Writing workshop

How do you write about a place you’ve never been to? How do you write about a time you’ve never lived in? Or how do you bring your writing to life? Come and hone your writing skills, and acquire new ones, with Susan Lee Kerr, local author, haiku poet and creative writing tutor. Susan, known to She Voices members, was born in West Virginia, raised in New York, and is now a dedicated Londoner. Her novel, The Extraordinary Dr Epstein, is the true life of an astonishing 19th century immigrant. As his great granddaughter, Susan drew on family tales, fact and imagination to tell the turbulent story that she draws upon in her workshop.

SHE VOICES WOMEN WRITERS welcomes newcomers to this workshop on Saturday morning 17th June 10.30 – 12.30 At Richmond Library, Little Green, Richmond Upon Thames TW9 1QL.

And I thank She Voices for this lovely opportunity!


Writing tweets

Joined Twitter-world two weeks ago after years of resistance. Surprise, it’s really fun! And hones your writing/thinking skills. How best to hook interest when I’m trying to build excitement in the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Lissa (because it features in a chapter of my Dr Epstein book)? And do it in even less than the famed 140 characters, because the link to a url takes space if you want to feature your blogsite. [Thank you Sue of PageturnerPR for the tip on shortening urls using Bitly]

Nautilus Bird, Susan Lee Kerr

Nautilus Bird, Susan Lee Kerr

So the writing/thinking is one thing. And then as a recipient of tweets I’ve learned I can follow lots of history-minded, even military-minded tweeters, to say ‘look at this’. Probably you know about this already?? In theory I did, but in actuality when @thehistoryguy, Dan Snow no less, tweets back a like or someone even retweets it — ooo it feels like somebody is listening. Yes, yes, a lot like Facebook, but faster. Not that I’ll stick with militaries for long, as that’s not my personal thing. When this chapter is done I’ll ease up, maybe start tweeting haiku and creative writing thoughts.  And tweeting to the #amwriting people. And following fav authors. Publishers. Genres. And art. And I wonder if papiermache is there. And…

…of course, it’s a great time-user. But fast, fun and stimulating. Still learning. I will see if I can put a Twitter thingy on this site. Oh; seems to work the other way, YOU can share THIS via your  Twitter, but if you’ve read this far, you are not on Twitter yet. You might be able to peek if you click here but might be you have to actually join ’em to see ’em. See, I told you I was still learning. So tweet-tweet, here’s a bird I made earlier, just for fun. Looks more like squawking than tweeting?


Writing from Life

Fascinating ancestor? Fantastic life experience? In a convivial evening, two local authors in conversation reveal decision paths, sources and insights into weaving together fact, memories and imagination.

That’s me for fascinating family story into gripping novel. And buddy local author Diane Chandler for fantastic life experience, the journey of an overseas aid worker from idealism to realism. A friendly new bookshop is kindly hosting this evening next week, 15 March — a new angle, new double act. Now we are calculating how much wine to supply… click here for where and when

Aids to refreshing creativity? See my new page here on Sculptural Papiermache… I’m so glad to be a member of the wild and wonderful PapierMachistas.

Writing festival rewards

The writing world, cold and lonely? Or fun and friendly? A local festival made it fun and friendly for me last week. I went to one Famous Author talk (Max Hastings) and bumped into local friends. Next day went to two ‘inside the writing-and-publishing business’ talks which included, in total, four local authors, three of whom selling in mega-quantities even though not yet household names. More friendliness encountering two former Writers at Work students of mine, including the recently published Diane Chandler. Following that I went to an evening of another Writers at Work student, the now very published Louise Voss sharing the discussion of writing modus operandi with SJI Holliday otherwise known as Susi. They are both ‘killer women’ and that’s a whole organisation of criminally inclined (so to speak) writers, friends and supporters to each other. I’m interested in aspects of the genre for an idea I’ve been noodling with for a while.

