with Paul Malone from Vienna Writers.


Hello Paul.  Can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
Vienna Writers was formed in January 2010. We meet in Vienna, Austria, the second Friday of every month.
How many members, on average, does your group have?
The group is capped at ten participants. If numbers fall below ten we invite new participants.  To keep things flowing reasonably smooth (introductions take up considerable meeting time) we only take on new participants twice per year.
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
My name is Paul Malone. I am an Australian writer based in Austria. I am one of the group’s founding participants. 
How are your sessions structured?
First half hour is general socialising. We then critique: Stories are sent out a few weeks before the meeting to allow people time to give feedback. Each person then reads out or summarises their feedback, while other participants (including the author of the piece) listen. At the end there is time for a general discussion, and time for the author to respond. 
What types of things do you cover in your group?
Generally people are working on short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, or memoirs. So we critique these--as a whole, or in chapters.
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
We held a small writers retreat at Wolfgang See earlier this year. Everyone involved was very productive, produced short stores and novel chapters.
What genres do the members of your group write?
Some write general or “literary” fiction. Others (me included) sometimes dabble in speculative fiction, fantasy, or crime.
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
We’re in the early stages of producing an anthology. It’s all rather top secret right now! We hope to have the anthology out by late 2013 / early 2014.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
Aside from feedback on writing, we form a supportive  network. Naturally we all look out for writing opportunities. One of our writers won a highly commended prize in the prestigious Bridport competition this year. She became aware of the competition through the group. A US College recently held a free two day fiction writing workshop in Vienna, to promote their new MFA program. Once again, a Vienna Writer participant got wind of this, and many of us turned up for the workshop. We’re always scratching one another’s backs!
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts for the group from?
We’re all working on our own things. So we don’t really worry about group ideas. The anthology is the exception: we’re exploring a common theme or thread for the anthology. Even then though we’ll leave maximum space for creativity.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
That’s a tough question! I’m not sure one particular things stands out. Write regularly, is probably very good advice. If you want to be productive as a writer then the habit of writing regularly will at least get those words on the page. Maybe in the process you might even improve.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Hmm, I rarely give advice. I might tell someone what works most effectively for me: Start by writing creatively, unconcerned with any aspects of craft, ignoring logic, setting aside any preconceived ideas about there the piece might be headed. Once a “draft” is complete or feels like it has reached some sort of end, then sit back and start to consider what the piece is really about, where the story lies. If you can broadly define this, it might then be possible to go back and write a compelling story.
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
No we don’t. We do enough speaking as it is, some of us are exceptionally gifted in this department! Right now we don’t have the forum for guest speakers. We’re only 10 and we’ve got our plates full getting though our stories each month. 
Do members of the group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
People have different roles: time keeper, cook (not kidding), person who keeps track of stories submitted, updater of blogsite, etc.
We could do with a cook at our writing group!  Does your group have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook? 
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
They would email us, expressing their interest in joining. They would outline their writing experience in the email. They would have to live in Vienna or near Vienna. If we think they might be a good fit, we might meet them and take things from there. Generally, new participants are given the Vienna Writers critiquing guidelines, and a copy of our mission statement. The mission statement really defines the group, our ethics, what we’re hoping to achieve. It is important to us that potential participants support the mission statement.
Thank you very much, Paul.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

LLBG January

Lowestoft Library Book Group doesn't have a meeting in December, as the last Tuesday of the month is always in Christmas week (last year it was on Christmas Day), and people aren't too fond of abandoning their festive celebrations to sit in the library and talk about a book they no doubt didn't read!  Because of this, we had two books to read over December and January to be discussed at the January meeting.  These were The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths, and The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld.

As you should all by now, I'm a very pedantic reader.  Since writing a book, I've read books with a different eye.  So as I was reading The Crossing Places, I used an envelope as a book mark, and made sure I had a pen or pencil nearby to note down the various bits that jumped out at me on the back of said envelope.  It's not to say that this was a bad book or that I didn't enjoy it.  I'd just like to know how these things slipped through the editor's net.

Page 25: "empty can of coke" - There are two things wrong with this snippit.  Firstly, Coke is a brand name, from Coca-Cola.  If it is Coke (from Coca-Cola) then it should have a capital 'C'.  If it's just cola (from Tesco or ASDA or any other own brand soft drink manufacturer) then it should have a small 'c'.  It does annoy me when people write 'biro', 'hoover', 'sellotape', etc.  Someone has put their name to their invention, and we should all show respect to them my capitalising these words.  Secondly, if it is indeed a 'can of coke' (sic), how can it be empty?  A 'can of coke' (sic) indicates that there is indeed something in the can, like a packet of crisps, or a box of chocolates, or a jar of marmalade (the list could go on; have a looksee next time you're in the supermarket).  If the can was indeed empty, then it should be described as an 'empty Coke can'.

Page 64: "googles" - Google, like Coke, is a brand name, and should have a capital 'G'.

Page 68: "March 1998 ... Look at the cursuses and the causeways."
Page 70: "She was halfway through the letter dated March 1996, with its surprising mention of cursuses and causeways."
Make your mind up, was it 1998 or 1996??

Page 146 & 147: "diet coke" - Brand name!! Diet Coke (both letters capitalised)!!

Page 148: "coke" - Ok, I'm getting bored of this now!

