Difficult First Novel

novelThere was me thinking that I would blog and tweet my way all the way through the final project of my MA. The best-laid plans and all that…Who knew that the whole business of writing a novel would get in the way.

Well, it’s finished. There were times that it felt like I would never get to this point, but thanks to the support of friends and family I have managed to get over the novel completed and submitted.

I’m happy with how the novel has turned out. It could possibly do with another read through, but time was against me to do that. I will edit it once more when I receive my feedback in the New Year. Then I will contemplate sending it to agents and publishers.

So with the submission of my final project, I have come to the end of my MA (that’s presuming that my novel has not failed). Looking back, I have no regrets signing up for the MA, the three years have been eventful and have gone so quick. I have met some great people along the way. The tutors have all helped in getting me to this point in my writing career. A number of my fellow students have now become really good friends.

There are plans for us all to work together and support each other when we get around to writing our next novels. That’s to come, but for now its nice not to worry about edits, deadlines and all that. Well the writing ones, there are plenty of deadlines with the day job.

No No Nanowrimo

November is a time when writers around the world around take part in the annual Nanowrimo challenge. It is something that I have taken part in over the last few years and I was tentatively thinking of taking part in again this year. Instead of writing another novel the idea was to write a number of short stories instead.

I have previously completed the Nanowrimo challenge twice. My first successful attempt at writing a novel from 2012 is lying in a draw waiting to be edited. My novel from 2013 is currently being edited and discussed during my MA workshops. The first two chapters written last year, has been edited down to one and is my PulpIdol chapter.

Given how busy I am with work and my MA, I have decided to sit Nanowrimo out this year, as much as I would love to get involved, I just don’t have the time. For those considering doing it, my advice is to do so.

Arvon Writing Retreat

2014-08-09 08.58.43

One of my resolutions for the year was to take part in a writing retreat. I looked at a few possibilities, one of which was abroad in sunnier climes. In the end I plumped for an Arvon Foundation course. I had heard nothing but good things about them from people who attended previous retreats.

There was a good choice of potential other courses in the brochure, some I couldn’t do because of timing and work. In the end I settled on the Starting to Write Short Stories course. It looked like an interesting one, with a wonderful setting and tutors with impressive backgrounds. It was also a good chance to develop my short story writing this is an area that I dip-in and out of when I am not writing my novel.

2014-08-07 16.06.07

The course was at Lumb Bank, not far from Hebden Bridge and it’s the former home of Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. It is a beautiful and inspiring setting. Along with 15 other participants we had a number of workshops with our excellent tutors Tania Hershman and Robert Shearman throughout the week. We even had the chance to have one-to-one tutorials with them too.

As well as the formal opportunities to write there were a number of opportunities to go away and write or to socialise with the other writers. One of the good things about the week was the lack of Internet access. For someone that is distracted by constant access to the web this was a welcome novelty. It also highlighted what can be done without being constantly tied to the web.

Also I don’t think I have ever eaten as healthily as I did during the week. We took it in turns to work in the kitchen to prepare the evening meals for everyone, using locally sourced fresh produce. My stint was on the last night Friday. I was tasked with making two fruit trifles from scratch. This was a first for me and surprisingly they went down well.

Each evening there were a number of themed events. On the Tuesday Tania and Rob read from their work, I didn’t need a second invitation to buy their books. Wednesday’s event saw Manchester writer Zoe Lambert come along to read from her work. Friday it was the participants turn and we all had the chance to read a piece of work that we had produced over the course of the week.

I read my short story ‘100 Million Light Years From Where I Want to Be’. This was something I had written in one of the workshops. This was a serious piece but I don’t think that I set the right tone for reading it by tripping over my own feet as I advance towards the spotlight. I think my piece went down reasonably well despite the comedy interlude. It was great to hear what everyone else had been working on over the course of the week.

It was such a brilliant and rewarding week and one that I didn’t want to end. There’s talk of us all meeting up socially in the future, which would be nice. For now I feel very inspired and I hope to put into action all that I learnt during the week. I may even have a go at making another trifle.

2014-08-09 08.58.43

Here’s something on the Arvon blog that eloquently sums up the week from Colette, one of the other participants – ‘I’m a Writer’.

