Saturday, 21 November 2015

Beach shoot

Earlier in the autumn I met Sarah Pitt from the Western Morning News. It was a bright and blustery morning in St Ives, and we had coffee and cake at the beach cafe on Porthmeor as I told her all about The Sea Between Us and the inspiration behind it. The article came out in October, and is online HERE. It's a great piece from Sarah, so many thanks to her - and I was chuffed we made the cover…

The photographer on the day was Victoria Walker, and I loved her style - suggesting I kick through waves and clamber over weed-covered rocks. It was a lot of fun, and the pictures turned out great, the beach itself the undoubted star of the show. When the wind whipped the clouds away we were treated to brief moments of blue skies and Victoria was quick off the mark to catch them. Just look at the luminosity of the water in that first picture! The fabled St Ives light in all its glory. That morning, with so few people about, Porthmeor had a wild edge to it (despite the water being flat as a mirror) and I'm so glad we were there to capture it. Big thanks, Victoria and Sarah Xx

Picture credit: 

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Novelicious Book Club pick - and thank you to bloggers

I'm thrilled that Novelicious - the fabulous women's fiction website and community - have chosen The Sea Between Us as this month's Book Club read. If you'd like to read along and get involved in the discussion, then head HERE to find out what to do. On the 27th October at 8pm there'll be a live Book Club chat on Twitter, with the hashtag #NoveliciousBookClub 
Happy Reading, y'all…

I thought it'd be an appropriate moment to gather together some of the wonderful blogger reviews of late. I'm truly grateful for the support the book's enjoyed, particularly from people who have such teetering TBRs, and who do all their reviewing in their precious spare time. So in no particular order…

Louise Jones, blogging at TheBookBag - review here 
Lucy Pearson, blogging at TheUnlikelyBookworm - review here
Mary Mayfield, blogging at OurBookReviews - review here 
Linda Hill, blogging at LindasBookBag - review here 
Joanne D'Arcy, blogging at JosBookJourney - review here 
Janine Jewell, blogging at JewellBooks - review here 
Zarina de Ruiter, blogging at PagetoStageReviews - review here 


Saturday, 3 October 2015

Dear Tim Winton

The good folks over at Novelicious have a lovely segment on their site - Literary Love Letters - where writers can pen a missive to their bookish heart's desire. Mine? Tim Winton. You can read it HERE.


Tuesday, 29 September 2015


I’ve just returned from a week teaching for Arvon at Lumb Bank in Yorkshire. I took an Arvon course myself in 2008, and one of my tutors back then was Patrick Neate. I was working alongside Patrick this time, and for a nostalgic sap like me, well… let’s just say that set the tone for a pretty special week.

If it’s possible, I loved returning to Arvon to teach even more than I loved being there the first time around. Preparing for my workshops forced me to stop and think about process and craft in a way that’s easy to blast past when you’re entrenched in your own work. I realised I was re-inspiring myself - even before I got to Lumb Bank I was grateful, once again, for Arvon. It’s a privilege to be taken into the confidence of someone – the sharing, the listening, the discussion, what we write and why we write and who we write for – because even if we haven’t fully realised it ourselves yet, writing is about as personal as it gets. Last week it felt as though everyone at Lumb Bank gave it their all, and isn’t that as much as you could ever ask? I had a moment in a workshop when I looked around at those fifteen writers, their heads bent, pens touching paper – each of us wholly separate, but bound in the moment – and, I thought, you know what, right now, there’s no place on earth I’d rather be.

