Posts Tagged ‘courses’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStarting out as a writer is a big step, and we all have our own individual needs and experiences. So here’s my story about learning how to write in physical isolation within a fairly remote region of Australia, and hence why the internet became a vital component of my own personal transformation.
I have always been a voracious reader, but had never considered writing anything myself. Being rather lazy in many ways, I much preferred reading the fruit of everybody else’s efforts while remaining cosily tucked up in bed with a mug of coffee or a glass of wine, along with a nice view out the window.
However, when I decided to start a career in law, an utterly compelling desire to write fiction became embedded in my brain. This, I guess, was the natural result of spending too many onerous hours slaving over legal essays where just about every sentence had to be accompanied by a substantiating footnote in conjunction with highly irritating formatting requirements. In the end, I decided that once I had earned my little piece of paper, I was going to take six months off to solely write fiction.
But just how does an aspiring fiction writer begin to write? I have to confess that I had absolutely no idea.
In an attempt to find out, I joined my local writer’s group. However, attending “local” writers meeting equated to a three hour round trip in the dry season, and five hours or more in the wet, when the roads become blocked by rising creeks and fallen trees.
So in the alternative, I began to explore what was on offer on the internet. Among other things, I tried attending virtual writing group meetings on Second Life in a beguiling and sometimes naked avatar form.
misty_mountain_range_500Next, I submitted a few short stories to the website, ABC Pool. This was an experimental platform that connected our national broadcaster with local communities across Australia. Here, contributors not only gained feed back on their work from media professionals, as well as the other contributors, they were also provided with the opportunity to have work published at the national level.

In no time at all, I had two of my works broadcast on national radio, and my happy new career was successfully launched. Though remaining true to form, I always prefer to write on my laptop while remaining cosily tucked up in bed with a nice view along with a mug of coffee or a glass of wine. Though red or white is fine. I really don’t mind.

***

Elke Nagy lives in Far North Queensland, Australia, and currently works as freelance writer and visual artist. Three of her short stories have been recently published by Ether Books, and today she is busily engaged in writing up her first novel  — a sensual, yet malevolent murder mystery set in the tropical rainforest of her home environs.

Eric_720It’s good of you to let me have a slot on your blog. You’re sure nobody’s going to read it, aren’t you? Only some of these confessions could be damaging if they got out.

I started trying to write years back. I didn’t have a clue, but always had a deep, profound meaning. People needed to hear my opinion. Yeah right, what a bore.

Out in the real world, I was a suited and booted, serious businessman. Look at the pictures. When that face enters a boardroom, it intimidates. My role is to make projects move in the right direction.

Almost like the tortured super-hero from the comic books, beneath the professional suit, I suffered from … urges. I tried desperately to keep this under wraps. I didn’t want the people who employed me aware I was a latent creative.

In line with my serious persona, I worked on a non-fiction for a few years. When I completed that, I had a huge void to fill and decided to try my hand at fiction again. This time, I realised I didn’t have a clue how to write. I signed up for the Writer’s Bureau creative writing course. I loved the fact it fitted in with my professional work. At times, I’m involved with projects that demand huge amounts of concentration. When this happens, I simply don’t have the mental resources to be able to write creatively.

The first pages of the course scrubbed away a lot of my preconceptions. Nobody wants me to lecture, they want to be entertained. Cut the flowery phrases. Write what people want, not what I think they need.

Even when I started to get places in competitions, I was reluctant to let my business colleagues know. I’d lie about what I did at the weekend, preferring them to think I was having an affair than spending time writing fiction.

Even though it’s reputedly incredibly difficult to get people to read, I tried humour as my first major attempt at fiction. Of course, I fell in love with the main female character, Amara (that’s ok, because she’s based on my beloved wife anyway.)

As a new writer, I had no problem coming up with throw away lines. So, even though she’s a virgin warrior, Amara claimed to have a daughter. When a few readers queried this, I had to come up with a plausible way for this to happen, this gave the back story for my latest book, Amara’s Daughter.

I avoid “deep themes,” in case I’m drawn into pomposity, but there were a couple of ideas running through my head I wanted to work with.

