Storytelling

November has been a busy month. In amongst re-adjusting to life back in a busy office in my day-to-day life, I’ve enjoyed connecting with writers at a couple of events.

I’m in the middle of judging a teen short story competition for Erskine Writers group, where I delivered a workshop last month. Erskine Writers was where I first shared my work in public many years ago, and it’s lovely to return to lead workshops.

A couple of Saturdays ago I delivered an online workshop to the Teen Igniting Writing group (part of Wokingham Libraries), talking to a group of young people about what makes a good Mystery/Thriller. I was blown away by some of the extracts they read out of their own work, and had fun answering questions and talking about mystery books we love, (as well as telling them where my inspiration for writing mysteries comes from). I was very grateful to my school friend, Elizabeth, (or Lis as I know her), for organising this amazing session as part of her role as Young People Outreach manager. I don’t often get to engage with teens outwith Scotland, and I think one benefit of lockdown was the realisation online connections can be a positive way of reaching wider audiences/providing wider access.

One young person asked me, “What compels you to write?” It’s a good question, and one that has been circling in my head since. On the day I think I said it was ultimately my love of reading that sparked the desire for me to create my own stories, and I love seeing a story unfold and characters take over, which is all true.

But ultimately I think there is something deep within us all where we crave to connect with one another, and make sense of the world around us, and storytelling in all of its forms allows us to do that.

I was invited to a wonderful session last Saturday at Greenock Central Library as part of Book Week Scotland, celebrating creativity and writing within Inverclyde, organised and led by Writer In Residence, Katharine Macfarlane (who is an amazing Slam Poet. I am currently reading her poetry collection Home Words – it is full of beautiful imagery. You can buy a copy here).

Katharine is so enthusiastic about creativity and has got me involved in amazing events in the past, working with young people in Inverclyde. I grew up in Inverclyde, and previously worked there for ten years as a careers adviser, so it will always be a place I feel connected to. During this particular session I really enjoyed meeting other local writers and hearing them read their work, as well as finding out about future projects. Martin O’Connor, the Inverclyde Artist in Residence, also generated interesting discussion about how we all engage in some form of storytelling every day.

Some of the general discussion about Storytelling, and all of its forms, again made me think about how important it is for voices to be heard and that writing, (or spoken word), is a really powerful way we can encourage people to express themselves and tell their own stories.

In other news Promise Me is now available through wider distribution, both in digital and paperback formats, World Wide. It can be ordered into Waterstones here

Book news

I

If the past year and a half has taught me, (and you, I’m sure), anything, it’s that life is unpredictable and short, and all the clichés that go along with that line of thinking.

If the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that the publishing industry is even more unpredictable and slow, and often constraining. Constraining in that you’re left to depend very much on someone else setting your timelines, and there’s a lot of waiting around wanting to know what’s happening, often ghosting, and that then gives you a lot of time to then wonder about your writing, and if it’s any good, and if you will ever see your next book in print. After taking my second book back from my publisher by mutual agreement it threw me out into the world of submissions again, you see. For the non-writers reading this basically think about any time you have tried online dating. It’s not all bad of course. In the end online dating was actually a success for me, and I have been traditionally published before, but… you know…you have to go through a bit of pain to get to the place you want to be.

For me, it felt like I’ve been standing still the past few years when it comes to my writing, even although ‘behind the scenes’ I have very much been getting words down on paper (or onto my screen). Too much of my thoughts were occupied with but when will these words be out there in the world again, will they ever be out there in the world again...everyone is going to think I’m a failure, and I forgot to enjoy the process and I fell out of love a bit with creating.

So then I started to ask myself what do I actually want from my writing? and I talked A LOT to people close to me who I feel very lucky to have in my life as they keep me sane , and I asked a good friend and colleague of mine (thanks Hilary) to give me a career coaching interview so I could dig a bit deeper into that question, (what do I want from my writing), and most importantly set myself some actions that would help me move forward.

I realised I am sometimes so immersed in the world of writers, on social media predominantly, especially the past few years, I subconsciously absorb what I think is the right or coveted direction to travel in terms of a writing career. And I put a lot of pressure on myself and I don’t actually focus enough on allowing myself to just actually ENJOY writing…to go back to that raw feeling of excitement that I get from joining words together that are actually forming into a story, and to enjoy seeing where it is going to take me.