For over forty years Arvon has been giving people ‘the time and space to write’. For me, as a tutor, it offered the time and space (even amidst the busy workshop & tutorial schedule) to remember why I write. Something that can be all too easily forgotten when you’re chasing deadlines, and fretting book promo. When the thing that once felt to you extraordinary and precious is in danger of becoming, just sometimes, a little too much everyday. In fact, that was the very last written exercise that I set the group. Why Do You Write?  The looks on some people’s faces as they put down their pens showed that some kind of understanding, one that might previously have proved elusive, had been reached. Me? I know why I write. I write because life’s too amazing to live just once. Because somehow we’ve been gifted hearts and minds that permit us to transcend the order of things, so why wouldn’t we want to see where that takes us (even if, sometimes, it turns out to be just three streets over, drinking coffee instead of tea)? I write because it’s time travel, it’s hurtling through place and space, it’s kissing the one who got away, or the one you never knew existed. It’s the button that came off your skirt one day when you were five years old, and knowing that that button mattered – maybe because your mother sewed it on and she’s not around any more, or maybe because she is here but you don’t see enough of her, or maybe, actually, everything’s pretty fine between you and your mother, but for some reason you still find yourself caring about that button… In a world where even the things we think we have a good grip on tend to have a habit of, sooner or later, slipping away, writing them down feels like the one practical, magical thing that we can do to hold on tight. That’s why I write. It just took this week – with one other tutor, one guest, fifteen writers, centre staff and their dogs, together in a grand old house on the side of a hill – to remind me. And for that, dear Arvon, I’m eternally grateful.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

A trip out west

I'm writing this from my hut. The wind blows hard down this line of back gardens, so on a blustery day like today I'm working to the tune of whistling and rustling  - the silver birch I can see from my window is caught in a swaying dance, while some other form of robust shrub is tapping against the wooden wall. Close my eyes, and I can fancy I'm on a cliff-top. I can hear the push and pull of the tide, its gusting roar. Open my eyes and the coast is still there - my desk has a new scattering of shells, gathered from Porthmeor and Sennen Cove, and my flip-flops (worn persistently) probably still carry the faintest traces of sand in their tread. New postcards are taped to my wall, souvenirs from seaside galleries. I'm just returned from a week's holiday in Cornwall. It was a trip that was the perfect mix of business and pleasure, thanks to it falling so close to the launch of The Sea Between Us. Here are my (Busman's) Holiday snaps, and a few words to go with them.

The excellent Waterstones Truro was our first stop in Cornwall - where I was thrilled to spot this poster. I signed a heap of books, while my little son oohed and aahed at their particularly colourful and inviting children's section. It was great to meet Libby too, and I'm grateful for their brilliant support for the book.

The Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance, a town that features in my novel, was next. I signed another grand stack (thank you, guys!), while around me the shop buzzed with book buyers. James and Rachael have created a wonderful place, and it was inspiring to hear their story of settling in the west and setting up shop. 

Next to The Old Coastguard in Mousehole, a hotel I stayed at on a writing retreat while working on The Sea Between Us. Their support has been amazing, buying copies of the book to go in guest rooms, selling it in reception, and choosing it as their first title for the brand new Old Coastguard Book Club (thank you Alice!). We ate good food, drank great wine, CJ charged about the palm-tree filled garden, and later we sank into bed feeling full and happy.

The next morning, after a stop-off at Sennen Cove for a windy beach walk (another location in my novel), we took the stunning road that runs around the north coast and across the moorland. The west at its wildest. 

Thanks to the fortuitous spotting of a postcard at The Old Coastguard I'd discovered Kurt Jackson had a newly opened gallery in St Just. Jackson is one of my favourite artists, and I talk about him in the essay I wrote for the back pages of The Sea Between Us. I've several of his books at home, and when desk-bound in Bristol I'd stare into his seascapes to feel again the energy of the water, and try to put into words what he does so magnificently with a paintbrush.

The Foundation was a beautiful space, and full of yet more beautiful work. I was thrilled to meet Kurt's daughter Zinzi at the gallery, and - somewhat bashfully - left her with a copy of my novel. After that happy encounter we had *amazing* cake and coffee in a cafe around the corner. CJ was more than content with his portion. I think I want to move to St Just.

Our destination was St Ives, and we'd never approached it from this angle before. While still amidst rocks and ferns and rugged moorland we saw a sign that said St Ives 2 miles, then we were upon it, the glitter of water, the slate and granite glinting silver in the sun. We oohed and ahhed at the sight of the town, in the way of children catching their first glimpse of the sea. Our home for the week was on a hillside behind the Tate, our 3rd stay in the same cottage, and just seconds from one of my favourite beaches in the world - Porthmeor. 

