Monthly Archives: October 2016

#Scarboroughmysteries – Halloween Treat!

art-of-breathing-coverI am very proud to announce that my three novels – The Art of the Imperfect (https://goo.gl/JrGat2); The Art of Survival (https://goo.gl/6RPzk5); The Art of Breathing (https://goo.gl/ZqJZjN) – are safely launched. Available in paperback and on kindle via Amazon or from good independent book stores such as Wardle & Jones in Scarborough (http://wardleandjones.co.uk/) and the Book Corner in Saltburn (http://www.bookcornershop.co.uk/).

The signing at WH Smith on Saturday went really well. Thank you to the manager, Russell White, and everyone who helped or came along. Twenty-two books sold and several people going away clutching cards with the book details on so they could download to their favoured kindle. It was great to meet readers and potential readers and just to chat about books.

I was very happy to re-meet Andy. He had seen by chance on Twitter my signing last year and had come down and bought the first two. He turned up again to buy the third, declaring he had art-of-the-imperfect-cover‘loved’ The Art of the Imperfect and The Art of Survival. He then, bless him, went home and tweeted the books he had bought that morning – mine and one by Lynda La Plante – including the authors’ handles. And, yes dear reader, I was retweeted and then followed by Lynda La Plante (or whoever deals with her twitter account). How chuffed am I? Thank you Andy.

Associated with the launch, I have been lucky enough to be interviewed on Radio Humberside: https://goo.gl/xAUWDg (scroll forward to 11.15am) and by Margarita Morris: https://goo.gl/AYxKHA.

And there are a few more events and interviews to come art-of-survival-coverbefore I can put my feet up – or rather get back to my writing, which I fear has been sadly neglected for the last several months.

Still, for the moment, I can bask in what I have achieved so far!

 

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Crime novel based in Scarborough – launch 29th October

art-of-breathing-coverThis post is going to be undeniably self-promoting! Despite the dream I had last night.

In my dream I was pregnant and I was wary of telling friends in case they ridiculed or criticised me. I come from the therapeutic stand-point that it is for the individual to interpret their own dreams, this is, therefore, my take. I am pregnant with my book and my launch is the ‘birth’. I am afraid of a poor reception. However, the main feeling in the dream was of being replete with a precious treasure which I was proud of and wanted to keep safe.

The Art of Breathing (https://goo.gl/7oOwrT) is the third in a crime series set in Scarborough. The Art of the Imperfect (http://goo.gl/z7HFgz) was published in 2014 and was long-listed for the Crime Writers Association debut dagger and The Art of Survival (https://goo.gl/6RPzk5)  was published in 2015. In all three, there is a mystery, but there are also the intertwining and unfolding narratives of Hannah Poole, DS Theo Akande and Aurora Harris. Hannah is dealing with depression while training to be a counsellor. Theo is trying to find his place in a new town and new police force. Aurora, art-of-survival-coverneighbour to Hannah, is struggling with the challenges of being a new mum. In The Art of Breathing, I explore the academic community and pay homage to 1930s crime author, DL Sayers, in doing so.

I am extremely proud of all of my titles and also of the funky new covers designed by http://www.electricangel.co.uk/ Undoubtedly I want people to read and appreciate them. What ‘mother’ doesn’t want their ‘child’ appreciated? But I’m also aware they won’t be to everyone’s taste and I am still learning as a writer. I am, therefore, very much looking forward to working on my fourth book on the Curtis Brown novel writing course starting in a couple of weeks time.

art-of-the-imperfect-coverI will be officially launching The Art of Breathing on Saturday the 29th October 1030am-230pm at WH Smith in Scarborough. If you can, come along for a chat, it would be lovely to see you.

7 things you need to know about: Poetry Therapy

By Victoria Field

vickyfVictoria Field qualified as Certified Poetry Therapist with the National Federation for Biblio-Poetry Therapy in 2005 – she has since done a two year training as a mentor-supervisor for the, now, International Federation for Biblio-Poetry Therapy. She is a poet, playwright, fiction and memoir writer,  a member of the British Psychological Society and an International Fellow at the England Centre for Practice Development at Canterbury Christ Church University – full details on www.thepoetrypractice.co.uk  Read her inspiring and thought-provoking new book, Baggage: A Book of Leavings – part travelogue, part memoir, part reflections on loss and redemption – https://goo.gl/mZgz1m

Poetry Therapy is not just poetry
We work with the ‘poetic’ in all literary forms – and even beyond ,with music, movement, film and visual arts. The arts open an imaginative space in which we can encounter the full potential of our lives and humanity.