After my first book launch friends bought me cards and bookmarks and there was a common phrase appearing on these: ‘ Create Your Own Story.’

So that’s what I am now doing; I am taking control of my own story, and this was a really long winded way of saying I have a book coming out next month and that I am going full Indie with this, self-publishing (but actually I have a team- my Mum has been amazing with the technical side, final edits, and I have a fab cover artist, Rebecca, and professional platforms which will deal with distribution).

It feels good. Promise Me, my next Young Adult mystery is finally going to make its way out into the world. And I hope some readers find it, as really that’s all I want. Readers, and a sense that I am connecting with people.

I will be doing a cover reveal very soon for Promise Me, posting my book trailer, and probably posting far too much about it in general, so I apologise in advance for that.

I’m finishing this post with a link to wise words from Ethan Hawke (a crush of mine back in his Reality Bites days, and who knew he has a lot of soul too…). This is titled: ‘Give yourself permission to be creative The underlying message is basically stop worrying about the quality of your creative work and what other people will think of it, as the ‘world is an ‘extremely unreliable critic.’ And it is very important ‘to play the fool.’

I also recently read ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott (every writer should read this) and I loved the line, ‘Be afraid of wasting…time obsessing about how you look and how people see you.’ And ‘Write towards vulnerability.’

Putting my work out there myself does make me feel vulnerable, but I’m ready to play the fool!

A little dinner, and a winner

Last week I was at the Erskine Writers group annual dinner. As the group meet during the day it’s nice to catch up with everyone at the dinner. As a postal member of the group I get to stay in touch via email, and through updates on the blog, and also meet up with most of the group every year at the Scottish Association of Writers conference. I’ve been a member of the group since I was about seventeen. Erskine used to run evening sessions which allowed me to attend more regularly, and it was here I met some of my best friends. Over the years there have been so many interesting talks from a range of writers, and lots of inspiring workshops. Being part of a writing group gave me the confidence to start sharing my work with a wider audience, as well as teaching me more about structure and presentation for submissions.

At this year’s dinner I received a lovely Quaich Trophy as I won first place in the Flash Fiction competition last year. The photo below is of myself and Elizabeth (on the right), the president, who handed out the awards.erskine dinner

In other news, my Mum, Rosemary, and I were interviewed for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Blog. My Mum has been a member of the RNA for years and when they saw her sharing news of my book they were interested to find out more about our shared love of writing, and how we support one another. My Mum has always been a massive support and inspiration to me, (and she also introduced me to Erskine Writers), so it was really nice taking part in an interview like this. You can read that here 

And lastly I wanted to share a brilliant photo from my launch night of me with my cover artist, Ida Henrich. Ida shared this on her new facebook page today. You can check out more of her work here. It was great getting to meet Ida on the night, and she even came to the pub with me and my friends after the launch to help me celebrate. I also found out that the woods Ida photographed for the cover were in Pollock Park and one of my friends told us that there is actually a place called the Old Barn near here. Spooky!! I don’t think the ‘Old Barn’ is as cool as The Barn in Follow Me though 🙂

ida launch

Launch Night

Cupcakes!

Cupcakes!

Follow Me ~ the books!!

Follow Me ~ the books!!

Famous for 15 minutes

Famous for 15 minutes

Me reading at Cafe W

Me reading at Cafe W

Last Friday evening was the launch night for my YA mystery, Follow Me, at Waterstones, Argyle Street in Glasgow, with my publisher Strident Publishing Ltd. What a night! I really couldn’t have asked for a better launch – I took along my mini coca-cola bottles, with Marilyn Monroe badges, encouraging everyone to be ‘famous for fifteen minutes’ by joining in posting about the launch on social media, with the hashtag #followmetothebarn (I had lots of fun looking through the tweets the next day). I also had my cupcakes with edible book cover toppers from the brilliant eatmyface.co.uk. My publisher, Keith, at Strident, was kind enough to supply wine and other soft drinks and my parents also brought along other savory nibbles.

My publisher, Keith, did a Q&A with me and I read out short extracts from my novel in-between. He knows Follow Me nearly as well as I do now, so his questions were very intuitive and it made it feel like a friendly conversation. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support from friends and family and it was brilliant looking out into the audience at such an encouraging and happy crowd! I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel nervous at all, which kept me calm when reading, and meant I enjoyed every minute of the night.

