A view to inspire travel writing…
Having had a break from Luath to attend a creative writing workshop at Dundee’s V&A, I felt refreshed and eager to get back to the world of publishing. The creative energy that was flowing at the museum was incredibly inspiring and put a real fire in my belly for all that is to come my way in the next few months, including more placement adventures. Day three at Luath did not disappoint. My morning was spent tidying up pieces of work from my first two days (Advanced Information Sheet, the Book Blurb and Press documents- writing is rewriting, and rewriting is writing) and drafting a list of errors I’d found whilst proofreading a manuscript. I then spent a bit of time writing a summary of the activities I had undertaken at Luath which was really satisfying to see on screen- I’d been a busy bee and learned enough to be suitably chuffed with myself. Throughout these activities I had a sense of anticipation as I waited for Ralph Storer, renowned and respected mountaineering/hillwalking author extraordinaire, to arrive for the author interview I’d been invited to sit in on. I felt like a gushy school girl waiting outside a concert to catch a glimpse of some teeny bopping heart throb, but, erm, it wasn’t exactly a crush I felt for the not so teeny bopping Storer, but rather huge admiration for his vast hill climbing experience and knowledge of the Scottish mountains that I love so much. And let’s not forget, he is brilliantly precise and charming on the pages of his many books. What a pleasant surprise to be asked by Gavin if I’d like some time with Ralph after they went over a few book issues. While they discussed typesetting, justification of text, photographs and had an almost uncomfortably animated exchange over two imperceptibly different fonts, I sat super thrilled thinking of questions I would ask Storer once I had him all to myself. And then it happened. I conducted a completely impromptu interview with a skilled and revered author, flying by the seat of my pants, proper winging it, living the dream. I was not expecting to enjoy this process as much as I did. But Ralph was gracious, charming and thankfully very accommodating as we shared stories of Scotland’s finest hills and the writing life. I managed to keep the conversation flowing and buoyant and got a lot of useful information and advice to keep to myself and perhaps share with those I like. Maybe. Perhaps his greatest gift to me was his response to the question, ‘What advice do you have for aspiring writers?’. He glared at me, incredulous, and simply said, ‘Write’.
The Luath office view of Edinburgh Castle is okay, I suppose…
My enthusiasm for Luath hadn’t dwindled through the night and I woke fresh and keen to start the day! Having completed proofreading yesterday’s rather challenging manuscript before setting off for the train, I felt prepared for the day ahead. Arriving in the office I found Lauren and Gavin deeply engrossed in whatever was going on in their PCs, so I quietly set myself up and got on with working through the tasks I had assigned for myself. First up was to create an Advanced Information sheet for the manuscript I had just read. This involved collating relevant information about the book onto one informative sheet that can then be sent to potential booksellers. Included in the info is Cover Image, Title, Subtitles, Author Biography, Publication Date, ISBN number, Price, Synopsis of the book and a list of other competitive books on the market. I felt rather accomplished once I had finished albeit a little frazzled with the detail overload. Following on from this task I wrote a Press Release in which I made full use of my hyperbole skills to attract the attention of weary journalists. This required finding a ‘hook’ on which to draw in the reader. Quite a fun task. But best of all was my next task of writing the Book Blurb. I thoroughly relished gathering all the best bits of the book and summing it up in the most glowing, positive and concise way I could think of; it was a happy creative process. Unfortunately my next task was to enter information into an Excel database, an energy sapping task for a flaky creative, but I wasn’t doing that for long before Gavin called me over and asked if I would like to sit in on an author meeting on Thursday. Yes please! But most exciting is that the author is Ralph Storer, master of hill walking in the Highlands and full time writer of incredible books about the Scottish mountains. In a strange case of serendipity, Luath Press are about to release Storer’s new book ‘Corrour Bothy’ of which I have just written a poem about for the University of Dundee Archives Exhibition. Isn’t it funny how things link together? So I spent my last hour at Luath today researching Ralph Storer and skimming through the manuscript for ‘Corrour Bothy’. Another fine day. Back at Luath on Thursday for more adventures!
