Friday, 29 April 2011

A Meditation on Turning Fifty

This week, with the whole country covered in bunting and Union Jacks (how kind of everyone to decorate for my birthday), I celebrate reaching my half-century.  As a change from the clangour of royal wedding bells and revelations, here's a small poetic insight into how it feels to me....

Meditation on Turning Fifty

Why April is the cruellest month—well,
I’ve never understood Tom’s take on that.
I’m more of a Geoffrey goodwif, me.
My April has sweet showers, is mild, beneficent,
full of thrusting green and skylarks.
But if any April were to be cruel, it would be this.

Here I stand, damp and peeling
out of my first half-century carapace,
skin sloughing like a fat, burnt snake,
whirling and gurgling down the drain;
stripped and flaking evidence
of the life I’ve led so far.

Will the other side of April
be a slow slide down into darkness--
fifty dulled roots in a dead lilac land?  No.
I defy sad Tom and his heap of broken images.
Instead, I shall wear stockings of a fine scarlet red
to adorn my pilgrimage to winter.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Royal Wedding Revelations - EXCLUSIVE! (Part 3)

One thing I forgot to tell you about in yesterday's Buckingham Palace story was the Royal Loos.  No good writer or journalist-to-be could ever resist a sneaky peek into the smallest rooms in the palace--I was no exception.  They are positively...well...regal, dear readers.  Also commodious and throne-like.  Quite literally.  I have never been seated on so many acres of polished wood to pee, nor been anywhere lavatorial with such grandiose silken wallpaper. The overhead flush, worked by a long chain finished with a crested china pull, sounded just like a roaring Balmoral waterfall.  But enough of Royal conveniences.  I believe I promised you a Cathedral...

Photograph copyright Lucy Coats 2011
 Wednesday 29th July 1981, inside St Paul's Cathedral, London
We'd all been up late the night before, mingling with the massive crowds in the darkness of Hyde Park, cheering en masse as the fireworks went up in a fiery paean to tell the watching world that tomorrow there would be a Royal marriage, a new princess for Britain.  As the last firework burned out, and I walked back through the joyful, buzzing streets of Kensington with my companions,  it seemed to me a private, personal signal that the friend I knew so well would now enter into a life unimaginable to either of us only four short years before, as we lay in our adjoining iron boarding school bedsteads, chattering about boys and lessons and the grimness of certain teachers.
Photograph copyright Lucy Coats 2011

The hairdresser visited early, sticking pins in strategic places and making sure hats and hair were perfectly aligned. Bag, gloves (grey short ones for me this time), shoes polished and pristine, makeup applied, don't forget to wee at the last minute because it will be a long day--the girls with pearls (of course we wore pearls!) were ready to go. It was the strangest of feelings, being driven along that sunlit wedding route lined with what seemed like millions of smiling faces, Union Jacks, and those odd square periscopes which stuck up everywhere like small chimneys. We waved frantically (in a most undignified and unregal way) through the car windows of course--what other opportunity would we ever get to feel like queens? And every time we did there were loud cheers from behind the metal barriers. Even the lined out policemen were grinning at us. It was nine o' clock in the morning, and we had two hours to go before lift-off. The smaller West Door of St Paul's was open, and a crowd of assorted top hats and morning suits and uniforms were pouring in, together with a whole rainbow garden of dresses and feathered, sequinned, chiffoned, strawed and silken creations on heads.

As we entered, Ushers handed us two large white booklets, one a Guide to the Ceremonial so we'd all know who was who as they entered, and the other an Order of Service decorated in gold and red and showing music and hymns and all the normal business of a wedding.