But one bit that did make me laugh appeared on page 154/155: "The wife belongs to a book club ... They never talk about the bloody books at all."  I don't know why, but this sentiment sounds familiar ...

The general view from the reading group that this was a good book, easy to read, and it flowed well.  But the sex scene (and the result of this sex scene) was completely unnecessary and almost detracted from the book.


I, thankfully, have no grammar issues with The Interpretation of Murder.  However, I do have other issues with this book.  It has two main voices; Younger, written in the first person, and the narrator, written in the third person.  Younger tells his own story from his own point of view, and the narrator tells the story of all the other characters.  To start with I quite liked this device, but after a while it became confusing, as more and more characters were introduced.  I got bored of that fairly quickly.

As the title suggests, this book is about murder, and I know with all murder mysteries we (the audience/reader) are supposed to suspect the wrong person up until the denouement where *surprise surprise* is wasn't who we thought all along!  But with this story, it was extremely contrived and unbelievable.  I felt let down when I found out 'whodunnit'.  It's a very long book, slightly tedious at times, with twists and turns and cliffhangers (I will commend Rubenfeld on his cliffhangers; they did grip me, and they did prevent me from putting the book down), and I expected a great reveal, but it was more like a deflated balloon flapping around in winter tree branches.  All I can do is shrug my shoulders at this book.

The majority of the group didn't like this book.  They felt that the author was showing off with his knowledge of Freud and Shakespeare, plus a million other things that he knows everything about.  It also had too many characters and too many things going on for it to be an easy read.  I know not everything should be an easy read, but if it's not easy it should at least be enjoyable!


Our next meeting is on Tuesday 26th February, and we will be discussing The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. 

Writer - Maggie Jones

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Maggie Jones.  Enjoy.

Maggie Jones

Hello Maggie.  Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Maggie Jones and I am based on the Isle of Wight.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing for well over nine years.
What first got you interested in writing?
I have always loved writing, but when I found I had time on my hands, I decided to explore my creative side.  I went to several college courses here on the IOW. 
Do you attend a writing group?
I am now very pleased to say that recently I became the Chairperson of the Wight Fair Writing Circle, which I have been involved with since it started in September 2008. 
Why do you attend a writing group?
I attend a writing group, because being a writer is a very lonely business.  With my colleagues from the group, we interact with one another, giving ideas and suggestions with each other’s writing. 
What types of things do you write?
I have written a little poetry, and have just finished one that I am going to enter into a competition shortly.  I mostly write short stories, but have also written four novels.  My last one I have just finished and am about to start trying to find a publisher for it. Fingers crossed. 
Good luck with that.  Have you had your previous novels published?
Last year I was very lucky that e-book publishers Lysandra Press were very interested in two of my novels.  They were great with their feedback and ideas with them, but before they could publish my novels, unfortunately, they had to close due to the publisher’s parent’s ill health.  So coming so very close to almost becoming a published author has made me want to become published even more.  
Perhaps you could consider Smashwords or Createspace for your publishing needs.  Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers? 
Over the years I have sent many stories to both agents/publishers and received many rejections.  It is sometime heart breaking, when you send a story thinking it might be the one, only to have it returned with the bog standard letter they send to everyone.  Although saying that, I did receive a very encouraging letter back from The People’s Friend last year, which I found very helpful with my writing.
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
Sometimes names just pop into my head, or I might ask my daughters for a boy/girl’s name.  One of my characters in the novel I have just completed is Jewish and had red hair.  I looked at Jewish boy’s names and Edom means red hair in Jewish.  So that character has the surname Edom.  Believe it or not, a lot of the characters and their personalities just come to me as I am writing them. 
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Go with your gut.  If you write something and truly like it, then stick with it.  Not everyone’s genre is the same, thank goodness.  Don’t be afraid to try something, and remember that not everyone is perfect with their writing.  It takes time to perfect what you have written.  
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?  Have you ever won?
I have entered a few competitions, and have been lucky enough to win a couple of prizes with our groups very own in-house competitions. 
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I love writing as it takes you away to another world, one that you can create from start to finish.  The least thing I like about writing is that it can be very lonely.  And if you are half way through something and you get interrupted, that can be really annoying.  
Thank you very much, Maggie.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Newcastle University Creative Writing Society

Welcome to my interview with Felicity Powell from Newcastle University Creative Writing Society.


Hello Felicity.  Can you tell us a bit about your writing society?
The Creative Writing Society (CreSoc) of Newcastle University became a registered society last year – this will be our first full year of being official. The idea started in 2011, when a group of friends decided to form the society, and it grew from there really. The meetings are held every Thursday evening, although members don’t have to attend every single one. It is very informal, most just drop in when they feel like it.
How many members, on average, does your society have?
At last count the number of official members was 41 – not bad for our first year.
Who are you and what is your role within the society?
I'm Felicity Powell, President and co-founder.
How are your sessions structured?
Each meeting normally lasts an hour, during which time the group will have a go at some writing activities, and then share and get feedback on what they written.
What types of things do you cover in your group?
Bit of everything really. We use a range of writing prompts and games, we suggest activities and even lead some guided writing exercises. The members can take the activity however they want to, maybe make a poem or story out of it, or even just scribble a few lines. Each to their own.
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
The best exercises are often the simplest ones, and they are always better when they are fun to do. For example: everyone writes down three words on separate pieces of paper, the more unusual the better. Then fold up the paper and toss it into the middle. Everyone then takes out three new pieces of paper, and writes something that uses those three words in some way, be it a poem, short story, or anything at all. It’s surprising what people can come up with, and is always interesting to hear what they have written. This activity forces you to associate things together that normally have no connection, it makes you think differently.
What genres do the members of your group write?
The most common forms of writing are poems and short stories, but we also cater to screenwriters, playwrights, journalists, and descriptive prose writers. There’s always diversity, everywhere you look. 
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
Not yet, this is our first year after all, but it would be great to produce some kind of anthology, either in print or online, at the end of a year.
What kind of support does your society provide for its writers?
The main thing is that the society provides a relaxed and informal space for students to practise their writing away from the pressures of the classroom, and getting people to socialise and share ideas with their fellow writers. However, writers can also get feedback on the work that they share, which as well as helping to improve their style, gives them the confidence to read their work aloud.