I wrote a piece for the WHSmith blog about writing as an extreme sport, and in it I mention bodyboarding, and messing about in the shallows with the pre-schoolers. We got some pretty big waves this week in St Ives, and while I'm a novice there was much whooping at waves caught, and some proper face-riding too. We went out every day, and it was altogether more thrilling than my one attempt at paddleboarding (something I've always fancied) - though admittedly 25mph gusts and choppy seas didn't make for the best (i.e. pretty treacherous) learning conditions - I stayed the course of the lesson but BOY were there moments when I wanted to chuck in the towel (or, rather, go running for one).

St Ives is home to a fabulous indie, St Ives Bookseller, and it was a real pleasure to meet Alice and her colleagues, and sign copies of the book (one of the benefits of staying locally was that when they sold out, I dropped in again and signed a new batch - woo hoo). I also picked up a couple of Cornish-set gems - I own a couple of different editions of Rebecca but couldn't resist this new one, and as to The Shell Seekers… I'm reading it now and it's utterly, utterly charming.

What else? CJ established himself as a total Beach Bum, never happier than when the water was in sight, his toes dug in the sand. We ate superlative paella at the Porthgwidden Beach Cafe (only my third evening out with my husband in 18 months… we were giddy). I scrambled through rock pools and braved slippery heights for a photo shoot one morning on the beach (for the Western Morning News - more on that soon). I had one of the best cakes ever at the West Beach Bakery - pumpkin and chocolate - gobbled down while still in my wetsuit early one brisk morning. I went to all my favourite galleries, and thought of Robyn in The Sea Between Us doing the same, her creative calling enlivened by everything about her, but most of all the ever-present sea. We saw the ocean early in the morning, where even in this town of dawn surfers and eager holidaymakers there was nobody else around save us and the gulls. We saw it in the dark, as it thundered on the beach, stones dragging and clattering. In full sunshine, the wind sending clouds speeding along the horizon line, white horses galloping towards the sand. Every time we had to leave the beach my little son turned and waved at the sea. For him it was a living thing, marvellous, ceaselessly entrancing, and deserving of his farewell. Plus, he really likes waving.

As holidays went, it was wonderful. As a trip to the spiritual home of a book I've written, one that's just published, the ink barely dry on the pages, it was… perfect - thanks to the brilliant support of booksellers, and the enthusiasm of people I met. Everywhere I looked the unending beauty of the coastline, and the beguiling mix of landscape, surf, and art, reminded me why I wanted to set a story there in the first place. The Emerson quote that The Sea Between Us begins with - live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air's salubrity - well, we channelled that all week. Even on this windy (now raining - torrentially) day in Bristol, I'm channeling it still. 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Publication Day! And many pieces of writing

Today THE SEA BETWEEN US is published in the UK! Hip, hip, hooray!

Here it is, looking rather handsome in a patch of summer sunshine…

…and here I am, in Pub Day selfie mode… I'm wearing my favourite 'Life is better in the ocean' jumper, of course… 

I've been busy scribbling articles and blog posts in the last few weeks, and most seem to have gone live today. Again - hooray! If you fancy a read of a little something then make yourself a coffee (or two) and take your pick from the below...   

If you'd like to read a brand new short story of mine, called The Seashell, then hop over to The Book Corner and read it HERE.

If you'd like to read why I consider writing to be a sport that's every bit as extreme as the likes of snowboarding and surfing then head to the WHSmith blog and read it HERE.

Tired of not getting enough holidays? Then join me in fostering a year-round holidaymaker spirit. I explained how over on the James Villas blog and…. yep, read it HERE.

Meanwhile on FemaleFirst I've a piece called 'Ten things I want my readers to know about me'… and you can read it HERE.

As part of my 'getting to know and love Cornwall' research I stayed in some beautiful places in the far west, and I told cottage company Classic just how inspirational I found it to be - you can read that piece HERE.

The very lovely Hannah Beckerman interviewed me for the Huffington Post - and you can read my answers to her excellent questions HERE.

