Friday, April 13, 2012

Guest Talk

This Saturday published author Michelle Cunnah has agreed to give a talk about her experiences in WritingLandia. Here is your chance to meet her first!
Michelle Cunnah began writing in fourth grade—short stories and adapting well-known fairy tales into scripts that she and her school friends would enact in class. Mainly because she liked to spin her own happy endings, but also because she had compelling voices in her head who wanted to be heard. But don’t worry—she always knew that these voices were imaginary and not real.
In her teens Michelle discovered her grandmother’s wonderful collection of Mills & Boon romances (now Harlequin Mills & Boon). Despite other peoples’ disdain and dismissal of the romance genre as being somehow not worthy, not literary, Michelle fell in love with these books because they provided her with entertainment and escapism. At the time she was studying heavy-duty authors in school—D.H. Lawrence, Albert Camus, Emile Zola and Annette von Droste-Hülshoff to name a few—and found the Mills & Boon romances to be a welcome relief. Michelle promised her grandmother that one day she’d write a romance book, too.

For ‘O’ level English Language Michelle wrote her first short romance. She scored a B. Her teacher said that she couldn’t give Michelle an A because although the story was well written it was just too "women’s magazine." Michelle promised herself that she definitely would write a romance one day, just to spite that English teacher.

Around the same time Michelle discovered a treasure trove of Mills & Boon romances in the school library. One day, just as she was choosing her latest stash, the librarian pulled her to one side. She took the books away from Michelle and told her that she had to read "proper" books. This reinforced Michelle’s conviction that she would write an "improper" book, just to spite that librarian, too.

Michelle spent several years writing twenty romances and having them all rejected.

In 1998 Michelle moved to America with her family. She joined the Romance Writers of America (RWA), a professional writer’s organization for those serious about being published in any genre of romance. She also joined the New Jersey Romance Writers (NJRW), her local chapter of RWA. She learned a lot about the craft of writing (and discovered that she’d been doing a lot of things wrong), and about the publishing industry in general. 

In 2002, ten years after getting her first rejection letter, Michelle acquired a literary agent and sold her first book, 32AA, to an imprint of HarperCollins. This was followed by the sequel, Call Waiting, and a third women’s fiction book, Confessions of a Serial Dater. Michelle also writes teen fiction as Michelle Radford and has had two books published in this genre to date. Almost Fabulous and Totally Fabulous. Michelle is currently working on book number #6.

After several wonderful years in America and the Netherlands, Michelle can now be found just outside London, England, where she spends her time either attached at the hip to her computer, or struggling to remember the UK English words for cell phone, sidewalk and spackle. If you'd like to find out about Michelle's antics with travel, telephones, red tape and other life stuff, check out her latest life disaster at her blog, here.

These days Michelle reads a lot of proper books. She still reads and writes improper books, too.

Thank you Michelle, and we look forward to your talk on Saturday 14th.  Anyone interested in coming along, the Writebulb group will take place in the upstairs meeting room in Chelmsford Library from 2-4pm.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SUSU Scribblers

When I first arrived at the University of Southampton, I was delighted to see that they had a wide range of societies to join. There wasn't however, one that nurtured creative writing. Once I'd got over my disappointment, I decided to create my own,

At first I emailed the whole of Year 1 English students to let them know about my idea, and was glad to receive lots of positive replies. I created the Facebook group, emailed the whole of the Humanities department to publicise the society and created lots of colourful posters, which I stuck up around the University.

The society now has a fairly large group which meet every week in a room that I booked in the Nuffield Theatre. Every week we have a set theme, to which we all write a small piece on and upload as a document onto the Facebook group.

We can all then comment on what they've written to both critique and support the writer. We've just had a creative writing competition between ourselves (for which I am the judge since I am the president) and are planning to hold another one for the local schools. We also have plans to publish an anthology in the future and are in the process of creating a website for the group.
Imogen Carr

Saturday, April 7, 2012

‘Dickens and London’ Exhibition at the Museum of London

This week I visited the ’Dickens and London’ exhibition at the Museum of London which runs until 10th June 2012.

It celebrates 200 years since Charles Dickens’s birth.  This excellent exhibition gives you an insight not only into Dickens’s work but also a flavour of Victorian London. There are photos, paintings, clothes and artefacts of the time depicting the squalor, drabness and its extremes of wealth and poverty.

On display are his writing desk, chair, quill pen and some of his manuscripts all painstakingly written in small script with crossings out and amendments in the margins.

