A year on: October 2016 update

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the BBC National Short Story Awards which was one of the highlights of my professional career and it dawned on me what an eventful year it’s been.

To recap the tail-end of my last job at The Independent on Sunday: I wrote about 2016 cultural highlights and started reviewing books for the literary section which was a complete and utter joy. I wrote about Julie Myerson’s thriller The Stopped Heart in January and the following month plunged into bittersweet whaling story Rush Oh!

In March, after a year at the Independent on Sunday, I left because the newspaper went online only and I’d been working almost exclusively on the art pages in the printed edition. There were so many fun aspects to the job and lovely colleagues so it was sad to leave but I was excited to try my hand at arts PR.

Since April I’ve been working as a freelance arts publicist focusing on books and literary events. I’ve learned about how to promote literary events, pitch authors’ features and secure reviews. I’ve got my authors on Radio 4, in The Guardian Online, The i, Red Online and everything in between.

I’ve also studied short story writing at Goldsmith’s, three terms of life writing at Morley College and tried my hand  at life drawing at the Thomas Calton Centre in Peckham moments from where I live. I’ve even adopted two kittens.

And I managed to interview the lovely Meg Rosoff in June about her love of south for Below the River and why she thinks Burgess Park is so great.

So if you need any help with publicity let me know on heloisewood (at)hotmail.com. If you want to be inundated with photos of adorable cats instead follow me @Saltounite.

To give you a taster:


Some of my favourite recent articles

Interview with debut novelist Laura Barnett about the joys of south London – Independent on Sunday (October 2015)

Interview with five young artists about art and life – Independent on Sunday (May 2015)

Review of the Forza Win chicken experience – Below the River blog (April 2015)

Interview with a former trainee midwife who quit to set up a craft business – Below the River blog (April 2015)

Side-bar about boundary-breaking drag-queens  –  Independent on Sunday (April 2015)

Feature about getting funding to write – Write Track (April 2015)

Author Stella Duffy discusses action-packed Fun Palaces and shares writing tips

News Shopper:

First published Friday 26 September 2014

When Vibe catches up with Stella Duffy, it’s clear the Woolwich-born writer and theatre-maker is on a serious mission to have fun.

The Loughborough Junction resident is launching Fun Palaces this weekend (October 4 and 5) to bring art and science back into the streets for everyone to enjoy.

The initiative, which includes everything from mermaids in lidos to robots and behind-the-scenes theatre tours, the scheme is action-packed.

Stella believes the concept of the Fun Palace, devised by Joan Littlewood in 1961, is fundamental in ensuring everyone can enjoy the arts and sciences.

Author Stella Duffy discusses action-packed Fun Palaces and shares writing tips

She says: “I never knew I could be an artist, until I was about 15 and even then, I thought only posh people were writers.

“Thinking about my own family in Woolwich, they might have gone to the theatre in central London once a year at the most. A lot of people feel it’s not for them.

“My grandfather was born in Griffin Street, Deptford, around where the Deptford Lounge is and in the Charles Booth poverty map it was a dark blue colour which meant it was a really poor area. He was working by the age of 14.

“I grew up in a council estate in the Woolwich dockyards until I was five and because I was the youngest of seven I used to play on the balcony.

“I remember hearing the sound of the ships coming along the Thames and now the river has ended up being a strong theme in my work.”

Stella moved to New Zealand when she was five but has since spent most her life in south London where she has spent countless hours preparing the Fun Palaces initiative.

She says: “The Albany in Deptford – which is where we’ve been organising the Fun Palaces – is only 20 minutes from my home in Loughborough Junction.

“It uses its space brilliantly and has so much going on including Meet me at the Albany, a social group for older people.

“There will things happening in Greenwich, and Deptford for example and Old Bexley Church of England Primary School, Hurst Road, is opening up its new building on October 4.

“I’ve never organised something as big as this – there are going to be 131 events going on around the country throughout a single weekend.”

Stella, who published her first novel 20 years ago, said: “It’s important everyone knows they can become involved in the arts and sciences if they want to.

“It was a life-changing moment for me when I realised.”

Visit @FunPalaces or funpalaces.co.uk

Stella’s Writing Tips

“Keep going – far too many people spend ages on their first three chapters thinking you just have to send these off to an agent with a synopsis but that was only ever the case for about three people in the 90s.

