I Didn’t Drop The Baton!

Occasionally we all need encouragement from our peers, the odd pat on the back or just a simple “you know what, you’re doing great”. As a procrastinating writer I thrive on comments made, good or bad, from my colleagues and friends in the writing world.  The great thing about being in a community of writers is the camaraderie, the friendships forged and not forgetting the most important one of all – the laughs. And we all need those to survive.  A life without laughs is no life at all.

It is with great pleasure that I can now introduce you to a few writers out there that mean the world to me. They answer my questions, they regale me with tales of writing trips, train journeys, walks in the park, sunshine (I know – we don’t get much of that up here)…but most of all they make me laugh. A laugh can make the dullest of days seem like the middle of Summer. Go on try it, you can do it! See. Just a wee chuckle and before you know it we are all needing tenna ladies and visits to the loo – well, some of us anyway.

Picture of Christina Banach
Christina Banach, author of ‘Minty’

I was contacted recently by Christina Banach – a soon-to-be-published YA author and a very good friend, listener and confidant to GreatBigJar. She asked me to take part in The Writing Process Blog Tour so how could I refuse. Here’s what you need to know about the very exciting times that lie ahead for Scotland’s newest YA author “Christina Banach writes young adult fiction. Her debut novel, Minty, will be released this month by Three Hares Publishing”.  Christina is amazing at making sense of things when all can seem a bit lost  to me, a smoother of blurred lines in my wibbly, wobbly writing world! You can read more about her new book and more on her website www.christinabanach.com.

As a thank you to her and all the other writers out there who make me smile, here are my thoughts and musings on my writing world:

1. What am I writing about at the moment?

I am currently working on a 7+ novel full of intrigue and mystery involving Warlock’s, trees, chocolate and horrible big sisters. As I can never really keep still for long I am also on my first draft of a 9+ story which takes the younger reader on a journey through many emotions involving witchcraft, fur and the odd catnap!

2. How does my work differ to others in the same genre/category?

It has taken me a while to try something new, I normally write rhyming picture books, so the writing world of anyone above the age of 5 is fascinating! Having two rugrats who like to read has helped and once I get into the right mindset I am off…not smelly like old cheese, I mean that I keep writing and writing and miraculously it all makes sense! I am thoroughly enjoying every minute of it and the more I write the more I want to get onto the next chapter and the one after that so I can find out what happens next!  But I need to sleep…and eat chocolate.

3. Why do I write what I do? 

I write what I do because it starts as an idea in my head that will just not let me sleep. It’s not a bad thing, far from it. Ideas like this excite me, they make me run home and get my lap top open before the front door has even closed. They make me miss lunch because if I stop writing to eat I might forget the story (I now make myself a packed lunch that sits beside me at all times). I am constantly running late for everything because as soon as I delve into the world of my characters I am lost to my normal life for a while. I usually return to the here and now slightly tired, hungry and desperate for the loo.

4. How does my writing process work?

I spent many years writing picture books, devouring the Writers & Artists Yearbooks the day it came out and submitting my work as often as I could. However, it was apparent that something wasn’t working. I needed to seek out people like me who sat at their dining tables every day, writing furiously and not doing very much about it I needed to check that what I was doing would lead to something – anything. So, after another couple of years and on the back of a chat on twitter with Christina, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators – British Isles (SCBWI – BI) and I haven’t looked back. I meet regularly with lots of like-minded people and it always amazes me how different we all do things. Writing is a personal trait, sometimes you need a notebook to carry around with you, or post-its plastered all over your house reminding you of plot, structure or ideas as you wander from room to room. Maybe you add notes to your phone – a modern-day equivalent of the pocket book. You never know where inspiration might  appear: open manholes, bird poo, chocolate ice cream wrapper stuck to a bus wheel….

Ideas come in all shapes and sizes. They can enter my head from a conversation I overhear on a bus or perhaps from an image of a swan swimming in the pond round the corner from where I live. Anything really. If I don’t write it down and it sits wallowing in my skull, then it keeps coming back to me, interrupting my work and making a nuisance of itself. Once the story evolves in my head and travels through my hand and onto paper or keyboard, only then do I get peace.

