Thursday, 21 April 2011

A Bitter-Sweet Affair

For the most part, I have a good relationship with my work in progress. My manuscript and I co-exist happily enough, both needing the other in order to get closer to a finished novel. But like any relationship, we have our ups and downs. But doesn't every writer hate their manuscript at some stage? Surely even the most successful author must doubt their next piece of work occasionally. Forget the old cliche of a roller coaster. My emotions are more like scaling and free-falling the Pennines!

One minute I love my work in progress. I think to myself, 'This is brilliant! It's so much better than that last reading book I bought but was too boring to finish.' I'm thrilled with the plot and my fingers are tapping on the keyboard like a demented woodpecker. Fast forward an hour, and I'm doubting my worthiness as a writer and wondering if I'll ever be published. Despite the free-fall, I know I love writing and have a great affinity with my characters. They're like real friends to me. I know what they're thinking, what they worry about and what they dream about. In fact, I miss the characters in Lies and Linguine and wonder how their lives have panned out since I left them. But no matter how much I love to write, some days it's difficult to stay motivated.

Manuscripts have to be almost perfect these days. Agents and publishers have such hectic and cost-sensitive work days, that they're looking for manuscripts which have been polished and sparkle, requiring very little additional tweaking. Nowadays a writer can't be satisfied with sending out three chapters and a synopsis having only edited them a couple of times. A book must be professionally prepared before submission. I suppose that's where some of the doubt creeps in. No matter how many times I return to a chapter, I can always swap a word, or tweak a sentence. It's knowing when you've done your best and it's time to step away.

Just like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it! If you don't finish your novel and edit it to within an inch of its life, you won't stand a chance at finding a publisher. But the crazy thing is, even if I won the lottery, all I really want to do is write. So surely I should be satisfied with the knowledge that I'm already doing what I love?

I think it's time to kiss and make up. My new characters in Sugar and Spite are waiting for me. We need to work together to get my second book finished. If you'll excuse me....I have a date with my keyboard!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

London Book Fair 2011

Birds Sing Louder In The City I love London. Partly, I imagine, because I was born there, but also because one of my first memories was of sitting on my father's shoulders. I remember hanging onto Buckingham Palace railings, looking at the soldiers dressed in red. I left when I was three, but its magic seems to have seeped into my bones! What better excuse to return to the Capital, than The London Book Fair. I booked a hotel for an overnight stay and spent two days lost in the world of books. I explored the Book Fair, browsed book shops, did some research for my second novel (more later), read Carol Ann Duffy's poetry on the tube (Mrs Midas is amazing), made notes for my WIP...and generally luxuriated in the written word.
There were two huge halls full of literary experts, authors, publishers, agents, book sellers, buyers and visitors. Clutching my pass, I roamed the halls in awe at some of the names and faces which were part of the exhibition. I joined the throngs at a talk about promoting your book and listened in on some interviews. Some friends find it bizarre that I'd happily swap two days shopping in the City, for hours and hours at The London Book Fair?

