Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Orange Prizes Girls

I have fond memories of arriving at my first ever NaNoWrimo regional meeting wondering:
 a) if there were other people interested in writing in my area
 b) what those people would be like
and c) What was I thinking?! I can’t write 50,000 words in one month!
I arrived petrified to find Stu, the Municipal Liaison and one of Writebulb’s founding members (I’m name-dropping here), sitting in a corner, nervously cradling a cup of coffee and looking very a la mode with his ipad. At this time, ipads had just been recently released.
I confess that this was the first time I had beheld the device up close and live. While we waited for the other Wrimos to arrive, we talked about the gadget to break the ice, as I desperately tried to purge the urge to stroke it (a goal which was to be achieved at a later date).
As more people trickled in, what struck me the most was their gender. The majority of those who  showed up, were women. If memory serves me well, their ages ranged from 11 to 60. The genres that people were dabbling in were just as diverse; biography, romance (from Mills & Boon to gay paranormal romance) children’s books, young adult fiction, fantasy, and beyond.
Writebulb was born out of those NaNoWriMo meetings held in November 2010. There has not been a single Writebulb meeting that I have been to since, which has not been predominantly attended by females.
When I noticed this trend, I began to wonder: if there are this many women interested in writing from a grassroots level, why aren’t there more female names up there in the higher echelons of published, best-selling and celebrated authors?
It is possible that men go about their creative lives differently to women and therefore don’t feel as great a need to congregate. However, if the level of interest among women is as high as the Writebulb meetings have shown in comparison to that of men, then there is something going wrong in the journey to get published, for this trend not to be as widely reflected on celebrated author lists.
One of the moves to correct this disparity was the introduction of The Orange Prize for Fiction in 1996. According to its website, ‘the prize celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing from throughout the world.’ The winner receives a limited edition bronze figurine of a woman called a ‘Bessie,’ and a cheque for £30,000.
This year’s entries included British/Sierra Leonean author Aminatta Forna (The Memory of Love) who graced the 2011 Essex Book Festival. Andrea Levy who was also at the 2011 Essex Book Festival, won the prize in 2004 for Small Island, which subsequently sold 834,958 copies and has now been made into a film.
This year’s winner was 25-year-old Serbian/American author Téa Obreht (pictured left), with her first novel, The Tiger's Wife. She is the youngest-ever author to take the Prize.
Other first novels to make the 2011 longlist were: Annabel by Kathleen Winter (Canadian), The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin (British/Nigerian), Swamplandia! by Karen Russell  (American), Repeat it Today with Tears by Anne Peile (British), The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (American), The Seas by Samantha Hunt (American), Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma, Henderson (British), The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi (Indian).
It is encouraging to see first time novelists receive such acclaim, and women authors get feted.
Detractors of the prize include writer Tim Lott, who was quoted in The Independent newspaper recently, as saying, the prize is a ‘sexist con trick’ and ‘the Orange Prize is sexist and discriminatory, and it should be shunned.’
If the Writebulb stats are anything to go by, there are a lot of women out there writing fiction. Most of the ones who get published never get recognised for their work. The Orange Prize serves this purpose and this is to be celebrated.
As it turns out, my fears on that cold November day were unfounded. I have come to discover that there are a lot of people interested in writing in my area. The love and support we give each other, speaks volumes about the kind of people that they are, regardless of their sex.
As for the NaNaWriMo challenge, it was won by most, and participants have since then written more words than we care to admit to counting.
 It is possible that amongst us lurks a future winner of the prize, and I hope to be there to witness the day when someone hands her the busty Bessie.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ipswich Arts Festival 2011

Some of the shortlisted books for the New Angle Prize
The Ipswich Arts Festival is with us again from the 24th of June to the 10th of July 2011.
Literature is always featured as part of the event, and this year promises interesting treats for aspiring authors.
A seminar on how to get published by Juliet Pickering, includes information on how to get an agent, writing a compelling synopsis and cover letter, and if you had time to book before the 7th of June, a one-one 20-minute feedback session on your work.
New Angle Prize for Literature celebrates writing inspired by East Anglia. There will be a showcase of the 2011 shortlist, featuring readings and conversations with the shortlisted authors who are as follows: Aftermath by Ronald Blythe, The Last Weekend by Blake Morrison, Death Watch by Jim Kelly, The Wake by Jeremy Page, The Aldeburgh Scallop by Maggi Hambling and A Flora of Suffolk by M Sanford & R J Fisk.

The event will not be short of laughs with Jo Brand the British comedian, chatting about her memoir Can't Stand up For Sitting Down.

