Carrbridge in Winter - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography





Sunday, 24 June 2012

I'M LATE, I'M LATE FOR A VERY IMPORTANT DATE ..

I know, I know, it's not poetry as Ted Hughes would  have known it, but I think it makes a very apt link between Gill's excellent and thought-provoking blog on verse, and this one because I am well.....late. Apologies everyone.
But goodness, has it been busy at Maison Mitchelmore post book launch!
There was me thinking all I had to do was write a book, sell it, see it published, then retire to my freezing garret and write another. Not so.
Before my book - TO TURN FULL CIRCLE, published by Choc Lit (in case anyone's forgotten, tee hee) - hit the shelves I was given, by my publisher, a list of reviewers who would be getting in touch. Not only would these reviewers review my book but they would also ask me to guest on their blogs. Each would be asking me different questions so as to avoid repetition and thus boor the readers rigid.
And this is where it started to get interesting.
One reviewer interviewed not me, but my heroine - Emma. Another chose to ask questions of Seth, my hero. A third was keen to know exactly what was in Matthew's mind because he didn't get a viewpoint in my book.
'Hello, Seth, good to meet you. Can you tell me where you see yourself in five years' time?'
'Gosh, Emma, but you've had a tough time of it lately. Was there ever a moment when you considered giving up the struggle?'
'Now then, Matthew, you're a cocky one. "I've known quite a few women, Emma" you were heard to say. Well, what I want to know is how many, and how experienced with women you are.'
And more questions of that ilk. And in answering them my writing took on another dimension for me. I had to delve deeper into the characters I had created, and I've found that as I write the sequel - working title NO TURNING BACK - I'm finding it is richer and deeper because of the reviewer interview experience.
So that's blogs.
Next came newspaper interviews.
My local rag sent me a list of questions by e.mail. so I answered them right away (I'm not always late!). Now then, my surname is often mis-spelled. I get Mitchellmore, Michelmore, Mitchell-Moore and many other combinations. So I typed LINDA MITCHELMORE in Times New Roman 20, and BOLD. So imagine my surprise/shock/horror to open the newspaper and find that the heading on the otherwise excellent whole page feature said, JANE'S LIFE TURNS FULL CIRCLE. Jane? Where the heck did the editor get that from?
It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good and the upshot is the editor offered to do a follow up piece the next week on the success (if there was one!) of my booksigning at The Torbay Bookshop here in Paignton. Well, dear reader, it was a success and the editor was true to his word.
A journalist from The Western Morning News came to my house to interview me and we had a lovely couple of hours talking all things writing and books. That feature appeared yesterday. But......the photo that was used in other features has appeared again....time for a new one?
Booksignings are being pencilled in on the calendar. Bookshops everywhere between Saltash and Exeter have invited me along so I make sure dates and times are correct for those. I vaguely thought I would do a local one and that would be it, but no.....it seems people like to meet the authors of the books they read. So who am I to disappoint them by not pitching up?
Which brings me to libraries. I've done one library talk before - for the RNA's anthology, LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT - but that was in conjunction with two novelist friends, Margaret James and Sophie King so I wasn't alone. But now I have a library talk or two, or three lined up.
'Remember,' one librarian said, 'that there might be people in the audience who have heard you speak before. It might be a good idea to have something fresh to say.'
Oh dear. How many different ways can I say, 'I'm deaf, I wrote a book, it got bought, it's been published, I hope you like it, and thanks for being here'? Quite a few as it happens - and again a very useful writing tool for my fiction writing.
Ah yes, fiction writing.....all the above has made me rather later than I want to be getting on with the sequel. So, it's time to leave you now because, you see, while I'm getting more computer-savvy I'm not totally au fait with it. I wrote all this an hour ago, then I tried to add a picture of me at the booksigning with Matthew Clarke (proprieter with his wife, Sarah, of the above bookshop) but in the doing of it something fried and I lost the lot.
So....a photo may or may not appear somewhere, sometime.....

Saturday, 16 June 2012

POETRY – AND WEATHER


Today my intention was to write an uplifting blog about poetry.  The older I get, the more I enjoy poetry, and I love feeling inspired by it.  So, I thought, how best to share this delight?
But now I sit down, and it’s been raining almost non-stop for two days, and we have localised flooding forecast, and I’m no longer feeling so upbeat.
Which made me think about how much mood – for me – is affected by what is going on around me, and especially the weather.  And although this can be depressing (living in Scotland, the weather is often, well, depressing), I realise it can also be useful in my writing. 
I can use the dreariness of a dull day to help me describe the dreariness of my character’s life, or the brilliance of a Spring morning to engage with their happiness.  It doesn’t have to be dull weather, or Spring-like, in the story.  It’s the emotion I’m using, as one of the many ways we draw on what is happening in our lives to delve deeper into our characters’ feelings.
Of course, it doesn’t always work.  It’s not so easy when you are trying to write about a character who is feeling sad about leaving the heat of southern Africa, while you are experiencing the cold dampness of a Scottish summer!  Then you just have to look to your memories, or some other way of creating the atmosphere you want.  And one of those things I turn to more and more is poetry.
So there we are – I’m back to my uplifting blog about poetry!  And to tie in with the weather theme, I want to mention one truly uplifting poem which has weather at its heart.  I could never express this nearly so well as the wonderful Ted Hughes does, but I can tune in to the emotion he is feeling, and use that in both my life and my writing.
I remember the first line of the poem as ‘This house has been at sea all night’ … but my younger son, studying it for Standard grade, told me (sighing) that actually the words are ‘This house has been far out at sea all night.’   Which sent me to look out the poem so I could read it again.  He was right.  And the poem is as brilliant as ever.  Here is the beginning:
Wind
This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
...