We also keep members up to date with any cultural events going on in the area, any competitions that they can submit their work to. 
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts for the group from?
Here and there. If someone remembers an activity that they have done before in a previous workshop, then they put it to the group. Then there is always internet research, or things you just pick up along the grapevine. A good activity starter is to just take an object or animal; person or picture, and then build a description around it and then turn that into a poem or story.
It’s also good to do writing games which get people to work together: perhaps everyone contributes a different element to a story that you write as a group.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Not everything you write has to be amazing, the trick is just to get something down onto paper. You can proofread and double check everything later on if you want, but the first time you just have to let your imagination flow. Doesn’t matter how good it is.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
The important thing to do is just write, and keep writing. So many cases of writer’s block are due to just being unwilling to put pen to paper, not knowing where to start. That’s what our society is all about – the activities just get you writing, move you past that mental block. The more you write, the better you get.  
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
We haven’t had any speaker’s yet (again, this is our first year). Right now we are working on putting ourselves on the cultural map, which should hopefully develop some interest. It would be great to get some professional writers in to give their advice.
Do you hold open mic events, or spoken word performances?
Working on it! We’d like to host our own open mic sessions, maybe to celebrate the end of the term. We could showcase some of our own talent, and encourage everyone else to have a go too. I’ve been to other such events around Newcastle, and they’ve always gone down really well. 
How would someone go about joining your society?
I’m afraid that it is only available to students of Newcastle University. But if anyone reading this is a Newcastle student, then you need to go to the union website at go to activities -> societies, and click on “join a society”.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Keep writing, and don’t give up. Believe in yourself.
Thank you very much Felicity.

Monday 28 January 2013

Writer - Tim Love

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Tim Love.  Enjoy.

Tim Love

Hello Tim.  Can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Tim Love, from Cambridge.
How long have you been writing?
30 years.
What first got you interested in writing?
Our school magazine.
Do you attend a writing group?
Cambridge writers.  I joined about 20 years ago. 
Why do you attend a writing group?
To improve my writing. 
What is the most valuable thing you've taken away from your writing group?
What genre(s) do you write?
Literary prose and poetry.
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
What types of things do you write?
Poetry and short stories.
Have you ever had anything published?
About 150 poems and 30 stories in magazine.  A poetry pamphlet and a story book.
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?  Have you received any rejections.
Yes.  Yes. 
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
I'd consider e-publishing.
Who/what influences your writing?
Many influences.  I get ideas on trains. 
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
I observe then mash-up.
What is your writing routine?
I write about breakfast.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I start out with a complete idea for my stories. 
Do you have an editing process?
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
Finding markets for stories.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
I wouldn't write otherwise.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?  Have you ever won?
Yes.  Yes. 
Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
I've done it twice.  I'll do it again.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Remind them that magazines often accept only 1% of submissions, so don't give up. 
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
What types of things do you read?
I read poetry books, short story books and novels.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
James Lasdun's story, "Ate, Memos or the Miracle".
What are you working on at the moment?
Another poetry pamphlet and another story collection. 
Do you have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
Thanks Tim.

Friday 25 January 2013

Newham Writers' Workshop

Welcome to my interview with Derek Smith, from Newham Writers' Workshop.


Hello Derek.  Can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
Newham Writers Workshop, meets at St John’s Church, Stratford, London E14, Thursdays, 7-9 pm.
How many members, on average, does your group have?
12 - 15
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
I am a published writer, and one of the co-ordinators of the group.
How are your sessions structured?
People book in advance to read.  We read 3 to 5 pieces per session, depending on the length.  Should someone who has booked not have something, then someone unbooked can fill it.  One of the co-ordinators chairs the evening. At the end of the reading, the writer does not speak until the group has given its criticism. Then the writer has the floor.  We try to offer supportive criticism, useful for say a rewrite but not bland praise which is useless for anyone who wants to improve their writing. 
Do members of the group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
We have four co-ordinators.  These are voted in (we are a co-operative).  Any one of them can lead a session.  We don’t offer it everyone as not everyone has the necessary skills, and poor chairing can kill a session.  We have four, so we are not dependent on one person, who, if they got run over by a bus, could lead to the demise of the group. 
What types of things do you cover in your group?
Short stories, novels, writing for children, poetry, journalism, plays, film scripts, biography and other creative writing.
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
In 2011 we ran a Festival of Writing with lots of writing workshops. 
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
No guest speakers.  We are a writing workshop, and listening to members' writing is its function. 
What genres do the members of your group write?
Short stories, poetry, and novels are the main offerings.
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
We do a yearly anthology which is open to all members.  And in 2011 to celebrate 25 years, we published a 25 year anthology, called Bejewelled Street, consisting of some of the best from our yearly anthologies.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
Supportive criticism of their work, a friendly atmosphere, and some of us go to the pub afterwards.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
If you are writing a novel, don’t keep reading what you have written.  Just go back a page or two, read/edit and carry on.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Listen to criticism and don’t argue.  
Does your writing group have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook?
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
Just turn up.  It costs £35 a term if you are working, £18 if you are not.  The first night is free, your try out night.
Thank you very much, Derek.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Writer - Annaliese Matheron