I was delighted to meet up with my lovely writer friend, Avril. We met through leaving messages on each other's blogs. Sitting at The English Pen Literary Cafe, we chatted about family and our writing dilemmas and successes. It's so heart-warming to talk about a passion for writing with like-minded people. My closest friend in Nottingham doesn't read for pleasure and has no desire to write. She's never asked to read any of my work even though she's proud of my achievements. So it was a delight to catch up with Avril in person. I also met my agent Juliet, who had a very hectic schedule as you can imagine. I managed to say hello inbetween her appointments, as I thought it would have been such a shame to have been in the same building and not said hello. My WIP is a second contemporary women's fiction novel called, Sugar and Spite. In Chapter 5 my protagonist, Erin, meets her best friend Libby at The Parlour Restaurant on the first floor of Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly. (For my overseas blog visitors, it's an iconic British store which sells high quality goods.) As a sub-plot, Libby is failing to conceive and also struggling to recover from the sudden death of her brother. This in turn leads to a stupid mistake which gets her into serious trouble after leaving Erin at The Parlour. Of course I had to sample their cream tea whilst jotting down the atmosphere, decor, lay-out, smells, colours, staff......! Below is my favourite park in London - St. James's Park. It's set in Westminster and is the oldest royal park. It has two islands in its lake and the park is full of wonderful waterfowl. I love this view from the middle of the bridge over-looking the lake. The London Eye is on the right and Horse Guard's Parade on the left. It was a warm sunny day in the park, where people lounged on the soft grass eating picnics, lovers held hands, children chased ducks and joggers seemed to run with a spring in their step. No doubt the sunshine made their exercise a lot more enjoyable! A little wander in the sunshine took me to Piccadilly Circus where I found the usual chaotic hubbub. Sirens wailing, street sellers shouting, taxis and red buses vying for right of way, bustling pedestrians, cyclists' shrill bells, mobiles ringing...a far cry from peaceful St. James's Park! Circus comes from the Latin word meaning, circle. Nowadays we call it a roundabout! It's also famous for its neon signs on the side of this corner building. They say birds sing louder in the City in order to be heard. I find that sad. I imagine them with sore throats, struggling to be heard above the cacophony of the capital! I live in a small village called Car Colston in Nottingham. It doesn't have any shops, just a quaint pub called The Royal Oak. I've written about it in my first novel, Lies and Linguine. It's where my protagonist first sees the hero of my novel, whilst sipping Pimms on the village green. The birds in Car Colston have got it made! They live in the gentle buzz of the countryside, whereas the poor old Cockney Sparrows live amongst the deafening roar of the metropolis. The photograph above is of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Big Ben is the nickname for the bell of the clock and it's the largest four-faced clock in the world. (sorry for sounding like a history teacher, but you never know when you'll be invited on to Mastermind!) The London Eye is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe. It makes an appearance in my second novel, Sugar and Spite. I find it so much easier to write about places I've been to. Even better, to make notes whilst actually visiting a place. Touching the surroundings, smelling the street life and feeling the atmosphere help to evoke a clearer picture when I'm back at home telling the story with my fingertips. I visited Amsterdam's Red Light District for that very reason! My antagonist in Lies and Linguine made a terrible mistake whilst on a stag weekend there; but that's another story.... Buckingham Palace - the home of the British monarchy. It's going to be a very busy place on 29th April 2011. Congratulations William and Catherine. It's a shame all the glorious daffodils and tulips will have died away by then.

I always pop into Harrods in Knightsbridge. I might shun Topshop for The London Book Fair, but with over one million square feet of shopping space, a girl can't say no! I treated myself to a bottle of Jo Malone's Pommegrante Noir perfume as I'd run out. The only celebrity I saw was Joe Pasquali who coughed as he passed me! I had to smile because even his cough is squeaky! And so another year's book fair is over. I look back to when I visited last year and think of my achievements. My lovely agent Juliet Burton is now representing me and Lies and Linguine, I've joined a second writing group, I've been invited onto the committee of Nottingham Writers' Club, I've read my work in public, I have three trophies in my writing room for my novel, poetry and a YA story and I'm about to join The Walk's Book Club. I've also accumulated even more notebooks to add to my bulging collection. It's just a shame that they're all too pretty to write in!

To see Avril's blog, visit

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Perfumed Hedgerows

I am delighted to find out that a recent poem I entered into a competition, was successful. The theme for the poety competition was, The Great Outdoors. I hope you enjoy reading it and it makes you want to pull on your walking boots and set off into the hills! Perfumed Hedgerows

Across the expanse of patchwork fields

A mist lies low,

Like a froth of fungi on forgotten fruit.

The moon's corona fades in the morning light

As pearls of dew hang from quivering webs.

The sun's warmth unfurls sleeping blooms

Which stretch and spread

Beneath the oak's vast canopy.

Trees sway on summer's sombre sighs,

Their branches draped in ivy necklaces

Clinging possessively.

Perfumed hedgerows wear budding flowers

Whilst pink blossoms blush and froth.

And boat-shaped puffs of cloud sail across the blue,

As yesterday's puddles are highlighted

With warm golden beams

As the sun's blaze awakens.

A shimmering heat-haze hovers

Trembling and twitching,

Levitating and dispersing the soft mist.

Swirling aromas

Of mown grass and honey-suckle

Drift through open windows,

Stretching smiles on faces who breathe

Its subtle scent.

Taking thoughts away from toil

Urging those who smell the summer breeze

To explore and delight

In the great outdoors.

By Angela Barton