Photograph copyright Lucy Coats 2011
The small bright-blue entry ticket told me to go to Nave North A. If you look very carefully at the aerial footage from that day, you can see me sitting half way up the main aisle on the left hand side, fidgeting as I listen to the music. And boy, was there a lot of music while all the grandees got into place. Howells and Tippett, Britten and Bliss--all the Great British Composers of the 20th century boomed out of those massive organ pipes. The cheers from outside grew louder and louder as each car arrived. Heads craned round unashamedly, who would be next through the doors? Who could we recognise and wave at from our own lives? Jane? Sarah? Carolyn? Virginia? Annie? Charles? We all studied our ceremonial programmes minutely and a wind of whispers rose up into the dome and circled and swirled in a tornado of discreet sound as some of the Heads of State and foreign royals were conducted to their seats, followed by the Gentleman Ushers with the more minor members of Royal Family.

Then it was the turn of the Ecclesiastical Procession. Virgers, the Crossbearer, the Taperers, The Choristers--on and on they went in a rustling, starched flood of snowy white surplice, red robe, and finally the gold and purple of high church office. Diana's mother Frances arrived next--looking elegant if a little lonely in floaty powder-blue chiffon--very different from the relaxed woman in sun-faded jeans and cotton shirts I remembered so well from one long, hot Scottish summer.

Photograph copyright Lucy Coats 2011

Shortly afterwards we heard barked military orders as the lining parties shuffled into their immaculately dressed ranks on the steps, the main doors of the Cathedral were flung open, and the procession of Foreign Crowned Heads arrived, resplendent in uniforms, bright sashes, medals and Orders. Monaco, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Belgium settled in their seats. Eighteen minutes to go. When would the rest of them arrive? Surely soon, we said hopefully, wriggling our numb bottoms on the hard pews.
The cheers grew louder and more frenzied. There was a clattering of hooves and more shouted orders. As the National Anthem started to play outside, we rose to our feet as if pulled upwards on strings. The Mayor of London, carrying the Pearl Sword held high in front of him, came down the centre aisle to the strains of a Purcell rondeau, followed by the Queen, blue-clad and serene with Prince Philip's braid-bedecked and bemedalled figure marching beside her and all her family behind. The cathedral swished and swayed like a garden in the wind as we all bobbed and bowed.

Exactly six minutes later, more clattering of hooves and the loudest cheers yet as the bridegroom and his middle brother emerged from the 1902 State Landau to yet more National Anthem, and were joined by his youngest brother in the Dean's Aisle, where they waited for precisely five minutes until the cheers from outside built to a previously unheard pitch of screaming excitement. The Glass Carriage had arrived, the Bride and her yards of crumpled silk entered to a high, wild fanfare of trumpets that put a lump in my throat and raised all the hairs on the back of my spine. The great doors closed, and we were all shut inside as she walked down the aisle, a living virginal sacrifice on the arm of her father the earl, veil down, invisible and yet the most visible woman in the world at that moment.
Photograph copyright Lucy Coats 2011

As all the world knows, she stumbled over her marriage vows, and at that moment--the moment when she mixed up her Arthurs and her Philips--the whole place seemed to take a silently sucked-in breath. I remember wondering if it still counted if you got it wrong at the altar--whether you were still properly married--whether it was a bad omen. And then I forgot it, as the new Princess walked up the aisle on the arm of her Prince, eyes moving over the congregation, seeking out those she knew. She saw us all, her friends, sitting there like a row of brightly-coloured ducks , and just for a millisecond her eye flickered in a tiny but unmistakeable wink above that trademark smile. It was a very Diana moment. And then it was all over. Off she drove in the open landau into that short but intense period of history with its well-known tragic finish--away from the normal everyday life of university and work I and her other friends returned to all too soon.

But for those three days--for those three days I was right inside what seemed then like the biggest and most unforgettable fairytale ever told. And like the cheering crowds outside, on that particular day I too believed that fairytales have happy endings. This Friday, nearly thirty years later, no doubt I shall believe it all over again for Prince William and Kate Middleton in Westminster Abbey as I watch them exchange their marriage vows on my television, along with millions of other viewers. But just in case, I'll also be sending up a prayer to my dear friend on her pearly cloud that this time, for her son and daughter-in-law, history will turn out differently. I know she'll be watching too. She wouldn't miss it for all the world.

