the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

BridLit Fringe

I’m really chuffed to be sharing a few of my stories at the Bridlit Fringe alongside this talented group of local writers. If you’re in Bridport on the morning of Friday 16 November 2018, do drop into the Literary & Scientific Institute for a chance to hear a fantastic range of poetry and prose. Tickets are a bargain at only £5 and are available here.

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I hope to see some of you in the audience!

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Flaghead Chine Poetry Commission

During my writing residency at Short & Sweet in Wimborne (you can read about it here), I was contacted by landscape designer Barbara Uphoff to write a poem for  a plaque. Barbara developed the new seaside garden at Flaghead Chine in Poole and wanted to incorporate poetry into the design.

The garden is approached through the wooded and shady chine and it acts as a connection between the land and the sea. Constructed with Purbeck Stone planters, boulders and seating, the garden is positioned beside the sandy beach and gives views to Harry’s Rock across the water.

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Old Harry’s Rock from Pixabay

The garden is intended as a meeting point for family and friends where children can enjoy quiet play thanks to the three seashell structures. The sculptors Phil Bews and Diane Gorvins created small scale models of a whelk, an ammonite and a sea urgin which the stonemasons, Albion Stone, were able to use in making the large shells.

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My poem appears on a brushed metal plaque attached to one of the boulders. Barbara and I agreed the the poem should be a haiku to celebrate the natural environment. You can read it here:

It was an honour to write the poem and I am delight to see it positioned in the seaside garden as public art.

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Publication news

Two pieces of great news arrived this week. First I have a piece of short fiction published by the Cabinet of Heed. This is a wonderfully eclectic journal which is beautifully illustrated. Click on the photograph below for a link to my piece.

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The submission process for the Cabinet of Heed is unusual – it remains open until there are sufficient of well-crafted pieces to fill a new journal. It’s certainly worth  submitting here for writers of short fiction and poetry.

The other news is that I am the joint winner of a poetry competition run by The Student Wordsmith. This means I will work with founder, Sophie-Louise Hyde, to compile a poetry pamphlet for publication.

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Exciting times ahead!

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Writing residency in Shire Hall Café at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, Dorchester

I was delighted the Shire Hall Café agreed to join the creative café project started by my publisher Gill James. The café is situated on the mezzanine level of the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum and with the museum’s history of crime, punishment and justice, the café provides a stimulating environment for writers.

Joining me for the creative café were writers from Dorchester, Swanage and an American from Nevada. (She was a delegate at the Thomas Hardy Conference who took time out to visit me.) Two participants were interested in developing children’s fiction while others were busy with short stories aimed at the adult market. It was a pleasure and a privilege to offer feedback on their work in progress and to discuss new projects. Some of my writing prompts also proved useful in developing new writing.

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Sat on one of the long tables at the back of the café, we were able to enjoy the breeze through the open sash windows and the views across the tables. I am a frequent visitor to the café as I queued on the opening day to make sure I won the ‘free coffee for a year’ given to the first person through the door. The building is at the end of my road, so if I need a change of scene during one of my writing days at home, I pop along to claim my free drink and spend time writing in the café.

Thank you to the Shire Hall Café and the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum for hosting this event. If you would like information about joining a creative café session in the future, do contact me here.

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Good news: it’s all happening at the minute

Firstly, my interview ‘a conversation…’ is on the Greenacre Writers’ site now. Why not pop over and have a read?

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Secondly, I have a poem in the fabulous print publication Words for the Wild. You can read more about the project here.

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And lastly, I’m off to the Thomas Hardy Society‘s fiftieth conference this evening to hear Paul Henry read from his acclaimed poetry collections The Brittle Sea and Boy Running. It will be good to touch base with Paul again (we were both lecturers at the University in South Wales in 2015).

