Holly Bidgood – portrait of a young author by Lana Christon (@Authorpa44)

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Holly Bidgood is the author of The Eagle and the Oystercatcher. Holly enjoyed writing from a young age, but it wasn’t until she was 18, and after a fleeting visit to the Faroe Islands that Icelandic culture and history began to influence her work. Now living in a community in Scotland with her husband and two young children, her values of community and creativity are clear within her writing. (Learn more about Camphill Community towards the end of this post.)

Though she grew up in Derbyshire, Holly has always had a love for and been drawn to the sea, and this only furthered her interest in Iceland. So much so that she went on to study – and graduate with a First Class Honours Degree – Icelandic at University College London and at the University of Iceland where she learnt the Icelandic language. She developed her interest in Nordic cinema, literature, and culture, which is very clear in her first novel.

From her time in countries such as Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands (where her first novel is set), Holly says that landscape, wilderness, and closeness to the elements influence her writing. The Eagle and the Oystercatcher features all these themes but also the themes of friendship, loss, and social change during the 1940s. The Eagle and the Oystercatcher was released at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on the 23rd August, 2016. A five star review on her GoodReads page calls the book ‘Beautifully written, with a captivating story.’

Holly values community and creativity, as she herself lives in a Camphill Community, in a shared house with her husband, two very young children and five adults with special needs. With 23 centres across the UK, the community includes schools and colleges, where individual abilities and qualities are recognised and nurtured as the foundation for a fulfilling life. They also specialise in helping those with learning disabilities, however they state that they see no difference between the carer and the cared-for.

The Camphill founding values have a spiritual core of essential humanity, and each of the residents has a unique destiny to fulfil. This ethos has been at the heart of the Camphill Movement from the moment it was set up in 1940, expressing these values through building communities that ‘preserve and promote the dignity and potential of each member, with Camphill being a life choice, not a placement. It feels a perfect fit for Holly and her family.

holly signing

Holly’s debut novel ‘The Eagle and the Oystercatcher’ is available on Amazon and in various bookstores now.

From The Eagle and the Oystercatcher

In April 1940, two British Destroyers sail into the harbour at Tórshavn. From that point onwards the lives of the Faroe Islanders are irrevocably altered. Eighteen-year-old Kjartan blames the war for taking away the last remaining member of his family. At the same time he struggles with intense feelings for his best friend Orri. While they puzzle over the true identity of the herbalist who lives on the spiky slopes of the islet Tindhólmur, miraculous recoveries of the sick begin taking place all over the islands.
There is one person above all others that Kjartan and Orri wish to be made well again, but when this finally seems to be happening, the war deals them its cruellest blow yet.
Peopled by a cast of characters worthy of Dickens, The Eagle and The Oystercatcher resonates with the evocative bleakness of the Faroe Islands, coloured by rain and snow. With her skilful writing, the author adeptly conveys the everyday details of the islanders’ lives.

‘The destroyers were bigger than any manmade thing I had ever seen, and I was gripped by a shivering sense of dread to think that man could assemble something so large and commandeering; that man should feel the need to. They dwarfed our little fishing boats into primitive insignificance – their masts now matchsticks, their sails tissue paper – and they did not just fill the vision, these cold-blooded destroyers, they grasped the soul.
Destroyer: that was the day I learnt that English word, and I remembered it instantly. Magnus’s English was limited – the little he knew he had picked up from trading with Scotland – but even he knew that word. He spoke it with a fragile caution, as though the sounds themselves might be dangerous, and the typical Faroese spin on the letter ‘R’ rolled off his tongue, through his beard and into the cool, dense air. Orri and I watched it curiously, that snippet of new knowledge, opening up a world that even then seemed dark and confusing. We could see no reason to trust it.’

