Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

Category: Imagine Page 1 of 3

8 Tips for Getting Down to Writing

One of the questions I’m asked the most, as both an author and a creative writing tutor, is

How do I actually get down to writing?

Let’s face it, there are a million and one plausible excuses not to sit and write. Most of them will be genuine- some will be sheer prevarication!

Not being able to write because you work long shifts, have children at home, pets that need walking, are ill…GOOD REASONS

Not writing because there’s a television show you’re keen to see or because you need to wash curtains- EXCUSES!

If you are having trouble knuckling down – especially if you’re new to writing, ASK YOURSELF IF THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO – if it is- read on!

Writing is a lot of fun, but you can’t escape the fact it takes discipline.

Here are my top 8 tips to getting down to writing!

Find your place.

Try working in different locations- at home, a cafe, a library etc- experiment with locations until you find the correct comfort zone for you and your writing.

Find you writing time and claim it as your own- even if it is only one hour a week.

Some people are at their most creative in the mornings, some in the evenings. If you are not tied by work hours, try out different times of day to write to discover when the words flow the best. If time is limited, label one hour (or even just 30 mins) a day as YOURS. Be brave enough to be selfish about it- this is YOUR WRITING TIME.

Get up earlier- stay up later- barricade yourself into your bedroom for an hour straight after work…whatever works best for you.

If you can’t write during your ‘writing time’- still keep that time as your own.

Sometimes the muse won’t come, however much you want it to. Keep that time as yours. Plot/plan/scribble/walk/polish your pens! Once you give it up once, it’ll be easier to give it up again- and you’ll lose it.

Turn distractions into stories

It you’re distracted by something- turn it into a short story or writing exercise. Make it work for you as a warming up exercise.

If you make a deadline- STICK TO IT

It’s so easy- especially before you’re contracted for work- to write with no deadlines. As soon as that happens you can be tempted to give up on your writing time. Make a deadline- stick to it.

Focus on the end result- think about what you want to achieve.

Always think of the big picture. This is your dream!

Keep your favourite food and drink handy.

Writing is hard work. Make sure you stay hydrated and don’t get peckish or your concentration will waver.

Allow yourself rewards. Bribe yourself if necessary!

Whatever it takes to keep that bum on that seat! Promise yourself a walk, a chocolate bar, a glass of wine for every section/chapter written

When the book is finished, treat yourself to that jumper you want, that trip to the takeaway, a meal out, a concert ticket… You will have earned it!

***

Having writing everyone,

Jenny

www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk 

The Guilt Monster

This week I had the privilege of returning to the Imagine writing retreat at Northmoor House on Exmoor.

As retreat co-runner and writing trouble shooter, with my Imagine business partner, Alison Knight, I enjoyed the stunning countryside that surrounds Northmoor – an unspoilt Victorian manor house. It was wonderful to be in such a peaceful place with the excellent company of a number of fellow writers- many of whom are Imagine students.

On Tuesday evening we were joined by our guest speaker – novelist and all round lovely person, Kate Lord Brown. Kate gave a fabulous talk and workshop on the theme of inspirations. She also got us to think about our inner critics- including asking us to write down what they looked like.

I’ve never known a writer who was without an inner critic sitting on their shoulder. Most authors I’ve met have at least some level of imposter syndrome. But I had never considered turning these ‘critics’ into beings that we could- once personified- vanquish to the far corners of our minds.

As my fellow writers began to jot down descriptions of their critics, I was hit by two sensations. The first was that I don’t have an inner critic- I have an outer one- Me- and I never stop giving myself a hard time. The second realisation was that it isn’t so much criticism, as guilt.

I have an inner Guilt Monster. (Deserving of the capital letters.)

It’s voice never stops arguing with me…

You should work harder (I work 14 hr days – I overwork- but then I love my job)

You ought to be doing the job I trained for and earn a proper wage (I was never confident as a lecturer- I always assumed I knew nothing- yes, even historian me had an inner critic…)

You’re too nice to make it in the cut and thrust world of book sales (I have been conned by past publishers a lot because I’m so trusting- so can’t argue with my Guilt Monster on that one)

Even working as a trolley collector in the local supermarket would more than treble your hourly rate (I love my job, and I’m not into “owning stuff.”)

