Monday, 14 September 2015

What I'm Doing This Month

Yes, I know it's mid month and I really should have posted this at the beginning of September but it's been a hectic couple of weeks and I've only just sat down (reaches for coffee).

No, really, it has. The beginning of September saw my children return to school (youngest child joining his big sister at high school) which should have given me a chance to catch up on everything. I say 'should' because around the same time, my husband and I decided to start the cogs turning in the 'moving house' process. The documents are signed. The boxes have been purchased (and several of them packed). We have keys to collect and measurements to make in the new house. It's all good but it's also time-consuming.

My daughter also turned into a teenager, this weekend just gone. There were presents to buy and wrap, and arrangements to be made for a birthday weekend away. We got back late last night.

So, back to the topic at hand (need more coffee), my post, this post, on what I'm getting up to in September, preferably on the creative front. Here goes:

I'm working on the penultimate draft of my novel before putting it through a process called the Story Grid which was created by editor and writer, Shawn Coyne. I'll be reporting back on how that worked out and what I  thought of the Story Grid when I've used it.

I'll be especially polishing the first fifty pages to email off to a lady called Carrie Kania. Carrie is a literary agent for Conville & Walsh and is taking part in the Chester Literature Festival this October. I'm hoping to meet with her for a chat about my novel during the festival.

Before I knew that I'd be whipped up in the moving house whirlwind, I signed on for a free course through Future Learn - Introduction to Journalism - to further develop my writing skills. If you haven't heard of Future Learn, here's what they have to say about themselves.

"We're a private company wholly owned by the Open University, with the benefit of over 40 years of their experience in distance learning and online education."

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life."

"We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you're learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas."

I've also joined an online writing group formed of current and ex (like me) Open University students. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed discussing my and others' writing.

So there you have it. September looks to be busy in all kind of ways. I hope I can keep up. Wish me luck.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - a book review

One of the delights of my recent family holiday was having the time to read. The literary gem that I took away with me was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I love a book that enthralls me so much that I forget time and my surroundings. The Night Circus was just such a book.

This is a novel of magic, illusion (magical, mechanical and emotional), gameplay and love, set at the turn of the twentieth century in Europe and the USA. These are the first lines that I read.

The circus arrives without warning.
   No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and  billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

To me, this opening does two things. It announces the arena that the novel will take place in, the circus, and it employs the magic of the circus (that most of will have experienced) to pull us in as an audience. We want to read on and find out what happens.

The various cover designs (my copy looked like the one above) are all predominated by the colours of black and white, with a touch of red, a perfect reflection of the novel.

   The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds or crimsons to be seen. No colour at all, save for the neighbouring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colourless world.

The black and white is seen not only in the design of the circus but also represents the importance of balance in the novel. When that balance is finally stripped away by a broken heart, tragedy will befall the circus and its inhabitants. You'll find out the significance of the red if you read the novel.

The novel is structured in a similar way to the circus itself.

The Whole of Le Cirque de Reves is formed by series of circles. Perhaps it is a tribute to the origin of the word "circus," deriving from the Greek kirkos meaning circle, or ring. There are many such nods to the phenomenon of the circus in a historical sense, though it is hardly a traditional circus. Rather than a single tent with rings enclosed within, the circus contains clusters of tents like pyramids, some large and others quite small. They are set within circular paths, contained within a circular fence. Looping and continuous.
- Friedrick Thiessen, 1892

Similarly, the novel leads us along many paths whose endings are hidden and presents us with a delightful temptation of tents in the form of involving stories and rich characters.
  • There is the description of the experience of the circus through seemingly anonymous eyes that begins the novel.
  • The writings of Friedrick Thiessen, master clockmaker and the original reveur.
  • The story of two apprentice magicians and illusionists (neither term truly describes them), Celia and Marco, set against each other in a battle of magic.
  • The establishment of the circus by theatre master, Chandresh Christophe Lefevre and an unusual gathering of like-minded people.
  • The lives of the circus people themselves and their intrinsic connection to the circus.
  • The Reveurs, the followers of the Night Circus.
  • Finally, there is the story of a boy called Bailey, not a circus person, who finds a place to belong.
By the end of the novel, I felt like one of the Reveurs, as if I had been given a glimpse into and become part of the magical, theatrical experience of the Night Circus.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Choice Words for September

It's the first day of September (pinch punch, white rabbits, something like that) and the last day of the summer holidays for me and my children. Tomorrow, I go back to being a grown-up. Today, however, I can still relax - phew.

So along with the first day of September, this is the first monthly Choice Words post. Today, I'm sharing an article about another 'first' from the Writer's Digest website written by novelist Jeff Gerke, 4 Approaches for the First Chapter of Your Novel. I've started my novel with approach no. 2. Have a read and you'll see what I mean.