Writers Worth Listening To

by James Batchelor

Sharing ideas at Writebulb meetings is all well and good, but sometimes you just want to hear things from the professionals. Or at least those closer to professionalism than us.

For this, I subscribe to writer’s podcasts. These shows are free, easily accessible via iTunes or their respective websites, and make for great listening when you’re journeying to work, waiting for a train/bus, working out at the gym or just taking a walk (guess which of the four I’ve long since given up on).

I have tried several over the years, but there’s two that remain essential pillars of my weekly listening regime. Check them out for yourselves…

Writing Excuses

www.writingexcuses.com

Hosted by several published authors – including Brandon Sanderson, author of the most recent Wheel of Time novels and the Mistborn series – this show is fantastic for giving you an insight into both the writing process and the business of publishing your work. Given that episodes are only fifteen(ish) minutes long, it’s incredible how much the team crams into each weekly discussion as they cover everything from how to write certain genres, common grammatical mistakes and whether or not you need an editor or traditional publisher. More often than not, they have expert guests on to help them discuss the topic at hand. They even give you a writing prompt at the end of each episode if you’re stuck for ideas, and their Book of the Week promotion with Audible gives you some good recommendations for future reads.

Dead Robots’ Society

www.deadrobotssociety.com

While this show is considerably longer than Writing Excuses, clocking in at between one and two hours, it’s possibly been the most helpful to me. Hosted by three self-published authors (although the trio has changed over time), this show discusses topics in-depth each week, really getting into the nitty gritty of whatever aspect of the writing process they’re focusing on – it’s very rare to come away from an episode of DRS and feel like the conversation is unfinished. Occasionally the discussion goes on unexpected but no less useful tangents, and the friendly rivalry between the three hosts makes it all the more welcoming. Perhaps my favourite aspect of this show is the opening icebreaker: “how’s your writing been this week?” While listening to the trio grill and motivate each other, I find myself feeling smug if I’ve accomplished something since the previous episode or guilty if I haven’t.

Both shows have their full archives available at their websites, so you can go back and listen to the lot or pick and choose episodes that would be most relevant to you. Let me know if you find any more – there’s always room in my routine for more writing podcasts.

 

The Muse Has Returned

by Carol Thomas

I have been struggling with writing fiction since I found out I was pregnant last August. I was so distracted with getting to the next milestone in the pregnancy that my mind was unable to concentrate on anything else.

As New Year 2014 neared I started to panic that I would find myself years down the line, once the child was at pre-school, one of those people who tells people they ‘used to write.’

100k100days started on January 1st and I resolved to take that on again. I found it hard to create fiction so threw myself into writing non-fiction for my Life Story that I am dabbling with. I found this easier because I didn’t have to make anything up, the material was already there.

I found it frustrating though not being able to write what I really wanted to. My imaginary friends wouldn’t talk to me. January brought with it the plans for the Writebulb anthologies, not one but two! Then there was the little matter of my unfinished thriller that I had promised myself I would have finished last year.

I forced myself to work on my own novel; luckily I had made notes of what I needed to do. I wrote blog posts in longhand and read more to try to get my brain moving.

Then something amazing happened! I had a couple of opening chapters tucked away that I had started but found I didn’t like. I re-read them and realised what was wrong with one of them and why it hadn’t worked. I liked the plot idea so wiped it, only keeping character names and basic plot, then started writing. The words flowed.

Then something crazy happened. I realised what was wrong with the other story. I was so excited by it that I had to get that opening re-written.

So now only a few days after struggling to write any fiction I have three to work on. I am dividing my writing time between them all.

I also have the first anthology piece well under way, so hopefully this will be a good writing year for me.

 

Magic, Mystery and Mayhem

Writebulb Book-Signing Event

by Beverly Townsend

On Saturday 5th July the Writebulb Writers Group held their third book signing event at Chelmsford Library. Our latest tome worthy of a signing is called ‘Magic, Mystery and Mayhem’ – an anthology of eighteen stories written by members of the group. After months of writing, editing and proofreading our latest, much anticipated book, has finally been published.

The signing was well attended by the authors who were all in place at 10am, at desks arranged in a U-shape formation with notices on boards positioned behind us stating who we were and encouraging the library patrons to come across, say ‘Hello’, and with any luck buy a copy.