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Buy The Eagle and the Oystercatcher here

Here’s a tantalising snippet from Holly’s second, as yet unpublished novel set in Greenland:

‘We cut small pieces of the whale’s nourishing skin and chewed contentedly, savouring the goodness of this mattak: I could taste it now, feel its toughness between my teeth. Never before had I tasted it so fresh.
The world around us had fallen into a tranquil stillness, serenity in the wake of a life taken, a struggle ended. The only sound was that of our voices and laughter, carried upwards and lost in the vastness of the broken pack ice and the blue, empty sky. My cheeks stung pink from the cold.
I had feared that the son of a white man would find no solace with those whose arctic blood ran pure. But at that moment I knew who my people were. If only it could have lasted; if only I could have stayed forever in that most wonderful, archaic of places where each life draws sustenance from another and the world moves in harmony.
If only I had not had to return home to find my own mother – loveless, lovelorn stranger – sprawled, like the narwhal, on the cold floor. Intoxicated to the eyeballs she stared at nothing, for her eyes were clouded over and her body lay lifeless. This creature did not speak to me of graceful, ancient beauty.’

Holly describes her writing progress at the moment as “spectacularly slow” due to her work in the community and her two toddlers, but she’s determined to finish her second novel and send it out into the world to join the first. We shall just have to wait with bated breath!

Follow Holly Bidgood on Twitter:Holly Bidgood

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Lana Christon is my Work Experience PA for the week. She’s very prolific! Here’s her first Guest Post: How to Market Your Book

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Almost all Public Relations companies promise that they will get you noticed in ‘five easy steps’, so easy that anyone could do them – without the charge. Though PR agencies will entice authors with their ‘extensive database’ of bookstores, literary agents, and publishers; marketing your book yourself can provide many benefits, for yourself and others. Below are six points on how to make the most of the things that are accessible by all authors, debut or experienced.

Planning is everything

Ideally, the best time to start researching marketing techniques and strategies is before the book is even completed. There are three things every writer should know before their book is finished:
1. The target market.
2. What the target market wants.
3. How to reach them.
The best way to research marketing techniques is to look at what other authors are doing, read their blogs, their social media pages, attend their events. It can all count as research for your own book, as well as finding what marketing methods work best for you. As the author, you know your book and its contents better than anyone, and it’s important to keep those elements alive during the marketing process.

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews
Fellow bloggers and authors are your best friends when it comes to publicity. Honest reviews on credible blogs can be the best way to publicise your books – both existing and upcoming. It gets people talking about both your book and you as an author, word of mouth also presenting itself. “Have you seen the new book by ______?” It will all come from distributing your novel as far as possible, to all kinds of bloggers, writers, or even artists. Suggesting a mutualistic ‘review for a review’ idea would encourage more response in those willing to write about you. That way, both parties get the publicity they want – and need – from each other’s existing following.
In addition, blogging is the new hype (53% of marketers say blog content is their top marketing priority). If you have a blog, invite others to post on about whatever may be relevant, such as ‘A Day in the Life’ or ‘Top 2017 Reads’. Again, both parties get the display their writing in a public, carefree space.

Social Media – Not Just for Teens
By far, the most popular way to market. Everyone is on social media – not just the youth of today. Create any and every social media account, the most popular being Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The chatty, informal element allows you direct contact with your target audience, and let them get to know you as author. As a teenager myself, I am far more drawn to a laidback profile with the authors own inputs about any topic that’s current – but that’s just me. However do be careful to not be too relaxed. Your book is still your business, and it is vital you show your audience – whoever they may be – that you are serious and committed to writing. So by all means, tweet about what you had for dinner that day, but don’t forget about the novels you’re supposed to be promoting!
It’s also important to know when to post. There is no point posting about your upcoming PR release when no one will be around to read it.
Facebook: Saturdays at 12pm
Twitter: Every day at 12pm, and 6pm.
And finally, the hashtag. The best way to get your tweet anywhere. Popular ones for writers include #IARTG (Indie Author Retweet Group) #IndieBooksPromo and #IndieWriterSupp.
(Find genre specific hashtags at the link in the references section at the end of the post.)

