Writing: Glasses full at Hawkesbury Upton

To become a writer is to expect disappointment…  wise words, from a wise writer. His quirky, lighthearted, semi-fantasy writings are deceptively wise. His name is Alexander McCall Smith. 

Wonderful, life-affiriming books
Wonderful, life-affirming books

And at a rather bad time in my life, a friend’s kindness was to introduce me to his wonderfully affirming stories.

An Indie Author Life seems about the worst idea in the world. Edit and publish your own books? Write, design, and print your own publicity? Promote yourself on social media? Find your own readers?

Fun at The Fox: the Hawkesbury Upton LitFest

One of many ways to promote our books  is to follow up every opportunity to appear before an audience, willing to invite them into your stories by reading an extract or two. Thursday  was World Book Night, and over a hundred people gathered at The Fox, Hawkesbury Upton, to celebrate.

The Fox Hawkesbury Upton
The Fox Hawkesbury Upton

It was a  warm sunny evening, and the initial readings could be held outdoors in the marquee, giving the event a summery feel.

Later, after the official opening by Katie Fforde of the Romantic Novelists Association, a  huge-er than imagined crowd meant we were packed in the Function Room like happy, book-loving sardines.  Authors (gathered partly via our membership of ALLi http://allianceindependentauthors.org/)  were wreathed in smiles, locals curious enough to purchase a pint and join the fun gathered to hear a bit about the writing life. And more 5-minute tasters of Indie authors’ work.

Katie Fforde opens the Festival (photo Clint Randall)
Katie Fforde opens the Festival (photo Clint Randall)

Situated in a village rather than a large town or city, had a really cosy feel, and The Fox was providing not only the venue but dinner in the restaurant and/or B and B for some of us.

I was able to read from both my novels (Baby, Baby and The Labyrinth Year) about the Mullins family – Max the GP and his wife Jenny, genetic researcher – and my ‘Wannabe’ poem found a use illustrating the apparent romance of being writers … (see blogpost  Trips and Tropes ...  ) 

The LitFest Effect …

Friday morning was time to take a walk around the village: rolling green Cotswold countryside, wild flowers, a sloping lane bordered by woods, and the ancient, part-Saxon, St Mary’s church.

field of cowsWhere a friendly local dog-walker borrowed a key and showed us around. After a few over-busy months, and a series of appliance disasters in our house, elated by the country break, ‘Writing this now,’ I wrote on Saturday evening, with that quote from Alexander M S in my head, (Radio Four  Saturday morning)t- ‘I’ve still got that now all the exams are all over feeling … ‘ 

It was actually time to affirm the whole quote …

To become a writer is to expect disappointment…  until you remember that the glass that’s half empty is also half full.

Half full, half full, I am telling myself … Thursday to Saturday maybe it was completely full … but even  if I (and others) sold nothing, the glass is not half empty (as here in this intellectual city we so easily think) … no, it is definitely half full – and it will be full again …  Mma Ramostwe of the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is so encouraging, as she says,  ‘... it is well known …’

From an Amazon review … (G.Heppel, Kindle Edition,  http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Labyrinth-Year-Mari-Howard-ebook/dp/B00T81L1AU)

… Alice and Zoe, Max and Jenny’s children, are beautifully realised characters in their own right, not drawing attention to themselves, fitting into the story exactly as they should.

TLY with MSF stickerThe conflicts begun in Baby, Baby of religious fundamentalism versus tolerance, scientific progress in genetics and fertility against the risks of new procedures, are more relevant than ever, and Mari Howard does an expert job of weaving these themes into her story without ever letting them weigh it down. In her wonderful, accurate portrayal of the different strands of Christianity, she shows how faith and science don’t need to be mutually exclusive …

P1200017 - Version 2 

Writers in real life …

Vintage, retro, call-it-what-you-will

Last week I so liked Debbie Young’s piece on her lovely Village Shop that I re-blogged it. The story of the warm sheltering shop for the kids waiting for the school bus; the concept of a shop serving a small community; a place people can meet and connect with others without travelling there first; the delicious display of new bread … The very fact that Hawkesbury Upton, unlike many, is a village which has a shop where residents can not only buy useful items but chat and relate … Too tempting to compare that with living on the outskirts of a city with appalling traffic,  more estate agents than most people know what to do with, and franchised coffee shops …

When there was room for a cat

Can’t have it all ways

However … back then, in retro-land, and for decades of the past, ordinary women did not, (on the whole) figure much in the creative arts.  (Who knows what wonderful stories of daily life we’d otherwise have, by people who didn’t live in grand houses, travel by carriage, or attend balls at the Assembly Rooms?) We are in the age of  ‘thing-led’ modern living. The almost-universal ownership of household appliances has freed  us as much as any Equality Acts. With the laundry spinning away in a machine I multi-task daily at my computer … writing, relating, researching … Having that satisfying feeling of the Good Housekeeper as well, as the load flaps later on the line … a writer and a painter …

Until something happens that demonstrates our utter dependence on electricity, on-line shopping, deliverymen, and worst of all the computer! I am now without a washing machine. Ours ended the wash Saturday a week ago, with a drum of soaking wet clothes and an “F-21” display on it digital face. (Along with an ironic smile perhaps?) Just as we were about to go walking with friends.

Off at last!
Me behind the camera as ever!

So now, piles of washing in the basket … no space for the cat! And the store just rang today to say due to computer problems, they now can’t deliver the (abundantly necessary) new machine t ill April 1st …March 14 – April 1st in old money, washing-wise.

