London Creative Writing Courses & Classes


Friday 24th June: Point-of-view: The Writer’s Invaluable Friend. Tickets Only £45

Point-of-view may be one of the less frequently discussed elements of the novelist and short story writer’s process, but there’s no doubt that it’s also one of the most significant. It might even be the most significant, given that it tends to be the component of the prose that binds all the other elements (e.g. plot, voice, character development) together into a psychologically consistent whole. Relevant to writers in all genres and to beginners and more experienced writers alike, Jeremy Sheldon will spend this session discussing point-of-view in depth and use practical examples to show how control of its many possibilities can lead to more focused, more coherent and more affective narrative voices on the page.

Jeremy Sheldon is an author and screenwriter with 14 years’ experience in film, publishing, higher education and communications. His collaborators and clients range from top award winning producers to highly acclaimed independent filmmakers, from governments and global corporations to the world’s leading schools and universities. The Comfort Zone and The Smiling Affair are published by Jonathan Cape. His feature film work includes Montana, Allies and Thin Rain, an action-thriller to be directed by John McTiernan in 2016.

News Flash: Author C.M.Taylor will now be joining Jeremy to discuss all things Point-of-View.

Craig (writing as C M Taylor) is the author of five novels. Premiership Psycho (Corsair 2011) and the Amazon best-selling Group of Death (Corsair 2012) form two thirds of a savagely satirical trilogy about contemporary celebrity culture described as ‘Brilliant’ by The Sun, and ‘Horribly entertaining’ by The Mirror. He’s also the author of Light, Cloven and Grief, the latter a dystopian fantasy described by British Science Fiction Association as a work of ‘breathtaking originality’ and nominated for their 2005 Book of the Year.

Craig has also co-written a horror movie script, Writers Retreat, which was filmed in 2014 and premiered at the Sitges International Film Festival. He is an associate lecturer at the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies, and has taught widely, often on the underlying structures of narrative.

Location: Waterstones, 203 – 206 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HD. Time: 6.30-9.00
Price:  £45 (including drink on arrival).     


Friday 29th July: Self-Editing Your Novel. 

Encapsulating their acclaimed online Self-Edit Your Novel course, Debi Alper and Emma Darwin will discuss how you can make your plot more compelling, your characters more vivid and their voices more engaging, so that every word counts. 

Industry Guest: We’ll also have a hands-on editor from a publishing house to give a good balance between what makes a good story and what publishers are looking for, as well as an overview of the whole editing process.

Debi Alper is the author of gritty, funny, contemporary novels with Orion – and a hugely respected tutor and book doctor with the Writers’ Workshop. Debi edits in all genres and several authors that she has worked with have been signed up with agents and gone on to see their books published. Emma Darwin is that rare thing: an acclaimed literary author who’s graced the bestseller lists. Her fiction has been shortlisted and longlisted for numerous prizes and sold extensively overseas. Her latest book, Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction, (John Murray/Teach Yourself) was published in March 2016. Emma is an Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing with the Open University.

Location: Waterstones, 203 – 206 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HD. Time: 6.30-9.00
Price:  £45 (including drink on arrival).

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SEVEN YEARS TO PUBLICATION, SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED

Isabel Costello’s debut novel Paris Mon Amour was released in June 2016 in digital and audiobook. She also hosts the Literary Sofa blog, where you can find her selection of recommended Summer Reads 2016.  Isabel attended the The Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing in 2012 and 2013 and hopes to return one day!

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Like any endeavour measured in years, my journey to publication has a number of significant milestones, starting with the decision seven years ago to stop talking about wanting to write (don’t most people?) and get on with it (most people don’t).  Fast-forward three years and I had a novel ready to submit to agents (or so I thought) and attending the York Festival of Writing for the first time in 2012 was a watershed: as well as being sociable, stimulating and educational, it made me realise just how many people shared my precise goal of getting their novel published.
It was the best kind of wake-up call: slightly alarming at the time but the catalyst for good things. Without it I doubt I’d have reached – another four years later! – the most exciting landmark so far: publication of my debut novel Paris Mon Amour.  Many people have been astonishingly generous and supportive on a road that’s had a few bumps, as most paths to publication do.  I’ve learned a lot – and not just about how to write books. This is definitely not a ‘How to…’ (it’s pretty obvious I don’t have a magic formula.) For me and most of the writers I know, getting published has been mostly down to persistence and hard work.