I had my first taster of signing books at the end, and it felt surreal, but amazing, to be sitting in Waterstones surrounded by my own books, with people wanting to buy a signed copy!

A strange co-incidence of the evening was when I met two women on the stairs, who were looking down at the set-out chairs, wondering what was going on. I invited them to come along, and later, after postings on social media, I realised one of them was part of a book group who had communicated with me via Instagram a couple of weeks ago. Neither of us had realised on the night! She was kind enough to write a little post about my launch here 

Afterwards I went for drinks to Drury Bar and Kitchen and they played a perfect selection of rock and alternative old-school tunes. It was lovely to be able to share such a special night with so many friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for years. Even my old Primary Head Teacher turned up, which really made my night!! She was always so encouraging of my reading and writing in my last couple of years at primary school.

I’ve put up slideshow of photos on the right hand side bar of my homepage – see if you can spot yourself! Big thanks to Derek Mooney who took loads of photos on the night and to Lorna McLaren, Peter Morrison and my Mum, Rosemary, and other friends who posted photos on social media.

Thanks again to everyone who came along and made it such a brilliant night. It’s one I’m never going to forget.

You can order Follow Me now on Amazon here or order into your local Waterstones here

Ready for Take Off!

montage

Tomorrow is the BIG LAUNCH for Follow Me at Waterstones, Argyle Street, Glasgow 6.30pm. I’m putting the final preparations together today for little things I want to take along. I’ve put together a montage photo (at the top) with some moments from my day yesterday. One big moment was getting to hold my book Follow Me for the first time in my hands – such a great feeling! And I also received a pop art card from one of my work colleagues – that’s me, Andy Warhol style, which is just brilliant. All of my work colleagues, friends and family, have been so supportive and excited for me and it makes the whole run up to launch day even more exciting for me!
The coke bottles are a little extra thing I am taking along to my launch, keeping in with the Andy Warhol, pop art theme.

One of my biggest champions since I could read and write was my Mum, the writer Rosemary Gemmell, and I was delighted to be interviewed on her blog yesterday. You can read that here  I couldn’t ask for a more inspiring and supportive Mum and it’s brilliant being able to share a love of words and writing with her. I was so happy when she got her brilliant book, The Highland Lass published earlier this year (one of many), as I know this was a story close to her heart, and I think this is probably my favourite book of hers.

There will be updates from launch night soon!!

Launch Night ~ Waterstones, Argyle Street, Glasgow

book launch

So excited to reveal that my launch for Follow Me will be in the Argyle Street branch of Waterstones in Glasgow on Friday 9th October at 6.30pm. There will be drinks, some nibbles and of course book signings! I’ve been lucky enough to attend book launches in the past for writer friends and it feels amazing to know this time I will be the author at the event.

Read my book blurb here on the website of my publisher, Strident.

Come along to the event and hear more about the inspiration behind my book!

Soundtrack

As the release date of my book draws ever near I’m finding myself thinking back to the nights I would get lost in writing the story and how listening to certain songs can take me right back there, to that time.

When I write, I usually always have music playing, and back in 2011 I blogged about the ‘soundtrack’ to Follow Me. Songs that I listened to started to feel like they belonged to my story (and to my characters); for me they seemed to ‘fit’ certain scenes perfectly and evoke moods. So below here is a list of songs I feel sit well with Follow Me – you’ll notice a lot of them are by the same artist and really if it were ever made into a film, The Silversun Pickups had better be on board for providing me with the score 🙂

Dots and Dashes – The Silversun Pickups (you’ll notice this is the song that plays on my website)

Catch and Release – The Silversun Pickups

The Royal We – The Silversun Pickups (when this song hits 2:44 I can actually clearly picture Rob and Kat running through the woods)

Panic Switch – The Silversun Pickups

Julien– Placebo

The Bitter End – Placebo

Loud Like Love – Placebo. I just came across this song recently when the book was already finished but some of the lyrics in this weirdly fit with my book (and this could easily be the song Rob has on when he’s driving Kat home~ you can look out for this part when the book comes out!)

Empty Room – Arcade Fire

On the book front, some final tweaks are being made to my cover (the artist of which is Ida Henrich) so I’ll post the final version here soon. I’ve been really lucky as my publisher has consulted with me throughout the whole process.

I’ll hopefully also have details of my retail launch very soon!