Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Short stories at Totleigh Barton

For weeks, months, in fact, I've been positively jumping about inside with excitement about going on my first Arvon course. I'd signed up for:

six whole days dedicated to nothing but short fiction. 
Adam Marek and Tania Hershman as tutors - how awesome can you get? 
and no email, no mobile signal (and no family or work) so for the first time ever I could think about - and do - nothing but write.

How could I resist? Actually, I've been resisting for years - though it's my idea of heaven, going on an Arvon course felt wantonly extravagant. And yes, it was extravagant, but wanton, no.

It was heaven, but the kind of heaven where people drink lots of wine and get all passionate about adjectives. Where they plead for more of Tania's word cricket sadism - writing on the spot, using random words lobbed down the dining room table at one minute intervals. Where the thought of being flooded in and unable to leave a house with no connection to the outside world, only libraries, sounded like heaven to pretty much everyone.

It did rain an awful lot.

But the sun shone too, and Helen Dunmore made it through the floods for a wonderful night of readings and conversation.

And I learnt that even amazing writers can produce first drafts with some pretty dodgy prose in them (thank you Adam for being so generous - we all really appreciated it!). I learnt that I can and probably should expect to rewrite that first draft far more radically than I ever have before. I learnt that it's fine to take your time - lots of writers produce only a few stories a year that they like. I learnt that I really enjoy writing flash fiction.

I learnt loads more too (including how to make a rather delicious Thai green curry) but above all I reminded myself that I write because I love writing.

Monday, 5 November 2012

I think it's time for a gingerbread latte

I've written a couple of new stories, but I'm keeping them to myself ... they need time to settle, and I haven't had a moment for quiet contemplation.

Work has been truly hectic over the last few weeks, with lots of late-night sessions at my desk to hit deadlines. I'm feeling a bit tired, perhaps because I've also done two readings, attended one launch, spent a day at Small Wonder (short story heaven with cows), another at The 26's Wordfest (where I signed up to write the London Marathon), seen some great (and some less great) exhibitions, gathered the last vegetables and stacked logs for the winter, caught a couple of very different but inspiring plays, got to know Florence the kitten.

I've also cooked lots of dinners and made coffee for lots of builders, and we emptied our loft. Finally, last night we saw Skyfall - just what I needed.

Today, I'm celebrating: my first fiction royalty cheque came in the post (for the splendid amount of £29.27), and I've just sent off a magazine feature so I have a whole afternoon off before tomorrow's project comes in. What am I going to do? I think I'll head into town and treat myself to a gingerbread latte.