For copyright reasons I don't want to put the full poem here, but it's well worth reading.  See 

http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/ted-hughes/wind/ 

Friday, 8 June 2012

M'Connachie & JMB by Anne Stenhouse


M’Connachie & JMB by Anne Stenhouse

This is the Theatre Royal, Dumfries. It was opened on 29th September 1790 shortly after Robert Burns arrived in the town. It is believed to be the oldest theatre in Scotland in 2012. At the time it had seating for 550 people, Box seats costing 3/-, Pit 2/-, and gallery 1/-.

I think Sara Bain must have been playing ghosts inside the theatre but other figures on the left are Mary Smith, Lynn Otty, Gill Stewart and Carol Hogarth who are waiting to see the performance by Theatre Broad of two plays by J.M.Barrie - Seven Women, and The Twelve Pound Look, and a new play called M’Connachie & J.M.B. written by Anne Stenhouse - pictured :-

M’Connachie was the name Barrie gave to his alter ego, or as Barrie said “the unruly half of myself: the writing half.” Anne has clearly done a lot of research into Barrie’s life and she cleverly used two stage characters to portray the two sides of the man. In doing so she brought out many aspects of Barrie’s life which were new to me and intrigued me sufficiently to make me want to read more. Thank you Anne. It is well known that Barrie found his inspiration for Peter Pan in his school friend’s garden at Moatbrae while he was attending Dumfries Academy. However I did not know Peter’s character was influenced by the death of Barrie’s elder brother who died shortly before his fifteenth birthday in a skating accident and therefore never lived to grow old. We all remember the best about a young person when this sort of tragedy happens According to some biographers he was his mother’s favourite, her golden boy.

            Apparently Barrie realised other writers might want to know more about him and his complicated life. He is reputed to have written “May God blast anyone who writes a biography of me”. Fortunately there is not room here for me to do that. If the opportunity arises you will have to see Anne’s play to learn more.

            Whatever aspersions some biographers may cast about his various relationships I think Barrie must have been fond of children, including the five boys of Arthur and Sylvia Llewellyn-Davies, and he bequeathed the copyright of Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. No doubt many have reason to be grateful for that.

Note to Kindle users. Family at Fairlyden by Gwen Kirkwood will be free to download on Sunday and Monday 10th & 11th June:

Monday, 4 June 2012

Thousands Pass Here Every Day

There’s great excitement at the moment – mixed with some apprehension – as the publication of my first full poetry collection approaches. Called Thousands Pass Here Every Day it is being published in August by Indigo Dreams, who are also publishing my non-fiction account of the last three years of my time working in Afghanistan.

The non-fiction book will actually be published the month before the poetry collection but – so far – has not caused the same level of anxiety. It was arranging the poems in the order in which they should appear in the collection which threw me into a spin. At first, I found myself subconsciously arranging them in the order in which I write them, regardless of content or theme or links to poems before and after.

I explained my difficulty to editor, Dawn Bauling who was reassuring about it, telling me she once had a poet who arranged the poems in alphabetical order: something the librarian in Dawn cheered but at which the poet in her screamed, ‘No!’ With the dining table awash in poems I tried again, shuffling and rearranging, making lists and shuffling and rearranging until I had my collection organised to my satisfaction. Well, almost. There was one poem which no longer seemed to fit anywhere. I put it at the front and sent them off to Indigo Dreams.

I also sent a set to poet Tom Pow – the person who got me into this poetry writing malarkey in the first place when I took his creative writing course at Glasgow University – who had kindly agreed to provide a testimonial for the back of the book. He emailed to say the poems needed to be rearranged as they “could be more sensitively presented for the reader to show the strengths of their themes” and he didn’t see where the first poem could fit in with any of the others. He suggested a way of arranging the poems in three named divisions.

The editor agreed and I had another go. This time I ended up with three poems which seemed not to fit anywhere. I’ll keep them for another time I think. Finally, I sent them all off to the publisher. The next step will be when she sends me a proof copy of Thousands Pass Here Every Day. The title comes from one of the poems in the collection, written for a project in Glasgow called Hidden City, in which a group of poets were taken to a venue in the centre of Glasgow which people rushed by without noticing.

The anxiety-provoking thing I had to do was have a photo taken for publicity material. I detest having my picture taken. Every muscle in my face goes rigid as soon as a camera appears. I have never, ever been happy with a photograph of me. Fortunately, a writer friend, Sara Bain who is also a photographer, said she’d do it for me. Somehow she made it all quite painless – I suspect because she never once instructed me to smile.

On a different topic, I was out recently with some writer friends to see a play by another friend, Anne Stenhouse, called M’Connachie and J.M.B. It was a fascinating account of Barrie’s alter ego in the form of the imaginary M’Connachie and demonstrated what an incredibly complex character the author of Peter Pan was. I think we will all be looking at Barrie’s writing from a different perspective than before.

Looking at my friends during the interval I suddenly realised the astonishing variety of genres which were represented: three professional journalists; novelists who write YA books; family sagas; novellas; contemporary women’s fiction; two poets, short story writers and a playwright who also writes articles. Sounds like I have dozens of friends – but in fact there were only seven of us.