Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Festival of Writing 2011 - The programme #fow11

The programme was jam-packed for the Festival of Writing. There was a wide choice of optional sessions and alongside them were keynote speeches, Q & A panels and networking galore.


Friday was a more relaxed day for me as I deliberately got there a bit early and wasn't attending the mini-course in the afternoon. It gave me time to meet up with some friends and make some new ones before getting down to the real festival activities.

A literary networking session was held before dinner. Think speed dating only with more people moving around the room. I was fortunate enough to start off on a table with two literary agents, John Jarrold and Jane Judd. The official networking then began with suggested topics but it soon turned into more informal discussions.

After dinner, Authonomy Live took place where seven brave souls took to the stage and read out an extract of their work. All seven were tremendous and a good example of how high the writing (and performing) standards are.


A very full programme followed on Saturday. The opening address came from David Nobbs who was both amusing and enlightening. I then attended a fantastic talk from Jane Holland on writing romance with some very helpful pointers. Next up I attended the literary agents' panel, inevitably the most popular. It threw some much-needed light on what they look for with submissions and a number of other subjects.

The key note address for the afternoon was The Agent and The Publisher with Carole Blake and Patrick Janson-Smith. Unfortunately I missed half of this but check out Simon Whaley's blog here to help fill you in. I wasn't skyving -  I missed the first half for very good reasons - I was attending my 1-2-1's. These are probably the most talked about part of the festival where you have the opportunity for an editor/agent and a book doctor to look at your work and provide you with feedback. The opportunity didn't disappoint and although it was daunting it was great to meet with Lyn Vernham from Choc-Lit Publishing and Jean Fullerton. I received very helpful and positive feedback from both.

My final session on Saturday was with Lyn Vernham and a panel of Choc-Lit authors: Sue Moorcroft, Christina Courtenay and Jane Lovering. I have been a follower of Choc-Lit and their authors for some time so it was lovely to meet them all in person and hear all about their irresistible heroes.

The evening was taken up by the gala dinner but I'm saving that for another post!

Gathering for the Gala Photo credit: Simon Whaley 


Everyone (myself included) appeared to be lagging slightly on Sunday but there was no let-up. The day started with a panel on the path to publication. I then attended my selected sessions on Writing Women's Fiction with Jean Fullerton and Louise Allen, All about rejection letters with agent, Lorella Belli then in the afternoon an excellent talk on pacing from Julie Cohen before the final key-note address with Kate Williams.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I learnt over the course of the weekend. Each session provided me with something useful which I will be able to apply to my work. I had wondered if I was maybe attending the weekend a tad prematurely for where my work in progress stands at the moment. I couldn't have been more wrong. I'm now heading into the second draft stage with an enormous amount of advice from this event and this can only enhance it.

For anyone considering going to this event (even fairly newbie writers like myself) I can't recommend it highly enough!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Festival of Writing 2011: A snippet

Wow, what a weekend! Since I booked up in January I have really been looking forward to the festival of writing and it surpassed all my expectations. The entire weekend was filled with learning and meeting friends, old and new. Once at the train station I met up with fellow tweeter, Heather (notefromlapland) and as we chatted in the taxi queue we met another lady, Jackie and with that the weekend had begun.

I plan to do a few posts as there is so much to tell you but for today I need to catch up on sleep. I will just add the view from my room. Can you spot any geese?

View from York campus room

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Well I had said no more blogs until after York but then the lovely Lucie Wheeler chose to award my blog with a Stylish Blog Award! If you are not following Lucie please do along with the other receipients: Sue Moorcroft, Nicola Morgan, Talli Roland and Margaret James. They are some fantastic blogs from some very talented people and I'm just glad it wasn't a shortlist!

In keeping with this award I now have to tell you seven things about myself. I’ll try and make them interesting!
        1) I’m a qualified physiotherapist – I went to University in East London and qualified in 2002.

        2) One of my pupils doesn’t dilate. I have an eye condition called uveitis and the inflammation has caused scarring in my eye. It doesn’t cause me too many problems (as long as I keep popping the pills) but it can be a pain in changing light conditions.

        3) I’ve never liked raw tomatoes. I try them at least once a year but my taste buds still think they’re yuck.

