New Beginnings

Apologies  to the three or four people that actually read this blog. I know I haven’t blogged for a while but in my defence I did warn you that blogging would be taking a back seat while I got down to some actual writing. And I have beeen writing. A lot. But where to start? Let me take you back to the beginning of October. Do you remember that course I was telling you about – the MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University? Yes? Well it officially started on the 11th October. As it’s a virtual course, meaning that everything is done online, the official start day meant uploading a profile and picture of myself to the ‘Learning Space’ and then spending the next two days reading everyone elses profile and worrying about my own credentials, experience and ability to write in comparison to everyone else. The rest of the week was spent in nervous anticipation of what my tutor thought of my preliminary submission and getting increasingly frustrated at the fact that the ‘Learning Space’ technology wasn’t working. Please remember that I’m paying a very large sum of money for the priviledge of being accepted onto this course. Anyway things are sorting themselves out. Distance learning is not for everyone and online distance learning has a whole new set of frustrations attached to it, but there are also a lot of positives. For starters, it’s infinitely flexible: tutorials and conferences are given set days but as to when you ‘contribute’ on that day / week is up to you. This kind of learning also allows you to consider your response to questions posed or comments made without the pressure of having to come up with an instant intelligent response. Finally, and I’m not sure whether this is particulalr to the course at Lancaster, but it can be completely tailored to your own writing ambitions. As I’m working on a novel, this is what the majority of my conference submissions will be focussed on. My tutorials however are used to developed writing technique and style through the writing of short stories and analysis of texts. Of course not everyone on the DLMA (Distance Learning MA) is a budding novelist, some are short story writers, others poets and others scriptwriters. It’s an interesting mix  of  talent and experience and I love the fact that I’m sharing this with other people from all over the world. The downsides are that  I don’t get to meet any of my course peers until next summer at a summer school and, conversely, that I don’t get an immediate response to questions or issues I raise about my writing. Online coversations in this particular forum are not like a face to face conversation or even talking on instant messenger or Skype because you have never know who’s online at the same time as you. It’s not like how it was with The Whipcracker, which brings me round to my last session with her.

I spent nearly two hours round at her place discussing my Prologue and as usual she sorted out my concerns with her very considered way of thinking about things. We drank tea and ate iced buns while we talked writing (or rather she did, I sat there with my head in my hands trying to get my brain to process what she was saying about structure)  but all these niceties could not take away from the fact that this was to be our last session. I was, I am, sad about it. If it wasn’t for The Whipcracker, I might not have got on to the MA at Lancaster or had the confidence to go for it in the first place. She represents the beginning of a new kind of life for me, one that I have had ambitions of since I was a teenager but for a long time was not confident enough to pursue. I realise that I am not a published writer yet, but contacting the Whipcracker was the first step into trying to make that happen. For me the last two years have been an uphill slog of recovering from a nightmare pregnancy and birth, getting to grips with the actuality of having a baby,  nappy changing, colic, weaning, trying to start up a freelance marketing career, getting my head round the fact that I no longer have a high powered job earing tons of money and waiting for my husband to come home from the rigs and help me. So, you see, my sessions with The Whipcracker, were something to look forward to, a couple of hours off from my life and in a way, they kept me going and they have absolutely  given me the confidence to pursue writing as a career. I keep saying the word ‘confidence’. I think writing is all about confidence, you need it to put pen to paper, to articulate those thoughts and ideas that have been whirling around in your mind for months, maybe years. Mentoring helps you to tap into that confidence, allows you to experiment and learn about yourself, and in my case, my writing style, in a non judgemental environment with the benefit of your mentor’s exeprience acting as a kind of literary safety net.  I’d received mentoring in my buinsess life so I knew how it worked and I knew that it worked. My mentoring sessions with The Whipcracker were an invaluable, postive experience for me as an aspiring writer and I would recommend creative mentoring to anyone who has ambitions to be published. Of course, you have to  be a good ‘fit’ for each other: the wrong mentor can do as much damage as good, but you can work this out at an intial meeting. If there is anyone out there who is looking for a creative mentor and would like The Whipcracker’s details you can email me at alex.otoole@zensearch.com and I will happily pass them on. I think that she is talking on new mentees in the new year and when she goes public more formally I’ll post details on this blog. Obviously her real name isn’t ‘The Whipcracker’, courtesy prevents me from using her real name in case she becomes the subject of an intense spam email campaign. You can also read about how creative mentoring works here.   

So that’s it, that’s whats being going on in my writing life for the last couple of months. My next deadline is the 6th December so I’ll be working hard until then. I’m also writing some articles that I intend to tout to various magazines in the hope I get a bite, some money would be nice too.