But poetry is special
The way a poem can convey rich ambiguity, be beautiful, memorable, moving, personal and universal, is for me, something magical. I never tire of taking a poem to a group and hearing the infinitely varied responses of individuals encountering it in the moment. I’m always surprised.

Connection is everything
In a typical session, we connect with a poem, our multi-faceted selves, the selves of others and the world around us in a way that is profound and meaningful. Being disconnected is, I believe, at the root of distress whether individual, collective or universal. Finding connections is a way of getting to know yourself better and that can lead to improved life choices as well as being able to respond in a nuanced way to this beautiful and broken world. 

Poetry therapy is accessible and inclusive
Working in community settings, I often have no idea who will turn up to a session. Somehow, once we are a group around a table – which mimics the way human beings have sat in circles around the fire for millennia – the social trappings fall away and we see ourselves mirrored in the poem and in each other. 

Poetry therapy is both receptive and expressive
We read poems on the page and write in response. In the UK, these are often seen as separate activities but the US-model in which I trained is based on close reading, discussion and then creating in response. One of the pioneers in biblio-poetry therapy was a librarian, Sister Arleen Hynes, at St Elizabeth’s hospital in Washington who noticed that when patients discussed books they’d read, they seemed to benefit more and when this was done in a group, the impact was even greater. 

What if I don’t like poetry?
‘Poem’ is shorthand for a text that can elicit an emotional reaction – a feeling response rather than an intellectual one. We use all kinds of texts and these can be film clips, stories, memoirs, songs as well as every kind of poem. If someone actively dislikes the poem, that’s all grist to the mill. How about writing a letter to the poet? What would you say? How can that illuminate your own values and enthusiasms? 

What if I don’t want ‘therapy’?
Poetry Therapy works with the ‘positive psychology’ model of what it means to be human. We all have strengths and weaknesses and suffer losses and challenges and medicalising these can be unhelpful. Sometimes, though, suffering is so profound, or behaviour so challenging that specific treatments of disease or illness is called for. Poetry Therapy, like all the expressive arts and anything we do that is absorbing, meaningful and contributes to a common good, can be useful in most situations whether we talk about therapy, healing, wellbeing or use another word entirely.

‘Made-up truth’ by Jane Davis

JD compressedThe main protagonist in Jane Davis’s latest release is Lucy Forrester, a political poet and activist. Anti-establishment all her life, she is horrified to find herself nominated for a New Year’s Honours. Her inclination is to turn it down. But what if it’s an opportunity…

Jane’s author biography says that her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’. In fact, she has admitted to me that she makes up very little. When she writes a character, she wants you to believe that they existed, and that means parachuting them in a particular landscape at a particular point in time, often with real-life characters. “If it doesn’t feel authentic, then I’ve failed.” Research, then, is the key. And while Jane’s fiction may not fall under strict definitions of historical fiction, she has made the recent past her speciality.

One of the key decisions she needed to make when writing about her poet-activist was the cause she would claim as her own. In fact, the answer became obvious. Born in the 1940s, Lucy Forrester’s only early memories were of war. Fear of the Nuclear Bomb was a hangover from childhood. Talk of a third world war – the war to end all wars – permeated her adolescence. Bring her governess Pamela into the equation, a young woman who was prepared to take a stand, and, of course, Lucy was interested. Watching footage of Rod Stewart taking part in the first of the CND rallies and marches from Trafalgar Square to Aldermaston brought it all together. She had no trouble imagining Lucy Forrester there, at the centre of it all.

“It is 1958,” Jane explains. “Six years after American scientists finished gathering data on radiation sickness at the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Hiroshima. It is supposedly a time of peace, but thoughts have once again turned to war. Imagine being eighteen years old, shipped to Christmas Island on National Service. It is the furthest you have ever strayed from home. Your job? To stand on a white sandy beach and observe as scientists detonate nuclear bombs over the Central Pacific. No protective clothing is issued. At the signal, you must turn away and cover your eyes with your hands. When the flash goes off, you see your veins, your skin tissue, your bones, and through it all, diamond white, a second sun.

Around 22,000 servicemen performed similar roles. Some suffered radiation sickness immediately, and some died. For others, symptoms followed patterns seen in Hiroshima. TheyJDV-MCS2016-Clays-02 lost their appetites and ran high fevers. Their hair fell out in clumps. Others still appeared to be well for decades before developing cancers and other rare diseases. It was only over time that dots were joined, convincing some veterans that their illnesses and disabilities were caused by nuclear radiation. Up until 1999, the veterans had repeatedly run into brick walls in the bid to have their claims recognised. Largely ignored, dwindling in numbers, the veterans referred to themselves as ‘ghosts’.

