July 18, 2018 · 08:23
The house at Arte Umbria
I increased the length of my manuscript by 47,000 words between the 20th of June and the 4th of July this year.
For me, it’s a massive result, because I’m not the fastest writer in the world. How did I do it? I went on a writing retreat.
Before I began going on retreats I looked askance at other writers going to lovely venues to write. Was this not a thinly-disguised holiday? A bit of a jolly with your mates? I’m the first to admit that I love going to Italy to work on a sunny terrace and also to enjoy the company of other writers at meal times and in the evenings, but it is not a holiday to write approximately half a first draft of a novel in two weeks.
I love the sun so put my laptop into a handy box to enable me to see the screen. Other writers took the more conventional route of writing in the shade.
So how does a retreat work for me?
- By freeing me from domestic responsibility, gym classes and social engagements and the only timetable being dictated by mealtimes.
- I took time off to watch the Formula 1 races and their qualifying sessions but, apart from that, I began after breakfast and finished just before dinner every day.
- Maybe I should have taken more time out to visit nearby Citta della Pieve or Orvieto but I found that having almost no distractions meant my story occupied centre-stage in my mind, allowing each writing session to follow seamlessly from the last. I didn’t want to disrupt that.
In case you’re wondering if the 47,000 words were a fluke, last year I was only on the writing retreat for one week and wrote 23,000 words.
Part of my apartment
I suppose if I stayed at home, cancelled my classes, ignored my family and friends and had meals delivered I might achieve a higher writing output than the norm but somehow I don’t think it would be the same as ‘getting away from it all’ to a peaceful, beautiful venue that inspires as well as frees me.
I love Arte Umbria. I taught writing courses there for several years but now I’ve moved onto heading up writing retreats instead. In my mind, it’s also the setting for One Summer in Italy, the town of Montelibertà being built around it. My imagination grew the house into Casa Felice, the hotel where Sofia and Amy work, and the view Levi paints in watercolours is the view from the terrace.
Will I return next year? Absolutely! For one week beginning 26 June 2019.
November 19, 2017 · 11:23
I thought I was excited enough when the lovely folk at Avon told me to expect The Little Village Christmas to reach #7 in the Sunday Times Fiction Paperbacks chart today. Then I bought the paper this morning – and found it at #6!
I officially became a Sunday Times bestselling author last week when The Little Village Christmas popped up at #17 but to reach the top ten makes me feel more relaxed about claiming the title ‘Sunday Times bestselling author’. It’s something I’ve coveted for so long without ever really expecting it to apply to me.
After all, it’s been a while coming. Over more than 21 years 150+ of my short stories have been published, along with 250+ columns or articles, three courses, six serials, a writing guide, and a novella. I’ve judged 120+ writing competitions, appraised dozens of manuscripts and led a host of writing courses and workshops. And The Little Village Christmas is my twelfth novel.
So, when I treated myself to these frivolous but beautiful boots yesterday I was celebrating every one of those steps along the road to seeing my name and the title of my book in the Sunday Times today.
My thanks go to every editor who has chosen my work over the years, the whole wonderful Avon team, my amazing agent Juliet Pickering, the writer of every good review and each member of my fantastic street team.
Most of all, thanks to my lovely readers, who made this joyous celebration possible by buying my books. Thank you.
August 19, 2016 · 10:36
It seems like forever since I originated a post for my own blog. I’ve reblogged a couple of things but haven’t managed a new post. Here’s my list of excuses:
Now I’ve realised how much I’ve neglected my blog I can’t really think what to write about! Whenever I’m asked to guest on someone else’s blog I can think of a subject but for my own blog? I’ve come up blank. So, in place of a proper post, here are ten things about me you may or may not know.
- My parents were both in the army. My mum originally outranked my dad and he got in trouble for talking to her with his hands in his pockets. He only rose higher than her when she left the army.
- I can’t ride a bike no-handed.
- I have no tattoos but five piercings.
- Chocolate is my favourite food group.
- My Saturday job when a teenager was in a butcher’s shop.
- I can do the ‘waterfall’ with a pack of cards.
- I find it hard to join in conversations about TV because I watch so little.
- But I know a lot about Formula 1.
- I’m incredibly thankful for good friends.
- I try only to read books I love. Life’s too short for those I’m told I ‘should’ read.
Blogpost done! 🙂