You aren’t good enough to make it (I’ve had 16 Amazon bestsellers)

I could go on….

I’m not sharing this with you to play for sympathy (I hate the poor-bugger-me syndrome that can go with this stuff), but to say how thankful I am to Kate Lord Brown for making me stop and think about this, frankly, ridiculous self-imposed, situation.

I think it would be unrealistic to ask myself to lose the insecurity factor. I honestly think I need it – I need to get nervous before a gig or anxious before a workshop – it drives me on- stops me being complacent, and so keeps me primed to always work my hardest to deliver the best I can for the people who rely on me- and to write the best books I can.

The Guilt Monster however, has to go.

I can see him now – and it is a him (I have no idea why, it really ought to be female – I can’t even get that right!!!)

He’s sort of green and has shaggy hair all over. He’s wearing a silly red and blue hat…I don’t know why. And he looks cross…and disappointed.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go out for a walk- with luck he’ll fall off my shoulder as I go. If he doesn’t look like he wants to let go, then I think I might give him a push

The Imagine retreat was brilliant…and as you can tell- thought provoking…

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

How to Write Short Stories by Ashley Lister

I’m honoured to have the brilliant Ashley Lister with me today, to talk about his forthcoming creative writing book, How to Write Short Stories.

I’ve had the pleasure of being taught by Ashley – and having taught him in return. He is a wonderful writer, poet, creative writing lecturer, and a right good chap…

Over to you Ashley…

To my mind, short stories are different from any other kind of writing.

Not only is the short story shorter than the novel, but the novel is allowed to ramble and take the reader on digressions. A short story can’t get away with that. If we’re reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, we’re reading a story where every word must count. There is no scope for the main character to have thoughts on the weather, local politics, or the imagined shoe sizes of indigenous otters. The main character can’t take a trip to B&Q and study wallpaper swatches in the hope of redecorating. Every syllable in the short story needs to stay focused on the purpose of that narrative.

Poetry shares this specificity of restrained vocabulary, where every syllable is vital to the message being conveyed. But poetry is invariably shorter, and to my mind, unlike short stories, good poetry usually has a rhyme such as the one below:

There was an old woman from Hyde
Who ate rotten apples and died
The apples fermented
Inside the lamented
And made cider, inside her insides.

All of which is my way of saying that the short story is unlike any other form of literature out there. I say this with fondness in my voice because I genuinely love the short story. I’ve written hundreds of short stories; I’ve obtained a PhD based on a thesis I wrote about short stories; and now I’ve published a book explaining how to write short stories.

How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published is the essential guide to writing short fiction. It takes the aspiring writer from their initial idea through to potential outlets for publication and pitching proposals to publishers.

Along the journey this guide considers the most important aspects of creative writing, such as character, plot, point of view, description and dialogue. All of these areas are illustrated with examples of classic fiction, and accompanied by exercises that will help every writer hone their natural skill and talent into the ability to craft compelling short stories.

How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published is due out in December of 2019. It’s published by Little Brown and you can pre-order your copy using this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1472143787/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_fpDlDbM5CS66H

Today, because my good friend Jenny invited me to write a blog post about my forthcoming book, I thought it would be prudent to share five tips for short story writing.

