A Year in the Life of my Arts Council Grant

January
Still in shock from being accepted I had to wind down work commitments. I gave notice to the Harbour School, and other tutoring commitments. Nervous and excited I have my first meeting with my mentor Philippa Francis. Feedback from tutors and agents pointed out that plotting was my nemesis so with that in mind I made a reading list:
Structuring your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story K.M.Weiland
Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success K.M.Weiland
Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story K.M.Weiland
Plot and Structure James Scott Bell
Outline Your Novel Scott King
Having already contacted school to see if there would be any interest in creative writing courses for children for the application it was a matter of sending emails out to let them know that I had been successful and arranging dates for the workshops.

February
I had already made commitments with Portsmouth Council to participate in the annual Bookfest  so I was pleased to run a few events during February and March. Being interviewed for Solent TV was nerve wrecking and fun, and meant that a few creatives got in touch to ask me how to put in their own submissions to the Arts Council.
One of my favourite spoken word events of the year is Valentine’s Day Massacre, and I was performing along side some of my favourite artists at the Square Tower.

With the help of my mentor – the plotting had started!

March
One of the highlights of the grant was being able to go on a writers’ retreat and research mission to Cornwall. For seven days, my husband made me breakfast and I sat in my pjs and wrote from 7 am until 10 am. We then went out and explored the locations I needed for my novel, I took photos, made notes. Then back to the Airbnb for our evening meal, also made by hubby and got more words down. The lack of a proper TV, no internet and WiFi and a break from work and household duties meant my word count broke all records.

April
A month of self-discipline I love spoken word events and a new team had got together to arrange more spoken word events, none other than Christine Lawrence, Amanda Garrie, Jackie Green and Richard Peirce formed T’Articulation. Lots more events, but I knew I had to be focused on the novels and be careful not to sign up to everything. However, one performance at the Canvas Café couldn’t hurt! And I have to say it was a fun event, there is something exciting about performing in a station.
More plotting and refining drafts.

May
To a back drop of my darling daughters working so hard on their GCSE’s and A Levels we were buying a house, we got news the seller pulled out a few days before we were expected to fill up the removal van which was a massive financial hit. Luckily, my husband and I have had many worse disasters in our marriage and were able to take it was obviously not meant to be attitude. Still this was the month I started running creative writing courses for Young Carers in school. Problems at home paled in comparison. I think I was more concerned with my girls being disappointed. I was now in a good writing routine and plodding on with meetings with my mentor, writing and starting to edit.
May is also one of my busy storytelling months, and my girls who usually come along to help with the craft activities were doing their up most to keep up with a lot of academic work. Tiredness was creeping in.

June
Editing month.
A few years ago, I had been lucky enough to attend a macro editing course by Sarah Grant: time to get out the notes. I developed a revision process that helped me dissect and rebuild my manuscript and I studied the overall plot and subplots and reviewed the novel character by character. I want to stress that at this point I am still not obsessing about spelling and punctuation. I had a few spoken word events for June as well as my creative writing lessons for young carers. I was excited to be performing in Holmes Fest, the creative baby of Matt Wingett, because I felt comfortable doing as I had previously taken part in the event in previous years. However, being asked to be a guest speaker at the Winchester writing conference filled me with fear. I had strange, nerve-wracking dreams about standing up and being naked from the waist down; imposter syndrome at the idea of standing up alongside speaker with outstanding pedigrees made me quake in my boots. Memories of being told that no one likes a clever woman and, strangely, a yearning to go back to my working class roots, to eat chips, pie and gravy and drink hot vimto made me consider cancelling the event. However, things that you dread are rarely as bad as you expect and I was proud to speak at such a prestigious venue.

July
It was now coming to the end of my writing workshops with young carers and it was extremely hard to say good bye. My daughters finished their exams, tired and exhausted as washed up sailors, it was time for our family holiday to Florida. Of course, during our magical time at Harry Potter World, Universal, we got news that if we wanted the second house we had to complete immediately. Many hurried phone calls from theme parks later, we had completed on a house but where unable to pick up the keys for another 9 days. Since we had to arrive home from Florida, arrange removal vans, gut and decorate the new property so it was fit for us to move into, I decided not to unpack or wash the dirty holiday clothes and left them in the suitcases till we moved. Husband working away, and with the help of a retired decorator called George, me and my two daughters did the impossible. We cleared house and garden, packed and was ready to move for the day after the Super Moon. I new that I was unable to work on my novel but I did not want to break the writing every day habit. I had been on a day plotting workshop with author Jo Franklin and replotted a young reader that I had previously already written a version of prior. That month I am very pleased that I still managed to write 250 words a day. However, I am not proud of the amount of calories I consumed; the first two weeks were in Florida with an American diet and Voodoo Doughnuts, the second two weeks consisted of mainly sandwiches and take out.

