Book Oxygen and Yorkshire Post feature articles

Keeping with my New Year’s resolution to not to leave it ages between posts on this blog, I thought this would be a good opportunity to let you know about the progress of two projects I’ve been involved with recently.

Emily's letter seal

Something Rhymed

This is the new website I began at the start of the year with Emma Claire Sweeney, which profiles the literary friendships of well-known authors. Throughout 2014, we will be looking at a different pair of female writer pals every month and challenging ourselves to complete an activity based on a prominent feature of that particular friendship.

In January, we’ve been focusing on Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf, and the activity Emma Claire and I have been doing is letter writing, which we’ve talked about in more detail in our weekly updates.

We were also lucky to be able to feature a guest post by writer friends Jill Dawson and Kathryn Heyman, regular correspondents by letter themselves. You can read more about our plans for Something Rhymed this year, in this feature article for the literary website Book Oxygen.

Tangled Roots

Katy Massey’s project, showcasing the experiences of mixed-race families from Yorkshire continues to go from strength to strength. You can read the latest news and stories here.

I was pleased to see Nick Ahad’s article about Tangled Roots in Saturday’s edition of the Yorkshire Post magazine. As one of the featured writers, I’m of course looking forward to the book of the project, which should be launched in March.

Launch of Something Rhymed

Pens 2 new

It’s been another busy couple of months since I last posted anything here, and I have decided to make it a resolution for 2014 to update this news section more regularly.

Just to touch on a few of the things I’ve been up to recently: I took part in a writer’s residency at First Impression in Portugal, presented a seminar discussion (with my great friend Emma Claire Sweeney) at the annual NAWE conference, and read from my Tangled Roots memoir at a Literary Club event at NYU in London, alongside club members and the talented poet Todd Swift.

But my main news is the launch of www.somethingrhymed.com, a new website I’ve set up with regular collaborator Emma Claire. It’s about the literary friendships of famous writers, a subject the two of us have written about before in The Times and Mslexia.

Each month on Something Rhymed, we’ll be profiling a different pair of writer pals and challenging ourselves to complete an activity based on a prominent feature of their relationship.

We’ll be posting regular updates on our progress, and we’d love for as many people as possible to get involved by letting us know of any literary friends we could profile.

Or you might like to make it your New Year’s resolution to complete the activities alongside us. You can find out about the first challenge here.

Wishing you all the very best for 2014.

Two more bits of news: long-listed for Mslexia Novel Competition and publication of my Tangled Roots memoir

An email arrived in my inbox on Tuesday afternoon bearing the wonderful news that my first novel A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing is on the long-list for the Mslexia Novel Competition.

Then on Friday I received another very welcome message, this time from the writer Katy Massey, to let me know that my memoir about being brought up in a mixed English and Japanese household in York has been published on her Tangled Roots website. The same piece should appear in book form some time in early 2014.

I’ve blogged about Tangled Roots before here. One of the things that I’ve most enjoyed about this project has been meeting the other featured writers, and having the chance to read their stories and poems about their own experiences of a being part of multiracial families in Yorkshire. I strongly recommend that you take a look at their work.

A good week: third place in Yeovil Literary Prize and launch of the Tangled Roots project

Having had to keep it quiet until now, it’s good to be able to start letting people know that my novel A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing has taken third place in the Yeovil Literary Prize, judged by Tracy Chevalier.

I’ve long been an admirer of Chevalier’s prose and her writerly eye for detail, and so her kind comments about the book make the experience extra special. You can read her words about all the novel prize winners, and find out more about the prize, here.

Another pleasure this week was being able to attend the launch night of Tangled Roots, a project documenting the experiences of multi-racial families from Yorkshire. I’ve blogged about it before here. There are currently seven writers involved with the project, set up by Katy Massey, and photos of six of us will be displayed at Seven in Leeds until the middle of October.

If you can’t make it to the exhibition, you can view the images, taken by photographer Anthony Farrimond, on the Tangled Roots website. There’s lots more information about the project there too.

Just Back travel piece in the Telegraph

As some friends already know, my partner and I have recently returned from a motorcycle tour of Spain (with him doing the driving, me sitting on the back).

We saw all sorts of amazing sights: a school of jumping dolphins on the ferry crossing out and a whale on the return journey, a meteor shower on a cold mountain night, a magnificent sunset at mainland Europe’s southernmost point.

But one of the experiences I think we’ll look back on the most is a day we spent at a small motorcycle garage on the outskirts of Granada. I’ve written up what happened in this article, which won this week’s Just Back competition in the Daily Telegraph. This is my first piece of travel writing, so I’m really glad they chose it.

