Everything is awful but keep going – Guest Post from David Owen

Writer David OwenWhen my first publishing deal was confirmed I was standing in a Sainsbury’s car park that smelled of urine. It didn’t involve champagne and fireworks and slow motion jumping like I had always imagined. I accepted the news, ended the call, and went back inside to help my dad find the cheapest bacon.

Later that day I text my agent to apologise for not seeming pleased. What I really felt was profound relief. After so many months of rejections I was just happy that my preceding years of hard work had finally paid off.

Although there is undoubtedly a great deal of luck involved in getting an agent and a publishing deal, you will never be on the receiving end of that luck without having first worked ludicrously hard. My first novel took me a couple of years to write and was promptly rejected by every agent under the sun. It was rubbish, and they were right to do it. My second novel took something like four years, written alongside two jobs and an MA, went from one book to a trilogy and back again via an ill-advised jaunt into self-publishing, and at the end of it fell on the scrapheap.

But it got me an agent. Baby steps.

So when I heard the news I was relieved, but I knew it was only the beginning. This was just an oversized toe in the door. The book wouldn’t even be out for 18 months. So I went home and got straight back to work on the next book I was already writing.

Since then I’ve finished that second novel (when it comes to chronology I choose to disown my failed, rejected children) and am deep into redrafts of a third. I get up at 6am every morning to write before work, and I follow that with a few hours in the evening.

I have my first publishing deal, but it doesn’t guarantee me any future success. I must make that for myself. Writing is wonderful, but it is also work, and all you can do, wherever you are in your career, is work as hard as you can because you can’t do anything but, so that when it pays off you know you earned it.

David’s debut novel Panther is released today. For more about David: check out his Twitter feed https://twitter.com/davidowenauthor or his website: http://www.davidowenbooks.com/

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Roma Tearne: 2015 Winchester Reading Series

Roma TearneWe were delighted to welcome Roma Tearne to the Winchester Reading Series at the University of Winchester, on 24 March. Roma is a Sri Lankan born novelist, artist and filmmaker who left the island in the 1960s at the start of the civil war and now lives in Oxford.

This huge personality gripped our attention from the moment she began to speak. She quickly built up a relationship with us, as she does so cleverly in her novels, sharing her ideas and explaining how she weaves her stories around them. She kept us enthralled for over an hour as she drew us into her life as a writer.

I managed to read Mosquito, her debut novel, before the evening. This remarkable book captures the tragedy and violence of civil war and its terrible effect on the characters who experience it. But it is not only a story about war; it deals with love and loss as the relationship between the protagonists is torn apart. There are no speculative assumptions about characters in this book. These are felt experiences. I found the sharing of them profoundly moving. However, it is through the poetry of her writing that the strong sense of Sri Lanka is best portrayed. Her pen and her artist’s brush combine, as she recreates its vibrant colours and rhythms, to allow our senses to feast on them.

Roma has her feet firmly planted on the ground. Although she delighted us with her anecdotes about presenting her work around the world and getting published, she emphasised the difficulties too. Refusing to be dictated to and pigeonholed by publishers, she has had to fight her way to preserve her identity and become the writer she wants to be. She made it very plain to us that success is not easy in this profession and we must be prepared to fight very hard for it.

The Last PierI would like to recommend Roma’s latest novel, The Last Pier, to be launched in April. It is set against the Second World War. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Ann Radley

Claire Fuller: 2015 Winchester Reading Series

Claire FullerBefore Claire Fuller was a writer, she was an artist, a sculptor. No surprise that her first novel is full of exquisite detail, captured by an eye trained to observe, then reflect back to others what she perceives. Early ringing endorsements from The Sunday Times (‘Extraordinary – from the opening sentence it is gripping’), The Times (‘Fuller handles the tension masterfully in this grown-up thriller of a fairy-tale’), as well as being selected by Amazon as one of their most exciting debuts of the month, have marked her as an author to watch.

