It’s all about the letting go

A short while ago I went to London with some friends to see the Beatles musical ‘Let it Be’.  We sang along, did a lot of arm-waving (Hey Jude!) and despite the limited space, got up and danced.  You just can’t help yourself, can you?

Well, some can, apparently.  Among the swaying throng, a few remained stalwartly in their seats, allowing themselves a gentle nod of the head or tap of the foot but that’s all.  (I am talking fit and able people here, by the way.)

We all know someone like that, don’t we?  In the midst of a standing ovation they’ll be the one person in the row glued to the seat.  You’ll never see them jumping up and down and yelling ‘Home you go!’ as their horse crosses the finishing line.  Their child won’t suffer the indignity of the decibel-busting ‘Go on son!’ from the touchline on Sunday morning in the park.  (That could be a bonus, mind you…)

The kind of person I’m talking about isn’t necessarily shy or lacking in confidence.  They can’t let go.  Simple as that.  Oh, they wish they could, no doubt about it.  The frustration’s etched on their faces but something inside always stops them.  It must be fear, I think, fear of making fools of themselves but, more than that, fear of their own emotions.

It manifests itself in other ways, too.  Such a person may not, for example, get a cat, even though they love cats, because sooner or later it will die and they’re afraid of how they will feel when it happens.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong or inferior about being that way, heaven forbid – we’re all different and what a boring old world it would be if we weren’t – but I was thinking about the types of people who turn out to be writers and whether it requires a certain kind of personality to be one.

I don’t know the complete answer to that, except I’m certain that the can’t-let-goers are not writers.  I’m coming late to the party with this, I know, but when I first started writing I didn’t think beyond the inspiration, the ideas and the craft.  Now I’m beginning to understand that in order to get inside the heads of your characters you must first get inside your own and take a long, honest view of what lies below the surface.

It’s about burrowing down and touching your emotions, trying to understand them and not being afraid of what you might find. It’s about being brave, taking a deep breath and letting go.

The same must apply, I think, to all the arts.  A sculptor I know says that working quickly in clay allows her to express her feelings.  I hadn’t thought of it like that before but clearly she too draws on her deeper emotions in the creative process.

Obviously I’m only scratching the surface here, probably naively since I’m no psychologist, but I’d like to know what you think so I’ll finish with a couple of cryptic questions to start you off.

Certainly, to be a writer you need curiosity, tenacity, patience and eternal optimism as well as a whole range of skills but providing there’s a modicum of talent there to begin with, most of those things can be learned or acquired.

Can you learn, though, to bring your emotions to the surface and let the world see what you’re really about, or do you have to be that person to begin with?

Also, has being a writer changed you in any way?

 

Deirdre

 

 

Pre-Publishing Nerves

26th September, 2013

Anyone who reads this blog may be aware that earlier on this year I was offered a two book deal with Carina Uk and in seven days to be exact I will be able to call myself a published writer, an author. It’s what I have dreamt about since I was in my early thirties and yes dreams do come true. As long as you work hard enough and never, ever give up.

 So how am I feeling I hear you ask? Let me tell you exactly how I’m feeling. Nervous is probably the most prevalent feeling at the moment, although the nerves are sometimes pushed to the side by a tinge of excitement. Today I met one of our lovely Town Centre Parking Attendants Kev who I haven’t seen for ages. (He also gives the best hugs ever as well as the parking tickets) He had heard through the grapevine about my book and told me he was really pleased for me and was going to download it onto his Kindle for his holiday and was going home to check out Amazon. After our conversation ended I walked away with the biggest grin on my face and it was such an amazing feeling. When I got back to my office I had an email off a colleague who also put a PS on the bottom and said almost the same thing that Kev had said, again I grinned with delight.

I am having a small launch, well more of a thank you party for my family, writing group and friends who have supported me so much these past couple of years. Where the main attraction will be the wonderful cupcakes I’m having made with tiny versions of my book on them. I have no intention of doing anything other than drinking a glass of wine and talking to everyone. You see I promised them all cake if they bought my book so I’ve kept my side of the bargain.

I even finally faced my fears yesterday and went to do a short interview with the most amazing, lovely journalist from the local paper after months of her asking me. Suzanne was fab she put my mind at rest and made it relatively painless. The picture on the other hand was painful. I’m not sure how I manage to cross my eyes and look as if I’ve just been stabbed in the back at the exact moment the flash goes off. It is a special talent.  But it’s done, for better or for worse and they have promised to run the story on the 2nd October when the book is out. What more could I ask for?