        4) It took me six attempts to pass my driving test.

        5) Following on from Lucie’s fear of wasps I promised I would share my wasp story. It stands at number one in the chart of my embarrassing life events. I was in the middle of treating a patient on the ward when I had the most awful pain in my thigh. It was a wasp stinging me through my rather thick NHS trousers. Instinctively I whacked it away but unintentionally it landed on my immobile patient. I couldn’t put any weight on my leg and I quickly turned into a hopping mad woman trying to alert the staff to the wasp on my patient. The nursing staff were so worried about me they had me in the treatment room (the bit behind the ward clerk desk with no doors)  and were whipping my trousers down to check if the sting was out and feeding me anti-histamines. If that wasn't enough my boss then had to take me down to A&E in a wheelchair (my trousers were back up at this point.) I haven't been stung since and it's safe to say I avoid the blighters at all costs!
        6) I have one tattoo. I'll let you guess where! 

        7) One of my hobbies is ‘comping.’ That is entering competitions on a regular basis.  When I started in 2007 I'd only been entering for six weeks when I won a holiday to Australia. I have gone on to win several other holidays and still enter them now. It means on occasions I need a friend who owns a passport and can be available last minute. Applications below please...   
        In keeping with tradition I shall now pass the Stylish Blog Award onto five blogs I recommend and they are:
        Simon Says! (Simon Whaley)
        Penny Legg 
        Raw Light (Jane Holland) 
        Quiller's Place (Sally Quilford)  
        Splodz Blogz (Zoe Holmes - who inspired me to start this blog!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

1st Birthday Competition with Cafe Direct

To celebrate the first year of my blog I am running a competition to say thank you for joining me! I have learnt a great deal in that time including what fuels most writers. I don't have any exact figures on this but if my twitter observations are correct not much writing occurs without a daily dose of caffeine. So the competition prize is just that - a Cafe Direct Coffee and Tea Goody Bay!

It was only four days after I started after my blog I won a caption competition with Cafe Direct. It came at a very good time as I wasn't sure what I was going to blog about. It certainly helped spur me on and I have drunk many cups of tea in the mugs I won.

Cafe Direct have kindly provided a goody bag for one lucky blog winner.The goody bag includes a pack of organic medium roast coffee, Machu Picchu organic coffee beans and samples of their everyday tea and coffee. I am also including a voucher for a box of 160 tea bags.

You don't have to be a writer to enter, just someone in need of some creative fuel, or even just some fuel! All you need to do to enter the competition is comment below and leave me some way of contacting you (Twitter ID or email.) Alternatively you can also email me to let me know you would like to enter: catherine (at) katylittlelady (dot) com.

You can also earn some extra entries by doing any of the following:
  • Follow me on Google Friend Connect (Top Right)
  • Follow me on Networked Blog (Also on the right - I set this up this week so company is welcome!)
  • 'Like' my FB page here.
  • Follow @katylittlelady on twitter

Each action is an extra entry so make sure you mention them all. Just let me know if you have done any of the above by saying so in your comment. If you already do the above just say so in your post and you will qualify for the extra entries as well. The competition closes on 31st March 2011 at midnight and is open to the UK only. Good luck to everyone who enters!

I am off to the York Festival of Writing next week so this will be my last blog until I am back and have reached the grand old age of 30! Will report how I get on when I return and tweet intermittently in the mean time!

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Ten Tips for The Dreaded Two-line Pitch

In just two weeks' time I will be in York for the Festival of Writing. In January when I booked I thought I had plenty of time to prepare myself. I think maybe I had under-estimated quite how much there was to do (or how long each of those might take!)

It has involved a lot of work (and I am still not done) but now it is getting closer to the event I am really looking forward to it. As I am in the earlier stages of my writing career some people have questioned why I want to go there and my answer is primarily to learn but also to network. This does, however, mean being able to talk in comprehensive sentences.

Talking is normally easy for me but I know that I am a rambler. Even in this blog post I haven't quite got to the point yet. It's the moment you get asked 'So, what's your novel about?' Now I know what my book is about, who the characters are, what the conflict is so it should be easy to put all that in one or two sentences. How hard can it be to sum up the project you have worked on for months? Much harder than I thought.