Thankfully, I know how to hand-wash, I only had to watch my Mum throughout my childhood.

Simple technology…

And I don’t throw things away … we love this, even though it’s ancient, hideous, and clutters up the utility room. It’s a spin dryer, circa 1973 …

And then there’s been the kindness of friends, the load done in the neighbour’s machine … a blessing, (though maybe less amicable than down by a river, bashing the clothes on a stone?)

The ‘too busy’ that we all are

Looking back, how’ve I confidently become so busy? Middle of trying to promote Baby, Baby and The Labyrinth Year, my 2 Indie-

Two colourful Book Covers
Two colourful Book Covers

published novels, (getting the hang of Amazon and Goodreads’ more obtuse and hidden-away pages, where you the author can promote your writing …); making notes about number 3 in the series. Then the family remember there’s an unpublished one, and in an area which has become a hot topic now. We rescue it from the attic: it’s good. It’s well written in a previous style and comes with positive comments from my creative writing teacher of many years ago. (A short course I’d forgotten about.) It’s highly controversial. It’ll need to be published under a different name.

For a few days, it is horribly tempting …  it needs a revised ending … but …

Sticking to the plan

Whatever: I’ve also committed myself to the Indie Author Fair at Foyleshttp://allianceindependentauthors.org/  – time to also meet other ALLi authors).

HawkesburyUpton advert
http://hulitfest.com/

And to the Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival. Beguiled not only by the chance for publicity and to read from my books but … the concept. A LitFest in a rural setting, run by locals, small enough to really meet other authors and even potential readers.

One of life’s puzzles …

2 of life's puzzles
2 of life’s puzzles

With all the automated living in the world, choices still have to be made. I’ve chosen IAF and Hawkesbury Upton …

What would you chose … if your old novel found in the attic might’ve hit the headlines, but at the expense of destroying relations with readers of your first two? Just not ruthless enough, I guess

Trips and Tropes: the Writer, (Sub)Urban Myths

You’re at a party: some of the guests don’t know you: ‘Meet X: she’s a writer …’ 

Wannabe ...
Wannabe …

Others, friends from the past: ‘Are you still writing?’

So, a bit of doggerel verse: if you’re a writer, do you recognise anything here?

Writer’s Block? I’ve just read another writer’s blog: she tackles the trope,  then concludes ‘I’ve read enough to convince me that at best, it’s probably tiredness and at worst, a self-styled excuse to bunk off and not lose face. Plumbers don’t get plumbers’ block, I read, or heard, somewhere by someone …’ (http://bit.ly/1wZ9Gih )  But it’s established, bedded deep into societal writerly myth, so it must have a basis in reality… mustn’t it? Did Tolkien suffer from WB? Did Shakespeare, JK Rowling, or Dickens? Does Philip Pullman? (Send me your references if you know the answer!)

Daffodils, Yorkshire Dales

The writer loves solitude

Wordsworth may’ve started this one, when he wrote of his Lakeland rambles: that  daffodil scene which would later flash upon that inward eye/Which is the bliss of solitude’. Though it seems that his wife, Mary, contributed what Wordsworth, later recalling the ‘tranquil restoration’ , called the two best lines in the poem,  (Wikipedia article http://bit.ly/1m4qmOb)

Quiet, yes. And  preferably away from the cats, who like to help by sitting on the computer. But solitude, beloved of writers, holds within its very sound, that hollow ‘o’ followed in the third syllable by that lugubrious ‘u’ , something empty, a feeling of isolation. Do any other writers find solitude actually a bit of scary concept? Solitary confinement, solitary child, sad associations with forced or unwelcome lack of society?

A welcome ‘solitude’ is to be alone but not alone, the family happy and busy son the other side of the door … not calling out or needing anything. A writerly FB friend, Carol Cooper, wrote a piece on her blog recently: ‘How to Annoy your Husband’ (7 March 2015, http://pillsandpillowtalk.com/). My kind of solitude is to be just far enough away that I won’t annoy mine by making a ratty response to being interrupted when  brought food or tea with a big friendly smile to match. It can be so rejecting to be married to a writer.

‘How lovely, you’re a writer!’

The third trope is a trip down Memory Lane, to what many writers describe from their childhood years: I escaped into books. (read about it here: http://bit.ly/1m4qmOb)

Violetgarden
Teenage solitude 1920s style: down the garden with a book

Many children with solitary  childhoods, through illness, disability, or being the ‘only child’ became, or are, writers … Robert Louis Stevenson (frequent illness, and an only child) C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien (both lost parents at a young age), Alice Walker (shot in the eye at age 8: she lost all sight in that eye. Alice retreated from social interaction for some years, though used the time to observe the behaviours of those around her, ‘“really to see people and things, really to notice relationships and to learn to be patient enough to care about how they turned out” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Walker.)

Others may escape to avoid noisy younger siblings or a controlling parent: not a surprise that Max, in Baby, Baby and The Labyrinth Year isn’t a writer:  one of five children … father a fundamentalist pastor.  Or that Daze, abandoned at age five, and step sister to two sporty scientific girls, developed solitary pursuits: drawing and surfboarding.

‘How lovely, you’re a writer!’ Isn’t it great that children who escape into books turn into adults who provide more books, for more escaping … into more books?

Adventures parcelled for escapees

So, are you a writer?  Would you envy those of us who are? Did you escape into books as a child?