 

Isabel C Book Cover
1.    Reading matters
Reading as a writer alters the experience in a way that can be distracting, but noticing the structure, the language, even being able to guess the twist or the ending three chapters in (so annoying!) are signs of developing your own sense of what works.  Payback time comes when you forget to register any of that because you’re so immersed in the story. That’s inspiration.  It’s what you’re aiming for.
2.    Friends matter
You might be – and hopefully are – writing ‘the book/story only you can write’ but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.  The camaraderie and support amongst writers at all stages has been one of the best parts for me.  It’s easy to connect with social media and events like FoW – I’ve made wonderful friends this way I would never have met otherwise.  But keep in touch with your other friends to avoid living in a literary bubble.
3.    It’s all about the book – seriously, it is
…with a very large side of luck and timing. In a business where getting anywhere is very hard, it’s easy to invent imaginary obstacles.  It probably doesn’t hurt to be young, movie-star gorgeous with a life story as fascinating as your book, but it’s far from essential.  Not saying they aren’t great, but you do not need an MA in creative writing.  (I have no writing qualifications.) And don’t fret about ‘who you know’ (or don’t) in the business. Frankly, if that made a difference it wouldn’t have taken me this long to get published!
4.    There’s nothing like professional input
This is a tricky one because it generally involves money, but the reality is that to get noticed by agents, publishers or competition judge you need to be submitting work that’s already of publishable standard, or very close.  When I think mine’s good enough, it rarely is, and the honest, constructive input you need at that point is unlikely to come from anyone who’s not a confident and experienced editor.  A structural edit following my first York Festival transformed my fortunes entirely, resulting in a choice of agents. It was worth every penny.
5.    Don’t pin your happiness on an outcome you can’t control
Learning to cope with the inevitable setbacks in a positive way is important, and something I’ve discussed openly along the way.  Some advice from Lionel Shriver at an event I attended has stayed with me:  write what matters to you – it’s the only way you can be sure your time is well spent. There are no guarantees in this business. Although it’s impossible to avoid completely, comparing yourself to others – your process, your book, your success – is not a good use of time or energy.  The most important lesson I’ve learned is to focus on the only part I can control: producing the best work I can. Closely followed by enjoying other things!
6.    Visualise success, but not what it looks like
I know this sounds like a contradiction, but positive thinking can be a self-fulfilling prophesy too! I could always picture myself succeeding, however remote the prospect (and for a long time it really was).  ‘Disruption’ in the book business has led to many new ways of reaching readers.  I may not have anticipated my novel coming out first in digital and audio but I know an exciting opportunity when I see one.
7.    The right way is the way that works for you
Faced with the deluge of generic tips directed at writers, there’s an art to identifying those which motivate, assist and inspire you in your work – thereby making it more enjoyable, and you more likely to stick at it – and ignoring all the rest.  For every person inspired by ‘write what you know’ or ‘write every day’ there are many more left cursing and grinding their teeth.  Ultimately it’s not about the method; it’s the end result that matters.

 

 

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The Roller-Coaster Route by Jane Davis

JD Head shotThere’s a graphic that regularly does the rounds. It’s made up of two graphs. The first goes under the caption, ‘what you think your career will look like’ and it’s upwards all the way. The caption for the second is ‘what it will actually look like.’ A roller-coaster. That has been my experience of writing.
My first novel secured me an agent, who told me, ‘Jane, you’re a writer’, which sounded much more glamourous than, ‘Jane, you’re an insurance broker’. My second won the Daily Mail First Novel Award.
I was going to be the next Joanne Harris. But a couple of months after publication of Half-truths and White Lies, Transworld rejected my follow-up. It was beautifully written, but it wasn’t ‘women’s fiction’.
There was no point arguing that I hadn’t set out to write women’s fiction. No meant no.
I carried on submitting manuscripts. One had already won an award for its opening chapter. Surely two awards would open doors?
By 2012, I was touting three novels around the market. I felt like the writer in Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys who attends the same conference year after year with a different edit of the same novel. A novel which continues to be rejected, albeit for slightly different reasons.
Remember that second graph? When I met with one of The Writers’ Workshop Book Doctors at The Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing. I was in a dip. I had submitted chapter one of These Fragile Things for critique. The waiting was agony. I watched people exit the hall, clutching manuscripts covered in red ink. When my turn finally came, I took my seat at the table and saw that my manuscript had no corrections. ‘You didn’t like it,’ I said. ‘No,’ came the reply. ‘I loved it. It’s ready!’ My heart sank. How to explain that the manuscript had been widely rejected. I had wanted someone to hand me a magic formula. What I hadn’t wanted to hear was, ‘It’s not you, it’s the market’, and yet this break-up style advice was precisely what I needed.
There was another path, but I’d been resisting it. The next month I attended a self-publishing conference. Established authors who’d been dropped by publishers were rubbing shoulders with novices who had priced their e-Books at 99p, and sold 100,000 copies within a year. This was a revolution! Was I out or was I in?
I decided I was in. Though I made rookie mistakes, reviews were positive. The next time, I did better. I grew my team of professionals. In May, the artwork for my fifth self-published novel, An Unknown Woman, won an award for best fiction cover at Book Expo. Now, I’m thrilled that Writing Magazine and the DSJT Charitable Trust have named it their Self-published Book of the Year.

