Category Archives: Short stories

Writerly bits and pieces …

When it comes to writing, you just have to do it when you can snatch the time and keep at it, for life will surely get in the way otherwise and before you know it, weeks will have passed and not a word will have been written! Having now passed the halfway mark for NN2 (novel number 2) I’ve found myself engrossed with a few other writing projects recently which have demanded a lot of focus and which are up against tight deadlines, so my attention has been split.

However, in theory I now have less left to write of my next book than what’s already written, so I see myself as being on the downward slope, heading towards the finishing line. The pace may have slowed, as was expected once work recommenced mid-January, but I’m happy with how things are progressing.bible-2989427_1920

Irish Writers’ Centre member and mentor

In other news, I’m very pleased to say that I’m now a member of the Irish Writers’ Centre, having been accepted as such as part of its Professional Member Support Scheme for Northern Irish writers, which also includes a stipend to use towards courses and events throughout the year. So, that was great news last week and I look forward to getting along to some of those events!

I’m also going to be listed as a mentor (for children’s fiction, fantasy fiction and feature writing/journalism), so that should be on the website soon too.

Story

I’ve also just submitted a short story to a journal, one I wrote a little while back, as I really like said journal and it’s been such a long time since I sent any stories out, what with the book taking centre stage last year.

And … I’m still planning more Book Tube videos – in fact, there’s one that I’ve been meaning to record for the past month but I’m having to prioritise other things and it just hasn’t happened yet! Soon, though.

Anyway, more as I have it … ūüôā

 

 

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Publishing and promotion…

As a writer in today’s digital world, you’re expected to do a certain amount of self-promotion to connect with readers and to gain new ones. Getting the balance right in this is crucial – do it too much, or in an overtly aggressive or ‘salesy’ way,¬†and you risk alienating people – promote too little, and you can simply sink into the ether with no-one giving you a backward glance. Sure, there’s always another writer to keep¬†people entertained…

img_0278As a soon-to-be indie author, I know that promotion and marketing and just connecting with potential readers is important if I want to get my book into the hands of, well, anybody. Add to the mix¬†that it’s a book for children and we have a double conundrum – I’ve got to connect with both parents and kids, as the parents will no doubt be making the purchasing decision, but the kids will have to want to read it (or be intrigued to give it a go anyway).

It’s all trial and error and I’m already planning how I’ll go about getting my story ‘out there’, so this week’s launch of Lagan Online’s 12NOW project was perfectly timed. You can read more about this¬†at the link above, but essentially, this is what Lagan Online is all about:

“Central to Lagan Online is the aim of nurturing new talent to build careers in a new environment. Lagan Online is committed to being a leading voice in the area of Reading Development and new writing on the island of Ireland.”

Formerly known as Lagan Press, which published physical books, the rebranded Lagan Online is instead, now channelling its energies into supporting and promoting up-and-coming writers without the publishing element. A controversial decision for some… a few other local publishers have already taken to social media to express their disappointment and regret at this decision. As an indie author about to benefit from this promotion however, I’m really just seeing the silver lining.12now-collage

Over the next 12 months, Lagan Online will support and promote reading and writing by supporting and promoting six poets and prose writers, myself included, sharing our stories and poems with various reading groups in Northern Ireland.¬†For the past few years, the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry has been running Reading Rooms, which exposes people of all ages and backgrounds to new writing. The idea is to nurture readers – to introduce the pleasures and joy of reading to new audiences and to dig deeper into what they’re reading, discussing themes and so on. This is what the 12NOW (New Original Writers) will be exposed to, as our work will subsequently be read and discussed by these groups.

I’ve been chosen as one of the prose writers for 12NOW, so a selection of my short stories will be circulated to the Reading Rooms groups and I’ll have the opportunity¬†to visit a few of them to hear feedback on the writing. (Which is a little¬†BIT SCARY! I do hope they like them, or at least, that they don’t HATE them…) With¬†there being a¬†children’s reading group as well, I’m also hoping that along with¬†the short story for kids that I’ve written, my children’s novel will also have the chance to be put before some young eyes. As I’m intending to publish it next spring, the timing couldn’t be better.

I’m still a big fan of traditional publishers and if I was ever picked up by one then I’m pretty sure I’d sign on the dotted line with great delight. However, in the meantime, I’m enjoying the process of getting my first novel out there by myself – and of course, with the help of a team of other independent businesses, which¬†will ensure that it’s the best it can be.fullsizerender-4

I’m planning to meet with my editor in Dublin before Christmas to discuss her feedback on the manuscript, and my cover designer is working away on the design as we speak,¬†so I hope to see how that’s shaping up at the start of November. I like that I’m guiding the cover¬†art and that I’ll be able to give feedback on this to make it the way I want. I know that with some publishers, you really have to take what you’re given in that regard, so I’m enjoying being in control of how my book is created, from start to finish.