Keeping It Local
Independent writers, and independent businesses – bookstores especially – should stick together. A signing or talk in their shop can not only boost the sales of your book, but also their business. And it is more likely that independent bookstores will host your event than a huge brand (there’ll be plenty of time for hotshot chains in the future.) Don’t forget local media, whether it be an interview or mention on the radio, or an advertisement or review in the newspaper, they’ll get you noticed.

Though self-marketing your novel may take slightly longer than going through a PR agency, once those relationships with your local businesses and bloggers/authors are established, they’re established for good. And they will be eagerly awaiting for your novel to be published, as you’ve taken the time to choose them in a very important and personal journey. Local links are hard to break, and much more rewarding when it comes to selling and promoting your self-published novel.

References
71 Ways to Promote and Market Your Book
Marketing Your Book
Best Twitter Hashtags for Book Promotion
Promote Your Book by Blogging about It

Guest Post from Ellie Batchelor: My Week as a PA (@AuthorPA44)

My work-experience

By Ellie Batchelor

When I first arrived at Tracey Scott-Townsend’s house on Monday morning, I had no idea what to expect. My school sets aside a week during the last term of school for the whole of Year 12 to embark on some compulsory work experience. As I have no idea what I want to do post-University, this seemed a little daunting. I went to see the Careers Advisor, who suggested placements in teaching, childcare and law; none of which appealed to me. So I asked her if she knew of any publishing opportunities. She didn’t. I decided to take matters into my own hands and simply googled ‘Publishers in Lincoln’. A surprising number showed up on my screen, and I emailed around six different companies but Tracey from Wild Pressed Books was the only one to get back to me.

Tracey and I arranged for me to do some work experience with her in July. She sent me a rough list of what I would be doing during the week, including editing and blogging, and I was relieved to see that ‘tea and coffee making’ was nowhere to be found. July came around quickly, and I was soon knocking on Tracey’s door. I was greeted-rather loudly- by her two adorable dogs, Pixie and Luna, quickly followed by Tracey herself. Unlike most publishers, Tracey usually works from a shed in her garden, but for the purposes of my work experience, we worked in her dining room. She’d set me up a desk and allowed me to use her laptop to research authors, publishing companies, literary agents and literary bloggers. The first day was spent entirely on getting my head around the publishing world, getting to know Tracey, and allowing the dogs to get used to me.

As Tracey is mainly a writer herself, she gave me a huge insight into what the publishing world is like for the author, as well as the publisher and the editor. Tracey had set me up with my own email address, so I could contact people myself, and we decided to set up my own Twitter account, too (@authorpa44, if you want to follow!). I left her house on Monday with a much clearer understanding of the publishing world and was extremely excited for the following day. Ellie3

Tuesday consisted mostly of editing. Tracey dug out the original manuscript of a book they’d published and I compared the original, unedited manuscript to the finished, published version to get a good idea of what the editing process entails, and the difference between the two texts was astounding. Tracey even let me have a look at her own work that had recently been sent back from her editor @InspiredQuill’s Sara-Jayne Slack so I could have a look at the kind of comments she was making. I decided that being an editor is a bit like being a prosecutor- they pedantically search through the text in search of anything that would cause the jury to disbelieve the defendant, or the reader to disbelieve the author.

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I spent my afternoon following bloggers, publishers and authors, tweeting different publishers in a shameless attempt to gain a few followers. I even phoned BBC Radio Lincolnshire to ask about whether or not they could report on an event Tracey and her group Oceans of Words (with @LouiseWriter and @cassandrajaneuk) were holding the following Saturday. I managed to get their email and my request was handed over to the Saturday producer!

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I spent Wednesday morning contacting bloggers asking if they’d like to review some of Tracey’s novels, and comparing more edited versions of manuscripts to the originals. At around 1 o’clock we went to Waterstones to set up for the event on Saturday.

six titles

What was so interesting about working with Tracey was that I got to experience every aspect of the publishing process-from editing the original manuscripts to actually seeing them up for sale in bookshops. I spent Thursday writing this blog post and attempting to ‘blind edit’ a section of completely unedited manuscript.

