the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

The String Games is released today!

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The journey to the release of my debut novel The String Games has included many pitfalls and high points. Today, I celebrate the support I have received along the way.

Thank you to my fellow students at the University of South Wales who offered support and advice through workshop sessions. Also to my supervisors who gave feedback and guidance which enabled me to submit The String Games alongside an academic thesis to receive the award of PhD.

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I’m grateful to Carol McGrath, Sue Stephenson and Denise Barnes for the wonderful feedback during memorable writing retreats in Port Isaac and other locations overseas.

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Dorset is a wonderful place to live and write. I’ve gained so much from supportive groups including Wimborne Writing led by Sarah Barr, the Vivo Gang, the RNA Dorset chapter and the Dorset Writers Network. Also thank you to the organisers of open mic nights including Apothecary.

For giving The String Games a good home, I’d like to thank all the lovely people who work for Victorina Press and also my fellow Victorina authors who celebrate diversity in publishing.

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A special mention for the authors who endorsed my novel Jacquelyn Mitchard, Nina Kilham, Elizabeth Reeder, and Sara Gethin.

Where would any author be without readers? The continued support of the Cerne Abbas Readers is much appreciated along with the amazing work of many wonderful book bloggers including Anne Williams and Jessie Cahalin.

I’ve loved being part of online communities including the Women Writers Network and thank everyone there.

I’ve grown in confidence and experience due to publication of my earlier work. Thanks to  Gill James at Chapeltown Books for publishing Paisley Shirt a collection of short fiction, and to Sophie-Louise Hyde at Wordsmith_HQ for publishing adversaries/comrades a poetry pamphlet.

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Lastly I must thank my supportive family who understand my need to write when I could be spending time with them.

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The String Games is released today and can be purchased online from Foyles, Waterstones and Victorina Press.

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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 Inspiration – The South West

When Nicole Fitton and I met on Twitter we were keen to share the experience of living and writing in the South West of England. I am pleased to welcome Nicole to The Writer is a Lonely Hunter where she answers our shared questions (mine appear after).  First, let me introduce Nicole.

Nicole Fitton lives and writes in the heart of Devon. She writes both thrillers and short stories, many of which have been short and longlisted. This year her flash fiction piece ‘Yellow‘ was featured as part of  National Flash Fiction Day on the Flash Flood Journal Blog.

Nicole Fitton

  1. Have you always lived in South West England?

The short answer is no! I started my journey towards living in the West Country as a ‘grockle’ (tourist). The children were small back then and we would set off at the crack of sparrows and head west. Like many who’d travelled before us, we would wind our way slowly down the A303 for two glorious weeks in North Devon come rain or shine! We promised ourselves that if we ever got the opportunity to relocate we would grab it with both hands. Well, that’s what happened. In 2010 we relocated because of my husband’s work. It was a big decision. I am so proud of the way our kids adapted. It was a big shock initially, but within a few months they were taking everything in their stride – even school lessons delivered on the beach – now that was a first!

Until our move to Devon I had lived mainly in big cities such as London and New York. My work in international PR and marketing took me all over the world, and I know I draw on a lot of those experiences when I write.

I now live betwixt the villages of Iddesleigh and North Tawton. Iddesleigh is famously the home of author Michael Morpurgo whilst North Tawton was home to the late poet laureate Ted Hughes. It is a place of isolation, and I love it. There is something quite profound about my small hamlet which runs along the river Taw. Perhaps it is the ebb and flow of the river. I’m not sure, but I know it has worked its way into my bones. Living in a farming community the effects of late harvests, early harvests, failed crops, all subconsciously inform my thinking. I seem to draw on the landscape especially with my short stories.

  1. Is there one particular place in the South West that is special to you, if so why?

I find myself drawn back to the River Taw time and time again. When we first arrived in Devon, it was the first place I discovered within walking distance of the house. We would spend many a happy hour skimming stones, swimming or sitting on ‘the beach’ (a patch of sandy shingle by the river’s edge). There are many ‘hidden’ parts of the river and every time I walk there I find something new.

