Nationality by Valerie Pate

A poem about belonging by my Friend Valerie. Courtesy of Celebratingchange.blog

Celebrating Change

Nationality

The TV presenters are shouting.

Every line they deliver is accentuated by dramatic pauses and rising crescendos.

I scan the jammed airport terminal,

attempting to spy a man under forty not clad in a cap.

The voices are too loud; jarring.

I have returned once more to the U. S. of A.

“Welcome home,” they beam at immigration.

The stamp comes down upon the page of my passport,

signifying yet another Trans-Atlantic crossing;

but these alien surroundings no longer feel like home.

When had my alignment shifted?

My internal compass persistently swings me back to that island nation of

patchwork fields and cobbled cities,

cloaked in history and flush with culture.

I am gaping at my “light bite”;

freshly perplexed by the mammoth sandwich that spills past the plate’s edge,

as if boasting its own preposterous proportions.

My stomach turns as ruckus commotions ricochet around me; obnoxiously intrusive,

prompting…

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Book Review: Maria In The Moon by Louise Beech

Maria in the Moon

Maria in the Moon is my favourite Louise Beech book yet. My primary concern for an enjoyable read is the believability of the characters. Story, although important, comes second to the author’s ability to immerse me in the truth of the world they’ve created.

Catherine-Maria, the book’s main character, is so tangible. She’s grumpy and difficult and all the more loveable for her evident faults and often unreasonable behaviour. She encompasses all those embarrassing times you’ve stormed out of a room and snapped the things you never meant to say during an argument. When all she really wanted to say was how lost and alone she felt. Her relationship with her mother (who isn’t her real mum) is painful and constricted and she suffers from amnesia of part of her childhood.

Every time I read one of Louise’s books I learn something. How To Be Brave taught me about Type-1 diabetes and what it must be like to be adrift on a raft in the ocean. The Mountain in my Shoe taught me about the intricacies of the Care System. Maria in the Moon brings vividly to life the aftermath of the 2007 Hull floods and how they continued to affect the lives of victims long after the waters had receded.

Catherine feels compelled to work the phone lines in a Crisis Centre for those affected by the floods. Catherine finds it impossible to talk about her own night-terrors and the reasons she feels dissociated from everyone around her, yet she longs to listen to the problems and difficulties of others. Perhaps it makes her feel that little bit more real.

Although she’s as close as she can allow herself to be to her flatmate, Fern, it’s Christopher, a fellow-worker at the Flood Crisis call centre who finally gets through to Catherine and helps her recover the awful memory that’s been blocking her emotional progress since she was nine.

I would recommend Maria in the Moon to any reader who loves a novel with emotional depth, strongly-drawn characters and exquisite writing.

The Blurb: Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’ Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

Louise

About the author: Louise Beech has always been haunted by the sea. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She was also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show for three years.

More about Louise Beech here

Order Maria In The Moon here

 

Womanhood, motherhood, writer-hood #GuestPost by Tracey Scott-Townsend @authortrace

Massive thanks to Barbara Copperthwaite for publishing this piece on her blog today.

Barbara Copperthwaite

Women's writes logo

A short series of guest posts explores what it means to be a female author…

WOMANHOOD, MOTHERHOOD, WRITER-HOOD

By Tracey Scott-Townsend

I was twenty-one years old, a university drop-out – a wannabe writer living on the dole with a wannabe musician, Chris. Our love-at-first-sight and living-together-within-two-months relationship was emotionally abusive. We were probably both depressed.

I became pregnant by accident, having visited my family at Christmas and forgotten to take my Pills with me. I received a pale-pink jumper from Mum and some bangles from my brother. My mum’s friend took me aside and told me Mum did love me. Dad was an incidental presence in the corner, as usual. When he wasn’t at the pub, as usual.

I returned to Hull. By now Chris and I lived in separate rooms in a shared house. His room was the attic. He’d built a tower of used teabags against the wall…

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Guest post from Lana Christon: My week as a PA

F13F53BE-41EE-466C-8264-DB9108D6DF75My Week as Author PA
Throughout my first year at Sixth Form, teachers have drilled into us that as Year 12 students, we should know what we want to do in the future; and most of my peers know somewhat exactly what they want to do. I, however, was not so fortunate. Only in January did I decide what I wanted to do at university (American Studies if you were curious) I began to research any work experience I could within my local area. I had always enjoyed reading, however my interest was pushed aside when school got in the way, and it was actually when talking to my English teacher that she asked ‘Have you considered publishing?’ – The thought had never before crossed my mind.

Following this I simply googled ‘Publishers in Lincoln’ and Wild Pressed Books was the first option that appeared. Their books were interesting, it wasn’t too far from home, and the mention of their two lovely dogs instantly appealed to me. Several emails back and forth between Tracey and I explained what I would be doing, and there wasn’t an option that I didn’t want to explore further.image2

As I finished school I was quickly back to waking up at 7am to catch the train, and I was beyond nervous. I had been somewhat scarred by work placements in the past, and I had no idea what – or who – to expect. However as I knocked on the door, greeted by Pixie and Luna’s barks, and Tracey herself, my worries were soon diminished.
I was quick to begin researching various publishers, literary agents, and how other authors promote and market their books, the last task that I found the most motivating. The rest of my week in fact, revolved around this. I discovered that my interests lay around marketing and publicity. image1

On my third day I even wrote a blog post about ways authors can market their books, both existing and upcoming. Being an English Language and Literature student, writing non-fiction came as second nature to me, and the fact that I wrote a blog post that has been published on a website will definitely prove beneficial. In addition to this, I wrote a post about Holly Bidgood, one of Tracey’s published authors. By the end of the week I will have written three blog posts (something that will hopefully appeal to any future employer).

The week also consisted of social media upkeep, tweeting and retweeting after I’d introduced myself as PA, as well as reading original and edited manuscripts Tracey had worked on. I didn’t realise how much a book can change from its first draft, to the final product, yet still have so much of the original voice and content from the author.

publishing perks

My week as PA has been thoroughly informative. I surprised myself when I enjoyed the logistical side of the publishing business far more interesting than the reading and editing side, but I am relieved that I now have a clue on what I want to do in the future. Whether it be within the publishing business, or elsewhere, my interests definitely lie within marketing and research (and maybe even a bit more blog writing too!).

I can only say thank you to Tracey for allowing me to work with her for the week, giving me the opportunity to experience every aspect of a publishing company, and giving me some assurance about a world of work I would be more than happy to work in.IMG_2993

 

 

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

Follow Author PA

Follow Tracey Scott-Townsend

 

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.

Ellie1
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.