I think the thing which makes me nervous is the thought that my story, which has almost been like a fantasy life for me for the last eight years is about to be unleashed into the public domain. Where everyone from my bosses at work to my family and of course the lovely Kev will be able to read the stuff I’ve spent so long writing about, it certainly makes me feel queasy. I keep telling myself that other authors must feel the same and it’s a natural feeling, but I can’t help worry that what should be one of the greatest achievements of my life is being tainted with these nerves. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to push them to the side and enjoy the moment for what it is J

Helen xx

The Wednesday Wondering – Being Spontaneous

Hello and welcome to another Write Romantics Wednesday Wondering. Those of you who have been following our Wondering will know that we try to do pose a mixture of writing and non-writing questions. This week we have another non-writing question which I have to confess I ‘acquired’ from my local radio station, Yorkshire Coast Radio. Paddy in the Morning usually poses an interactive question each morning. I loved some of the responses coming in so I thought I’d ask the Write Romantics.

The wondering is:

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done (and what were the consequences)?

Here’s what some of the Write Romantics had to say…

 

LYNNE:

It was to buy our little house. I’d just stepped over the threshold and it was full of loveliness, old floors, ancient glass, pretty garden etc. Had to sell it years later because of moving though.

 

HELEN R:

The most spontaneous thing I ever did would have to be quitting my job, buying a one way ticket to Australia and hopping on a plane to a country where I had never been and where I never knew a soul. On a slightly less terrifying scale, a friend joined me in Melbourne a few months later and we hired a car for the day. Being the naive poms that we were, we looked at a map (not in the days of sat navs) and decided we would go and check out Ballarat, the goldfields, and then head to the Grampians and Wentworth Falls too. I remember having to pull up at the tiniest garage for petrol – the whole family who owned the petrol station came out to help us, I think it was a novelty to get a customer – and we had to buy bars of chocolate before we passed out from no food.

Back at work on the Monday morning we were asked what we had got up to on the weekend. Needless to say the rest of our colleagues thought we were hysterical…it turned out we had driven 115km up to the goldfields, another 151km to the Grampians and then 266km home. They asked if we’d set off at the crack of dawn but we set off around lunchtime, not a packed lunch or emergency snack pack in sight! I’ve never been so tired but it was an education in just how big Australia actually is!

 

JO:

The most impulsive thing I’ve ever done was moving in with a boyfriend three weeks after meeting him, with two of those spent on opposite sides of the Atlantic.  What was the consequence of it?  Well, my best friend did ask me who I’d like to have play me in the Crime Watch reconstruction, in case he turned out to be a murdering psychopath…  As it happens, nearly eleven years later, of which we’ve been married for almost ten, he’s sitting in the chair next to me and I’ve never (well, no more than is normal!) regretted my impulsiveness.

 

RACHAEL: 

Spontaneity isn’t something that I’m known for and to answer this Wednesday’s Wondering I had to think long and hard.

About six years ago I began to actively pursue my dream of being a writer. After having attended several weekend writing workshops with Kate Walker I then enrolled, purely on impulse, on a course in Tuscany with Sharon Kendrick.

I couldn’t sleep that night worrying about what I’d done. I’d only ever been abroad once and that had been fifteen years previously. So the thought of travelling alone was quite daunting. I did however go and had a fabulous time, met some wonderful women and have even been again. Proof that spontaneity can have good results.

 

JAXX:

The most spontaneous thing I ever did was deciding to drive to Blackpool after work one Friday with a colleague for the weekend. This was years ago when I lived in the Midlands and my transport was an old green mini van. Got stuck in traffic on the motorway, car overheated, spent two hours in the service station car park by which time it was dark. We hadn’t arranged any accommodation so bottled out and car limped home in the dark doing 20 MPH. It’s the only thing that sticks in my mind- think that. Must mean I’m not a very spontaneous gal!

 

HELEN P:

I think the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done ended up with a baby but we won’t go into details 😉

Second to that would be, Oh this is another story which ends with a baby. When I was just over nine months pregnant with my first daughter Jessica I went on a long walk with my husband Steve to the Abbey Ruins (those ruins have shaped my life from being a child!) We lived in the town centre at the time and it was a very long walk. I was desperate to go into labour and thought this might do the trick. We reached the Abbey and the side gate was wide open so we looked at each other and sneaked in, we didn’t really have enough money to pay the entrance fee back then. We walked around the ruins and sat down for a bit while I caught my breath. When we decided to leave we went back to the gate which was now shut and locked. I looked at Steve horrified and he went to see if the museum was still open so we could leave through that way and hope they didn’t realise we hadn’t paid. He came back looking sheepish and shook his head. Bearing in mind I was nine months pregnant and could hardly walk he told me I’d have to climb over. What a sight! I had poor Steve behind me trying to give me a leg up onto the top of the railings which were quite high. I did manage to get to the top and he had to then do a bunk over onto the other side to help me get back down. He held onto me whilst I jumped down and I thought if that didn’t get my baby moving nothing would. At the time I was mortified but then once we were both on the other side we started to laugh and then began the long walk home.

