Writerly Round-Up: April 2019
April seems to have gone by in a flash. There were two bank holidays over the Easter weekend and we spent the whole four days mostly eating, drinking and chatting with friends. But aside from that, I started the month in Canada (and more of the writerly side of that trip anon). Theatre trips comprised an inspiring day at the Northcott in Exeter for TEDxExeter; a moving production of WITCH by the hugely talented Circle of Spears; and a trip to Plymouth to see the fiftieth anniversary production of Hair (and judging by the age of most of the audience, we weren’t the only ones reliving our youth!). I spent a day in Leicester for the seventh Self-Publishing Conference, making new friends and meeting old ones. Finally, last night, we joined a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Exeter Phoenix for the choosing of the new Bard of Exeter and the swearing in of the new Grand Bard. So a packed month with lots of writerly elements to touch on.
Writing In April
I’ve done very little new writing this month, although I’m making notes on the Canada trip for future use. The editing of The Business Of Writing Part 4 Independent Publishing will be finished and copies will be going out to beta readers tomorrow. Many thanks to those of you who have volunteered to be on the team.
I’ve written several blog posts, both for my own site and as a guest on other sites. But I’m starting to miss the thrill of writing fiction and, as I’m months away from being ready to start work on novel #5, I will be entering a few competitions from May onward, especially the growing number based on flash fiction.
Sales and Marketing
The social media calendar is now in place; all I have to do is remember to do everything on it! I can see a few batching sessions coming up this month. I’ve started working on Book Bub adverts and have just received the artwork for a paid promotion by Author Shout. More on that next month.
My Russian research stalled a bit this month. But the pile of books on my desk is growing, so I will be returning to that in May and I am still planning on getting the first draft of novel #5 written in November.
Out and About
We spent a week in Toronto earlier in the month and while Michael attended a conference, I gave myself a writerly retreat. Firstly, I gatecrashed two writers’ groups I found via the internet. Toronto’s Public Library is vibrant and well-used, and many branches provide facilities for community groups to meet. Scarborough Seniors was a group of retirees writing primarily for themselves and their families. Everyone had a fascinating story to tell and we wrote pieces based on a variety of triggers. It was a challenging but most enjoyable experience. The High Park Writing Group on the other hand was made up of adults and teenagers, most of whom were aspiring to be published. They were one of the most mature critiquing groups I have ever experienced and when it came to my turn, we workshopped one of the pieces I had written in the Scarborough group – and I now have the start of a character for novel #5. I am very grateful to both groups for allowing me to drop by and take part.
I also spent a morning at Kobo HQ, meeting lots of folks in the marketing and promotions teams; and chatting about how I can improve my sales on the platform. If you want to read my report on the specific recommendations, it’s posted in my Business of Writing Facebook Group. But suffice it to say that within 24 hours of my visit, I had compiled and uploaded a box set of the Suzanne Jones thrillers. And that’s the other benefit of being away from the office on a ‘working holiday’: without distractions, the time I spent working in the hotel was extra-productive.
During the month, I was interviewed by Australian broadcaster and author, Diana Todd-Banks for her Mature Preneurs podcast series. I was talking about how I made a complete change of direction at a mature age, leaving behind my first career as a technical consultant in favour of ‘telling lies for a living’ as a full-time writer. You can hear the interview by clicking here.
Matador Books has been running the annual one-day Self-publishing Conference in Leicester since 2013. I went there in 2017 and decided to go again this year. There were four sets of masterclasses to choose from, plus a couple of plenary sessions. And, of course, there’s a huge networking opportunity. This year’s Keynote was given by Orna Ross, Founder-Director of ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors), who talked about The Rise of the Indie Author. It was an inspiring talk and reminded me of all the things I should be doing, but haven’t got around to yet. I will be putting together notes on the whole conference in the next week or so and will post it on the Business of Writing Facebook Group.
The Bardic Judging in Exeter last night was wonderful. Huge congratulations to Melanie Crump, who is the Bard of Exeter for a year and a day; to all the contenders who gave us such a diverse and fun evening; and to Kimwei McCarthy as he begins his seven year term as Grand Bard of Exeter. Plus, thanks to the irrepressible Jackie Juno for wearing the white, swan-feather mantle so well for the past seven years.
And one notice for May: I am very excited to be signing copies of all my novels at W H Smith in Exeter on Saturday 11th May between 11am and 3pm. If you are in the city, do drop by and say ‘hi’. It would be great to see some familiar faces.
The Sidmouth Literary Festival takes place each year in early June. This year the main speaker is Ann Cleeves, creator of detectives Vera Stanhope (Vera) and Jimmy Perez (Shetland). And there is also a fantastic day for anyone aiming to go down the traditional route: How To Get Published. With a mixture of talks by industry experts and the opportunity for one-to-one feedback on your work, this is sure to be a popular event. Places are limited, so if you want to go, don’t delay in getting your ticket booked.
The programme for Chudleigh Literary Festival, on Wednesday 10th July, is now up on the website, together with a booking form – and I have already received the first booking, so we are on our way. Do check it out and, if you are going to be anywhere near Devon in July, why not consider pitching your WIP to the Chudleigh Dragons? The full team is now in place and waiting to receive your entries.
The programme for the Exeter Literary Festival in November is still in development; details will be published in the next few weeks. But the short story competition is now open. This year it had been expanded to cover all age groups and online entry is now possible. There are three categories; with cash prizes for each one; and the competition closes at the end of July.
Writers Are Readers (and Watchers) Too
I’m going to break with tradition this month (and as I set up the tradition in the first place, who’s going to stop me?). Instead of talking about a recommended book, I’m going to talk about a theatrical performance. I mention in the introduction to today’s post that I went to see WITCH by Circle of Spears. I was invited by author, Tracey Norman, to go along as a guest reviewer – and I was blown away by this small, but perfectly-formed piece of theatre. Here’s the review I wrote for The Devonista online magazine and Review Spot website:
“Tracey Norman, who both wrote and stars in WITCH, whooped with delight when I told her she’d made me cry with her performance as Margery Scrope. “That’s the correct reaction,” she told me.
WITCH is a play about a woman accused of witchcraft. But there’s no witchcraft in the play; and it’s not set in a courtroom. It’s a subtle three-hander, neatly moved to a location that gives a voice to all three characters, particularly the aforementioned Margery Scrope. The characters are fictional, but all the incidents portrayed are taken from transcripts of actual witch trials. It is a play about social justice, prejudice, and mass hysteria; and shockingly, the issues it deals with are as relevant in today’s second Elizabethan era as they were in the sixteenth century.
Tracey Norman’s performance was so powerful that not only the audience, but also the actors, were visibly moved. Her fellow actors were equally excellent in their roles: Sam Burns as her accuser, Thomas Latimer; and Mark Norman as Lord of the Manor, Sir William Tyrell.
This is a short piece, running for less than an hour. Written in 2016, it was originally intended to run for one season only, but three years on, it has been performed more than sixty times. This setting, in a small book-lined room in Torquay Museum, was perfect, and the audience of nearly forty was completely entranced; everyone stayed for the question and answer session afterwards.
Circle of Spears Productions are a team of trained actors and former TV industry professionals. They produce both audiobooks and live theatre events. If you get the opportunity to see WITCH, then do make sure to get your ticket. And if you are looking for a short, thought-provoking piece of theatre for a festival programme or other such event, then do give them a shout: www.circleofspears.com/witch. ”