Click HERE for Part 1 of The Royal Wedding Revelations
Click HERE for Part 2 of The Royal Wedding Revelations

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Royal Wedding Revelations - EXCLUSIVE! (Part 2)

I left you back in 1981, on tenterhooks to find out What Happened Next in this exclusive tale of royal revelries at Buckingham Palace, where we were about to enter the realms of Disaster Number Two.  The Curtsey to The Queen at the top of that huge curving sweep of red-carpeted stairs...

Curtseys to queens, however much practiced at home in front of a mirror, are much more difficult than they look. I tripped over my own high-heeled feet, dear readers. Fell flat on my face in front of Her Majesty and assorted regal personages who all looked rather bemused at this clumsy rose-coloured vision sprawled in front of them. Plus one not-as-yet-Royal personage who, (knowing my normal klutz mode all too well), was not bemused at all but had a fit of giggles most unbefitting a princess-to-be. I collected myself, wondering if I'd committed some terrible act of lèse-majesté, and fled down the East Gallery, wrapping the shreds of my dignity around me.  Standing at the end of the gallery were a number of nice bewigged footman handing out the champagne. That nearly led to Disaster Number Three.
Photograph copyright Lucy Coats 2011

Remember my borrowed begloved finery? Have you ever tried eating and drinking with Long Kid Gloves on? Take my advice. Don't. They make your fingers thick and clumsy like thumbs.  I managed to hold onto the champagne (goblet not flute, of course), taking large swigs to calm my frayed nerves.  Then, having been too strung up to eat anything beforehand, I slipped into the Ball Supper room, spread with a sumptuous buffet, for a tiny snack.  The rarest of roast beef from the royal herds and pink poached salmon with cucumber scales lay on ornate silver dishes.  Fishy eyes stared disapprovingly as I tried to manhandle glass,  plate and cutlery with increasing desperation. Cutting beef with a fork? One handed? With gloves on? When you're a klutz? Just before everything tipped off the plate and all over some unsuspecting duchess, I put it down and decided to go hungry. Snacks were off the menu and The Long Kid Gloves had won.   More champagne, that was the answer, and some serious people-watching. 

Photograph copyright Lucy Coats 2011
 I wasn't all alone in that huge, awe-inspiring palace full of strangers.  My friends and I went exploring together.  But even then, long before writing became my profession, I had my writer's eyes on, noticing and filing stuff away in my brain.  In the State Dining Room, set against a blaze of  deep red and white and mirrored gold, there was Mrs Thatcher, a Prime Minister to love or hate intensely, according to your political views.  Her hair was a magnificent blondish helmet with not a coiffed hair astray, and she was dressed in long heavy silver-grey brocade, like rather shapeless designer armour--a Tory warrior incarnate. Denis stood one step behind as she held court under the gaze of a huge bevy of royal portraits, correct and grey-haired in white tie and tails, comforting gin in hand.   There in the Ballroom was the King of Spain, black hair shining, very upright and laden with glittering orders, dancing with his queen to the sound of Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen.  In the Blue Drawing Room we joined Prince Andrew by the bar--young, thin and glamorous then, and surrounded by a horde of pretty girls (us included), all hoping he'd take us into the Disco to dance the night away. Everywhere there were enormous urns of opulent heavy-smelling flowers, and large tethered bunches of blue and silver helium balloons decorated with the triple feathers of the bridegroom. 
Photograph copyright Lucy Coats 2011
Princess Grace of Monaco floated past me trailing golden film star glamour--once just another young girl who had married her prince in a fairytale wedding.  And then there was Princess Margaret, who hadn't.  Dressed in a bright yellow dress that outshone the tall brocade curtains, smoking like a chimney, she sat, legs akimbo, in the White Drawing Room (with the Cocktail Bar nicely handy) surrounded by adoring Young Things, roaring with laughter.  Hers is the image that sits in my mind most clearly from that night--she looked like a blazing comet, full of dangerous fun and fire. 