An Unknown Woman JD Book Cover
The plot revolves around a book within a book. It seems rather fitting that a novel with a self-published book at its heart should win an award that recognises excellence in self-publishing. This one’s for the whole team.

Website: www.jane-davis.co.uk
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From Critique to Book Launch – Kate Armstrong looks back on the journey

It was 2013. Summer. I was a nervous management consultant who had once, a long time ago, been an English student. I was opening The Writers’ Workshop report on the draft of my first novel.

I’d sent it off for a professional reading a fortnight previously. In that fortnight I’d obsessively researched Jessica Ruston, who would be writing the report. The subjects of her books were very different from mine – maybe she wouldn’t get what I was trying to do. But then again, maybe she would read it and be astounded at my debut genius. In my wildest dreams, Jessica would declare this was the best writing since Plath – better even than Plath – and I would be turning away agents dangling golden contracts. In my nightmares, the report would come back dripping with pity and rejection.

The reality was of course neither one nor the other. When I summoned my bravery to open the file, I found a thorough, balanced, extremely helpful set of comments. Jessica had understood the novel perfectly well. She pointed out both its strengths and where it was not yet good enough, and mostly I agreed. She found it ‘unusual and thoughtful’, praised the writing, and recommended more work on character and plot. I breathed a sigh of relief, and got to work on the next draft.

Fast-forward three years, and that novel, The Storyteller, is being published this week by Holland House Books. It has, as they say, been a journey. Along the way I’ve learned how to take rejection, and how to accept graciously while keeping my hysteria in check. I’ve learned that an agent response of ‘you write incredibly well’ can be immediately followed by ‘but we don’t think we could place this’. I’ve learned how to do social media more effectively  and how to write a blog that is true to who I am. I’ve pitched articles to magazines, and some of them have come off.

I feel that I’ve been learning a new trade. Because that of course is what it is; both the writing and the ‘being a writer’. I’m published by a passionate literary independent, but passion does not go hand in hand with a huge marketing budget, so much of the marketing responsibility is mine. That was an eye-opener.

The other eye-opener was how fast the book became an object separate from me. Other people had views on how it should be edited, what the cover should be like, how to market it. Cutting the umbilical cord – seeing it as a product in a market – was something I was unprepared for.

Product Details

The Storyteller is a very personal book in many ways. It draws heavily on my experiences of mental ill health and its aim, so far as it has one, is to share those experiences with others. It is also a coming of age novel, and a story of friendship, first love and betrayal. Whatever your definition of ‘literary’, it is certainly in that camp. It is, for my sins, narrated in the second person. (I had written it before I read articles advising against.) It is fuelled by atmosphere and character and not so much by plot. It has unsettled many of its readers. I hope it will continue to do that.

But regardless of what it does for its readers, it has already changed my life. That life change is nothing external: I have no idea how it will sell. My dreams are of a prize-winning best-seller, my nightmares that only my mother-in-law will buy a copy. Neither is likely to happen.

No, the change has been inside. Before I wrote it I could not share my life long experiences of depression, and I didn’t believe that I could write. When my publisher offered a contract it took me 18 months to accept; I didn’t think the book, or I, was good enough. Once the contract was signed I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, too ashamed of the content, too scared of what exposure as a writer would mean.

Over the last year I have moved past all of those blocks. I am definitely now ‘a writer’, and that is where I want to be. I have risked sharing some of the things that go on deep inside. I have welcomed other people into my world. Most of all I have built the psychological platform to keep on writing honestly and openly, and in the way that is most true to who I am.
The Storyteller is published on 2nd June by Holland House Books and is available on Amazon 

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Diversity in genre fiction

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When is a book ‘not Asian enough’? There’s been a lot of discussion about diversity in publishing lately – a lot of people lament the fact that there aren’t enough diverse characters in fiction. There is diversity in the people … Continue reading

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This Friday’s London Literary Salon: Showing and Telling and Storytelling. With Andrew Wille, Jo Unwin and Jenny Savill.

LiterarySalon16Friday 27th May: Showing and Telling and Storytelling. With Andrew Wille, Jo Unwin and Jenny Savill.

Show, don’t tell – or so we’re told. But once upon a time we told stories, didn’t we? And in practice, any successful piece of storytelling needs to balance both showing and telling. Through an interactive evening of inspiring discussion, and practical advice we’ll look at examples of both narrative modes, and find ways to blend them into our own writing.

Andrew Wille was a senior editor at Little, Brown UK, acquiring and editing critically acclaimed and award-winning works of fiction and nonfiction. He has tutored for Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and Falmouth University, and is a book doctor and freelance editor.