Finally, I wrote a piece for the wonderful people at Book Slam about the story behind the song in my novel. You can read that one HERE.

In St Ives, last summer 
The song I'm Always With You was written by him on the left, for me in the middle 
(and, one day, for him on the right)

A BIG, BIG THANK YOU for all the support. My Publication Day has been filled with kind and lovely words, from kind and lovely people. You've done me and my book proud, and I couldn't be more grateful. The Sea Between Us is dedicated to my son Calvin Jack and my husband, Bobby. I wrote much of it while I was pregnant, and rewrote it much of it when my son was very small. The fact that the last was even possible was down to the incredible support of my husband. It's a book that is, I hope, full of love - for landscape, surf, art, music, and the people who make life worth living. This one's for you, boys. It's yours.


I'll leave you with the aforementioned song - it's called I'm Always With You and you can listen to it HERE Xxx

Monday, 13 July 2015

First showing: book trailer for The Sea Between Us

Fancy a glimpse inside the world of my new novel? I'm thrilled to share with you here the trailer for The Sea Between Us. I've also written a few words on how we made it, and the generous, talented who people came together to make it happen. You can read that piece HERE, on the reading community website Bookends. Happy watching Xx

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Beach notes

Throughout the writing of The Sea Between Us I spent a lot of time on Cornish beaches (I know, it's a hard life…). I've come to know and love Porthmeor in St Ives, with its swathes of surfers and iconic curvature of the Tate. The serene and sandy stretches of Sennen Cove, its shoreline puddled with jellyfish as the big waves come crashing in. The scrabbling, scrambling descent to Pedn Vounder, a dreamlike place, and easy to miss at high tide. Last week I took my little son to Ness Cove, one of my favourite Devon beaches. Back in 2011 I was at Ness Cove when I heard I had my first ever book deal - I ran into the sea, soaking my jeans, kicking through the shallows with unbridled joy. Whenever I've been back since I think of that day and, well, glow. The beach was special enough before - with its damp, dark smugglers' tunnel, and the startling silver of the sea as you step out into the light, it was always a childhood favourite - but now it's one of my most beloved places on earth. Last week CJ built his first sandcastles there, and scampered on the sand. We also, unwittingly, staged a recreation of the book jacket design for The Sea Between Us...

Continuing the oceanic theme, I've been reading a gem of a book called Gift From The Sea by American author Anne Morrow Lindbergh, written in 1955. It elegantly and inspiringly argues the need for solitude, and suggests the seashore is the very best place to find it. Here's to that. Whenever I take myself off on writing retreats I head for water - the sense of perpetual motion is energising, I never feel stuck by the sea...

… and IN the sea is even better, as my new sweatshirt attests...

On the subject of quotes, I'm lucky that some fabulous authors have read early copies of The Sea Between Us and even luckier that they've said some very generous things about it. You can read what Lucy Clarke, Tiffany Murray, Hannah Beckerman and Liz Fenwick had to say HERE. It's always a nervous feeling, waiting for a new novel to come out, and knowing these fellow book writers and book lovers have enjoyed it is cheering indeed. My thanks to them.

This post feels a little random - a note here, a picture there - but that's how it is by the sea. Your mind bobs and drifts. You gaze at the endless horizon, hypnotised by the infinite sense of promise, then are brought back to the minutiae, the feel of a shell in the palm of your hand, the glistening of a pebble, the shifting of sand between your toes as the tide rushes out. You lie back and watch the seagulls wheel. Then you charge to the water and blitz beneath the waves. It's serenity and it's exhilaration. Aimlessness and focus. Days like these, with just a few weeks to go before publication, feeling that particular blend of anticipation and angst, there's no place I'd rather be. I hope you make it to the beach this summer. I hope, as Emerson says, and whose words I chose to open The Sea Between Us, you let yourself 'live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air's salubrity'.   