Train journeys thrill me! The very act of sitting still (a rare treat), of not having to drive myself, to be alone with my thoughts and to ooh and aah at the Scottish scenery as it whizzes by are all a very pleasant way to start the day. But this wasn’t an ordinary day for me… this was an EPIC day. It’s been a long time since I entered an office as part of a workforce and today I travelled to Edinburgh to begin an internship at Luath Press for what promises to be a highly rewarding experience. I was, true to character, super early but that was just as well as the Luath premises are tucked away down an alleyway, only a stone’s throw away from the castle, but extremely difficult to find. Once I had figured it out with the help of the Castle Gift Shop staff and two helpful workmen, I was off marching up the many many stairs to the elevated position of the Luath Press office with its clear views across a super sunny Edinburgh. Wow. NOT what I was expecting at all. In a small cramped but cosy and relaxed room sat piles and piles of papers and books, which in itself is a thrilling sight but a little intimidating, and also the loveliest staff I could have wished for. Much to my delight there is another intern, Kaitlyn, working alongside me this week and her presence took the edge of any fleeting nerves I felt. Gavin gave us a brief chat about the publishing world and the work they do there and then gave us a check list of very interesting things we might like to accomplish through the week. Then we were sent over to sit with the super attentive and kind Lauren who was very accommodating and reassuring. Kaitlyn and I were told to have a look at Luath’s upcoming releases to familiarise ourselves with the kinds of books they publish (I had done that already so felt I was being eased in gently) then Gavin presented us each with a manuscript. An actual manuscript. To proof read. Yes, that’s right… big job. Eeek! I was simultaneously excited and anxious but quickly got down to business. The only problem was, I had been given a highly detailed factual book and there wasn’t one single page of it that I found easy to read. However, that’s publishing. I am aware that my personal taste is of no relevance whatsoever! Reading it did hurt my brain though. I still hadn’t finished it when it was time to go home but it will be my bedtime reading tonight. Pretty sure I’ll fall asleep no problem. Apart from the taxing text in today’s book, today was wonderful and I simply can’t wait to return to Luath tomorrow. Once I’ve completed proofreading the manuscript I will be compiling its book blurb, press info, marketing plan and much more. What a privilege!
It was around this time last year that I took the plunge, tendered my resignation as a mental health nurse and began preparing myself psychologically for the MLitt Writing Practice and Study.
I entered my first creating writing class last September with trepidation and my imposter syndrome, but I managed to maintain a poker face as I poised my pen above paper. And off I went.
The first semester has flown past and I have produced writing that I didn’t know I was capable of. The experience of creating new works stirs feelings of sheer delight that take me back to the first time I hooked a duck at the “switchies” and won a goldfish: don’t worry, I haven’t jumped up in class cheering and shouting “I won! I won!”
So far, my mind has been stretched in many directions and I am having fun trying everything; I have moved from my comfort zone of writing in the vernacular to poetic prose, experimenting with form and voice across all genres. I don’t have a background in literature but I am learning the lingo and getting to know the literary giants, past and present– as are my husband, my daughter and my three dogs.
I’m not sure where this is going… but it’s exciting unraveling my new writing life.
It’s with enormous anticipation that I begin my first blog as an MLitt Writing Practice and Study student but I can assure you it is nothing short of an utterly thrilling moment. I am Victoria, lover of words and the power they wield, and I have thrown myself into this challenging course with the purpose of compiling and refining a portfolio of my own writing to present, with confidence, to the publishing world claiming, ‘Ta-da! Here I am!’. Or something like that.
My home is Dundee where I stay with my husband, four children, two dogs, six fish and one hamster, and my interests are reading, writing, reading, writing, reading some more and a little bit more writing. The writing I love to read and explore is writing that plays with form and delves to emotional depths. So I’ll leave you guessing about my book collection for now! I do also have a little life outside of the written word where I run, hike, practise yoga, enjoy hockey and pretend I can play the guitar.
But in case you hadn’t guessed, my passion is writing and my style is yet to be defined. I’m a wannabe poet, short story writer, song writer, novelist and magazine features writer. Is it wrong to want it all? Perhaps not at this stage in my development when there are still so many writing routes to explore. So far on the course I’ve discovered that I’m permanently confused, easily distracted and prone to excitability- there’s much to get carried away by! But I certainly feel like I’m in the right place at the right time and to quote published writer Clare Hunter, who graduated with the MLitt several years ago, she felt she had, ‘died and gone to heaven’ when she began her studies. She beautifully articulated what I felt on my first day, although I do still feel like a rabbit in the headlights, particularly when put on the spot in tutorials!
So today heralds my arrival as anxious but putting-a-brave-face-on-it blogger! I shall endeavour not to waffle but rather to provide insight into life as an aspiring writer and how this exhilarating course is shaping my development and taking me off on all sorts of wonderful tangents! Watch this space.
Meet the new ‘Publishing Writing’ class of 2019-20: Collette Cowie, Heidi Dore, Ellie Julings, Victoria Lothian, Wanda Mcgregor, H Whaley.