Photograph copyright Lucy Coats 2011
 As we entered the Picture Gallery and fell into the swirling mass of colour and chatter echoing off the curved glass roof, we bumped into Prince Charles, standing alone and peering at the floor.  He had just lost a cufflink.  I found myself on my knees before royalty for a second time that night, scrabbling around on the swirly carpet for a small gold object.  The royal cuffs restored to neatness, a little light chat ensued and then the prince was whisked away to talk to more eminent personages. I curtseyed rather more successfully this time and headed into the Green Drawing Room.  The Throne Room lay beyond, closed off but visible, the two velvet covered chairs under the red-and-gold canopy somehow seeming small and insignificant beside the sight of a red-and-gold clad Indian maharajah, with a ruby in his head-dress which, while not quite the size of a pigeon's egg, must have been at least the size of a quail's. 

I'll leave you with the thought of me, swaying like a large pink blossom round the Ballroom floor with a nameless young man, watching the slight awkwardness of the royal bride and groom-to-be dancing to the husky sound of Errol Brown and Hot Chocolate singing You Sexy Thing. Live of course. 

Tomorrow, I'll take you right inside St Paul's with me. And tell you about The Wink...

Click HERE for Part 1 of The Royal Wedding Revelations

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Royal Wedding Revelations--EXCLUSIVE! (Part 1)

Ooh! Is Scribble City Central going to reveal secret information about Kate's Dress? Or The Honeymoon Location? Or what happened on William's Stag Night? Well, no...not exactly. Because I'm not talking about THIS Royal Wedding.  I'm talking about the one on 29th July 1981.  The one where William's parents tied the knot. 

So where's the exclusive scoop in that, I hear you ask, (in maybe slightly disappointed tones)?
Well, let's just say I have a bit of a never-told-before insider's view of how things really happened all those years ago.... 
That wedding will be thirty years gone this July--so long ago that it qualifies as ancient history really.  I guess I can write about how I was more closely involved than most now.  And this week, when my old friend's son is getting married to the woman he loves with (not quite) all the fanfare and pomp that went with his parents' seems like the appropriate time to do so for the very first time. So you are getting a Royal Wedding Exclusive really--see, I never disappoint my loyal readers!

On 24th February 1981, a beautiful young woman called Lady Diana Spencer got engaged.  To the Prince of Wales. So far, so public knowledge....

Now we'll skip right to the part where postman John rapped on the kitchen window of my parents' house one early June morning with a big grin on his face.  "Got something here I think you'll want to open, Lucy," he said, handing over two large stiff cream envelopes both addressed to me.  One had heavy black italic writing and was stamped in royal purple with 'Lord Chamberlain, St James's Palace' and a discreet purple crown. The other was marked 'The Master of the Household' and had a small round and becrowned EIIR in the bottom left corner.

Photograph copyright Lucy Coats 2011

'The Lord Chamberlain is commanded by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh...' said the first, once I'd managed to find a sharp knife and slit it open with my slightly shaky hands.

 'The Master of the Household is commanded by her Majesty...' said the second.


And so it was that a scruffy, impoverished young Edinburgh University student found that, like Cinderella, a fairy godmother (in the shape of a future princess) had waved a magic wand and invited her not only to be one of the 2,600 guests at the wedding of the century, but also to the very exclusive celebration ball at Buckingham Palace two days before.  Tiaras could be worn by ladies if so desired, said the rather scary dress instructions enclosed. No worry there for me--I didn't desire, didn't have one and was advised that flowers would do. Decorations and Orders could be worn by gentlemen. That was no problem either.  But then there was a strict mention of Long Kid Gloves.

