Diary of a Writer – Lockdown casts a long Shadow

I walked out this morning because from around lunchtime my online life is pretty full.

Firstly, and sadly, there’s the funeral of one of my late Mum-in-Law’s indomitable cousins. It’s a generation that keeps on going: keeps on giving and this lady isn’t the last of them in our family.

Then there’s the Badminton chat.

Then, YAY!, the Edinburgh Writers’ Club re-starts. Looking forward to identifying familiar faces and perhaps some new: and to hearing Mason Cross talk about life and writing.

The walk this morning displayed Rosehips rather than roses. They are lovely, but also yet another reminder of a year in so many ways lost. Also heard but not seen, were the local children out enjoying their morning playtime break.

How, regular readers may ask, is the GH project going? Well, I’m now at the stage of looking to buy the remaining ones for kindle. Will probably start with These Old shades.

The virus is very much out there and DH is cancelling yet another 2020 family event. We are all in this together, but the togetherness looks a bit separate from here.

Anne

Lockdown – 2020 – 2 – shopping local

The shopping expedition also involved depositing a bag of empty jam jars on a neighbour’s front step. Appealed for through our local What’s App group, I was glad to oblige. Glass collection being suspended meantime, it helps reduce the pile.

Butcher’s shop minus the two elder statesmen who’ve worked on into retirement, but now asked to stay home. Or decided to stay home. Lines are painted on the floor to indicate social distancing. Apochryphal tales of excess abound, but there’s enough trouble in the world as it is.

Met neighbour who didn’t get off on holiday either and had a chat from the recommended distance.

DH is involved in an online meeting. As the voices of strangers are resonating around the house, this must be working.

To the newsagent where I paid our bill (small businesses are struggling) and skimmed round his shelves. Emerged with fresh carton of pink grapefruit juice (I’m not allowed, but DH prefers), two onions and two tins of tomatoes. Oh, and an anti-bacterial handwash.

And maybe a packet of teacakes…

Made soup for lunch.

Yesterday’s writing was poor – only 500 words. tut!

Really enjoyed the online adjudications posted by the council of the Scottish Association of Writers. they can be found here

Edinburgh Writers’ Club have several mentions.

Volunteers are wonderfu!

Diary of a Writer – October

Being a mum of school-age children, daughter of a widowed mum and daughter-in-law of two, meant that the summer in years past passed in a blur. I used to look forward intensely, immensely to a small conference held in early October in Pitlochry. It was run by various people over the years and the late Hugh Rae used to attract speakers he’d met at Swanwick (a much bigger conference}.

My own room in Scotland’s Hotel was bliss and the first day of the first year I attended, the time between 4pm and 6pm stretched almost to infinity. As anyone with children knows, their blood sugar levels as tea-time approaches lead to all sorts…

Alas, that event is no more, but I still have an internal clock that gears up to chime in late September/early October.

The reason for posting October while September is still with us is to publicise the wonderful EDINBURGH WRITERS’CLUB, which has its opening meeting on Monday 23rd September and of which I have the honour to be a Life Member. So, October first would be too late! The approach of the first club meeting is a wonderful stimulus.

The opening night speaker is Caroline Dunford, novelist. Caroline is currently chair of The Society of Authors in Scotland.

Meetings are held in the Grosvenor Hilton Hotel in Grosvenor Street at 7.30 pm. Come along around 7 on the opening night to join or pay the guest night fee and try it out.

The website is here Edinburgh Writers’ Club

In addition, being a member of the EWC entitles a person to enter their internal competitions which is useful if you’re trying to discover what genre suits you. It also entitles you to enter the competitions run by the Scottish Association of Writers. Some of their competitions, associated with the weekend school in March, are now open.

Scottish Association of Writers

So, I’ll be back soon with September’s Round Robin, but in the meantime Keep Writing (or Start, make this the year)

Anne

Diary of a Writer – September Writing Prompt

http://www.edinburghwritersclub.org.uk/

This year, Edinburgh Writers’ Club celebrates its 70th Anniversary.

I am not a founder member.

I am a longstanding member having been in the club through at least 8 changes of venue, having been its President, having known and mourned many of its characters and having been honoured with Life Membership.

So, what does this month’s picture prompt me to write? This little tribute to a wonderful group for a start.

EWC gave me the confidence to write and to take that writing seriously. It provided me with a safe haven for trying out different genres and it was through the club’s yearly competitions that I discovered my small talent for dialogue and playwriting. Thereafter, I enjoyed a lot of fun in rehearsal rooms and a lot of anxiety sitting at the back of a darkened theatre waiting to hear what the audience thought. When the frustrations of funding for staging became overwhelming, it was through EWC that I exploited suggestions and connections to find another berth in historical romance.