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Writing Residency in the café at the Bridport Arts Centre

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Thank you to everyone who visited me during the creative writing residency at BAC on Wednesday 20 June 2018. It is an absolute privilege to have other writers share their work with me. There was a range of genres presented: women’s fiction, YA, autobiography, non fiction, flash fiction and poetry. I am delighted that the writers  found my feedback useful and I hope they will stay in touch. Many kindly bought copies of Paisley Shirt. I suggested they made the purchase through The Bookshop as it’s always good to support an independent book sellers. At the end of the session, I popped into The Bookshop to see Antonia Squire (owner of the shop since 2015) to find that Paisley Shirt was the best-selling title of the day!

Paisley Shirt is available with free delivery from The Book Depository and is stocked in Gullivers Wimborne, The Bookshop Bridport, Serendip Lyme Regis, The Swanage Bookshop and branches of Watersones.

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Waterloo Festival Launch

I was delighted to spend an evening last week at St John’s church in Waterloo where a splendid range of stories and poetry were shared. The Southwark Stanza provided a wonderful performance of poetry (for details of the group contact Helen Adie Hellieadie@yahoo.co.uk.) With other writers, I took to the podium to read my story “For Want of Connie” which is included in the Waterloo Festival ebook anthology titled To be…to Become.

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It was a pleasure to meet other Bridge House Publishing authors at the event and my publisher, Gill James, was also there. I got chatting with another Dorset writer, too. My Mum, who lives in south London, accompanied me and it was great to have her support.

The Waterloo Festival continues until 24 June with an impressive programme around the 2018 theme of transforming minds. You can find out more here.

If you are willing to offer a review on Amazon of To Be…to Become, please let get in touch though the contact me page and I will be happy to forward a pdf or mobi copy.

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Writing Residency at Short & Sweet

What could be better than spending a whole day talking about writing, sharing stories and getting on with some writing? On Wednesday 13 June, I was delighted to hold a creative café writing residency at Short & Sweet in Wimborne where I did just that. The idea originates with my publisher, Gill James, who provides information about the project here.

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I was joined by writers from Wimborne, Blandford and Poole who brought with them a range of fascinating writing. It is a privilege to read stories in development and be able to raise questions to help navigate a writer’s journey. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and came away with a few new story ideas myself. As an added bonus, I was asked to write a poem as part of a seaside garden project.

The next creative café writing residency takes place on Wednesday 20 June in the café at the Bridport Arts Centre. Several writers have already signed up to meet me there. Following that, I’ll be at the café in the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum on Wednesday 18 July from 11am — 3pm. Do get in touch by emailing gailaldwin@btinternet.com  if you’d like to:

  • get feedback on up to 1,000 words of writing
  • discuss a writing project
  • kick start a new piece of writing
  • purchase a copy of Paisley Shirt

Thank you to Jen and Dan for hosting the very first creative café writing residency in Dorset at Short & Sweet.

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Helen Pizzey: gathering your thoughts

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I am delighted to welcome Helen Pizzey to The Writer is a Lonely Hunter. She lives on heathland close to the sea near Corfe Castle where she has worked as Assistant Editor of a regional arts and features journal and been on the steering committee of the Dorset Writers’ Network.  Her poetry has appeared in anthologies, literary magazines and has also been set to music. Her debut short collection, Invisibility for Beginners, is published by Cinnamon Press.

Helen has kindly agreed to provide background information and advice on putting together a poetry collection.

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So.  You’ve begun to realise that you’ve a body of work that’s sufficiently polished and ‘finished’ to consider putting a collection together, ready for publication. Maybe it’s 50 or 60 poems that have been developed over a substantial period of time; maybe it’s a short series or a sequence on a specific topic or theme which you’ve moved fast on.

Don’t feel that numbers are necessarily restrictive if you feel each piece passes muster.  Templar Poetry, for example, have submission windows for collections of 10 page ‘portfolios’, 10-14 page ‘shots’, 18-24 page ‘pamphlets’ and, of course, for longer full collections. And Valley Press has published a book as short as 16 pages (although not necessarily a collection!) The quality of your work and some kind of overall cohesion are what count.  I’m talking, here, about poetry but the same general principles probably apply to other types of short form writing.  And to whether you’re submitting to small presses / larger publishers or going down the self-publishing route.

