2015: A Writer’s Year

In a 12 month period during which I have seen no new publications of my own work, you’d be forgiven for questioning my post title. But with a new novel set for imminent release – Redemption Song on 28th January – and a new edition of my debut, Bloodmining, set for the summer, it’s been a writing year rammed with re-writing. And as we know, writing is rewriting.

Work on Redemption Song followed a traditional publishing journey with a draft submitted to my editor Greg in February, followed by substantive comments after a London Book Fair meeting in April, the copy edit in the late summer, more copy-editing in September (naughty me) and proofs in October. And a sparkly new book very soon *an excitement/fear stomach flip combo*. 2016 promises to be a year of fabulous fiction – for starters Jo Cannon’s debut The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is published on the same day as mine – and who knows if my book will be remembered in amongst so much good work? I can only keep my fingers crossed and keep on keeping on.Redemption Song Final

Alongside the work on Redemption Song I redrafted my very first novel. Me-oh-my what an interesting (ahem) experience that was. Proof positive of how much I’ve learned in the past four years. I feel extremely privileged to have had this opportunity: to put right all that was lumpy and bumpy in the first edition. It still isn’t perfect – what is? – but I am much, much happier with it. I’ll keep you posted once I have an exact publication date.

Despite the absence of a new book, 2015 was full of appearances too. So many that I had to consult my diary to recall many of them! It began in January with a talk at the University of Hertfordshire literary festival, and another at the University of Kingston. In March there was a reading with other Brighton authors at the Oxfam bookshop to celebrate International Women’s Day, and more local readings at Together the People Festival, and in the Tinker Box at the Brighton Festival in May. To top it all I was invited to two events at the Shoreham WordFest; one running a short story workshop at Ropetackle and an in-conversation with organiser Morag Charlwood and fellow author, Ed Hogan. We spoke to a packed crowd on a wet and wild Monday evening and it was such a pleasure I get a lovely warm feeling thinking about it again now – in direct contrast to the hideous weather that night.

August was spent at the glorious Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, North Wales, working on another novel with a working title of The Bad Buddhist and Me. I have blogged extensively about my time there so won’t repeat it. Suffice to say, it was a truly incredible experience. I love that place! I want to go back!

11705357_10153295090155817_6347792843615633973_nAnd then there were the talks to writers groups at libraries, and my mentoring and coaching work with emerging writers; work I enjoy enormously. It’s such a delight to journey with other writers, see their work develop. And I was lucky enough to edit some fantastic books, including Sarah Rayner’s Making Friends with the Menopause – a self-help book in the same family as her amazing bestselling Making Friends with Anxiety. I’ve read some incredible books too; you can read about my favourites here.

2015 has been a good year, for me, and right now it’s hard to believe 2016 could be better. But the great thing about the future is that we don’t know what it will bring, what plot twists, thrills and spills will be thrown our way. We can only endeavour to make the most of the ride, learn from the challenges and bad times, and appreciate the good. And remember those for whom life has not been so kind, and when possible, do something about it; extend the arm of friendship and support; money when necessary and if you can afford it. I’d love to know if 2015 has been kind or mean to you, and hear about your plans and dreams for 2016.

In the meantime: Happy New Year dear readers – journey on, loving and learning.
Laura x

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Mini blog tour

To celebrate the launch of the Kindle edition of BloodMining, my editor at  Bridge House (thank you for moving so quickly on Kindle by the way), Gill James, suggested that I organise a blog tour. Now, I confess to knowing very little about blog tours, but I understand that you visit lots of other blogs and talk about whatever it is you do, are interested in and so on.

To this end between now and Christmas *shudders at the use of the C word in November* you won’t find me here very often, but you will find me in a variety of exotic places throughout the web. I set off on Friday, landing at Susan Howe’s blog with a small suitcase. I forgot my toothbrush so I’m back home for a couple days before heading off to Ireland and Katy O’Dowd’s gaff next week.

Pop by occasionally and I’ll let you know where I am – a virtual postcard. And drop by the blogs and comment; they’re beautiful places.

As an aside there’s another lovely review for BloodMining at the Book Club Forum. Thank you, Michelle.

Scary stuff like reading your work in public

Last week I read from my debut novel, BloodMining, at two separate events – Ace Stories at the hotel Pelirocco in Brighton and the official launch of BloodMining at Iambic Arts in the heart of the North Laines. They were only the third and fourth times I’d read my own work aloud, in public, and I was terrified. Perhaps marginally less terrified at the launch. Both audiences were supportive, verging on the downright loving. I was in good, safe hands. So why the fear? And what advice would I pass on to other new authors facing similar situations?

