Sunday, 7 July 2013

Of Shades and Nightingales

Last updated on 5th March 2013? Oops. Ahem. That must mean that I’ve been way too busy scribbling away and studying to possibly update my blog. Yes. Well, something like that.

A brief run through as it’s sunny and it’s NEVER sunny and these things need to be celebrated.

The MA:

The last module I studied was entitled The Text, and whereas before the focus was on creative writing techniques -be it studying other authors or using workshops to critique the work of other students- these few months shifted attention to more practical matters, including assessing the roles of agents and insights into the publishing industry (copyright, promotion etc).   

Every week a visiting speaker would answer questions that the students had pre-posted on Moodle, and while it was helpful, the seminars were essentially an online scrum as all the student groups were lumped in together (a huge contrast to the smaller workshop groups, my current one now consisting of me and only four others) who were all (cyber) calling out over each other to the point where I’d often just log in and sit back and read through the transcript after. If it had been less chaotic though there’s the chance that I would have still zoned out as who wants to think about the benefits of twitter and branding when there are imaginary worlds to be forged and steampunk gadgets to design and be-mutton-chopped gents to describe?

The summer term consists of The Transmission project, where you utilise writing in a different way to your main project (i.e the novel). While the tendency to get carried away (“I’m going to write a graphic novel and make a film and write a musical score!”) had to be tempered with practicality I’ve decided to adapt my novel into screenplay and while procrastinating, as ever, I’m quite excited about exploring the differences between the different forms of representation and narrative.  A big harrumph though for the student-tutor support, as while so far we’ve had some great tutors who’ve gone beyond what’s expected (Rachel Genn, for example who posted our novel extracts back to us after she’d printed them off and made really helpful notes/suggestions on them) chasing around after people who don’t bother to email back and who blatantly have no interest in your work is…irritating. Which is a shame as overall I’ve enjoyed/am enjoying the course, so I’m hoping that this does improve in the future.


My novel has made the shift from ‘fantasy’ to (very soft) sci-fi, and while this may seem slight I do feel that fantasy -the paranormal, in particular- has been a little overdone in YA (even though I'm a fan), and I'm itching to do something that pushes me and will hopefully be more enticing to fantasy-fatigued readers. So now I need to dig my GCSE science books out to oil my rusty brain so I at least have some idea of what I'm talking about.

I’ve provisionally entitled it ‘Of Shades and Nightingales’ and I’ve started sending it out to agents this week, so now my heart near explodes every single time I get an email in case it’s from ONE OF THEM. Excerpts will follow on here at some point but now even though I’m unveiling it to the world in a sense I also feel curiously protective of it and don’t want too many critical eyes upon it until it’s done its push-ups and had its spinach and (hopefully) got some feedback.


I’ve had a few things published, to start, B in The Journal of Unlikely Entomology.  A love story, of sorts, and inspired by research I actually did for a novel I've long abandoned which involved bees and bee goddesses. This bug-themed journal is great and it features many wonderful writers so I was pleased to be a part of it and the accompanying artwork, 'The Hive' by Athina Saloniti is amazing.

Slowly Light Strengthens appeared on 365 fiction, another bleak love story, of sorts, and a story that I’d messed about with for ages (it initially didn’t feature any fantasy elements) and I was about to forget about it when it got picked up.

Sunday Afternoon was short-listed on the 1000Words Flash site (you pick a picture prompt from their Pinterest page and get writing), a piece just over 500 words long which is... another troubled love story. Hmm.

It’s a bit unnerving to see these three pieces all appear together, and while I don’t sit down and consciously choose a subject to write about, they all feature relationships under pressure/the exploration of the nature of love. This 'theme' has been prominent in my private life so it’s probably little wonder these stories do sway that way, but it feels a bit like dirty laundry airing/public wailing. I know that others/readers do relate to the more personal, myself included, but here’s hoping this theme is usurped by others in the next batch of stories.

Also published was ‘And Down We Fall’ by The Colored Lens.  (I’ll post the link when it becomes available online, e-version available to buy here) a story set in the North of England during the seventies, and featuring angels, of sorts. It’s probably one of the favourite stories I’ve written in that I can see PROGRESS within it (more showing, more subtlety, better characterization...), and it’s also one of my longest.

A teeny taster for now:

'Always thought she was the cat's mother, that one,' my mom says, and across the road I can see Mrs. Trent dangling the bloody bed sheets out of the bedroom window, showing off because her dumb, lanky daughter's become one. 
My mom shuffles me inside and shuts the door, stomps through to the kitchen and back to making tea, flicking the radio on to drown out all the cheering and clapping and back-slapping. I don't know why she bothers. The band will be here soon, making a racket with their horns and their trumpets; half-deaf old codgers in red suits and brass buttons playing hymns over the screaming as the lord does his work...

Until next time...