Last Friday, I went to our monthly writers’ group meeting and one of the writers mentioned NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month as a way of finishing a novel. If you haven’t heard of it, or, like me, don’t know exactly how it works, have a look here.

Anyway, the reason we were talking about it was my current struggle with actually finishing a novel. I write quite a lot, and I finish short stories that I write, but novels are tricky for me. You have to maintain the momentum, and it helps if you plan it. I have always been an intuitive writer so I don’t tend to plan that much. The problem is, my mood can change so much from one session to the next that if I don’t have a plan to stick to, I sometimes end up writing almost the opposite of what I wrote the day before. Which makes it difficult if you are writing a novel.

The thing I like about NaNoWriMo (apart from its name) is that you don’t have time to do any editing. You are in your first draft mode, and the goal is to finish it, not to perfect the first thousand words. I’m doing my challenge in July because I am too impatient to wait until November and if you want to join me, register your profile at campnano


My Hay Festival Highlights – Peter Sawyer and the Vikings

I am still elated after my day at the Hay – I can’t believe it has already been ten days! I’ve been wearing my Hay t-shirt, watching the sessions I couldn’t get to in person on Sky Arts, and savouring the memories of the ones I did get to attend.

The amazing historian Peter Sawyer gave a talk on the Vikings, and the treasures that tempted them to frequently raid England. This was my second to last session of the day but the fascinating lecture left me buzzing. I’m putting both The Wealth Of Anglo-Saxon England, published in February 2013, and the earlier Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings on my reading list.

But probably not a good idea to read them all in one sitting, as Peter Florence, who presented the session, seems to have done the night before. Here’s my sneaky picture of him snoring gently on my right after introductions.

And talking of festivals, this is the last week of the Prestwich Book Festival! There are only two events left to enjoy – Growing Up Saintly with Jenn Ashworth, and Alison Moore and Nicholas Royle: in conversation. For tickets, go to Prestwich Book Festival

Today’s Writing Prompt

I recently joined a local writers’ group and have started exchanging writing prompts with other writers.
Here’s one I’ve been set this week: write a short story or a poem where some or all the lines start with ‘I don’t know’. 
And here’s the one I suggested to a fellow writer: write a short story or a poem using all of the following words: Greta, tongue, basket, sweet peas, dance.

We’ll read out our work next Friday at the next session. If you want to join the challenge, write your own story/poem based on one of these prompts and send it to me at I will publish the best three on the blog next month.

My Hay Festival Highlighs – Sebastian Faulks and the demanding fan

Maybe I just haven’t attended enough literary festivals and this is actually how it rolls, but I was a little taken aback by some of the questions  the authors got during their session. At Sebastian Faulks’ after-interview question time, a self-proclaimed fan of his earlier books who ‘adores’ him proceeded to ask the now cliche equivalent of Lord Sugar’s ‘why shouldn’t I fire you’ – ‘Why should I finish this book? I’m thirty pages from the end and I’m struggling,’ she said. Faulks looked as surprised as I was and then told the woman that he wouldn’t beg her. Then he almost begged her as he set off explaining how great the book is.

My Hay Festival Highlighs – Sebastian Faulks and the demanding fan

Poor Faulks was a little unlucky with his questions, to be fair. His first one was a very old man with a strong Welsh accent  who started a lecture on World War I poets and eventually had to be stopped when Gaby Wood realised that he was not planning to ask a question at all. I dread to think what I would have done in this situation and this will probably become a recurring nightmare for me now but Faulks handled it very well.
He responded with his own mini-lecture on the poets, and since the old man was not allowed the microphone any more, Faulks won.

Hay Festival 2013

 Yesterday I spent the day at the amazing Hay Festival. I wish I had stayed for the whole duration but even a day there has given me great pleasure and a sense of being not just inspired but encouraged by all the love of all things literary that is so abundant at Hay. One of the things I loved about the festival is its accessibility to families and a range of activities not only for young adults but for children of any age. I am already planning next year’s trip, this time for the whole family. For now, my boys get signed copies of Andy Briggs’s Tarzan novels.

John Boyne appearing as a ghost

I will be posting my impressions of the day as I recollect them but one of the most enjoyable sessions for me was John Boyne’s. I have never read any of Boyne’s books but I have watched The Boy In The Striped Pajamas on TV and I loved it (and I can only expect the novel to be even better, as is usually the case, so this one is going on my immediate reading list ). Boyne read a little from his new novel, a ghost story called This House Is Haunted. I’m not usually a fan of ghost stories, mainly because I not only don’t believe in ghosts, but generally find them quite boring (what’s so exciting about hanging around some old house, scaring everyone and generally being a nuisance? Oh, I think I just got it! ). But Boyne’s reading was so good that I am now planning to read this one next. The thing that I loved most about this was Boyne’s apparent lack of any great strain or anxiety that writers usually get. He talked about his disciplined way of writing (during the day, as if in a normal job), his love of writing on the train, or in hotel rooms when he’s travelling, of not bothering to plan too far ahead, or even at all, and of the joy of getting through the first draft and not worrying too much about how it reads until the second draft. Oh, and about how annoyed he gets at still being associated with The Boy In The Striped Pajamas novel, which he considers to be somewhere in the bottom half of all the books he has written. Ooops.