Library thing

A few years ago I wrote a post on another blog reminiscing about joining the library when I was a child and had already read everything on the book shelf we had in our classroom.

I was seven and the librarian informed my father I wasn’t eligible to join until I was ten. Fortunately, my teacher somehow persuaded them it was a good thing for a library to encourage children to read and I was given my first library card. Remember the little cardboard pocket into which went the ticket from the book being borrowed?

A library

For the love of your library

My love for the library was born the first time I stood in silent awe (in those days, of course, libraries were silent places – but why would anyone need to chat when faced with the delicious task of choosing books?) in front of the shelves of books, literally spoilt for choice. Going to the library became the highlight of my week. Over the years, the library gave me freedom – to inhabit other worlds, to go on adventures, to lose myself in the joy of reading. ‘Going to the library’ was always something I was allowed to do without having to answer twenty questions on the who with, what will you be doing, when will you back theme.

I was reminded of all this when on Rosie Amber’s blog the other day (she has an excellent book review site) she mentioned how infrequently she now uses her local library since she became a book reviewer. This sparked a lively conversation in the comments section, which got me thinking. In my blog post of a few years ago I confessed my library membership had lapsed but, alarmed by the threats to close libraries all over the place, I had re-joined.

The post received a good few comments and I think I possibly felt more than a little smug about my role in saving our library from closure. All of this, however, was before I fell in love with my Kindle. It was a gift, given by the DH after the nightmare of my running out of books on holiday abroad. This was never to be allowed to happen again. And it hasn’t.

On the other hand, reading Rosie Amber’s post made me realise I have not visited my local library for a considerable time. I’m not quite sure why this is so. I still love the feel of a print book in my hand and when I was Christmas shopping on Amazon, treated myself to a few new books – there is nothing quite like the smell of a new book! And if I’m doing research my first port of call tends to be Google.

People still use their local libraries but they borrow far fewer books than they did when I joined at the age of seven – but that WAS over 50 years ago. Interestingly, Scotland now has its first national strategy for public libraries which includes 18 recommendations which include ensuring wifi is available in every library, developing partnerships with advice services, job centres and enterprise groups and exploring alternative approaches for generating financial investment. I didn’t actually see the word ‘books’ mentioned.

Has the time come to stop being nostalgic about public libraries and what they have meant to us? Let the local authorities continue to reduce the opening hours to save money and change them into something else? Is it too late to go and find where I put my library card?

Getting started

I thought I’d start 2016 and my part of this great new blog space with an attempt to respond to the words I hear so often – ‘I don’t know where to get started writing a book’.

The timing of this new blog is great because I’m setting out on a new journey myself. That is to say, I’m starting to write a new book and I thought I might share some if that with you here.

For those of you who want to write, getting started is surprisingly simple… just sit down with whatever writing implement you prefer and write something down. It really doesn’t matter what you write. Just write something.

Although I write the actual chapters on a computer, each book gets its own new notebook. Coloured pencils and post-it notes are essential too. More about that in a later blog.

Although I write the actual chapters on a computer, each book gets its own new notebook. Coloured pencils and post-it notes are essential too. More about that in a later blog.

A blank page can be quite intimidating, even for those of us who have published a few books or stories or articles. Or even a lot of them. A blank page is all about the possibility of failure. Whereas a page with words on it – any words – is writing.

Still haven’t started? Ok, here’s a question. What do you want to write? No. Don’t say it out loud… write it down. ‘I want to write books about XXXXX’ ‘I want to write romance or crime.’ ‘I want to write books for children.’ ‘I want to write about the lifecycle of wasps.’ Or whatever.

Now look at that page. It has words on it and you have started.

Of course there’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s more or less how I start all my books. I decide what I want to write about. I might decide to write about loss and grief, or about friendships between women. Sometimes it’s a writing challenge I set myself. Can I set a book in one small enclosed space and make it work? Or can I write a book that makes people cry (in a good way).

Whatever it is you have written on that page, it must be something that interests and excites you. Then you can pass on that excitement to your readers.

There’s a lot of technique to writing. Just like someone who works with wood, we need tools to help us build things – in this case our books. That sort of thing can be learned if you go to writing groups or conferences of workshops. But the most important thing – the underlying passion – that’s yours alone.

retreat

And now for the shameless self-promotion. In 2016 I am tutoring at two writing retreats at Stratford Upon Avon – that’s right, Shakespeare country. My co-tutor for the event is the brilliant Alison May. The retreats are designed to teach the tools of our trade, and to give writers time and inspiration to lift their writing career to the next level… whether you are new to this exciting world or even if you have some work under your belt. A weekend with other writers is the best way to refresh and inspire yourself.