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

New home, new book

My poor blog has been a little neglected in recent months. Mainly due to moving house, and the day to day juggling of writing and mothering that I'm still working on balancing (what IS the trick? If you've got it figured then DO TELL. I wrote about the subject of managing offspring - both books and babies - for Book Slam recently, and you can read it HERE). Today - the 27th May - is the three month marker for my new novel, The Sea Between Us, coming out, so with that wind in my sails, with that super light on the horizon, here are a couple of updates…

In April we moved house. Apart from all the excitement of owning our first home (after many years of renting we can finally go wild with the Blu-tack - walls watch out!), I'm also a little giddy at being the proprietor of my very own writing hut. While elsewhere in the house there are still many unpacked boxes, early on I spent a happy afternoon making my hut ship-shape and fit for my purpose. Here's a glimpse… 

The only kicker is that the hut is right on 'CJ's lawn'… so I'll have to learn to resist the temptation of hanging out with him instead of working...

…but when interruptions are this cute, well, who even WANTS to resist?

There was another knock at my door earlier, and it was another welcome diversion. A big box of finished copies of the trade paperback of The Sea Between Us. This edition is bound for Australia and New Zealand and beyond - it's basically a chunky, slightly larger version of the mass market paperback that'll be out in the UK in three months. It is a BEAUTY - big thanks to my publisher Headline for making it look so divine. The title is picked out in gorgeous coppery foil, and there's a splendid driftwood effect on the spine. I love a bit of driftwood, me. I'm also thrilled to bits that the generous words of author Lucy Clarke adorn the cover - 'an utterly beautiful story'. I'm a big fan of Lucy's books - she has a new one out this summer too - The Blue - I've read an early copy and can confirm that it is FAB. 

What else? Well, between decking out my writing hut and getting increasingly excited about the forthcoming publication of The Sea Between Us, I've been trying to lose myself in the writing of a new book. It's early days, but I've a stack of notebooks full of scribbles and am just feeling my way into the first draft. At this point it feels a little like an awkward dance, one where we're both trying to learn the steps, still unsure of who's supposed to be leading. We haven't quite found our rhythm yet, but I'm not worried. I know we'll get there in the end, this new book and me, because I've felt the SPARK. And right now, so early in our lives together, the spark is what it's all about.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The mother of all years

Here is a picture of me on my fifth birthday, with my brand new baby, Morris.

I was never much for dolls as a child. Climbing trees and playing football were far more preferable to me than cooing and cradling and yet… there was Morris. He was both planned, and deeply anticipated.  Before he arrived his name was already waiting, as was a pile of handmade clothes. I wasn’t any good with a needle and thread - again, tree-climbing and ball-kicking – but I could wield a stapler and a roll of sticky tape with the best of them. I raided my mum’s bag of fabric remnants, and ‘stitched’ him a pair of dungarees and two shirts. When Morris arrived, and I found the clothes I’d lovingly made him were far too small, I cried. It felt like my first maternal misstep. I should have taken it as warning.

Here’s another picture, this time from last April. Calvin is about ten weeks old and I’m thirty-five. To the five year old me, that would have seemed like a towering age at which to first become a mum. But then I didn’t become the owner of a donkey sanctuary, or a Wimbledon champion either, so I guess life doesn’t unfold as we, at five, might imagine. In fact, when it comes to motherhood, it doesn’t unfold as we might imagine at thirty-five, either.

I would never have imagined that CJ, now aged one, would still be sleeping in our bed each night, lolling between us, his arms thrown out wide with sweet abandon as we just about cling to the mattress. Nor that for the first five months of his life he’d sleep only on our chests, curled in a ball as tight as a hedgehog. Each night I’d wedge him between my boobs, falling asleep kissing the top of his head – neck only marginally cricked - and wake up again doing the same. I would never have imagined that my first three months of motherhood would be so coloured by breastfeeding woes, that I’d forever be clapping on hot compresses, or ice-packs, or grimly massaging blocked ducts, my tears rolling. I’d thought only cows got mastitis, just as I’d thought abscesses only appeared in mouths. I would never have imagined that my emotions would run so close to the surface that the slightest thing could tip me, or trip me; failing to close the freezer door and all the reserves of baby food I’d made going to ruin; struggling to put a shoe on a fast-kicking baby’s foot; incessant crying in the early weeks cutting right into the core of me, quickening my heartbeat, my own voice hitting a keening note in reply. I would never have imagined how the feeling of immense responsibility would wallop me right in the chest, and every so often the prickling sensation of alarm, that my old life was gone, quite gone. I never would have imagined that I would be okay with this last. That I wouldn’t, in fact, have had it any other way. Nor would I have imagined that marveling at my baby would show no signs of running out, my infatuation rendering me, I admit, practically moronic. Oh, look at his hair! Oh, his two front teeth! The underside of his foot is so smooth! His laugh! Wondering at every millimeter of him, ad infinitum. The other thing I could never have imagined as that small girl is the importance of the person by my side. This last year, Bobby has astounded me almost as much as our son. My gratitude to him, for being an amazing husband and dad, is boundless. As is my respect for anyone who walks this crazy path alone.