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer Annaliese Matheron.  Enjoy!

Annaliese Matheron

Hello Annaliese.  Can you please introduce yourself?
I’m Annaliese Matheron and I live in North Suffolk, near the coast. I first moved to Suffolk about eleven years ago, when my family was a lot younger and a little bit smaller than it is now. I was born in Hampshire but I grew up in Essex.
North Suffolk is a lovely part of the world, so I hear!  How long have you been writing?
I’ve always written, but I’ve been writing with purpose and the view of having my work published since I finished my degree about six years ago. 
What first got you interested in writing?
When I was at school I enjoyed writing, but I didn’t even entertain the idea of becoming a writer. It wasn’t till I was doing my English literature and language degree and took a course on creative writing that I thought “I really enjoy this.” But it wasn’t a deep knowing like some writers have, or a eureka moment, it kind of crept up on me and gradually consumed me until it was all I thought about. I’d wake up thinking of my characters and I’d go to sleep thinking of their story and I’d dream about the worlds they inhabited. It just became the biggest part of me and I remember when I realised that writing was for me thinking "You wally, Annaliese," because I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t seen it before; it makes perfect sense and is so right for me. I don’t just love writing, I’m in love with it and I never want that to stop, ever! 
It's great to see someone with such a passion for their craft.  Do you attend a writing group?
No, I’ve never attended a writing group and I think because I’ve never attended one I don’t feel a need for one. Maybe I’m missing out? 
There are some good writing groups out there, but if you do think about going to one, you need to find one that suits your needs.  What genre(s) do you write?  What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I predominantly write for children, but my age ranges are quite broad from 7-YA.
I don’t limit myself to only writing one type of genre; I write as I feel inspired and engaged, I wouldn’t ever write about a subject that I didn’t feel drawn to or emotionally invested in. And so far I’ve written for a young audience because that’s the audience that would be inspired by my writing rather than my writing being inspired by a set audience.
Have you ever had anything published?
My fourth book, Wolflore, has been released as an ebook this week and is out as a paperback next month. It’s aimed at a slightly older audience (9-14) then my previous Ninja Nan books (7-11), and the subject matter and genre is quite different, but they both still have a playful and open essence. 
The Ninja Nan series is all about a young boy called Ben who goes to stay at his grandparents house for the summer holidays, with his older brother Kieran, and whilst there he sees his Nan’s nasty neighbour, Mrs Gillespie, acting very mysteriously and decides to follow her around. Ben discovers that all of the old people who live in Honeypot Grove, including Nan and Grandad, are part of a spy ring, and when Ben and Kieran get kidnapped it’s up to the geriatric spies, with their age appropriate weaponry, to come and rescue them. 
In Wolflore, Adam Blake and his mother, Lucinda, have always moved around. Different towns, different schools, different kids. Adam just didn't know how different some of them might have been, not until he finds out that he is almost as far from being human as it gets. Adam is catapulted into a new world which exists just below the fabric or reality. Where sirens stalk the halls and Demons plot their secret agenda behind closed doors. Where Vampires can be hired for muscle and Voodoo priestesses are seriously scary, and kind of hot. But when his best friend, Harry, goes missing Adam must use all that sets him apart from his human friend in order to save him. 