Carlie and Maria organised the event and Sarah-Jane made delicious cup cakes which were much appreciated by everyone.  Kerry acted as cashier for each book purchased and Carol handed out advertising leaflets in the City Centre with her new baby boy in tow.

There was much anticipation by the authors, all poised with pens in hands waiting for the hoards to arrive, buy a book and come across for our signatures. Alas it was a bit of a slow start; most of the Saturday morning regulars just looked across in our direction, then carried on with the task of choosing their favourite reads, but others approached us curious to know why we were there.

Some of the authors circulated, speaking to staff and public encouraging them to come over and take a look at our latest work together with a choice of other published works by the group.

Friends and families of the authors arrived and purchased books and chatted to us and said they were looking forward to a good read; it was also the first opportunity for the authors to purchase a copy.

Trade improved as time went on, and as far as I could see quite a few books were sold towards the end of the session which were all enthusiastically signed by the authors. Everyone was in good spirits and at 1pm when the event ended I lost count of the number of books I had signed.

 

One of our group members did a Vlog of the event:

 

If you were there, let us know what you thought in the comments below!

The book can be purchased here, and all profit goes to Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford.

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Writing – the (not so) lovely endeavour

by Anna Jones Buttimore

The lot of a writer is one of long hours hunched over a keyboard in a dimly lit room with nothing but a cat for company. Shut away from the real world we pull faces and make hand gestures as our characters do, mutter dialogue to ourselves, and live in a strange environment peopled entirely by creatures of our own imagination. Alone we face the frustrations of edit after edit, and the crushing disappointment of rejection after rejection of our precious offspring. It’s little wonder that many of us seem to be a little eccentric, if not downright mad.

As least, that’s how it used to be. These days writing is no longer the lonely and solitary profession.

  • Today Hellen is coming to my house to work on her novel. She’s coming partly because I have a spare desk and she won’t be tempted to do housework in my house (although I’ve told her she’d be welcome to), but also for the company. And once in a while she can ask me, “What’s that word that means..?” or “How would you describe the smell of..?” Hellen and I have written a book together, and writing in the company of others is a lot of fun.
  • Years ago when my first novel was printed my editor put me in touch with a fellow author I admired, Kerry Blair, and she in turn “virtually” introduced me to several other authors, most of whom I have now met in person. For many years we emailed each other frequently with messages of support and encouragement. We congratulated each other on books accepted and published and commiserated on rejections. We cooed over baby photos and offered support in times of illness and despair. Most of all, though, we shared the experience of writing, its rewards and its difficulties, and we were there for each other. We email less frequently than we once did, but we do now share a blog.
  • Hardly a day goes by without me receiving an invitation via Facebook to a book launch party; probably because around half my Facebook friends are writers. I also belong to many writers groups on Facebook where I find discussions on editing, naming characters and every and any aspect of this strange craft of ours.
  • I belong to two writers’ groups (Writebulb and Rayleigh WINOS) and thus two Saturdays a month are spent writing flash fiction, undertaking challenges and setting goals with other writers. It’s a really wonderful opportunity. One Writebulb member pointed out “We learn far more in two hours than we could at any creative writing class”.
  • Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month – November) sees groups of writers meeting together in libraries for “sprints” on their laptops, badges popping up all over Facebook, and a real sense of solidarity as thousands of writers struggle to write 50,000 words in just one month. I’ve only done it once, and I failed due to poor planning (got 20,000 words in and realised I had no idea where the book was going and needed to do some major research) but I’m going to try again in this year.

Writing may once have meant working in glorious solitude, but it doesn’t have to any more. We authors can support and encourage one another, get together and share our experiences and goals, either online or in person. Even if, at the end of the day, we like to retreat to our dimly-lit attic room with our laptops to immerse ourselves once more in the worlds we create.

 

THE GIFT OF RAIN by TAN TWAN ENG

by Margo Fuke

 

Sixteen year old Philip has an English father and a (deceased) Chinese mother and feels isolated from both cultures. (our ethnic minorities?). He meets Hayato Endo, a Japanese Martial Arts Master. Philip carries the immense trust essential to their master/student relationship over into the rest of his life, finding stability in intensive daily training and sharing his love and knowledge of the island with Endo San.