And yes I did go into labour that night 🙂 xx

 

JULIE:

I’m more of a planner than a spontaneous person but I went through a phase in 2002/03 where I did quite a lot of spontaneous things. Some of them took a while to come to action but the decision was very spontaneous. In the space of a couple of months, I ended a long-term relationship, put the house we owned on the market, asked for voluntary redundancy from work and set about planning to move back to the north east (I was living in Reading at the time) to open a shop selling teddy bears! I had to wait a couple of months before I got my VR request accepted (when not enough volunteers came forward) and it took a while to sell the house but I moved back to the north east in Spring 2003. The spontaneity didn’t stop there. I decided one night to register on an internet dating site. I’d never considered doing this before and hadn’t necessarily wanted to get into another relationship but the thought popped into my head (probably helped by a couple of glasses of wine one Sunday night) and it wouldn’t go. Within a couple of hours I’d got my profile online. The next night, I got my first email from someone called Mark. Two days later, I met up with him and yesterday we celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary! I agree with Rachael, spontaneity can really work sometimes!

  

Please do join in and share your stories. We’d love to hear from you.

Next Wednesday we have a very special Wondering which will purely focus on one of our Writer Romantics. Helen P will be launching her debut novel that day so we’re asking her all sorts of questions about her writing and life in general. Great excuse to get really nosey!

Julie

xx

Chapters

Any new writer knows that social networking is imperative in these uncertain times of trying to be published, but a very easy and enjoyable way, if you belong to the RNA, is by joining one of the Chapters.

I belong to two, Chelmsford and London and although they are very different, the outcome is always the same; I come away feeling cheered up and have at least one more business card or email address to add to my list of acquaintances.

Each chapter is different and so is the format. At the London chapter we usually have lunch to catch up on writerly news, or any news come to that, then we retire to a separate room to hear a speaker.

We normally have a theme running through the year and the speaker is invited according to the theme. This year the theme is “Sisters are doing it for Themselves.”  No big surprise that it’s about self -publishing.  The massive rise of the ebook and the ease of publishing ‘your baby’ yourself has allowed writers to break free of the traditional route to being published and do it for themselves.  Just a quick aside here; most writers I meet still want the endorsement of being signed for a book deal; maybe we’re still an old fashioned lot or maybe we just want to feel that someone loved our story enough to throw time and money at it. But regardless, we are all united in our desire to write even though sometimes it’s like pulling teeth!

Next year we are considering ‘genres’ which I think will be interesting and have already requested that someone comes along to talk about Steam Punk which I find fascinating but confusing.

The Chelmsford meeting is normally a meal and a chat in a pub. Sadly most of us drive to the venue so we are awash with sparkling waters and diet Coke by the time we leave, but the chat is always lively and interesting. We are a very talkative lot, talking over the top of each other and across the table – I think that’s probably why they tend to put us far away in an alcove.

Most of the Chelmsford Chapter members are published so I learn a lot and my confidence is always boosted by their (possibly misplaced) conviction that I will get published one day. I have made lots of writing friends over the years so

if you need an excuse to get out of the house or away from the children for the day, make a point of coming to the next Chapter meeting- there’s one near you, I guarantee it!

 

 

The Wednesday Wondering – Let’s Hear it for Autumn!

Crash! That’s the sound of the temperature gauge dropping. Maybe it’s because I live in the north and by the sea but the weather seems to have changed overnight! From one of the best summers we’ve had in years, it’s suddenly mad panic to dig out the hats/scarves/gloves/boots and switch the heating on. Although autumn will be official upon us at the weekend, I think it has well and truly arrived. Or it has on the North Yorkshire Coast anyway!

With that in mind, I’ve set a non-writing based Wondering this week. It’s also because I’m nosey and want to delve into the lives of my fellow Write Romantics a bit more!

The Wondering is:

What do you like most about autumn and what are you personally most looking forward to this autumn?

 

Here’s how some of the Write Romantics responded:

 

JO:

Autumn is my favourite season and I am looking forward to when the nights start to draw in and, when the family are all home from work and school, pulling the curtains, lighting the wood-burner and settling down for an end of day catch up with a pot of tea and some shortbread biscuits!  It always seems more acceptable to comfort eat in the cold weather somehow. 

