Tuesday 26 June 2018

Choosing the Right Path

At some stage in our writing career, we're likely to come to a fork in the road. A  place where we have to make decisions. Most of the time, these will be small ones: Should I call my protagonist Katie or Ella? Should I write another chapter of my novel or write a magazine story? Would it really matter if I spent the day writing in my dressing gown? 

When this happens, we'll take a little detour and then find our way back to that familiar road.

But, just sometimes, we might see a new path. One which is less defined - its edges overgrown and its destinations hazy. It's seductive. Seductive because it's new. Different. At the same time, its unfamiliarity scares us. 

We look at that path and compare it to the one we're on. This path is comfortable. It's wide and we know where it's going because we've been down it many times before. Why not stay on it? 

It's safe. 

It's familiar.

But then a voice says... take that chance. You might not know it yet but between the weeds on its margins, wild orchids may be growing - orchids you've never seen before. At the end of that new untrodden path, there might also be a rainbow. Who knows until you go down it?

Once, while walking Bonnie, I found myself at this waymark. I could have taken my usual route but something made me stop and think. Why not take the unfamiliar route? It might be longer but, who knows, it might be better.

So I took the path less trodden and, though wild, it was beautiful. That was in February 2012 - the very day I learnt that the school I was teaching in was going to close. It was the year my life changed and I became a writer. I never regretted taking that path. 

This week, Bonnie and I found a field with waist-high meadow grass. A path snaked through it and it was enticing but I was wearing walking sandals and there were thistles and brambles. Eventually, it was Bonnie who decided to take that tiny track through the grass and I followed. 

If I hadn't, I wouldn't have found this. 

Is it any wonder my all time favourite poem is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both...

Sometimes when we come to that fork in the road we have to make difficult choices. The next time, I won't hesitate... I'll know which path I'll follow.

Sunday 17 June 2018

Ooh... Look at Me!

I look a bit serious, don't I? This is my 'I must concentrate or I'll get it wrong' face. I'd like to tell you that I'm in a recording studio narrating one of my story collections for Audible... but I cannot lie. I was in fact taking part in a demonstration of how to narrate as part of an afternoon talk at Horsham Library. The event was called 'Audiobook secrets' and was part of Love Audio week. It was put on by Harper Collins and audio book publishers, W F Howes. 

It was writing chum Tracy Fells who suggested we went along (she likes to drag me out of the house at regular intervals) and I wasn't sure at first. I don't actually listen to audio books, preferring to read them in print, but then I remembered my husband listens to audio narrations every day on his hour drive to (and back from) work. He'd be interested to know how a book gets from print and into his car and I could report back.

So along we went to said library, not really knowing what to expect... but it was great!

For a start, I got to meet the lovely Katerina Diamond, author of the thriller 'The Teacher', who talked about her path to success. Apparently, she started off by writing film scripts but wasn't brave enough to do anything with them. Then luck shone on her when she won an opening chapter competition. This excerpt was to become the opening chapter of The Teacher. The prize was to finish the novel and be introduced to an agent. Unfortunately (for the agent as it turned out) they didn't like the end result but, undaunted, Katerina took it elsewhere and it was snapped up by agent, Diane Banks.

I also won a novel opening competition... hmm.

We then had a talk by professional narrator, Antonia Beamish. Before she was a book narrator, Antonia was an actress (playing Rita in Educating Rita for a European tour) but, before that, she ran off with a circus. Yes really! Apart from her lovely clear voice, what made the audio companies love Antonia was her skill with accents. As the only accent I can do is the one I was born with, I know that narration would not really be my thing! Antonia is the narrator for all of Katerina's novels, she read an extract from one of them and we were instantly transported.

We had coffee and cupcakes and then sound engineer, Lewis Hampson, asked if any of us would like to have a go at narrating. It involved reading a paragraph into a microphone, Lewis would do something clever at his end and then it would be played back to us. I just had to have a go. Of course everyone was listening, so I just had to pretend they were a class full of children otherwise I would have stammered and stuttered. When it was played back, it was actually perfectly okay but don't you just hate listening to your own voice?

All in all, it was a fabulous event. We had fun, we learnt a lot, we got a complimentary book of Katerina's to take home and it was free! What wasn't there to like. A big thank you to everyone involved.

Tuesday 5 June 2018

Fancy a Writing Week in Tuscany?

Oh my goodness! How good would it be to go on a writing course in this beautiful Tuscan mill? Well, if you're free from 11th - 18th September this year, you can do just that on a course called 'Write Away in Tuscany'. Angela Petch is offering her wonderful home in the hills to writers for a glorious week of writing, good food and amazing scenery (sorry for using so many adjectives but it's hard not to after looking at all the photographs). Sadly, I won't be able to attend, as I'll be off on my annual holiday in Greece that week, but it looks absolutely wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I asked Angela whether she would share some information about this fabulous offer.

Hi, Angela. Thank you so much for doing this interview at short notice. The course sounds wonderful - can you tell us whereabouts in Italy it will be held?

