Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Writing is like tennis

My husband is mad about tennis so I often have to resort to similes to explain my position.

Cooking the dinner is like tennis, you have to peel a few carrots to... Bringing in the clothes off the line is like tennis...

Strangely enough he always listens when I mention the word.

Tonight I realised that writing is like tennis. You work on your forehand, your backhand, your service. You warm up. You learn how to keep the score. Then you put it all together to play a match and it can be surprising how it all comes together.

Tonight I played my first real tennis match and won! (I filled in for the A-team a couple of weeks ago and lost badly, but I don't count that.)

The hardest part was actually deciding to put my name down for the competition but now I'm glad I did.

It's easy to work on the craft of writing and let the years roll by. It's easy to read the how-to books, analyse, edit. But it's a big step to actually send off that first query. I was planning to send it out in January, then February, then March. I can't believe April has come and gone and I still haven't managed to submit. But I will. In May. Am excited and petrified at the same time.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Writers & Artists (Bloomsbury) Shortlisted

Great news this week:

Delighted to see that my flash fiction piece 'Trumpet Dreams'  has been shortlisted in the Writers & Artists Flash Fiction Competition. Told in just 200 words, the theme was 'the quest for belonging' and I eagerly await the results on Monday.



I'd been dithering about social networking, but I've finally made a tentative step into Twitterland (find me @hilary_mcgrath). It's very hard to decide just how much time and energy to put into blogs, twitter and writers’ forums. I'd resisted until now because I already have my writers’ group—and let’s not forget the actual writing—and somewhere in the background I seem to remember a family and a life.
Alas! I succumbed because I feel I need to glean all the information available. I need to know the names of all the important agents and editors and their most recent books. I used to question whether I'd read enough of the Greats, now I worry about the latest trends in book publishing. Is reading for pleasure even allowed anymore?*
Every writer must struggle with this problem to some extent. Yet, having been on Twitter for just a day, I dig the serendipity--I decided to follow @Writers_Artists and discovered in doing so that the flash fiction piece I entered in their competition has been shortlisted. Sweet!

*Must ask my two friends on Twitter...

Edited to add:

My story didn't make the top 3 in the Writers&Artists (Bloomsbury) competition but am still very pleased to have made the shortlist. Congatulations to the winners.




Monday, 8 April 2013

Finding a Literary Agent

As if the writing (and editing, ripping to shreds and starting again, rereading, rewriting etc) wasn't hard enough, the next huge hurdle is to find a literary agent.

Not only do you need to have a perfect query letter, synopsis and sample pages (backed up by a perfect manuscript), you also need to query the right agent at the right time.

Which is why I'd like to offer my congratulations to my sister Paula* (find her here at ViewReview) on finding an agent and hope it leads to the publication of her first novel very soon.

*Last seen running out the door shouting ‘I’m just doing coffee with my agent.’

Writer Nathan Bransford had these Wise words to say about finding an agent:

There are many ways of going about this, and, believe it or not, none of them involve telling an agent they're a cutiepatootie.


Monday, 1 April 2013

Spanish Progress Report

Time for an update on my Spanish learning    

Language CDs:  

As is often the case with new years' resolutions, the novelty has begun to wear off  by now and I wonder if I'm going to succeed. I managed to listen to my language CDs for two months but really lost interest in March. I do notice progress though when I listen to conversations that seemed impossible on first hearing, but now I can understand them fairly well. 

 amaral -  (Una pequeña parte del mundo)
Having learned the words of one song off by heart, I'm confident that if I’m ever in Spain and need to say ‘I would come back to find you in my time machine’, I’m sorted! Music is helpful for practising pronunciation and intonation, and some of the vocabulary is useful. I'm not that sure I'll find a use for 'time machine' but who knows? Some day I’ll drop it into conversation while nibbling tapas before a bullfight, and I’ll think of this. Overall, learning through music is a positive experience and I'm going to buy the Amaral album and listen to that in the car instead. 

I've made several attempts to chat on forums in Spanish, with my Spanish-English dictionary to hand and using very simple constructions. I've been able to make myself understood. The advantage over actual conversations is that you have the time to respond. From the SpanishDict site I've also been receiving the 'Word of the Day' by email.

To begin with, I'm concentrating on reading books in English about Spain rather than actually reading a novel in Spanish. I've started 'Guernica' by Dave Boling, which is proving to be an interesting read. I love the cover picture too. Next up will be 'Ghosts of Spain' by Giles Tremlett.


January: Language CDs
February: Language CDs, Music
March: Forums, Books

My plan for April: 

I'm hoping to watch a couple of Spanish films, over and over, to really absorb the language and intonation. I do need some good recommendations first though.