  1. Read good stories. Read people who know what they’re doing with a pen. If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely that you’re already familiar with the writing of Jenny Kane/Jennifer Ash: read her books and watch how she demonstrates her mastery of the craft. There is a balance between description and action. There is a strong use of character and dialogue. Watch how she does this, make notes, and try to emulate this sophisticated style of writing.
  2. Read rubbish stories. Like a lot of parents people, I’ve sat through some bloody awful films that my child thought would be entertaining (such as Theodore Rex, and The Cat in the Hat). Rather than grumbling about this, or trying to sleep or better my score on Candy Crush, I’ve used this as a learning experience. What don’t I like about the film? Is the dialogue too stilted? Am I having difficulty empathising with the characters? Is the plot too outrageous? Is the whole thing too dull? I make mental notes as I’m watching and I silently vow to avoid these mistakes in my own writing.
  3. Practice. Writing is a skill. We only develop our skills through practice: therefore it makes sense to practice. Aim for an hour a day if possible. If family, work, or life get in the way of that, steal whatever minutes you can find, and use them to help develop your craft. (I should also mention that my forthcoming book, How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published, includes lots of writing exercises to act as spurs for creativity).
  4. Be honest with yourself. Once you’ve written a story, read through your work and assess whether or not it did what you wanted. If it was a horror story, do you think it frightens? If it’s a romance, will it make your readers feel satisfied in their belief of the power of love? Is it cohesive? Are there parts that work and parts that don’t work? Does it need a little editing or a lot of editing? Being honest is not simply a matter of saying, “That’s brilliant,” or “That’s rubbish.” It’s a matter of saying, “Does this story do its job?” And if not: “What I can do to amend it so that it does do its job?”
  5. Write the stories. Polish the stories. Send the stories out to potential publishers. And, when you get rejected, send the stories out again and again. Writing is not easy. Publishing is even harder. And remaining positive in the face of rejection is damned near impossible. However, if you believe in your writing, and if you approach the market intelligently, there’s no reason why every capable writer shouldn’t be able to get their work to the audience that needs them.

As I mentioned before, How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published is due out in December of 2019. It’s published by Little Brown and you can pre-order your copy using this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1472143787/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_fpDlDbM5CS66H

***

Bio

Ashley Lister is a prolific writer, having written more than fifty full length books and over a hundred short stories. Aside from regularly blogging about poetry and writing in general, Ashley also lectures in creative writing.

***

Many thanks Ashley,

This looks like a must read for any creative writer.

Happy reading- and writing- everyone,

Jenny x

8 Reasons to go on an Imagine writing retreat

Only a few rooms remain! Reserve your place now!

Alison Knight and I are proud to be hosting Imagine’s second writing retreat at Northmoor House.

8 reasons to go on an Imagine Writing Retreat…

1. Writers need writers! No one understands writing and a writer’s life like another writer. Mutual support is the name of the game!

2. Located in the stunning Victorian manor, Northmoor House, Imagine’s retreat gives you the chance to stay in a home untouched by time (Don’t panic, there is Wi-Fi). You can even indulge in the waters of an original Victorian bathtub…don’t forget your bubble bath!

3. With so many of the manor’s period features still in place, Northmoor is the ideal location for sparking inspiration and dreaming up new plotlines.

4. On the edge of Exmoor, near the popular village of Dulverton, there are plenty of beautiful places to explore should you, or any non-writing friends or partners, wish to. There are miles of good walking land on hand. The pre-historic Tarr Steps are but minutes away, and the cafes in Dulverton are excellent. I can personally recommend the poached eggs on crumpets in The Copper Kettle.

Tarr Steps

5. However, you might not want to stray into the village for food because we have employed an excellent local caterer, who is providing a delicious menu that will cater for all dietary requirements. All food is locally sourced.

6. Come along for a confidence boost! At Imagine we pride ourselves on helping everyone to get their words onto the page. We are here for beginners and experts alike.

7. Meet celebrated novelist Kate Lord Brown! Kate will be our guest speaker on the Tuesday evening.

8. Let’s face it – Monday to Friday in a beautiful Victorian Manor, with time to write, all food provided, plus help on tap, a chance to meet Kate Lord Brown, and the opportunity to share writing ideas over a glass of wine (or two) – for only £550 is a BARGAIN.

***

Full details are available at https://www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk/writing-retreats 

If you have any queries please email Alison or myself at imaginecreativewritng@gmail.com

 

Happy writing everyone,

Jenny xx

Checking In

Hello there- long time no see. Or should that be long time no blog?