August
In our new house and for the first time, I had my own writing space. Things could only get better. Alas, we have a small West Highland Terrier whose views towards squirrels would make Trump look like a humanitarian. He barked himself into such frenzies, that all the fur started falling from his front legs and chest. And when he ran up trees in pursuit of them only to slide down, he injured his back leg. When Watson is unhappy, no one in the household is happy. All public engagements grounded to a halt. The young carers group finished and the first drafts of my novel and young reader were also finished. I found myself distracted by unpacking boxes. I think the general tension of awaiting GCSE and A Level results did not ease the tension in the house. August didn’t quite bite me in the ass but it still bit. Unfortunately, I contracted Lymes disease but was lucky enough to have it confirmed and given 6 weeks antibiotics.

September
Youngest daughter was full steam ahead with her life plans and enrolled in the college of her choice, however, for my oldest daughter, late August and September was a time of transition and finding herself. She eventually settled on doing a degree in Pharmacy but living at home. With the young ones focused and engaged in their studies, more plotting for me and my second novel. I had hoped to go through and repeat the plotting strategy and repeat the plotting strategy beside my mentor but, unfortunately, she was coping with a family bereavement, which left me to plot alone. I went back over my rejection letter from an agent, the comments I got from my tutors at university, the notes I’d taken from my reading list, and plodded on. I had quite a lot of self-doubt at this moment but one of the benefits of being awarded an Arts Council grant is that, effectively, you’ve been paid to do this task. Without the grant, I think I would have started a different project at this point. But now I felt I had to sit down and get on with it. It was the agents party in London in September, and my husband and I took the opportunity to have a weekend away. It was good to reconnect and my confidence was increased by the fact that some agents remembered who I was and were encouraging about me sending them work.

October
Children storytelling commitments were coming in thick and fast as well as writing courses in the library. However, despite the fever and joint pain disappearing, I was struggling from what the doctors called brain fog. I was forced to make the decision to postpone all storytelling gigs til, the new year with the exception of the Gosport Tree Decorating Event, banking that I would be better by December. With the exception of one year, I had always performed at the Day of the Dead, a really fun spoken word event invented by Will Sutton. I struggled with the performance, although the feedback from friends was positive, I was forced to admit to myself that my short term memory wasn’t good enough to perform onstage: it was a bit of a blow. It also made me second guess the work I had done on my plotting sheets but, I couldn’t see any other option than carry on.

November
With my plotting grids and Nano, it was time to get on and write my first draft. One of the things I love about Nano, is it is all about the words and the pressure of editing is relieved. I hoped for a repeat of the kind of word counts I had achieved in March. I still had some creative writing courses to run but this was the month that I realised I hadn’t managed to kick the Lymes. I had productive days and not-so-productive days. However, one of the biggest changes I have made to my life over the last two years is being much kinder to myself. I wrote over 60,000 words in November. Unfortunately, when I copied them over to the NanoWriMo site, I copied and pasted it in twice, buggering up my beautiful graph which irritated me no end. Also my first draft was still not completed.

December
I eased into December taking great pleasure in the fact that this would be the first Christmas in a new house. And realised, my planned ending for the novel was not quite right anymore. Despite always advising my students to finish the first draft before going back, I printed it out and realised I would need to change the last 10,000 words. I needed long walks and plotting time by the sea. My creative writing classes finished on the 18th December. My last story telling event was on the 2nd December. I moseyed the end of the year by reflecting and writing in my journal. It has been a hell of a journey, a privilege to be granted this award which will end in March 2019. I have 1 completed YA novel that is in the process of being edited, a young reader ready for submission, and a second YA novel close to completion. I met some fabulous young carers, overcame my fears of public speaking in an academic setting and got the opportunity to visit the place I was writing about. Best of all, it is not over yet.

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Dark Cities: A dark twist on spoken word 2017

A year today I was included in the Dark Cities, an anthology inspired by a challenge set by Dr Karl Bell. The writers were asked to create fiction based on our urban surroundings and to celebrate the launch we had a book reading at The Hunter Gatherer café in Southsea. Twelve months later I was asked to arrange a Dark City spoken word event, which would be part of Portsmouth Darkfest.

But what to do, another book reading? Well, we did that last year. A spoken word event based on horror – what so close to the excellent Day of the Dead at the Square Towers? What to do, what to do? At last I decided to throw a few challenges into the evening.