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Tracey not only gave me some great advice about publishing, but also some great advice on writing and editing. Tracey taught me to ‘show not tell’. Instead of telling the reader how a character is feeling, they must show the reader how the character is feeling through description of the senses, and the characters’ reactions. This is important to bear in mind whether you’re writing or editing.

I’ve definitely come out of this experience with a positive view of the publishing industry, and I feel that I am certainly one step closer to figuring out what career would suit me best. I definitely see myself working in the publishing industry in some way in the future.

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Sharing: A post recently published by @WomenWriters on Women Writers, Women’s Books

See original post and more from other women writers at the link below:

Women Writers, Women’s Bookshttp://booksbywomen.org/light-after-dark-by-tracey-scott-townsend/

Light after Dark

June 29, 2017 | By Tracey Scott-Townsend |

My little boy spoke of wanting to die. His statements came out of the blue at innocuous moments – once when we were playing with Lego on the living room floor.

Yet his reception class teacher described his smile as ‘lighting up the room’. Perhaps that light shone all the more brightly for its contrast with the darkness that lay behind it.

Later my child was diagnosed with Autism. He spent his young life as a square peg, fighting his enforcement into a round hole. At fourteen I allowed him to withdraw from this battle for good. He came out of school, disappeared into his room and planned his future. At sixteen he took off with a rucksack on his back and became a world traveller. He found the path he needed to walk on – quite often barefoot – and he still walks it now, currently with a like-minded partner.

When my four children were small I became a single parent. We moved into a white cottage overlooking fields. The massive garden was overgrown with neglected vegetables and inside, wallpaper peeled off the walls. I tackled the chaos of it one room at a time, perceiving the gem that lay beneath this tattered wrapping. My toddler daughter asked me who the man standing in the hallway was. I checked and could see no man but I gave an answer she accepted, “Perhaps he’s happy to see children in the house.” I learned that an old man had taken his own life in what was now our home. One or two odd incidents occurred after that but I always felt what I’d told my daughter was true. We had brought life back into the house. My family of young children was the light after his darkness.

In my novels I draw heavily from my own emotional experiences. I break myself into pieces and scatter the crumbs amongst the various characters. I wrote the first draft of The Last Time We Saw Marion (Inspired Quill 2014) five years after I lost my first baby. I set the book in the estuary landscape where I’d lived at the time. By the time I began the first rewrite more than 20 years later I was able to use my real-life experiences to put flesh on the bones of that novel. My second son had almost died as a baby and I wrote the details of this into Jane’s loss of her baby Caitlin. Like Cal and Sarah in the book, I’d also experienced the death of a sister by then. My sister has never ‘come back’ like theirs but she does manage to nudge her way into my novels in disguise.

Of His Bones (Inspired Quill 2017) is set 20 years after The Last Time We Saw Marion. Mariana is happily adopted but when her own son is born she’s drawn to connect with the two strands of her birth family. The sea is again the beating pulse of the story. The sense of place as always, an extra character.

My second novel, Another Rebecca (Inspired Quill 2015) is about a teenage girl who lives with her alcoholic mother. Another story brought to life from 1989, when I wrote it late at night in blue biro on the pages of an exercise book. Rewriting it into a novel two decades later I placed the 17 year-old Rebecca and her mother in a caravan on a scrubby piece of land in Lincolnshire where my family had temporarily lived when I was the same age. An unhappy time for my mother due to my father’s alcoholism. In the book Rebecca has to cope with her mother’s addiction.

I set The Eliza Doll (Wild Pressed Books 2016) partly again on the Humber Estuary – a place that has always stayed with me. Ellie is unable to bond with her third child Eliza and this ricochets into the future – where we find Ellie on a poignant trip to Iceland with her ex-husband, Jonah. I’m lucky enough to have fallen in love with all my children at birth but I do use elements of my third son’s struggles in the character of Eliza. He recognised these when he read the manuscript.

Family relationships wind their way into the heart of my writing – there’s so much darkness and light to explore in every family – in every life.