“No one writes a brilliant first draft, you don’t want to edit too much before you finish it, just keep writing until you’ve got it all down.

“Don’t feel like you have to give up your job – lots of people like Dostoyevsky kept on with their jobs.

“I teach Arvon courses and tell people, don’t write your novel in your sabbatical, what a waste that would be. Do it first thing in the morning or at night when you can’t sleep.

“And don’t feel like you have to do a course – most the writers I know haven’t. If you decide to do one, research it carefully because they can take a lot of time and money.”

This article originally appeared on http://www.newsshopper.co.uk

Stuffed animals, book signings and sea shanties: Literary happenings across London

Feeling bloated after your holiday? It could be worse. Find out more from the Horniman’s Walrus next month.

Four months into my lottery-funded Arts Council funding, I’ve written 40,000 words of the novel but am in desperate need of some light creative relief.

So if, like me, you’re keen to flex those literary muscles in a supportive setting, here are my top tips for your writing schedule over the next few months.

What to do?

The award-winning Dulwich Books in Croxted Road often boasts stellar author events and is teaming up with the Horniman Museum next month to hold a Taxidermy evening to launch Kate Mosses’ new book, The Taxidermist’s Daughter.

News Shopper: Sussex finest recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours list

There will be sparkling conversations (including Sandi Toksvig chatting to Mosse), music, refreshments and even a taxidermy photo booth. It takes place on September 11 and costs £10.

The Bookseller Crow Bookshop in Westow Street, Crystal Palace, hosts a book club and regular readings from authors with recent visitors including author Kerry Hudson. You can sign up to the mailing list to keep informed of what’s going on.

Secondly, it would be worth signing up to goal setting community Write Track if you haven’t already. This monitors your writing progress and provides support, exercises and tips.

The Word Factory runs regular short story sessions with advice and opportunities for networking and mentoring. One of the founders, Paul McVeigh, also writes a really helpful blog which is packed with advice and interesting interviews

The legendary London Review of Books has a jam-packed event schedule and sometimes featuring gin cocktails and music from a sea shanty choir.

The Southbank Centre (which is running a literary festival next month) is also a good space with lots of tables, plug points and ample chance for people-watching.

News Shopper:

In terms of writing space, I would recommend The Montage cafe in Forest Hill which is full of hidden corners and expansive tables to spread your work out on. The fact there is also delicious cake on offer is merely incidental.

I was tipped off about this place by Miniaturist author Jessie Burton when I interviewed her for News Shopper – you can read more about her advice for aspiring writers here.

What to read?

I’ve also found some books very helpful recently.

How to Write a Novel in a Year is written by Louise Doughty, who has not only written excellent books but also taught on Arvon courses. It’s fun to read, accessible and inspiring.

The title of How to Craft a Great Story put me off slightly because it sounded a bit old-fashioned and like I’d have to be sitting round a campfire on a scout weekend to appreciate it. How wrong I was. It’s actually packed with technical tips on how to create plot and structure your story in a way which appears effortless.

Write a Novel and Get it Published is part of the same series and is similarly practical. It’s written in a down-to-earth tone but is extremely comprehensive.

A friend also recently tipped me off about Paris Review’s interviews with authors which contain a wealth of knowledge on writing.

For more information on the Arts Council’s grants for the arts, visit this website.


How to have a portfolio career

We all know the jobs market is a challenging place, especially for young people wanting to join creative industries. But these obstacles can be turned into a valuable asset if you ride the flexible working wave. Heloise Wood explores why there has never been a better time to combine multiple careers…

For many the idea of a portfolio career may sound abstract or downright pompous, but there are incredible opportunities to be had in juggling jobs.

I became a portfolio careerist this year after winning an Arts Council grant, which means I can take a day out of my local newspaper reporting role to spend it working on my novel. In fact, many companies are now wising up to the benefits of a more holistic working life.

So how can you make a portfolio career work?

Say yes

Writer Daisy Buchanan juggles writing for publications like Debrief and The Telegraph with social media work.

“I was a working full time on a magazine, so when I went freelance I was happy to take all the work that was offered to me,” says Daisy. “It’s got to the point where I get approached by most of my clients and I don’t pitch blind so much, so I tend to say yes to everything that comes along. Now it’s about 70 per cent writing and journalism, 30 per cent social media work.”