Before your books were published, did you receive any rejections?
Rejection sucks, but you just have to remember that opinions aren’t facts; take them in and then let them go and keep striving. You’ll know if what you’re doing is right You just need to believe in your writing and not give up on it. Things take time. 
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?  Are you interested in eBooks, or do you prefer the old fashioned paper-made books?
I think that the eBook market is growing and that to ignore it is futile. It’s like the threat of the Borg against the federation; most of us will probably be assimilated.
But I love the tactile nature of a print book, you touch it and caress it and know its cover like the face of a friend. It hold’s your hand and takes you on an adventure. You experience something with it and you leave a little of yourself embedded in the paper. I’m not sure that an e-reader gives you the same pleasures, but I do think it offers something different. Freedom maybe, I don’t know, I haven’t worked it out yet. 
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
I think that my writing is influenced predominantly by the characters in my stories. I like to spend a lot of time getting to know my characters. I put them into situations outside of the context of the story to see how they would react and explore their background and their history so that when something crops up in the story I can instantly know how they will react and that’s really important to me because my characters are the driving for my plot rather than the other way around. I often start a story with an idea and have no idea how it’s going to turn out, or I have a vague idea but no real clue how the story might get there, luckily the characters guide the way through the interactions and reactions.
Sometimes vague idea I had doesn’t come to fruition, but that’s fine because what does happen is usually a million times better.
As for inspiration, well that’s all around. Sometimes my children do or say something or I’ll notice things when I’m out and think that’s interesting and I’ll pick it up and keep it for later reference. Sometimes you can trace back to a single inspiration and at other times its the sum of many musings that supply the impetus for a story. 
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
I once read that every character has a little bit of yourself inside it and I think that’s true to a certain extent, you have to be able to imagine all the facets of a character in order to be able to give them depth and substance. But I think that, apart from that small, but important, kernel that a character is born from, it comes in to its own as dictated by the nature of the environment that you need to put the character in and the way that it is nurtured by the characters around it.
I agree that characters all contain a bit of their authors.  It's what makes them so great!  What is your writing routine?
I try to write every day, or at least I have the intention to do so, sometimes it doesn’t turn out like that, especially if I have book related events of something of that nature happening. But even when I’m not writing I’m thinking about writing, constantly.
Me too!  Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
When I start I have an idea and I’m in the getting to know stage with my characters and not much else. It’s not really hoping for the best, it’s more trusting in the characters that you have created getting you where you need to be. But no I don’t plot, I tend to flow.
Do you have an editing process?
Like most authors I write with the door closed and edit with the door open. So my first draft is all ways this super secretive thing, although sometimes I do get very excited and tell people what I’m writing about, but they don’t get to read it until it’s finished. That’s when the editing starts, and I’m lucky that I have some honest people whom I trust to tell me where I’ve gone astray.
That's what all writers need.  It's no good if everyone just tells you how good something is without offering some constructive criticism.  What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I love everything about writing. It’s all my favourite. There isn’t anything that I don’t find joy in; the whole process, for me, is fun. Sometimes it’s hard and frustrating, but it’s still the most rewarding and spectacular adventure that I get to go on, and I’m very privileged and grateful that I get to spend my days doing what I love.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you've been given with regards to writing?
Oh I’ve had lots of good advice but I think the most valuable piece came really early on when I was just starting to realise that I wanted to write as a career and was worried that I wasn’t good enough I was told that what I had to say was important and was worthy and good. And that I should continue and strive. Sometimes I think that we just need a little validation, permission almost, especially in such a highly critical field such as writing. You will be judged, your work will be judged; there’s nothing you can do about that. But you can be true to yourself and your work , be happy with what you have created and remember that you can’t please everyone all of the time.
That's such an important thing to remember.  What advice could you give to a new writer?
Half of the battle is the doing. Sometimes we writers can get wrapped up in the thought process and the ideas that we sometimes find it hard to actually write. This happened to me a few months back and a friend said to me just write, if it doesn’t work you can change it that’s what editing is for. She was so right. I now call it doing the doing. If I get a little held up in a story I just go and do the doing and I’m usually able to power through.
I often get caught up with thinking, so I'd better get on with 'doing the doing' as I have so many ideas in my head; they need to be put on paper!  How important is it for you to share your writing?
Sharing my writing, getting out in to the world and living is very important to me. I like to see my stories doing well and being enjoyed. Getting a message from someone who has read one of my books and enjoyed it is the best validation.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?
Ninja Nan and Sidekick Grandad made it to the finals of The People’s Book Prize last year, so that was jolly exciting.

That's amazing.  Well done!  Apart from writing, what are your other interests/hobbies?
Apart from writing and her sister past time- reading, I read a lot of non-fiction, I like to run and do yoga. But even when I’m reading and running I’m thinking about writing, different projects current and future. I often find if I’m a little stuck and unsure where a story is going that if I go for a run I’ll sort it out. Usually in a eureka moment. I think sometimes your conscious mind needs to fully focus on something else in order for your unconscious mind to work its remarkable magic.
I’m also interested in astronomy. Most of my non writing time is taken up by my family, but when I get some time those are the things that I enjoy doing.
I used to be really interested in astronomy.  I can't remember much about it now, apart from the plough and cassiopeia ... anyway ... If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
This has only happened once. I read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Material Trilogy and I remember actually saying to myself “Man! I wish I’d written that!” - it’s an amazing story and so well told, you can’t help but be swept up in it.
That's on my bookshelf and on my 'to read' list!  Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
Do I, I have tones. I’ll list a few.
My favourite Shakespeare play is Cymbeline, my favourite sonnet is 116.
My favourite Austen is Persuasion, Favourite Dahl is Danny the Champion of the World, but my favourite Dahl character is The Grand High Witch. My favourite escapist fantasy book is Stardust. My Favourite King is The Dreamcatcher, Favourite old school horror- Dracula,
Favourite book to read and do funny voices- The Gruffalo, Favourite book as a small child Meg, Mog and the Castle, Favourite book as a teenager The Hobbit, Favourite book to take on holiday- Jane Eyre. And my favourite literary quote is from Karl Largerfield, “Books are a hard-bound drug with no danger of overdose. I am the happy victim of books.” Couldn’t agree more.
That is a lovely quote.  What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m writing a sequel to Wolflore as well as information gathering for a few other projects which I hope will come about over the next few years.
Do you have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?

