They say it never rains but it pours – would this count as one of the worst opening lines ever? Try this for a writing exercise. Jot down the worst opening line ever. You’ll be surprised how difficult this is, once you put your mind to it. In the beautiful grounds of the National Trust property Kingston Lacy, the wonderful Orlando Murrin and Rosie Jones led six of us on a creative writing from life course, in deepest Dorset. Orlando is a bit of a renaissance talent, turning his hand to many a career, including writing, cookery and mentoring, whilst we all wanted to know how Rosie, the NT’s writer-in-residence, got her nickname ‘foxi’. With beautiful weather and a whole weekend of writing ahead, I had high expectations. The workshop was an excellent space for inspiration and I actually had one of those ‘Eureka’ moments, encouraged by Orlando’s critique of what I had sent in before the course. Of course I can’t reveal exactly what my sudden inspiration was, but suffice it to say, it was a turning point in my writing and has completely changed the scope and dynamics of the novel. From henceforth, I shall hang a strip of brocade over my Mac as a reminder. Orlando and Rosie helped me to develop much greater ambitions for the book and to make me see that more haste and less speed was needed, as indeed my gran used to say. Two days that changed my writing completely.
I was refreshing my spinning skills recently, with the excuse that my heroine will need to be a spinner and weaver. I decided to “Improve my spinning”, having not touched the spinning wheel since it arrived shortly after I completed “Spinning for Beginners”. The wonderful Brenda Gibson was the teacher and got me back on treadle, so to speak and I highly recommend her book on spinning. The tranquility and the camaraderie of the women reminded me of what the village evening sessions would have been like, when women gathered together to card or comb wool or perform a range of duties. We learned about one another, about our lives and children as well as previous crafting experience and we helped and supported each other. In the spirit of crafting, I tapped into a feeling that was centuries old and which I can use for my novel. It also encouraged me to look at the Spinning Project which gives more detail on the historical perspective. So convinced that it was all research for my writing, I spun happily on. At the lunch break I checked my phone, only to find an email from Palgrave’s marketing department. The publisher was nominating my book for the Katherine Briggs Folklore Award and would I mind terribly if they forwarded on my contact details. I had to read the email several times to really take the news in. The award will be presented in November and past winners have included E.P. Thompson and one of my heroines, Marina Warner. Fingers crossed.
And so to the lands over the Pond, as we say in the UK. The internet has done great things for writers, but word of mouth is still a very powerful tool. Thanks to the wonderful Sharon Weinberger, I was approached to do an author Q&A by Deborah Kalb, which I found a rather liberating and interesting experience. You can read the interview here and I highly recommend her website for a mix of eclectic book reviews and author interviews. And so ends a very fortuitous fortnight.