 Following Andrew’s workshop, we will be joined by Jo Unwin of Jo Unwin Literary Agency and Jenny Savill of Andrew Nurnberg Associates for an Agent Q&A Panel.

Jo&JennyJo Unwin started off writing for television shows such as Byker Grove, My Parents Are Aliens, Fry and Laurie, and Casualty, as well as dabbling in some acting work, but then moved to Aardman Features as a scout, where she would seek out books that could serve as the basis for new animated films. This then led to Jo joining Conville and Walsh Literary Agency in 2008, but shortly after she set up Jo Unwin Literary Agency.

Following an MA in Mediaeval History at St Andrews, and a stint in the theatre, Jenny Savill joined Andrew Nurnberg Associates in 2002, and is now a Senior agent. Her strong and respected list of children’s and YA authors features numerous award winners, and she met her client Deborah Install (A Robot in the Garden, 2015) at our Festival of Writing in 2013

Location: Waterstones, 203 – 206 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HD. Time: 6.30-9.00
Price £45 (including drink on arrival).


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The Festival of Writing – Good vibes and Good advice

Virginia Moffat came to the Festival of Writing in 2012 – here is her story:

In 2012, I booked myself a place on the York Festival of Writing. As a busy working parent, it can be difficult for me to get away, but I’d decided earlier that year, that the time was right for me to attend. I was half way through the third edit of my novel ‘Echo Hall’ and at a stage when I felt professional feedback would be helpful. The fact that I was a student at York (way back in 1984) was an added bonus; I was very excited to be going back.

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The minute I got on the train to York I was filled with good vibes. Not only did I manage to increase my word count by resisting the internet and writing for three solid hours, but  as soon as I stepped onto the platform and gazed up at the familiar iron arches on the ceilings I was right back at home. The evening only got better from there. After a lovely nostalgia-filled run around the campus I enjoyed dinner in a relaxed setting where it was easy  to meet writers and publishing professionals. After dinner, we were entertained wih readings from the six winners of Literary Live, and the chance to vote on the one we liked the most. Although my favourite didn’t win, the standard was very high and the whole evening was very enjoyable.

I was up early on Saturday for a stroll around some of my favourite haunts, before wandering down to Central Hall for the keynote speech from Jo-Jo Moyes. Last time I was in the building I’d been sitting my finals exams, so it was much more pleasant to be sitting back and listening to her describe her journey into writing. It was a great speech – witty, warm, honest. So much of what she said resonated with me: write the best book you can, write what you have to write, stay with your novel. Much of her experience was laced with failure and disappointment, and yet she could so clearly demonstrate what she had learnt in such a self-deprecating manner, it was terribly heartening. It was totally and utterly inspiring and well worth the entire conference fee just to be there.

The rest of the day was equally brilliant. I met some fabulous authors and then had my first one to one with an agent. Waiting for my slot was a bit stressful as it reminded me of some of the less helpful tutorials on my writing course. But I needn’t have worried. My chosen agent was encouraging, supportive, interested, picked up on some weaknesses I hadn’t seen and gave me some useful pointers. The fact that she liked the premise, she liked the title, and appreciated some of the bits that worked well was more than enough, and I could immediately see a way to improving the material.

Saturday night concluded with an excellent Gala Dinner, more fascinating conversations with a bunch of talented writers whose novels all sounded great and the presentation of the winners of the Opening Chapter Competition and the Greenhouse Literary Agency Funny Awards.

The following day, I had two more 1:1s (which included an extra one for booking early) both of which were as helpful as the first. I left for home invigorated and full of determination to complete my novel. I may not have won any prizes or found myself an agent, but those 1:1s had built my confidence no end. Not one, but three industry professionals liked my work, felt I was a good writer and that the novel had potential. It was enough for me to press on till completion.

Four years on from my trip to York, and ‘Echo Hall’ is well on its way to publication. The book tells the story of three generations of women experiencing love, loss and conflict during times of war. Set against the backdrop of the 1991 Gulf War, World War 2 and World War 1, it asks whether such conflict is inevitable or can we find another way? I began it in 2004 in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, and twelve years on, with conflict continuing in Iraq, Syria and Libya, I’m convinced it is more relevant than ever.

Thanks to the feedback from York and a couple more years of editing, in 2015 ‘Echo Hall’ was longlisted for two competitions (The Bridport Prize and the Retreat West Opening Chapter Competition). Even better this year, I was signed by Unbound, the innovative crowdfunding publisher. Unbound is an unusual publisher, in that it is prepared to work with un-agented writers, and offers a 50% royalty share. The only slight drawback is that in order to get to publication, I have to raise the costs. This is not for the fainthearted as it requires a colossal amount of ego, social media interaction and networking to make it happen. I am a debut writer with a small audience, and am finding progress slow.