Twitter is @Matheron

And my facebook page is under my name, Annaliese Matheron 
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
This is an excerpt from Ninja Nan and Sidekick Grandad. It’s the first meeting between Ben and what is to become his evil arch enemy, Mrs Gillespie:
Ben paused and bent down, pretending to tie his shoelace, but really he was casing the joint. A thrill of excitement filled him for a moment, but then was gone the next as he realised something. All was unearthly quiet in the house; there was no barking from the dog, no sound of movement – nothing. It all seemed a bit too quiet. Then a thought struck Ben which made his mouth dry. What if the old woman was dead! You hear about it all the time, little old ladies who drop down dead and aren’t found for days. He stayed there for a few moments, crouched low, looking at the quiet house with the dead body inside it. 
‘What do you think you’re doing loitering outside my house?’ 
Ben jumped up. It was the squeaky little voice of the very alive Mrs Gillespie, who fixed Ben with an icy stare over the top of her glasses. She was accompanied by Pixie who sat in the front basket of the motorised scooter, teeth bared and growling. 
Ben tried to look her in the eye but couldn’t. His gaze was drawn to her chin which sprouted long white hairs, making it look like the end of a silver skin onion. He tried to move his gaze to her eyes but was caught by a second wave of hair sprouting from her nostrils and top lip. Ben forced his eyes to the floor. Perhaps she hadn’t noticed he was staring. 
‘Well, what were you doing, boy?’ she demanded again, her voice sounding even squeakier.
Ben shrugged his shoulders and started pushing the stone around with the tip of his shoe.
Mrs Gillespie saw the stone. ‘Ahh!’ she exclaimed. ‘I know boys like you. Bored, got nothing to do except terrorise defenceless old ladies.’ She pulled her woolly blue cardigan about her thickset frame, as if it were a cold autumn’s day. 
Ben stared at her in disbelief. ‘But I…’  
‘Creeping up on them as they make their way home, waiting to ambush them or throw stones through their windows to give them a fright. Oh yes, I know boys like you!’ Mrs Gillespie leaned forward on her scooter, her face barely a hand’s width away. 
Ben could see her stained brown teeth. The top ones were marked with a line of brilliant red lipstick, the remainder of which was smeared over her wrinkly little puckered lips. He could smell her breath – an unwholesome mixture of tobacco and kippers. 
‘We have ways of dealing with boys like you, don’t we Pixie!’ 
The dog yapped in agreement then continued baring its teeth. 
Mrs Gillespie put one bony hand into the pocket of her cardigan and produced a cold chicken drumstick; it was speckled with blue fluff. 
She dangled the drumstick in front of the dog who gazed intently at it. The growling stopped.
‘Wait for it!’ Mrs Gillespie said, her eyes fixed on Ben, who in turn was fixed on the fate of the drumstick. ‘Now!’ she ordered. 
In a flash the dog lurched forward, snapped the drumstick in two and started to chomp on the bone and fleshy part it now had in its mouth. Mrs Gillespie continued to hold the other half with the knobbly knee joint between her fingers. 
‘You may not know this, but the bones in a boy’s ankle are about the same size as the bone in a chicken drumstick. You also may not know that Pixie, here, is an extremely fast runner, much faster than you, I dare say.’ 
Ben was in shock. All he was able to do was nod his head up and down. 
‘Here,’ said Mrs Gillespie, grabbing his hand and placing the dead drumstick remnant in it. 
‘You can keep this. Call it a reminder never to creep up on people again. Now go back to your grandma’s, boy, before I have half a mind to tell her what you’ve been up to.’ 
Ben didn’t need telling twice. He ran all the way back to Nan’s, not stopping until he was down the side path and safely out of view. From there he watched Mrs Gillespie drive through the little gate up to her house. 
The old hag! Making it out to be all him when she’s the one who was sneaking about. She’s the one who threatened to set her ferocious dog on him. She’s the one who’s up to something. Well, Ben wasn’t about to let her get away with it. 
© Annaliese Matheron
Thank you very much Annaliese.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Hornsea Writers

Welcome to my interview with Linda Acaster from Hornsea Writers.


Hello Linda.  Can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
Hi Rebeccah, thanks for inviting us to participate. We’re based in a seaside town in East Yorkshire, but we pull our small membership from across the Riding because we aren’t your usual writing group. 
Ooh that sounds interesting.  How are you different?
Hornsea Writers is a support group for professional writers. Among our membership we have a Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger winner who is also the current chair of the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society, two past winners of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, and winners of various national writing competitions. Individually we’ve written and had published/produced radio plays, a plethora of newspaper and magazine articles in the UK and overseas, how-to and academic books, short fiction in a variety of genres, and historical, fantasy, SF, crime and romance novels. The very last thing we do at our weekly meetings is write.
If you don't write, what do you do?
After gaining a drink at the bar – all writing groups should have access to a bar, even if it sells only tea – it’s a round-table news and hard copy information exchange to augment the closed Yahoogroup we maintain for fast exchanges of hyperlinks to anything pertinent to our business. To members, writing is a business; no one at Hornsea Writers carries the attitude that it’s a pleasant hobby. For most it’s a big part of our working day; for some there are deadlines implicit in publishers’ contracts.
The reason we turn up weekly – Christmas off for good behaviour – is for the detailed criticism of read aloud work-in-progress. This is where prospective new members wilt just listening to the measured but detailed exchanges, and why we are now an invitation-only group. We feel we’ve put off for life too many beginner writers, even when they’ve never read out a word of their own fiction.
What kind of feedback do you give each other?
No one says that’s nice or didn’t like that. Because individually we work with agents and publishers’ editors we evaluate our work through that level of filter: if the character does x and y there, why is he doing z further on? Why would that character think in those terms at that point? If no cast-iron answer is forthcoming the work is deconstructed across the table and suggestions offered. There are always suggestions for remedies or new routes when a possible problem is recognised. No member is ever left hanging, and it takes as long as it takes, so we might spend an entire evening on one person’s work. This is rare, but it can be beneficial at the opening of, say, a novel where a better starting point might be identified thus later saving hours, or even days of rewriting when cracks start appearing in the structure. The beauty of such a diverse group of individuals is that we each have our areas of expertise borne from experience. 
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Hornsea Writers’ tip: find a writing group that both supports your level of engagement and challenges your current expertise. Most of all we urge you to never stop writing.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I used to be a creative writing tutor and still critique novels for a London agency. My Reading A Writer’s Mind: Exploring Short Fiction – First Thought to Finished Story does what it says on its e-cover, and it’ll soon be a paperback. Penny Grubb, our crime-writer, has distilled her university and conference teaching into The Writers’ Toolkit – A Handbook for Writers of Commercial Fiction. Making up the trilogy, April Taylor has condensed her librarian skills into the very useful Internet Research for Fiction Writers after continually having to explain the easiest way of gaining the research members needed. We embody the ‘write about what you know’.