Arvon Postscript

2014-08-09 10.15.44

Saturday morning was the time that we all left and headed off home. Feeling inspired by all things literary during the week, I decided to stop off in Haworth to visit the Bronte House and the surrounding village as it wasn’t that far from Lumb Bank. It was also somewhere I had never been before. While there, I wasn’t expecting to be drawn attention to works of another Haworth-based writer especially one that was working on the car park. In return for free parking I bought the author’s book. His name is Edward Evans.

 

 

Pulp Idol Final

10287038_528454337264646_3751808353000807318_o

After nearly a month in the waiting Saturday saw the final of the PulpIdol competition at the siren Café in Liverpool. I had been looking forward to taking part in the night and I was fairly relaxed about it, well until I stepped foot into the venue. Then the nerves finally struck. A few of my friends had come down to support me and this was the possibly the first time that they had heard/read any of my writing.

The final was the same format as the heats. Each finalist had to read three minutes from their chapters. Ten people were due to attend the final, though only nine read their chapters. One of the heat winners couldn’t make it unfortunately.

I was drawn out of the hat fourth to read. I managed to dodge the bullet of going first. I hadn’t timed my and I had to be wrapped up before I overran. Thankfully it was at a decent point in the chapter.
I wasn’t too sure how it had gone down but I was reasonably pleased. My friends thought it was good and a couple of people in audience who I didn’t know came up to me to say they enjoyed what I had written, which was nice to hear.

After the deliberations the three judges came back to announce the winners. Sadly I didn’t win, but I wasn’t too disappointed. It would have been nice to win, but I was just pleased to make it to the final and get my chapter published.

Well done to the two winners Rob and Craig and thanks to WoW who organized this and many other interesting events over the course of the month.

Here’s to getting my chapter published in the near future.

Writing on the Wall Facebook

End of Term

photo

It’s hard to believe that the first year of my MA in Creative Writing is now over. Apart from one or two meetings with an assigned tutor, the assignments and classes have finished for year one. My usual Tuesday nights have been something of a distraction given everything that else that was going on in my life.

It is two modules down (Contemporary Novels I and The Workshop), with four more to go – one which will include the final major project of the novel in the final year. In the meantime the down-time in class gives me a chance to build up a portfolio of work in readiness for the workshops of next year. The aim over the summer is to try and send some work out to be published somewhere.

The second module has been really good, it was led by the writer AJ Dalton who has worked us all hard in the allocated sessions, though they have been enjoyable too. The homework that was set has seen the group pull together a portfolio of work that includes elements that will help with the marketing of our work and ourselves as writers. There have also been numerous opportunities to get feedback on our developing novels. So much so, I feel the first two chapters of my novel are beginning to take shape. Though there are still a few teething problems with the narrator/POV, which are slowly being ironed out with each draft.

As well during these sessions we have looked at many aspects of the writing craft as well as dis-cussed aspects of the publishing industry. These sessions have been both inspiring and informative.

Not only have the sessions been productive, but Adam has joined us in the pub afterwards to
further discuss our work and that of the industry. I have to say it’s been one of the best modules that I have done during any of my studies.

Although I am sad that it’s over, here’s to the summer, and preparation for the next academic year.

 

First Term Over

Well somehow it’s December. Soon it will be Christmas. Even more significant than the afore mentioned festivities, it’s also the end of the first module for my MA in Creative Writing. Back in September, when I wrote about my intentions to do an MA, I didn’t think that the first term would whistle by as quickly as this one has. I may be premature in writing and posting this about it being over. I still have a 3,000 word essay to write – due in January, but that’s all in hand…I think.

It has been an enjoyable experience. The staff and students that I have worked with have all made the Tuesday night sessions worthwhile attending. It is also inspiring (and daunting) to read some of the work from the cohort. It’s certainly of a high standard. 

The first module was not about the writing aspect as much; instead it was devised to get the class to read from a selected reading list. Looking back it was an interesting and enjoyable experience to be given a reading list and told what to read, a few of the selections I would not have done so without being prompted. A few of the selections I was glad that I was, as I will now try and read other books from the authors. Some, not many, I think I won’t be going any further with the other works.  