Fill the gaps

Science communicator Simon Watt (below) believes being practical with your timetable and making the most of your opportunities is the first step to having a portfolio career.

Simon Watt

He combines work as a broadcast presenter with being a writer, theatremaker, educator, performer and comedian. “Some parts of my work are seasonal so I have needed to seek alternative work for different parts of the year,” explains Simon. “I feel I have mainly got where I am by being adaptable and saying yes to the opportunities I have been offered.”

Try freelancing as a first step

Charlotte Jarvis combines filmmaking and visual art with a pop-up restaurant she runs with her partner, as well as lecturing and tutoring.

She recommends people start off with something manageable they can fit round their main responsibilities. “I’d say to seek out something flexible – perhaps freelancing – which you can enjoy and feel contributes to your career. You need something that does not take up too much of your time otherwise the balance will tip away from the thing you are trying to facilitate.”

Be clear and specific about what it is you do

Illustrator and set designer Holly Mcculloch emphasises the importance of identifying your niche in a crowded marketplace. “The more specific you are about your work, the easier it is for others to understand and think of you for work,’ she says. “I wish I’d known the value of being able to define what your work is, in a simple way, to yourself and others. Set your own criteria for work that you pursue.”

Create a support network

A professional support network will be useful on the days when your self-motivation wanes. Try organisation like IdeasTap or Backr that offer mentoring, opportunities and events.

Get organised

Accept that there will be admin and embrace it as much as you can.This will make job-juggling a lot easier particularly where finances are involved.

Susie Fairfax Davies started off as an actress but now combines work in communications with her London walks company. “Make a schedule and try and keep to time management if you are working on a few projects at the same time,” advises Susie. “If I’m travelling I will try and do reading, make notes or I send emails.  I like multi-tasking.”

Consider apps like Evernote to collate information or write-track which helps measure your writing progress.

Stay focused

Editor and translator Ana Fletcher uses the Pomodoro technique to keep her focused: she works in three 25-minute slots with a five minute break between, until she has earned a long break. “If I manage three of these in a day (i.e. 3 x 90 min sessions), I feel like I’ve done well. I use the online timer tomato-timer.com.”

Be determined

Simon says to follow your gut when deciding what concepts to pursue and to have confidence in your choices: “Itchy ideas that you can’t shake are good ideas. And don’t worry about the crippling self-doubt – everybody has it.”

Follow Heloise at @Saltounite.

This article originally appeared on http://www.ideastap.com/ 

Sign up to IdeasTap for advice, funding, opportunities and our weekly newsletter – with all the latest arts jobs.

The Miniaturist author reveals her love for Forest Hill and tips for budding writers

News Shopper: The Minaturist author reveals her love for Forest Hill

A former actress from Forest Hill is setting the literary world alight with her creation of a magical, microscopic world.

Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist is delighting reviewers and readers alike with its tale of hidden love, obsession and betrayal in Amsterdam in 1686.

The Oxford University graduate’s debut novel entered the bestseller lists at number four after being published a few weeks ago and has already been translated into around 30 different languages.

Jessie told Vibe: “It means so much that people are reading it and hopefully enjoying it. It’s a real thrill.

“I started it in 2009 and edited it six times that year in 2012. I put the finishing touches to it earlier this year.

“I was working as an actress and as a PA in the city between jobs and so I’d do work in the evenings, weekends and occasionally in the day if work was quiet.

News Shopper: The Minaturist author reveals her love for Forest Hill

“I kept thinking it was finished and then re-writing it. People would say, ‘have you thought of doing this or that’.”

She is a huge fan of south east London and told Vibe her favourite spots in SE23.

Jessie told Vibe: “I recently moved to Forest Hill after living in East Dulwich for four years.

“I love living round here – it’s laidback but the community is involved at the same time.

“The artists’ studios along Havelock Walk are often opened up and the cafes are great.

“The Montage in Dartmouth Road is one of my favourites, they do a great Earl Grey cake there.”

She is now working on her second novel interweaves two narratives, one set during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and the other in 1960s London.

News Shopper: The Minaturist author reveals her love for Forest Hill

Jessie’s tips for aspiring writers

“Read a lot. By some osmosis, you take in how people make up pace and characterisation.

“Try and write without being too careful or self-editing.

“All the real work comes with the edit. It’s only when you have the words out you can see what it should look like.