  1. The piece was only supposed to last seven minutes, and if the artist went over their time limit there would be a forfeit.
  2. The pieces would be judged! The audience would pick their favourites.

I was a little worried how they would deal with the extra pressure, but I shouldn’t have been, everyone rose to the challenge. From detail descriptions of electric shock therapy, memories of mental hospital corridors, monsters under the bed to how death likes to spend her time while waiting for victims to pop their clogs, the evening was bursting with creativity.

Alas, as with every competition there can only be a few winners, and the dark crystal goblet was taken home by Jules Garvey-Welsh, other prizes were scooped up by Jackson Davies, Margaret Jennings and Susan Shipp.

Jackson Davies

Jules Garvey-Welsh

Susan Shipp

Margaret Jennings

William Sutton performed spine tingling music and host Matt Wingett gave out the prizes. But I would also like to thank a few hard working helpers who weren’t in the limelight. My daughter Jessica who took lots of lovely photographs and is hoping to make a behind the scenes video, watch this space. My oldest daughter Abigail who helped to count the votes and sat in a draft all evening doing the boring bits. Jo West who arrived with books, chairs and a loving smile. Johnny Sackett who arrived with screens. Mona King Creative for the awesome programmes and Brian Morton at The Hunter Gatherer, he is definitely the host with the most and even provided for our favourite vegan!

Christine Lawrence

Helen Salisbury

Roz Ryska-Onions

Alison Habens

Justin MacCormack

It was brilliant evening and I was just wowed by all the performers; Roz Ryska-Onions, Justin MacCormack, Alison Habens, Helen Salisbury and Christine Lawrence.

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Dark Cities: A Dark Twist on a Spoken Word and Music

It’s not long until the Dark Cities Event! Woohoo.

So this time last year, Dr Karl Bell headed The Supernatural Cities project and group of talented local writers, many of whom are members of the Portsmouth Writers Hub, produced an anthology of supernatural, weird, crime and horror tales set in Portsmouth. This book was launched during Portsmouth DarkFest 2016 and called Dark Cities. To celebrate its first year book day, we will be celebrating with a Spoken Word event with a twist.

We have invited some local writers and poets to compete for a Dark Goblet, each artist will be given seven minutes to entertain the audience with horror, humour or perhaps something weird, but it should have a urban feel. The audience will be able to vote for their favourite act of the night. However, go over the time limit and there will be penalties.

Music, mulled wine and munches prepared lovingly by the Hunter Gatherer staff, competitions for the audience, it should be an exciting evening.

Dark Cities: A Dark Twist on a Spoken Word and Music

15th Nov Hunter Gatherer Coffee, 249 Albert Rd, Southsea PO4 0JR 7-9pm Free Entry all welcome.

Lets look at our line up!

William Sutton, writer, musician, playwright, raconteur, bon-vivant and, most importantly, author of the Campbell Lawless series of Victorian mystery novels.

Jules Garvey Welsh was the winner of the Countrywide Writeidea writing competition 2016 , and on the 1st and 2nd of February 2018 she will be putting on a production of her play based on her book, The Field Street Monologues at The Titchfield Festival Theatre. 

Jackson Davies is a spoken word artist from Southsea his work aims to showcase creative rhyming and wordplay with a political spin, alongside more tongue-in-cheek verses.

Clare Campbell-Collins writer, performer and play write recently wrote The Cold Room, the play was staged at the College Theatre, St. Vincent College.

Alison Habens is the author of Dreamhouse, a 1990s cult novel based on Alice in Wonderland her new novels are a quirky retelling of the St Veronica myth, The True Picture; and a postmodern rom-com, Pencilwood.

Roz Ryszka-Onions has been writing on and off for over twenty years and today will be reading a new story ‘Beside myself’ – not strictly speaking horror, as it’s a story about depression and electric shock treatment, but most definitely horrific.

Helen Salisbury novel The Worry Bottles was shortlisted for the 2017 Impress Prize for New Writers; her writing explore the complexity of relationships, and how the environments we live in shape us.

Margaret Jennings writing offers some home truths and looks at the world from different angles, a regular short story winner who was recently ‘highly commended’ in The Hampshire Writers Society short story competition.

Sue Shipp, Portsmouth writer and performer is a regular at the cities most exciting spoken word events including the recent Holmes Fest and one of my personal favourite performers Justin MacCormack an horror writing genius will also be on stage!

And of course myself and Matt Wingett will be hosting the party!