Further afield I would say it would have to be the North Devon coastline. It is wild and structurally stunning. The rock formations you see are dramatic and magnificent. I have a story in mind for that coastline! Peppered in between the ancient stone cliffs are sandy coves and big expanses of golden beaches. My favourite beach is Westward Ho! The only place in the UK to have an exclamation mark as part of its name – fact!

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  1. What is it like to be a writer in the South West?

Devon is a superb place to write, and if someone were to do an audit or something clever like that I believe they would find a writer present in every village! There are a wealth of literary festivals and events across the county, which provide fantastic opportunities for support and collaboration year round.It is such a positive community. I belong to a group called the Sakura Positive Press Writers Group; we hold open mic evenings in our local pub for storytelling. It’s great fun. It would be great if we could roll this out across the region. Stories were initially told that way, and it would be great to see this form reignited.

Nicole’s Blog : www.nicolefittonauthor.com

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/nicolefittonauthor/

Twitter:@MisoMiss

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/misomiss/

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Gail Aldwin

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  1. Have you always lived in South West England?

Dorchester in Dorset became my home in 2007. At the beginning, I wasn’t particularly pleased to be moving from my lovely life in south London but my children and me had to up sticks when my husband got a job in the county town. I soon came to appreciate the benefits of living in a county area and it certainly extended the childhood experiences of my son. He spent his summers building camps and swimming in the river where his London friends thought a good day out was visiting Chessington World of Adventures.

Although I was brought up in London, I spent several years travelling overseas and have lived and worked in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. I do like a remote and beautiful location but living in one is not always easy. There are stories set in Australia and Papua New Guinea in Paisley Shirt, my recently published collection of short fiction. Something of a place remains with me from all the different locations I’ve experienced.

  1. Is there one particular place in the South West that is special to you, if so why?

Chapel Porth in winter

My husband is from Cornwall and we spent many summers on the north coast when my children were little. Our favourite beach is Chapel Porth near St Agnes where a river meets the sea. Out of season, my husband and son spent many hours damming the river in order to flood the beach but that wouldn’t make them popular in the summer when it gets packed with visitors. My novel The String Games draws from my experience of losing my son when he was three years old on a crowded beach. While I was busy smothering my daughter in sunscreen, he wandered off.  I started searching for him by heading in the wrong direction. In spite of a tannoy announcement, he was lost for forty minutes then I eventually found him way down the beach jumping over the ways and completely oblivious to the panic he had caused.

Closer to home in Dorchester, it’s possible to walk across the water meadows and experience Thomas Hardy country. I love going to the cottage that is the place of his birth in Higher Bockhampton. I usually take a detour to visit the great writer’s gravestone in the churchyard at Stinsford. Although it was Hardy’s dying wish to be buried there with his parents, the executor of his will had other ideas and Hardy’s body ended up in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey while his heart was buried in Dorset.  Along the shaded riverside walk I imagine how this place sparked ideas for Hardy and try to generate a few myself!

  1. What’s it like to be a writer in the South West?

Dorset has a thriving writing community with literary events scheduled across the county. I am Chair of the Dorset Writers’ Network and work with the steering group to inspire writers and connect creative communities. We do this by putting on workshops and talks to support writers at different stages of their writing journey. The South West is full of creative people and I love to link up with writers in different counties. I have taken steps to achieve this by joining activities in Devon. I delivered a spoken word performance at the Sandford Y Festival book event and participated in the Chudleigh Dragons pitching competition as part of their annual festival. I would love to see better links for writers across the South West so that we can celebrate the creativity of the region.

Dorset Writers Network:            http://www.dorsetwritersnetwork.co.uk

Facebook:                                https://www.facebook.com/gailaldwinwriter/

Twitter:                                     @gailaldwin

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On feeling a little teary…

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An absolutely stunning review for Paisley Shirt appears on Being Anne an award-winning  book blogging site by Anne Williams. Quite overwhelmed by her praise:

Every single story is perfectly crafted, not of uniform length, but each one marked by the perfection of its writing and its insights into people’s lives, exquisitely captured.