Most might consider the prospect of spending time in a cabin in the woods as an idyll; a place to daydream in peace and quiet. However, Claire Fuller’s ‘die Hutte’ in Our Endless Numbered Days is anything but tranquil. Peggy Hillcoat’s adolescence is unusual, terrifying. Luckily for Fuller, her protagonist’s experience is not in any way biographical, though fragments of her own life, alongside that of her children’s, her husband’s, plus various friends, have been patch-worked together to form believable characters and situations. A writing assignment from the MA course on Critical and Creative Writing (University of Winchester) provided the inspiration for what would eventually turn into her first book. As well as the professional guidance received through attending the course, Claire draws invaluable encouragement from a writing group she attends, as well as huge support from the wider writing community represented within Twitter.  Continue reading

Claire Fuller – Coming to the 2015 Winchester Reading Series

book coverWe are delighted to welcome Claire Fuller, an alumnus of The University of Winchester’s MA in Creative and Critical Writing, as our next speaker in the Winchester Reading Series 2015.

Claire’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, was published in February 2015 and has received brilliant reviews (at the time of posting the book has 4.9 stars on Amazon and 4.08 on Goodreads). Claire will talk about how she wrote the novel, how she found an agent and what happened next. She will also read an excerpt from her book.

If you would like to hear about Claire’s experiences as a debut novelist, please come to room SAB001 at the University of Winchester on Tuesday 17th March.  This free event starts at 6.00 pm and everyone is welcome.  Copies of Our Endless Numbered Days will be available for purchase.

Simon Nicholson: 2015 Winchester Reading Series

 Simon Nicholson holding book‘It’s a strange and abstract thing when you get a book published.’  Simon Nicholson

Simon Nicholson is a children’s television screenwriter and author. His television credits include Fireman Sam, Tracy Beaker and Bob the Builder. Simon writes for both the UK and international markets and has been nominated for BAFTA and RTS awards. His latest novel, The Demon’s Curse, is second in the ‘Young Houdini’ series and publishes in June of this year.

Simon describes himself as a ‘maker and a writer, not a theoretician’. His books are plot-driven with story as their ‘line through the sand’; his own writing process is one of following the logic of an idea.

Simon began his career in the theatre. As an assistant director, he worked for various companies, including the Unicorn Theatre, The Manchester Royal Exchange and Theatre Centre. His first job was with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He recalls how working with actors was a useful experience. Good actors, like writers, are constantly asking questions about the characters they create. Continue reading

Simon Nicholson – Coming to the 2015 Winchester Reading Series

Simon NicholsonThis Tuesday our guest speaker is Simon Nicholson.  Simon is the author of The Young Houdini series of children’s books (the first title is now out in paperback: The Magician’s Fire).  He is a prolific writer of scripts, mainly for children’s TV (Tracy Beaker, Bob the Builder et al) and has received BAFTA nominations for his work. He also works in musical theatre and you can find out more by visiting his website http://www.simonbnicholson.com/

If you would like to meet Simon in person and ask him questions about writing for children and the differences between writing scripts and books, then come to the University of Winchester on Tuesday 3rd March.  The talk will be in St Alphege 001 and starts at 6.00pm.  This is a free event and everyone is welcome.

Marcus Sedgwick – Coming to the 2015 Winchester Reading Series

We are delighted to announce that Marcus Sedgwick will be speaking at the University of Winchester as part of the Winchester Reading Series.  Best known for writing children’s and YA books he also writes for adults and illustrates some of his own books.

Marcus Ghosts of Heavenhas won the Blue Peter Book Award, the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the Printz Award.  In addition he has received numerous nominations, including the Carnegie Medal, the Edgar Allan Poe Award and the Guardian Children’s Fiction prize.  His latest novel, The Ghosts of Heaven, was published in October last year and he has a new novella, Killing the Dead, coming out next month for World Book Day.

If you would like to hear Marcus discussing his work and answering questions from the audience,  please come to room SAB001 at the University of Winchester on Tuesday 24th February.  This is a free event and will run from 6.00 – 7.30pm.

For more information about Marcus, including  take a look at his website.