The first came from a forum discussion regarding characters. How many black heroes are there in fantasy? Taking this thought, even the women in most fantasy, high, rather than urban, serve as love interest.

I wanted a black hero, a female black hero, an ugly, marred female black hero!

It disheartened me to see a six year old girl with her hands on her hips roll her eyes and declare men are useless. I don’t actually dispute that many of them are, but I wanted to depict role-models in single and mixed gender relationships, good and bad.

High principles? Not really, love, sex and desire are universal. Soon, I had a whole cast of strong female characters to fall in love with! I’d like to claim that unlike real-life, these women did what they were told, but they were as wilful as any woman can be.

Once I’d had a couple of short stories published and made the decision to self-publish Amara’s Daughter. The time to come out of the closet had arrived. To make it low-key, I booked myself on the business breakfast circuit doing a talk:

I am a Flasher – make people see your point.

In the talk, I compare writing flash fiction with preparing a customer presentation. Explaining how I pare down to the minimum word count to express a “real” story.

They fire the usual questions about where the ideas come from. There’s usually one who wants to tell me they are going to write a book one day. I’ve had amazing feedback, with most of them being interested and supportive.

I’mglad I came out of the closet. In fact it went so well, I can’t wait to see how they’ll react when I turn up next week in my Laura Ashley frock and tell them I want to be called Emily.

 ***

Amaras-Daughter-Cover-MEDIUMAmara’s Daughter – Swords, Sandals and Sex – High fantasy on speed

Carved from ice with blades of fire, the rigidly feminist state of Serenia breeds heroes. Unimaginably perfect, Amara the Magnificent, the legendary Ultimate Warrior is their greatest.

Five years since Amara’s mysterious disappearance, her daughter, Maryan, struggles to escape her mother’s formidable shadow. Shunned by most, her only friends are oddball characters from the edge of society.

The Queen sees Maryan as an asset to the nation, a pawn to play with and a pretty bauble to appease the neighbouring king, but lurking beneath the surface, an ancient terror plots to wipe out Maryan’s bloodline.

Friend, lover, and more, Amara’s Daughter is a turbulent, rite of passage story tracing Maryan’s growth from naive schoolgirl to the woman destiny needs her to be.

***

Living in Cheshire with my wife and our two dogs (Milly and Molly,) I’ve run a successful computer consultancy for many years. The business continues to thrive and I feel blessed that people pay me to solve complex problems for them.

One day, we hope to spend a portion of our year on the Greek islands, where I would love to spend most days writing, but for now, I’m content that with three adult children, I’m being presented with grandchildren at a fabulous rate.

I split my writing time between short stories and novels. I love to take the challenge of creating a viable story in a reduced number of words for flash competitions.

At the top of my list of all-time favourites are CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein. Following them are Robert Jordan and Trudi Canavan, with a whole host of modern writers cramming up behind, including Kim Harrison (Hollows series), Margaret Stohl/ kami Garcia (Caster Chronicles) and Ben Aaaronovitch (Rivers of London.)

Links:

Website

Blog

Facebook

Amara’s Daughter

Twitter: @ehhowarduk

A huge thank you to Sue for inviting me onto her blog today… I don’t think she realised that when I’m enthusiastic about something, I can ramble for hours!

So Sue’s asked me to convince her of the merits of creative writing courses, classes and workshops. I’m hoping that by the time she reads this she’ll be enrolling on everything she comes across.

My first experience of ‘creative writing’ was a baptism of fire. I decided (through madness or stupidity, I still don’t know which) to accompany a friend to a course at our local Adult Education centre. I hadn’t written any fiction since leaving school, although I had been journal writing for several years. That was exactly 2 years ago this month, and it was one of the best decisions of my life! I’ll be honest; the course itself was a little boring. I found myself nodding off in several sessions! But somehow, through all the yawning something clicked. Something happened to me during that short course, and it’s been driving me on ever since.

I realised that writing is just like any other subject. To be a good writer you have to learn how. I devoured books, writing magazines and completed Nanowrimo (twice!) all in my quest to be a better writer. But I needed instruction. I needed someone to tell me where I was going wrong. So I enrolled on the NEC’s Home Study Writing course. That was great, but I felt very isolated. Seeing the advert for Swanwick in The Writing Magazine, and my friend agreeing to come with me, came at exactly the right moment, as I was beginning to realise that I would need more than just my passion to achieve my dream.