For me, writing is what wakes me up in the wee small hours when the house is quiet. There I am, desperate to get back to sleep but the characters from my WIP want to chat instead. Not just a wee ‘Hi, how are you?’. No, its more of a ‘Now then, are you sitting comfortably because this is where this story needs to go and what I need to do as your main character!’ I love that part best of all – the adrenalin rush of a new story. I’m not quite hearing voices (I would be heading to the docs if that was happening), it’s more scenarios that I am re-living. Like scenes from a film. Once they are played out in my head I know what to write.

You just have to take a deep breath and see what’s out there. See what noises make you sit up and listen. What colours can you see in the sky? Where do you think the birds are flying to as they call out, high above your house? Inspiration can never be bottled, you need to experience life. Get outside, walk in the sand, read lots of books and eat chocolate. A well deserved treat at the end of a busy day using the grey matter that sits quietly minding its own business in your skull.

So, there you go. I have tried to describe what goes on in my head, my life and my dreams as a writer. Maybe you have been considering it, maybe you are already writing and maybe like the wonderful people below, you’ve already made it! I now handover the very prestigious baton to some incredible writers – enjoy!

My first baton relay holder is none other than Seumas Gallacher, a fellow Scot who just happens to reside in the very sunny climes of Abu Dhabi and lives the proverbial dream. He is also a master of mystery and lover of our native tongue. I thought you might like to meet him…

a very demure looking Seumas Gallacher!
a very demure looking Seumas Gallacher!

Seumas Gallacher was born in Clydeside, Govan in Glasgow and spent his formative teens in the idyllic Scottish Hebridean island of Mull. His career as a banker took him from Scotland to London for ten years and thence on a further twenty-five year global odyssey through Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines in Asia. Along the way he metamorphed into a corporate troubleshooter and problem solver. He came to the United Arab Emirates for a month in 2004 and has remained in Abu Dhabi ever since.

A late discoverer of the joys of writing, his first two novels, The Violin Man’s Legacy and Vengeance Wears Black have sold more than 70,000 copies. The third in the Jack Calder series, Savage Payback was launched in late 2013.

Seumas has become a strong proponent of the use of the social networking channels to reach and engage with a global readership market in the new age of self-publishing and eBooks. Seumas is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on how to develop productive online relationships.

He was voted Blogger of the Year 2013.  www.seumasgallacher.com

For my second baton-passing-without-dropping – I give you the wonderful Angela Blacklock-Brown.  I met Angela for the first time last year at the Society of Authors AGM that I had been invited as a guest to by Christina, it was one of the most enjoyable AGM’s I have ever been to (normally for me they are full of moaning football fans who are stuck to their armchairs) and we turned heads that day with the laughter that erupted from all the loveable characters around our table.  A regular at the Edinburgh City of Literature Salon events held at the top of The Mound, Angela continually makes me smile as she shares more  of her fantastic Scottish poems with me every time we meet. My favourite poem from her collection is about the supposed Scottish delicacy – the deep fried mars bar. I can honestly say I have never felt the inclination to try this but the poem is fantastic.

Angela Blacklock-Brown
Angela Blacklock-Brown

Angela Blacklock-Brown was born in Dumfries and brought up in Newton Stewart, Dumfries and Galloway. Her first professional writing began as a young teenager with the publication of an article in the Girl Guide Annual in 1963, followed by an invitation to submit further work.

In the late sixties, she came to Edinburgh to study at the University

As a Modern Languages teacher she wrote regular features for the Times Educational Supplement and in 1999 co-wrote a French Revision Guide Book for the Co-ordination Group Ltd in Cumbria.

In 1992 she won The Scotrail/RNLI short story competition with, ’The Yellow Wellie Brigade,’ based on a true experience yachting round the Western Isles.

In 1999 she joined the Scottish Poetry Library as Library Assistant and was encouraged by the director Robyn Marsack to apply for the Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University where she graduated M Phil in 2004.

Over the years she has had poems published in anthologies, literary magazines, ‘The Herald’ and ‘The Scotsman’ as well as broadcast on Radio Scotland. She also has six small pamphlets.

Apart from writing she enjoys world travel and the outdoors. She is a volunteer with Scottish Waterways on the Union Canal and works with a group of people helping to identify and classify the wild plant life beside the towpath.

Her Scots Poems appear on the Scottish Poetry Library website  http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poets/angela-blacklock-brown  and  on the scuilwab http://www.scuilwab.org.uk/sections/view/42