This Sunday will be my second Mother’s Day. I now know why, when someone says ‘the mother of all’, they are talking about the absolute extremities of experience. This has certainly been the mother of all years. And will it always be like this now, I wonder? The everyday effusion? The elemental reactions? The sense of change upon change upon change.  Of swooping fear and soaring delight. Or is this first year - with the transition from squirming, squalling newborn to adventuring, muddy-kneed toddler, the journey from startled new mum to slightly more adjusted mum - the most extreme of all? Perhaps A.A. Milne has the answer: ‘When I was one, I had just begun’. For Calvin there are still first words to come, all the flavours of ice cream, the zig-zagging path of a never-steered-before trike. For me, the last time I unclip my bra, and lift him to my breast, knowing it’s our final feed. The first time we leave him with someone else for a whole day, a whole night. The first time I watch, helplessly, as he takes a humdinger of a fall. But these are the broadest brushstrokes. I can’t know how they’ll feel, and feeling is, after all, everything.

I look again at these two photographs, thirty years apart, and the similarities are striking. In each I’m holding onto something beloved, and smiling into a future I can’t possibly imagine.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Cornwall in December, merry and bright

This time last week I was on the road to Cornwall, for a post-birthday, pre-Christmas treat. Our destination was Mousehole, a village I've come to know quite well. My new novel, The Sea Between Us, is set in Penwith, in a fictional hamlet called Merrin, and over the last year and a half I've spent as much time as possible familiarising myself with the landscape of the far west. This has been one of the greatest joys of my writing process. I've tramped coastal footpaths in the mizzle (that brilliant west country word for the killer combo of rain and mist), pitching up sodden at a deserted and wave-battered Lamorna Cove. I've clambered over rocks as unblemished and rounded as giant hens' eggs in the Cot Valley. I've been hurled by waves and wound up spitting saltwater bodyboarding at Porthmeor. I've talked to artists in galleries in St Ives, bought fresh fish from men in wellingtons in Newlyn Harbour, basked upon Porthcurno's golden sand. After about five weeks of exploring, and many more spent dreaming, I've fallen in love with this part of the world, and hope that shines through in my book. Last November I stayed at the Old Coastguard in Mousehole and wrote furiously (i.e. very happily - no one could fail to be happy and productive in such a place) for five days. I'd seen the preparatory structures of the fabled Harbour Lights then, the scaffold for a giant Christmas pudding, the five enormous points of a not-yet-shining star. I wrote a mention of the lights into my book, and somehow that didn't seem right without seeing them for myself, in all their blazing glory. So last week we bundled up our baby, and made our last trip across Bodmin Moor for the year. 

In Mousehole the winds tasted of seasalt, woodsmoke wafted over the rooftops, and strings of fairy-lanterns laced the alleyways. We walked the streets at nightfall, a burning pasty in one hand, a cup of mulled wine in the other. The harbour lights dazzled, as we knew they would. Here are a few pictures of our winter weekend in the west. Three ships casting iridescent light. A Stargazy Pie that's my kind of size, and the ever-welcoming The Ship Inn. A particularly alluring garden gate on the road from Mousehole to Paul. Angry seas and a jellyfish-strewn beach at one of my favourite spots, Sennen Cove. Mousehole village at first light. And the view from the Old Coastguard garden - silver water, sprays of palm, the glorious sun on its way up - the natural world putting on its own spectacular light show.