Along the way, I’ve written almost every other type of text – except perhaps haiku, I don’t believe I’ve ever tried syllable counted poems – and seen a lot of work published or performed. Thank you EWC. I look forward to our opening party and the challenges of the upcoming year.

So, is there a hobby club or professional organisation to which you owe a debt of gratitude? Tell us about it or direct us to your own blog to let us see it.

Anne

Diary of a Writer – Writing Prompt January – the Door to the Year

The Door of the Year

The Door of the Year

The Door to the Year is Georgian and I found it while walking around Dublin’s beautiful Georgian streets. As many readers know, I focus my own Regency and early nineteenth century fiction in Edinburgh and London. On the other hand who wouldn’t wonder what’s behind this lovely door and its equally tempting neighbour?

Early January is the time for handing in entries to the Scottish Association of Writers annual conference competitions. I have at least a short story – can’t give any clues what that’s about – and you may be going along and have entries, too. Headline speaker is Helen Lederer and you’ll find the Conference Schedule by typing September into the search box. Day delegates are welcome. The Westerwood Hotel and Sports complex is welcoming, comfortable and easily accessible from the train to Croy or by car.

Occasionally competitions excite my creative imagination, but more and more, they’ve become a distraction from the main work. Of course, as with the People’s Friend serial writing competition, sometimes the distraction pays off. Shortlisted and published, together with two subsequent short story sales, it was a profitable distraction.

So, what is The Door to the Year opening up for your writing.? Will you share a few hopes with us?

Diary of a Writer – Start in Time

Wise Owl

Wise Owl

Start in Time

Time management has never been one of my stronger character traits. I greedily gather in brochures and leaflets. I note deadlines for Edinburgh Writers’ Club, founded 1947, competitions and for comps or challenges being run by other organisations I belong to and they approach steadily. They approach so steadily that I often reel with astonishment to see a closing date is now tomorrow.

Why is this? I do know, and in fact live with, people who are capable of starting in time. whether it be planning a holiday, whittling down the purchase of Christmas presents or writing a paper, they do it bit by carefully timetabled bit.

I have tried it and while it was great last year when I knew I needed to lose some weight and achieved my goal with three weeks in hand, it sometimes leads to duplication of effort. I cannot ever believe that I can leave the house for three weeks unless I’m in a lather of organisation and waist deep in lists, lists, lists. So I start re-checking. Yes, I did cancel the milk and the paper delivery. Yes, I have emptied the fridge. Yes, I did ask someone to water the house plants.

It unnerves me more than a little and perversely I head off sure that I’ve forgotten something.

But in some walks of life, I am getting better. For example, today I’ll be decorating large boxes for the local church’s Gift Services. Every year, I collect 7 or 8, strengthen them with parcel tape and cover them with Christmas wrap. This year I have all the boxes, I have the parcel tape and the wrap. Ready to go without having to stop and buy extra – provided no one has ‘borrowed’ my stanley knife. There’s no doubt it makes the job feel less stressful.

If you would like to donate a new and unwrapped Christmas Gift to someone who might otherwise receive nothing, check out The Salvation Army’s local appeals here.

Writing the next novel..

Well, it’s on the stocks and I have two lovely central characters, a setting and I’ve made enquiries of an editor. What’s holding me back? Thinking I might enter those competitions. Is it maybe over-programming rather than lack of planning that gets in my way?

Naw! I don’t really do time-management. How about you?

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Diary of a Writer – October Prompt

Sea Lions, Chile

Sea Lions, Chile

Last month’s prompt was a path bordered by lush green gunnera. It was relatively peaceful, although one or two of you found sinister thoughts along the disappearing pathway and into the hidden areas beyond.

I took October’s prompt, above, while on a botanical trip to Chile. It was perhaps my favourite outing of the whole expedition and the island in the picture is part of the reason.

It’s an island – and like JM Barrie, I’m mildly fascinated by them.

It’s covered in sea lions.

The scene is full of life and energy. The sea lions fought an ongoing struggle to get out of the boiling waters among the rocks and onto the island. It was mesmerising to watch.

Sorry you have to take my word for the sea lions. My camera isn’t strong enough to show them in detail, but they are there.

How does the prompt affect you? Care to share any piece with us?

Diary of a Writer – Travel, Food and Story Openings

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By Margaret McNeil, Crieff Hydro, SAW

So, a couple of weeks ago, before I had a great trip to Lincoln where they have a wonderful abbey and also The Old Bakery, I promised to add a wee resume of my Q&A at Edinburgh Writers’ Club. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Entering Lincoln Abbey for the first time is one of those heart-stopping moments. How did they do it? No computers, powered tools, digital images, but there it sits in all its beauty. It is a fine Gothic building and at one time the tallest in Europe. The Old Bakery is a wonderful restaurant and a great example of re-using what’s there. The building was a bakery and shop when its owner died leaving it to his daughter. She shut the ground floor and moved upstairs where she lived for forty years. Enter chef, Ivano de Serio, and his wife, Tracy. They’ve carefully carved out a restaurant on the ground floor and fitted out three comfortable bedrooms above. A delicious experience.

