Tag Archives: novel

I Love Dubai! #DubaiLitFest

I accepted an invitation to work at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai without any preconceptions about the country. My itinerary was clear enough – a panel on contemporary women’s fiction, a couple of receptions and outings and three days teaching. With flight times of around seven hours, it was a busy schedule.

But I still had time to fall in love with Dubai.

Dubai marina Sue 2 smallThe landmark style of architecture entranced me. The sunshine was welcome and 25-27c was perfect for me. During my 7-day trip, I don’t think a single person was rude to me, everyone was warm and friendly, I didn’t see a single piece of litter or graffiti. I felt very comfortable and safe.

Dubai’s considered a global crossroads and I can see how it earned that title. It seems that every culture and religion is represented in its populace and, from what I saw, coexisting peacefully. I so wish the rest of the world exhibited the same tolerance as I witnessed in Dubai.

My first evening saw a welcome reception, which included such luminaries as Alan Titchmarsh. Everybody who worked for the Festival was warm and welcoming. They gave me food and wine, so I was happy.

Festival City smallI spent the next morning walking in the sunshine and enjoying the shore of Festival City. There’s a lot of construction in this new area but still plenty to see and enjoy. I didn’t go into the massive mall next door. Honestly. Not then …

Contemp Fic panel, April, Nadya smallIn the afternoon I was part of the Contemporary Fiction panel with April Hardy, who was launching her new book, Kind Hearts and Coriander (very good – I can recommend it) and Nadiya Hussain. Most people know for Nadiya for her triumphant win of the Great British Bake Off but she also writes for children and adults. Her views on writing collaboratively were fascinating.

The hour shot by as our panel, beautifully chaired by journalist Brandy Scott, discussed our work and whether we felt we needed the word ‘women’ in Women’s Contemporary Fiction. The audience were engaged and supplied plenty of questions for the Q&A, laughing in all the right places. A well-organised book signing followed, which was huge fun. Everyone was so willing to chat and, you know, I’m not backward in that department myself.

Saturday was my day off and Diala, a friend I’d made on Facebook, took me out to Jumeira Beach and Dubai Mall.

Jumeira Beach skyscrapers small

Dubai marina Sue 2 small

Jumeira Beach camel small

Dubai Mall small

 

And then came the Start Up Writing course, three days with a group of ten enthusiastic participants. We covered … well, we covered everything, more even than I’d allowed for as the questions poured in during every session.

My teaching was interspersed with sessions from agents, editors and other industry professionals (during which I think I took as many notes as the students). My thanks to editor Charlie Scott of local publisher Motivate, as Charlie came into my room to talk for twenty minutes to my students about opportunities for writers in the Middle East.

Dinner at the Etihad MuseumWe rounded out my part of the Festival with an open-air dinner at the Etihad Museum, listening to honoured guests speaking about what Dubai meant to them. Moving and inspirational.

I’d like to end this post with extending thanks to Yvette Judge and her fantastic team at the Festival, along with the sponsors who make the event possible.

Thank you to my fantastic students.

And some to those who extended the hand of friendship to me during my stay, especially April and Andrew Hardy, Sharmila, Al, Ronita and Monita Mohan, Dial Atat and Ruba Naseraldeen.

Also to Magrudy’s bookshop, which did such a fantastic job all festival long.Sue Magrudy's books small

 

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What do I do when I finish writing a book?

Finishing writing a book is an odd feeling. DSCF9022For one thing, I know the book isn’t actually finished. I’ve completed the major edits and returned the book to my agent but I know it needs at least one more polish and probably tweaks. And that’s before a publisher has even got hold of it …

Still, it’s a milestone, a feeling of accomplishment and lightness that it’s off my hands for a week or two. I’m not the kind of writer to grab the opportunity for loads of time off (not sure why) and I am the kind of writer to have left a lot of other jobs while I got my edits done. So here are the post-edit headlines:

  • I tidy my study. To be honest, there’s not that much difference to be seen, except the timeline is no longer lounging seductively across a drawer while I obsess about it and there are no longer any notes hanging in the copyholder beside my monitor. There’s a little less on the floor.
  • I do my annual accounts. I hate doing my accounts. Seriously hate it. I hate it so much that I had to eat two packs of Quavers in one afternoon to get me through. At least I didn’t cry, this year. (It’s not that I can’t do them – I used to keep other people’s books. I. Just. Hate. Them.)
  • I understand why people who have jobs they hate hang out on Facebook.
  • I work through my ‘to do’ list, which includes booking two holidays to Malta. Yes, two! For me! In one year! Whoop! I did this before I’d got to the bottom line in the annual accounts, but I’m not cancelling.
  • I look at booking a ticket to the London Book Fair.
  • I add some more things to my To Do list while I think of them.
  • I relax. It’s a nice feeling to know that a huge project is coming to the end. Two, if you consider the hideous accounts.
  • I go on with the course I’m adapting from Love Writing and think about the novella I’m to adapt for My Weekly. (Oh look – two more big projects!)
  • I look forward to a complete weekend off.
  • I begin to wonder about whether my agent will like my revisions. I feel slightly anxious, and not so relaxed.
  • I think about the next book. I think I want it to be set in summer. Writing a Christmas novel and a Christmas serial this year has fried whatever Christmas spirit I have. (Not a great deal.)
  • I consider having lunch with my gym friends and don’t feel guilty, even though I’m having dinner with them this evening.
  • I hang out on Facebook and Twitter more than usual, mainly to whine about having to do my accounts.
  • I read a lot of articles and watch podcasts about writing/publishing that have been stacking up. This is helpful but not, you know, actual work …
  • I look at my website and decide what needs updating.
  • I feel good.

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Do writing retreats work???

I have to admit that when other writers have told me that they’ve been to a retreat I’ve been sceptical about the amount of work they’d accomplish. I could believe a retreat to be enjoyable – getting away from the shopping and cooking, spending time with writers, wine, food, lovely environment etc etc.

But work?

When the lovely hosts at Chez Castillon, Janie and Mickey, asked me if I could be writer-in-residence at short notice from 27 April to 2 May I saw it as an opportunity to see for myself. I spent the week beforehand getting students/columns/edits up to date, as I planned to spend the retreat working on my new book. I had a rough outline and about half the cast – about 18 pages of handwriting. I packed my iPad and keyboard, a pad, my faithful babies’ names book (for character names) and some post-it notes. Sorted. (For future reference – take paper clips, also!)

The back of the house, Chez Castillon. My room was up on the top floor.

The back of the house, Chez Castillon. My room was up on the top floor.

 

The view from my window.

The view from my window.

My lovely room contained table and chairs (along with necessities such as the bed) and I set myself up to work.

OK, that’s a fib. I went across to Monique’s bar and had a couple of glasses of cold vin blanc, then came back for a fab and convivial evening with the other writers on the retreat, talking about our work. Also eating a lovely dinner and drinking a leetle more wine.

In the morning, after blissful breakfast of local cheeses, meats and fruits, I began writing by hand – something I often do in the planning stage – working on character bios, seeing where further characters were needed, working on conflicts and the threads they’d create, deciding how one conflict would impact upon another, making lists of things to research.

The piles of paper grew.

photo(53) copy 3I took some outside into the fantastic garden to enjoy a bit of sun.

photo(53) copy 2

At the end of my six days at Chez Castillon 18 pages of handwriting had grown to 109 plus post-its. I had:

Completed all the character bios I need so far

Worked on my conflicts and the threads they’d produce

Done some research

Emailed friends for their views on a specific conflict I thought they’d have views on

Expanded the outline enormously

Drafted the first two chapters

Written up on my iPad most of the first chapter (2,895 words)

Borrowed a stapler so I could bring my work home again in some semblance of order. The three piles I ended up with are: characters; research; story.

photo(51)I can’t say when I’ve had a more productive week. It has been amazing. I would do it again – and again and again! Everything and everyone on the retreat was fantastic.

Magic.

Garden and pool.

Garden and pool.

A sprig of 'muguet' given and received on May 1 to bring me luck all year (hope so)/

A sprig of ‘muguet’ given and received on May 1 to bring me luck all year (hope so)/

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