Saturday, December 12, 2015

ALL ABOUT THE STORY

My Five Point Method for writing a good story.
Story telling is an art.  I've known a few people who could tell a great story and make me laugh so much I was hugging myself.  My ex's Auntie Jessie was one (long dead) -  maybe it was from her that he inherited his comic gift. Visiting her, a plump Welsh woman,  was always a great treat -  tea,  cakes and laughter,  sometimes I'd be crying with laughter.


Then there was my uncle Billy and aunt Beryl.  I remember a knock on our door at 10 am one Sunday morning in Hampton-on-Thames, 20+ years ago - Beryl had plunging necklines and false eyelashes,  Billy was portly and had a big cigar in his teeth...we listened to story after story, clutching large brandies and cracking up laughing. Then they swept out leaving us gasping for air and slightly drunk at 11 am.yd My aunt Beryl is 90 now and my uncle is long gone, sadly.  But I’ll never forget any of them and how much they made us laugh with their hysterically funny stories.


If only I could tell stories like that ... I'm still practising. Meanwhile, I’ve put together five main components for a good written story. I think I have learnt that. You may want to add your own points too!

____________________________________________________________________________
Click on the title for a link to my new book...
 a memoir about my journey across South Africa and life in Cape Town
in the time of apartheid in the 1970s.  It's a true story - have a look ...
________________________________________________________________________________

Written story-telling is another dimension. Whether a story makes you laugh or cry, a good story immerses you in a different world and takes you away from the cares of your present.

1.      A good plot and well-defined characters, brought to life by dialogue.  Think about the emotional impact you wish to evoke in the reader. Trace the route in your head through to the finale. The story should grip the reader from the opening sentence. Or start with the conclusion and work backwards - how will you get there? Close observation gives detail and makes the story come to life.

2.      Be original and unusual in your treatment of the subject (not another pot boiler). Build the reader's involvement slowly, take them down a few tangents so it's not clear where the story's going. Let the end be unexpected. Build the reader's anticipation.

3.      Setting is important, culture, country, rural, urban, make it start/end in a specific place - a meeting in a park, a pub, a coffee bar, a house It's a sunny day, it's raining, cloudy, hot, cold.  Paint a picture, splash some colours, sounds and smells around. The smell of dust, pigs, manure, petrol, curry etc

4.       Grammar and spelling must work - a story has to be crafted carefully, keep the adjectives to a minimum, tone down flowery language or get rid of 'purple prose;. The dialogue must be natural, colloquial, flow in short bursts.

5.      Endings:  If you set up a puzzle or conundrum or mystery, it should move towards some kind of resolution, some kind of satisfaction of the plot, that ties together the whole story.

Whether the story is based in fact
 or fiction the components are still the same.

This article was inspired by one by Amy Reichert titled Libraries: Still all about the story Click here for a link.






Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Remembering Val today, dear friend.

Last year on Dec 1st I arrived in Jo'burg and in the back pack hostel I got the news from her son, I'd been dreading, but expecting, that my dearest friend Val had died two hours before.  The night before I left, I'd been to the hospital and said goodbye although by then she looked at me with far away eyes. 'Don't worry about me, I'm in Paradise' were her last words to me (she was a staunch and loving Christian in every good sense of the word).. I held her hand so briefly, told her I loved her and then left. I had a flight to catch, booked and planned from months before. I nearly cancelled but was going on a month long Buddhist retreat and losing her felt like mental collapse.  The  retreat, in the end, did save me from that, the quiet, the reflection, the peace of an isolated rural location.  Retreats can be hard as its always a challenge being with a new group of people.  But I made some new very dear friends there who I'm still in touch with.

Her loss is still so shocking and the grief still feels raw for me and for my daughters. She was closer than family. All the time I hear her voice, her dear, bantering, naughty, teasing Irish voice, talking to me, in my head, commenting in her usual ascerbic way on aspects of my life.  She was the repository of secrets never repeated, she was fanatical about not repeating or discussing other peoples business and expected the same high standards (often not so rigorously kept) from her few close friends.  Her son was the centre of her universe, she would have lain on nails for him. She loved my poetry - a few weeks before she died, not realising how much pain she was in, I read her some poems, which she loved to hear and always gave mountains of encouragement about. A few weeks ... if only I'd known how little time we had left together.  I took her to a hospital appointment on my birthday in late October and her son (damn and blast) had texted her while on the appointment to remind her it was my birthday as he'd seen it on FB.  While I was fetching the car, she dragged herself over to a stall to buy me a scarf, which I'll always hold dear.

