Writing in Italy … about Italy

I’m feeling fond of Italy this week. There are two reasons:

  1. I’m travelling to Italy on Wednesday to lead the one-week Great Writing course for Arte Umbria. Then I’m staying a second week to lead their writing retreat.
  2. The book I’m writing, currently entitled The Summer of Finding Out and scheduled for publication in May 2018, is set in Umbria, too. In fact, the rear of a small hotel my heroine, Sofia, lives in, bears an uncanny resemblance to the gorgeous terrace, gardens and pool of Arte Umbria‘s venue, Tenuta di Poggiolame, complete with its panoramic view.

Sue Moorcroft at Arte Umbria webThis will be the fifth year I’ve led a course for Arte Umbria and naturally, I’m looking forward to it. Who wouldn’t, when their ‘classroom’ is a sunny terrace?

But I’m also excited about the retreat because I’ll actually be in the book’s setting as I write. I can go into an Italian town to do my research; chat to people who live the Italian way of life; immerse myself in the culture, sounds, smells and sights. I’ve long wanted this experience. When I wrote The Wedding Proposal, set in Malta, the temptation was enormous to go there for a week to write. If I hadn’t been travelling so much that summer anyway, I would have done it, but there were just too many things against the idea at the time. If I recall correctly I attended the RT Booklovers’ Convention in America and taught in France and Italy.Sue working on terrace web

But this time … this time it’s different. I’ve been able to bring my writing schedule and teaching schedule together beautifully. It also marks a change in my life as next year my publishing schedule is so tight that I won’t be teaching anywhere (unless somebody invites me to a great country to do so). But two writing retreats are scheduled for Arte Umbria and I will be there … I wonder if I can pull off being in the midst of a book set in Italy again?

Photo 06-07-2013 14 24 14 (1) web

PS The first booking has already been taken for Arte Umbria‘s writing retreats in 2018. If you’d like to know more or even make your booking, click here for my page on the Arte Umbria website and here for the booking form.

 

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Third Annual Bloggers Bash

This is rather a self-indulgent post as I re-live the Bloggers Bash. I can’t believe it’s already a week since I was in London meeting up with bloggers, some of whom I met last year, some of whom I only knew online and others whose blogs were new to me.

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Here I am with two of the organisers, Geoff le Pard and Ali Isaac

The Bash, now in its third year, is organised by Sacha Black and her minions, Geoff le Pard, Hugh Roberts and Ali Isaac. This year, as well as the presentation of blogging awards in a wide range of categories, the day included presentations and a panel debate – as well as much hugging, socialising, eating cake and a huge amount of chatter and laughter.

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Sally Cronin and I have shared many virtual hugs so it was lovely to meet her and enjoy a real hug at the Bash. Here she is with author and blogger Noelle Granger from the USA

I experienced my usual ‘country bumpkin goes to the big city wobble’ a couple of days before. What if I was left sitting in a corner all by myself? What if I got lost and never made it to the Bash? I dread getting lost in London by jumping on the wrong train on the underground (Glasgow’s underground is so simple. It goes round in a circle so if you miss your stop you sit tight until it comes round again – there’s none of this changing to join other lines) or taking a wrong turning because often I confuse my left with my right.

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Willow and Ruth in the front row with Ellen, who won the inaugural short story competition, sitting behind with Shelley who was second in the Inspirational Blogger category

Anyway, armed with numerous bits of paper with step by step instructions I made it from Euston to Victoria – paying for the tube ticket with a contactless debit card made life easier than queuing. At Victoria I had a bit of a panic when I couldn’t find the exit named on one of my bits of paper – neither could three rail staff. As I approached three police officers coming out of their office, they backed off in a very unfriendly manner. Two of them vanished but I trapped the third between me and a wall as I brandished bits of paper and asked where the particular exit was. He demanded to know where I was going which, at first, I thought was none of his business really but realised when I reluctantly told him that he then knew in which direction to send me.I checked into my overnight accommodation and did a recce with my instructions to find the venue so I’d know where I was going and how long it would take. It was a nice evening so I didn’t mind that I’d walked an extra two miles because I missed a turning. Nice young man in reception looked confused when I asked if this was the venue for tomorrow’s Bloggers Bash. His colleague informed me it was the venue for an International Bloggers Conference.