For me, fiction is a way of making a concrete ‘thing’ of thought processes that might otherwise be too difficult to deal with.

My next three novels reach further out from the family into the vast sea of wider human experience. I try and tackle the chaos of what can seem an uncaring human race. The Foam of the Sea (currently in preparation for submission) explores the plight of refugees, amongst other things. The Vagabond Mother takes a middle-aged woman – inspired, as I’ve been by mine – by her son – out of her comfort zone into a much simpler way of life. Treading lightly on the earth. The novel I’ve recently started writing deals with how we carry responsibilities through the years from having children to when we must consider the welfare of our elderly parents. At the same time looking outwards at a troubled political situation. And minding it. I try to voice my hopes and fears.

I look to my children as beacons in the fog of current political uncertainty. My children and all the young people. I have a feeling the tide is turning. Their consciousness has grown greater than ours. They’re braver in some ways than my generation and so many of them – those with curiosity and a sense of adventure at least – have seen so much more of the world than we did. 

 

The Vagabond Girl

traveller Jacky
On The Road again – Jacqueline Goede

I’ve just completed the third draft of what will become my sixth novel, The Vagabond Mother. The material for this book has been heavily drawn from the young adventurers I’ve been lucky enough to meet and chat to over the past few years. One of them is 21 year-old Jacqueline Goede. She’s had experiences most of us could only dream of. Because she’s gone out there and DONE it! To find out more, read our interview.

Interview with Jacqueline Goede

Tracey: Hi Jacky, thanks for agreeing to take part in an interview for my website. I wanted to talk to you because you’ve lived first-hand some of the experiences of my character in a new novel I’m writing. First – could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Jacky: I’m 21 years old and grew up in Germany but left soon after my high school graduation when I spent all my savings on a round-the-world ticket in 2014. Since then I haven’t really turned back “home”.

Tracey: In my fledgling novel The Vagabond Mother, Maya can hardly lift her rucksack off the ground when she first starts out on her journey. What was it like for you the first time you set out carrying your belongings?

Jacky: My parents who both went backpacking in their youth constantly reminded me to only take things I really need. I was also more and more disgusted with the consumerist lifestyle I had led before, constantly buying new clothes when old cheap ones broke and it was a more than welcome opportunity to really go through my possessions and sort out the important stuff. Consciously making an effort to only get second-hand or fair trade clothes really narrowed it down. It also helped that I originally thought I’d return after one year of travel to start Uni, so I left a few things behind, knowing I could get back to them in a few months’ time. But don’t get me wrong, my backpack WAS heavy and towards the end a total pain in the ass to carry around. 

 Tracey: When was the first time you ever hitchhiked?

Jacky: The first time out of necessity in the countryside of Galway when my best friend and I were a bit lost and wanted to get to a paintball game we had signed up for. But I don’t really count that experience as the first time for some reason. The second timJe I hitched when I wanted to do the Golden Circle in Iceland. I even made a sign back then, something I don’t really do anymore because it seems to be a bit easier to decline people with a “bad” vibe (although I only had to do that twice in my nearly four years of hitchhiking).

Tracey: Do you feel especially vulnerable travelling alone as a woman?

Jacky: I wouldn’t pick vulnerable as the word for this. I feel jealous of my male friends since they seem to be able to do things I don’t really feel comfortable doing simply because I have a vagina and less biceps. I met a lot of guys who’ve slept in city parks and streets or subway lines, something I could probably do as well but chances that I’d maybe get raped or mugged simply because a women seems to  be an easy target, are, I think, quJacky:ite higher for me. Then there’s also the annoying question of other people: “So you travel all on your own? Aren’t you lonely/scared/concerned for your safety?” The quick answer: “Nah, not really.” I trust my gut feeling when it comes to people. What I’ve learned actually though is that there are A LOT of real, genuinely nice and compassionate human beings out there and most of them don’t qualify as serial axe murderers, rapists or thieves.

Tracey: When you first slept ‘in the wild’ on your own, where were you and how did you choose a spot to sleep?