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Go to Virginia’s Unbound page to watch her video and find out more about the project.

 

So if you are thinking of going to York this year, please do take the plunge, it really is worth the trip. But also, be realistic! We would all love to have the dream experience of winning a competition and landing an agent and a book deal. It does happen – in recent years Shelley Harris and Joanna Cannon were both discovered at the Festival – but it won’t for most of us. The real value of going is to have the chance for constructive feedback from industry professionals who know what they are doing. It is an opportunity to learn from writers, publishers and agents about how to improve your craft. Above all, it’s a real joy to meet writers, agents and publishers and talk about what we love about writing and reading. I made many friends at the festival who I am still in contact. Had I stayed at home I would have never met them.

York happened to me at a stage when I needed some encouragement to keep going with a novel that had been possessing me for a long time. It was critical to my development as a writer and to finding a publisher. I can’t recommend it highly enough and hope the same happens for you.

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A Guest Post: Breaking the Glass Slipper: Women in science fiction, fantasy, and horror

Hosted by Megan Leigh, Charlotte Bond, and Lucy Hounsom, Breaking the Glass Slipper is a bi-monthly podcast (publishing every other Thursday) available on SoundCloud and many other podcasting platforms.

Hosted by Megan Leigh, Charlotte Bond, and Lucy Hounsom, Breaking the Glass Slipper is a bi-monthly podcast (publishing every other Thursday) available on SoundCloud and many other podcasting platforms.

Breaking the Glass Slipper: Women in science fiction, fantasy, and horror

I have long been entrenched in the SFF fandom in the UK, consuming as much content as I could get my hands on, talking to everyone who would listen about my passions, and attending as many events as possible. But the further I dug into that world, the more gender inequality issues I spotted. At conventions, women were recipients of grotesque, sexual innuendo or ripped into for not being ‘real fans’. According to some male fans, women only ever ‘pretend’ to be SFF fans in order to ‘hook’ their geeky dreamboat. Wow, I think they caught me out there!

Then came the Hugo awards of last year. Campaigners wanted women and anyone else who dared write equality and diversity-minded SFF tales to be kept out of their precious world of boys and rocket ships. We women were apparently destroying all genre fiction, turning it into another of our crusades. I’m not one to take such accusations lying down. As a woman who writes and reads SFF, I took issue with such immature and outdated views. There are some wonderful female writers out there, as well as great female characters written by both men and women.

Gradually, I have seen more and more people discuss the gender issues in the SFF community – from prejudice against female writers to having female characters as little more than love interests in a novel. But the conversation needs to be brought more into the open. More people need to be talking about it. It was high time we had a podcast discussing women in science fiction, fantasy, and horror – which is where Breaking the Glass Slipper comes in!

If people are starting to talk about gender inequality issues in SFF writing, why do you feel the need to make a podcast about it?
ML: I follow a lot of female genre writers on social media, so I feel that the conversation amongst them is covering these issues more than might be felt in the wider community. My hope in creating Breaking the Glass Slipper was that we might be able to bring the discussion further into the open and embed it in the public consciousness. With groups like the Sad Puppies still managing to get a lot of traction, we need to ensure we give a voice to women in these areas as much as possible.
CB: Personally I found that the issues of female genre writers was generally brought up as a part of a reactionary discussion, such as in response to the Sad Puppies debacle. After that had blown over, it would then be sidelined again until the next crisis. I wanted to be part of something that kept it ticking over; I wanted discussion that would be sensible and thoughtful, rather than the heated comments that are often involved in the aftermath of a controversy.
LH: It’s all about getting people talking and keeping the conversation alive. Like Megan, I spend much of my time preaching to the converted on Twitter, and feel as if I’m not targeting the wider readership where these issues most need to be highlighted and addressed. There’s an informality to podcasts; that element of lively debate can be so much more accessible than blog posts or essays.

What are some of the biggest issues you see facing women writers in genre writing?
ML: I find discoverability is a huge issue. The books I see talked about the most are almost always by men – is this coming from publishers not publicizing their female writers? Or are fans changing the messaging once books are released? Whatever it is, we need to make sure that books by women are as talked about as their male counterparts.
CB: I think genre can be a bit of a “boys” club – not that most of the boys in the club aren’t very welcoming to girls, of course! A lot of genre fans are very welcoming, even chivalrous. It’s just that it’s naturally a boy’s club simply because there’s more men involved in the genre than women. I don’t know whether the bottleneck is in the ratio of books published, the number of manuscripts submitted by men versus women, or whether there’s a marketing bias, but whatever reason, like Megan I think women writers need to be more discoverable.
LH: Discoverability, old prejudices, gender stereotyping by both publishers and readers. No genre book should be aimed exclusively at a certain demographic; that’s continually reinforcing the idea that there should be ‘books for girls’ and ‘books for boys’. Amazingly, there are still men who refuse to read a book authored by a woman – a decision often based on one bad experience, or merely inherited bias.