This autumn, in particular, the thing I’m looking forward to most is starting an art class with my sister on Thursday mornings.  It’s something we’ve decided to do just for ourselves, with no kids, husbands or work commitments to take into account!  I’m hoping it will also motivate me to finally finish the children’s picture book I’ve had on the go, on and off, for the last few years.  Oh, and I’m looking forward to lots of exciting news from my Write Romantic buddies about their submissions, competition entries and book releases.

  

JULIE:

I love Autumn. Hands up, I don’t actually like summer that much. I adore blue skies and the feel of the sun on my face … but I don’t like being hot and bothered and there was a lot of that this summer, particularly at the RNA Conference! For me, autumn represents a pleasant drop in temperature and being able to dig out the snuggly fleeces and cardigans. I absolutely adore those crisp days where the sky is blue but it’s really cold. Cue a warm hat, furry scarf and fleecy gloves and a lovely long walk kicking the crisp golden leaves.

As for what I’m looking forward to, it’s more a couple of hopes rather than what I actually have planned. I hope that an agent will pick up my debut novel and secure me at least a 3-book deal (it’s a trilogy so it would be foolish to want less!) I also hope I’ll secure a job. There’s been slim pickings over the summer but I have my first interview this afternoon for a role that is pretty much what I did in my last job so I’m hoping for a positive response.

One final thing for autumn is that it’s my wedding anniversary. I’ll have been married for eight years on Tuesday (24th Sept). Although hubby has (stupidly) booked himself a dentist appointment for two fillings that afternoon so I suspect a romantic meal won’t be on the cards!

 

HELEN P:

I’m most looking forward to The Ghost House being published but I also love rainy days, dark nights and snuggling up with the laptop in front of the wood burning stove with a glass of wine.

You can pre-order Helen’s debut novel on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Ghost-House-ebook/dp/B00EAPX6HU

 

HELEN R:

It feels strange to think about autumn as Australia is just into spring and we’re all ready to leave the cooler weather behind for a while.

My favourite seasons here are both autumn and spring…in autumn especially, it’s nice not to be so unbearably hot, the factor 30 is still going but I love it when my Sunsmart app tells me that the UV index is low enough not to have to slather it on quite so much.

Cooler weather brings hot chocolates, snuggly movies with the kids and great books to read with the heating on. I do like that we still have seasons here! Autumn especially brings the crisp, colourful leaves that we can swish through and the girls are always looking for those autumnal red colours to make a leaf collection.

  

DEIRDRE:

Misty mornings, golden leaves, blackberries, going shopping for a cosy new jumper. Getting somewhere close to finishing the first draft of the new novel.  Not before time…

  

LYNNE:

I’m looking forward to getting back to normal and the routine of daily life. Not that that’s going to happen for a few weeks yet since we’re having a new floor (well, a floor, it’s just concrete at the moment) in the sitting room and that means the horrid job of taking everything out then putting it back first!

 

ALEX:

I’m a pretty big fan of autumn especially misty mornings that turn into beautiful sunny days. I also love the leaves changing colour and the wonderful crisp light you can get on autumn days.  What I’m most looking forward to this autumn would be going to some great folk gigs, walking by the river in York on a bright day when the trees in their autumn colours are reflected in the water, getting my NWS report back (provided that it turns out to be good news) and the return of ‘Homeland’.

  

RACHAEL:

The swallows still chatter noisily in the stable eaves each morning, but very soon this summery sound will stop, their departure a sure sign of autumn’s arrival.

What I love about this time of the year is being able to close the curtains against the increasingly earlier darkness each evening. The thought of soon to be lit log fires make me feel warm and cosy, but unable to completely let summer go I wait, you never know, tomorrow could be a gloriously sunny day!

I love the smell of warm hearty food, like casseroles cooking in the kitchen and with several workers on the farm to feed each day these are so important – and easy. Then, talking of food, there is the thought of Christmas (sorry) not far around the corner, cakes and puddings to make.

I love to hide away from the wind and rain, shut myself in my writing room and transport myself to far away destinations. But sooner or later I have to venture out onto the farmyard and do my jobs, leaving my characters in hot sunny locations.

But if Summer and Autumn were characters what would they say to each other? How would they decide who was going to have the upper hand at this time of the year when the weather is so changeable? Here’s my take on it.

‘Today it’s my turn,’ Summer said, her warm smile lighting up the day as she strolled through the meadow, trailing her fingers across the long grass.

‘Not if I get my way,’ Autumn laughed and hurried after his new playmate. They only ever met at this time of the year, as the evenings got darker earlier and the sun lost its intensity. 

‘That’s not fair,’ Summer scolded and turned to face him, her long blonde hair lit from behind by the sun, making it shine like gold. ‘It was your turn yesterday.’