Then researcher Sue Rabbitt Roff of the University of Dundee tracked down 2,500 veterans and their families, finding unusually high rates of infertility and birth defects. This was the trigger. The columnist Richard Stott (1943 – 2007) of the Sunday Mirror launched his Justice for Nuke Vets campaign. I was 32 in 1999, not a distracted teenager. But if I saw the reports, I’m ashamed to admit I have no recollection of them. And I wasn’t the only one. Others with far more direct links to Christmas Island had also missed the reports. Of the relatively small group of beta readers I use for initial feedback on my early drafts, three confided that fathers or grandfathers had been on Christmas Island. None of the men liked to speak about the experience. It was over and done with. It seems unlikely, then, that they would have mentioned it to doctors. All died prematurely, all of cancer. Up until the time my beta readers had read my book, no one had made any connections. Now the explanation seemed obvious. In 2014, researching my novel, it became clear that the Atomic Veteran’s cause was one Lucy Forrester would have thrown herself behind.

The Ministry of Defence continued to insist on more proof. It wasn’t until 2007 that two scientific studies demonstrated clear links. What’s more, they also estimated that genetic birth defects would last for 20 generations – in other words, 500 years.

The remaining 700 New Zealand and UK veterans launched a class action against the British government claiming damages of NZ $36 million. But the MoD countered with a statute of limitations defence. It had happened 50 years ago. Following a parliamentary inquiry in early 2008, the government agreed to fund new studies into veterans’ health, and to pay interim compensation of £4,000 each.

By the time I completed my research, £25million (£5million a year over five years) had been set aside for an Aged Veterans’ Fund. But this wasn’t just for the Atomic Veterans. There are approximately two million qualifying veterans. In addition to applications from individuals, the British Nuclear Veterans’ Association (BNTVA), the premier charity representing those who have worked alongside radioactive material for the benefit of the nation, can apply for funding for projects such as respite care or counselling. Whilst such services may benefit the families of the Atomic Veterans, once the remaining veterans die, funding will cease. Without an admission of negligence from the MoD, there will be no help for the next 20 generations.

Many Atomic Veterans are proud to have served their country. However, given that the risks of exposure to radiation were either known or reasonably foreseeable, they had every right to expect to be taken care of if things went wrong. They couldn’t have imagined that the British government would introduce a higher burden of proof than other governments, so that their American counterparts received compensation while they were denied. It shouldn’t be left to the Prime Minister of Fiji to step in and award each surviving veteran three thousand pounds, saying, ‘Fiji is not prepared to wait for Britain to do the right thing.’ With Trident back in the headlines, I hope this issue will surface once more.”

You can find out more about the Atomic Veterans or make a donation here.

Jane Davis s the author of seven novels. Her debut, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award, and The Bookseller featured her in their ‘One to Watch’ section. Six further novels have earned her a loyal fan base and wide-spread praise. Her 2016 novel, An Unknown Woman, won Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year Award. Compulsion Reads describe her as ‘a phenomenal writer whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless.’ Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.

JD Red compressedWhen Jane is not writing, you may spot her disappearing up the side of a mountain with a camera in hand.

You can also find Jane Davis on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google Plus, on Pinterest, and on Goodreads, as well as on her Amazon author page.

Anyone who signs up to Jane’s newsletter receives a free copy of her novel, I Stopped Time. Jane promises not to bombard subscribers with junk. She only issues a newsletter when she has something genuinely newsworthy to report.

 My Counterfeit Self was published October 1, 2016, and available in paperback and eBook formats.

 

 

Seven things I’ve learned about playwriting by Jackie Daly

This week I am very happy to welcome fellow writer, Jackie Daly, to talk about play writing… Catch Jackie’s plays at: https://goo.gl/SjRICb  in Windsor, 6th, 7th, 8th October 2016 & in Scarborough: https://goo.gl/MHdRnj   5th November 2016
From here on in, it’s Jackie talking

jacsheadshotThanks, Kate, for inviting me to write this guest blog. It’s been a fruitful experience, reflecting on what I’ve learned about writing plays. I’ve always loved writing. For years my focus was short stories, poems, and blogs. Whenever I had time or inspiration I’d scribble something new, in a meandering kind of way.