Jacky: Truly in the wild and on my own I camped out in a place called Paradise, Glenorchy on the South Island of New Zealand. I got eaten by sandflies and mozzies, it was next to a beautiful glacial stream in the middle of an enchanted forest (they filmed Lothlorien in the Lord of the Rings trilogy there so imagine that minus elves and hobbits). I just wanted to be alone in the bush so I had hitchhiked there without really knowing where I’d end up. Back in those days I actually carried a hammer (yeah, you’ve read that right) with me everywhere I went. Not too big, not too small, but enough to seriously hurt someone if smashed in the right place. Felt a bit safer than just me, myself and I with a pocket knife. So after crossing that river, which turned out to be quite treacherous in places, and hiking upstream for a while I finally found a flat piece forest clearing with easy water access and simply put my tent up and read for a while with my hammer next to me.

Tracey: Tell us the countries you’ve travelled in.

Jacky: Since I left home I went to Ireland, Iceland, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Japan, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Morocco. Before that I travelled around France and Scotland quite extensively with my family.

Tracey: What drives you to live a life of – let’s face it – poverty and often deprivation?

Jacky: I like the simplicity and that I constantly have to figure out new ways of getting where I want to be. You have to work with the things you have or find out how to get the ones you need. In addition, the prospects of having an actual pension you can live on when you’re old are quite slim for my generation in Germany. I’ll work until I’m seventy or eighty anyways so why not do it anywhere in the world?
When I was still in school I really didn’t have a lot of faith in the good things in the world. Following the news can be quite depressing at times. But all the random acts of kindness and generosity and love I met along the way, they really restored faith in humanity for me. That’s also one of the reasons I chose this. Good things come to you all the time and you really realise that when you don’t own a lot of things that would distract you from that.

Tracey: In my WIP, Maya adopts the term ‘vagabond’ to describe herself. What description do you prefer? E.g. adventurer, explorer, foot-traveller, tramp, vagabond…

Jacky: It’s really hard to stick a label on myself when it comes to anything. People are never just one thing, you are made up of a bunch of traits that all come together in the grand colourful picture. I may be an adventurer at times but then there’s also weeks where I consider my adventure to be the trip to the grocery store or the beer in the pub when I meet up with my friends after work rather than climbing up some mountain side and nearly losing my shoe during a river crossing. 

Tracey: Which is your favourite country or place out of all those you’ve visited?

Jacky: I’d consider Iceland to be my home and favourite place in many ways, because I have a nice life there, a lot of wilderness to explore and friends that I see as my family. There, I just like to be. After all though, home is just a feeling and I miss my time in New Zealand or even those two weeks in New Caledonia on some days as well.

Tracey: Tell us a funny story about one of your experiences as a hitchhiking traveller.

Jacky: Ufff there’s heaps of them but if I have to choose one, I was once hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere in North Iceland when suddenly this massive red jeep splattered with mud stops next to me. I was trying to get back to Reykjavik that day. The guy rolls down his window and tells me in very broken English over a lot of weird noise coming from the inside of the car that he can only take me to the next intersection. In these cases, when you’re out in the country side on the only road there is, a short distance is better than nothing so I opened the door, put my backpack in and climbed behind it. Turns out in the backseat there’s a big fluffy sheep fastened in the seatbelt, bleating at full force because this obviously is not its preferred mode of transport. Turns out this guy had found his neighbours missing sheep and was going to bring it to him, picking me up along the way because why the hell not?

Tracey: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Jacky: Hard question to answer. I don’t even really know where I will be in a year or next month, really. I want to visit a lot of friends all over the world, trek through South America or the Pacific Northwest or even to Everest Base Camp but who knows where I’ll end up J Really I just hope to still be happy with whatever path future me has chosen.

Tracey: Thank you so much for answering these questions for us. I’m really looking forward to weaving some of your responses into my next draft of The Vagabond Mother.

Here are some of Jacky’s amazing photos, taken on her travels

vista with Jacky

See more of Jacky’s photos on Instagram