I haven't written as many blogs as usual this year (babies! tsk) but thank you, as ever, for reading those I have. The Sea Between Us has now been thoroughly copy edited. The next time I see it it'll be type-set and ready to proof. There's a gorgeous cover design, which I can't wait to share. Soon it'll be printed, bound and, come August, ready for you too. Which is an exciting, nerve-racking, at times wonderfully unlikely (babies! tsk!) thought. 

Here's wishing you the happiest of Christmases, and the shiniest, brightest, fun-filled (in fact, Mousehole-harbour-lights-style) 2015. 

Friday, 5 December 2014

My favourite Devon places - a Holiday Cottages blog

Devon-based holiday firm are running a fab writing and photography competition for local school children. I was delighted to lend my support to it and write a piece for their blog about my favourite Devon places. I went for a smugglers' tunnel, a hidden cove, and a storybook valley… you can read the 'where and why' HERE.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Devon Air

Back in July I spent a week at my parents' house in Devon, working on my new book. My visit was timed with glorious, unending sunshine, so al fresco was the order of every day. Here's a picture of my writing spot, under the big, old Bramley apple tree in their garden. It's a tree I have history with - my first swing hung from its boughs, I used to whistle up its branches and take a perch at head-spinning heights, and every autumn I'd stand beneath its canopy, hands cupped, popping on my toes, ready to catch the runaways as my dad worked the apple-picker. It even has a name - Matthew - after Anne of Green Gables (yes, there's a Marilla too, she's further down the garden and is an American Mother - aptly - a type of eating apple tree). Anyway - as a place to write - Matthew's shade was bliss. 

Occasionally I welcomed a little visitor to my workspace - Calvin is six months old now, and loved the visit to his grandparents' place just as much as I did. Here he is, proving a convivial writing companion.

When I wasn't writing, I was walking. The best way to get CJ to nap is by taking him out in his pram, so every afternoon we walked down the dusty lanes to the River Teign. It felt really special showing him the village I grew up in, and treading in the footsteps that my mum used to take with me in a pram, thirty-five (ahhh!) years ago. The hedgerows were full of cow parsley and buttercups, we stopped to marvel at a pair of zig-zagging dragonflies, said hello to troops of honey-coloured cows, and watched an airborne tussle between a shrieking buzzard and a crow. As we walked in the full heat of the afternoon, canopies of ash and oak lent their shade. We stood on the hump-backed bridge, looking down on the river, eyeing a tattered rope-swing ('give it a few years', I told CJ) and feeling cooler just for watching the water. Passing cars were few and far between. In such a peaceful place, with my sleeping baby trundling along with me, my mind played over each morning's writing, and I figured out solutions to some knotty problems - the like of which had been evading me in Bristol. 

My new novel is a love story, but it's also about growing up and going home, and our attachment to place. Being back in the garden of my childhood, and wandering the reaches of a village that will always be a part of me, proved to be the perfect place to work on it. I'm back in the city now, writing my way towards a second draft, and I'm channelling every moment of those days in the country, my apple tree desk, the green lanes, and the sweet afternoons of walking with my babies - Calvin, and my book.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The WoMentoring Project

Last month a brand spanking new mentoring scheme launched, and I'm very happy to be part of it. There are eighty of us women - authors, editors, and agents -  involved in The WoMentoring project. Founded by fab author Kerry Hudson, it's the kind of opportunity I would have relished when writing my first novel. It's all in the spirit of paying it forward, and I'll take real pride in sharing whatever experience I've gained with a mentee. Down the years I've benefited from the advice and encouragement of some truly inspirational writers, finding that the right voice cheering you on can make all the difference when you're in your solitary writing bubble. To read all about the scheme, go HERE. And if you're interested in applying to be mentored by me, read THIS then go HERE. Thank you for all the applications so far, I won't be choosing my first mentee until July, so there's still time to get in touch if you're keen...