Local Eventing #writers #events #networks

Jan Edwards

Some days you have too many things to do.  Yesterday for instance I could have gone to so many events, but settled for two.

The first was a Bloggers and Writers meet-up at the the North Staffs Hotel in Stoke on Trent – organised by the lovely Kerry Parsons and Steph Lawrence.

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Why Pruning a Shrub is like Editing a Book

Pruning bushes

Late September afternoon, the sun is shining and I’m out in the garden with secateurs and loppers setting to work on a shrub. I’m not even sure what it is, I only know it was in the garden when we bought the house and it’s still here growing to humungous proportions each summer and needing to be cut down each autumn.

Pruning, cutting back, lopping off branches is one of my favourite jobs in the garden and today when I got into the zone, I began to think how much pruning dead wood reminds me of editing a book.

There is the same extravagant lushness that has to be culled in both. Purple passages excised in one, leafy growth in the other. Then there is the dead wood: the sentences that don’t add anything, the scenes that don’t move on the action and the complex sentences where a simpler one would be far more effective.

In the end, what is left is leaner, fitter and ready for the next season. In the case of the shrub, it will look better and grow more healthily.

As for the book; Letty Parker, Jeb, Mango and Hepzibah will become part of the readers’ imaginative world, so that they won’t be able to wait for the sequel to “City of Secrets” and the next one of “The Adventures of Letty Parker.”


Not Harry Potter

Book CoverAt the age of twelve, Letty Parker runs her own business, selling pies on the streets of Bristol. A city which is similar to but not quite like, the one that exists today; where dragons and gargoyle congregate on the roofs to chatter and spread gossip about the dark deeds the humans below them are planning.

Since there will be four books, beginning with “City of Secrets” the perfect title for the series is -“The Adventures of Letty Parker.” Which throws up an interesting point. Since Letty is a girl, will mentioning her name make a difference to sales?

Do boys read books where the main character is a girl and if not why not? After all girls read the Harry Potter books.

Now, in my opinion, the most interesting character in those is Hermione. As a muggle she has to find her place in the world of wizards; as a girl she has to come to terms with the fact that she is brighter than the boys and, of course girls are not supposed to be clever. Not only is she outspoken she is also plain.

A heroine so many girls can identify with. A little like the resourceful, intelligent Letty Parker, with her sharp white face and straggly red hair.

Big question though- would the Harry Potter books have been so successful if Hermione had taken her rightful place centre stage? If it had been her story we followed, not Harry’s?

Whatever the answer, Letty stays as the heroine of her adventures, which would never have happened without the help of her friends, Jeb, the leader of the pickpocket gang, Mango his sidekick both of whom have vital roles to play.

Talking about my book

On Thursday night I went to a book group meeting. Not to take part as a reader, but to talk about and answer questions about “Shadows on the Grass.”

The first thing I had to do, before the event, was to do a quick skim read of the novel. This might sound strange, but I find with everything I write, that once it has achieved its final form, being published in the case of a novel, or performed if it is a play, then I’ve let it go and in that letting go I can forget salient points of the plot, or themes of the book. So, in case anyone asked me a question I wouldn’t be able to answer, I spent the afternoon reading.

Because it was important to arrive on time and I had a forty minute drive, I left early. It was a lovely sunny evening. The sun was low and I didn’t hurry, even though at some point a strange icon appeared on the screen and our new Toyota Rav seemed to be telling me that I was in need of a cup of tea.

Having just had a coffee before I set out, I was not convinced by this piece of information, although I was slightly worried by accompanying message that said simply “Sway Warning.” Since I had no idea what this might mean, I had to pull up and leaf hurriedly through the handbook, in which it did not appear. Since it obviously could not be serious, I continued my journey, but taking care not to sway in any discernible way.

The meeting was hosted by an old friend and there was time for the cup of tea, which my Rav had kindly suggested that I might need, and a chat before the rest of the group arrived.

It’s difficult to describe what it felt like seeing people taking out my novel and preparing to discuss it as they would any other book. I was excited, warmed and also validated by being seen as not only a friend, but also a writer, because although I knew some of the group from way back when, that evening I was there in my role as the author of “Shadows on the Grass.”

I gave a brief introduction about how the novel came to be written. Initially, it was a way of finding out about the history of the country my parents had come from, but as my researches continued I drew more and more on my family history and there are incidents in the book that are directly drawn from what happened to my mother, grandmother and uncle during WW2.

None of it, however, is pure memoir. Everything I have written has been fictionalised. My characters are not based on real people and I most certainly am not the teenage Kate living through the shifting cultural era that was the 1960s. I was there, but I wasn’t her.

Names and the power of your own name, is one of the themes of the book that was discussed.  Having had mine changed by the nuns at school, because they couldn’t, or wouldn’t cope with a pupil called Malgorzata Chmielinska, it is something that has always resonated with me and I find a book doesn’t flow until I have the right names for my characters.

I was also asked where I write, how often, do I mind when my editor tells me I should make changes and a host of other questions that the group had prepared. It was their preparation that made the evening work so well.

What also made it, was their warm welcome and the fact that the group knew each other they meet to talk about books.

By ten thirty it was time to wrap up the evening. I’d thoroughly enjoyed myself and set off home, still driving more slowly than usual, just in case.

I’d had a great time. The Rav and I arrived without incident and I sent everyone a complimentary copy of “The Making of a Revolutionary”, the prequel to “Shadows on the Grass” as a thank you.

The makin of a Revolutionary Cover


Being Creative

For months now, I’ve been working on final edits of both my new books. One for adults “Belvedere Crescent” is another time slip which will be out some time in 2019. More pressing is the work I’ve been doing on “City of Secrets” my book for 8-12 year-olds which is due out in October.

Book Cover

“City of Secrets” tells the story of Letty Parker, a girl who makes her living selling pies on the streets of a Bristol which exists in an alternative universe. In her city, dragons and gargoyles gossip on the roofs and Barbary eels slide up from the river, to gnaw at unsuspecting passers-by.

Then Letty’s step-sister goes missing; so do some of the street children who buy her pies and boys from Jeb’s gang, but no one seems to care. The authorities won’t help because the children are poor, so what would happen if a rich child disappears? Letty and Jeb have a plan…

This mystery is the first of a series and it’s taken a lot of work to get to this stage. Not only the writing, but the copy-editing, by my friend Karen and by Peter, the editor at Penkhull Press who found a number of inconsistencies that I had missed in spite of reading and re-reading the ms more times than I can remember.

I enjoy editing. I like to look in detail at a piece of writing to see if it works, to read out loud sentences that might be a little clumsy and re-write them if they are. I even like listening to the deadpan voice of Word reading my work back to me.

However, editing uses a different part of the brain than creating and I am aware that over the past year, I have not been writing creatively. This was bothering me for, as they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Then it occurred to me, that every week, mostly, I write and post my blog. Now if blogging is not writing creatively, then I’m not sure what is. I sit here and talk to my audience, just as I would if writing a story, or a novel. I structure and hone my piece. I might not create a character, or have a plot, but this is a way of using my creative skills and for the moment it’s certainly filling the void.