Long Kid Gloves. I distinctly remember that was when I started to panic.  Where did one beg, borrow or steal Long Kid Gloves from? Hearing of my predicament, a lady in the village came to the rescue, and lent me her precious pair, secreted in tissue paper since her own Presentation at Court circa 1925.  Then there was The Ball Dress. That was Disaster Number One.  I took all the money I had left from my student grant (not much) to London with me--and promptly had my bag stolen.  In Fortnum and Mason's.  I've never felt quite the same about the place since.  Luckily my Real Godmother (small as a fairy but rather more solid) came to the rescue, and whisked me off to a tiny dressmaker in South Molton Street.  She insisted, being rather old-fashioned, that pink was the colour for gels orf to the Palace.  So pink it was.  Rather a lot of pink as you see.  I felt like a rose-coloured ship in full sail. With added petals.
Photograph copyright Lucy Coats 2011
Real Godmother also bought me a small round blue hat-with-veil to go with my St Paul's ensemble.  Quite honestly, I should have been shot for crimes against fashion.  Grey and purple checks with a blue hat?  Still, I like to think that my dewy twenty year-old youth and beauty drew onlookers' eyes away from that truly awful outfit.  And if not, at least there was the perky little hat veil.

Monday 27th July 1981 was hot and sultry.  My long chestnutty hair was pouffed and plaited and teased and pinned within an inch of its life by the Hampshire hairdresser.  Sprayed too, for the first time ever, so it stayed pristine and perfect for the night to come.  There were several of us in the car on the way to the palace, dresses squashed together so tight the petticoats squeaked--the others were chattering excitedly, but all I remember is feeling awe and terror as we drove past the saluting guardsmen, through Those Gates, and swept round and under the columns of the inner portico.  There was a queue of guests lining the long double sweep of red-carpeted stair with its ornate curving balustrade. At the top waited an imposing line of royals, arrayed in glittering jewels, silks and satins, with small diamond-framed family portraits pinned to their shoulders on incongruously faded scraps of silken ribbon.  The tiaras, crowns, medals and Orders were out in force everywhere, but I was otherwise engaged, concentrating frantically on The Curtsey as I reached the top of the stairs.  Now comes the tale of Disaster Number Two...but you'll have to come back tomorrow to find out What Happened Next!
Click Here for Part 2 The Palace Ball
Click Here for Part 3 St Paul's Cathedral

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

British Books Challenge 2011 - The Opposite of Amber by Gillian Philip

Gillian Philip writes like a dream.  Whether she's turning her hand to a fantasy Scotland where exiled Sithe faeries roam the land or, as here, a modern YA crime novel with a challenging subject, she's a winner from any reader's point of view.

I knew how The Opposite of Amber was going to end from the first page of the book.  What I didn't know (and Gillian made me sweat and gnaw my nails to find out) was how she was going to get me there.  Have no doubts, this is not a novel which pulls its punches. It deals with a very difficult subject indeed--and it does it sensitively and with great compassion.  Ruby, the 'heroine' is a great character--memorably described by Gillian as 'spoiled voiceless'. I loved her--she is finely written, a truly rounded creation who reminded me a little of Laurie Halse Anderson's Melinda Sordino in Speak, (about which I have written elsewhere).

But it is her older sister, Jinn, who made me cry with the sad inevitability of her fate.  In Jinn, Gillian shows how a series of small wrong-headed decisions made in the name of love can tip a young, well-meaning, caring girl into the kind of low-level 'unprofessional' prostitution which exists on the streets of every town.  Yes. Every town. Yours too.  Jinn loves Nathan, her no-good drug addict boyfriend (and as an aside here, the way Gillian deals with Ruby's initial innocence and eventual realisation about the paraphernalia of crack cocaine is no less than brilliant).  She wants--as many women do in abusive relationships--to save him.  To do that, she gives up everything--her home, her relationship with her sister, her job--and eventually, the rights to her own body, leading to her fate at the hands of a killer (and no, I'm not going to tell you who it is or anything more about that at all!).  She tries so hard, so desperately to make things right because she is first and foremost a carer--an enabler--although the one person she doesn't look after is herself.  Of course, we, as onlookers, know that whatever she does will never be enough to save Nathan--because the only one who can save him is himself. This is a brave, wonderful novel which should not just be read by teenagers.  It should be read by everyone who cares about making sure that the many real-life girls like Jinn who find themselves in situations similar to this can get help and support and above all knowledge that they absolutely can have other choices in their lives. Buy it for yourself, buy it for others. A real 5* book.