Those two little lines have taken me over a week to finally come up with something that I'm happy with. During that time lots of people on twitter also reported how difficult they find this stage of the writing process. So now that I have come out the other side I thought I would write up some 'tips'. I'm not sure if they are helpful ones as I really don't know what I'm on about yet but I'll soon get to test my elevator pitch at York.

1) Don't gloss over the important bits
  • My first version was like a cream cake with no cream. Looked good but no substance when you took a bite.
2) Consider the main conflict of your story 
  • Like most stories mine has a complex plot. In my early pitchs I was trying to highlight what I thought should be there rather than what actually was. It was almost like I was trying to present a menu without checking what ingredients I had. It made me think about where the real centres of conflict are within the story and thus where the hook lies.
3) Don't go into too much detail
  • There will be more than one area of conflict within your story. It is not possible to try and point out every twist and turn in your plot in two sentences. 
4) You don't need to include all the names of all your characters 
  • I found I was trying too hard to not only name my protagonist but some of the other main characters. It really wasn't necessary and would also be quite hard to follow if listening to lots of names so I simplified it.
5) Don't deliver anything too generic
  • In more than one version I felt like I was just saying 'Blah, Blah, Blah!' The reason I thought that was because too easily they sounded like any other novel. There was nothing to distinguish my novel from every other chick-lit novel based on my pitch.
6) Say it out loud
  • I am in the habit of reading my work aloud when I am at the edit stage. I think when writing up something that you will ultimately be saying out loud is especially important.
7) Make sure you don't get tongue twisted
  • This follows on from the last. If it's too complicated to say easily then change it to something that will be. It may be the best two line pitch ever but if you end up tripping over it you may never get it out.
8) Record it and listen back to it
  • I found this really useful. I have a record function (which I think most modern mobile phones have hidden somewhere) which I never used until recently. I recorded myself reading out my pitch and listened back. I found by doing this I could be a lot more objective. 
9) Don't include unnecessary details
  • Like I said I'm a rambler and it is easy to include unnecessary details but here you are stripping back and getting to the crux of the story.
10) Make sure it's something you can memorise
  • This may be obvious but this is something you will have to repeat again and again. Make sure it is something you will be able to memorise.
On that note I better start memorising mine. I really should include the before and after versions in here as examples but I will save them for now and add them at a later date. I want to test mine out first!

If you have any other pointers or tips please add them below. All help much appreciated.

PS: Writing this at a late hour and not able to see straight - apologies for any mistakes!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Blog's 1st Birthday!

A year ago today I sat down and wrote my first blog post. I decided to start a blog after I had spent the first two months of the year not really getting on with the important part of being a writer - actually writing! I couldn't really call myself a writer all the time I wasn't getting on with the essential part. So I sat down and set myself some goals.
  • Complete six small writing tasks (Less than 3000 words)
  • Complete three large writing tasks (More than 3000 words)
  • Get two of them published
This blog (and reporting my progress) helped me focus on the tasks. By December I had completed these goals and I drew up some new ones in January. So below is my list (one year review) of how I managed over the year. To try and illustrate this (rather than making everyone read the whole list) I have highlighted it in three different colours. Items in pink indicate success in the form of publication or competition wins. The blue covers writing completed and the green includes everything else. As you scroll down I think you can see a lot of work has gone into getting the pink lines!

At the end of this blog I am also including a reading list of all the writing related books I have read over the year. I have learnt a lot through study and all of these books have helped so hopefully by sharing them they can help someone else.

To help celebrate my blog's birthday I will run a little competition next week so keep an eye out for that.

