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Morecambe, Lancashire, United Kingdom
In the mornings I’m a Nursery Cook, the rest of the time a Writer. Been writing for decades: short stories, plays, poems, a sitcom and more recently flash fiction, Creative Writing MA at Lancaster Uni and now several novels. Been placed in competitions (Woman’s Own, Greenacre Writers and flashtagmanchester) and shortlisted in others (Fish, Calderdale, Short Fiction Journal). I won the Calderdale Prize 2011, was runner-up in the Ink Tears Flash Fiction Comp & won the Greenacre Writer Short Story Comp 2013. I have stories in Jawbreakers, Eating My Words, Flash Dogs Anthologies 1-3, 100 RPM and the Stories for Homes anthology. My work’s often described as ‘sweet’ but there’s usually something darker and more sinister beneath the sweetness. I love magical realism and a comedy-tragedy combination. My first novel, Queen of the World, is about a woman who believes she can influence the weather. I’m currently working on a 3rd: Priscilla Parker Reluctant Celebrity Chef. Originally from West Midlands, I love living by the sea in Morecambe, swimming, cycling, theatre, books, food, weather, sitcoms and LBBNML … SQUEEZE!

Monday, 8 September 2014

My Writing Process

Stella Turner tagged me to do this writing process thing so here goes ...


What I am working on

I’m working on my second novel …

Fast Talking : A Tragi-comic Tale of Lies, Apologies and Emergency Tissues. ‘What happens when Carly, who can’t stop apologising, meets fast talking Jackie, who never does, and asks the question ‘Are you my mother?’

I have around 82k words and have just sent it to two writer friends from my MA group (I’ve read & commented on their novels too) Then I will further redraft/edit and write my synopsis and cover letter and submit to agents. Again. I submitted my first novel, Queen of the World, to thirty agents and got four requests for the full manuscript, which unfortunately all ended in rejection. Queen of the World = Practice Novel. (Sal's sad face)

I dip out of the novel now and then to work on my short stories. I usually have several on the go at any one time. Or I write a flash to the picture prompt on The Angry Hourglass or for a themed competition.

How does my work differ from others of its genre

I never know what genre I’m writing in. I just know that I’m most likely to be mixing comedy and tragedy, bringing in a bit of magic or writing something that seems nice and sweet on the surface but underneath is something sinister. I like writing that doesn’t seem like writing but that just goes straight through to the heart and brain. Easier said than done.

Why do I write what I write

I write what I write because they are my ideas and I enjoy writing them. Ideas for me are anything that is particularly funny, sad, interesting, intriguing or unusual. Or if I’m lucky, all five!

We just have to recognise ideas when we see them in front of us. Story fodder.

How does my writing process work

Put simply, I cobble something together (hence the name of my blog).

Put less simply …

From an idea I can see the story, or part of it anyway, forming in my mind. This is usually when I find myself scribbling notes on the bus or on the notepad on my windowsill by my bed or on scraps of paper at work. I can be cooking for seventy people, chatting to someone I’m working with and still be coming up with something in my head that I have to jot down before it goes. Multi-tasking-tastic!

Then I start a file with a working title. Or if I’m lucky an actual title because sometimes titles come first. I type up my notes, adding anything that comes to me as I do so. I’ll then write whichever part seems clearest in my mind and add more notes. I move paragraphs and sentences around, on the look out for a grab-the-reader first line and a suitable last line, which I may have at the start or it may come much later.

I read through what I have several times, adding and changing as I go. By this stage I’m keeping an eye on the word count because I might be writing something for a particular competition. Generally speaking though, the idea dictates the length and you have to let it be the length it wants to be. And of course when writing a novel I want the word count to get higher and higher and be too long because there will be a whole load of scaffolding that needs removing. Many times I find my first sentence or even paragraph is scaffolding. It needed to be there while I was writing but can be removed at the end and the story can stand up on its own.

I removed a lot of sentences from the novel in the redrafting when I realised that ‘She knows that, he knows that, we know that.’ Put it in the subtext.

At this stage I’ll leave what I have for a few hours, days, weeks or longer. I’ll come back and read through a few more times and edit further, or completely redraft if my subconscious has been working on it and has come up with something better.

I’m not one of those writers that forces herself to write every day. I can go for days or weeks without writing then find myself doing a ten hour edit session. This wouldn’t work for everyone but it does for me.