Publishers tend to look for some kind of track record. Keep a note of all the various writing successes and publications you’ve had along the way.  You can include as many as up to, perhaps, a third of previously published work in a single-author collection (depending on the publisher), but make sure you make it clear just how many and where individual pieces have been published before.  This is also vital as a selling point if you’re aiming to self-publish.

I’ve just had my debut short collection of 37 poems published by Cinnamon Press, presented in their house-style pamphlet form. I started the selection process from an initial 52 poems which I considered my best, then whittled these down by taking out those I thought weakest, or that seemed a bit off-kilter from the overall themes that were otherwise emerging.

Then the exciting part: printing off and laying each poem around me on the floor, colour-coded in sections according to themes. This very physical act of visualising really helped in terms of ‘seeing’ the collection take shape.  It turned out I had four distinct elements and a few ‘randoms’.  Within this broken-down framework of themes, I re-arranged individual poems as to how best they chimed off or led into each other according to ideas, subject, character, images.  I also took into account the visual aspect of each poem – so important with poetry, the form and the look of the white space on the page – and tried to ensure variance of poems abutting.

If I had been going for a collection arranged thematically, I guess that might have remained the overall shape of the book with just the order of themes to decide.  But I took it one step further and started to integrate the poems until the thematic ‘colours’ were fairly evenly merged – still retaining them in sections of manageable numbers so I could shuffle them about as previously.  That way, the job didn’t seem too unwieldy.  Once I was happy with the order of each section, it was just a question of fitting these together in as neat a way as possible.

Considering the collection’s narrative arc was made easier by having one short series of prose poems in the middle which was both a visual and thematic ‘plank’ to move towards and away from.  Then, of course, slotting in the ‘randoms’ in the best possible places – or, in fact, perhaps deciding ‘no, these just don’t fit’. Hard choices but good ones.

This may all sound a bit long-winded and taxing but, quite honestly, it was a fun and thoroughly satisfying couple of hours, seeing something come together and take on a life of its own (I must get out more!). What I think I was aiming for is a collection that would stand like a poetic ‘edifice’ with each ‘brick’ in its right place – and without any discernible evidence of the process’s ‘scaffolding’!

This has been my first experience and I’d love to hear if others have similar or very different ways of compiling their work. Poetry is, perhaps, quite complicated to assemble as each poem is usually a short, stand-alone piece in the first instance.  And you need quite a few of them to gel in order to form even a short collection. I’m learning, though, not to wait for perfection; yes, work has to be of a publishable quality and something you feel is ‘necessary’ writing (after all, if you’re not that bothered about it, who else will be?), but even after achieving publication there may still be elements of the same poems that you later think could be improved on.  Writers are continually growing and changing as they practice their art.

I hope this encourages you to consider assembling your own work, ready to launch into a waiting world in its own bound format. I recommend the Mslexia Indie Press Guide, now into its second edition, which lists nearly 600 publication opportunities for all genres of writing. It’s well-worth the £14.99 investment to become armed with all its tips and useful, necessary information. Some publishers are becoming increasingly comfortable with putting out mixed-genre publications – encouraging for those of us who write in more than one short form.

And once you’ve gathered all your glittering pieces into one coherent order, sit back and enjoy!  Be proud.  Celebrate. Award yourself a high-five, a box of chocolates, a new hair style.

So.  Time to get going… And good luck.

Thank you for this really helpful advice, Helen.

If you’d like to find out more about Helen and her poetry, click  here.

 

 

 

 

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‘Picnic’ on The Five-Two

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National Poetry Month has been celebrated in American during April since 1996. I am delighted to contribute to this literary event with the publication of my poem ‘Picnic’ on The Five-Two website. Edited by Gerald So, The Five-Two posts a daily crime fiction poem during April. By clicking here, you can read the poem and hear an audio recording  by Paula Messina.

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What’s a heron got to do with the poem? Find out here.

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Paisley Shirt is available with free delivery from The Book Depository and is stocked in Gullivers in Wimborne, The Book Shop in Bridport, Serendip in Lyme Regis,  The Swanage Bookshop, and Waterstones Dorchester.

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