Festival of Writing 2012: Reflections on second albums, real people and flip-flops

September 12, 2012

I went to York University last weekend for the Writers’ Workshop annual Festival of Writing.  And, to be honest, I went with a heavy heart – nervous and unsure about why I was going and what I expected to find when I got there.

You see, this was my second time, and last year was brilliant.

This year had all the potential of being the difficult second album or the after-ten-years-in-the-wilderness comeback tour; you shell out good money for it, really want to enjoy it, but somehow, eventually, end up admitting to yourself that it’s actually not very good.  You wish you hadn’t bothered.  But it’s too late; the damage is done, and the memory of the original is tarnished.  You get the idea.  Repeat holidays are the same.  So are school reunions and re-runs of 80’s TV shows.

Part of the reason for the nerves lay in where I was with my writing, working on a difficult scene that has ended up feeling like the shabby hallway I want to rush my visitors through on the way to a beautiful lounge, hoping they don’t look sideways and notice the patchwork walls and bare woodwork.  Put another way, as I near the end of a third rewrite, I wasn’t feeling good about the prospect of mixing with the great and the good of the industry.

Another reason for the uncertainty was the doubt I was feeling about the industry itself.  I’ve seen what it’s meant to a number of my friends to become ‘published writers’, as some reach great success and others wonder why they’ve put themselves on what feels like the most painful of treadmills, juggling tight publishing deadlines with a life already full to the brim.  Coming along to a conference that felt so geared towards traditional publishing seemed to be missing at least some of the point.

But, cutting to the chase, from the moment I arrived, on a sunny Friday afternoon, to the sights and sounds of ducks and geese and writers and agents and publishers and book doctors, I knew it was going to be okay.  And so it turned out to be.

The second album was certainly different to the first.  More assured.  More self-aware.  But filled with just as many great tunes and moments of soul searching as the first, and definitely just as much fun.

A few of the many highlights for me …

  • The Friday workshop with David Gaughran and Talli Roland – an independent perspective that gave great balance to what followed, and prompted some lively (and mostly open-minded) discussion about everybody’s role in the writing business
  • Pretty much everything about Friday evening in the bar, doing the whole ‘what do you write?’ thing with fellow writers, and meeting numerous agents, who, by the end of evening, had become real people and not industry targets to be pitched to and feared… people I felt actually wanted a partnership with their writers, and with whom I felt I wanted a partnership
  • David Gaughran in flip-flops at the gala dinner
  • Julie Cohen‘s ‘Character’ workshop, conjuring ‘real people’ (though on this occasion not agents) out of 2 pieces of paper, a coin and a few simple questions
  • Coming away from one-on-ones with self-belief restored

All in all, I arrived home inspired, ready to write, ready to dig deep and get the book finished and sent off… and ready to sign up for next year’s appropriately named festival of writing.

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Potter’s Month in Writing August 2012

September 11, 2012

Where to start. It has not so much been a busy writing month but certainly a productive one. I’m currently gearing up for the launch of my book of short stories titled: Snapshots, a title courtesy of fellow WordWatcher Debbie Smith.

Melissa Foster

Snapshots will feature four short stories written by me. The first three were written in 2006 and have been fully edited this last month. The final short I wrote this month too. I love them all of course and consider them to be a bit good. Each story is about 7000 words long, so technically the purists may consider them not to be shorts at all. They are perfect little reads for commuting and while sipping your Horlicks before bed. The content covers different writing styles I’ve experimented with in the last six years, namely: Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism and something I’m going to call right now Crime Realism. This last story additionally features DI Boer from Chasing Innocence.

The cover art for Snapshots will consist of five drawings in a style inspired by the Corpse Bride, which I’m very pleased to announce are being created by Monika Filipina, who also happens to be the cover model for my fiction thriller novel Chasing Innocence.

Snapshots will be available as a Kindle download for under £1 from November. It will also be available for very little money as a paperback from Amazon. If  you’re in Newbury leading upto Christmas and are approached by a hopeful looking bloke waving a book at you, it’ll either be me or the Salvation Army. I’ll be giving away free copies of Snapshots so keep an eye out.

There is very exciting news as Chasing Innocence has won ANOTHER International award. There is a chance by October it will have gained at least one more award (maybe), so I’m keeping it all under my hat at the moment. I have spent a very interesting week working with some fellow authors and book promotors in the States: mostly I’ve been blown away by the whirlwind that is Melissa Foster. If you are trying to find an audience in the digital realm then I highly recommend you check out one or all of her sites. The World Literary Cafe, Fostering Success and her own personal site.

I have reached a very important threshold in the writing of TMWWRWs, a monumental threshold. A whole bunch of things came together this month. Anyone that reads this monthly post (yeah you two, I’m looking at you!) will know I’ve struggled mightily. A friend said to me the other day, if you’re winning all these awards for writing like you did in Chasing Innocence, why the hell are you now trying to write in a completely different way?

Very good point! See you next month, should be a big one.

J.P.

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