For me the most intriguing aspect of the exhibition was to learn that he was an insomniac. He walked the streets of London all night, taking in the sights and sounds of the city and creating his stories. He documented what he saw and heard forming his characters from observations and overheard conversations during his nightly meanderings into the metropolis.

In the exhibition there is a film by William Raban showing modern day London filmed at night featuring today’s homeless (‘houseless’ as Dickens called them) individuals as they roam the city streets in the early hours echoing Dickens’s path, capturing the despairing mood of the dispossessed. The film has a commentary of Dickens’s haunting words which are still relevant today.

A thought provoking exhibition, my overwhelming impression was that Dickens was profoundly affected by the plight of the disaffected citizens of Victorian London, and that writing was a cathartic release for his emotions.

Beverly Townsend

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Automoton Writes: Tips for Successfully Creating Steampunk

I thought it would be a real treat for you to get a completely new perspective on writing. In this post author Alison De Luca shares explanations on the sub-genres of Steampunk, Dieselpunk plus a few others and her excellent and practical tips can be adopted by anyone wanting to write in this new and exciting arena. Enjoy!

If there are airships overhead, automotons in the street, Queen Victoria on the throne, or sheriffs chasing down a Difference Engine, then you know you’re in the realm of Steampunk Literature. As this subgenre becomes more important and more mainstream, especially with the recent release of Scorsese’s Hugo, writers and agents turn their fancies to all things that wind up like clockworks with gears and cogs.

Steampunk character

I always enjoy writing steampunk stories. I have two under my belt, and there are two more that I have planned in a series that uses an antique typewriter as a quantum computer. I’d like to offer a few writing tips here for anyone who plans to enter the steampunk world.

Antique typrewriter - or is it?

1. Do your research. Recently Steampunk has taken a much more ethnic approach, with books set in Boxer Rebellion era China, for example. And thank goodness; the addition of international and multiracial sensibilities is a fresh breath of air to a lit form that could otherwise grow dusty and stale.

If you want to set your story in another country, make certain you’re familiar with the language, the food, the slang, the geography, the houses… you get the idea. Ditto with the Victorian or Edwardian Era. My setting is the latter; one invaluable resource has been Evangeline, the author of the site, offers period menus, house plans, hairdos, clothes, and recipes, which I slurp up voraciously.

2. Personally, I prefer some logic to my technology. Of course as a Steamer you’ll be asking your audience to accept some fantastical ideas, such as automotons that can draw, or typewriters that can move time and space. It’s nice if you can include some sort of science to back up the tech.



Airships, for example, cannot carry entire armies and their battle gear. If you want to include dirigibles, research them and discover their limitations. I don’t use them myself, but I can see how they can make transportation more workable in an international plot. So if you want to use them in your story, make sure you understand how they work. Above all, your story should be well written and based on steam tech, not a quickly written manuscript with some airships thrown in so you can claim Steaminess.



3. Push the envelope. Besides steampunk , there is now Diesel Punk (gas powered tech) and Sandal Punk (ancient technology) which I find very interesting, considering items like the Babylon batteries, clay pots that actually generate an electric charge. They might be spurious archeology, but they make me think of possibilities, which is a wonderful thing. Anyone wanting to create sandal punk has a rather limited technology to work with, but sometimes challenges create wonderful stories.

I recently finished a Diesel Punk book for NaNoWriMo, set during WWII. I had to do a lot of research, especially on power sources and period details. What luck that my father in law had an engineering book from his stint in the army! Information that we come across like that is like pure gold to us steam / diesel / sandal punkers.


Period information

Recently I saw a book written in “ReeferPunk” style. And yes, it’s just what you think. I’m intrigued, I’ll admit, although I don’t think I’ll go to that length.

I love the technical possibilities, but above all I love the human element involved. And that is my final, most important tip: don’t forget your characters. They, more than anything, will be needed to drive that airship to those fantastic new lands.

Thank you, Alison, for a fascinating article! Definitely something to ponder over if you are , or thinking of writing in this sub-genre. Have you got any tips to share on writing Steampunk? How will you use these fantastic tips to improve your writing?

Alison DeLuca is the author of The Night Watchman Express and Devil’s Kitchen, both steampunk fantasies for young adults.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.  As a teacher she taught every grade level in every kind of school district possible.

She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.

          The Night Watchman Express

Devil's Kitchen

Links to The Night Watchman Express:
Amazon Kindle:
Amazon paperback:

Check out her website at