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Elena, Bash orgnaiser Sacha and Ellen – sorry I practically decapitated you but the smiles are great.

Jessica Norrie and I actually met on the way and introduced ourselves and then we were there being offered welcome hugs by Hugh. Any worries about not finding people to talk to me vanished: despite the fact that the majority of us are complete introverts and usually run a mile from large gatherings the buzz bloggers generate when they get together is quite incredible.

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Sherri, Marjorie and Sally

The awards, for which there were 6,561 votes this year, were announced at intervals during the day – for a full list of winners see Sacha’s blog here.

The presentations by Suzie on how to make money from your blog and Elena on Pinterest were fascinating. Elena made it all sound so easy for a few giddy moments I was convinced I’d reactivate my Pinterest account as soon as I came home. Hmm! A lively debate took place with the panel of Suzie, Elena and Christoph Fischer.

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Adam Dixon and Christoph Fischer in earnest conversation

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Ritu, Steve, both of whom I met last year and Sue. I’ve followed Sue’s wonderful blog for at least two years – and she follows my Goldfish blog – so I was delighted to actually meet her in real life this year.

 

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Thanks to Sally Cronin for sharing this photo of Marjorie, Sherri and me

 

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Another of Sally’s photos showing Willow, Ritu, Sue and Noelle.

Check out the blogs of those who attended (apologies if I missed any) and see what an extraordinary range of topics people blog about.

Ritu – But I Smile Anyway

Shelley – Shelley Wilson

Jessica – Jessica Norrie

Willow – Willowdot21

Graeme – Graeme Cumming Dot Net

Rebecca – If Only I Could Read Faster

Marje – M J Mallon Author (Kyrosmagica)

Lucy – BlondeWriteMore

Sheila – SC Skillman

Noelle – SaylingAway

Sherrie – A View From My Summerhouse

Allie – Allie Potts Writes

Helen – Journey To Ambeth

Mary – My Dad Is A Goldfish

Christoph – Writer Christoph Fischer

Eloise – E. De Sousa

Julie – Julie Lawford

Steve – Sun In Gemini

Alex – Alex Raphael

Ellen – Ellenbest24

Elena – Elena Peters

Davy – Inside The Mind Of Davy D

Lance – Lance Greenfield

Sally – Smorgasbord – Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Icy – Icy Sedgwick

Matt – The Gay Stepdad

Susie – Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride

Adam – Adam Dixon Fiction

Lucia – Rereading Jane Eyre

Alexina – BOOKSTORMER

Ruth – Image & Word

Melanie – Melanie Roussel

Sue – Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

Suzie – Suzie Speaks

Jo – My Chestnut Reading Tree

Donna – Jot to Jot

Sacha – Sacha Black

Geoff – TanGental

Ali – Ali Isaac Storyteller

Hugh – Hugh’s Views And News

If you are interested in attending next year’s Bash put the date in your diary now – June 09, 2018 and I think you can sign up on Sacha’s blog to receive email notifications regarding the Bash.

Changing Direction

The map of Coorah Creek

For more than four years, I’ve had a sheet of cardboard stuck to the door of my office.

On this cardboard, I’ve slowly been building the town of Coorah Creek – the setting for five of my outback Australian novels.

With each book, something else has been added to the map. Houses and the names of the people who live there. A property and a national park. A church and one statue. I started the map when I started the series, because I knew I would be coming back to Coorah Creek again and again. I wanted to make sure I was consistent, and didn’t forget where something was, or accidentally move something.

I didn’t want Max driving across the creek in a place where there wasn’t a bridge. Or I didn’t want Jess landing her plane on the wrong side of town.

Saying goodbye to Coorah Creek – at least for now.

After the first couple of books, I used the map less and less, because the town was so fixed in my mind. It was so very real to me, I could simply close my eyes and see it.

