the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

Three things …

The clocks have gone back, it’s a misty moisty morning in Dorset, but there’s lots for me to look forward to. Here are my latest bits of news:

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Thanks to your support, The String Games is a finalist in fiction category of The People’s Book Prize 2019. There will be a further vote March–April 2020 to decide the winner and a black tie do in London for all the finalists on 15 April 2020. Great stuff!

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In December 2019, I’m going to Uganda with VSO for four months as a volunteer at the Bidibidi Refugee Settlement. The placement draws upon my experience of working with refugee families in London and the skills I developed to support parental involvement in children’s learning. I’ll be assigned to an early childhood care and education centre in order to aid recruitment to early education for girls and children with disabilities. You can read more about Bidibidi in this article from National Geographic. I’m looking forward to living, learning and contributing in Uganda.

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In May 2020, I’ll be in Sweden at the Stockholm Writers Festival. Last year I enjoyed this wonderfully inspiring event as a participant – next year I return as a faculty member. If you’re interested in attending an innovative writing festival in a fascinating city, you can’t do better than this. Booking opens (with a 15% early bird discount) today, 1 November 2019.

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This Much I Know, planning a new novel

I’m having such fun writing my current novel-in-progress. As I was deeply affected by the tragedy at the heart of The String GamesI decided my new novel would be lighter and funny. In order to avoid the very many redrafts that my debut novel involved, I planned This Much I Know to the nth degree. I also recycled characters from a previously written and incomplete novel called Paula’s Secret that told the story of two first-time mums. So with this head start, I thought it would be straight forward to complete the first draft. Instead, it’s taken me longer than ever to get to that stage and I’ve still got three more chapters to write.

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One of my early planning grids

I started writing This Much I Know in December 2017 and would never have guessed it would still be incomplete twenty months later. I completely underestimated the amount of time it would take to get The String Games to print and at that stage I didn’t know I would also be working on the publication of my poetry pamphlet adversaries/comradesAnd following the release of a book, there is a massive amount of work to do to attract readers to the novel. Although I enjoy marketing and promotion, it does gobble away the hours.

Instead of giving myself a hard time about this delay, I’ve embraced it. I love my protagonist, six-year-old Mikey and his life in suburban London. I’ve set the story in New Malden, where I lived with my young family for ten years. It’s been such a joy to return to this location, and all the things I used to do with my children. I’ve drawn upon the Friday afternoons we spent at the park, cycle rides to school and the usual calendar of events such as firework nights and collecting conkers.

I’ve been working on a synopsis of the novel so that I can enter #Pitmad. This is a quarterly Twitter event that enables writers to get their work seen by agents through a concise synopsis that can be shared as a tweet. The next #Pitmad is on September 5, 2019 (8AM – 8PM EDT). I’ve not whittled my synopsis down to 280 characters yet but you can get the gist of what I’m writing about from the short synopsis below:

Six-year-old Mikey Griffiths is an only child who sees in Leonard, a disabled new arrival at his local church, similar challenges around fitting in. Isolated at school, Mikey has few friends and annoys staff with his silly jokes. Although Leonard is unkempt and socially awkward,  he gets Mikey’s sense of humour and this brings the two close. Mikey inadvertently arouses suspicion about Leonard which fuels community tensions and relationships between Mikey’s parents and their neighbours deteriorate. It is Mikey’s Dad who saves Leonard from smoke inhalation when a gang attack his home. The shock of this incident causes everyone to reassess how they treat newcomers to the community and Leonard is helped to integrate so that Mikey can be friends with him once again.

What do you think? Do I stand a chance of attracting literary representation with this synopsis?

 

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The String Games needs your vote

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I was delighted to hear that The String Games has been longlisted in The People’s Book Prize fiction category. This is a national award that finds and promotes new and undiscovered work. One of the organisation’s aims is to support the complete eradication of illiteracy. This is something very important to me as, following years of working with parents and children to build their literacy skills, there is still a need in communities for further work. In this longlisting, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect match: an opportunity to gain a wider readership for The String Games and connect with a cause close to my heart.

To reach the next stage of the competition depends on public support. I hope you feel able to support me by voting for The String Games to become a finalist in the fiction category. It’s easy to vote, just click here to leave your details, tick yes or no to receive the newsletter then submit.  If you’d like to leave a comment that would be a bonus. The opening chapter of The String Games is available to read here 
Thank you for your help. The String Games has important messages to share about how it’s possible to come to terms with challenges in life. It’s a story about fresh starts and new beginnings which readers find empowering.
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The String Games wins an award

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Victorina Press the publisher of The String Games is delighted that two of their books have been awarded as finalists in the Best Cover Design for Fiction and Non-Fiction in the 2019 International Book Awards. My novel The String Games was selected as a finalist in the Best Cover Design for Fiction.

The cover image features the profile of the protagonist of the novel as a young woman and the string design for the title represents the controlling metaphor of the novel. The catalyst for The String Games is the abduction and murder of a young boy and the story is told from the perspective of his older sister. The characters lead tangled lives that are knotted and twisted but Imogen is eventually able to get to the truth of what happened to her brother and address issues of unresolved grief. The outcome of this coming-of age story is positive, showing the possibility of fresh starts and new beginnings

I worked with the illustrator, Fiona Zechmeister, to produce the cover design. It was a collaborative effort to bring about a cover we were both pleased with. Fiona is an outstanding illustrator and I’m delighted her skills are recognised in this award.