What problematic characterization tropes do you see recurring when it comes to female characters?
ML: Women as romantic objects. Hate this. Too often a novel will only introduce a female character to add a love interest for a male hero. Give me a barf bucket! I’m not interested. Women are worth so much more than how they are defined by a man in their lives – fictional women should be given the same courtesy that real life women have (or should).
CB: In contrast to Megan, I like a bit of romance! But I don’t think male or female characters should have that as their only purpose, unless it’s a proper romance novel. Personally I take issue with the “chosen one” trope: why can’t women (or men for that matter) just be great as they are? Why do they have to have some secret, hidden power to make them fabulous? I think a lot of female characters, especially YA ones, are characterised in that way. It’s one of the reasons I like George RR Martin’s writing – generally everyone gets by without magical powers and is portrayed as kick-ass just as they are.
LH: Now I like a bit of chosen one heroism, but you don’t often see women in the starring role. I grew up on a diet of epic fantasy and some books had great supporting female characters. Very few, however, took the lead. Another trope that’s grown up more recently is the need to give a female hero the attributes of a male. As in, they use traditionally masculine abilities like physical strength to best their foes. I would like to see more women using their minds and their natural intuition to solve problems in addition to their fists.

What great female writers do you wish everyone had read?
KindredOButlerML: I finally discovered Octavia Butler last year after the bookstore had put a hand-written recommendation card below a copy of Kindred and I now recommend her to absolutely everyone I meet. I’ve become quite intense about it. Though another reason I wanted to champion reading women in genre fiction was because I realized that I have read so few! So as much as I’m out to recommend great books by women, I’m also on the lookout for great recommendations!
CB: Sarah Pinborough is receiving a lot of praise for her recent novels “13 Minutes” and “The Death House”, but I really think her Victorian crime/horror novels “Murder” and “Mayhem” deserve more recognition. They were fabulous. Also Naomi Novik’s “Uprooted” was just astounding, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she produces next. Jen
RebeccaLeveneWilliams is a new favourite of mine too, thanks to Lucy Hounsom!
LH: Rebecca Levene is a brilliant writer who does epic fantasy in less than four hundred pages. The Hollow Gods series displays superb characterisation and originality in a genre that sometimes feels as if it’s been milked dry. And the first book only has one notable female character (remedied by book two) – so male readers will have plenty of company!

Hosted by Megan Leigh, Charlotte Bond, and Lucy Hounsom, Breaking the Glass Slipper is a bi-monthly podcast (publishing every other Thursday) available on SoundCloud and many other podcasting platforms.

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Amanda Saint: The Reality of the Dream

AmandaSaint

Amanda’s debut novel, As If I Were A River, is available on Amazon, Waterstones, and the Urbane website.

When I went to my very first Get Published event with the Writer’s Workshop, way back in 2012, my publishing dream seemed to be just that – a dream that I’d had for a long time that had very little chance of coming true. The publishing sector was running scared from the new e-book ‘threat’, the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomena had just started sweeping the world, and it seemed that nobody would want to publish, or read, the kind of book I was writing.

But jump forward four years and I’ve worked really hard to get that book as good as I could. I’ve been to every Festival of Writing in York since that first day event at the Wellcome Trust, I’ve done the Self-Editing Your Novel Course with Debi Alper and Emma Darwin, and I am now very lucky in that my publishing dream has become a reality. I have a two book deal with a really exciting new indie press, Urbane Publications, and my debut novel, As If I Were A River, came out on 11th April 2016. The novel I’m writing now is scheduled for publication in Autumn/Winter 2017.

Apart from the trepidation that comes hand in hand with putting yourself out there and wondering how the book will be received, it’s been a really exciting and joyful experience. There’s been a lot of happy kitchen dancing going on!

One of the best moments so far was when the author Alison Moore read an advance review copy to provide me with a ‘puff’ (I had no idea they were called that until it was time to gather some!) and I realised that my first book would have a recommendation from someone whose work I really admire. Her Man Booker Prize-shortlisted debut novel, The Lighthouse, inspired me to stick to my guns about telling a quiet story and not having a neat, happy ending.

But definitely at the top of the list, apart from that initial acceptance email, is when the finished paperback arrived and I finally held the book that had been living on my laptop for six years in my hands. It was a surreal, emotional and completely thrilling moment. There were so many times along the way that I nearly gave up with this book but, luckily, I have got some good writing friends, and a very supportive and patient husband, who wouldn’t let me. I’m so glad they made me stick at it.

