It’s Only Words, Isn’t It?

As the new term gets started, Elaine and Francesca think about their writing year ahead.

September and the new school year is upon us. For some it is a momentous occasion, with children going into the next level of education. Whether their son/daughter has gone from nursery to reception or from sixth form to university, or anything in between, many tears have flowed.

Just as it’s a new beginning for the children/grandchildren, so it is for the writers amongst us. It’s a challenge, getting back into the swing of sitting still long enough to write some words, after the hustle and bustle of the summer holidays.

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Elaine’s novel planning whiteboard

Elaine: Earlier this month I attended the Historical Novel Society Conference and a Woman’s Weekly workshop on historical writing. Although they were obviously very different, both were a first for me. I gained something from both of them but what astounded me more is that I know more than I realised; it is clearly about putting that knowledge into practice.

My Victorian Saga is technically finished and out trying to get snapped up, although I am sure changes will need to be made. While I am waiting for those decisions, I am planning my next novel. That means I am up to my neck in research, learning some fascinating facts that I hope I can slip into my novel. It’s pretty safe to say there have been times when I thought my head would explode.

I have paper and Post It Notes everywhere. Luckily for me, I have an understanding husband because while I have an office, I have also commandeered the dining table as well!

Francesca: It always seems that I start new novels in September, as if studying for a new course. I guess this is because of sending novels off to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme several summers in a row.

Islwyn Morgan, late 1930s.

Francesca’s historical idea came from an incident in her grandfather Islwyn’s family.

Like Elaine, I attended the Woman’s Weekly workshop on historical fiction. Although I tend to write contemporary novels, and have just started a new one, I’ve had an idea for an historical bubbling away for some time that the workshop helped me develop. So which to continue with? 

Because I did a history degree back in the dim distant past, several people have asked me why I don’t pursue that genre of novel. I have written several historical short stories and a serial, but I always seem to come up with masses of ideas for contemporary novels. It would be interesting to proceed with the historical, though there’s a danger I’ll get carried away with the research, for which I’ve acquired several books!

My other goal is to return to short stories. In the past I’ve had sixty-odd ‘out theres’ sent to various magazines, but I’ve sadly neglected them in favour of novels recently. And I’d like to write another serial. 

Time to just get on with it, because as Bruce Lee once apparently observed, ‘If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.’ Good luck with your own ‘new term’. 

Do you have plans for the new school year or are you just enjoying the peace and quiet?

The Way We Were

Devil's Bridge 2

Devil’s Bridge

Francesca and Elaine think back to cherished childhood memories.

Francesca: Some of my most enduring memories as a child are from my three holidays in Wales, staying with cousins Doris and Gwilym in Merthyr Tydfil. They loved nothing more than taking us around the countryside in their car, picnic chairs and basket at the ready if they fancied a roadside stop.

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle

In the days before seatbelts, I would sit up the front between them on the bench seat. Despite suffering from travel sickness, I loved those magical trips out, over mountains, into valleys, mini waterfalls dribbling down the hillsides. The fact my parents didn’t have a car made it all the more thrilling. 

Mumbles Lighthouse

Mumbles Lighthouse

From the mellow golden light of an October afternoon at Mumbles and Bracelet Bay, to the resplendent Victorian arcades in Cardiff, I loved it all. The aroma of Welsh cakes cooking still reminds me of Cardiff market, where my mum bought a griddle. My cousins had a predilection for ‘reservoys’ as Doris called them (reservoirs), and we visited at least three! Devil’s Bridge, recently featured on Welsh crime series Hinterland, was another favourite, with its sheer drops and dramatic waterfalls.

Gwilym, me and Doris

Gwilym, me and Doris

As a fifteen-year-old I visited St Fagans museum and was fascinated by the reconstructions of old Welsh houses. I went again a couple of years back, forty years on from my original visit, which was kind of strange. It’s a wonderful place for social research.

I decided recently to set my next novel in Wales. The holidays there were the only ones I had until my late teens, apart from school trips. Despite visiting other places in the world since, these simple holidays will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Links:          @FCapaldiBurgess        St Fagans National History Museum

Elaine: When Francesca and I talked about our happiest childhood memories it was difficult to decide where to begin.

I was a very shy child but I have some lovely family memories, particularly with my Nan on my SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAfather’s side. As a child my mother’s side of the family were lovely, but a little scarier, because I was so shy and they were a very large family. Often it is only when you look back at things that you realise how cherished those memories are. I unexpectedly lost my father eighteen years ago so I now feel that every moment is to be cherished.

CNV00017_2My father was a military man, so a large chunk of my childhood was spent living in Cyprus and you can probably guess, spending time on the beaches. As a child, the best thing of all was only having to go to school until lunch time and then we were meant to have a siesta, which we did sometimes, but often we got to go swimming in the lovely clear blue sea. The touch of the warm sand in between my toes, sometimes too hot toCNV00013_2 walk on in bare feet. I remember sitting on my father’s back as he swam, riding on him like you would a horse at a rodeo. The screams SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAof laughter, as he splashed about and pretended to go underwater, it felt like we were swimming like fishes, but of course we weren’t. Some of the best childhood memories I have of my father involve living in Cyprus.

One day I will share some very precious adult memories of him, but not today.

Links: @RobertsElaine11