Early on in our travels, when the bike was still running perfectly...
Early on in our travels, when the bike was still running perfectly…

Tangled Roots project launch

Tangled Roots flyer

I’m really happy that Katy Massey has asked me to play a part in her Arts Council-funded project, Tangled Roots – writing mixed-race Yorkshire. I first met Katy through last year’s SI Leeds Literary Prize. Jane Steele (another SI Leeds competitor, who ended up coming joint-third with me) will also be involved in Tangled Roots, which will include an anthology of work, to be published in early 2014.

Other contributing writers are Michelle Scally Clarke, Adam Lowe, Sai Murray and Seni Seneviratne. It was good to meet up with them and share stories about our families when we gathered to have our pictures taken by Anthony Farrimond.

I’m looking forward to viewing the results at the launch. If you live in or near Leeds, and are free on 19th, it would be great to see you there too.

Showcase and Yeovil Literary Prize short-listing

It’s been a busy couple of months since I last posted any news on this blog. Two recent pleasures for me were being involved with the New Writing Showcase by Novel Studio students at City University London, and making the shortlist for the Yeovil Literary Prize, judged this year by Tracy Chevalier.

Whilst I’m used to reading my own work in public, I’d never compered a readings event before the Novel Studio showcase, but I was helped by the fact that the students’ work was of such a good standard. The audience of family, friends and industry professionals all seemed to really enjoy the evening.

As for the short-listing – in the novel category, with my first book A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing – I’m obviously thrilled. I look forward to finding out the final results when they are announced.

Calling aspiring novelists: deadline for applications to the Novel Studio

Novel StudioAs a current tutor at City University’s Novel Studio, I want to remind anyone interested that the deadline for applications is fast approaching.

The Novel Studio offers fifteen selected students the opportunity to work on their novels-in-progress in twice-weekly evening sessions that run over three terms. The course guides participants through the tricky terrain of novel writing, from plotting, planning and research through to character development, pacing, narrative voice and style, revisions and editing. The module I am teaching this term is “The Publishing Industry” and it culminates in an end-of-year reading event to friends of the students involved as well as invited industry guests.

As a tutor, I have been really impressed by the standard of work produced by the group this year, and also their serious level of commitment to the novels they are writing. If you are interested in applying for 2013/14, here’s what you need to do:

Email 2,000 words of your own fiction (short story or novel extract) and a copy of your CV to Emily.Pedder.1@city.ac.uk. Alternatively, you can post your work to the following address:

Emily Pedder
Course Director
The Novel Studio
City University London
Enterprise Office
Northampton Square
London EC1V OHB

The deadline is 30 May 2013. For more information, please see the applications page of the City website.

Good luck!

Back at Circle of Missé again

One of the outdoor writing nooks at Circle of Misse
One of the outdoor writing nooks at Circle of Misse

I always enjoy my stays as a writer-in-residence at Circle of Missé, and so I was really pleased when Aaron and Wayne asked me to come back again in 2013.

I’ll be there in July, which I am really looking forward to because I haven’t experienced this month at Missé before. One of the pleasures of a writer’s stay in this converted old farmhouse in the Loire countryside is sitting outside with their writer’s notebook, or perhaps a cup of tea or a glass of good wine, and enjoying all the plants blooming in the garden at that time of year.

As usual, I’ll be teaching as well as writing while I’m there. My courses run from 22 July onwards, and lots of information about what you can expect if you sign up is available on the Circle of Missé website. There’ll be opportunities for one-to-one feedback and group workshopping, writing exercises, discussions about the craft of writing, and solitary writing time too. You can find out more about my approach to teaching here. The truth is, though, that I won’t know exactly how everything will run until I find out more about the particular writers in my group and their individual writing plans or projects.

And that’s the great thing about all the courses at Missé: that they allow for this kind of tailoring and flexibility. Because the maximum number of participants per course is always kept very low, tutors can gear their sessions specifically to what each writer needs.

If you know of someone who you think might be interested, I’d be really grateful if you could point them in the direction of the Circle of Missé.

I’m looking forward to finding out more about this year’s participants. Who knows, maybe you’ll be one of them.

Article in Mslexia

An article by Emma Claire Sweeney and me appears in the new issue of Mslexia. Its theme is rivalry between female author friends – a subject that we became interested in through our wider research into writing friendships.

We’d touched on issues of friction within writers’ relationships in the talk we gave at the NAWE conference last year and also in a piece we wrote for The Times. But we felt it was an issue that could be explored in more detail, which was why we approached Mslexia with our idea for the feature.

Although rivalry is often regarded as only a detrimental force within a friendship, Emma Claire and I know from our own relationship that the competition between us has been good for us as writers, and good for our friendship too – since it’s encouraged greater honesty between us.

We wanted to find out whether other authors felt the same way. As well as investigating the historical friendship between rivals Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf, we sought the opinions of several modern-day writers to get their views on the subject too.

Many thanks to Polly Coles, Amanda Craig, Jill Dawson, Louise Doughty, Liz Jensen and Madeline Miller for your insights.

Mslexia Issue 57 is out now.