 

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Counting Tomatoes

September – gosh, what a year. It is only now that I’m feeling better that I realise just how ill I have been. I haven’t blogged or vlogged for a very long time!
Scary.
Somehow, and despite all advice I received at the start of the year, I carried on juggling paid work and did my best to fulfill commitments. Result? I got fatigued. But now months down the line, I’ve ended up with a diagnosis, and I’ve sort of come to terms with the fact I need to make significant changes in my lifestyle.
So, now it is the not so simple task and putting said changes into action.

1. Remembering and consistently taking my medication.
2. Adopting a ‘spoon’ lifestyle – more about that another day.
3. Initially, checking in with my better half when accepting work to stop becoming over committed.
4. And not beat myself up about my editing/writing goals – but carry on using what I call, my tomato technique.

It’s actually called the Pomodoro Technique, and it’s a time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo and was super big in the 90’s, when I sort of stopped using this method when an evil ex broke my egg timer. So I was trying to recover, and feeling guilty and frustrated about the lack of work I was doing when fellow SCBWI member and picture book author Chitra Sounar challenged people to doing tomatoes on Facebook. It was just the gentle nudge I needed.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The pomodoro technique is a proven and popular time management life hack.
The main premise behind the technique is to work in blocks of time, typically 25 minutes long (called pomodoro sessions), followed by a 5 minute break. Each pomodoro session should demand your full attention on one task, every break requires you to step away from your work to rest.
The result is greatly improved productivity during focused work sessions that can be maintained through effectively managing distractions and taking regular breaks.

Cheap as chips, you don’t even have to buy a timer, you can use your phone or the many free apps on line.
Like everything there are good and bad points. Do really successful people need a timer ticking away? It’s all or nothing, you have to do your twenty five minutes to get your tick in the box.

But – this tried and tested method had meant that over the summer I have done something. No I am not at the point I wanted to be at. And some days I only managed one tomato. But I have been able to chip away at a mammoth task.
So, the glorious six weeks of the summer with my girls has helped me put things into perspective. We have had some amazing days out, squeezed into my oldest daughter work heavy schedule. I have had a massive Spring? Summer? Nearly Autumn clean. Sorted out the car and the garden. And best of all got back to looking forward.

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Generosity

A few weeks ago I received some very sad news, one of the members of The Writers at Lovedean, John Palmer, sadly passed away. He was taken by that truly horrible disease, cancer, and we will feel his loss.

However, despite the fact The Writers at Lovedean are a small group I was once again surprised by the generosity of our members. Earlier this year we had run a charity short story competition to raise money for Portsmouth MS, and everyone just threw themselves into all the various jobs. Everyone helped with marketing, judging, sending out the prizes. So, I was taken aback that members wanted to do another charity event so soon.

The lovely, Jules Garvey-Welch, playwright, and author of ‘The Field Street Monologues’ kindly jumped into action and organised a coffee morning at her home, with the proceeds going to cancer research.

Jules proved to be the hostess with the mostess and provided a lovely selection of cakes and biscuits. It was nice to spend a relaxed couple of hours chatting with friends, and Jules’s kindness was greatly appreciated.

Jules Garvey-Welsh

https://thecomedycrowd.com/members/jules-garvey-welch/

https://www.amazon.com/Field-Street-Monologues-Jules-Garvey-Welch-ebook/dp/B0721NFDZ5

 

 

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Star and Crescent Press and Social Media Masterclass

Well, I had a nice day and it’s been a while. I was extremely nervous about leaving my daughter on her birthday, but we did have a small party yesterday squeezed into her hectic A Level revision timetable. And we have booked a restaurant for after the exam. So… I headed off to Pompey with my friend who offered to drive and we were both shocked to see that the parking in the city has jumped up from a fiver to £12 for the day. Reeling from the shock, we head to the Eldon business for the Star and Crescent Press and Social Media Masterclass for Writers.
The first session was from Tom Sykes; he is a university staff member, co-founder of the Star and Crescent and a journalist. I certainly picked up some great tips on pitching non-fiction ideas. The information on getting an angle was incredibly useful. I did a brainstorm during the session, and I have already made a list of places I want to pitch. If I were asked what I took away from Tom, I would say it was the emphasis of not rushing and polishing a pitch.
After lunch, it was Sarah Cheverton, a lovely lady with so much energy despite health problems that she just leaves me in awe!  We had a fun look at successful writers Facebook and Twitter pages.  I NEED to change mine, urgently.  Sarah stressed the importance of enjoying what you do, and I realised that is something I need to make it a priority.  The afternoon session left me with a pretty extensive to-do list, but I’m eager to get on and do it!