Readers of Rebeccah Writes may well find of use the blog of SF/F writer Stuart Aken where, among other interesting content, he maintains a comprehensive and useful list of current writing competitions. 
Does your writing group have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook? 
Hornsea Writers has no internet presence but has produced a group e-anthology of prize-winning short fiction, A Sackful of Shorts. Connect with members mentioned above at:

Linda Acaster: how-to, historical, supernatural thriller, fantasy and short fiction

Penny Grubb: crime, academic, how-to, short fiction

April Taylor: how-to, alternative history (Tudor), short fiction

Stuart Aken: SF/F; literary, romance, horror, SF short fiction and a useful blog
Thank you very much Linda.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

WordCraft Writers' Forum

Welcome to my interview with Sarah Oswald from WordCraft Writers' Forum.


Hello Sarah.  Can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
We are WordCraft Writers’ Forum, an inclusive group for writers of all levels in any genre, who meet weekly on Thursdays at the CAMAD centre in Machynlleth, Powys between 7pm-9pm.   The group was set up by myself and another local writer, Felicity Knight, in April this year (2012) and is run co-operatively as a non-profit group, so we only charge a nominal fee of £2 per session in order to cover the hire of the room and copying costs.  Felicity & I give our time for free and so far between us, we haven’t missed a week!
How many members, on average, does your group have?
We have a core group of six, with two or three other members who attend occasional sessions, but we actively encourage new members to come along by advertising locally. 
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
I’m Sarah Oswald, I have published numerous pieces of short fiction in journals & anthologies here in the UK and Canada (where I grew up) and am currently working on a novel.  I set up the group with Felicity following a ‘taster’ workshop I ran locally last year.  I have several years’ experience of teaching, so I facilitate the sessions and run workshops every other week. 
How are your sessions structured?
It varies: I try to run a workshop every other week, which is a more formal writing class aimed at providing tools and techniques, with writing exercises and ideas for further individual work.  Other weeks we devote to giving constructive critique/feedback on one another’s work, or to writing exercises, discussions or forums.  The group is run as a co-operative so it is whatever the group members agree they would most like to do.
Do members of the group get a chance to run/let a session or part of a session?
Yes, if they want to, but there is no pressure to do so. 
What types of things do you cover in your group?
All sorts! – This year I have run a series of fiction-writing workshops covering topics such as dialogue, dense description, creating incident, sense of place, original detail, and structure, and have also run workshops on life writing and psychogeography.  We have had forums on flash fiction, point of view, proof-reading and editing.  And we have indulged in writing on a single topic, writing in different genre styles, ‘hot-seating’ a character, and various other exercises designed to get your creativity going! 
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
One of my most popular writing exercises is called ‘story generator’: everyone writes a random object and a random place on two post-it notes and sticks them on the board, then everyone chooses one from each category and comes up with a story based around these!  We have done this two or three times now and it’s great fun!
Another popular activity is ‘shifting perspectives’, in which everyone chooses a picture or postcard from a general selection and writes from various different perspectives – someone in the picture, the person taking the picture, describing what happened next, etc etc.  This was taken from a workshop I attended run by Olive Senior at Arvon. 
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
We’ve only had one so far -  a woman I know who also used to teach creative writing, called Helen Jones, came and did an excellent guest workshop on ‘spontaneity writing’ for us recently. 
Unfortunately we don’t really have much money so can’t afford to pay guest speakers, also the room we rent is rather small!  I have been trying to coerce some other local writers to come along and speak for us but people do seem to be rather strapped for spare time, sadly. 
What genres do the members of your group write?  Is there a lot of diversity with regards to your members' writing?
Yes, very much so.  We have fiction writers, a screenwriter, life-writers, a non-fiction article writer and a children’s writer.  Genres range across the board - horror, historical romance, literary fiction, sci-fi and comedy! 
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
We often write collectively, and in fact one very successful exercise involved us creating a scenario from a photograph and each writing from the point of view of a different character – interestingly, all the stories ‘hung together’ surprisingly well and we have thought of performing these as a play for voices. 
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
We are a small, not-for-profit group and have no funds or facilities, so support is really a question of sharing information and knowledge and providing one another with constructive feedback.  We do organise a lift-share to and from the weekly sessions, and any other events that we feel we’d like to attend as a group.
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts from?
I have studied creative writing to MA level and have been teaching it for five years, so I have a good deal of material!  I also read a lot of books on the subject and attend workshops and courses, so some ideas come from there.  But it is usually a question of thinking about what it is I want people to get out of an exercise, and then designing one around this.  We’re very fortunate to have an exceedingly creative group of people in WordCraft as well though, and everyone has great ideas all the time and is always bringing them to the group.
What's the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
a) Write first, edit laterb) Shut up and write! (Natalie Goldberg)
Ha!  Brilliant!  What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Get on and write: get the ‘bones’ down first, worry about editing and everything else later.
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
Either email myself or Felicity for details, or just turn up on a Thursday! or
Thank you Sarah.