Now, as always happens on Scribble City Central, Gillian has been kind enough to answer one of my famous and challenging

SCC: Where dead bodies are concerned, water plays an important part in both Bad Faith and The Opposite of Amber.  Why do you find the combination of running water and corpses such a fascinating and powerful image?" 

GP: Lucy, this is a googly! I hadn’t thought of it like that before, but now that you mention it...
Maybe it’s partly to do with where I live. I often say I get a lot of my ideas from landscape, and walking around in it, and if there’s one thing Scotland isn’t short of, it’s water. I always did love waterscapes, whether sea or river or loch. I spent huge amounts of my childhood sploshing around in it – lived for 15 years in Aberdeen, which has the most beautiful, vast and desolate beach, and the beach was the default place to go for laughs, games, romance, mooching over a lost love... I suppose that even in Crossing The Line, a crucial scene takes place in water (though not a death, for once!) when Nick goes midnight swimming with Orla – and yes, that was based on one of my own teenage habits...
It’s so fundamental, water, isn’t it? Life and death and this incredible irresistible power. Bits of Bad Faith were inspired by the Moray floods of a few years ago. We live at the top of a hill – lucky us – but the river Lossie is right at the bottom of it, and when the water starts to rise we can see and hear it. It’s spectacular and it’s terrifying. It seemed perfectly natural to put a body in that torrent – which can hide things, and quite unexpectedly reveal them...
But it can do the same when it’s calm and beautiful. Completely peaceful water can conceal things you wouldn’t want to see up close, which is what occurred to me when I was looking for a place to put a body in The Opposite of Amber. There’s a distillery pond I pass every morning on the school run, and it can be choppy and wild or it can be like a sheet of glass. One day I got out of the car for a closer look; the bank kind of slopes back beneath itself, and it struck me that anything could get caught under there...
All this notwithstanding, I must try to be more original! I was starting a new piece of work just yesterday, and I thought “must-not-soak-corpse...” Thanks for a fascinating question, Lucy!
SCC: Thanks for a fascinating answer--and I'm glad I bowled you a googly on this one.  Always good to make you consider something you'd never thought about!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Undiscovered Voices 2012 - How Published Writers Can Help You

I'm delighted to be kicking off the blog tour to celebrate yesterday's launch of the submissions process for Undiscovered Voices 2012, which will be published next year.  In case you don't know about it yet, Undiscovered Voices is the very successful joint publishing project between SCBWI British Isles and Working Partners which has now launched several writing careers. In fact, from SCBWI's first two Undiscovered Voices anthologies, 13 of the 24 selected authors have had publication contracts for their novels and most have signed with agents.  Well worth submitting then, I hope you'll agree!
So, as an undiscovered voice--an unpublished writer--how do you tap into the wisdom of those who have already overcome all those daunting hurdles that stand in the way of getting a publishing contract?  The good news is that it's a whole lot easier than it used to be.  Those of you who are regular readers of Scribble City Central will know that this is mostly due to that wonderful thing, The Author Platform.  Those of you who are new here--well, welcome, and hold onto your hats for the whirlwind tour!

Very briefly, The Author Platform means that published writers in all genres are out there in the virtual world of blogging, social networking and even on YouTube.  No longer are we stuck in a tiny garret, blowing on our frozen fingers, wrapped in shawls and never communicating with anyone except the characters in our heads (and occasionally our editors or agents).  No.  We are now get-attable.  Well, some of us are, anyway.  There are still those who think that all this internet stuff is the Work of the Devil, and prefer to stick to the old methods of pencil and paper and smoke signals.  I'm not one of them. I've embraced my author platform with great gusto (possibly rather too much gusto in fact--but that's another story entirely).  So.  How can published writers help you?  How does all this authory wisdom benefit you, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed undiscovered voice?

