Today [ 27th June 2013] I am preparing to go to Foyles, Charing Cross Road. It’s the Northern Talent Summer Salon 2013‏  and I have been invited as a runner-up in the Mslexia Children’s Novel competition. I shall have the chance to pitch my work to agents and editors.

My veins are filled with a blend of delight and terror.

On one hand, I get to tell people about The Selkies of Scoresby Nab. These are industry professionals who could help my story on its way to readers. They could become colleagues who bring about my dream – to see one of my stories in the hands of a child who is enjoying it.

On the other hand, I have to pitch my work in front of industry professionals who all know SO much more than I do – and not look like a blinking idiot. I must make sure not to gabble, act the giddy kipper or gesticulate like a complete loon – even though they are all variants of my shy-person-on-the-inside response to such an occasion.

My double-aspected Imagination  tempts and torments me.

Like Kali – mother and destroyer

She shows me agents swarming and competing, a waggle-dance of yearning to sign me up. It’s all very Hollywood small-town-girl-does-good.

She also shows me a tongue-tied numpty boring ever-so-polite agents and editors into a catatonic state. Or else they wander away – with well-mannered excuses, of course – leaving Billie-no-mates on her own and warning their pals to stay clear.

Neither are likely – but my Imagination prefers to present the extremes. I think she’s rather adolescent – everything is all-or-nothing.

This reminds me of the lovely Lucy Christopher at the SCBWI retreat in May. She exhorted us to think about the threat and the promise in the moments we were writing. That the scenes worth showing needed to have that pull – of teetering between success and disaster. That’s where the drama lies.

That’s what’s meant by WRITE SCARED,  I think. And that’s what’s so exciting about such an event, about presenting your work to the world. It could go either way.

So, whatever happens – and I will keep my lovely readers informed – I resolve to enter into the experience whole-heartedly. Quite likely, in the thick of it I won’t actually be able to tell which way it’s going. But at least, I will be in there.

Words and Pictures

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Oxmarket Centre of Arts in Chichester. It’s well worth a look as there are constantly changing exhibitions. I was interested the work of a local artist David Souter for the website as he paints a fair few sea scenes.

Luckily, he was there (with his delightful little dog) and we got talking. I was struck by how much of his practice as a painter chimed with mine as a writer.

He said his finished works were each a jigsaw, a fitting-together of imagination and observation. That’s what writers do, observe and then fit their understandings into a given shape. It’s the imaginative structure that holds those pieces together.

He felt the real work was in the sketches beforehand and the actual painting didn’t take him long at all. I’m not at that stage, it takes me a fairish while to write a novel, but I certainly find the repeated exercise of my craft is essential. Little notes, pen sketches and the like   drawn from life feed the larger work.

Many of his scenes were recognisable places. Others were creative amalgams. He was honest and unapologetic about re-arranging people and sometimes other elements to suit the composition. That’s what I’m doing right now: I’m editing a first draft to bring out the shape. Some characters will move, some will blend and others may well get painted out. The overall shape, the arrangement of different elements, is what brings pleasure to the reader – or the viewer.

A final aspect that tallied was his desire to create a sense of movement in his work. His images are not static. There is a sense of a before and an after – we are seeing something happening – not just posed. I suggested that this was how writers approach character: we show the person doing something in order to convey them to the reader – we rarely describe them at a standstill.

I found this cross-fertilisation from one art to to another quite a tonic. I wonder what my readers think?

A little bit of what you fancy…

Today I had the pleasure of visting Arundel. I’ve always liked the name, it sounds vaguely Arthurian to me, and it is by a tidal river. Now it so happened that my chauffeur-cum-Long-Suffering-Husband took longer than he’d said and I had more time than expected.

So I day-dreamed. What else does a writer do?

I drank tea and watched a man explain how to use the motorboat they had hired to a rather wobbly family. He stroked the cover of the engine absentmindedly, like the flank of a familiar horse. ‘Oh ho,’ goes my imagination,’what if the riverboats were truly alive?’

Over a little while, the river changed course. The golden brown water went from wrinkled to smooth, turned ripply and headed the other way. The mat of weed I’d seen whooshing along towards Littlehampton with its cargo of a camellia blossom came back.

What other things might come back and forth? Things people had cast away. Things they wanted to get rid of. The thrower would have to be someone not familiar with the river – someone up to no good.

And as for the strange tunnel I saw heading into the hill, well, it was only a sense of trespassing that meant I stopped at just a photograph.

I didn’t even need to go to the castle. I found stories all over. If nothing else, my imagined tales kept me amused on a blustery changeable April day, but it may be that these thoughts are the seeds of a larger story. Ideas have a tendency to grow.

I believe imagination is our most valuable resource – and a bit of indulgence is always welcome.

Where does your fancy lead you?