She also offers an interview where her insightful questions led me to reflect upon my writing journey. Do pop over and have a read by clicking here.

 

 

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Meeting Joanne Nicholson

I first learnt about Joanne through the book blogger Jessie Cahalin (we both appear on her site Books in My Handbag). Intrigued by her writing life, I contacted Joanne through Twitter. It occurred to me that due to our different locations, it might be interesting to write a shared blog post where we both answer the same questions from the context of Joanne being a writer in Australia and me being a writer in England. But first, let me introduce you to Joanne.

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Joanne Nicholson is an Australian author who juggles parenting four kids with trying to exercise, socialise, manage sporting teams, complete mundane chores and write. She loves boating, reading, pilates, listening and playing music, playing basketball and spending quality time with family and friends. She has published two women’s fiction novels, Intuition and In Another Life; a YA novel Music Score and short stories, Horrorscopes and Spirits.

 

 

 

I wonder how much we’ll have in common. Here are the questions and answers.

What is your writing community like in your hometown?

Joanne: I live about an hour north of Sydney, NSW, Australia. Locally I belong to a supportive writers’ group where we critique a member’s work each month, as well as pass along writing tips and tidbits we have picked up. It is great to have this group camaraderie as writing can be such a solitary pursuit. I also belong to the Australian Society of Authors and get involved with their functions. I regularly attend other author events to hear about their writing journey. This weekend I am attending the Sydney Writers’ Festival to see Heather Morris, author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz,  talk about penning this great book.

Gail: There is a thriving writing community in Dorset. As Chair of the Dorset Writers Network I work with the steering group to inspire writers and connect creative communities. Our aim is to support writers at all stages of their writing journey. We hold workshops for writers to improve their skills and confidence. We also promote writing events across the county. In my hometown of Dorchester, the are two regular writing groups and splendid venues in which to hold workshops such as the newly opened Shire Hall. We are also lucky to have the annual Dorchester Literary Festival  which brings a range of professional writers to the town.  The Thomas Hardy Society celebrates the literary heritage Dorchester (also known as Casterbridge in Hardy’s writing).

Do you use your local environment or other places you have lived as a setting in your writing?

Joanne: When I began writing, I wanted to be vague about the setting of my story so as it was more global, but I felt people couldn’t really place it. Since then I have always used locations with which I am familiar. Most of my stories are set in the suburbs of Sydney and ‘In Another Life’ also features Bathurst, a large country town west of Sydney. Being an Aussie, the beach also seems to crop up as a location too as it is so intrinsic to my life.

Gail: I would love to write a novel about the years I lived in Papua New Guinea during my twenties but when I’ve mentioned this to agents and editors, they never seem positive. My friend has encouraged me to write a memoire but I’m worried about using the voice of a white narrator while talking about post-colonial issues. I have set a few stories in Dorset but I grew up in London and lived in urban areas for many years, so something of that environment is embedded in my writing.

Where do you like to write?

Joanne: I would love to say I’m one of those arty authors who writes and sips coffees in a cafe, mostly so I could post cool coffee pics to Instagram, but realistically I can’t concentrate to write with a lot of surrounding noise. I don’t even listen to music when I write, although for all my other waking hours I have music playing in the background. Sadly, I have to admit I sit alone in my office to write. Well, to be truthful I’m not completely on my own – I have my cavoodle dog Tilly who is my constant companion.

Gail: I have a tiny space at the end of a desk I share with my husband. The room is upstairs and overlooks the water meadows so it’s easy to get distracted by the view. Last week, I queued up to be the first through the door at the newly opened Shire Hall in Dorchester and was awarded free coffee for a year. As the building is at the end of my street, I anticipate going there to write for a change of scene.

Who or what inspires you to keep writing (even when there are setbacks and rejections)?