Tomorrow we will all attend her memorial mass.  Here's the poem that I wrote on Dec 7th 2014 for her - for the funeral - I was on the retreat, chanting all day for her soul to fly to the bardo realms and for a happy rebirth. Om mani padme hum dear Val.  Here's the poem:

 You’ll be waiting

 You’ll be waiting when I go,
cracking your Irish jokes
‘Oh there y’are,’ you’ll say.
‘You took your time.’

I’ll say, ‘What’d’ya mean,
y’old bag, you Irish potato, you left me first you know.
So it’s been ages … let’s go down to Costa’s
or the World for our cappuccino

I’m paying this time, so don’t argue.’
‘Y’are not,’ you’ll say, ‘I am’...
‘Hmm,’ I’ll say …’and
we could share a carrot cake, yeh?’
‘Grand,’ you’ll say.

And then we’ll be jawing on,
two hours’ll fly by, talking of days in jobs,
customers and clients
when we were younger.

We’ll talk of days in Priory Park,
meeting at the toddler’s pool,
Pas at school, Jonathan and Tam
running naked, splashing in the sun.

and us drinking coffee, chatting, laughing …
One of them comes crying –
slipped and fell, bumped their head …
Kiss, kiss it better. Want an ice lolly? Twister?

Soon running round laughing again.
And me and you, smile knowingly
at each other, remembering our golden children
… that’s what it’ll be like.

You’ll be waiting,
one day when I get up there,
won’t you, Val?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

After the memorial, her sister (who's very Irish fey), said to me 'Val says 'Yes!'' That cracked me up...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

If There Is A God... (a poem from my Dolly Mix collection)

A LINK TO MY NEW BOOK ON AMAZON -
                                      you can now get it on Kindle too  - low price!
A Hippopotamus at the Table,  a memoir, a true story, about when I journeyed across South Africa at a time of apartheid in the 1970s. Have a quick look ...
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

A Football Poem

The poem below was written for all those guys who think poetry is not for them, that poetry is for girls!  My guess was that many of you might read/listen if it's got football in it, innit? Apologies to that small number of guys who dislike sport as much as some of us do ...

If There Is A God...
(a poem from my Dolly Mix collection)

Supposing there is, right?
and it's a ‘he’ right
Well, he's bound to like it, innit
….football!



Most men do, yeh? It's a known fact.
And if so, then...
how does he pick a team, yeh?
One to shout for, right?

Well he can't can he?
He's supposed to love everyone, yeh?.
So if he's there, right,
at the Arsenal stadium,
is he like...an all seeing presence
wanting both sides to win
just for the love of the beautiful game?

Or, is he that fat bald bloke
sitting quietly in the stands
with his hands in his pockets, smiling.

That's what I'd like to know…

course if god's a 'she',
then my whole idea’s
blown out the water, innit?

.............................................................................................................................

I wrote this poem A few years ago -
it appears in my Dolly Mix collection -
Here's a link to Amazon uk  Dolly Mix - it's a bargain.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Six Tips for Successful Public Performance (Speech/Talk/ Poetry)

Six Tips for Successful Public Performance  
  If you want to just brush up your technique, read on.  If the idea of performing induces mental paralysis, then you might want to take part in my next Performing Skills workshop (Dates to be posted soon for January 2016, let me know if you want to be put on the list.  Spaces are limited). Performing well, like anything else, can be learnt.  I acquired this skill a long time ago. Before that, the idea of speaking up in front of an audience or cameras froze my brain into utter panic. Because I learnt how, I can teach you. I’ve spent many years as both a workshop leader and a performer.
     But let’s start at the beginning. Here’s some basic tips, they may sound obvious but people often ignore them resulting in poor performances:
_____________________________________________________________________
FIRSTLY HERE'S A LINK TO MY NEW BOOK FOR SALE ON AMAZON -
you can now buy it for Kindle too at a bargain price!
_____________________________________________________________________
Performance Basics:

1. PLANT YOUR FEET – that’s both feet firmly on the ground, hip distance apart.  Feel the floor. What colour are the walls? What furniture is in the room? How many people in the audience? And breathe – notice if you’re holding your breath, let it go. Take a deep breath – bring oxygen to the brain cells.
This is all part of ‘grounding.’ When you’re in a place of fear, your mind flies off with the fairies.  These techniques can bring it back. Look at your audience (inexperienced performers look everywhere but …), make eye contact with some of them, briefly. Most audiences are rooting for you.  They want you to succeed. Get a friend to sit in the front row. Ask them to smile and clap in all the right places

2. introducE yourself.  It’s amazing how many new public speakers/performance poets forget to do that (done it myself).  You look out at a sea of faces, you pull out your piece and start reading your topic quickly, hiding behind your sheet of paper. Start by looking at your audience and say your name.  Say something brief about the poem, or a small fact about you as a poet.
‘My name’s X and I’m going to talk about/tell you about/read you this poem about …. whatever!’

3. Speak up and project your voice.  I’ve been to so many venues where the new (or sometimes more experienced speakers even)  mumbles into their page with their head down.  Even if they’re asked to speak up, they usually increase the volume for 30 seconds and then sure enough the voice drops gradually back to a mumble.
Do you want anyone to hear what you have to say?  May be you need to take more writing classes,  until you’ve got something that could entertain an audience.
To project your voice means to lift your head up, stand firm and look to the back of the room.  Aim your voice, as if a missile, to bounce off the walls at the back, so EVERYONE can hear what you say. That’s your job as a performer - at the very least, let us hear you.

4. USE THE MIC.  If you don’t (yet) have a strong voice, at least learn to use the mic correctly.  Most people make the mistake of standing too far away from it. It should be adjusted for your height so the mic’s a few inches away from your mouth, which should be about a hand’s span away.  Further than that and the mic will NOT pick up your voice – so unless you have a Megavoice that can be heard anyway, we are back to square one – NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU.

5. SLOW DOWN. Beginners not only mumble but they talk through their piece at mega-speed  - why? It’s like their thinking ‘Let’s get through this torture as fast as possible.’ They’re sure no one will want to listen to what they’ve written.  Pace it slowly.  You don’t have to learn your piece by heart.  Don’t hold your sheet of paper high in front of your face. Use it as a prompt if possible, glance at it, don’t appear to be reading every word.  AND SPEAK THE PIECE SLOWLY AND CLEARLY.

6. Entertain your audience.   Finally don’t just read out a long diatribe of pain and angst. I’ve heard that pretty often with beginners (and others).  We all go through bad times, but don’t wallow. Highlight it with humour if you can, tone it down and hint at pain and angst (if that’s your topic today), allude to it briefly. Don’t drag us all down with the endless misery of it.      
     The other mistake new speakers/performers/poets make is to produce the Opus Magnus, their BIG work, pages of it. Please don’t inflict an inexperienced performing style on the audience, together with a long dirge.  Make us laugh, keep it light. The audience is inwardly groaning and stops listening before the end of the first page. KEEP IT SHORT – less than ONE PAGE if you’re new to the game.  Save the OPUS MAGNUS for when you’re an experienced performer who can follow the above tips with practised ease.
     After a while if you follow these techniques, you'll start to enjoy performing, have fun with it and what's more important - so will your audience!

Anna Meryt
Nov 2nd 2015
















Sunday, October 11, 2015

A wedding celebration and two poems

I seem to be in a poetry writing phase, now my book has been published (here's the link again if you want to buy it on Amazon  A Hippopotamus at the Table).  I've written three new poems in a week and two more longer ones are started and being planned.

