Looking Back at 2012
As the year comes to an end, I’ve been thinking back over all that’s happened in my writing life, and it’s been quite a year. So, hoping not to become too self-congratulatory (give me a shove if you think I am!) I’d like to reflect on my writing higlights ofJanuary
- The year started off with a bang when I heard over the New Year weekend that UNRAVELLING had won the Chapter One Promotions Book Award for 2011. Not only was there a very nice cash prize attached, but I was thrilled to read the nice comments from the judge, amongst them: This book is the best book I have read in a very long time and deserves to be on the book shelves amidst other bestsellers. A lovely accolade to receive.
- I had barely recovered from the excitement of that when I learned that my next novel THE PIANO PLAYER’S SON was on a shortlist of five for the Cinnamon Press Novel Award. I had submitted the first three chapters to Cinnamon’s novel writing competition in November 2011 and was now invited to send the whole manuscript in by the end of January. Ooh! A busy month ahead re-writing, editing, checking and re checking.
- As well as reworking PP’s Son, I had also decided to take part in the River of Stones organised by Writing Our Way Home. This is a wonderful idea where writers all over the world write ‘a small stone’ each day by observing something closely and reflecting on it. I loved taking part in this. If you haven’t read my ‘stones’ before, you can see them here. My favourite stone is Thursday 5th Jan: The dark bruise in your heart healed by the softness of a child’s hand in yours. I still haven’t decided whether to take part again in 2013. The name has been changed to Mindful Writing Challenge, which I don’t find as evocative as River of Stones, but more importantly, I want to push on with my new novel without other distractions.
- During February, I went to a series of poetry workshops with Jane Commane and Matt Nunn of Nine Arches Press. The topics included love poetry, poetry inspired by music and using the senses. I loved these and got a lot from them. I’d like to try writing more poetry in 2013.
- I went to the Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy. Not only did I love Hockney’s work, but the trip also confirmed that Ollie, my as yet elusive main character for my new novel, would have a passion for painting. The RA’s position so close to Piccadilly also convinced me I’d found the title for the novel: Two Minutes from Eros. Let’s just say that proved to be a false lead which it’s taken me several months to emerge from!
- The month ended on high when I found out that THE PIANO PLAYER’S SON had won the Cinnamon Press competition and would be published October 2013 (and what a long wait it’s proving for that date to come round!)
- I went on a five-day writing course run by Jan Fortune of Cinnamon Press. As well as enjoying almost a week of uninterrupted writing and/or talking about writing with like-minded fellow writers, I felt stimulated by the wonderful setting of Snowdonia and amazingly warm spring sunshine. The time also gave me the chance to explore my thoughts for the new novel. I decided on the theme. the pov characters, began some plot ideas and wrote the first chapter. I also discovered my short story Lily and the Blue Book was one of the final ten in the Cinnamon short story competition and would be published in the next anthology JERICHO. For some reason, the email telling me hadn’t got through!
- Flash fiction also played a significant part in my writing during the early months of 2012. I completed an online flash fiction course with Fish Publishing which I thoroughly enjoyed and submitted my flash Errol’s Eyebrows to Fish’s flash fiction competition. I also got the go ahead from Lisa Ventura, director of Worcestershire Literary Festival to run a flash fiction competition as part of Worcester’s 2012 festival, partly to help celebrate the first-ever National Flash Fiction Day held in May 2012.
- I found out I had a place on Room 204, a new scheme run by Writing West Midlands to help support and develop writers working in the region. I had applied back in February and was pleased to be accepted because 120 people had applied but only 18 were taken on. I met Jonathan Davidson and Sara Beadle of Writing West Midlands at the Custard Factory in Birmingham – it was lovely to have people interested in your work and your writing hopes and dreams. I gave a copy of UNRAVELLING to Jonathan and hoped he would enjoy it. The outcome was better than I could have imagined!
- On 14 May, I ran a flash fiction workshop at The Hive in Worcester, as part of a full day of events leading up to WLF 2012. Preparations for the competition also continued apace. Calum Kerr, founder of National Flash Fiction Day, agreed to share the judging with me, and the wonderful Polly Robinson joined the ‘team’ as administrator. Sharing the load with Polly was a boon and I couldn’t have made it happen without her.
- My flash fiction Errol’s Eyebrows was shortlisted in the Fish Publishing comp. Fish is a prestigious competition with entries from all over the world, so I was delighted to be on the shortlist. But couldn’t help feeling huge disappointment not to get further!
- The first 204 group meeting took place. It was lovely to meet and spend time with the other writers on the scheme – poets, dramatists, novelists, biographers. The wealth of talent and experience is inspiring. I’d also been asked by The Self Publishing magazine to write a series of articles on the Room 204 experience, so I was extra busy saving ideas to include.
- 21 May was the closing date for the WLF flash fiction competition. We received 98 entries from all over the country, and in fact, from places as far-flung as Canada. This was wonderful considering the competition was in its first year, and although I had judged, I had never organised a writing competition before! At the end of May, I went off to Venice for a week – with half the entries in my suitcase! Calum had the other half, to be exchanged on my return.
- June proved to be another exciting month. I took part in the Worcester Choral Poem organised by David Calcutt of Half Moon workshops. This was a wonderful experience where four writers, plus David, walked round Worcester exploring and noting down sights, sounds, smells of the city. We then combined our individual ideas into a poem and jointly read it as part of WLF’s Parole Parlate special. I’ve written about the experience in more detail here.
- On 23 June, Polly Robinson and I organised an event where the winners of our flash fiction competition were announced. Calum and I had selected a shortlist of ten, and from that we chose our top three. Calum came along to that and revealed how his idea for National Flash Fiction Day came about, as well as reading from his own collection of flash fiction, Braking Distance.
- This month I also received my first ever commission to write a short story. Back in April, I said that giving a copy of Unravelling to Jonathan Davidson proved to have an exciting outcome. Joanthan enjoyed my novel and passed it on to Roz Goddard of West Midlands Readers Network. She also liked it, and as a result invited me to be one of six regional writers commissioned to work with a reading group in the area and produce a short story specifically for that group. What an exciting challenge!
I wanted to reflect 0n 2012, but it’s proving to be a more action-packed review than I anticipated, so I’m going to cut the year in two. I’ll post 2012 Part Two tomorrow or the next day – and hope some of you might still be reading!