The String Games  is available online through Victorina PressWaterstones and Amazon.  It is  also stocked by independent bookshop in Dorset including Serendip in Lyme Regis,  The Book Shop in Bridport, Gullivers in Wimborne and Winstone’s in Sherborne.

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Getting over the line

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Can you help The String Games reach the next round of the All Author‘s June cover competition? If you agree with me that the cover by Fiona Zechmeister is gorgeous, do pop over to the competition page and give The String Games your vote. Just two clicks and it’s done! Start here:

https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/4799/

Then click on ‘vote’

The competition is open until 7pm (BST) on Friday 14 June 2019.

Thank you for your support.

 

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Pt 3: the FABULOUS wider writing community

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I entered a travel writing competition in 2016 and as runner-up, I was offered a bursary to attend a fiction retreat at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s creative writing centre. One of the tutors on the programme was Elizabeth Reeder who writes novels, essays and stories. Her debut novel, Ramshackle, was shortlisted for the Saltire Literary Award in 2013 and she’s gone on to write further novels.

The narrator of Ramshackle is fifteen-year-old Roe who one wintery day finds the man she thinks of as her father has gone missing. In the week that follows, Roe finds out more about herself and her father. At this point in growing up, Roe is an expert of her own experience but anything beyond causes anxiety. Roe’s voice is a mixture of confidence and vulnerability and this is something I wanted to explore in The String Games. Advice from Elizabeth was invaluable in moving forward with the middle part of my novel.

When it came to thinking of authors to approach to endorse The String Games, Elizabeth was at the top of my list. She’s an excellent writer so I’m delighted she felt able to offer the following words:

Gail Aldwin’s The String Games debuts her talent in an intimate portrayal of family, love and loss, and one that gives a glimpse into how crisis might shape each of us.

Elizabeth teaches creative writing at the University of Glasgow. I was fortunate to catch up with her at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2017 where she facilitated a wonderful readers’ workshop. Keep an eye out for other events Elizabeth is involved with. If you’re able to attend one of her workshops, seminars or talks you’re bound to enjoy it.

The String Games will be published in May 2019 but if you can’t wait until then you could always dip into my short fiction collection Paisley Shirt. It is also available from Waterstones in Dorchester and Bridport, The Bookshop in Bridport, Gullivers in Wimborne and Serendip in Lyme Regis.

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Triumphs and Challenges of 2017

Click on the pictures to find out what I’ve been up to!

 

 

 

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Salisbury half

It was a year ago when I was in Salisbury with friends from New Malden at the time of the Salisbury half marathon. The finish line is close to the cathedral and as we watched participants walk away in specially printed T-shirts and wearing medals, my friend Deborah suggested we should enter the following year. She said it would be a great achievement, a target for our exercise plans and a life changing event. I had never run before (apart from occasions when I needed to catch a bus) and had no interest in running. But, by the end of the day, I had agreed to enter the Salisbury half in 2017.

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Before the start, Salisbury half

I spent the next couple of months trying to work out how I could get out of this commitment. By November I realised no excuses would be accepted and bought a pair of running shoes. At the end of December, I went to park run for the first time and completed the 5km route although I did walk the hilly bits in Richmond Park. The next park run was the flat course at Weymouth where I found that running wasn’t too bad. It was in January 2017 that I signed up for the half marathon – you can see I was one of the first from the number 3 I wore.

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On 1 October 2017, I completed my first half marathon. My practice runs hadn’t been more than 10 miles, so this was the longest course I’d ever completed. I was determined to run all the way round and to finish before the three-hour limit. In spite of rain, I ran the course in 2 hours 51 minutes and am now the proud owner of this medal.

I’m now thinking of entering the Casterbridge half which takes place in Dorchester on 27 May 2018.  Who would have thought it?

 

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Story Slam, Bridport 2015

Scan 1Organised by Frances Colville, the fourth Bridport story slam  was another wonderful event. I was honoured to act as a judge alongside novelist Rosanna Ley and Nick Macy, manager of Waterstones, Bridport. Author Laura James was an excellent MC at the event.

Sixteen writers entered the story slam although owing to constraints of time, only twelve were able to read. Each writer shared an original story taking up to 5 minutes for the reading. We were impressed by the high quality delivery from all the writers, readings were offered to engage and entertain. The stories took us to places far and near as well as emotional journeys of recovery and love. There was much humour, too: from a chuckle to the laugh out loud variety.

Much of the writing was carefully crafted, giving hints and clues, making the stories textured. There was a wide range of genres including fantasy, sketches and letters. Some stories contained clever twists and characters from history and fairy tale were given new life. It was a very hard job for the judges to agree on the top three stories. Read the rest of this entry »

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Young Writers’ Story Slam, Dorchester

Story SlamAs part of the first Dorchester Literary Festival, the Dorset Writers’ Network are hosting a Young Writers’ Story Slam at Dorchester Library on Saturday 24 October, 2pm. Writers from 11-16 years are invited to enter the story slam by reading a story of up to 500 words. Please email pat@dorsetwritersnetwork.co.uk to register and turn up on the day. Names will be drawn from a hat and, when everyone has read, the three judges will withdraw to decide on the winners. Every reader will get the judges’ feedback on their story. The winner will become Young Story Slam Winner 2015. (Parental consent is required.)

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