1. Choose your material carefully – make sure it reflects your novel, is tempting and not too long. Leave them wanting more!

2. Practise. Practise. Practise. I am convinced that the major reason I was a little less anxious at the launch was because I had more preparation time and I’d read through my chosen scene several times. Also, I’d practised in front of a person, and not just the bedroom mirror.

3. Read from cards or the Ms, and not the actual book. Books, especially big ‘uns like mine (oh, how very Carry On…) are difficult to hold and if, like me, you need glasses for reading you’ll have all sorts of things to carry, fiddle with, lose etc. You can print your material in large print and dispense with the specs. And your material will be lighter, so your arm won’t start aching.

4. Inject some humour before you start; it’ll put the audience at their ease, as well as you. Of course, this is considerably easier said than done. I’m no comedian and would have bulked at this suggestion, but I know from personal experience it works – at my launch I took a sip from the glass of orange juice beside me before I started and swallowed an ice cube. After I’d stopped choking I explained why. Everyone laughed, including me, and my heart rate slowed.

5. Have a drink beside you if possible. Coughing fits can happen at the strangest, and most inconvenient, times. Don’t ask for ice in your water (see above) – this gag will only work once.

6. Whilst audiences will not expect a ‘performance’ – you’re a writer not an actor – you must speak loudly and clearly. Remember the old lady at the back of the theatre/library/book shop who’s forgotten her hearing aid.

7. If you absolutely cannot bear the idea of reading yourself, get an actor to do it. Most will not expect payment; they’ll be only too delighted for the opportunity to exercise their craft.

As an aside, I’d like to say how fantastic the BloodMining launch was. It went so much better than I expected. I was bullied into having a launch – I came from the ‘what’s the point, everyone who comes will buy the book anyway’ viewpoint – but I would recommend a launch to every debut writer. It’s a great way of marking publication, it’s a rite of passage, and you may sell even more books than you expected to. I did! So big, fat thanks to everyone who came (it was packed in there), and especially to my sister, Helen, and Mark at NWS who sold books all night, and the fabulously talented Mark Sheerin who did the introductions and has been an amazing writer friend to me over the past three years. What a night!

 

Reviews… do you, or don’t you?

Read them, that is. I suspect the majority of authors do read them, but try not to take them too seriously, or to heart. After all, you can’t pick ‘n’ mix – bask in the praise of the good ‘uns and ignore, or dismiss, the less-than-perfect. Most of us know where the flaws in our own work lie, especially when we look back on earlier work, and whether or not our readers pick up on these shouldn’t affect our judgment.

So, do I read reviews of my work? Yes, most definitely yes. I cannot resist. I’m way too nosy, and I really do want to know what readers take away from my work. Naturally, I want them to enjoy it, but I’m old enough to know that it won’t appeal to everyone.

When an email dropped into my inbox on Monday announcing the publication of the first review of my debut novel, BloodMining, I was sick with apprehension. But, hurrah, hurrah! Deepest joy! It was positive.

Here’s a taster: ‘As a novel about women, ageing, and the mother-child relationship, BloodMining is compelling, and Wilkinson ably navigates the tender, sometimes fraught exchanges between her protagonists. Though its scope is ambitious, and could easily have veered off-course, BloodMining’s deft interweaving of complex themes makes for a haunting début.’ Thank you For Book’s Sake. You can read more here.

No doubt there’ll be a stinker before too long. I’m bracing myself, because read it I will. No matter how much it hurts.

One to watch

First off, grovelling apologies (mostly to myself, I am not so deluded as to think that anyone else actually gives a monkey’s) for not posting for so long. As usual – and it’s a pathetic excuse – I’ve been busy with writing, teaching, editing, and now, pre-publication promoting. Anyway, this post is not about me. Sharp intake of breath. I’m kidding, right? No.

Over a two year period I ran a couple of creative writing projects at the school I work at part-time – St Nicolas CofE VA Junior School. During these projects I facilitated and nurtured a number of extremely talented children and produced two books containing the best of the writing produced. Here they are. Lovely, huh? One of these young people demonstrated a gift so rare that I knew a literary star of the future was in our midst. Well, it seems that I’m not the only one to think so and I am so pleased.

On Wednesday I received an email from this young woman. She is in the final of the Brit Writers’ Award 2011 Under 16 category for her short story, Nobody’s Child. What fantastic news! It made my day. Well done, Imy, aka Imogen Cook. Remember the name, folks. I’ll be keeping everything crossed for Imogen on 7 October.