If you are interested in such a retreat – you can find out about it here…

And in the meantime, I’ll be back soon, with more thoughts on writing.

Writing Together – How Does It Work?

Hi, my name’s Lorraine Campbell and together with my sister Pam Burks, I write women’s fiction under the name of Ellie Campbell, blending contemporary themes with humor, drama, romance and mystery.  As introduction I want to answer the question everyone seems to ask us:

blog post 1

How the hell do you manage writing together?

Well, we can’t answer for other writing teams but perhaps it’s no coincidence that they’re often intimately connected — husband and wife (Nicci French, Dick Francis), father and son (Dick Francis again), mother and daughter (Lily Herne, P.J. Tracy), mother and son (Charles Todd). Even Ellery Queen’s famous mysteries were written by two cousins.

Pam and Lorraine 3 and 5

You might say Pam and I started collaborating since we were 3 and 5. Poor Pam, as youngest was coerced to play Robin to my Batman, Tonto to my Lone Ranger, Will Scarlett to my Robin Hood, as we rampaged around Edinburgh, sharing fantasy adventures and laughs, while defeating countless ‘baddies’. And no doubt the sibling power struggle kept the creative juices flowing just as they do today. So after each had published about 70 short stories independently, it wasn’t such a far stretch to decide to team up for a longer work.

It probably helps too that Pam and I live thousands of miles apart, sending our master script by email, thrashing out plots by telephone. Imagine the sisterly tensions and squabbles if we shared an office! The mighty Atlantic softens disagreements, provides time to reflect on the story’s needs, rather than cling to some precious piece of writing or preconceived notions of a scene or character.

Pam and Lorraine photo boothPam and Lorraine Photobooth 2

As anyone with a great editor can affirm, a change or cut may feel like a limb amputation and yet be the making of the manuscript. Neither of us would push something the other hated but we let the little things slide. We share a common goal – to write the best story our joined minds can produce. Even if that means ruthlessly going ahead and killing each other’s darlings as well as our own.

And now for the best bit – it’s fun!

We laugh, spark up ideas, offer encouragement. It’s rewarding not to wait until the book’s end before someone appreciates that hilarious or heart wrenching scene you struggled with. It’s great to be able to turn the work over to your partner, to admit, ‘Help, I’m stuck, can you think of anything for this?’ and exciting to see what comes through email each day.

If novel-writing is a marathon, with our seven hour time difference, we are running a relay race, passing on the baton as one goes to bed and the other arises. With social media, Pam is better at keeping up with our Twitter and Facebook followers and I write many of the blog posts. We hope the enjoyment and stimulation we feel seeps into our writing.  And so far, with 5 novels published and another coming out in early 2016, ‘Ellie Campbell’ has provided a common ground, a shared voice and an extra bond to two wayward sisters.

Our First (and only) Book Launch

Why I love Readers

Obviously, I love my readers. They send me nice messages on Twitter and Facebook, they post fabulous reviews on Amazon and Goodreads – and they buy my books or borrow them from libraries. I think of my readers whenever I write. Is this right for them? Will they like that? One of my writing missions is to try and stop my readers putting out the light at the end of a chapter.

To be a writer in the age of communication is a privilege, because receiving a nice message from a reader makes my day, and I always reply. Sometimes readers message my characters so I reply on his or her behalf, too.

BookswebBut I have a hugeHeart affection for all readers of all genres/books/magazines/authors. Without them (or I should say ‘us’ as reading is one of my greatest and abiding pleasures) the publishing industry wouldn’t exist. That thought almost makes me need to lie down! Apart from being a vital part of the economy, the publishing industry is a massive part of my life. And all those parties, conferences, RNAconf15webconventions, meetings, talks, workshops, lunches and dinners that I love are attached to it. To be an author isn’t just a job to me, as working in a bank used to be. Being an author is a way of life. It’s a life I wouldn’t have without readers.

Another scary thought is that had I been born a couple of hundred years ago I probably wouldn’t have been able to read. Education wasn’t a right, few women were educated, and those who were often came from a moneyed family. Stories were told, acted out or sung, but for me that would never match up to the intimate world of being alone with the characters in a novel. Books can be read at my own speed and picked up and put down to suit my day; I never have to miss a bit or hurry to arrive on time.

Whether it’s in my armchair, over a meal, travelling, waiting for an appointment, in bed, on holiday, I love to fall into other worlds and see what’s happening there. Reading, and readers, rock!

TWP_Thumbnail copyCOMPETITION: To be in with the chance to win a signed copy of my latest book, The Wedding Proposal, post on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtags #readsuemoorcroft5 and #take5authors and tell me your favourite place to read. Closing date 16 January 2016 and I’ll choose a winner on the 17th. Good luck!