The reading list for this modules was as follows:

Patricia Highsmith – The Talented Mr Ripley.
Anthony Burgess – Time for a Tiger.
Vladimir Nabokov – Pnin.
VS Naipaul – Miguel Street.
Muriel Spark – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
Russell Hoban – Riddley Walker.
Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Carol Shields – The Stone Diaries.
Beryl Bainbridge – Master Georgie.
JM. Coetzee – Disgrace.

I enjoyed The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith, which was the first one that we looked at. This is the first in a series and I may investigate the others in due course, but don’t ask my opinion of the film. I have never been a fan of Jude Law, who plays one of the central characters Dickie, so that may explain my antipathy to it. I didn’t really enjoy the adaption from book to film.

The Anthony Burgess book A Time for Tiger, was so good that it I will try to read further books by him (I had only read A Clockwork Orange previously). I am also in the process of reading through the second and third parts of the trilogy for my essay. I am enjoying them as much as the first book. The genesis of most of what makes up the trilogy has seemingly been drawn from his life and very loosely fictionalised. This doesn’t detract from the accounts on any level.

I enjoyed Pnin, by Nabokov. I had only previously read Lolita. This was a book that provoked great discussion in class, some hated it, I quite enjoyed. It was hard work, but some of the exquisite writing that made the hard work worthwhile.

Muriel Spark’s, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was enjoyable and not too dated. It was nice to read about the Edinburgh of the author. Beryl Bainbridge’s, Master Georgie, likewise, even though it was set in a different time frame from the time that she was alive, what could be drawn from this book was a sense of place. Her descriptions of her home town at the outset were so vivid that you were drawn so easily to her account of the Crimea that came later in the book.  J.M. Coetzee’s, Disgrace was bleak at times, but I could see why it received the plaudits that it did.

Miguel Street was an easier read after Pnin, but it wasn’t one that I full engaged with at the time. I’m sure that I will revisit it in the future. The same could be said of Ridley Walker. I had a week to read it and I don’t think that was conducive to enjoying it. The theme was something that I would normally go for, but it’s densely written and not designed to be skimmed through. I enjoyed two-thirds of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, before it fell away at the end. The film likewise is equally baggy.  

The book that I enjoyed without reservation was Carol Shields’, The Stone Diaries, this is an episodic book that details the lives of a family over the course of a century. Though don’t do what I did and turn to the family tree at the back of the back first, as it acts as something of plot spoiler.

From the ten books I would say favourites were; The Stone Diaries, A Time for Tiger, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Master Georgie and Disgrace.

Here’s to the next year of The Workshop module, when we have to present examples of our own writing.

MA Creative Writing

It had always been something that I had planned to do someday, September always came around and I managed to find some excuse for not doing it, usually that I was too busy in work or that I couldn’t afford it. This year I have put all excuses to one side and I have finally signed up for a creative writing MA.

So why this year? One of the catalysts, was the Pulp Idol Competition back in May where everyone who did well in the competition seemingly had done or was doing an MA in Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores. This was an option as a place to apply to and I spoke to one of the lecturers about their course and he sold it to me perfectly well.

Having weighed up my options, I decided that there was only one place that I wanted to do it at and that was MMU in Manchester; given its good reputation and where it’s situated. Also what dissuaded me from doing it Liverpool JMU was that I had already previously studied there for my degree and masters. Though I enjoyed my time there, I wanted to experience studying in a different academic establishment.

The route that I am taking is part-time over three years, two years in class and one year writing up the novel that forms part of the final project.

For now the first module, of the first term is Contemporary Novels, where there will not much writing to do, but we have been presented with a reading list of 10 books that we have to read in as many weeks.

Im genuinely pleased that from the list I have not ready any of these particular books – I have read a couple of the author’s other works (Nabokov and Burgess), but this list will be a real journey of discovery.

First up is Patricia Highsmith‘s, The Talented Mr Ripley followed by Anthony Burgess, Time for a Tiger. Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin. VS Naipaul, Miguel Street.Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker.Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries. Beryl Bainbridge, Master Georgie, and finally JM. Coetzee’s, Disgrace.