Since that first trip to Swanwick, a truly life changing experience, I have studied with The Write Place, attended many workshops, been to Caerleon, attended Swanwick for a second year and completed an online Pocket Novel Course. I’ve had critiques on my work by respected authors, joined a writing group, and set up a writing group. My life has been enriched by every single experience, and my writing improved tenfold. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learnt in the last 2 years, it’s been a roller coaster, one that I’m not sick of, just yet. I’ve met some fantastic writers, inspiring tutors, and made some great friends.

It was all very scary at first. You’re in a room with all these people and you’re thinking, oh no, they’re all better than me, they’re all proper writers, I’m not. But the great thing is, you don’t have to share your work. There have been plenty of times where I’ve gone completely blank. Most recently at Swanwick, when I did an Erotica class with Della Galton. One of the exercises was to come up with a title for an Erotic story. Could I come up with one? Nope! I watched everyone scribbling away in their notebooks, whilst my pen just hovered over mine. Of course, I didn’t offer to share my non-existent title, and by the time I’d got back to my room I’d come up with six!

But there are other times, when you hear people read out their work and you think, wow, mine isn’t so bad after all. When you take that first step, to share something you’ve just written, read it out aloud to the class, your chest is pounding and your mouth is dry. You wonder, “What the hell am I doing here?”And then, after you’ve read it, someone says “Oooo, I want to know more, what happens?” or “That was really good, I liked it.” Well, at that moment, your confidence soars and they have to peel you down from the ceiling.

If you’re the shy type (as I am) I would definitely recommend attending a couple of work shops or classes before you throw yourself in at the deep end and attend a residential school. The residential schools are brilliant, from a social aspect, but they can also be a little overwhelming for an introverted newbie. I would never have attended one on my own, without at least knowing one person there. At Swanwick they have a white badge scheme, so everyone knows its your first time. This is very useful, because, although you’re singled out as being new, it alerts others (some who have been attending for 20+ years!) to the fact that you may be on your own. As a Swanwick Steward last year I tried to talk to every ‘white badger’ I came across, because, I knew what it felt like.

So, that’s all well and good, I guess you’re saying, but what about putting all this knowledge to good use? Where’s the novel? Am I actually any closer to becoming the publishedauthor I dream about? Well, I feel that I’ve spent the last 2 years experimenting, not really knowing which direction I should go in. I came away from Swanwick this year more focused, discovering, for example, that I’m not a short story writer. My voice has started to develop and so has my style (blogging has really helped with that…I can highly recommend it!). But there is still so much I need to learn and in the words of Albert Einstein, “I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very very curious.”

As I sit at my desk, typing this, surrounded by piles of notebooks, folders, cats and study guides I can’t help but smile, and remember my conversation with Simon Hall, after we’d both attended Roz Southey’s “Show Not Tell” workshop in Swanwick. I jokingly commented on his attendance, saying something along the lines of “Well, you don’t need a workshop for show and tell.” He laughed and replied “You’d be surprised, I often need reminding, and there’s always something you can learn.”

So I guess I’m not alone in my quest to learn, my need to be better. My confidence increases with every course, class and workshop. And in 10 years’ time, I’ll still be learning, but hopefully, by then, I’ll have at least a couple of best sellers to my name. Oh, and if you’re thinking of coming to Swanwick next year, do, I’ll be the one with the bright yellow badge saying “STEWARD” and rescuing ‘white badgers’ when they lock themselves out of their rooms.

***

Vikki Thompson lives in Kent with her husband, 3 adult children (who refuse to leave home) and 2 cats. She blogs, (or should that be rambles?) daily at The View Outside and spends her time fantasising about being the next EL James but isn’t too keen on having to write Erotica to achieve that, unless Robert Downey Jnr is available for research. Next month she starts another course, with The Faber Academy and is hoping that SJ Watson won’t be too upset when she becomes the next Faber success story (tongue firmly in cheek!).