  • Author blogs often have great advice, both on writing itself, and on the business of being published.  If you look to the right of this post, you'll see a page titled All the Writing 101 Productions.  That's my own rather odd and eccentric writing advice.  A couple of the very best 'getting published' author bloggers to check out are Nicola Morgan at Help! I Need a Publisher and Jane Smith at How Publishing Really Works, and of course there are all the other blogs on this tour to explore too. If you comment on author blogs, and ask short, intelligent and relevant questions about the post or something related to it, most authors will reply 9 times out of 10, and it can be an interesting and helpful dialogue to get into.  However, when I say relevant, I mean relevant!  Please don't go off on some long-winded spiel about your own manuscript here, as it won't be appreciated.
  • Twitter is a great place for chatting to authors.  Lots of us hang out in the enormous bookie community there (I'm at @lucycoats if you want to chat to me!), and there are publishers, agents, illustrators, booksellers and loads of other booktweeps as well.  Don't be afraid to jump in and comment on a conversation if it interests you.  That's what Twitter is, a big public conversation--and I have huge fun 'talking' to loads of people both about writing and other stuff--I find my Twitter friends a great source of support and comfort. For you as an undiscovered voice it can be equally nice to have some positive encouragement from the wider writing community, and also to see that us published people moan on about really crap writing days too (fairly often in my case) as well as talking about the happier (and considerably rarer) stuff like getting a new contract or a foreign rights deal! By the way, if you want to see this year's Undiscovered Voices story as it unfolds, why not follow @UndiscVoice2012 too?
  •  Author websites are always worth checking out.  Who do you admire as a writer?  Type their name into Google and see if they have their own site. Quite often there'll be a FAQ section which can have some interesting insights into the writing process.  You may also be able to email your favourite authors from here. However--another piece of 'don't advice' here, I'm afraid--if you send an email about your own work, don't expect a busy author to spend time critiquing your manuscript for free. There are other routes for that, so please don't ask or expect any author to do this for you gratis!
  • Facebook is where lots of authors have 'fan pages' as well as personal pages.  I'm not sure it's particularly useful in the context of this piece--though perhaps you might like to keep up with where various authors may be speaking or bookshop visiting if you want to go along and meet them.
  • YouTube may seem an odd place to hang out for an author, but it's where more and more of us are putting book trailers, or readings of our work, or, in my case, short video clips of school visits.  It's one to watch (excuse the horrid pun), because I think a lot of writers will be using it more and more to promote themselves.  There's no reason why an undiscovered writer shouldn't do this too.  If you're good at the techy film stuff, why not make a short video piece about your book or story?  At the very least, it is an exercise in how it sounds read out loud!  If you make it quirky or witty or viewable enough, you never know who might be watching! Stranger things have happened.
In short, the virtual landscape means that as a fledgling writer you no longer have to feel that you're alone in a scary world where you have no idea how to take the next step.  With all the wealth of author platform wisdom now at your disposal, you can find out anything and everything you need to know about the long hard process of turning your undiscovered gem into a publishable work (or even a bestseller!).  Good luck!

The blog tour continues tomorrow when Keren David will be giving more helpful advice to aspiring writers at Almost True

You can find out about the submission rules for Undiscovered Voices HERE

Sunday, 3 April 2011

For My Mother

Today is Mothering Sunday, so here's a small poetic tribute to my own mum. 


Come walk with me.
Let's breach the bridge of years,
pluck each shaped stone of life
to hurl at stars
or hold as memory....

When I was small
the smell of you was safety.
The shape of your hands--
scarred with blood, bone and blessed Earth--
became my home as soon as held.
Your gallant rain-bowed figure,
trudging before,
became my beacon and my hope.
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