Joanne: I am very self motivated, but like most (or maybe all) authors, I sometimes get feelings of inadequacy. Writing, like so many creative outlets, is extremely subjective. I belong to a book club and hearing all the differing opinions on the book of the month makes me realise that you can’t please all the people all of the time. I write because I have so many stories buzzing around in my head. It is my creative outlet and if other people also enjoy my stories then I’m satisfied. I self-publish but whenever I have had a rejection for a competition or the like, I always think of all the rejections JK Rowling received for Harry Potter and regard myself as being in highly esteemed company.

Gail: I used to keep a spreadsheet of all the competitions I entered and submissions to anthologies and journals I made. Although I got to know where to send stories with a possibility of success, my ongoing studies have meant I don’t have the admin time to submit consistently these days. Focus on acquiring a creative writing qualification has concentrated my mind and kept me writing. I am looking for a home for my novel at the moment and without a spreadsheet I’ve sent to the same publisher more than once. Not knowing what is out there at any given time means any response is a nice surprise.

What is your writing process?

Joanne: I always start with a good grasp of the plot and main characters when I write the first draft, or ‘vomit of words’ as I call it. Sometimes as I’m writing sub-plots will start to develop that send things in a slightly different direction and I’m flexible enough to let my characters guide me. After I finish the first draft I let it sit for at least a month to get some distance from it. I then do a first edit with fresh eyes. After that stage I usually send it to a group of beta readers for their reactions and feedback. I take on board their comments and edit the areas of concern that I believe have merit. I then get the book edited and finally go through the cover design and production process. The hardest part of the whole equation is the marketing at the end. It is difficult as an indie author to have cut through in such a saturated market.

Gail: I tend to get and idea and muse on it for some time. Then I decide which genre of writing best suits the idea and make a start. I’ve always got several projects on the go. At the moment I’m writing a novel with a six-year-old narrator, I have poems I want to compile into a pamphlet and I am part of two collaborative writing projects – one’s a screenplay and the other is material for a comedy sketch night which will be performed at the Bridport Arts Centre in the autumn.

How do you keep motivated?

Joanne: My motivation has several layers. Firstly, I often find stories literally keep me awake and until I at least jot them down I can’t find peace. They are pesky little critters! Secondly, I have a great group of supportive people around me who believe in me. Thirdly, in the past I have read some books where I think I could have done better job. I figure if those books were worthy of publishing then so are mine! Finally, when I see other authors talk about their writing journeys I come to the conclusion they are merely mortal and if they were able to become a successful author then it isn’t outside the realm of reality that I can too. I’m definitely a glass half full type of a person.

Gail: There are stories that only I can tell. I’m passionate about the messages that come through my writing and am keen to share them with others. One of the recurring threads in my work relates to the capacity of human resilience. I set obstacles for my characters to overcome so that readers can vicariously enjoy their successes.

Thank you for sharing your experiences as a writer in Australia, Joanne. It seems there is much we have in common although you’re based in a city in the southern hemisphere and I’m in a county town on the other side of the world.

Joanne’s books can be purchased in the UK through Amazon: Intuition,  In Another Life, Music Score, Horrorscopes and Spirits .   Paisley Shirt is available from the Book Depository with no delivery charge and dispatch within 3 days in the UK. In Australia it is also listed on Amazon.com.au

 

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Are you ready for part 2?

I’m on Chandler’s Ford Today with Allisons Symes chatting about characters, writing goals and the Dorset Writers’ Network.

Allison is a fellow Chapeltown Books author.

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Don’t the collections look splendid displayed together?

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Happenings in Dorchester

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I was invited to the launch of the Dorchester Literary Festival last week to represent the Dorset Writers’ Network. Held at Duke’s Fine Art Salesrooms there was a mingling of sponsors and supporters plus writers including Kate Adie. It was a splendid event and included the launch of a new competition. The DFL Local Writing Prize invites self-published authors in the South West (and those who have been published by an independent publisher in the South West) to submit copies of their full-length fiction or non-fiction books for this prize. This is a wonderful opportunity for a local writer to gain national recognition and a chance to win £1000. Find more details here.