Self-publishing is like any big project you take on – it’s both exciting and scary – but I think the learning gained throughout the process is/will be¬†invaluable. Running my own business helps in some way as well, as I’m better able to get my head around the practicalities of marketing and so on,¬†though it’s always harder to promote your own work than other people’s…

This is where Lagan Online is going to come in so perfectly, as it’s always good to know you have someone in your camp supporting your work. Having a respected publisher promote your work is invaluable, whether they’re actually publishing anymore or not.¬†Of course, I’ll be writing other stories throughout the year and I want to get submitting to journals and the like again, as I haven’t done quite so much of that in 2016. Being part of something like 12NOW will¬†therefore help ‘keep me¬†at it’, as they say, and¬†will make sure that¬†my work-life and creative-life is better balanced…

 

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Submission success

Good news this week… one of my short stories has been published in the latest edition of the SHIFT-Lit Derry magazine.¬†I’m looking forward to seeing what other writing¬†lies within and adding it to my reading list! My own story is inspired by the coast and also by someone I know,¬†so let’s hope it goes down well…shift

Summer here in NI heralds the arrival of more than one literary festival and event, though I haven’t been able to get along to much of these so far this year due to work commitments. However, submitting to journals and interviewing authors all helps to keep one inspired and I won’t let the summer pass without making sure I get along to some sort of literary occasion.

In the meantime, I’m still scribbling bits and pieces here and there, and I WILL get that short story finished for the end of June –¬†if only to enjoy the satisfaction of having submitted another piece of work…

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Writing revelations

A good storyteller, like anyone who’s skilled at their craft, makes the art of creating a story look incredibly easy. When we see the finished product – the story, the drawing, or whatever it is that you create – all too often the process of work that produced the end result just isn’t acknowledged.

Even the best writers have multiple drafts of a story floating about before they get it ‘just right’ and are happy enough to put¬†their work¬†out into the world. Even then, they’re usually never completely satisfied that it is what it should be.wallpaper-830417_1280

I’m currently reading Claire Keegan’s book of short stories, Walk the Blue Fields, which is of course, a perfect example of someone who’s great at what they do, but¬†who makes¬†it look deceptively easy.

Does it take away the magic of writing if we make it clear just how many drafts and scribblings out we do in the course of creating a story? Or does it educate readers and make them more appreciative of our work?

As a copywriter, I find that outlining the process of writing and explaining the value of it is of the utmost importance in my day-to-day job. Most people see the finished content you create and assume it was easily done and place little value on what is actually a very valuable commodity. With creative writing however – with novelists and short story writers and poets – do we need the same disclosure? The process is perhaps a little better understood anyway – most people know books get edited, and I’m not sure they’d necessarily buy a novel quicker if they knew it had taken X amount of drafts to create.

Writers of course, are perhaps more interested in hearing about other writers’ habits than the general reading public. I’ve interviewed lots of authors over the years and feedback always references the writing process – we wonder at the number of drafts someone had before they finished their story; we agree with them that mornings are best for writing (for some!) and feel relieved that we’re on the same page in our working styles. IMG_1697

My own writing process has been quite disrupted this week, with an ill dog (I refer you back to my previous post where I mentioned his love of scavenging….), a press launch and work in between. I’ve managed a little reading, but the writing has suffered.

I know my own writing process however, and that I can have periods of ebb and flow¬†as part of¬†this. Ultimately though, I always end up scribbling away in¬†that notebook…

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‘A New Corner’

Here’s a little something I wrote recently for Jason O’Rourke’s Vernacularisms site. Happy Easter!

Royal Avenue hums with activity the further along she goes, pedestrians filtering in from side streets; dropping out of shop doorways and sliding into the throng from the Metros. The buses cut a pa…

Source: Guest Post: ‘A New Corner’ by Claire Savage

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Celebrating women writers

So, International Women’s Day came and went and all in all, it was a great success with regards to the Women Aloud NI project. Women writers gathered across Northern Ireland to celebrate each other’s achievements, enjoying readings and chatting about all things relating to writing.

Some of the writers who read in Coleraine, including Women Aloud NI organiser, Jane Talbot (far right).

Some of the writers who read in Coleraine, including Women Aloud NI organiser, Jane Talbot (far right).

In Coleraine, the audience enjoyed hearing from a variety of talent throughout the day, and it was great to see such healthy numbers in attendance, with some people even staying from morning until evening.

It was my first time reading my work at an event like this and I don’t know whether it was the supportive atmosphere and the attentiveness of the audience, the prompting from author Bernie McGill (who was¬†facilitating the readings) with questions during my discussion, or simply feeling at ease surrounded by so many shelves of books in a store I used to work in, but I really enjoyed the experience.