Simon Armitage will talk about Seeing Stars and there is also a chance to lunch with Esther Freud as she talks about her new novel Lucky Break.
All literature dates and details are listed below but please visit the website for further information on the event.
Event: Literary Lunch with Esther Freud
When: 26th June 2011 at 11:45am
Where: Admiral’s House
Tickets £18 / £15 concessions
Booking: 01473 253992

Event: Comedian Jo Brand in conversation with Georgina Wroe
When: 29th June 2011 at 6:30pm
Where: Waterfront Gallery – University Campus Suffolk
Tickets:  £8/£6 concessions
Booking: Tickets available on website

Event: Writers Cafe
When: 4th July 2011 at 7:30pm Room 1, Arts Building, Campus North, University Campus Suffolk
Where: Room 1, Arts Building, Campus North, University Campus Suffolk
Tickets: Free

Event: New Angle Prize for Literature Shortlist showcase
When: 5th July 2011 at 7:00pm
Where: Ipswich Institute Reading Room
Tickets:  £5 (including a glass of wine)
Booking: 01473 253992

Event: Simon Armitage  - Seeing Stars
When: 7th July 2011 at 7:30pm
Where: Council Chamber Ipswich
Tickets: £8/£6 concessions
Booking: Tickets available on website

Event: How to get published with Juliet Pickering
When: 9th July 2011 Morning seminar 10.30am-12.30pm
Afternoon 2:00-5:00pm (one-to-one sessions, 20mins each)
Where: Admiral’s House
Tickets: Seminar and session: £30
Morning seminar only: £10
Booking: 01473 253992

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Happy Future!

The Writebulb group is, I think I can safely say, getting stronger as each month passes. At the first meeting in January this year, we were all very excited at the prospect of providing writers with the opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and encourage others, but we had no idea whether it would survive for very long. Six months later and we're growing, developing into a group that we can all be very proud of.

At the last meeting I was feeling a bit under the weather due to some work done by a dentist (how can anyone ever be a dentist?) but even through a haze of medication I was impressed by how genuinely interested and supportive we each were in the work other members were undertaking.

As we went around the table for updates, it was clear how diverse our interests are - fantasy, science fiction, humour, romance, poetry, journalism, children's books - I think our members cover all the genres (having said that I don't think we have horror... yet!).  We talked about self publishing, marketing, starting a collective work, tweeting, did a quick writing exercise - the two hours just flew by and everyone walked away from the meeting enthused and ready to write!

Writebulb is now ready for the next phase in its development. We want to encourage members to take an active part in its growth, to share their ideas, contribute to the blog, use Writebulb as a platform to shout to the world about the work they are doing - the more we support each other the stronger and more effective Writebulb will become. Here's to the continuing success of Writebulb and to each and every member - Light on, Write on! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Muse Party

I have been wondering whether you all have a muse. Well, as writers I presume you do, so I will re-phrase the question. Do you have a toy, or some such inspirational object, to conjure creative thoughts?
I will confess to having three who all live on my desk. I have a little stuffed rabbit that I mollycoddle and sometimes speak to (I’m throwing in a cursory evil eye here in case you get tempted to tell anyone). I also have a flat felt toy with yellow ‘hair’ who sits propped up against my mug of pens. She has big button eyes, small nose and cat-like whiskers. She reminds me of a sunflower and I am very fond of her.
Finally, there is Monsieur le Frog who is green in colour. He came as a souvenir gift from France and as a result has a very heavy French accent. Sometimes he speaks to me in French but most of the time he croaks in English. He says things like, ‘C’est magnifique!’ or ‘Ze girl is good,’ when he is pleased with me. Sometimes he comes up with a string of French expletives which I tend to ignore.
All my toy muses bring me joy. They are a welcome distraction when the going gets tough and I enjoy touching and talking to them. In fact they are responsible for this post. Honestly, they made me do it.
You can meet them at the next meeting, because I am going to ask you all to a mini muse party. That’s right! At the next meeting which in case you’ve forgotten is on the 9th of July, bring your favourite toy. It could be a pen, a book, a mug (we know Jane owns a mug and a rubber duck as well!), a fluffy stuffed animal, one that squeaks, or even better that teddy bear you’ve had since you were little (I know you still have it).
I have visions of bulbs taking public transport, walking through the High Street or propping up their muses in car passenger seats, to the bemused attention of onlookers. Be brave my bulbs, it is all for the ever worthy cause of having fun!
I’m really looking forward to meeting all your muses. In the meantime, here’s a picture of my button-eyed muse who alas has no name. Does anyone fancy naming her?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Do People 'Get' You As A Writer?

A few days ago I was lucky enough to model for a number of wedding photographers. My 'bride' and I were the funky couple, eschewing traditional wedding attire for a funkier edge.

Since the day of the shoot, the photographers have been posting their images online and one of them said to me today "I've never had to post alongside another [photographer] before."

Reading between the lines I know exactly what they were thinking - What if people don't like my photos as much as the others?

I feel exactly the same way about my writing. I'm submitting a M/M Romance story to an anthology to be published via Goodreads. I'm petrified. I'm up against some well-established authors and my work will be sitting side-by-side with theirs. What if people don't get my story?

To try and calm my nerves I keep telling myself that some people will get me and some just won't. There's nothing I can do about those that don't. If I'm vanilla ice-cream, I can't make my chocolate just to satisfy other people.

I am who I am. My writing is what it is. Sure, I can improve my technique and polish my voice but by voice remains.

Fundamentally, I can't change who I am. I just am.

So here are some pictures of me, taken by different photographers with different approaches. You might like one, you might like both, but I think that they have their own voice... and that's just fine