She smiled at him and Autumn felt the warm kiss of summer on his face. He liked it, wanted more than just the breezy kiss.

‘Can I come with you?’ he asked forgetting how he enjoyed buffeting the leaves from the trees and soaking everyone as much as possible, making them wrap up.

‘Only if you behave.  I don’t want a single rain drop to spoil my day. I want blue sky and fluffy white clouds, not your heavy grey things.’

‘Spoilsport,’ he said sullenly, but he knew she’d won. Today he would bask in her warmth, but tomorrow would be different. Tomorrow would be his and Summer would shelter in his shadow.

 

Thanks for sharing everyone and I love Rachael’s story at the end. Very evocative 🙂

 

Over to you as always. What do you love about my favourite season and what are you looking forward to? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Julie xxx

The Sunday Spotlight – Guest Blogger, Alison May, on ‘Getting the Call’

Our regular readers will know that The Write Romantics normally favour a Saturday Spotlight and, this week, we are delighted to welcome back our writing buddy, and flat-mate from the RNA conference, Alison May as a guest blogger.  We’d like to say that we specially changed the Saturday Spotlight to a Sunday in honour of all Alison’s exciting news since her last visit, just to make it stand out that little bit more, but the sad (and far less exciting) reality was a major broad band meltdown issue!  So, apologies, but we are sure you will agree that Alison’s guest blog was definitely worth the extra wait.

About Alison

Alison May last visited the WriteRomantics, back when she was still Alison Maynard, before she abandoned the last syllable of her name in a writerly pennamey sort of a way. Since then she’s signed her first publishing deal with Choc Lit, and has managed not to kill a single goldfish.

Her first novel, Sweet Nothing, will be published by Choc Lit, under their Choc Lit Lite digital first imprint, in November 2013. Sweet Nothing is a romantic comedy based on William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, because if you’re going to pilfer someone else’s plot, you might as well go for someone really good.

You can find out more about Alison at www.alison-may.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay

Image

Getting the Call

It’s the moment budding writers dream of  – that first call, the first time you pick up the phone and the voice at the other end says, “We love your writing. We’re going to make you a star. Take this six figure advance, and quit your day job this very second.” At least, that’s what I always imagined the voice saying.

Obviously real-life doesn’t work quite like that. In my case, it wasn’t a call at all; it was an email, followed by several more emails over several weeks as myself and Lyn from romantic fiction publisher, Choc Lit, tried repeatedly to make her very busy work schedule and my less busy but quite erratic work schedule coincide, so that we could meet up.

We eventually got together in central London. It was a discussion where Lyn did 90% of the talking and I grinned and nodded like a buffoon who’d temporarily lost the power of coherent speech. Fortunately, Lyn is an understanding soul, used to dealing with nervy first-time authors, and she offered me a contract for my debut novel, Sweet Nothing, despite my apparent dippiness. That meeting was three days before the RNA Conference. I signed the contract the very next day, and announced the deal, still in a bit of a daze, at the opening ‘Celebrations’ session at the conference.extension actually about myself, now I have a publishing contract in place. When people ask me what I do, I now tell them that I’m a writer, rather than fudging a bit and saying that I do various different things. I still giggle nervously when I say it, but I am starting to see myself as a writer first.

In another sense though, nothing changes. There are no six-figure advance fairies in most of our lives. No magic movie deals riding over the horizon just in time to pay the gas bill. Normal life has to go on, but now it goes on with an additional external pressure. I’m not just writing because I want to. I’m writing because someone out there has given me a contract and is prepared to invest time and money and effort into me and my writing, which is brilliant, and terrifying, and brilliant, and terrifying, and mostly brilliant.

Since signing that initial contract with Choc Lit to publish Sweet Nothing under their Choc Lit Lite imprint, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. Sweet Nothing is due out in November – my editor (squeee!) is doing her review of the draft at the moment. I’ve written a short story, Devils and Heroes, and, weirdly, a chocolate cake recipe, for the Choc Lit Love Match anthology (http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AMQ1EG6). I’ve had a short story, Feel the Fear, accepted in the RNA’s upcoming anthology for early 2014, which I’m super-excited about. I’ve also written and submitted a novella to Choc Lit, which, with luck and a following wind, might also make it out into the world before the end of the year. It does feel like I’m on a very tiny little bit of a roll, which is amazing, and if I can get on a little roll, then anyone can. Just keep writing the best stuff you can, and keep sending that stuff out there into the world.

And now, I get to go right back to the start. Novel 2, page 1, the blank sheet of paper. It’s brilliant, and did I mention, a tiny bit terrifying?