Today I went to a celebration of a wedding, a Jewish wedding, two people who have been together for fifteen years and are older than me (even).  I met this couple - Glen and Sharon at the Buddhist retreat I was on for a month in December, in South Africa  - although they are not Buddhists and only stayed for ten days, we bonded and became firm friends.  They stayed in touch and were kind to me when I returned to Jo'burg some months later after travelling to Botswana, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and various other places down the SE coast of the Cape (if you click the Travel Writing tag at the top of this blog/page you can read all about it.)  They took me out for a lovely meal on my last day in S Africa (at the end of February) and drove me to the station to catch my plane. We've stayed in touch ever since. They often visit UK to see Sharon's daughters and grandchildren. It was such a pleasure to share their celebration and to hear songs in Hebrew and watch traditional dances).

I brought a couple of poems to the event and was asked to read them out - they're on the essential nature of relationships and the joy they can bring .  Here's they are

Solo traveller
An intake of breathe
starts our solo adventure,
and we discover we're alive.

If you’re there, waiting on the shore,
the demons can't ever drag me down
into the cold watery deep.

I can bring the boat home
and tell of mad and plunging seas,
escapes from waves as big as houses....

But solo, without you waiting,
crowded thoughts will buck and kick,
corralled, no one to tell.

Tell me of your day -
the smallest details are
the music of our company.

Sharing my day, the who said what
to her or him or me,
we chase back the wild dark seas

and the rhythm of my voice
brings comfort and order
to your voyage.

Mattering is everything,
not just in general
but in particular.

To have a place to harbour,
to anchor our souls,
brings us safely to the quayside.

Solo we enter, solo we leave
but journey together
while we can.

written 2007

* * *

...and here's the second one

Moments of joy

I store up the moments
of joy that you give me,
glorious sparkling jewels.

I thread each shining specimen
carefully onto a golden thread
and sometimes take them off

one by one to examine
minutely
polishing their perfection

then clasp them
around my neck
hanging loose

close to my heart

Written Jan 2003










Friday, October 02, 2015

Writers I thought you might be interested in this article I found... it talks about keeping the genre simple, making it easy for publishers to see where it fits.  Of course with memoir writing this isn't so easy.  Your genre may not fit into a neat category.  My book  definitely was a hot potato as far as publishers were concerned - a memoir about white people living in South Africa under apartheid?  How do we classify that?  Who wants to read that? :

First a link to readings at my book launch - then the article - 

Click here for Readings at my Book Launch


Six Ways to Make Sure You Don't Cripple Your Chance at Getting Published

Marcus Sakey | Writer | 7/26/2011 9:12:43 PM 0 comments

As a writer, there are any number of factors you can't control. Don't neglect the ones you can!

Getting published isn't easy. Each day there are more aspiring writers competing to win the attention of a finite number of publishers. And while every editor hopes to discover the next big thing, limited budgets mean that even quality work isn't guaranteed to sell.

But you're different. You're talented, focused, and hungry. You understand that getting published takes more than just craft. It also requires market savvy, professional networking, a little luck, and most of all, the commitment to keep going through the rough times. All of which you have in spades. Congratulations; that combination is all you need.

So long as you don't knock yourself out of the game.

Before I sold my novel, I joined critique groups and took MFA classes, attended conferences and schmoozed with authors. Along the way, I met hundreds of aspiring writers, many of them very talented, capable of illuminating raw human truths, of crafting sentences that hit like a punch in the eye. Some of them will make it.

Most won't.

The reason is simple: One way or another, many authors handicap themselves. Swept up in the idea of writing, they make mistakes that limit or negate their opportunities. Here are six ways to make sure you don't cripple your own chances:

Start at the beginning and write to "THE END"

Imagine you paint houses for a living, and you love it. You've got a terrific project coming up: great lines and multiple stories that intersect to form an elegant structure. Do it right, and you'll get the chance to paint another, and another, maybe for the rest of your life.

Given that, what would you do? Would you begin with the garage, stop mid-way, paint a patch around the chimney, then abandon that to stain the deck? Would you split your attention between three separate colors? Would you decide you'd rather paint a different house altogether?

Or would you look at the whole, plan your attack, then pick up your brush and work in steady measured strokes until you were done?