Friday 11 January 2013

Writer - Eileen Kernaghan

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Eileen Kernaghan.  Enjoy!

Eileen Kernaghan

Hello Eileen.  Can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Eileen Kernaghan, from British Columbia, Canada.
How long have you been writing?
All my life! Or at least from when I first learned to read and write at about age five.
What first got you interested in writing?
First of all  having stories read to me, and then reading them for myself. 
Do you attend a writing group?
Burnaby Writers’ Society. I've been a member since the society first formed in 1967.
Why do you attend a writing group?
It keeps me motivated to keep writing. As well, I value the feedback. A good critiquing group can catch those glitches you just don’t notice yourself.
What is the most valuable thing you've taken away from your writing group?
The desire to carry on writing. 
What genre(s) do you write?  What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
Historical novels, with elements of fantasy.  These are the books I’ve always loved to read. 
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
Romance novels. I’m not terribly good at writing love scenes. 
What types of things do you write?
Novels; poetry; short stories; occasional non-fiction.
Have you ever had anything published?
Yes. Nine novels, a poetry collection, and a non-fiction book.  You can find the details on my website, 
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
I did  self-publish one novel, when I couldn’t find an interested publisher. It’s called Winter on the Plain of Ghosts: a novel of Mohenjo-daro, and it’s set in the prehistoric Indus Valley. 
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
I’m inspired by history, by myth, and by the many varieties of magical belief. 
What is your writing routine?
I find mornings are best for writing. But I’m not as disciplined as I used to be. 
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I begin, usually, with a character, a period of history, a setting. I may have a general idea of the plot, but the story always develops as I do the research, and as my characters interact with their world.
Do you have an editing process?
My first reader is my husband, and next my small speculative fiction writing group, of which I’ve been a member for nearly thirty years.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Edit, edit, edit. 
That's my favourite part of the writing process.  What advice could you give yo a new writer?
Be patient. And never submit anything for publication, (or self-publish) until the manuscript is as perfect as you can possibly make it. Again, edit, edit, edit. 
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I enjoy doing the research, and I enjoy the act of creation.  I  least enjoy the necessity to get out there in the marketplace and promote my work. 
How important is it for you to share your writing?
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?  Have you ever won?
Yes to both.  Two of my novels, Songs from the Drowned Lands and The Snow Queen,  and a short story, “Carpe Diem”,. won Aurora Awards for Canadian speculative writing.
Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performances?
Yes, often. Open mic readings are very popular in this area. 
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Reading, walking., history, prehistory.
What types of things do you read?  Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
History. Historical and mainstream literary novels. Some fantasy.  Some mysteries. And yes, I like to think my writing reflects my tastes. 
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
Precious Bane, by Mary Webb. I first read it when I was about fourteen, and ever since it’s been my favourite book.  And my second choice would be Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm. 
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished a novel (a historical novel set in India under the Raj) and I’ve yet to decide what comes next. 
There's a whole world of possibilities!  You mentioned earlier that you have a website, but is there anywhere else on the internet that we can find you?
Would you be able to provide an short piece of your work?
From Wild Talent: A Novel of the Supernatural (Thistledown Press 2008) 
As I made my way in the chill grey dawn toward Berwick I was hungry and thirsty and my spirits very low… But I thought, however drab and grey the city may prove to be, and whatever misadventures may await me there, I cannot stay in a place where they think me at best a witch, at worst a murderess. And I remembered how Father used to say that opportunity could grow out of mischance, so as I trudged towards Berwick station I imagined the oak desk, the sunny room, the shelves of books with my name in gilt; and I began to walk faster, with a lighter heart. 
So here I sit, on the morning train to London, with my journal on my lap. The woman beside me stared when I sat down, and I know how bedraggled I must look, with my hem all smirched and my boots muddy where I cut across the fields. Soon we will be in Newcastle, with the Borders and my old life forever behind me. I mean to keep a careful record of this journey, writ plain and in proper English, as a novelist would; for when I come to write the story of my life, this will be the opening chapter. 
I must not think any more about George. It was a wicked thing I did, whether I meant it or not, and it is a shame I must live with. But more wicked than the act itself, I realize now, was the guilty joy I felt as my weapon found its mark. 
© Eileen Kernaghan 
Thank you very much, Eileen.