In and around our converted watermill, situated along the River Marecchia in eastern Tuscany, up in the Apennines.  It’s a very unspoiled area and even our Italian friends describe it as “real Italy”.

It looks stunning. Is the course suitable for both new and experienced writers?

Take a look at the course our lovely (and experienced) creative writing tutor has drawn up. Sonja Price has taught for over twenty years. There’s something for all writers. I think we never stop learning our craft.
The course
Novelist and creative writing tutor Sonja Price will be offering six morning sessions to cover the following:

  • How to create credible and interesting characters.
  • Settings to enhance and propel your story. Conjuring up the familiar and the exotic.
  • The art of dialogue as taken from playwriting. Making every spoken word serve a purpose.
  • Plot and story. Creating scenes, maintaining suspense, the story arc, beginnings and endings.
  • Polishing your language. How to edit and cut. Getting published: writing a synopsis, blurb and pitching your book. Agents, publishers v. self-publishing.
  • Extras: techniques, ideas - from head to paper, writers’ block, structuring your time, social media for writers.

I was lucky to host Sonja Price as a guest on Wendy's Writing Now last year. I'm sure she'll be a great tutor and the course covers a lot of interesting areas. How many attendees are you hoping to have?

We have four firm bookings already. I will close the number at ten. I want everybody who comes to receive the individual attention they need.

Your home, where the writing course will take place, sounds idyllic. Can you tell us about the mill and the accommodation?

Records for Il Mulino go back to the 12th century. We restored it twenty years ago. A dream come true for us. We now let it out to holidaymakers and many of our guests return. The three rooms in the mill are already booked. We live in a stable nearby, which we converted in our acre of land that we’ve landscaped into a wildlife area. I mix wild flowers with cultivated and gather cuttings and seeds. All done on a strict budget. It’s more fun like that. I remember friends and places when the plants grow.

There is lots of information and more photos of Il Mulino and this special area on our own website: www.ilmulinorofelle.com

Anybody who books from now on, will be accommodated in a pretty agriturismo (or country guest house), within walking distance. All the rooms at Il Casalone are en suite and beautifully appointed. The owners are Teresa (who speaks English) and Alberto (our mayor). Teresa’s father is also a famous truffle hunter and I’m sure we’ll be taken on a hunt in the woods. His claim to fame is that he showed Prince Charles! We shall also be enjoying one of Teresa’s scrumptious meals in her restaurant.

You can read the Tripadvisor comments here

So it seems there will be some delicious food to look forward to.

But of course! Italians live to eat and not the other way around! All meals, snacks and drinks are included in the course price of £650, except for two meals we’ll eat out during the week, including at our village pizzeria. Our area is famous for its cucina. People travel from miles to buy local meat from our butchers;  the sheep farmers up the mountain make cheese, the vegetables are to die for. My husband has a productive vegetable garden and there is nothing like eating one of his tomatoes fresh and sun-kissed. I could easily become vegetarian in Italy: aubergines, peppers, chicory, beans, artichokes…don’t get me started.

You've made me feel hungry! Please could you give a breakdown of a typical day on the course.

Most mornings will start with sessions, as described earlier. Afternoons are free for writing or one-to-one sessions with our tutor, Sonja.  As well as writing, there is the river to laze by, with its refreshing pools. There are plenty of walks too and one of my favourites is to an almost deserted hilltop village called Montebotolino, which features in both of my Tuscan novels. PHOTO
We have also planned a couple of outings to Arezzo and Sansepolcro - ancient towns that should inspire ideas. Transport is also included in the price as we are quite remote, and our chauffeuring services will be necessary. We also include airport transfer, on prior arrangement.

I’m sure we’re all wondering how you come to be living half of the year in England and the other half in this fabulous area of Italy?

Both Maurice and I have Italy under the skin. I lived in Rome as a child and started my love affair with Italy at the age of seven. My husband is half Italian. His mother was a war bride, having fallen in love with a handsome English army captain. We were lucky to meet each other in Sicily where we were both working in the 70’s. We never imagined that one day we’d own a beautiful watermill in Tuscany – we’d only managed camping holidays in Italy when our three children were small. I think we’ve been blessed. We’ve had to work hard but we’ve also been lucky.

It is getting more complicated nowadays to arrange our six-monthly escape from England, as we have four young grandchildren now and another due early August. But flights with a certain airline are not too expensive. I’m returning to England to help my daughter with her baby mid-July, and I’m combining it with my first RNA Conference in Leeds, where our youngest daughter lives. I can’t wait.

Angela Petch has written two novels, inspired by Italy and her Italian mother-in-law’s stories. They are available on Amazon. Until earlier this year they were published by Endeavour Press, but she has returned to self-publishing while she makes her mind up about how to proceed.

You can buy Angela's Tuscan novel TUSCAN ROOTS here: Amazon

Her second novel, NOW AND THEN IN TUSCANY can be bought here: Amazon

In the past months, Angela has also had stories published in PRIMA magazine and The People’s Friend.

If you are interested in booking a place on Angela's writing course, please get in touch with her through one of the links below.

You can find her on Facebook 
Twitter: @Angela_Petch
And she is always looking for new followers to her blog