This Writing Life

I have to say it’s not quite as glamorous as I’ve dreamt about the last few years although it does have its moments. I’ve gone from dreaming about being a published writer for years to having three e-books and a paperback published in the space of eighteen months which is more than I ever realised was possible. It’s amazing what you can do with a deadline. I’m currently in the process of editing book four in the Annie Graham series The Lake House which will be released May 29th if I ever get around to doing the actual edits.

You see some people thrive off the editing but me, I’m much more of a first draft sort of girl. Although I love my editor Lucy because she really knows how to make my stories go from not bad to great, at least that’s what my amazing readers tell me. I still struggle to actually sit down and crack on with them. At one point this week my husband banned me from the internet (mainly Facebook I might add) so that I might get on with them. It’s the thought of having to go back in and make significant changes that is off putting but it’s the same every time, once I actually sit down to concentrate I find them not quite as bad as I imagined. It helps to have plenty of caffeine and chocolate to soften the blow and keep my brain working as it does have a tendency to get a little distracted by things, especially social media sites that contain gossip from everyone and their aunties.

I don’t get the time to watch much television with working shifts and writing, but there are a couple of programmes that I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of years. Scott and Bailey is brilliant and when everyone at work was talking about Happy Valley I had to go home and watch the whole series in one sitting. It was fabulous and both programmes were written by the very talented Sally Wainwright who really knows how to write strong, Northern, female characters, which being from the North myself I love. So when I heard about a BAFTA Masterclass in Screenwriting with Sally Wainwright I realised that it was something I had to attend. The fact that it’s a four hour train journey from where I live and there were no trains back after it finished wasn’t going to deter me. It was a chance for me to have twenty four hours to myself away from my sometimes crazy family life and spend it being Helen Phifer the writer. I got to stay in a very compact hotel in the middle of Piccadilly, as lovely as it was with complimentary ice-cream, coffee, cheese and wine it wasn’t for the claustrophobic. Below is a picture of my wardrobe, it’s just as well I travelled light.

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But it did the job, it was within walking distance of the BAFTA Theatre and very central. I’d arranged to meet fellow Write Romantic Jackie for a glass of wine beforehand and also the very lovely Jill Steeples another Carina writer.

I was in awe as I walked through the doors.

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How many of my favourite actors, actresses, screenwriters, directors and producers had walked through these doors? It all felt very exciting and glamorous, I was a tiny bit nervous because I’m quite a shy person but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from doing something I might never get another chance to do. The wine bar upstairs was buzzing with lots of people milling around and the lovely waiter remembered what we drank as he brought bowls of popcorn and glasses of wine over to our table. The bell rang and we were told to take our seats in the theatre, as I sat down I wondered who might have sat in this seat previously and after seeing a gorgeous black and white framed print of Brad Pitt above the bar I managed to convince myself that it was almost definitely him. The talk was entertaining and informative, Sally was very funny and although it hadn’t quite been what I’d expected I left there feeling very inspired. To hear a fellow Northerner speak about her successful screen writing career was amazing. After Jackie and Jill led me to the nicest smelling wine bar I’ve ever been in (I haven’t been in very many) I couldn’t get over just how nice it was. It was just a shame that the bottle of wine we shared didn’t last longer but as we said our goodbyes after a lovely catch up and I walked back to my hotel I couldn’t help feeling that this writing life does have its glamorous moments, hopefully there will be lots more to come. Now I better get back to my editing, where did I put that mug of coffee?

Helen xx

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Saturday Spotlight – The Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Party 2014

RNA Party

I have been very fortunate that two years ago I got a place on the RNA New Writer’ Scheme. Last year when my book was published I was entered into the Joan Hessayon New Writer’s award and on Thursday May 22nd I set off to London for the first time since I was seventeen years old.
As my train pulled out of Barrow and went past the beautiful Abbey ruins and Abbotswood which had been the inspiration for my novel The Ghost House it actually sunk in that I was now a published writer and on my way to celebrate my success. It was an amazing feeling sitting on that train and I felt very lucky and humbled that after all the years of trying and the rejections that I had done it. I had made my dream come true and there is no finer feeling.

I was very excited to be meeting so many of the lovely writers that I speak to on a regular basis on Facebook and Twitter, especially our very own Deirdre and Rachael. I was also a nervous wreck. I’m not very good in social situation’s but I was determined that I was going to enjoy the day and night for what it was.
I had booked a room in The Royal Overseas League where the party was being held so I didn’t have to worry about being late or finding my way back. I spent an hour giving myself a pep talk before going down to meet up with all the other lovely Joan Hessayon Contenders. It was a pleasure meeting so many fellow writers, especially Jill Steeples and Annie Lyons who also write for Carina. Jill bought the first drinks to calm our nerves before the dreaded official photo, which actually wasn’t that bad and the photographer was lovely. Once the photo was over I could breathe a sigh of relief and relax a little, it was nice to meet so many fellow writers and soon my editors from Carina arrived with a couple of bottles of Prosecco which was the first time I’d ever tasted it and it certainly won’t be the last, how have I not discovered this before I asked myself?

Eventually Pia Fenton the RNA chair took to the podium and we all raised a toast to the lovely Joan Hessayon and her husband Dr Hessayon who sponsors the award every year in memory of his wife. We all lined up in front of the projector and listened as Pia read out everyone’s blurb; it was lovely cheering and celebrating so many début authors’ success and very inspiring. Of course there could only be one winner and that was the lovely Jo Thomas for her novel The Oyster Catcher as we all whooped with delight and applauded I couldn’t help but feel a touch relieved it wasn’t me. I hadn’t even thought about a speech and by this stage I was positively melting and a little bit tipsy.
It was a wonderful night and I felt so privileged to have been a part of it, the organisers worked so hard to make it very special and I would like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

I’m looking forward to next year’s party already where I will be able to raise a glass or two of Prosecco to my fellow Write Romantics who are on their way to making their own dreams come true 🙂

Helen xx