I admit it- I’ve been neglecting you out there in blog reading land. Life’s been rather on the busy side, and my blog has been the main casualty of the severe ‘lack of time’ that afflicts me.

I’m NOT complaining however. Busy in this particular case means amazing things are happening- not life changing or bank balance saving- but amazing nonetheless.

When I became a writer- by accident- fourteen years ago, I dreamed of writing a book that would keep people reading until 2 o’clock in the morning. I wanted to pen the sort of books where people had to read just one more chapter before they went to sleep. Now, all these years later, although I’d love my future books to do that too (apparently, some of my current books have caused such longed for sleep deprivation), I have new dreams…and it’s those I’m working on at the moment.

The first I can share with you- and that’s my desire to help as many new writers fulfill their writing dreams as I can. To give them the confidence I’ve never had- and to show them that if I can write a book, then they most certainly can!

I’m lucky enough to be part of Imagine– a creative writing business I co-run with fellow writer, Alison Knight. As part of that business we tutor new writers through every part of their novel writing process- and wow- do we have some fantastic students on our books. The world is going to get some stonking new talent on its bookshelves very soon.

There is something rewarding about helping others work to meet their writing dreams. All my students’ talent and hard work belongs to them and them alone. I’m just the cheerleader – although without the pompoms and the dubious chants obviously.

What else am I up to?

Well- my latest novel is drafted. It’s a rom/com set on Exmoor, which should hit all your ‘feel good’ buttons. naturally it includes the odd coffee…and there’s the occasional slice of lemon cake too.

When I have a minute I’ll edit it into shape and tell you much more about it. First, however, I have to do something else…but, I can’t tell you what that is. I wish I could- but I can’t. Although I can say its more Jennifer Ash than Jenny Kane, and it might have a whiff of medieval about it….Then there’s the other thing…also Jennifer Ash-ish…not exactly medieval…not even exactly English…

And then there’s something else as well…

That’s it…no more…my lips are sealed. And yes- I know I’m teasing you, and I know that’s annoying- but I’ve been so quiet lately, I thought I ought to wave a small flag to let you know I’m still here. I promise I’m beavering away at the wordage- even if I can’t tell you what words they are!

Happy reading everyone

Take care,

Jenny x

 

 

8 Reasons to go on an Imagine writing retreat

After the wonderful success of our trip to Northmoor House last October, Alison Knight and I are proud to open the booking for Imagine’s second writing retreat…

8 reasons to go on an Imagine Writing Retreat…

1. Writers need writers! No one understands writing and a writer’s life like another writer. Mutual support is the name of the game!

2. Located in the stunning Victorian manor, Northmoor House, Imagine’s retreat gives you the chance to stay in a home untouched by time (Don’t panic, there is Wi-Fi). You can even indulge in the waters of an original Victorian bathtub…don’t forget your bubble bath!

3. With so many of the manor’s period features still in place, Northmoor is the ideal location for sparking inspiration and dreaming up new plotlines.

4. On the edge of Exmoor, near the popular village of Dulverton, there are plenty of beautiful places to explore should you, or any non-writing friends or partners, wish to. There are miles of good walking land on hand. The pre-historic Tarr Steps are but minutes away, and the cafes in Dulverton are excellent. I can personally recommend the poached eggs on crumpets in The Copper Kettle.

Tarr Steps

5. However, you might not want to stray into the village for food because we have employed an excellent local caterer, who is providing a delicious menu that will cater for all dietary requirements. All food is locally sourced.

6. Come along for a confidence boost! At Imagine we pride ourselves on helping everyone to get their words onto the page. We are here for beginners and experts alike.

7. Meet celebrated novelist Kate Lord Brown! Kate will be our guest speaker on the Tuesday evening.

8. Let’s face it – Monday to Friday in a beautiful Victorian Manor, with time to write, all food provided, plus help on tap, a chance to meet Kate Lord Brown, and the opportunity to share writing ideas over a glass of wine (or two) – for only £550 (£50 less if you book before 28th February) is a BARGAIN.

