Helen Chambers on her visit to Colchester WriteNight last week – thanks so much Helen it was great to have you with us!

Colchester WriteNight meet on the fourth Monday of each month, 7.30pm, at FirstSite, Colchester. They are a ‘gathering of creative writers from all walks of life’ and are a talented, friendly and diverse bunch who write together, support each other’s writing and invite guest writers to speak.

via WriteNight — Helen Chambers – Writer

How I made it through my first author event…

 

I had been invited to attend the evening with established author Stephen May at Red Lion Books in Colchester, and this in itself was very exciting. I’ve read at many events, which has really built my confidence, but to be one of the authors on the poster, to answer questions on my work, was a great big fat first.

 

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I met Anthony Roberts and Stephen for the first time just before the evening began, and the bookshop soon filled up. I was pleased I’d read and loved Stephen’s book Stronger than Skin beforehand – I had loads of questions for him about structure and theme, about writing a work of length. My brain wasn’t quite prepared to answer questions myself, so I really had to think on my feet when it came to that moment.

Anthony and Stephen are good friends – they met in the Arts Centre graveyard (I’m sure many of us have similar tales…) and Anthony introduced him with some funny anecdotes. So I was pleased to introduce myself… but I hadn’t prepared for that either! I went straight into reading the stories.

 

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I started with ‘I like your necklace’ which begins: ‘In Willie Gees Kate bought a bra.’ This had to be my first story for a Colchester event. Willie Gees (Williams and Griffin) is the local department store that’s recently become Fenwicks. The story is about Kate, her thoughts/experience when a shop assistant compliments her about her jewellery, and about every other compliment that we receive when buying anything these days.

The second story I read was ‘Milanese Feast’. Another very short story, which I’ve had good feedback about when reading aloud before. I think you learn from the stories you read which work for an audience and which don’t. I feel that some of my shorter stories are the best for reading – self-contained and complete.

We were asked several questions about our work – developing character, writing local places, our writing schedules. This was where I had to think quickly. But I really enjoyed having a conversation about the writing with Stephen, and was able to pick out similarities in our work – the idea of having a theme before a story emerges was one that I liked.

 

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Talking writing with Anthony Roberts and Stephen May

 

And at the end I was actually an author signing books… Everyone that bought one had something interesting to say – their thoughts on the stories or their own writing practices. I met up with some of my local writer friends who have been published or are soon to go through this process themselves.

I am learning from this experience – to prepare an introduction, to practise answering all those questions I’ve read being asked. Maybe you should too!!!

Thanks to Jo Coldwell for organising this event and Jonathan King for the pics.

 

In the press: the short route to success

I met with Neil D’Arcy Jones from The Essex County Standard/Gazette on Wednesday in Tymperleys tea rooms in Colchester. The interview felt like more of a chat about our current writing projects and he wrote the article that night.

I didn’t have a recent picture and thankfully my friend Polly came over in the evening and took a few. Quite a few. I’m not a selfie-making, posing, even smiling-for-the-camera kind of a person… but she really put me at ease.

I was so pleased with the result. I know that Neil writes stories and plays amongst his other creative activities and felt as though he knew what I was talking about. Polly and I chose a couple of pics and the article came out on Friday. Just in time to advertise the event I’m doing at Red Lion Books tomorrow with Stephen May. I’ve just got the last chapter of his book Stronger Than Skin to read and I’m ready…

 

Gold Adornments: short stories for short shifts

The books are here with me now and it’s really exciting to see and feel Gold Adornments in print. Hard to believe when you send off a group of stories, and they are approved and come back for edits, that they will ever turn into an ACTUAL book.

These stories were all written last year, apart from The Little Green Lamp, which is slightly older. I am developing many of the ideas and characters for my next book, My Own Private Ida Show. Ida pops up several times in Gold Adornments. She is a funny character, who has been to every one of her pop star idol’s performances. Since she was 16.

Many of the stories in Gold Adornments were trying to represent emotional shifts – rising anger and frustration (A Little Piece of England), grief (Lollipop Man), empathy (Milanese Feast), healing (Little Green Lamp), ageing and grieving (Gold Adornments), revenge (Unlikely Deposits) – and finding and creating surface stories to represent them.

My publisher, Patricia Borlenghi, liked the stories and we began work on getting the book into shape. She soon came up with a cover and I loved the artwork, painted by Charlie Johnson. I have the original on my desk (whoop!).

 

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Now the books have arrived though, it’s time to put my selling hat on. Where did I put that one?

Aside from having a go through social media, I’ll be selling the old fashioned way: standing at stalls (Bazaar at the Minories); at the Patrician Press launch of Refugees and Peacekeepers, Wivenhoe Bookshop; and at the Essex Authors event for Essex Book Festival in Chelmsford. I have some short fiction workshops coming up this year, including one for the fabulous Felixstowe Book Festival, where I’ll be reading, explaining where I get my inspiration, and providing writing activities. Please keep an eye on my diary for upcoming events.

You can get hold of a copy yourself here:

Patrician Press

Amazon

Waterstones

Red Lion Books, Colchester

Wivenhoe Bookshop, Wivenhoe

And if you do buy one, thanks SO much again. Feedback always welcome…