Write a lot for work? Or had a long break from fiction? How do you get your fiction voice back?
Changing places: (when) should you disguise the place you're writing about?

Writing Historical Fiction, Creative Darwins, The Genre Swap and other stories

There seems to have been a lot going on, lately, and if the blog's been a bit quiet, that's why. I'm up to my neck in the last work on Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction. It's due out mid-Autumn and, as ever, even when I've been living with a project for years, I can't quite believe that it is about to become a Real Book, but all the signs are there!

And historical fiction's a bit of a theme elsewhere. Also in the autumn, I'll be heading down to Leith Hill Place, the lovely house where Ralph Vaughan Williams grew up, which is now owned by the National Trust. Not a lot of people know that RVW is one of bigger and more beautiful leaves on the Darwin-Wedgwood family tree, and Leith Hill Place centres its events on music and the arts. I've been  asked to give a talk, and a writing workshop, and it would be lovely to see any blog readers who felt like coming. And before that - yes - it's time for York, and after that I'll be off to Harrogate.

CREATIVE DARWINS: the Darwin-Wedgwood clan in Science and the Arts

Saturday 26th September, 2.30-3.30pm
An illustrated talk drawing on family letters, books and stories, as well as my own experience as a writer and teacher. Everyone knows about Charles Darwin, and many know that from his grandfather Erasmus, down to this century, the Darwin family has been full of scientists. But fewer people know that the poet and revolutionary John Cornford was a Darwin, as were Ralph Vaughan Williams and his cousin, painter Robin Darwin, who was Principal of the Royal College of Art. A fascinating exploration of how creative thinking ignores the boundaries between science and the arts.


Saturday 10th October, 10am-4pm
How do you root your fiction in history, without getting stuck in the mud? How do you make characters come alive across the centuries? How do you tell a great story when you have to look everything up? In this intensive and practical one-day workshop, I will help you tackle the challenges of setting your fiction in the past. We'll explore period voice and language, characterisation and structure, as well as how to find and handle researched material so your novel doesn't turn into a history book, and the particular problems of using real historical characters. The course includes one-to-one feedback on your writing, all in the inspirational setting of historic Leith Hill Place. Lunch included.


Writers Aloud is the newest venture by the RLF, as it celebrates its  225th birthday. Not content with supporting writers who are going through hard times, and giving me the nicest job I've ever had, as a Fellow first at Goldsmiths and then as the first Fellow in a new post at the Royal College of Music, is also developing an archive of recordings of writers talking about their work.

I've recorded a short piece on Why I Write for them, and a more extended series of three podcasts, The Genre Swap: you can listen online, or download to listen later on your computer/tablet/phone. My fellow Fellow at Goldsmiths, Annie Caulfield, is a playwright who has been trying to write a novel. I am a novelist who's been trying to teach herself to write plays. So in the podcasts we take turns to teach each other. It was a lot of fun to record and I learnt huge amounts from Annie: I only hope she learnt as much from me, and anyone who listens also finds what we talked - and laughed! about useful too. 

Part One: in which I discuss with Annie about how to write a novel
Part Two: in which Annie discusses with me how to write a radio play
Part Three: in which we meet six months later, to see how we got on


Friday 4th - Sunday 6th September
As ever, the programme is packed with talks, workshops, authors, writers, insights, highs, thrills, panics, fears, hopes, dreams and lots and lots of talking. Oh, and drinking. And eating. And writing. On the Friday Debi Alper and I are joining together for a mini-course on Self-Editing Your Novel, covering in four hours all the topics that we explore in more depth in the online course. I'm Book Doctoring one-to-one on the Saturday, and on Sunday giving workshops on Writing Sex, and Historical Fiction. After which I shall collapse onto a train home, for reasons which you'll understand if you browse through my impressions of past York Festivals.


Thursday 22nd - Sunday 25th October
The programme for 2015 isn't up yet, but I'll be there, teaching a workshop on writing historical fiction, chairing a panel of authors whose work I love, and generally enjoying this major gathering of the clan. For some impressions of the inaugural festival a couple of years ago, click here.

As ever, even among all these more public things, I still most love working one-to-one with writers, so if you think I could help with your fiction (historical or otherwise) or creative non-fiction (I have a strong interest in life writing) then do get in touch. Click through to This Itch of Writing: The Studio, or use the email link in the sidebar.