While I was happy chatting with fellow DFL volunteers, my friend decided we should make an effort to talk to others. We introduced ourselves group who turned out to work for WessexFM and Breakfast in Dorchester. This was the most successful piece of networking I’ve ever done! The next day I was contacted by Breakfast in Dorchester and invited to talk about National Poetry Day. You can hear the recording of me (I speak at 1:57:39, Sarah Barr at 42:41 and Myriam San Marco, Bournemouth Poet Laureate at 1:19:30) by clicking here. (The recording is available until 27 October 2017.)

As part of the interview, I was able to promote the Dorset Writers’ Network Open House at Dorchester Library on 7 October from 10am-1pm. This is a free event for anyone who is interested in writing. Whether you’re new to writing or want to make a start, we can offer advice and encouragement. If you’re a published writer wishing to meet others, the Dorset Writers’ Network is here to support you. I hope to see some of you on Saturday!

 

 

 

 

 

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Writers’ Day in Bournemouth

This time last week I was busy preparing a presentation titled Tips and Techniques: the voices of children in adult fiction to deliver as part of the Dorset Writers’ Network Day at Bournemouth Library. I got up early on Saturday to have breakfast and there was time to read over my presentation but when I opened the front door to set off, I found the car was not on the drive. I have been sharing a car with my daughter for a few weeks now. The deal is, I let her know when I want to use it. The arrangements had been communicated but somehow she forgot. I guessed where the car was, about a mile away outside her boyfriend’s house. I began sprinting up the road, only to realise I hadn’t checked in the garage to see if by some miracle, it had been parked in there. Back again, only to find the garage empty. Realising I was in no fit state for an early morning jog, I called a taxi. Meanwhile, with my daughter still not answering her mobile, I tried to make contact with other members of the network to let them know of my predicament. Finally a call came from my daughter who was on her way home. I cancelled the taxi, waited at the top of the road to ensure a swift handover, then sped over to Bournemouth. I arrived with a few minutes to spare for the start of the day. When I recounted my morning’s misadventure, a fellow network member commented that it would make a good start to a story. I’ll keep that in mind for when I’m next short of an idea.

The Writers’ Day was well received by participants and we’re looking forward to another occasion to deliver further input in support of writers in Dorset.

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L-R me, Tracy Baines (DWN), Vickie Goldie (Bournemouth Library) and Helen Baggott (DWN)

 

 

 

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Dorset’s Digital Stories Ebook Anthology Competition


E-BOOK comp FLYERThe Dorset Writer’s Network have secured Arts Council funding to launch a new project with the aim of publishing an ebook which celebrates the diversity of the county. I recently delivered a workshop to support entry and you can read about this here. To have your writing considered for inclusion in the ebook, you are invited to join a competition. Stories must be no longer than 500 words and set in Dorset. Anyone can enter the competition (information for adults appears below) and a further category for  11-16 year olds will be made available shortly. Entrants can live or work anywhere in the country but the story must take place in Dorset (including Poole and Bournemouth). The full rules for the competition appear below.

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I do hope you’ll take the opportunity to submit a piece of short fiction. Good luck!

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Public Speaking

In preparation for a time when I might be asked to give book talks, interviews, masterclasses and the rest, I decided to improve my public speaking skills. I was inspired to do this following a recent workshop I delivered for the Dorset Writers’ Network as part of the in the mood programme offered at Dorchester Library. Also at the event were members from the Casterbridge Speakers who did a very good pitch and encouraged me to attend one of their sessions. A couple of months later, I’m now a member of the group and promoting this to you!

The group is part of Toastmaster International based in America and meetings are run along very strict lines. In the past, this would have put me off joining, but I can see the benefit of having a very structured agenda now that I’m used to it.

So, do you wish you could lose the nerves, capture attention and inspire your audience? Join Casterbridge Speakers to find out more! Meetings are held on the first and third Wednesdays of every month at the Wessex Royale Hotel in High West Street Dorchester, from  7.15pm – 9.30pm. If you’d like more information about the group, click here. For further information about other groups around the country take a look at the Toastmasters website and click on the ‘find a club’ tab.

Happy public speaking!

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