Today, gave me a real injection of passion, which is much needed, maybe it was just the fact that the room was filled with so many positive and upbeat characters.

I’ve popped the links to the Star and Crescent and also Portsmouth Writing Hub below, both sites are a hive of information and support to writers.

www.starandcrescent.org.uk

https://www.facebook.com/groups/portsmouthwritershub/

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Memories of the Edward King Project

2017 has been a rough year in some ways, but in others, eventful. Perhaps, the universe has sent me a bit of support because this year it has been my privilege to be one of the writers on The Edward King Project.

The painter Edward King is connected to Portsmouth through his time as a patient at St James Hospital in Milton and is notable for painting scenes of the blitzed city.  King moved to South Harting near Petersfield with his brother in 1884 where he eventually married.  However, when in 1924 Edward’s wife Amelia died of consumption he suffered a breakdown as a result. King was committed to St James Hospital in 1925, where he lived until he died of a stroke in 1951.During his time at the hospital, King continued to paint and draw, encouraged by the staff to try and help alleviate his depression.  He became a familiar figure in the area as he sat painting scenes of houseboats or the hospital farm.  After the Blitz, Denis Daley Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, commissioned Edward King to paint the bomb damage to the city.  King went out each day, with an attendant and painted a series of over 30 scenes that graphically show the war torn state of the city.

Local writer Annie Kirby, put together a team of fourteen writers who were challenged to write and performed stories based on his artwork in the hope of promoting the artist and mental health problems.

More information and the stories can be found here:

https://www.writingedwardking.com/

I have worked with many of the writers before, but still I was in awe of the level of work they produced. And I thought I would share some images of the event.

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Edward King Project

So proud of the members of ‘The Writers at Lovedean’ who are doing their bit to raise awareness about #mentalhealth #EdwardKing

Edward King Stories at The New Theatre Royal.

Saturday 27th May

Times: 11am, 1pm, 4pm, 6pm

Location: Minghella Studio, New Theatre Royal, 20-24 Guidhall Walk, Portsmouth PO1 2DD

https://www.writingedwardking.com/project/new-theatre-royal-edward-king-stories/

Writing Workshop

Charlotte Comley with be running Children’s Story Writing Workshops at Portsmouth City Museum on the 31st May.

7- 12 year olds 10:30am – 12:30am

Children’s Story Writing Workshop (Free) ages 7-11, Charlotte Comley ***FULLY BOOKED***

12-16 year olds 1:30pm  – 3pm

Children’s Story Writing Workshop (age 12-16) (Free)

Pop Up Readings

Jackie Green

Sunday 28th May

9:30am Milton Piece Allotments, Locksway Road – next to produce shop

Margaret Jennings

Tuesday 30th May

10:15 Denmead All Saints Coffee Morning Garden, Hambledon Road, Denmead PO7 6NN

Jackie Green & Charlotte Comley

Thursday 1st June

10:15 Denmead All Saints Coffee Morning Garden, Hambledon Road, Denmead PO7 6NN

Charlotte Comley & Christine Lawrence – please note this is for students only

Date to be confirmed, week starting 5th June

Havant Six Form College

New Road, PO9 1QL

Radio

Charlotte Comley will be interviewed on Express FM on Wednesday 31st of May 5:30.

Drop – In Gallery Readings Portsmouth Museum

Project writers will be dropping in throughout the day to read their Edward King stories. This event is free.

Saturday 3rd June 2017

10am – 5pm

Portsmouth Museum, Museum Road, PO1 2LJ

PLEASE CHECK OUT OTHER EDWARD KING EVENTS

https://www.writingedwardking.com/about-us/

 

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Joanne Mallory Thunder Moon

In 2012 I was one of the Writers to Watch, a group who performed their work in Portsmouth and had their stories published in an anthology. It was a great experience, and I made some fabulous friends, including Joanne Mallory.

So I’m excited that Jo’s debut novel, Thunder Moon is going to be released on Amazon on Tuesday 17th January. I’ve already pre-ordered mine! I’ve heard a few chapters at The Writers at Lovedean, so it will be exciting to get a chance to read the full novel after all the editing advice Jo got from independent publisher Crooked Cat, and to see the work in its entirety.

Jo’s an incredibly talented writer when it comes to capturing a setting, and I know from the extracts I have rejoanne-mallory-thunder-moonad that she’s made the most of this skill and has used the local area as inspiration, especially Langstone.

I wish Jo luck, and I’m counting down the days until I can get my hands on this new magical romance!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thunder-Moon-Joanne-Mallory/dp/1540557499

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