“Don’t think of it as a novel yet because that is enormous pressure, instead think of it as a piece of work.

“When you think you have finished – you haven’t. There will be more editing.”

Visit jessieburton.co.uk or @jesskatbee on Twitter

This article first appeared in News Shopper. Visit newshopper.co.uk

Get writing: Tips and events for the would-be novelist in London

Are you a writer in need of inspiration, guidance or simply some solace from your solitary ramblings?

Well look no further because London is bursting to the seams with literary goings on this week as well as lots of free resources for would-be novelists.

I have been scouring the web for helpful ideas after winning a national lottery-funded grant from the Arts Council to help me spend one day a week writing a novel.

The grant is helpful in giving me actual time to spend on my novel but these events and projects are also proving vital in pointing me in the ‘write’ direction.

1. Foyles Bookshop is unveiling its swanky new premises in Charing Cross with three weeks of literature and culture events (ending July 5) so there will be plenty of chances to get up-close-and-personal with your favourite authors.

Goldsmiths academic Zoe Pilger will be appearing on June 24 to discuss Eat My Heart Out which has garnered rave reviews.

2. Literary Kitchen Festival is happening this week in Peckham and is designed to prompt people to get scribbling as well as pick tips from Goldsmiths Writers Centre tomorrow evening (June 18). There is an East Dulwich Literary Festival happening later this month and a Peckham-wide Literary Festival scheduled for the Autumn.

3. The Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre in New Cross hosts many free events with people such as Deborah Levy throughout the academic year and you can even listen to podcasts on the website if you miss them.

4. The London Short Story Festival is happening at the weekend (from June 20 to June 22) in Waterstones Piccadilly with a range of events and even a free writing space where you can enjoy workshops throughout the day.

5. Womentoring launched in April to offer women free mentoring women from authors, editors and publishers. It is a project which has generated a lot of coverage and helped propel founder Kerry Hudson on to the Bookseller’s Rising Stars list for 2014.

6. Warwick University has a series of Writing Challenges podcasts to help you get started and to enable you to develop your writing.

7. Myslexia has a quarterly magazine packed with articles and tips for female writers as well as competitions with prizes worth thousands of pounds.

8. Ideastap is a creative-industry focused youth charity but has loads of general resources on writing, researching and editing for people of all ages and it is edited by a former News Shopper reporter.

9. Eltham Arts is a creative hub based in SE9 which runs meet-ups and competitions throughout the year. They recently hosted an event for World Book Night.

10. The Southbank Centre hosts a huge range of events with authors and also has a literature festival coming up in September.

This originally appeared in News Shopper. 

Sidcup secrets, noodles and Masterchef: Burmese food writer MiMi Aye reveals all

A former solicitor from Sidcup has published a noodle-cookery book after being so “wound up” by the MasterChef final she took to blogging.

Former West Lodge schoolgirl MiMi Aye became so frustrated with the approach to eastern recipes she began a blog which attracted the interest of a publisher and has resulted in Noodle! 100 Great Recipes.

The 35-year-old Cambridge graduate wrote the book during her maternity leave so she could share her love of noodle-based dishes.

MiMi, who has lived in Sidcup since she was a toddler, told News Shopper: “I started meemalee.com after the 2009 MasterChef final wound me up so much that I felt obliged to take the mickey out of it publicly.

“Weirdly, I’m now friends with Mat Follas, the guy who won that year – he once let me completely take over and cook in his restaurant, and I even thanked him in the book.

“I wanted to do the cookbook because I’d also been getting increasingly frustrated by the influx of confusion cuisine to the Western market – dishes such as EAT’s Laksa Pho.”

The Twitter fan, who has more than 6,000 followers, said: “I wanted to share my love of food generally, especially Burmese food as that’s where my roots lie – my dream is to write a Burmese cookbook.

“I wanted to write a book that I’d use myself. I adore noodles and have them at least twice a week, but I found I’d been relying on a few staples and there was a whole world of noodle dishes out there that I should try – and I hate missing out.”

MiMi’s Sidcup tips

“I adore Carnivore Foods on Main Road – a wonderful butchers run by Richard Douglas and his nephew Ryan.

“Their meat is incredible, and they also have a fab deli counter where I can snaffle Scotch eggs and pork pies. They were a god-send when I was testing recipes for the book and they can order anything in.