AsIfIWereARiver

‘A compelling, intricate, psychological exploration of the lies we tell ourselves and the truths we run from. Beautiful.’ – Angela Clarke, author of Follow Me

Especially as I was completely blown away when As If I Were A River was picked as one of the Top 10 Books of May 2016 on NetGalley, which is a website where professional book reviewers can get their hands on advance review copies from all of the publishing houses. It’s also had some great reviews from book bloggers, as well as a few not so great ones on Goodreads! I’d been really worried in the run-up to the launch about how I would feel about bad reviews, and I’m happy to say that the anticipation was a lot worse than the reality. As a reader there are books that I don’t enjoy and I know that there will be lots of readers out there who do enjoy mine, but also lots that don’t.

The whole process of working with Urbane has been inclusive and collaborative so that I’ve had a huge say in how the book looks and how it’s promoted. I’d imagined that being with a new indie press would mean that the whole thing would feel quite low-key, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The week the book came out it went straight into a WHSmith travel offer and is now on the promotional stands at shops in Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Paddington, Kings Cross, and many more.

The London launch party on 14th April was made even more exciting when one of my friends turned up with a picture of As If I Were A River sitting at number 57 in the WHSmith paperback charts next to The Danish Girl. Next up in the launch events is a book signing at Waterstones Lancaster, with my very own window display, and there just generally feels like there has been a real buzz around the book as the publication date approached, and still now the week after the launch. So, yes, the reality for me is definitely living up to the publishing dream and I’m hoping I don’t wake up for a good while yet.

Amanda’s debut novel, As If I Were A River, is available on Amazon, Waterstones, and the Urbane website.
‘A compelling, intricate, psychological exploration of the lies we tell ourselves and the truths we run from. Beautiful.’ – Angela Clarke, author of Follow Me

‘Amanda Saint’s intricately plotted debut novel is a juicy Pandora’s box of mysteries and revelations.’ – Alison Moore, author of The Lighthouse

You can find out more about Amanda on her website, go on a writing retreat with her through Retreat West, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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A Guest Post from Novelist Allie Spencer. Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

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Where Do You Get Your Ideas From? Alongside ‘are your characters based on real people?’, ‘don’t all writers earn shed-loads of money?’ and if, like me, you are in the rom com market: ‘would you like to write a proper … Continue reading

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Tracy Rees: Festival of Writing, Delegate to Speaker by way of a Richard & Judy Bestseller

TracyReesMy Experience of the Festival of Writing.

In 2013 I attended the Festival of Writing in York. That was the year I realised that nothing could protect me from the siren call of scribbling stories for a living so I’d decided to work part-time as a waitress and really focus on my writing. Sometimes a cliché can prove surprisingly useful.

I had written a novel, a fairytale for adults, and when I saw the festival advertised, I jumped at the chance to discuss it with industry professionals. I entered my fairytale for Friday Night Live and the first chapter competition and submitted it for critique in one of the workshops. It wasn’t selected for anything.

But the really big deal for me was the agent session. I approached it with a thundering heart. I loved my book and I wanted the agent to love it too – and, preferably, offer me representation right there and then!

He had two key messages for me. One was that the fairytale, as it was, was unmarketable; I hadn’t aimed it at a particular genre. The other was this: keep writing. He took some pains to ensure I took this to heart. Your writing is wonderful, you must carry on, don’t stop here.

Inevitably, as I left the hall, it was his first message which haunted me. I felt I’d let my beloved characters down. As for continuing to write, I knew I would. I’d come too far and given up too much by then to do anything else. But over the following days, his other words sank in, and I realised how important they were. Writers are tender creatures, even the most hardened/desperate of us, and encouragement along the way is invaluable. I think he knew this.

AmySnowAt that time I was sending work out to everyone – poetry, short stories, novels… This included what I then considered to be a completely pie-in-the-sky endeavour – I entered Richard and Judy’s wonderful Search for a Bestseller competition. In October 2014 I heard that I had won. Amy Snow was published by Quercus in April 2015 and my second novel, Florence Grace, will be published in June this year.

My route to publication, in the end, did not come via the Festival of Writing. The book I took there wasn’t the book that got me published. So looking back now, what part did it play in my journey?

First of all, it was a gesture of faith that my writing dream would prove worth the investment of time and money. These bold gestures, I believe, are always well rewarded.

Secondly it was an opportunity for me to steep myself for two whole days in the writing industry. I talked to other aspiring writers, published authors and professionals, and reminded myself in a completely concrete way of what it was I was trying to do. I had a session with a book doctor who provided me with useful observations on the work I’d submitted. I met another book doctor at dinner who was supportive and helpful. I left with leads and contacts I could never have found otherwise and with strong encouragement from the agent ringing in my ears.

We need these things. We all know it’s a tough industry to crack. But experiences like these help counteract that, so that we carry on.

