I love Easter. It’s a big festival that carries so much less stress and weight of expectation that Christmas. There are hot cross buns and Easter eggs and Simnel cake and a family roast lamb lunch to look forward to, and everything in the garden is bursting into flower. I get up before daybreak to go to the early service, walking to church in the milky light through the hushed streets with the dawn chorus filling the air. We light the paschal candle and process into the church just as, since the dawn of mankind, human beings must have carried this precious flame into their holy places, marking the passage from winter to spring, from darkness into light, from death to life.
My novel, The Resurrection of the Body, takes place over the Easter weekend and mirrors the Easter story. Why not write your own story set at Easter? And if you do, why not send me the result?
Happy writing – and happy Easter!
Rosie Rowell attended our Tuesday afternoon advanced group for many terms. During the course she worked on her first novel, Leopold Blue, which has just been published by Hot Key Books, showing that publishing success is possible for those who work long and hard enough on their writing! This is what she has to say:
It took many years to write Leopold Blue. Part of the reason is that it didn’t fully become a story until I had a complete draft, at which point the hard work began. From the beginning I saw the process more as one of ‘learning how to write’ than writing my first book. Maggie’s Tuesday afternoon course, which I attended for a very long time, was where I learnt technique and craft. It also taught me the value of developing close friendships with other writers.
There was another process that had to happen in the writing of Leopold Blue that took almost as long as the writing. I call it ‘coming out’ as a writer. It took a very long time for me to be able to call myself a writer in my head and to the world. I found Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones very helpful in that process. So much of what she writes is simply about empowering the quivering, doubt-ridden writer. While Leopold Blue is a work of fiction, it is based on a town where I lived as a child. Characters like Marta, Juffrou du Plessis and Witbooi lived there and I very much wanted to capture them.
In a chapter called ‘Original Detail’, Natalie Goldberg writes:
‘It is important to say the names of who we are, the names of the places we have lived, and to write the details of our lives. … our moments are important. This is what it is to be a writer: to be the carrier of details that make up history.’
I come back to these words often, especially on those many days that I stare at a blank screen and want to run away. What we write is important and it is important to write.
Rosie Rowell, February 2014
Creative Writing For Dummies has done so well that I have just been commissioned to write a follow-up title, which will be called Creative Writing Exercises For Dummies. It will be packed full of practical information and writing exercises to help you develop your characters, create the concrete world of your story, grapple with plot and structure, and much. much more!
The aim is to publish before Christmas, so I have a tight deadline to meet. I’ll keep you posted with progress, and if you have any issues you’d particularly like tackled, then let me know and I can work them in.
Happy New Year! To launch the new term, we’re running a writing weekend at The Groucho Club on 18 and 19 January. This is the perfect way to launch yourself back into writing for the new year, as we’ll be giving you plenty of writing exercises and prompts as well as offering you a space to ask about any problems you have with your current writing so that we can help you to fix these.
We only have a couple of places left so do let me know as soon as you can if you’d like to book or need any more information.
Autumn has now come and I have taken a huge new decision to write my next novel as part of a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing. This came about as the result of a serendipitous meeting with Professor Martin Goodman who is Professor of Creative Writing within the English Department at Hull as well as Director of the Philip Larkin Centre for Poetry and Creative Writing, who I am fortunate to now have as my supervisor.
After teaching creative writing myself and running a publishing company for so many years, I felt that after giving so much out, I needed to recharge my batteries and get some input and guidance myself. I am tremendously excited about this new project and the challenges it will bring.
Autumn is always a good time to make a new beginning. Think of something you could do to support you in your own writing. It might be to sign up for a course, to set up a group of other writers, or to find someone who will be a guide or reader of your work.
Next weekend, 13-15 September, is our three-day weekend workshop, for anyone who has a writing project. We’ll be giving you lots of writing prompts to fire your imagination, setting intriguing exercises and there will be opportunity to read your work and receive feedback. The workshop will give you a dedicated time and space to finish that chapter, work through a block, or simply press on with your writing.
The September course will take place at the New Cavendish Club near Marble Arch, and we currently have just three places left.
I will be taking part in a Sponsored Write for the charity Macmillan Cancer Support. The event takes place on Friday 13 September, in a café in Ealing, or, if like me you have other commitments that day, at a time of your choice (I am writing with others the day before, Thursday 12th). If you would like to join in, please register with Rachel Knightley at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Just Giving page to give your sponsors is at http://www.justgiving.com/newwriting2013
You can write whatever you want – you can get on with your novel or write a short story, or anything you choose – (there is an optional theme which is Quality of Life). If you can make the 13th, the best time to write is between 10.30am and 4.30pm, with an hour for lunch (usually at the North Star pub.
It’s a great way to get some writing done and give to charity at the same time, so I hope some of you will join me in signing up.
Our intensive summer workshop starts tomorrow, and is fully booked. There are a number of people who wanted places but couldn’t get on the course this year, so I thought it would be a good idea this week to put a few of the exercises on this blog so others can join in.
This year we are running the course around objects and how they are used in fiction. Objects can act as a plot device – Hitchcock famously coined the term a ‘MacGuffin’ for that object everyone wants but not all can have – and objects can also acts as clues or foreshadow things that happen later. They can be used as a way of revealing character (what objects does your character carry in their bag/keep in their house/ collect/treasure?); as a symbol or metaphor; as a trigger for memories.
Just to get started, go around your house and find two or three interesting, unusual objects. Or pick objects from this selection here.
Describe each of these in turn. If you’re writing a story, think about which character might own this object, where it came from, what they feel about it. Write about a memory the character has which each object triggers.
Then write a short piece which links all three objects.
We are very excited to go to press today with our second anthology of writing by our students.
We’ve been working on this for over a year now, with selecting the 21 pieces, editing them, designing the book, and going through the whole production process. The anthology will be available from the end of July, and we are planning a launch event in September.
The anthology is entitled ‘Collages’ after one of the stories, and the jacket has been designed by Emmanuelle Chazarin and Jane Havell. Each image in the collage is linked to one of the stories. Here it is; it would be great to have your feedback.
You’ll be able to buy the anthology from our books page soon.
We are running a ‘How to get Published’ session at the Groucho Club from 10.30am-5.00pm on Saturday 25th May.
The session is with CCWC founder and tutor Maggie Hamand, and Natalie Butlin from Christine Green Author’s Agents, and there will be a talk from bestselling author Gaile Parkin about the experience of publishing her successful debut novel, “Baking Cakes in Kigali”.
The morning will focus on writing a synopsis, a covering letter and how to format your manuscript, and the afternoon on how agents and publishers operate, the current publishing scene, and the talk from Gaile.
If you attend the whole day, the cost is £90, including tea and coffee, and there is an option just to attend the afternoon for £45.
Do let us know if you’d like to attend – there’s a maximum of 10 places for the whole day and 16 for the afternoon.