Sunday, 19 September 2010

Sound of Silence

Can you hear that? You can't hear anything? *Precisely* ... for the first time in over eleven weeks all you can hear is the tapping of keys. School's back :) By nine o'clock this morning I was at my desk - I'd dropped the children off, been to the gym and read several chapters of 'Homage to Catalonia' by the pool. It's fair to say I've been looking forward to this day, and cracking on with the next novel. There's a new pencil case feel in the air (let's face it, writers never have to be asked twice to go buying stationary), and a feeling that the new characters are getting impatient.

As the new story starts to take shape, the Spitfire women I've come to think of as 'my' girls have been all over the news in the UK. I've said several times that their (until now), little known true stories are the rival of any fiction, and I hope my debut novel 'The Beauty Chorus' honours their memory. For those of you who missed the BBC4 documentary last night, here's a link and the blurb. Enjoy. x

During World War Two, a remarkable band of female pilots fought against all odds for the right to aid the war effort. Without these Spitfire Women the war may never have been won.
These trailblazers were part of the Air Transport Auxillary, a thousand-strong organisation that delivered aircraft to the frontline RAF during Britain's darkest hours. Every day, responsibility fell on their shoulders to get the planes to the fighters which often pushed them into dangerous and even deadly situations.

Using interviews with the last few surviving veterans, archive footage and dramatic reconstruction, this documentary brings to life the forgotten story of the ATA. The resilience of these women in the face of open discrimination is one of the most inspiring and overlooked milestones in women's rights. Their story is one of courage, sexism and patriotism, but above all a story about women who want to break the confines of the world they live in and reach for the skies.

TODAY'S PROMPT: 'Reach for the skies'. The beginning of a new term, a new season, is a good chance to take stock. What are your resolutions for the next few weeks and months? For me, I want a good first draft by Christmas - which means an average of 2000 words a day. What about you? A realistic way to set, and achieve, your goals is to break them down. Give yourself six weeks, and three 'mini' goals to achieve each week on the way to the main goal. So if you want the body of a young Brigitte Bardot, or George Clooney on speed dial, or just to get writing that new book you've been thinking about, today why not take the first step. Make the most of your moments of silence (as every parent knows, they don't last and by hometime you're dying to see the kids anyway ...). So what are you going to achieve?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Time Out

I'm delighted to add another writer to the WKDN sidebar - Shanta Everington's new book 'The Terrible Twos' is being published today, and I spoke to her recently to find out more about her path to publication:

Q: Is this your first non-fiction book? What's your writing background?

Well, I've had a range of different stuff published from two novels (one adult and one young adult), short stories, poetry, articles, maths textbooks, and a counselling course! So I guess I am a Jack-of-all-trades but hopefully not a master of none! 'The Terrible Twos: A Parent's Guide' is my first parenting book, although I am deputy editor of a charity journal for parents with disabilities called 'Disability, Pregnancy and Parenthood international'. My way into writing professionally was studying for an MA Creative Writing at MMU, for which I took the novel route, but I was already writing and editing publications in my work in the voluntary sector.

Q: How did the commission process work - did you approach the publisher, or did they come to you?

I read in the opportunities listing in Mslexia (the magazine for women who write) that Need2Know Books were accepting proposals for self-help guides so I had a look at their website to see what type of thing they were publishing and to check out their submission criteria.I sent in a proposal for a particular health-related guide which they didn't accept because they didn't think the market was big enough. But they were really nice about it and said they liked my writing style so I kept a look-out on their blog to see what areas they were publishing in. They posted a list of topics they were particularly looking for proposals in and one of those was 'The Terrible Twos'. I'd been through quite a time with my son's terrible twos and I'm also a qualified early years teacher so I thought hmmm..... maybe I have something worthwhile to say about that. I worked up a proposal and sent it in and it was commissioned. I doubt I would have had the confidence to resubmit if the initial 'rejection' hadn't been so friendly!

Q: How did you find the experience of writing non-fiction as opposed to fiction?

Both have been equally rewarding. For me, writing non-fiction seems easier to put down and pick up again, whereas when I'm working on a novel, I really need to be able to immerse myself in the characters' worlds and that requires a lot of head space that I don't always have.My fiction writing is usually an organic process where I start with just an idea and a character and see where the writing process takes me. With a non-fiction project though, the contents have to be quite mapped out to start with. However, I've found that key ideas have evolved throughout the book, so it has still involved a satisfying creative journey.As the book features lots of parental case studies, it has been quite a collaborative project, as opposed to writing fiction, which can be quite solitary. I've really enjoyed that aspect of the writing. Also, knowing that the book has a home with a publisher from the outset is very pleasing! I've written several novels that haven't been published and it is always nice to know that your work will actually be sold. Whether anyonee buys it or not is another matter!

Q: I love the title - think all parent/writers have been there (always makes me think of that ad where the kids are playing up in the supermarket and the mother finally loses it, lies down on the floor and throws a full on tantrum!). What's unique about your book?

There are parenting books written by non-parents (e.g. SuperNanny and Gina Ford) and parenting books written by journalists with no professional childcare training. I'm a parent and a qualified early years teacher, so hopefully I can contribute personal experience and professional expertise. The book also draws on the experiences of a wide range of other parents and every chapter includes a real life case study. My book is unique because it doesn't tell parents 'how to' parent or what they 'should' be doing. Rather it recognises that every family is different and offers a range of strategies to help parents find their own way to transform the 'terrible twos' into the 'terrific twos'!

Q: What's next for you - more non-fiction or do you think you'll write fiction too?

I have two short stories appearing in two different anthologies shortly - 'Yasmina's Elbow' in 'Even More Tonto Short Stories' (Tonto Books) and 'Graft' in 'Mosaic Open Anthology' (Bridge House Publishing). Need2Know have commissioned me to write a second book, 'Baby's First Year: A Parent's Guide', which will be published in 2011. So it's a bit of both. I'm always open to new projects!

Q: Finally, as we ask all writers who visit WKDN from Anne Tyler to Joanne Harris - what are your tips for juggling work and creative life?

I have two part-time paid jobs (one teaching creative writing for The Open University) and the other editing the charity journal I mentioned, so I'm constantly juggling work, writing and family life. I don't know if I have any tips. I just tend to muddle through. I suppose it's about keeping motivated and organised. Motherhood taught me how to multi-task! And having a supportive husband helps some too. :)

Congratulations Shanta - there's more info at
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