I usually write with TV or music on. Fine for when I’m just trying to get words down, any old words without censoring them. I ignore the voice in my head that says its rubbish. Doesn’t matter at this stage. This is where I find out things I didn’t know about my characters or where the story takes an unexpected turn.

Editing is done without TV or music because I’m reading out loud the whole time. Here’s where things get changed just because they sound better the new way. For the novel I’ve written a lot of scenes with just dialogue and then filled in the rest later. That’s for when I can hear the characters talking to each other. Or arguing.

Final polishing involves reading through a few more times … or more than that. It’s never finished. Not really REALLY finished.

I have no one to tag. (Call the police!) Unless YOU want to do it of course?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Early Writing

Recently I brought a file of very early writing back here from my parent’s house. Eventually all my belongings will be here in my flat in Morecambe. These pieces were written while at primary school up until my very early twenties when I worked in a restaurant and wrote a few little ‘somethings’ (don’t know what they were!) that I showed to someone I worked with.

My first memory of creative writing was a piece I wrote at primary school that, for a few moments, changed me from being an invisible nobody to one of the chosen few; reading out my piece in assembly, seeing it mounted on a wall.

It was a descriptive piece about a lion killing a wildebeest, something I witnessed frequently growing up in the West Midlands. I don’t seem to have this piece (still on that wall?) but I do have this one called ‘Fire!’ It’s about a barn being struck by lightening and then the fire being put out with buckets of water and beatings from ‘ladies in nightgowns’.

Again, I clearly got the idea from television, probably from a Western film. I remember quicksand and rattle snakes being very real dangers back then. I have to admit that television is still a big influence on me.

I plan to blog about more of these early writings in later posts, including the masterpiece, Five Have a Reunion, which is in the picture behind ‘Fire!’.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Writer's Bio

Competition Placings

Woman’s Own Short Story Competition 2000 – Runner Up with Stressed Out
Greenacre Writers Short Story Competition 2011 – Second Prize with The Bread
Flashtag Manchester 2011 – Third Prize with The Dryer Monkey
Calderdale Short Story Competition 2011 – First Prize with Those Tigers
Creative Writing the Artist’s Way, ‘Take a Leap’ Competition, 2012 – Highly Commended with Machine Number Five
Greenacre Writers Short Story Competition, 2013 – First Prize with Flapjack
Ink Tears Flash Competition, 2013 – Runner Up with August-the-Fourth-Nineteen-Seventy-Nine
SaveAs Writers Writing the City Competition 2015 - Third Prize with Breakthrough
Poised Pen Another Place Flash Competition 2015 - Highly Commended for Those Ladies

Competition Short Listings

Fish Short Story Competition, 2010 with Hob Holes

Short fiction Journal Short Story Competition, 2011 with Rooftops
Chorley and District Writer’s Circle Competition, 2011 with Reconstituted
Multi-story Short Story Competition, 2012 with Rooftops
Chorley and District Writer’s Circle Competition, 2012 with Loose Chippings
Chorley and District Writer’s Circle Competition, 2015 with Eric's Grand Day Off

Competition Long Listings

Words with Jam Short Story Competition, 2012 with Woolton Pie
Fish Short Story Competition, 2012 with Cameras
Flashbang Crime Flash Competition, 2012 with Waiting at the Window
Lightship Publishing One Page Competition 2013 with One Eye
Multi-story Flash Competition 2015 with Someday

Publications – Print

Woman’s Own, July 2000 with Stressed Out
Mslexia, June/July/Aug 2011 with a monologue I Thought I saw her Once
Greenacre Writers Anthology Volume 3 2014 with Flapjack
Eating My Words The National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2014 with A Bottle of Silence
Flash Dogs The Anthology 1 2014 with Hot and Sweet, Trainers, Rice Krispies and The Artist
FlashDogs : Solstice : Light 2015 with I'm Summer Now
FlashDogs : Solstice : Dark 2015 with Alice's Ghost
 FlashDogs : Time : Volume III 2015 with About Time, That Bag and The Last

Publications – Online

Paragraph Planet - Bingo, To Do List, Queen of the World (edited novel extract) & Last Links
National Flash Fiction Day, The Stories 2012 Shakespearean themed flash, Cat and Dog & Mayday themed flash, Her Name and & Flash Flood 2012 Maybe 2013 Cloud Writing and 2014 Five Seconds 
Aware, CDWC Anthology Aware 2011 & 2012, Reconstituted & Loose Chippings
Flash Gumbo 2014 Teach Me the Ukulele and I'll Teach you to Bake and Wilfred's Glasses