Writing a novel is much the same. One of the worst-and most common-mistakes writers make is not focusing. It's fine to think about the upcoming sex scene, or to daydream about the big finish. But start writing on page one and keep going till you get there. While the glamorous parts are more fun to write, focus solely on them and you'll neglect your narrative.

Likewise, it's dangerous to work on multiple projects. Completing a single book can take years. Try to write three at once, odds are you'll finish none.

And while it's practically guaranteed that somewhere in the midst of your novel you'll get an idea for a better one, resist the temptation. New ideas are the lace lingerie of writing, but novels aren't made of one-night stands. Like any relationship, commitment is key.

Cherish forward motion

When I was working on my first novel, THE BLADE ITSELF, I had a note taped to my monitor that read, "You are hereby released from writing the perfect novel." It was a sentiment that helped me navigate hourly crises of faith. Every time I began thinking that the book would be better if I went back and reworked, I read that mantra and forced myself to live it.

The net result was that instead of constantly revisiting my early chapters, I finished a first draft. It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was snarled and awkward, with characters popping up unannounced, significant timeline issues, and an internal geography that would drive a cartographer off the ledge.

But it was done. And everything else could be fixed.

Sure, sometimes you have a thunderbolt that absolutely forces you to revisit what you've written. But for most cases, consider maintaining a separate document of ideas and problems. Jot them down as they occur, and don't worry about how daunting the list looks. Mine ended up fourteen pages long, but once I had a completed story, fixing the flaws was simple.

And never forget: One complete rough draft trumps ten polished-to-a-high-gleam first acts.

Hate yourself in the morning

Everybody writes differently, and it's important to find the time and method that works for you, whether that's doing two hours every day or locking yourself away to churn out twenty Saturday pages. Which method you use isn't important.

What's important is that however you write, you need to set specific goals: page count, word count, finishing a chapter. And you need to feel badly when you don't meet those goals.

There's a writer I regularly see at conferences who's been writing the same book for six years. Every time I ask how it's going, he tells me how busy he's been, how work gets in the way, how he's still planning it in his head.

That's fine, of course — it's his prerogative. But no matter how good a writer he is, I'm not holding my breath to see his novel on the shelves.

The best way to complete any project is to break it into small pieces and then steadily accomplish those goals. For me, the goal is a thousand words a day, five days a week. Sometimes I get more, sometimes I barely scrape by, but on the rare occasions I leave the chair without that word count, I beat myself up badly enough that the next day I more than make up for slacking.

It seems harsh, I know, but the truth is that if you don't put one word after the other, you simply won't get there. If you want to be published, you have to treat this like a job.

Worry less about selling out and more about selling

I once read a manuscript, a crime story about a cop who had a passion for Hummel figurines. This was a side interest in an otherwise tough guy, and the novel was beautifully written: lush prose, vivid characters, a genuinely tense storyline that revolved around a well-researched political scandal.

But still, Hummel.

The author had written himself into a niche without meaning to. The sum total of Hummel aficionados in the world doesn't outweigh the complete disinterest of the rest of us. And so despite having a great story with plenty of suspense, what the author had seen as a quirky character trait ended up labeling, and dooming, the book.

Writing a book is art. Art is personal. Your characters and story say something about who you are and what you treasure.

Selling a book is commerce. The rules of commerce dictate that the more people interested in what you're writing, the likelier it will sell, and the higher the price will be.

The trick is to find a balance that lets your art function as successful commerce. This isn't about hitting the least common denominator; it's about avoiding niches. They may be comfortable, but they're cramped, and you want room for as many people as possible.

It's a musical fantasy thriller, with lasers

There's so much talk about having a "big idea" or a "high concept" that aspiring authors often feel like it's not enough to simply write a compelling book. Admirably enough, they want to do something unique, something that breaks fresh ground. Unfortunately, many attempt to do this by mixing genres.

This is, by and large, a bad idea.

It can be done. It can even be done brilliantly, as in Joss Whedon's Firefly, a sci-fi television series about intergalactic smugglers operating on border worlds similar to the American Old West. It was an unexpected concept that worked. An audience will always respond to a forcefully imagined world. The problem is that no one knows how to position the finished product.

