Monday, 2 July 2007

Winchester report

Well, I'm back, after, as expected, a truly hectic weekend. Sad that the weather was so wretched - and it didn't help that in the Hall of Residence there was no hot water - glad to come back to my creature comforts. It's weird being in a student environment like a single room in a hall - memories of long ago at university and a time when trolling down a corridor just to get to a loo fine by me. Now, it very definitely isn't. Strange also to experience silence and alone-time - apart from the relentless thump thump of footsteps along aforesaid corridor and the swish-thunk of firedoors. I might have done some writing - I certainly got some thinking done - if I hadn't been so damn tired. Even fell asleep over the indulgence-read I'd brought with me, C.J. Sanson's 'Dark Fire'. This is no reflection on the quality of his writing, even though it was a story that took a while to heat up (sorry) - just the aforesaid knackeredness.

I taught a day course in plotting to a very nice group and we had a fun time, but it's frustrating to try to cram so much into so little time. It's impossible to be comprehensive, but I will insist on trying. On Friday evening I felt absolutely braindead and as if I was coming down with flu, so went to bed early. Saturday started (after a shower so tepid I really regretted having long hair which took ages to rinse) with an opening speech by Jacqueline Wilson who daunted all of us by explaining she spends 90% of her time now just being a professional author, which means not writing but travelling around giving talks, doing booksignings, school visits and so on. Her early training as a journalist for DC Thompson means she has the ability to write in very short bursts, anywhere, anytime, and then she 'stitches together the patchwork' of little bits she has created. I wish I could just turn the flow off and on at will like that but can't. I was able to have a brief chat with her at lunchtime - she is friendly and positive, with as she said herself, something of the ten year old about her still. Never was an ex-journalist less hardbitten.

I gave a lecture on editing in the morning and one on characterisation in the afternoon and then I was done - so could enjoy a stint in the bar after the Saturday dinner with a clear conscience. I met the novelist Kate Harrison, author of 'The Starter Marriage, 'Old School Ties' and now 'The Self Preservation Society', who was great fun - see her website,, especially if you're a chick-lit writer. Also my longterm friends Mike Greenhough, ace of haibuns, and the novelist Sally Spedding, whose novels are dark and supernatural, and who specialises in threatening and mysterious landscapes. Sally spends part of her time in France, in Cathar country, lucky thing. See her website Finally, Crysse Morrison, author of 'Frozen Summer' and 'Sleeping in Sand' was there. She teaches novel writing, amongst other things, including on the island of Skyros and she was sporting a wonderful tan, having just come back from Crete. Her website is at

Arriving at Winchester station yesterday to catch the train to Oxford, I was bemused to see a large police presence there and had no idea why until I got home and had the use of a telly again, and discovered the latest terrorist activities.

Now I'm in for another busy week as I get ready to start teaching a summer school on novel-writing for the university's summer school programme. This will be intense stuff! I should really be tucked up in bed trying to get ahead with my sleep quotas, not blogging to you lot!

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