In 2013, I wrote my first script and something clicked. It felt like I’d found a home, writing-wise. Since then I’ve written 9 one-act stage plays, 3 short screenplays, 1 audio play, and I’ve written, narrated and co-produced 5 short films. I’m one of three winners of the Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing, a long-listed playwright for Old Vic 12, a FUSE playwright with Sheffield Crucible, and member of Playwrights One development programme at West Yorkshire Playhouse. I’ve had four plays produced by Windsor Fringe, Beach Hut Theatre Company and Stephen Joseph theatre with Scarborough libraries. Seven scripts have had rehearsed readings and development through Stephen Joseph theatre, Script Yorkshire, and Springboard Scriptwriters. I’m a partner in SubSeaTV, an award-winning wildlife filmmaking team, and I’ve won and placed in two short screenplay competitions.

So what I have learned since I wrote my first script? Well, a lot. It’s been a roller coaster of highs and lows, successes and failures. Tears have flowed for rejections as well as celebrations. I’ve dug deep into my reserves of courage and think I hit the bottom a few times. But perhaps my courage barrel gets deeper the more I dig…

I’m not going to attempt to cover how to write a play. I’m still learning and there are many experts who’ve written helpful guides to playwriting (I’ve included a few links below). Instead, let me take you on a wander through my deepest, hardest, and most joyful lessons.

Here are seven things I’ve learned about playwriting.

It’s all about story structure
Even the most experimental plays have a beginning, middle, and end. Without structure, stories can’t provide audiences with the things they expect and deserve: order from chaos, new insight into the world, or the opportunity to walk in another’s shoes then return to their own lives with fresh eyes.

I’ve learned that story structure is hard to do well, but it’s not optional. Without structure, my stories fall over. With it, my stories can fly. I highly recommend John Yorke’s Into the Woods for further reading.

Playwriting is collaborative
The script is a blueprint that invites creative contribution – from directors, actors, designers, technical teams, and composers. There’s a natural and healthy tension between creative control and collaboration.

I’ve learned when I write in a way that communicates my vision yet leaves space for others’ imagination, the best version of an idea has the chance to bubble up. All my scripts include notes that help express my vision for the piece along with this statement: “actors are welcome to ignore these notes.”

“Scriptwriting is not about the words on the page…it’s about mapping behaviour”
I borrow this quote from the brilliant playwright Simon Stephens. When I heard him say this, my gut flipped with the truth of it. It’s easy to get seduced by wordsmithing (I did – I still do) but I’ve learned the real work of a playwright is not crafting pretty sentences; it’s exploring what it means to be human – mapping behaviour. Take a character. What does she want? What’s stopping her getting it? What does she do to get what she wants? To whom? What are the consequences? How does she handle these consequences? Then what does she do? And so on…

It’s all about serving actors – with great characters, dialogue, subtext, and action
The way playwrights map behaviour is through dialogue and stage directions. What is said? More importantly, what is not said? I’ve learned that actors will find the subtext and leak truth to the audience through their body language, tone of voice, or just a glance. Great playwriting leaves bags of space for brilliant actors to do their work.

Finish it. Get it on its feet
Neil Gaiman said, “Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”

So true. One of the reasons I’ve learned so much since 2013 is that I’ve written, finished, and produced lots of short pieces. Each piece has taught me something new, just by getting it over the line. Putting the script into actors’ hands and watching an audience respond has taught me even more. I reckon at least 50% of my learning happens after a piece of work is finished. I used to rob myself of this learning by not finishing projects.

Writing plays is a vehicle for my own growth and development
Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is that writing stories makes me a better person. As I create characters, plonk them into challenging situations, ramp up the tension and see what they do, I imagine myself in these situations too. I understand other views of the world a bit better. Stories are one of the places where empathy can be born.

To quote Seth Godin (blog 30/7/16), “Empathy is difficult. If you believed what he believes, you’d do precisely what he’s doing. Think about that for a second. People act based on the way they see the world… Understanding someone else’s story is hard… but it’s worth the effort.”

So after all that, what’s the seventh thing I’ve learnt?
Write another play. There’s always more for me to learn

Guides to playwriting

The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting (10 lesson plans written by industry experts): http://thestudentguidetowriting.com/the-lesson-plans/

Bruntwood prize writing resources: http://www.writeaplay.co.uk/writing-resources/

Story structure: http://www.johnyorkestory.com/thebook/

Simon Stephens on how playwriting’s not about words (watch from 38:43): http://www.writeaplay.co.uk/live-online-workshop-simon-stephens/

Seth Godin’s blog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2016/07/empathy-is-difficult.html

Jackie has recently created a new website. Find out more about her work here: www.jackiedaly.com