“Moghul in the High Street does really good, refined Indian food and I’m also a fan of Italian cafe La Cantina a bit further up the High Street.

“One of my favourite shops is the recently-opened Sidcup and Co which gathers all sorts of artisan traders together – I bought the prettiest handbag from there last week for only £20.”

Noodle! is published by Absolute Press

Follow MiMi on Twitter at @meemalee

This article originally appeared in the News Shopper. Visit newshopper.co.uk

Goldsmiths Prize winner Eimear McBride scoops the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

The first ever winner of the Goldsmiths Prize also scooped the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction last night (June 4).

Debut author Eimear McBride beat literary heavyweights such as Donna Tartt for her book, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing.

The novel – which took a decade to get published – was inspired by her experience of nursing her brother who suffered a brain tumour.

After many years of rejection, the book was picked up by independent publishers Galley Beggar Press and was thrust into the spotlight when Eimear won the Goldsmiths Prize last November.

The 37-year-old spoke to News Shopper after she won the award at the New Cross-based university about how difficult it was to find a publisher.

She said: “It only took six months to write but I spent around nine or ten years trying to get a publisher.

“Most said it was too difficult and not populist enough.

“My biggest tip for budding writers is discipline.”

She said the prize was “imaginative” and “nothing less than I would expect from Goldsmiths”.

The university, which runs a busy schedule of events from its Writers’ Centre, headed by Blake Morrison, was also praised by the publishers last night for recognising the novel’s potential so early on.

They tweeted from their @GalleyBeggars account, after the announcement of the Baileys Prize at the Royal Festival Hall: “Huge thanks too, to @GoldsmithsPrize – who recognised A Girl for the gem it is and has given prizes a push back in the right direction.”

Baileys Prize chair of judges Helen Fraser said: “This is an extraordinary new voice – this novel will move and astonish the reader.”

The shortlist also included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Americanah, Hannah Kent for Burial Rites, Jhumpa Lahiri for The Lowland, Audrey Magee for The Undertaking, and Donna Tartt for The Goldfinch.

Eimear is now working on her second novel.

Visit gold.ac.uk/goldsmiths-prize/ or womensprizeforfiction.co.uk


Debut novelist Zoe Pilger: ‘Amersham Arms in New Cross inspired me’

A Goldsmiths student and debut novelist has revealed how the Amersham Arms’ ‘Take Courage’ sign helped fulfill her dream to be a writer.

Zoe Pilger sent shockwaves through the literary community with her electric debut novel Eat My Heart Out.

Her book focuses on Ann-Marie, a hedonistic 23-year-old who ricochets from student heartbreak to a Little Mermaid-themed party in a warehouse with some kinky sex and burlesque embarrassments thrown in along the way.

Zoe, who is also an art critic for the Independent, told Vibe she was taken aback by the reaction to her novel.

News Shopper: Goldsmiths student Zoe Pilger

The homegrown south Londoner, who went to school in Tooting, said: “I have been surprised about how much men seemed to like it.

“My friend was telling me the other day how he feels like he is Ann-Marie, trapped in the body of a 35-year-old man.

“It’s all about being adventurous and curious and young.”

The 29-year-old has been a fan of the New Cross-based university, Goldsmiths, for a long time.

She said: “I first knew it when we would drive past it when my mum would take me back to Cambridge each term. I’d look out the window and wish I went there.

“It’s everything you want from a university because it enables you to do what you want.

“I enjoy the New Cross pubs and was in the Marquis of Granby just the other night.

“I loved seeing the ‘Take Courage’ sign above the Amersham Arms when I’d come into New Cross station each day.

“It really inspired me when I was hoping to become a novelist and I would see that every morning.”

The author recommended budding writers have faith.

She said: “My main tip is not to give up.

“I often wonder to myself why I’m doing it especially, when I’m sitting in a dark room fantasising about all these things and my friends are all down the pub.”

Zoe is researching a PhD on the concept of romantic subjection in the work of French artist Sophie Calle at Goldsmiths where she has also taught social and political theory.

She received an MA from the university in 2010 as well after getting a BA from Cambridge in 2007.

Zoe was also featured in News Shopper’s sister paper The Wandsworth Guardian back in 2001 for coming in the top five in the country for her English Literature GCSE result at Graveney School.

Eat My Heart Out costs £11.99 and is published by Serpent’s Tail.

Visit zoepilger.co.uk