 

But this is Penang, 1939, trembling and waiting as the Japanese invade China with appalling brutality (I’ll leave you to read about the Rape of Nanking). The Allies can spare only two ancient ships for defence of Malaya and Singapore and, worse still, all the guns on Singapore are pointing the wrong way! The invaders make monkeys of the British by invading via Malaya, not with tanks, but on the humble bicyles that enable them to surge down paths invisible to non-locals. Philip recognises the info he has given Endo San. He is torn. Many welcomed the Japanese initially, seeing only freedom from Imperial rule. Then his newly-enlisted naval half-brother drowns.

 

I couldn’t help comparing this with the dilemma experienced by many in other parts of the world today. Should he flee; fight, like his half-siblings; copy his trader father’s ‘business as usual for now’ attitude; or collaborate in the hope of saving lives. He chooses the last but the insane viciousness of the invaders gradually makes this impossible and he must throw caution to the winds and hope the Allies return.

 

Philip tells his story after a lifetime running his father’s trading empire and we see the hatred of those who called him collaborator and the gratitude of those he saved.

 

I was reluctant to read this book. I spent several months, years ago, in Singapore and Indonesia and they hadn’t forgotten Japanese brutality and still feared a new invasion as inevitable. But it was a Book Group choice. As a Tai Chi beginner I was fascinated initially by his martial arts training and, by the time the story moved on, I was completely hooked by this lonely boy. This is a gripping story of colonial family life, friendship, betrayal, and simply coping with the horrors of seeing his world devastated around him. It is brilliantly coloured, action-packed, evocative and moving.

 

Reading Memories

by Natacha Dudley

‘There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.’ Walt Disney.

I have always enjoyed books and I was fortunate to grow up with parents who loved reading and passed on that joy to me. Every week they would take me to the local library to choose new books. I can still remember the excitement of walking through the great entrance doors and then sprinting to the children’s section.

I briefly returned to that world when I heard about a recent survey of the most popular children’s books. The YouGov poll was carried out in association with the children’s charity Barnardo’s as part of a campaign to promote reading for vulnerable children in the UK. In the poll of more than 2,000 adults I was delighted to see Winnie the Pooh in first place, but the Top Ten also included other personal favourites such as Black Beauty, Treasure Island, and the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

As adults, reading gives us time to pause in our stressful lives and enjoy a moment of privacy and relaxation. When we read a story, we experience all of our favourite character’s emotions, and we escape into their world. Reading with young children not only stimulates their imagination but also gives them access to a wide vocabulary.  Literacy isn’t just a life skill it’s a passport to happiness. I wish the Barnardo’s Story Time initiative every success for the future.

 

 

Book review: “Sword Quest” By Nancy Yi Fan

by Chris Kennett

Sword Quest

“This is a special sword. A sword that can change the world”.

“Wind-voice the half-dove has been freed from slavery at last. Can he and his brave companions save their forest from one-winged tyrant, Maldeor, who hungers for supreme power?

The gripping prequel to “Swordbird”, from fourteen-year-old Nancy Yi Fan”.

 

I picked this one up because of the idea of animals (in this case, birds) using objects like swords, staffs and harps, much like the “Redwall” series, which I enjoy. Plus the fact that the blurb mentions the writer being only fourteen at the time this was written (2008), made me decide to given Nancy the benefit of doubt and see what she’s made off.

The writing structure of the story is in third-person distant, so the reader has a wider view of what is going on in several places and the whole plot comes together. Also the way that Nancy describes the relationships between the different species of birds scores points, as it give the readers a picture of how the various races view and the way they treat each other.

However, the descriptions in the writing is a bit simple and the pacing of events is somewhat rushed. Also the concept of the whole “good vs evil” is not very original in this book. A hero is prophesied to save the world from evil on a certain date seems very cliché these days. This may be due to Nancy’s young age and possibly her lack of experience of the world. But despite this it was a decent attempt at writing a story and giving a few years, she may write something with a lot more depth.

To sum it up, while this isn’t the best story I’ve read, it’s not the worst considering Nancy’s age at the time of writing this.

An average read.