Think of it this way: booksellers need to know where to shelve you. If yours is a crime novel, they put you with Dennis Lehane and Lee Child; if it's literary fiction, they put it beside Michael Chabon and David Mitchell. If your book features blaster-wielding damsels tap dancing against the clock to prevent a terrorist attack, they put it down.

Genre is a marketing tool. It tells publishers how to promote something, booksellers where to stock it, and fans where to find it. So as temptingly fresh as cross-genre novels can be, they're risky. Firefly is the perfect example: the writing was spectacular, the world vivid, the idea original. Critics raved and fans swooned.

The network canceled it halfway through the first season.

"What's your book about?" is not a trick question

Novels are like children — we obsess about them, delighting in their successes and agonizing over their failures. So it's no wonder that for many authors, condensing their story is a tougher battle than writing the thing.

However, it's worth the fight. Because sooner or later the person asking the question will be an agent.

When that happens, you don't want to have to make up an answer on the spot. Instead, have a couple of "hip pocket" versions in different lengths: a sentence, a paragraph, a two-minute pitch. For example, my one-sentence pitch is "The Blade Itself is the story of a retired thief who has to fight for his new life when his old one comes looking for him." Did I leave out a lot? About 86,974 words. But I conveyed the essence of the story, said the name of my book, and most importantly, respected my listener's time.

It's a difficult art, but a crucial one. The ability to present the core of your novel in a few words shows an agent that you're serious about the business and that you really understand your own story. Plus, as a side benefit, you may find that boiling down your book helps clarify the story in your own mind.

In conclusion...

Getting published isn't easy. The best things you can bring to the table are a terrific book and a willingness to work hard. But beyond that, remember that a little forethought and some care can make a world of difference. After all, in this business there are any number of factors you can't control. Don't neglect the ones you can


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hi All

David Gardiner (Gold Dust Literary magazine) has sent me the You Tube recordings from my Book Launch. So if you missed my talk (or want to see it again), you can hear both my readings and some of the music in between from Greg Mayston and Sumana, who were both great considering the lively audience. Click this link to my Book Launch at the Big Green Bookshop - - A HIPPOPOTAMUS AT THE TABLE.

.


Monday, September 14, 2015

TV Islam wants to interview me apparently

One of their journos saw about my book launch on FB and wants to interview me for Islam TVs Living the Life channel - they do Arts features etc.  Watch this space.
Here's a feature they did on another book launch called Illuminating the Darkness - about racial discrimination.
Living the Life - Islam TV
Now all I need to do is find a way to get interviewed on The One Show and BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour.  anyone know how to contact them direct?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

If you missed the book launch but still want to buy the book ...

If you missed the book launch ...

Where to get A Hippopotamus at the Table?
Well its on Amazon UK, but it's come to my attention
that some people don't like Amazon and don't buy things from Amazon. Wow!
In case you're NOT one of those ie you DO use Amazon...

CLICK HERE for Amazon books UK -  link to A Hippopotamus-at-the Table

If you are one of those, ie you don't use Amazon - you can buy my book direct from The Big Green Bookshop, Wood Green - tel: 0208 881 6767.  All you have to do is phone them and they will send you a copy - free postage.

Click here to go to THE BIG GREEN BOOKSHOP's website


The Kindle version will be out in the next week.

If you don't want to buy it, its not your thang - I really don't mind.

The book launch and my readings from the book will be on You Tube this week and I'll post up a link

Friday, September 11, 2015

Q. What made you decide to write a memoir? What an interesting question I thought,

Someone on Twitter asked me this question and as it's now the day of my
BOOK LAUNCH at the Big Green Bookshop, N22 7BG at 7 pm, ie September 11th 2015

Click here for full address etc
The Big Green Bookshop -events 
Nearest tubes Wood Green or Turnpike Lane (Piccadilly line)

 I decided to answer it ...

...  no one's asked me such a deceptively simple question before.- on Twitter (briefly - I felt I had a story to tell) and here's the long answer...