***

Full details are available at https://www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk/writing-retreats 

If you have any queries please email Alison or myself at imaginecreativewritng@gmail.com

 

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT ENDS ON 28th FEB 2019

Happy writing everyone,

Jenny xx

Imagine Retreating

Last week, in the beautiful autumn sunshine, the first Imagine writing retreat to took place at Northmoor House, Exmoor – and what a week it was!

With 6 full-week guests,  4 part-week visitors and 2 very special guests (FaberFaber novelist Kate Griffin and Bloosmbury children’s writer, Dan Metcalf), it was nonstop creativity- be it writing, thinking, reading, tutoring or drawing.

Most of all, it was fantastic to be with so many talented folk in such incredible surroundings.

Our days were split into mealtimes (delicious food was provided by the brilliant Eve- caterer extraordinaire), optional one-to-one tutor sessions with myself or my Imagine partner in crime, Alison Knight, and free time to write.

The most important thing Alison and I wanted to provide at Northmoor, was the freedom to do as much, or as little as each guest wanted. Space to simply be.

Here are just a few photographs of the house, our guests, and a glimpse of the extensive grounds. (With thanks to our guests for sharing these pictures).

Dan Metcalf

Kate Griffin

If you’re sorry you missed out, then keep an eye on the Imagine website. The 2019 retreat date will be posted in the next few weeks.

Thanks to everyone who came along.

It was a joy.

Jenny x

Retreating

It’s time for the Imagine Writing Retreat!

Based in the beautiful Victorian Manor of Northmoor on Exmoor, a small group of writers will be joining myself and my fellow ‘Imaginer’ Alison Knight, for 5 days of writing time, chatter, author talks and – very probably- wine sippage.

I’m banking on being considerably fitter on my return (there are lots of beautiful walks and plenty of stairs up to my attic bedroom)- and, hopefully, I’ll be in a position where my next novel is plotted, my latest proofing commission is complete and all my student workshops for the rest of 2018 are drafted. Do you think maybe I’m asking too much?

Our prime concern however, is to make sure that every single person attending has a fantastic time! We have two amazing guests (Dan Metcalf and Kate Griffin) a quiz, optional one-to-one advice sessions and lots of biscuits. What more could a writer ask?

While I’m on Exmoor the chances of decent Wi-Fi is slim, so there won’t be an Opening Lines blog this week.

If you try to contact me, then please be patient. I will get back to you asap.

See you on the other side…

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

 

A summer of events

The summer, dare I say it, is almost over – and what a busy couple of months it’s been. From children’s writing workshops, to freezing cold festival fields and a singles club- I’ve encountered them all.

There’s no doubt that summer is my busiest time of the year- and the most rewarding.

This year I was lucky enough to teach three children’s writing workshops for Devon Libraries (Cullompton, South Molton and Crediton), as part of the Summer Reading Scheme for 2018, on the subject of ‘Mischief Makers’. I was heartened and impressed by the range of stories the children created and I’m happy to report that the next generation’s imagination is alive and well. (They also have a much firmer grasp on the stories of Dennis the Menace than I do- my memory of the Beano has certainly slipped with age!)

The children of Barnstaple also proved their imagination is in tiptop shape, when I taught a creative writing class at St Anne’s Community Centre (a 10 week series of writing classes for children begins there in September- email me at imaginecreativewriting.com for details).

In July, I was invited to teach a short story writing workshop at the Chudleigh Literary Festival. A wonderful event; I had a great day surrounded by loads of talented writers, special guests and book lovers. Huge thanks to Elizabeth Ducie for inviting me along.

Last weekend I, along with many of my fellow Exeter Author Association members (PJ Reed, Richard Dee, Tracey Norman, Mark Norman and Susie Williamson), returned to Chilcompton for their annual fringe festival.

In 2017, when we attended Chilcompton, it was so hot that some of us suffered from heat sickness. This year that was never going to be a problem. To say it rained doesn’t really do the persistent and heavy downpour that lasted all day, justice.

