Wednesday 21 December 2016

Stories for hope

A few years ago now but you can't escape the wonder
2016 has been a difficult year for many reasons when you look at the world and what has happened. Things we believed never possible happened and we roll into 2017 wondering 'what next?' This has meant that there are definitely feelings of fear and uncertainty being felt by many, including children. How do you explain to children world events?

It is at times like these when the importance of children's stories come to the fore. They give them somewhere to escape into. They give them a sense of hope. A sense of understanding. So many stories deal with the 'big issues', the universal truths in ways that they can understand. We talk about windows and mirrors when referring to diversity but it so  much more. I feel it is prism. The single white light of the reader opening the book as they first read it, only to be turned into a rainbow of knowledge as that white light is broadened/refracted as they read their way through. They may meet characters just like them or look into new worlds, seeing how characters live there. They get to experience all that knowledge that the author is bringing to their writing. They learn about that world and start to empathise with it. Adding depth to themselves without realising. Each story helps them face the world with a little less fear and a little more hope. Hope that it will be all right. We can make it better in the end. Good will win. Stories bring laughter, bring joy, bring tears, bring love, bring memories, bring the future.

This is why stories are so important and why we must keep writing stories, the best stories we can. Publishers need to keep publishing, to keep looking for new writers as well as their established ones. The world will keep turning, art and stories will keep showing the light and the way forward. We must never give up. However hard it gets. As Philip Pullman once said 'Thou shall not' is easily forgotten but 'Once upon a time' is remembered forever.  The 'Once upon a times' will be the answer. It will help the children and give them hope again. Keep writing and may 2017 be full of joy and laughter.

It is Winter's Solstice so this seems appropriate

Thursday 15 December 2016

#amwriting - nurturing your creativity

The joy of writing
Last weekend I spent the weekend at Rhosygilwen. The most wonderful manor house in deepest, darkest Wales surrounded by fabulous writers as I was part of a Golden Egg Academy Retreat. Imogen and I were there on hand to listen to any concerns when required plus I had written some writing exercises, which I left strategically around the place. All designed to stimulate if you were feeling blocked. We also got to hear from Janet and Penny from Firefly Press, whose talk was truly inspirational reminding us of the importance of the reader.

Being there reminded why I love writing. The creativity just flowed from these incredibly people. On Sunday morning they shared their work. The stories being told were truly wonderful and so eclectic. All this inspiration and creativity even managed to inspire me and I got some of my own words down. Something I hadn't managed to do for quite a while as I had been snowed under with work. Instead I had been doing a lot of thinking and mulling over my new story. It hadn't felt ready to start yet. But then suddenly on Sunday the first paragraph flowed out of my fingers.

Writing is such a strange activity sometimes. Only a few weeks beforehand a character had walked into my head and refused to be ignored. I thought they wanted to be part of short story, but no they weren't satisfied with that and they made sure I knew it. They wanted to be part of my WIP. They were a teenager and they had a suitcase that they would not put down. It went everywhere with them. You could not take it away from them. They became quite agitated if I tried to ignore them too and the only time they became quiet was when I realised where they fitted. They were actually staying at the foster home my main characters end up at in my WIP. They were going to be integral to my story. Who knew? Where had they come from? Unfortunately the WIP is going to have to be written in snatched moments as I have another book that has a more pressing deadline. But it is there bubbling away as I am sure you all can understand.

Being on the retreat reminded me of the importance of being in contact with other writers. They understand what you are going through. You don't need to explain anything to them. This contact is another part of feeding your creativity. I always talk about the importance of nurturing this essence by doing things such as reading, not just children's books, but reading adults novels, taking yourself outside of your comfort zone, reading poetry, going to the theatre, art galleries and watching films plus the TV as well for good drama and comedy. It all informs your writing. I always carry with me a copy of Jen Webb's tiny book of prose poetry Gaps. It is perfect to read to unblock your mind when it is full of other people's words or if I just need to escape for a moment. As well as surrounding yourself with a supportive community is as vital part of this.

I hope during the holidays you all get a chance to write or spend sometime thinking about your stories.

Thank you to everyone on the retreat. It was amazing and there were many beautiful sunrises...