A. When we got back from South Africa in late 1977, our life changed so much and I kept remembering all the people we'd met and the things that had happened. I was afraid I'd forget it all. Then a few years after we moved into our flat in Archway, I got pneumonia.  I couldn't get out of bed for a week.  I was so weak.  All I could move was my wrists and hands.  So someone brought me a pen and an A4 pad and I just started writing it all down, the story of our time there. 

I spent the next few years sporadically writing down bits I remembered.  Eventually I organised it into chapters and began to think it would make a good book, there were some good stories in there, maybe stories that would interest people. My main creative writing outlet was writing poetry though.  I joined a writing group and stayed with them for about 7-8 years - they were at my Buddhist centre.  I belong to a Western Buddhist sangha (community), there were a few of us aspiring writers there. I concentrated on my poetry and started doing open mic slots in a variety of venues. But from time to time I read out a chapter from the memoir.

I tentatively sent off the first few chapters eventually and got very polite rejections which I kind of expected as I didn't have any confidence and it probably wasn't very good anyway.  I carried on, as the years passed, improving and developing from the feedback I was getting , mostly from the writer's group.  There was one published writer in my group whose writing style was all dialogue, so she encouraged me to turn lots of my prose into dialogue, so I did.  Then when I went to college to do an MA in Professional Writing in 2009 my tutor said - your strength is in your descriptive passages, they're the best feature of this book, why have you got all this dialogue?  Cut it down - this helped me to learn to listen to my own voice, not other peoples - they have their style and I have mine.

People kept saying quite patronising things suggesting I was writing a few stories for the kids, like I would put it away in a drawer and forget about it, like it was  'therapy', the implication being not that I was a writer, writing a book for publication, but I was tootling about and it was a nice little 'hobby' for me and it would help me deal with past stuff.. Inside I felt a kind of rage when they said these things, like 'we'll see about that', one day I WILL get published, you'll see, this is NOT a HOBBY you'll see.

It is really hard writing memoir, I had to write about two very painful episodes. Someone said it must have been cathartic, writing it all down. NO IT WASN'T CATHARTIC.  But it was painful - reliving those events was extremely painful. I still have difficulty reading and editing those chapters even now. I can't say it ever gets any easier. Every time I read those chapters it's like reliving the events, like post traumatic stress, I have to force myself to read about it again. I try and focus on the grammar and the spelling, but the events break through... 

Then you have to keep thinking about the people you're writing about - these are not fictional characters, these are real people most still alive, who will be affected by what I write.  The daughter of a dear friend (who is central to the memoir), who I barely knew in those days as she was a teenager, has reacted with a lot of anguish to this book being published as one chapter focuses on a shocking event of her childhood history. When I started writing the book it never occurred to me she would be so upset.  She's someone I'm very fond of now, so it's hard.  Should I tell my story or should I leave out bits that might upset this person or that?  And don't start me on quoting lines from songs  ... just don't that's all I can say - or you might get a copyright lawsuit.

Maybe I'll write a book about 'writing memoir' one of these days - I've learnt so much from the years of feedback.  The last few years have been in writer's groups in Finchley with the Greenacre Writers.  So glad I found them - my current group (Finish That Novel 2) very kindly allowed a memoir writer into their group and although it's such a different genre to writing a novel they have been very accommodating. And they've made me up my game as they are ALL really good writers in that group.

Now I'm what's called an Indie Author, it's the great thing nowadays.  Now anyone can publish a book in theory (it's still an awful lot of work mind you and requires even more determination and commitment than doing it the conventional route ). You have to really learn your craft, you have to become a good editor and learn your way round all the publishing outlets.  Even if you do find a  publisher or a very small publisher (like mine) these days you're still required to do your own marketing and use social media.  But I like the independence of being an Indie author.  I chose my own cover, and content. I like being in control of the whole process myself.

It's non-stop if I'm going to get the sales, the marketing stuff I mean.  And of course there's the next memoir to work on - working title 'Beyond the Bounds' ... set in London and Indonesia.  I'm about to write Chapter Two for my writer's group. That's going to open another can of worms ... I can already feel it. Hopefully it won't take 20 years this time.