Dressed as characters from out books, we all looked the part; from elf, to steampunk man, to medieval lady and beyond…however…as we were freezing cold we rather overdid the layers. Six layers in my case- and you can tell!

Never ones to give up easily, the EAA carried on regardless! Our talk audiences were rather smaller than usual, but the smiles were still wide. I had great fun talking to this little gathering about Robin Hood. Fingers crossed for a mild dry day next year!

As well as my usual workshops, my summer events finished off with an author talk to the Young at Heart singles club in St Sidwells, Exeter. Chatting away about how my writing career began was great fun. It soon became clear that a couple of the ladies in the group had always wanted to write, but had never been brave enough. By the time I left one had written the start of a short children’s story, and another had told a whole story via answering random questions. Fantastic!

Thank you to everyone who has hosted both me and my fellow EAA members this summer.

Now- if you’ll excuse me I’d better go and edit my next novel…

Happy reading,

Jenny

2017-2018: New stories and new adventures

Happy New Year!

Here we are again then- another brand new year. A list of potential new year’s resolutions considered- and dismissed- and a determination that this year will be very much better than the one just past are whizzing around our collective minds.

It has to be said that 2017 was an eventful year. My naughty side (Kay Jaybee) had a novella out in January 2017, and then began the process of re-editing all her old novels. Meanwhile, in May my Jenny Kane side saw her second Cornish romance, Abi’s Neighbour, hit the world.

One of the highlights of 2017 has to have been when the amazing Katie Fforde endorsed my work in contemporary fiction, by providing a fantastic quote to be printed on the cover of Abi’s Neighbour. Having been a Katie Fforde fan for many years, this truly was a magic moment for me.

The publication of Abi’s Neighbour, and it’s previously published sister novel, Abi’s House, led to me being invited to the Penzance Literary festival in July. I had so much fun! Not only did I get to sit on a panel with the lovely Liz Fenwick and Teresa Benison, but I was also invited to teach a Life-writing masterclass.

Teresa Beniton, Jenny Kane, Liz Fenwick

A major change came to my writing life in 2017 with the setting up of Imagine – a creative writing workshop business I set up with my friend and fellow author, Alison Knight.  Although we’ve only been in operation since last Spring, we’ve built up a regular following at our classes, and expansion across SW England (and beyond) is afoot.

Not only do we teach group workshops, but we provide one-one classes, and this March we are running our first writing retreat on Exmoor in the stunning Victorian manor of Northmoor. If you want to have a look at all our Imagine information you can find it here- www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk 

This decision to set up a creative writing business was something I’d been considering for some time. In 2017, with so many publishers either failing or cutting back on their lines, it felt that the time was right to add another string to my bow…and talking of bowstrings…

I was extremely luck last year to be asked to write a couple of audio scripts for the brand new series of Robin of Sherwood. As a life long fan of the show, it was particularly wonderful to be able to put words into the mouths of my favourite characters!

Produced by Spiteful Puppet- these new audio tales- narrated by original cast embers- are available now!! https://spitefulpuppet.com/product-category/robin-of-sherwood/  With luck- if enough copies are sold- then I’ll be thinking up some more Robin of Sherwood stories in the future!

photo by Kim Jones

Of course, you can’t have the ups without the downs, and 2017 saw the medieval crime novels I’d promised you, take a step back from publication. The publisher they were lined up with decided to streamline, and not take on any new historical fiction. This meant I had to find a new home for my Jennifer Ash work. While this was a little frustrating, I am delighted to say that a new home for my work has now been found!

Romancing Robin Hood, The Outlaw’s Ransom, and The Winter Outlaw will all be out in the near future- and I’m already hard at work writing Edward’s Outlaw, for release in the Winter. Watch out for a very special announcement about that later in the week…

And what of my contemporary women’s fiction? Well- my next Jenny Kane novel is complete- watch this space…

***

2017 saw many new adventures (I’d never written a script before in my life for a start!)- I wonder what new adventures 2018 holds?

I hope you all have a very happy and exciting 2018.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

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