Sunday, 12 June 2011


Doing nothing...or am I? I am so used to having The Great Oeuvre to focus creative energies on, and now it’s all done and dusted (apart from cover quotes both here and in the US) I feel a bit directionless. There are plenty of ideas for the next Great Oeuvre in my head and some writing done. But I do not feel the time is right for that, and won’t rush at it just for the sake of having something in the pipeline.
I am rather busy at other things. My darling Dad died recently, (he was 95, and it was time) and organising his funeral, my head spinning trying to get it right, is exhausting. But funerals or not, life goes on. And so does the writing life.

Doing nothing? I had a look at what actually is going on.

1. Teaching, lit fest events
• Just back (see post below) from leading a week-long short story workshop in Ireland.
• Making notes for the workshops and masterclass for Winchester Writers’ Conference from 1st - 3rd July.
• Watching the numbers grow for my Women Writers’ residential weekend at the gorgeous Tilton House in September. (Stop Press: I’m delighted that Carole Hayman will be our guest speaker on the Saturday...and Helen Garnons-Williams, Editorial Director of Bloomsbury, is speaking after Sunday Lunch - about what editors really look for, how agents work with publishers, and lots more diamond stuff).
• Asked to do two workshops at Bridport festival instead of one... and to organise a third event. More of that later.

2. Short Story competition judging.
• First, Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ) and their annual Vera Brittan competition. Entries came from members only, and I read them all. A fascinating exercise. Members come from all branches of writing, non-fiction and fiction – the stories were often surprising and great fun to judge. I was then a guest at the SWWJ Summer bash held at The New Cavendish Club, together with the poetry judge, Lady Sandra Howard – we both gave short addresses to the multitude as we announced the winners. (Check out the SWWJ's newly-announced International Life Writing Comp, on the website by the way. There is a lot of money to be won...)
• Second, I’ve agreed to judge the annual short story competition for New Eastbourne Writers – details are on their website, with rules and paypal links. HERE. I will only be reading the shortlist, as I gather entries will run into the hundreds!

3. Poetry
• ‘Litany’ and ‘Disused Copper Mine, Sunday’- poems inspired by and written on the Beara in West Cork, have been accepted by Envoi for their next issue. I am celebrating quietly. About time I took poetry a bit more seriously.

4. Memoir
Riptide journal, edited by Ginny Bailey and Rosie Flint, down there in Exeter, is theming their next issue. They are seeking short stories featuring Devon, somehow, and unusually for them, they are also seeking short memoir pieces. I sent them a short comic memory from my Exmouth childhood, and a few more are being considered. Details on their website (which features short stories by among others the talented David Gaffney...) here: and see the other submissions links for fiction sub guidelines. This is a very nice print publication, with high standards.

A new departure for me – plays. Whilst on my trip with Jeremy Banning to The Somme and elsewhere earlier this year, I started writing a play, I think. Well, I was writing at night, tired, and what came out was not prose, but a conversation between three men...and as soon as I stopped and looked at what I was doing, I froze. I don’t know enough about making plays and something must be pulling me to try it... Plans are already afoot for me to collaborate with a couple of seasoned playwrights later this year – most challengingly, the objective of one collaboration will be a play based on the chequered experience of tracking down my family. I need to learn! The Arvon Foundation is an obvious place to find a good residential course – so another chunk of The Coward’s Tale advance will go on a Theatre week at The Hurst, John Osborne’s home... learning the basics from those who know best. How to choose a course when one knows nothing of the work of any of the tutors? Ask around first. I did, and here’s the course I’m doing.


Doing nothing? Don't think so. But looking at that lot has made me tired... just off for a snooze...


  1. First, and most importantly, again my condolences about your dad. You say it was time. isn't that all any if us could wish for?

    Great news about Envoi. that's a big deal. they are an important notch on your poetry belt. And now plays? As you know, I'm all about flitting between genres. But be can make your little wings tired :-)

  2. Thank you Sue.
    Re flitting - its deliberate, at the moment. I am very wary of writing something to follow 'The Coward' just because it is expected. So I'm putting it aside whilst I have fun learning new things. And building up a poetry file!

  3. Vanessa, so sorry about your father.

    You're very wise to leave the next book until it's ready but in the meantime you look very busy indeed.

  4. Hello Vanessa,
    Sorry to hear about your Dad, but how lucky to have had him close for so long. Congrats on the poetry and your current projects are so impressive. Good to wiggle your toes in different projects over the summer.
    Best wishes, Catherine

  5. So sorry about your Dad, Vanessa. Hugs ((()))

    Good luck with all your endeavours.

    Nu x

  6. A very inspiring post. I especially admire that you still find it worthwhile to take a course. And also loved discovering Arvon. Spent an afternoon scrolling about. Thanks.

  7. More condolences to add to the private ones for your dear father. Grief can be hellish, and hellishly sneaky: take care of yourself.
    PS I knew Exmouth well. My parents spent their final years just outside. Their grave is in Littleham churchyard.