Lothian’s Adventures in Luath (Day 1)

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!

Wanda McGregor

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.

 

 

 

Victoria Writes

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.

 

 

Short And Sweet! – My Internship With Saraband

I’m a bit late with this one because there has been a lot going on, but I can finally sit and write about this great experience.

I realise I’ve been very fortunate in my internships and have done and learned a lot of exciting new things.

A couple of weeks ago, I made my way down to Manchester for a few days of work experience with Saraband.

Although not quite a full week, I was surprised at how much we managed to fit in.

 

Proof Reading

As a bit of a warm-up before getting to Manchester, Sara Hunt had given me a manuscript to proof. This was a good way of getting a feel for the type of books Saraband (and its crime imprint Contraband) publishes.

Proofing was something I’d done a little bit of before, but not professionally. So I had to take extra care that my attention to detail and my knowledge of grammar was on point.

A lot of the skills from uni came in handy; attention to detail, being thorough in my work and analysing the text. I was glad to get the practice and found it really enjoyable.

I’m realising that I enjoy working closely with the text and can see myself as an editor in the future.

InDesign

Another thing I’ve come to love doing is working on InDesign.

I got a chance to practice those skills again here in a few different ways.

Similar to updating the catalogue at Peepal Tree, I was responsible for updating Saraband’s Highlights sheets, making sure all the relevant information was there.

Working on InDesign is great  because there are so many things you can do  really easily and really quickly.

For example,  Saraband has a new book coming out called The Boxing Diaries which needs a cover design. Using InDesign, I was able to be quite creative and use my own boxing experience to come up with a mood board for the cover.

I put together a few images and example book covers for the boxing book and another book. I loved doing this because it was a chance to get creative and excited about the new books.

Marketing

This was something new and a lot of fun!

The title I had proof read needed a marketing plan, so we brainstormed and thought of different ways to make the title, a historical-fiction creative, appeal to people. Based on the themes of the book, I had to come up with ways to promote it.

This was a very collaborative task where I had to think outside of the box and use my knowledge of social media.

Together we came up with the start of a social media plan, some ideas for events and even an idea for a promotional video.

All in all, it was a busy few days packed with lots of interesting tasks.

If only it had last longer!

 

 

Fringe Fun

Hello all! Can’t talk long, as I’m writing from the Ed Fringe!

 

Today is preview day, so I hopped a train to Edinburgh with my trusty sidekick William in tow. We stopped by a stand-up/storytelling show called “A Very British Lesbian” and then it was time to watch the preview for Cumbernauld Theatre’s own Fringe show, Lip Sync.

 

In Lip Sync, two women play the same character, Kirsty, as she describes life with Cystic Fibrosis. Often they speak simultaneously – that is, in sync. One of them is the “real” Kirsty, who wrote the show based on her own experiences. It’s a heavy-hitting show, but handled with humour. Its been a privelege sitting in on rehearsals, and today I had the opportunity to observe an audience react, and witness what does and doesn’t work.

I’d best be off, I’ve a musical to run to: “Unfortunate: The Untold Tale of a Sea Witch”

My Big Break

So, I’ve deliberately held off on the blog update this week until tonight, because I wanted to see how one particular predicament shook out.

Things were going as normal in the internship; I was continuing to sit in on rehearsals for the 13+ kids, and had also joined in the 9-12 year old classes. But then an unexpected favour was asked of me yesterday afternoon. As it turns out, one of the boys in the 13+show (who joined late) is getting cold feet. As of writing he’s still wavering, two hours before the show starts, so I am waiting in the wings, script-in-hand, as understudy for Lysander!

This is it folks, I’ve finally made it.

Peepal Tree Press – Another Internship Ends

Unfortunately, my time here in Leeds and with Peepal Tree has come to an end.

How do I feel?

I’m sad that it’s all over now and wish I had longer. But I’m also looking forward to going home and seeing family and friends again.

My internship has been so enjoyable for several reasons:

Working with great people

I have to say, that working at Peepal has allowed me to meet some great and inspiring people who love the same things as I do: books and everything to do with them.

From Jeremy and Hannah, who have been so welcoming, to the visiting writers and other interns, everyone has brought something unique and memorable to the experience.

 

Learning the business

Of course, one of main things is being able to get real in-house experience doing all the things I have and learning as much as I have.

If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that I’ve covered a lot of things. I think my favourite things to do were editing and typesetting.