Back to that Q&A

How To Lose Competitions

My own pet hate as a judge is reading The day had started badly or It had been one of those days. Such an opening is invariably followed by a detailed explanation of what went wrong. You can think of the sort of thing. Bert set the alarm for 8.15 when he meant to set 7.15; the dog escaped when he opened the door; the milk was off and the toaster exploded.

All of this ‘back-story’ is perfectly acceptable character creation, BUT the reader doesn’t need to read it. They need to absorb it by your showing of it in the action of the story you’re telling.

As the writer think – how does your man react to losing the dog? How does his body react to a mouthful of sour milk? How is he coping NOW?

Another issue raised by this sort of beginning is word count. If you have 1500 words, why are you wasting them by describing events outside your story?

There was other discussion and folk did have questions. They may come up in later posts.

Weather: I hope you’ll scroll down and read the post about the use of weather in our fiction. It was great fun to write and I loved the others in the Round Robin. However, apart from shameful self-publication, may I just say I need the light on to see the keyboard this morning as yet another sleet shower passes by…

So, I’m no agony aunt, but what puzzles you most about losing writing competitions? I don’t write poetry, folks. And like every other judge, one has to say that a different eye might have made a different choice.

Not just any old word

The late Margaret McKinlay was my mentor and friend. As the anniversary of her untimely death comes round I find myself considering some of the things she taught me about writing.

A small selection of the novels by EWC members past and present.

A small selection of the novels by EWC members past and present.

The most important was her remark about editor’s or judge’s comments. At this distance in time I can’t remember the exact words, but the gist was this: NEVER dismiss the comment out of hand. A busy person has taken time to read your work and say a little about it. That’s what they believe. Read it. Consider it well. Come back to it when you’ve left it for a couple of days.

Margaret was the writer we’d all like to be. She sold countless humorous articles, short stories and general articles. She tutored for Writers’ News. She mentored people privately. She was an outstanding crime novelist. She also motivated people in ordinary life and was hugely influential in setting up a young people’s centre near where she lived.

I can’t tell you how much I miss her insight when the going is tough.

However, I recently had one of those toughies when a judge’s crit used ‘good’ six times in eleven short lines: but did not rate the story. Instead of sticking pins in anything, I consulted a wiser friend and have read her advice carefully. I think, no more than that, I see where the problem might be. Story amended as suggested has gone off to an experienced ed for consideration.

Every writer needs insightful friends. I have a few and I appreciate them greatly. Thank you all.

 

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“Oh, Mariah, let us not quarrel. We will be married within the month. At least your papa’s house contains plenty of books. You may practise throwing them.” anne stenhouse

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http://goo.gl/PKptQg Bella’s Betrothal US

 …a solitary figure ahead among some gorse and shrubs. Charles thought she made a beautiful picture in her riding habit with the exquisite hat Jenny Menzies wished to inherit. He thought the girl might get it sooner rather than later if he followed his instincts. At that precise moment, he wanted to shake Bella hard. Then he would lock her in the castle in Strath Menzies and hold her forever. anne stenhouse

http://goo.gl/5RBzIm Bella’s Betrothal UK

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And at the EWC

Edinburgh Writers’ Club now meets in the Wash Bar and we had a cheerful crush of members and guests last night to hear Janne Moller of Black and White publishing talk about Publishing.

It’s always good to hear how it is on the other side and Janne was clear about the constraints and challenges facing today’s publisher.

Her advice to those wishing to submit was equally clear. Don’t send me several pages of your backstory, is rule number one. When an editor is receiving around five mss a day, she doesn’t have time for that. Instead do send:

A short and interesting synopsis of the story and a few sample chapters

Your name and contact details.

A reply won’t come back too quickly and in the pressurised weeks around August – early November when the Christmas market books are going out, it is even slower. A quieter time to submit is December, January and February.

Janne cautioned against sending mss that are not visible in a house’s list. Black and White, for example, don’t publish poetry. This should tell the poet to go elsewhere rather than make him think, “They need me.”

Black and White publish around 45 books a year and about 10 will be fiction. Janne said in reply to a question that she was looking for contemporary women’s fiction with global appeal. As she is the foreign rights sales’ person, she wants to know the story will travel.

She used an expression I haven’t come across but might pin up over the wall behind my pc:

“microcosm within the macrocosm.”

Isn’t that what interests us all? How our individual story or drama sits within the global?