To my delight, I’ll be returning to the Festival of Writing this year as one of the industry speakers.
Twitter: @AuthorTracyRees

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YORK for all reasons. Whatever stage your writing is at The Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing can inspire and help you.

by Anne Corlett

2012 wasn’t my first visit to the The Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing. I’d attended in 2011, clutching the unedited manuscript of my first novel, Telemachus. It had been about ten years since I’d made any serious attempt at writing, and I was in the process of packing to relocate from London to Somerset with my partner and 18 month-old son. As you can probably imagine, when I decided to sit down in the middle of all the carnage and start writing a novel, I was not popular.

But I finished the first draft, then looked around and thought now what?

I should point out at this juncture that I had fairly hazy ideas about the whole novel-writing process. I I had the faint sense that editing was something that was done to you by someone else, rather than something you did yourself.

Anyway, the Festival of Writing seemed like a reasonable answer to now what? So off I went to York.

It was a complete revelation. I learned about self-editing. I discovered the importance of covering letters. I heard the words ‘psychic distance’ uttered for the first time. And I had two incredibly encouraging one-to-ones, with an agent and a book doctor. Not only did they both make it clear what I needed to do to improve my manuscript, but they also made me believe that it was worth persevering.

I spent the next year working on my manuscript, and when booking re-opened for York, I decided to head back there for a second time. I entered the Friday Night Live competition, not really expecting to get anywhere, and I was delighted to make the final.

I didn’t win. I did receive two out of the three judges’ votes, but when I lost the all-important audience vote, I assumed that was pretty much that, and I got on with drinking wine enjoying the rest of the festival.

Then I had my one-to-one with Lisa Eveleigh of the Richford Becklow agency. She liked my submission. She requested the full manuscript, and then offered representation. At this point I began the process of getting Thoroughly Carried Away. I knew how this worked.

Go to York.
Sign up with Agent.
Await fame and glory and tearful acceptance of manuscript by major publishing house.

It didn’t work out quite that way. We had some interest, and some positive responses. We even had one ‘I thought of making an offer on this but…’ but no takers.

I finished my second novel in late 2014, and I was just starting the second term of an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa when I heard from Lisa that there had been some provisional interest. After several agonizing weeks, Fallen made it as far as an acquisitions meeting. Unfortunately there was no consensus at the meeting and the book was rejected.

And then something surprising happened. I had a huge burst of writing energy. I motivated, and unexpectedly hopeful. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that in the glacial world of writing/publishing, something had happened. There’d been a milestone of sorts. At the time I was struggling with my MA novel, but, still bursting with my new-found enthusiasm, I had the idea that became my third novel. It went out on submission in November 2015, and after only a few weeks there were some expressions of provisional interest.

I didn’t get my hopes up – we’d been here before, after all. As it turned out, this was the time I should have got my hopes up. I could have got Thoroughly Carried Away again. In January I got a call from Lisa to say that Bella Pagan of Pan Macmillan had made an offer. The deal was officially announced in February, and a month later the US rights sold to Berkeley Publishing, part of the Random House group. The Space Between the Stars will be published on 5th May 2017.

It can seem as though York is a springboard, catapulting a lucky few to instant success, but my experience shows that are all sorts of ways in which the festival can push writers forward in their publication journey. If you’re in the early stages of the process, the most important thing you can do at the festival is go along and listen and learn. If you’re further along the writing path, you can make useful connections, and gain valuable confidence in your work. Even if you don’t walk away with an offer of representation, you may well find that a chance conversation over dinner bears fruit further down the line when an agent reads your submission and thinks oh yes, I remember her. For some the Festival of Writing is a springboard; for others, like me, it’s a foundation on which to build something solid. York didn’t lead to overnight success for me, but it did set the wheels in motion for everything that followed.

@consummatechaos
www.annecorlett.co.uk
http://www.torbooks.co.uk/blog/2016/2/10/poignant-tale-of-survival-among-the-stars-new-book-deal

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Bless their pretty brown heads

Diversity in publishing – another low. We invited a guest blog recently on the woeful absence of diversity in publishing. Our sister site, Agent Hunter, published data on ethnic diversity among literary agents that suggests perhaps only 2-3% of the industry … Continue reading

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Amazon, spam and the biggest slushpile in history.

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(Subtitle: What would Google do?) (Series title: A spam-filled, junk-rich, keyword-dense post of suspense, intrigue, mystery and spam, spam, spam, spam, spam.) You know the issue. You enter a perfectly ordinary search term into Amazon – a term that seeks a quality … Continue reading

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Diversity in Publishing (clue: it would be quite nice)

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Diversity in publishing has been a hot topic in industry for some time, not least because we had a good old yell about it over on Agent Hunter. But, despite some much overdue attention, very little has changed. Publishing was and … Continue reading

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