WOMEN ALOUDFeedback from everyone else seems to be the same and, as someone who used to get nervous reading in public, all¬†I have to say is – when’s the next one?! Of course, part of what helped my confidence is the fact that¬†I was reading a story which had been published in a literary journal.Waterstones reading1

For me, knowing that someone liked my work enough to print it, automatically boosted my confidence in reading it in public, and I think journals are an excellent way to improve your confidence as a writer, as well as building up your reputation.

I also shared some tips about submitting to journals, and brought some with me as props so the audience could see examples of what’s out there, which I think worked quite well.

It certainly inspired me to get back to¬†scribbling in my¬†notebooks, so¬†I think it’s about time I started that next story…

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Celebrating writing on IWD

This Tuesday is International Women’s Day 2016 and across the world, women will be out to celebrate¬†each other’s¬†achievements and show some solidarity. In Northern Ireland and, more specifically for me, in Coleraine, women writers will be participating in the Women Aloud NI project, reading their work and chatting about all things writing.photo

I’ll be reading one of my short stories and speaking a bit about submitting to literary journals and my experiences of that, while there will also be poets, novelists and the like doing similar things across the country.

If you’re in the vicinity, then do call in… What could be better than hearing some stories for free, and picking up some tips and advice, or simply hearing about how other writers work? For me, it will be great to siphon off some time for literary endeavours as of late, work has been all-consuming, leaving little time for focusing properly my short stories the way I’d like. There are busier than normal¬†periods however, and then¬†there are quieter periods and eventually, the writing will always get done…

 

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Literary launches and the like

Having attended¬†the launch of a book¬†about the musical history of 19th century Belfast, and the launch of the Launchpad children’s writing journal at the weekend (too many launches?!), I was doing a little less writing and a bit more reading and reporting the past couple of days. I also enjoyed a catch-up with Incubator Journal editor, Kelly Creighton, which is always good for the soul!kids-1099709_1280

At Saturday’s Launchpad Journal event, it was my first time reading one of my stories at an event aimed primarily¬†at children. The dynamics are definitely different, and the writer reading would certainly be advised to have a few tricks up their sleeve to captivate their young audience, but I was surprised at how well-behaved the kids were. They sat through a fair few poems and¬†stories being read, and were certainly enthusiastic in clapping us off afterwards. ūüôā

Anyway, writing-wise, I’m pushing poetry aside for a little while to focus on my short stories (for adults), and to get some new ideas churning. There are¬†also some writing events and festivals on the horizon to look forward to,¬†and it might also be a good¬†idea to get submitting again… January was a rather dreary month, and February may have started off with a storm (the second in as many days!), but the good thing about writing is – you can do it whatever the weather. ūüôā

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Writing without agenda

ink-316909_1280When you write your stories longhand there’s always an element of surprise, no matter how well you think you’ve estimated words per page, when you go to type it up. Usually, my worry is that the story will be too short, as what fills a small notebook and makes you think you’ve written something significant, can often translate into just a few typed pages. However, my most recent story, which I thought would be around 2,000 words, turned out to be about 4,500 words, so I was pleasantly surprised at that!

I got into the habit last year of writing stories that were mostly¬†in the region of¬†2,000 words, as this is the word limit for so many journal submissions and competitions. However, as part of my pledge to write without agenda this year, I’ve reverted back to form – my form – which means lengthier short stories that won’t necessarily fit the mould. I will probably also write some that are 2,000 words and maybe even less than that. We’ll just have to see how the creative juices flow…WOMEN ALOUD

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to being a part of an exciting new project in Northern Ireland called Women Aloud NI, which will take place on International Women’s Day on March 8 this year. The project is all about championing women writers in Northern Ireland, so if you’re from NI (whether you’re a current resident or are living elsewhere) and would like to take part, then check out their website at: http://womenaloudni.com/

I’ll be reading my story from The Incubator Journal in Coleraine on the day, as well as chatting about submitting to journals, so it should be good! More details will follow… ūüôā

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Writing Dickensian-style

Charles Dickens liked to write Christmas stories during the festive season and it’s a habit I feel inspired to adopt myself. It might not be a popular¬†pastime¬†(do many writers feel inclined to create a seasonal story??), but I wrote one last year and there’s something about the magic surrounding the season that makes me want to do the same again now.

Dickens_dream

A painting of Dickens dreaming about his literary characters…

Christmas tales are traditionally, rather macabre and spooky – telling ghost stories of an evening around a crackling fire was once all the rage, and it’s a custom that would be great to uphold. Whether you do this from memory or by scribbling the story down (as I’m wont to do), is up to you, but it’s something which to me, is much more appealing than subjecting yourself to the more saccharine sentiments that we’re bombarded with over the Christmas period.

Christmas is all about celebration and togetherness, but if you’re lucky enough to be wrapped up snug and warm beside a fire of an evening, while the wind howls outside and branches¬†tip-tap at the windows, then what could be better than losing yourself in a story that’s worthy of a shiver or two…

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