With the publication of Wedding Bells by the Creek this year, I’ve taken the map down. It was a surprisingly important and emotional moment.

I am writing something different now. I am working on two books, one set in England and one in Australia, but that Australia book is set somewhere else.

So now I have a new map. It’s the map of a horse stud called Willowbrook on the Hunter Velley of New South Wales.

I’ve marked a house and the creek. There are stables and an old stone fountain. An old wooden church has been converted to a home on the other side of the creek. These are the places where my new characters live. I’m started to get to know those places now. They fill my head, and will soon be attached to my door.

My new map – it’s just staring to develop.

The map of Coorah Creek is now safely rolled up and stored with my research notes on top of one of my bookcases. There are times when I miss Trish at the pub, and Jack and Ellen. Max and Tia are still on my mind, but for now, I am enjoying exploring a new place and meeting new people.

It feels just a little bit like when I left home to study at university. I left my own small country town and family and friends to move to the big city. It was a bit scary… but it was exciting too. Finding new stories to tell is just like that – both scary and exciting.

Inside the old barn – a photo from my research trip through the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

I will never forget Coorah Creek and the people who live in the town. And I am not saying that I won’t return. There are still more stories to tell there…. maybe one day I will put that map back up on my office door.

Editor? Proofreader? What’s in Your Indie Budget?

So you’re hot on language, your grammar is impeccable, your style puts Strunk and White to shame and like Akeelah you could win any old spelling bee. Why would you, as an indie author, need to pay for outside help? Well, you only have to read a few Amazon reviews to know that readers can be an unforgiving bunch, quick to spot a typo or a missing space between paragraphs. As an indie author you have to make some difficult choices about how much assistance you can afford to enlist. We wrote a whole post on the importance of a good book cover and we still feel that unless you’re amazingly hot stuff at art, you’re probably wiser to leave that to a professional. But here’s Ellie Campbell’s take on things.

 

Having a good editor is brilliant. Our first editor, Emma at Arrow Books, was instrumental in whipping How To Survive Your Sisters and When Good Friends Go Bad into shape. She pointed out that the endings were too short, the middle was too long, told us which characters needed motivation or fleshing out, where we’d over-described, repeated ourselves, or missed some vital information. After our rewrite, she did a massive line edit, cutting, stretching and pulling those babies until they cried uncle and turned into halfway decent novels. And did we learn a lot from her! These days we rely on our two sets of eyes, multiple drafts and hard-won experience to get the story tight and hopefully catch any glaring errors. We might then send the book to one or two amazing friends who can be trusted to say things like ‘your hero’s a bit of a creep’ instead of just ‘it’s great, honest’. BTW, if you have discerning friends like that, never let them go. They’re pearls beyond price.

 

Then copy editors, what an amazing job they do. Who knew that you’d been misquoting Shakespeare or the words of that pop song for your entire existence? Or what year Madonna adopted her black biker jacket, cropped bleach hair, ‘bad girl’ look? How could the fact that your own heroine changed from blonde to a redhead halfway through the manuscript escape you? A copy editor will check facts, correct misspellings, grammar and punctuation, notice when you switch from British to American English, or say ‘10’ instead of ‘ten’, warn you of potential lawsuits and altogether bring clarity and consistency to every element of your manuscript.

 

In fact Ellie Campbell has been saved from all kinds of awkward bloopers by copy editors, and anything they might have missed (or we’ve introduced in the flurry of a last-minute re-write), our proofreader, Wendy Janes, will spot. Traditionally proofreaders come along at the end of the process, when the edited manuscript has been printed as a proof, looking out for printing errors, spotting those awkward word and page breaks – and of course the dreaded typos.

 

Meanwhile, about those typos – isn’t it amazing how you can read and re-read the book numerous times, scan each word line by line, yet still those little devils slip past you? Apparently the reason it’s so hard to spot your own typos is because your clever busy brain skips over details like transposed or missing letters because it knows the meaning you’re trying to convey and focusses on that. In other words it sees what it expects to see. And that, more than anything, is why we need outside help. But perhaps you have a different experience. Or another professional you – and your writing career – couldn’t live without?