the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

Squeezing the pips in Antigua

It’s my last few days in Guatemala and I’m determined to  make the most of them. Today I went on a bone-crunching bike ride around the villages on the outskirts of Antigua. You can imagine the difficulty of cycling over cobbled roads like this:

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Thankfully it was a bus ride to collect the bikes in San Juan del Obispo so the cycling to Antigua was mainly downhill.

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I never tire of visiting ruins in Antigua. Some are churches, others are convents but all the damaged facades are endlessly captivating. Here are a couple more ruins that have me enchanted:

Tomorrow we have a Spanish School outing to the coast. I’m looking forward to having lessons at la playa de Monterrico.

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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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Helen Corner-Bryant at the Dorchester Literary Festival

I was delighted to introduce Helen Corner-Bryant’s session ‘On Editing’ at the Dorchester Literary Festival last Sunday. As Chair of the Dorset Writers’ Network, I worked with festival co-director, Janet Gleeson, to arrange this input. Helen is a wonderful speaker who has substantial experience in supporting writers, firstly as an editor’s assistant at Penguin, and then in setting up the Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Helen seeks to help writers overcome the creative barriers they encounter and with her team, they offer support that might otherwise take a writer much time to work out for themselves.

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Some top tips offered in the session include:

  • If you don’t feel confident writing dialogue it may be because you don’t know your characters well enough. Try interviewing your character or letting them have conversations in your head.
  • Make sure there is a point of tension on every page of your novel
  • Novels work well using a three act structure
  • When you come to a stop with your writing have a think about what this might mean for the work. Could it indicate a problem with the structure, plot or characterisation?

Did you know Cornerstones welcome submissions of the opening ten pages of your novel with the synopsis for a free evaluation?

Because Q&As are so valuable to writers, Helen has devised an ‘ask a literary consultant’ session where she outlines her role then opens the floor to questions. I am now working with the Dorset Writers’ Network to find a date and venue to offer this input. Follow the Dorset Writers’ Network on Facebook and Twitter for updates and/or subscribe to the newsletter on the website.

Helen’s book On Editing: How to edit your novel the professional way is an invaluable resource and is available from any good bookshop or can be purchased through Amazon.

 

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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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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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Dorset Feather Stitchery

Feedback from my recent post about the history of paisley print (you can read it here), directed me to the tradition of the Dorset feather stitchery. This is an embroidery stitch that was originally used to decorate rural workers’ smocks. The pattern uses feather stitch, buttonhole stitch, chain stitch and fly stitch to create a pattern similar to the droplet shaped motif found in paisley patterns.

Background to the development of this embroidery style can be found in a book written by Dorset woman Olivia Pass, published in 1957.  Even from the cover design, the border shows remarkable similarity to paisley patterns.

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It is delightful as the writer of a short fiction collection titled Paisley Shirt to find the design incorporated into local Dorset craft. There are examples of Dorset Feather Stitchery in the Bridport Museum or you might wish to read Olivia’s book. Like my collection Paisley Shirt it is possible to purchase Dorset Feather Stitchery on Amazon.

 

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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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Good things come in threes, too!

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I’ve had three anthologies drop through my letterbox this week. It’s always a thrill to see my creative writing appear in print and this time I have two pieces of short fiction and one poem to celebrate.

Flash Fiction Festival One is an anthology of stories inspired by input at the first Flash Fiction Festival held in Bath during the summer 2017. Thank you to Jude Higgins as the director of this wonderful event and her team who have brought together flash fiction stories written by workshop presenters and participants. My story “Where There’s a Rick” draws upon a clash of events and memories and is told in just over 200 words.

Glit-er-ary is the annual anthology published by Bridge House. It is a glittery collection of glit-er-ary tales that will add some sparkle to your reading. My story titled “Brighter Than Jewels” is set in Australia and draws upon the relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter.

Under is a collection of poetry published by Miriam Dokotliver and David Ross Linklater. Within the enigmatic cover are poems in a range of forms and styles which make for great reading.

So, good things come in threes, too!

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Writers & Artists conference in Dorset

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Writers & Artists have teamed up with Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) to bring a How To Get Published conference to Dorset on 28 April 2018. The aim of the day is to provide tips and practicalities for getting to grips with writing.

The conference will take place at AUB where there is plenty of free parking.  The day will include: a writing workshop of your choice with Natasha Pulley for fiction, Nelle Andrews for non-fiction and Kayo Chingonyi for poetry; panel discussion with leading editors and publishing experts and the chance to hear from leading literary agents Emma Paterson and Therese Coen who are always on the lookout for debut authors to add to their lists. The programme provides information and advice about the writing and publishing process to help progress your book.

For all local writers there is an exclusive discount code to save £30 upon booking, and secure a ticket for just £65 (RRP £95) with lunch included. Simply enter AUBWRITE18 at the checkout to unlock your saving. You can find full details of the conference and booking information here.

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