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What I learnt, as a writer, about writing, from A S Byatt's Possession

Spring Roundup: Pinterest, the Postiversary, and other stories

It must be spring in the air: I'm fantastically busy on various fronts, but some of them might be relevant to all you lovely blog-readers, so here goes.

Since October I've been absolutely loving my RLF Fellowship at Goldsmiths; it's been some of the most rewarding and enjoyable teaching I've ever done, so I'm delighted that playwright Annie Caulfield and I will again be there next year. Our job is to help with academic writing across the full spectrum of the College, from first years to PhDs and staff, from Fine Art to Social Work and Anthropology. I am planning an occasional series on academic writing, since I know quite a few blog-readers would be interested. And the RLF's website has excellent resources on academic writing, although you do need to do a bit of digging to find it all.

The York Festival of Writing 2013 is on the 13-15th September. I'll be there as usual - as will Debi, several hundred writers, and a hundred or so authors, agents and publishers - and I'll be teaching a half-day mini-course and several workshops, although exactly what hasn't yet been settled (did I say I've been a bit busy?). It's always a fantastic weekend, and if you want to get the flavour, there's a great video here, which was made last year.

I've been playing around with Pinterest, assembling a "board" each for The Mathematics of Love, and A Secret Alchemy. The idea is partly to have somewhere for readers who are tickled by the real life correspondences in the novels, and partly perhaps to pick up the occasional interest from someone browsing Pinterest who didn't know that my novels existed. The boards are very much work-in-progress, and I've sometimes raged against the assumption that novels simply represent Real Stuff. But I shall gently add more images, since it's a lot of fun, perfect procrastination, and I do feel they're adding something that hasn't quite been get-attable before.

Some of my friends do boards for works-in-progress, but I don't talk detail about what I'm working on. That's partly because once I start I'm not very good at stopping and I'm fond of my friends, and partly so as not to "talk it out". But most of all it's because other people's reactions at this thinking-dreaming stage often not helpful, however well-intentioned or merely interested. 

But when I got onto Pinterest I discovered that you can have "secret" boards, which only you can see. And compared to files on the PC and folders on my desk, it's a really easy way to collect together images, complete with links to their origins, and see them all at once.  So I've made a secret board for the WIP and, when the W is no longer in P, I shall simply turn the board to "public".

At the Historical Novel Society Conference 2012, I took part in a panel discussion called The Lying Art: Tensions and Issues at the Fact/Fiction Interface, and it was recorded. The authors on the panel were Elizabeth Chadwick, Ian Mortimer (when he's being a historian, James Forrester when he's being a novelist), Barbara Ewing, Daisy Godwin, Harry Sidebottom and yours truly, and it was a really lively discussion with lots of disagreeing!

Obviously it might interest anyone writing historical fiction, but it's also very relevant to anyone who's grappling with the perennial questions that come up when you're using real factual material in your fiction - what you must be faithful to, what you can change, what you can ignore.

You may know that I co-teach an online course on Self-Editing Your Novel with Debi Alper. It's a six-week course based on a private bit of the Writers' Workshop Word Cloud. We developed it together, over a hundred writers have "graduated" from it, and this week we're in the thick of the seventh course. As ever, it's being huge fun, and then on a thread which a Word Clouder started about writing courses in general, our course was mentioned. And such was the reaction from graduates that I can't resist posting a link to what they said here. And one of the participants last time has even drawn a comic strip to show (and tell) what she got from it.

and finally...

We're coming up to the 500th Postiversary on This Itch of Writing - at least, we are if you don't count the various posts that were just administrative. Once I'd recovered from the shock of realising that this has actually happened - can it really be? - I decided to have a competition to celebrate, and some kind colleagues have come up with some fantastic prizes. But did I mention that I'm horribly busy? At least until the end of term for my RLF Fellowship at Goldsmiths, and the end of the Open University Creative Writing Course A215, that is. So, since the whole point of blogging is that I can fit it round the rest of my life, it'll be a few weeks until I actually post the competition. Watch this space...

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