As for my part as a local author in the local festival, The Chiswick Calendar interviewed me for The Extraordinary Dr Epstein along with two other authors at Waterstones bookstore. That was friendly too, including friends in the audience.

But there was a spillover reward I have to share with you. The next afternoon after the Joy of Crime Writing event I was taking a local train. I glanced as I headed along the platform and saw a young woman deeply engaged in a paperback book, a good quarter-way in. Glanced closer and saw it was Black Wood, the SJI Holliday book. Surprise! Glanced even closer and recognised the young woman as one across the aisle from me who asked about how the authors researched police stuff. And so I spoke to her (saying she had asked the question I wanted to ask). We had a good crime writing chat, trading authors for three stops until she got off the train. Esther is a philosophy student at Bristol and a mad keen crime writing fan. A reward to warm the heart cockles of any writer who gives talks at festivals and a friendly titbit I passed on to Susi. The reward I liked most of all was the wider friendliness of reading-passion.

Confessions of a creative writer

How did I manage to write and publish two books in one year? Errmm, I didn’t. My ebook of creative writing exercises and tips for tutors out just now this week took 15 years of teaching in adult education, and the writing and creation of the paperback a few years ago. Then came a month or so this summer of selective editing and formatting — my brilliant idea to make said teaching tips more available.

Meanwhile The Extraordinary Dr Epstein, launched in March this year, took oh, about ten years or a lifetime of getting up the nerve to write about this astonishing ancestor. And then to research, find the voice and write the 389 page biographical novel. (I didn’t even know there was a category called that; the other category name of course is historical novel.) So 2015 is the year that both happened into being.

Kerr Book cover.cdrAmazingly people ask ‘what are you doing next?’ They are not writers. I am re-gathering my wits, my office, my self. Figuring out blogsites and Goodreads and Amazon Author Central and Ephraim’s own Facebook page, and no, I am not putting the links in here. ‘Scuse me, I am having a post-partum rest.

I am also weeding out my shelf of How to Write and How to Teach Writing books. Saving some of my absolute favourites, but otherwise I have made the most of the others. Ink marked and dog-eared, I guess I’ll give them to the Oxfam Bookshop, unless someone knows a way I can offer them to writers who are at that stage of the adventure of writing.

And this will make some blissfully empty shelf space for… the next writing project.

A writer grows

So, nearly the length of a pregnancy since I started this site and began to figure out WordPress. In the meanwhile I have finished, formatted, self-published and launched my novel under the book-and-blog guidance of the wonderful Catherine Ryan Howard. And I’ve wordpressed and facebooked my protagonist (and great grandfather) as a being in his own right. Now it’s time to turn this blog into something more useful, especially useful for writers. Yes I mean authors, creators.

So I’ve moved the moments of peace to their own pages — haiku to ‘so still’ and photographs to ‘green slash’. I couldn’t bear to give up the gorgeous Turkish twilight, the allium seedhead and my own-grown roses (called Birthday Girl) which I’d had as headers, so I moved them to ‘natura naturans’ in the green slash department. Read the haiku and you’ll grasp that title. I will add haiku and photos season by season.

But! The front page post position is for writing about writing. And especially at the moment for judethomasnz who commented on my comment on CRH’s recent blog on how many drafts it takes to make a novel.

Jude got attention from an editor for her historical novel, which she had told in two voices, from two time points. Great going to get feedback from an editor! But ed suggested a rewrite, into a straight chronological narrative. Should she do it?

My experience: after trying for years to find the voice for my historical-novel-based-on-a-true-story in various creative ways, I finally bit the bullet. Decided to stop being clever and just Tell the Story, chronologically. Writing flowed more easily and naturally. I tried to make the most of the natural ups and downs as events rolled on.

If you’re in how-to-tell-it anguish, don’t be afraid to try the straightforward way… but changing your head around after the long slog of writing can be painful. On the other hand, should this anguished writer try another editor?