As I write this the skies are dark and heavy and the first slashes of sleet are whirling around, tumbling to the ground. There is the promise – or do I mean the threat of much more of to come later in the
I could think how horrible it is. How much I hate winter and how dark and cold – and usually wet a month February is, the month that my mother always used to call February fill-dyke or fill-ditch because of the way that, as the nursery rhyme goes,
February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.
For me, that important line is ‘thaws the frozen lake again’. I love the idea of the ice breaking up and letting the air into the water beneath, exposing it to the (admittedly dull and weak) rays of light that come with the days lengthening, the evenings drawing out as the year has turned around from the immobility and static feeling that sets in with the last few days of the ‘old year’.
It’s an important image for a writer as well. Because it’s vital for a writer – whether a would-be novelist who is setting out to follow her New Year Resolution or a multi-published author who is embarking on the hunt for ideas for the next story. We all need to thaw the ice on the dyke that it our imaginations or – to put it another way, it’s vital to fill the well of o creativity so that there is
I love the times when a book is done and on my editor’s desk – either for the first draft or the revision stage – and I have time to fill the well for my own creative strengths. Books, films, plays, magazines, newspapers – they’re all great ‘food’ for the mind. I’m lucky too because I live with another writer who writes on such very different topics so I discover so much when he talks to me about a long ago explorer and traveller or the Conscientious Objectors in the First World War or even the fictional tales loosely based on the adventures of his Uncle Albert who has been reincarnated in books and story telling sessions in libraries and literature festivals.
But in February one of my favourite ways of refilling the well comes on a long weekend in Fishguard, a small welsh seaside town over on the far side of the country. It takes an age to get there but it’s so worth it. There’s in the Victorian elegance of the hotel with a fabulous seaview from my bedroom, the warmest of welcomes from Anne and Gerry Hobbs who organise all the Writers’ Holiday events.I meet up with friends who are writers too - in different genres from me, poets, short story writers,, non fiction, crime novelists . . Someone else does all the cooking and the washing up - And then there’s the luxury of spending the whole weekend just talking about writing.
Yes, I’m officially running a course so I’m there to teach. But teaching is a two-way thing. As I talk with my students and answer their questions about how I build characters or create meaningful dialogue or any more of the problems they want help with, I have to think about my own writing, look at how I really do things – and remind myself of why things are important or think of new way
I also get to do one-to-ones with each of my student, critiquing and discussing the chapter and synopsis they’ve sent me before the course starts – there’s a group critique session too. It’s great to be able to talk face to face with someone and explain where a problem is- writing a report could make it all seem so very much more definite or even over critical. And then when everyone discussed their works in progress, I can so often see that ‘light bulb moment’ when realisation suddenly strikes and the writer sees a new path through a problem where they thought the way was totally impossible.
It can happen for me as well. I always come home feeling reinvigorated and looking forward to my own writing all over again. It’s no wonder these are called Writers’ Holidays. In fact there are actually some set times for classes and an official timetable but somehow my group never manages to stick to that. You can get some of your best ideas and unknot some of the hardest problems over a glass of wine or 2 in the evening after the classes are done.
I enjoy this experience so much that I’ve already agreed to go back again and run the course in 2017! I haven’t even had a chance to add that Advanced Romance Writing Course to my list of courses and events on my web site yet – but I do know that if past years are anything to go by then it will be fully booked up fast – often before there’s even time to advertise if properly.
Have you ever tried a writing course – or would you like to? It’s not just the things you learn but thefun you can have - the friends you can make (and in my group the chocolate and the wine we share). They’re the perfect way to refill that creative well and give yourself lots of encouragement and inspiration for the rest of your writing year. I’m really happy to know that I have several more
Writers’Holiday and Relax and Write web sites for more details. (You don't even have to want to write romance - there's that other author I live with who teaches courses on writing the past, finding inspiration etc)
My latest Modern Romance/Harlequin Presents was Destined ForThe Desert King - which was published in December 2015 and I'm thrilled to say that my earlier 2015 title Olivero's Outrageous Proposal has been republished in the Best Of The Year Collection
Also, if you missed Kept For Her Baby when it was first published - or you'd like to read it again - there's a great 3 in 1 collection Secret Love-Child