Because, although I love writing (I write stories, I write rhymes and I go out and about to talk about writing to encourage other people to write), I am a virgin blogger – please be gentle with me.
Each writer in the blogging tour is invited to answer the same four questions about their writing, thus forming a new link in a long and winding virtual chain. I’m one of three taking the baton from Lindsay (she writes a great blog, check it out here). The three talented writers following me next week are Julie Fulton, Lucy Marcovitch and Alycia Smith-Howard. Read more about them at the end of the blog.
So here goes. My very first time. I hope you like it!
My main task at the moment is a final polish of my first short story collection, ‘The Woman Who Never Did’ – please look out for it on Kindle this summer. The stories vary in subject and style, but link together with the last story bringing light into unexplored corners of the first. I wrote them over a period of four years and it’s been most fulfilling finally to edit the complete collection.
I’m also working on a novella, a ghost story that was supposed to be around 2000 words, but refused to be contained. I’m watching it spread its spectral wings and relishing the spookiness.
As Jenny Heap, I also write for children. I’m currently working on a couple of picture book stories and a series of poems for primary school children including ‘When Percival Pooed in the Pool’.
Question 2: How does my work differ from others of its genre?
‘Tell us, Mrs Heap, why should we read your words rather than those of other writers’?’ they ask.
I say, ‘Read us all if you’ve got time!’
I try to write stories that are accessible, that you don’t need a dictionary to read, but with a little something extra: a bite, a twist, a bit of magic realism. My characters are imperfect people with imperfect lives, who find a way to keep going on their own terms.
Genre is an important concept and useful for matching up happy combinations of readers and writers, but it’s hard to squash a story into a box. Just as I read across genres, I also write across them.
Someone once told me the opening passage of one of my stories was like something from a women’s magazine, but that the piece improved as it went on. She didn’t know that one of my proudest moments was seeing my winning story ‘Wendy’s Tiger’ published by Good Housekeeping.
I believe there are good and bad examples within all genres. The most important thing for me it is to make each piece is as true to my vision as it can be.
Question 3: Why do I write what I do?
C.S.Lewis wrote ‘we read to know we are not alone.’ That’s why I write. I have a head full of stories and a heart full of feelings and I want to share them. I would have loved to be a painter or a sculptor, but, while I can draw a pig so that you can tell it’s not an elephant, I don’t have the skill to convey narrative or emotion without words.
I’ve always liked short stories: the small perfection of a moment, a situation or a relationship. I write the sort of stuff I’d like to read, about ordinary people dealing with everyday triumphs and disasters. My characters love and lie, fall back on the same old weaknesses and find new hidden strengths. If sometimes they meet witches or fairies that’s because it’s fun writing about witches and fairies.
It’s fun writing for children too. We play with words and rhymes and we make up characters (one day I shall blog about my son and the Nog-a-nogs). Now I also share the stories and poems that started life within our family with other children in schools and workshops.
Question 4: How does my writing process work?
On a perfect day I sit at my desk looking out across a sunny garden to a pretty village churchyard and a country lane twisting away to the hills beyond. I open my notebook, I open my laptop and I type 1000 words before the afternoon school run.
Today’s a more normal day. My desk is hidden under a pile of clothes and toys waiting to go on eBay. Since the kitchen table is covered in ironing, I’m at one end of the sofa with everything balanced on a lap tray.
My writing process is similarly haphazard. Sometimes I scribble plans and ideas for months before I start typing, sometimes I dive straight in. But, whether I’m typing or scribbling or drawing diagrams (I draw a lot of diagrams) or just thinking, some part of every day is taken up with being a writer.
When I get down to the actual writing I’m happy with 700-1000 words per day, although reality ranges from a meagre 200 (all too often) to a magnificent 2500 (very occasionally). I bash the words out then revise them. Then I revise them again. And again.
I review my stories with C (ideal reader friend), with L, A and S (talented writer friends) and with my fellow children’s writers at the StoryVine writing group. Sometimes their feedback hurts, and sometimes I disagree, but I always pay close attention and so often they’re proved right. Thank you all for telling me the truth – you know who you are and I will be always in your debt.
Eventually, sometimes after many iterations, when I believe I can’t make it the story or rhyme any better I concede it’s finished.
As is this, my very first blog. It’s been fun. Sorry it’s so long, I’ll have another go soon and try to be briefer. I hope you enjoyed it. If you’ve read this far, please have a roam around my website – you’ll find something for grown ups here and something for children here and here.
Now it’s time to pass the baton for The Writing Process Blog Tour to my three writer friends. Here you go, Ladies. I look forward to reading your blogs on 17th March.
Julie Fulton: http://www.juliefulton.com/
Julie is the author of the Ever So series of rhyming picture books. The second in the series – Tabitha Posy Was Ever So Nosy – is shortlisted for The People’s Book Prize 2013/2014.
She grew up on a diet of Edward Lear, Hillaire Belloc, Spike Milligan and Dr Seuss amongst others, so it’s no wonder she has a love of the funny and slightly crazy. She is an avid supporter of Booktrust, the UK charity that aims to get everyone reading for pleasure.
Lucy Marcovitch: www.lucymarcovitch.wordpress.com
Lucy is a freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction. She has had two picture books published by Tamarind Press, and also writes short stories, articles and guest blogs for range of websites.
Her intention was always to write a YA novel, but life continually intervenes, and the novel is currently in semi-hibernation.
Alycia Smith-Howard: http://i-say-tomato.blogspot.co.uk/
Alycia Smith-Howard is a Shakespeare scholar, writer, columnist and theatre director. Her writing covers a spectrum of genres from scholarly non-fiction to lively lifestyle and pop culture articles. Her popular, monthly column, “Notes from a Shakespeare Diva” featured in Warwickshire Life magazine from 2009-2012.