 

A wider reading scope

The major perk of working in a publishing house is obviously the free books.

So, being constantly introduced to new writers, picking up names that were repeatedly mentioned and discovering new texts I may not have come across otherwise was very exciting.  There was always something/ someone know of interest everyday.

 

Creative stimulation

I don’t know if it’s just being at Peepal Tree or if every publishing office is like this, but being in the office was very stimulating for my own creative writing.

I’ve come up with dozens of ideas that I can take home with me and make something of.

I found myself returning home from work most nights, despite being tired, filled with enthusiasm to write, whether it was my own creative work or ideas to include in my dissertation.

This is linked to the point above, but also because of Peepal Tree’s open door attitude in which writers drop in and out all the time.

 

Overall, I’ve learned that moving to a new setting, even for a short while, can be so beneficial both personally and creatively, for all the reasons I mentioned and more.

Thank you to Peepal Tree for having me and making me feel welcome.

Hamzah

P.S. Now to write this dissertation…yay (!)

 

They say that teenagers scare the living – wait, no, no swearing in front of the kids

Bad news first. I’m back on the network at Cumbernauld Theatre , but all of my work from the past two weeks has been deleted. In between redoing that work, I’ve been sitting in on the Summer Youth Academy classes.

The good news is those classes are really fun! As I stated in an earlier post, there’s lots of familiar games to play. I’ve mostly been sitting in on the 13+ group. We seem to have the same sense of humour and taste in musicals – I don’t know what that says about me.

As it turns out, the 13+age group is apparently the hardest to work with. They’re very determined to devise and perform a play entirely written by themselves, and to them there’s no such thing as too ambitious an idea. Or too angsty an idea. Or too cliché. As such, I haven’t been called upon for any actual writing or writing  advice; the kids all want to go their own way, and the adults would rather put on a polished production of Midsummer Nights Dream than rush the writing and rehearsing of an entirely new show. The real shame is that, given a lot more time, some of the kids ideas could develop into something quite impressive (they’re a frighteningly precocious bunch).

On the other end of the spectrum is the 6-8 class, who’re putting on a 15 minute show that was already 90% planned out by the tutors before the Academy even started. So once again my writing skills don’t come in very handy.

Next week, the 6-8 year old class will be replaced with the 9-12 year old class. I’ve been told they’re more willing and able to structure their own stories than the 6-8 year olds, but much more “malleable” than the 13+ group. Hopefully this means I will finally have the chance to prove myself as good for something other than a game of Splat.

As for my own writing, I’ve finished a first draft of my play. My main concern just now is making it more “theatrical” than “conversational”. We now have more physical comedy, voice overs, imagine spots and a musical number.

Splat! You’re out!

Kai

Progress and Setbacks

You could say I rolled a 7-9 and scored a mixed success on this week,  if you were a nerd.

Things were going well on Monday. I’d been working on my archiving task, while also getting to know the staff better. Having compiled a good collection of “interesting visual memories” – i.e. photos – from the theatre’s past, I spent the day writing the text to go along with them (75 words per page, and I’m likely to have 4 or 6 pages to play with). I’m essentially going for a series of words and images illustrating the variety of performances Cumbernauld Theatre has produced and hosted over the years; the ways they engage with the Cumbernauld community; and  the interesting history of the cottages, without getting too sentimental before the move to the new building.

Tuesday and Wednesday offered a break while I returned to Dundee for a flat viewing and a job interview. Thursday I returned to the office, ready to start compiling my text and matching images into a document to be sent to the graphic designers to prepare for publication, but disaster struck! Long story short, some electrical problems have resulted in me being locked out of the theatre’s servers, which means for the past two days I haven’t been able access any of the files I was working on!

My supervisors seem confident I’ll be able to catch up on the missed work once I’m back online, so, rather than sit and worry, in a rare show of proactive reasoning I’ve been using this unexpected time off to write more of my play.  So far it’s coming out…strange. A vague plan, loosely inspired by the set of Kennedy’s Children, to have a piece set in a gay club (and featuring characters based on people I’ve observed in my own local gay club) has (de)volved into more of a 20 minute angry monologue about LGBT+ issues that tend to be put aside, offering no solutions, but at least some acknowledgement. It’s a departure, but we’ll see how it works out! Don’t worry, there’s still jokes.

Next week the Summer Youth Academy starts, so wish me luck!