the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

The Next Big Thing: Paula’s Secret

I’ve admired the short stories and flash fiction written by Angela Williams under the name of Susan Carey for sometime time now.  Like me, Angela’s work has featured on the 1000 words website and her story was chosen for inclusion in the National Flash Fiction Day e-anthology for 2012. Angela lives in Amsterdam, and is a member of Writers Abroad. When she shared information about the group’s annual anthology on her blog, it gave me a chance to think back to my expatriate days in Papua New Guinea and I submitted a story that was accepted for publication in ‘Foreign Encounters’.  I was delighted when she tagged me in ‘The Next Big Thing’ blog chain and I answer the questions below:

What is the working title of your next book?

My latest novel started life as ‘First Time Mums’ but then graduated to the new working title of ‘Paula’s Secret’.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I started work on this manuscript during the summer of 2012.  I’d written a couple of pieces of flash fiction about those first few months after childbirth, when relationships shift to give priority to the baby and I thought there was mileage in the idea.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a romantic comedy and I’m new to this genre. I met Allie Spencer at a story slam in Shaftesbury and when I read a couple of her books and some others, I thought I’d like to give it a try.

Which actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Paula is the main character, previously dotty about her dog but once Baby Boo arrives, she refocuses her attention. She’s juxtaposed with her best friend Kirsty, who is also a new mother and struggling to use the same methods that brought her success in the workplace to become a model parent.  It’s the different approaches to parenting that bring humour to the novel and I guess Ann Hathaway would be a good lead.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Kirsty struggles to make the most of family life with her new-born and when Paula won’t reveal who is the father of her baby, Kirsty decides that bringing her best friend’s family together is her next priority.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I won a competition during 2012 to have sixty copies of my fiction collection ‘Four Buses printed, so I know all about the rewards and pitfalls of self publishing. It may sound mad but getting the book into print isn’t my priority at the moment. I’m much more concerned with getting the writing to the best possible standard.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first draft took five months and it’s currently in a drawer waiting for me to gather my wits and tackle it again.  I’m planning to begin the rewriting at the end of January, then I’ll be going full pelt ready to submit a decent draft to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme at the end of August.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I haven’t read many books written about new mothers although when I was researching titles I came across one or two.  ‘The Hand that First Held Mine’ by Maggie O’Farrell is a good example of how the arrival of a baby casts light into the shadows of personal experience. But I can’t begin to compare ‘Paula’s Secret’ to such an accomplished novel and it’s not in the same genre, anyway.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Getting positive comments on the short stories and flash fiction that I’ve written has encouraged me to try writing with strong themes, on a bigger scale.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Floosie the Husky-cross dog has a significant role in the story!

I’d like to tag a wonderful writer of historical fiction, Carol McGrath, who is hugely knowledgeable about the medieval period. She’s a great on-line friend, tweeting early in the mornings and her blog Scribbling in the Margins, provides posts from all over the world. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with Carol during a writing retreat in Cornwall and another which she hosted in Portugal. Carol is an attentive listener and when I share my writing, her feedback is erudite. She’s a great companion, story-teller and adventurer. I can’t wait to read her first novel, which she wrote while undertaking post-graduate studies at the Royal Holloway University. ‘The Handfasted Wife’ will be published in 2013.



National Association of Writers in Education: 25th anniversary conference

The Minster’s Western Front (Wikipedia)

I was in York at the weekend, attending a wonderful conference where I also delivered a workshop.  Participants attending ‘Flash Fiction:  keeping it short’ came from across the phases of education, all with an interest in developing writing for themselves and their students. I shared a range of prompts aimed to get those less experienced in writing flash started.  These included:

  • Looking at classified advertisements for inspiration
  • Getting ideas for writing from Dulux colour cards (this prompt originates from Calum Kerr, Director of National Flash Fiction Day)
  • Using pages from small, illustrated notebooks to focus the mind on purposeful word selection
  • Drawing upon a photo to think about the story behind the image, from the photographer’s point of view
  • Describing stereotypes from ‘Come Dine with Me’ to create characters you love to hate
  • Self publishing mini books by folding and cutting a sheet of A4 paper
  • Finding markets for your writing:  a selection of websites and magazines that accept flash fiction.

I’d like to thank everyone that came to the workshop for engaging so readily in the tasks, for being willing to share the outcomes from the prompts and for the feedback provided. Read the rest of this entry »


National Flash Fiction Day Launch

L-R Bob Jacobs, Vanessa Gebbie, Sara Crowley, Holly Howitt

With other flash fiction writers, (including Tim Stevenson who unfortunately is not in the photo) I celebrated National Flash Fiction Day  on 16 May in Southampton.  The event was held in the lecture theatre at the Central Library and offered all of the invited writers a chance to share their work.  As it was also the launch of Jawbreakers an anthology to mark the first National Flash Fiction Day, many chose to read flashes from the new publication. And I used it as an opportunity to promote the work of Flash Fiction South West, reading Greenhayes from Kissing Frankenstein & Other Stories. If you’d like to learn more about flash fiction, please click here for an interesting article.

Rachel Carter had the idea to create an on-line anthology for Flash Fiction South West. I was recruited as a reader to filter submissions and as I live in Dorset, I was also entitled to submit to the anthology.  It has been a pleasure to work with Rachel, a talented writer and photographer who also found the time to compile and edit the print anthology.  She should have a medal the size of a dinner plate in recognition for her hard work.

Read the rest of this entry »