Lastly, I would like to thank the 75 people who opted to follow this blog, the near 6000 people who stopped by to look at my blog and everyone I have met on the way. I look forward to welcoming everyone who wants to join me for the next year!
  • Won a caption competition
  • 5 Book Reviews
  • A real life story was published in Pick Me Up magazine
  • Entered the Summer Story Competition in She Magazine
  • Entered a short story to NNUK story competition (1000 words)
  • Entered Flash Fiction piece for Bridport Prize and entered (250 words)
  • Worked out how to get a counter on my blog - took me some days and several theories!
  • Attended Erotica Writing Workshop
  • Decided to convert short story into one-act play - now completed
  • Joined Writing Buddies
  • Entered One Liner competition to start Nicci French short story
  • Joined Writers In Southampton
  • 2 Film Reviews
  • Entered first paragraph competition with The Guardian
  • Completed two 15 minute playwrights and entered into Famous for Fifteen
  • Helped test some recipes for My Daddy Cooks cookbook
  • Brought domain name and set up website
  • Article from Shopmobility newsletter used on work website
  • Completed four entries for the Writing Buddies Anthology
  • Attended Penny Legg's book launch
  • Created a writing CV
  • Entered a six word story to the Arvon foundation competition
  • Entered some of the 21st Birthday Writers' bureau competitions
  • Set myself the challenge of writing my first novel
  • Had an article accepted by how to books on How to twitter: basics
  • Given opportunity to blog for Rubber Sole and Walkers crisps
  • Decided to put together book proposal for how to books
  • Subscribed to Writing magazine and Writers' news
  • The results of the Writing Buddies Anthology came in and I was super pleased to find I won 1st place in Drama and Flash Fiction and 2nd place in Flash Fiction and Non-Fiction filler
  • Started submitting some short stories to Writers' News/ Writing Magazine competitions
  • Applied to join the Society of Woman Writers and Journalists (SWWJ)
  • Attended an SWWJ event in London on Non-fiction with Wendy Hughes
  • Starting doing some admin and marketing for Writing Buddies and Penny Legg
  • Adapted a short story and had a rejection
  • Letter printed in Slimming World magazine
  • Revamped this blog and Writing buddies blog
  • Set up Writing buddies on twitter
  • Signed up to #NaNoWriMo
  • Attended a panel discussion on publishing at The Bournemouth Literary festival
  • Submitted 2 articles on twitter to how to books website; both have been accepted
  • Became a #NaNoWriMo Winner after completing over 50,000 words in one month!
  • Accepted as a probationary member of the Society of Woman Writers & Journalists
  • Won 'best article' in October on the How To Books website
  • Entered some more writing competitions - details of them all have been posted on this blog
  • Went on holiday to Germany and decided to have a bit of time off after NaNo
  • Decided on my writing goals for the year ahead
  • Accepted as a member of the New Writers' Scheme Romantic Novelists' Association
  • Short story accepted for 100 Stories for Queensland
  • Booked a place at the York Festival of Writing
  • Near to completing the first draft of my first novel
  • Oh and 160 blogs!
Reading List

  • Creative Writing: How to unlock your imagination, develop your writing skills, and get published by Adele Ramet
  • On Writing: a memoir of the craft by Stephen King
  • From Pitch to Publication: Everything you need to get your novel published by Carole Blake 
  • Writing Non-Fiction and Getting Published by Janet Macdonald
  • The Beginner's Guide to Writing a Novel: How to prepare your first book for publication by Marina Oliver
  • Writing for magazines: how to get your work published in local newspapers and magazines by Adele Ramet
  • The one-act play companion by Rex Walford and Colin Dolley
  • So you want to be a playwright? How to write a play and get it produced by Tim Fountain
  • Plotting the novel by Michael Leget
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves: the zero tolerance approach to punctuation by Lynne Truss

I have several more books out of the library ready to read but these are the ones I have read and can recommend.

And if you got this far your reward is cake :-)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Be Prepared!

It's all about prep, prep, prep at the moment! You may recognise the title of this blog post as the motto of the girl guide and scouting movement. Well I can safely say that I had the motto installed in me from a young age as my mum was a girl guide leader. From the age of at least four I went to the girl guide meetings and was like a mini mascot! I had hoped to share a photo or two with you but I can't copy my own photo from facebook anymore. So I have added the link in the hope you can go over and take a peek. Not sure if you will be able to see it but let me know! If you can see it I would like to point out I am in fancy dress!

Anyway, the point I am making is I know how important being prepared is and I am spending most of my free time preparing for York festival of writing presently. If only it was easy as having a bit of string and 10p in your pocket.

So it will continue to be a bit quiet here but with any luck it will pay off!